Site hosted by Angelfire.com: Build your free website today!

The Poetry and Prose of Yehudah ha-Levi

Yehudah ha-Levi (lived c. 1080-1141) was one of the greatest Spanish Jewish poets. He was born in Toledo, Spain while it was still under Islamic rule. He was a prolific writer of both Arabic and Hebrew poetry. He was also a physician and a philosopher. His writings are very diverse and cover such topics as love, friendship, religious devotion, hope, wisdom, and sorrow.

RELIGIOUS POEMS BY HA-LEVI:

  • "O My Lord, Your Dwelling Places Are Lovely"
  • The Seventh Day
  • Hymn for Atonement Day
  • Sabbath, My Love

    POEMS OF SORROW BY HA-LEVI:

  • A Longing to Return to the Land of Israel: "My Heart is in the East..."
  • In Remembrance of Jerusalem
  • On Parting with Moses ibn Ezra
  • Do These Tears Know?

    LOVE POEMS BY HA-LEVI:

  • Marriage Song
  • "My Sweetheart's Dainty Lips..."
  • The Mirror
  • He Comes
  • A Love Song
  • Awake, My Fair

    HUMOROUS POEMS BY HA-LEVI:

  • The Grey Hair

    POEMS ON THE PURSUIT OF WISDOM BY HA-LEVI:

  • Fortune's Treachery
  • Time-Servers

    POEMS ABOUT HA-LEVI'S JOURNEY TO ISRAEL:

  • To Mount Abarim
  • My Soul Longed for the Place of Assembly
  • On the Sea

    A published collection of 24 of ha-Levi's poems, along with poems by other Hebrew authors, is The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse, edited by T. Carmi.

    Also great is the book containing 92 of his works: Ninety-Two Poems and Hymns of Yehuda Halevi, by Franz Rosenzweig, edited by Richard A. Cohen, translated by Thomas Kovach and Gilya Gerda Schmidt.

    Some HaLevi poems are also included in the following compilation: Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Hebrew Poems, translated by Bernard Lewis.

    In the free eBook The Selected Poems of Yehuda Halevi from Nextbook Press, Hillel Halkin translated many of HaLevi's poems into English, alongside the Hebrew originals, and provided annotations on them.

    "My Heart is in the East" Mizrach (Lasercut) by Marci Wiesel is a beautiful artistic sign that should be framed so that it points in the direction of Jerusalem. This design features a phrase of Yehuda HaLevi's most famous poem in Hebrew. Size: 28 x 35.6 cm / 11 x 14".

    Etti Ankri, an Israeli singer, released the album "Rabbi Yehuda Halevy Sung" with 11 of HaLevi's poems set to music.


    "My pen is my harp and my lyre; my library is my garden and my orchard."
    - Yehudah ha-Levi
    quoted in Leo Rosten's Treasury of Jewish Quotations (1972 and later reprints)
    and Essays on Jewish Booklore edited by Philip Goodman (1972, derived from issues of The Jewish Book Annual from 1942-1971)

    CLASSIC PROSE BY HA-LEVI:

    Ha-Levi's most famous work is The Kuzari, which is comprised of 5 essays and was written between 1120 and 1140. The Kuzari tells how the king of the Khazars decided to adopt Judaism after consulting with apologists for the Christian, Islamic, and Judaic religions. The Jewish rabbi presented many persuasive arguments, and so the Khazar king decided to be circumcised and officially convert. According to Rabbi Eliyahu (the "Gaon") of Vilna, The Kuzari is "holy and pure, and the fundamentals of Israel's faith and the Torah are contained within." The Kuzari is popular worldwide and has been translated into Hebrew, Ladino, English, French, German, and several other languages.

  • The Kuzari's References to the Khazar Conversion to Judaism
  • A New 1998 Translation of The Kuzari by Rabbi Korobkin
  • Philosopher and Prophet: Judah Halevi, by Yochanan Silman
  • Cover Page of 1880 Warsaw Edition of The Kuzari
  • Cover Page of 1795 Berlin Edition of The Kuzari with Commentary
  • Cover Page of 1796 Vienna Edition of The Kuzari
  • Cover Page of Liber Cosri (1660 translation of The Kuzari by Buxtorf)
  • Le Kuzari: Apologie de la religion méprisée (French Translation)
  • Il re dei khazari (Italian Translation)
  • Kuzari: Het boek van de Chazaar (Dutch Translation)
  • Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Judah Halevi
  • Medieval Jewish Philosophy, by Dan Cohn-Sherbok

    MISCELLANEOUS:

    In his book "A Jewish Archive from Old Cairo: The History of Cambridge University's Genizah Collection" (RoutledgeCurzon, 2000), Stefan Reif notes that the Cairo Genizah Collection contains a letter (catalogued as Taylor-Schechter AS 146.6) describing the departure by sea (rather than by land) of HaLevi from Alexandria, Egypt to Israel on May 14th of the year 1141. For so many centuries it has been an intriguing mystery as to whether HaLevi actually reached the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. Reif thinks we are closer to an answer than ever before. Now we know that HaLevi spent some time in Egypt in early 1141 and met with many residents of Egypt during that time, composing special poems for them, and that soon afterwards HaLevi did in fact manage to make a last-minute trip to Israel. As Reif writes: "...he set sail eastwards from Alexandria... presumably arriving in Palestine within ten days. That could have given him a month to visit the holy sites before his death in July, a pilgrimage by him that is hinted at, if not clearly spelt out, in another Genizah text. Apparently, then, his Zionist ambitions, so clearly expressed in his writings, were finally realized." (page 169).

    Israel's Sweetest Singer: Yehudah Halevi (1080-1140) by Abraham Regelson - an analysis of the writings and beliefs of Yehuda HaLevi, with translations of many of his poems: "Nuptial Song", "Curtains of Solomon", "On His Departure for Zion", "Night on the Sea", "On Nature's Glory in Egypt", "On the Flowers of Spring", and "Love of Zion"

    Raymond P. Scheindlin's book "The Song of the Distant Dove: Judah Halevi's Pilgrimage" (Oxford University Press, 2007) explores HaLevi's life as a doctor, theologian, communal leader, and writer, including his wish that his contemporary Spanish Jews would abandon Arabic influences on their lives, which however he himself never fully rejected. This book contains English translations of many documents and poems by HaLevi, including some that haven't previously been available in English.

    Hillel Halkin wrote a biography titled "Yehuda Halevi" (Schocken, 2010).

  • Judah Halevi: A short biography by Steve Pollak

    Resources on Spanish Jewish History and Culture

  • This page has been online since April 12, 1998
    Last updated July 20, 2012
    Kuzari illustration by Ginger Baker, used with permission

    Email:
    Also spelled: Yehudah HaLevi, Yehuda Halevi, Judah Halevi, Jehuda Halevi, Jehudah Halevi