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R. Avraham ben Meir Ibn Ezra
ר' אברהם בן מאיר אבן עזרא, ראב"ע
|Dates||1092 – 1167|
|Location||Andalusia / Italy / Provence / France / England|
|Works||Commentaries on Torah and part of Nakh, math, science, and grammar works.|
|Influenced by||R. Saadia Gaon, R. Yonah ibn Janach, R. Yehudah Hayuj|
|Impacted on||Most Jewish Bible commentators. His though great impact on Chasidei Ashkenzaz|
- Name – Avraham ben Meir ibn Ezra1
- Dates – 1092-11672
- Location – Spain, Italy,France, Provence, England. Some maintain that Ibn Ezra visited Egypt, Israel, Babylonia and India. However, there is no real evidence to back up these assertions.
- Education – Bible, Talmud3, Midrash, Grammar, Philosophy, Mathematics, Astronomy, Astrology,4 and Poetry.
- Occupation – Poet,5 teacher, and Bible commentator
- Family – Son Isaac – Isaac was a poet of note who spent most of his life in the Near East; Isaac is reported to have converted to Islam while in Babylonia.6 He later returned to Judaism. A heartrending lament by Ibn Ezra7 reveals that Isaac predeceased his father.8
- Teachers –
- Contemporaries – R. Yehuda Ha-Levi,9 Rabbi Moshe ibn Ezra,10 Rabbi Joseph ibn Tzadik,11 Rashbam,12 R. Tam.13
- Students –
- Time period – Almohades invasion of Moslem Spain ( 1147).
- The Alomohades gave the Jews the choice of conversion to Islam, emigration or death.
- Ibn Ezra wrote an elegy lamenting the destruction of the Jewish communities in Spain by the Almohades. It is a unique poem, for it is the only “clear cut example of a poetical Jewish reaction to an outbreak of Islamic persecution.”14
"O woe! Misfortune from heaven has fallen upon Sefarad [Spain];
My eyes, my eyes flow with tears.
"The Exile dwelt there blamelessly in safety
Without interruption for a thousand and seventy years.
But the day came when her people were banished and she became like a widow. " 15...
- In addition, the first (1095) and second crusades.(1150) took place during his lifetime.
- Ibn Ezra was...well versed in the philological, scientific and philosophical studies cultivated by Arabs and Jews in his native land. " (I. Husik, A History of Medieval Jewish Philosophy, New York 1916, p. 187.)
- "It is accepted among researchers that the decimal numeral system, which had been known for ages in India, first appeared in Europe in Ibn Ezra’s writings."
(Dr. Avigail Rock in Virtual Bet Midrash,http://www.etzion.org.il/en/lecture-13-r-avraham-ibn-ezra-part-i, note 21).
- Ibn Ezra was a Neo-Platonists (I. Husik, A History of Medieval Jewish Philosophy, New York 1916, p. 184.)
Julius Guttmann referred to Ibn Ezra as “the last in the line of Jewish Neoplatonists”.( Guttmann,Julius. Philosophies of Judaism; New York, 1964).
- Of late, the claim that Ibn Ezra was a Neo-Platonist has been challenged. See Yosef Kohen, Haguto Ha-Filosofit Shel R. Avraham ibn Ezra, Israel,1996. p. 7-36.
- According to I.E. man’s rational soul separates a human being from the rest of the animal kingdom. The soul is a tabula rasa when first placed in the body. It is put there in order to be developed. If a human being develops his rational soul, then it acquires eternal life. The commandments of the Torah keep the body and the mind pure, so that the soul can fulfill its destiny.
- "The soul is destined to return to God the glorious who gave her. She was placed in the body to be shown the Lord’s work, to study the works of her Master and to observe His commandments."16
- "Man’s soul is unique. When it is first placed in the body… it is like a tablet set before a scribe. When God’s writing is inscribed upon this tablet…then the soul clings to God both while it is yet in man and later after it leaves the human body."
- "Every branch of knowledge gives life to the one who acquires it. There are many sorts o knowledge...All of wisdom's categories are rungs in the ladder that leads to true wisdom. Happy are those whose heart has been opened. At their end the will flow to God and His goodness." (H. Norman Strickman, The Secret of the Torah; A Translation of Ibn Ezra's Yesod Mora Ve-Sod Ha-Torah New Jersey, 1995, p. p. 7,8. Yesod Mora: 1:1).
- "It is only when a person knows the sciences and the secret of God’s Throne and the “Chariot” and knows God, his soul cleaves to God while he is yet alive and continues clinging to God after it leaves his body.17". (Ibid. p. 148-149. Yesod Mora: 10:2).
- "Man is the most important being on the earth." 18
- Israel is the most important type of human being. Hence the Midrashic statement that Moses saw the knot of God's head tefilin ( Ex. 33:21). (Ibn Ezra might be reflecting R. Judah Ha-Levi. See Kuzari 1:26).
- "Scripture tells of the purchase of the field of Machpelah to teach us of the superiority of the Land of Israel over all countries, both for the living and for the dead." (Ibn Ezra Gen. 23:19
- There are places on earth that are especially open to Divine influence. (See ibn Ezra on Gen.28: 16-17. Ex. 25:40 and Ps.24:2.)
- –He identifies the Mount of the Lord in Jerusalem as one such place (Ibn Ezra on Ps. 24:2).
- He also identifies Bet El as such a place.(Ibn Ezra on Gen. 18:16-17).
- "God is one. He is the creator of all. He is all. I can not further explain." 19
- "The glorious God is similar to the number one which stands by itself and has no need for any number before it.
"If you consider the role that the number one plays in a sum of numbers, you will discover that one is the first of all the numbers in any sum and that all sums consist of ones. God similarly is the One who is all...
- "The One has no image. He encompasses all the images, for they all come from Him."20
- "Far be it from us to believe that God has an image. Scripture clearly refutes such a notion by stating, To who then will you liken me, that I should be equal (Is. 40:25)." (I.E. to Gen. 1:26).
- The Precepts:
- " Every precept, be it minor or major, must be weighed in the scale of one's heart wherein the Eternal has implanted some of His wisdom. Thus if there appears something in the Torah that is intellectually impossible to accept or contrary to the evidence of our senses then we must search for a hidden meaning. This is so because intelligence is the basis of the Torah. The Torah was not given to ignoramuses. Man's intelligence is the angel which mediates between him and his God. (Ibn Ezra Introduction to Commentary on the Torah).
- Ibn Ezra distinguished among three types of mitzvot.
1. Rational laws. Ibn Ezra refers to them as pikkudim (deposits). The pikkudim are so called because God deposited them in the mind.“These laws are not contingent upon place, time or any other thing.”21 These laws “were known via reason before the Torah was given though the agency of Moses [at Sinai].” 22“The Decalogue, with the exclusion of the Sabbath, is an example.”23
- The pikkudim include those laws classified by tradition as mishpatim (civil laws) and various types of behavior such as laws against incest and adultery.24 The pikkudim are the fundamental laws of the Torah. 25
- 2. Symbolic precepts. Commandments that serve as reminders of the rational laws or of precepts that all Israelites, both men and women, are obligated to be conscious of at all times. The Sabbath, which recalls creation, is an example.26
- 3. Esoteric commandments. Commandments that possess a purpose that only a few can fathom. An individual is obligated to observe these commandments even if he does not understand their purpose or function. A person who refuses to observe the laws until he knows the reason for their observance "will be like a child who refuses to eat bread until he first knows how the ground was ploughed, the grain planted, harvested, winnowed, cleansed, ground, sifted, kneaded and baked. If a child acts thusly, he will surely die of starvation. The correct thing for a child to do is eat normally and, as he grows, ask a little at a time until all of his questions are answered. Similarly, an intelligent person can ultimately learn the very many clearly stated reasons, which the Torah itself offers for the precepts. However, there are commandments the reason for which “only one man in a thousand knows.”27
- Biblical commentaries –
- The Torah.
- Mikra'ot Gedolot- AlHaTorah.סrg.
- Pirush Ha-torah Le-Rabbenu R. Avraham ibn Ezra Edited and annotated by Asher Weiser. Mosad Ha-Rav Kook 1976.
- Torat Chaim. Mosad Ha-Rav Kook, 1986
- Chumash Mechokekei Yehudah, R. Yehudah Leib ben R. Yitzchak Krinsky, reprint, N.Y. 1975.
- Mikra`ot Gedolot - `Haketer'
- Commentary on Isaiah. Ibn Ezra on Isaiah, Ed. and translated by Michael Friedlander.
- Simon, Uriel. Shenei Pirushei R. Avraham ibn Ezra Le-Terei Asor; Kerech Alef, Hoshe'a ,Yo'el, Amos. Israel, 1989.
- The Minor Prophets, Pirush R. Avraham ibn Ezra Al Hoshe'a. Avraham Lipshitz, New York, 1988
- Sefer Iyov Im Pirush Ibn Ezra Annotated and Commented by Rabbi Mordecai Sha'ul Goodman . Mosad Harav Kook, 2009
- Sefer Kohelet im Pirush Ibn Ezra, Annotated and Commented by Rabbi Mordecai Sha'ul Goodman, Mosad Harav Kook, 2012.
- Commentary on Daniel. Mikra'ot Gedollot
- Commentary on The Five Scrolls. Mikra’ot Gedollot
- English Translations:
- The Pentateuch
Ibn Ezra’s Commentary on the Pentateuch (Genesis) Translated & Annotated by H. Norman Strickman & Arthur Silver. Menorah Press, New York - 1988.
- Ibn Ezra’s Commentary on the Pentateuch (Exodus) Translated & Annotated by H. Norman Strickman & Arthur Silver. Menorah Press, New York - 1996.
- Ibn Ezra’s Commentary on the Pentateuch (Leviticus) Translated & Annotated by H. Norman Strickman & Arthur Silver. Menorah Press, New York -2004.
- Ibn Ezra’s Commentary on the Pentateuch (Numbers) Translated & Annotated by H. Norman Strickman & Arthur Silver. Menorah Press, New York -1999.
- Ibn Ezra’s Commentary on the Pentateuch (Deuteronomy) Translated & Annotated by H. Norman Strickman & Arthur Silver.
Translation of Ibn Ezra's commentary on the Pentateuch
by Allan R Benyowitz .Volume 1(Genesis & Exodus). Jerusalem 2006.
Translation of Ibn Ezra's commentary on the Pentateuch
by Allan R Benyowitz .Volume 2(Genesis [Short Version] & Exodus). Jerusalem 2006.
Translation of Ibn Ezra's commentary on the Pentateuch
by Allan R Benyowitz .Volume 3 (Leviticus, Numbers & Deuteronomy). Jerusalem 2006.
The Commentary of Abraham Ibn Ezra on the Pentateuch: translated by by Jay F. Shachter. Volume 3: Leviticus –.Ktav Pub Inc January 1, 1986
- The Commentary of Abraham Ibn Ezra on the Pentateuch:Translated by Jay F. Schachter Volume 5, Deuteronomy KTAV Publishing House 2003.
Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra's Commentary on the Creation by Michael Linetsky. A translation and annotation of Genesis 1-6. Jason Aaronson 1998.
- The Prophets
- Ibn Ezra on Isaiah, Ed. and translated by Michael Friedlander. London, 1873.
- Pirush R. Avraham ibn Ezra Al Hoshe'a. Avraham Lipshitz, New York, 1988; Mikra'ot Gedolot
- The Book of Psalms
- Abraham Ibn Ezra’s Commentary on the First Book of Psalms Translated & Annotated by H. Norman Strickman. Academic Studies Press, Boston, Mass 2009.
- Abraham Ibn Ezra’s Commentary on the Second Book of Psalms Translated & Annotated by H. Norman Strickman.Academic Studies Press, Boston, Mass 2009.
- Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra's Commentary on Books 3-5 of Psalms: Translated & Annotated by H. Norman Strickman Touro College Press, 2016.
Song of Songs
- Ibn Ezra's Commentary on The Song of Sons. Translation and Annotations , by Richard A. Block. Hebrew Union College, Jewish Institute of Religion. 1982.
- Sefer Moznayim. Edited by M. Wolinsky. Berlin 1923.
- Tzachot. Edited by G. H. Lipmann. Furth 1827.
- . Sefat Yeter. Edited by G. H. Lipmann Frankfurt. 1843.
- Safah Berurah. Ed. By G. H. Lipmann. Furth 1839.
- Yisode Dikduk. Edited by N. Aloni. Mosad Ha-Rav Kook. Jerusalem 1975.
A. Reshit Hokhmah. Edited and translated into English. By R. Levi and F. Kenterah. Balimore, 1939.
B. Safer Ha-Te’ammim. Two versions. First version: Ed. byY. L. Fleisher. Jerusalem, 1951. Second version. Ed. by N. Ben-Menahem. Jerusalem, 1951.
C. Keli Nechoshet. Two versions. First version: Ed. Edelman Koenigsburg 1845. Second version . Ed. by Judah ben Solomon Warsaw 1856.
D. Ta’ame Luhot Al-Ku’arizmi. The Introduction to this work was published by Kahanah in his Rabbi Avraham ibn Ezra , Warsaw 1922.
F. Sefer Ha-Ibbur. Published in Kitve Rabbi Avraham ibn Ezra. Vol. 2. Jerusalem 1970.
G. Response to Three Questions of Rabbi David Narboni. In Shene Ha-Me’orot. Berlin 1847.
H. Sefer Ha-Me’orot. Ed. Y.L. Fleisher. Yearbook Of Jewish Studies in Romania. Vol 5. Bukerest. 1932.
- Rabbinics –
- Talmudic novellae – No works.
- Halakhic codes – No works
- Responses to the works of others –
- Responsa – No such work.
- Jewish thought – There are many parallels between the teachings of Ibn Ezra and those of Maimonides (1138–1204). A strong case can be made that the works of Ibn Ezra influenced Maimonides.28 Ibn Ezra also impacted on the Chasidei Ashkenaz.29
- Misattributed works – Possibly: The Commentary to Proverbs and the commentary to Ezra-Nehemiah.30
- Verse by verse / Topical – Basically a verse by verse commentary. However, there are many exceptions. His commentary contains long essays on philosophical issues, on God's name,31 on the Priestly Garments, on the Ten Commandments, the Golden Calf, Moses' request to see the face of God and other themes. The essays are occasionally introduced with the words Abraham the Author says, or the Words of Abraham.
- Peshat and derash –
- Emphasis on Peshat.32
- In his introduction to his commentary on the Torah,Ibn Ezra writes:
- "This Book of Jasher ( this commentary on the Torah), composed by Abraham the Poet; is bound buy ropes of grammar."
- "I will not show favoritism to anyone when it comes to interpreting the Torah."
- "I will, to the utmost of my ability, try to understand every word [in Scripture] and the do my best to explain it.
"I will not make mention of the reasons offered by the masoretes as why certain words are spelled full and at other times defectively because all their reasons are of a Midrashic nature...
- "The literal meaning of a verse is never negated by the Midrashic interpretations for there are 70 faces to the Torah. However, with regard to verses which deal with laws, statutes, and regulation, if we find two possible interpretations for a verse and one of them is in keeping with interpretation of the transmitters of tradition, all of whom were righteous men, then without reservation and with all of our might we will rely on the truth of their words"(Ibn Ezra's Commentary on the Pentateuch;Translated and Annotated by H. Norman Strickman & Arthur Silver; New York 1988, p 1; 17-19).
- "If it were not for the men of the Mishnah and Talmud, the Torah of our God and its very memory would have everything perished. For these scholars properly analyzed everything in the Torah, They explained and clarified the precepts and statutes of the Torah for us in accordance with their tradition. At times they find clear evidence for their traditions in the Totah, At other times, they find mere supports for their traditions. One who is intelligent can discern when the sages understand a text literally and when they do midrashically. For all their interpretations do not follow one course " (Yesod Mora 6. The Sectet of the Torah; A translation of Abraham ibn Ezra's Yesod Mora; 1995 by H. Norman Strickman p. 84).
- Aggadic interpretations which are not in keeping with the literal meaning of the text do not have to be taken at face value. Thus Ibn Ezra notes that the Rabbinic statement that “Noah drank from his vineyard on the day he planted it” is not to be taken literally. Neither is the Rabbinic statement that that God showed Moses the knot of the tefillin to be taken according to its plain meaning. "These words (of the sages) are correct. However, its meaning is not in accordance with that of the wise men of this generation who interpret the Rabbinic statement literally. On the contrary, this has a deeply hidden secret meaning."
- Ibn Ezra employs grammar, astrology, philosophy,33 and numerology 2134 to explain biblical texts. '
- Scripture uses abridged phrases and sentences. See I.E. on Gen. 2:9; Gen. 6:13.
- Scripture often omits prepositions. The omitted preposition is to be supplied by the reader. See I.E. on Ex. 20:11.
- Scripture at times employs an adjective but leaves out the noun which it qualifies. See I.E. on Ecc. 10:1.
- At times Scripture omits the subject or object in a verse because it is implied by the verb used. See I.E. on Gen. 25:25; 48:1; 50:26.
- The vav is not always to be translated as "and". At times it is not to be translated. See I.E. on Gen. 1:2.
- When a verb in the singular governs a noun, the verb refers to each one of the plural. See I.E. on Gen. 49:22; Ecc.10:1.
- Scripture employs superfluous letters. See I.E. 1:5.
- Scripture at times employs the imperfect with the meaning of a perfect. See I.E. on Ex. 15:1.
- Scripture at times employs the perfect with the meaning of an imperfect. See I.E. on Gen. 23::13.
- The perfect is at times to be observed as a pluperfect. See I.E. on Gen. 2:8.
- "One who knows the ways of the spheres knows the mind of the Most High. ."35
- "It is because of the changes in the arrangement of the seven planets that what comes into being today is made known by one day to the next day; this day to the next day, and one generation to the next generation. This goes on forever, for there is something new each day. (Ps. 19:3)."
- "The writing of the heavens (the arrangement of the planets and stars) is read in all places. Intelligent people all over the world understand it." (Ps.19:5)
- "The book of the living (Ps. 69:29) refers to the heavens. All the decrees that are destined to come are there written. They were there inscribed on the day that they were created." (Ibid.)
- "It has been empirically established that each and every nation has a specific star and constellation." (Deut. 4:19).
- "God raised Israel to a very high level in that God, and not any star, is Israel's guide. Israel is thus God's portion."
- "This ... (commentary on the Torah), composed by Abraham the Poet; is bound by ropes of grammar."
- "I will, to the utmost of my ability, try to understand every word [in Scripture] and the do my best to explain it.." (Ibn Ezra's introduction to Scripture.)
- IIbn Ezra noted that Hebrew and Arabic sister languages and he occasionally uses Arabic to explain Hebrew words.
- God is incorporeal.
- God is the All.
- Purpose of man is to know God, obey His laws, and cling to God.
- Defense of Rabbinic Judaism against attacks by Karaites and others.
- Manuscripts –
- Printings –
- Textual layers –
- Earlier Sources – R. Saadiah Gaon (892-942 C.E.) R. Judah ibn Chayyu( c. 950-1000); R. Jonah ibn Janach (c. 920-c 970); R Menahchem ben Saruk (c. 910- c. 970 C.E.); Dunash ben Labrat (920-990 C.E.), R. Moshe, Ha-Kohen ibn Giqatilah(11th century); R. Solomon ibn Gabirol.(1020-1070 C.E.)
- Teachers –
- Foils – Post Talmudic Midrashic commentaries on Scripture . He writes: [The midrashic method] " was adopted by the scholars in the land of the Greeks and Romans,They do not rely on grammar but rather on Midrashic exegesis... Since the the interpretations quoted in these works are already found in the books of the ancients, why do these later interpreters tire us by writing them again....Anyone with a little bit of intelligence and certainly one who has knowledge of the Torah can create his own Midrashim. The Midrashic interpretations are like clothes to the naked body. Concerning such interpretations our sages of blessed memory said, a verse never loses its literal meaning." (Ibn Ezra's Commentary on the Pentaeuch; translated and annotated by H. Norman Strickman and Arthur Silver; N.Y. 1988. pp.11;13.).
- Karaitic Commentaries.
- Ibn Ezra concludes his introduction to his commentary on the Pentateuch as follows: "Heaven forbid that we should join the Sadducees who claim that the traditions of the Rabbinic sages contradict the literal meaning of Scripture and the rules of grammar. The fact of the natter is that our ancient sages are true and all their words are true. (Ibn Ezra's Commentary on the Pentaeuch;Translated and Annotated by H. Norman Strickman & Arthur Silver; New York 1988, 17-19).
- Christian Commentaries.
- The third approach (approach to Biblical interpretation) is the way of darkness and gloom.... This is the approach of those who invent secret explanations for everything in Scripture (Christian Theologians). They believe that the laws and statutes of the Torah are riddles. I will not expend much time answering them for, they are a people who do err in their heart (Ps. 95:10).... we must interpret literally, take as it is written and believe everything in the Torah which does not contradict reason. We should not grope walls as the blind do... Why should we turn what is evident into mysteries?
- Isaiah 7:14 :Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
- "It is to me a matter of surprise that there are those who say the prophet here refers to their god. This can not be so, for the sign was given to [King] Ahaz, and the man they consider god was born many years afterwards. Furthermore , the prophet says 'Yea, before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land [Syria and Ephraim, whose two kings thou hast a horror of], shall be forsaken.' Now Syria and Ephraim were wasted in the sixth year of King Hezekiah" thus the prophecy refers to the 8th cent. B.C.E. and not to the first century B.C.E.
- And The Lord Appeared: "Behold, a few say that God is three men. He is one and he is three and they are inseparable They forget that Scripture expressly states and the two angels came to Sodom at even ( Gen. 19:1)." The latter clearly shows that the three are separable and can not refer to God who is one.
- According to Ezra Fleischer, evidence from the Cairo Geneza reveals that Ibn Ezra's son Isaac, married Judah Ha-Levi's daughter.36 However, it should be noted that in all his references to Judah Ha-levi in his commentaries, Ibn Ezra never refers to Judah Ha-Levi as his father in law.
- Rabbi Yehudah He-Chasid38
- Rabbi David Kimchi (1160-1235)
- Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (1195-1270)
- Rabbi Levi ben Gershon (1288-1344).
- Rabbi Don Yitzchak Abravanel (1437-1508).
- Filwarg, Yonah. Benei Reshef. Petrogrd , 19:00
- Krinsky, Yehudah Leib. Mechokeke Yehudah, New York 1975.
- Lipshitz, Avraham.Pirush R. Avraham ibn Ezra Al Hoshe'a., New York, 1988.
- Netter, Shelomo Zalmen. Pirush al Ibn Ezra (in Horeb editions of Mikra'ot Gedolot. New York Berlin, 1928)
- Meijler, Yitzchak. Ezrah Le-Havin, Saint Petersburg. 1902.
- Shemual ibn Motot. Megillat Setarim in Margaliot Tuva.Jerusalem, 1973
- <address>Simon, Uriel. Shenei Pirushei R. Avraham ibn Ezra Le-Terei Asor; Kerech Alef, Hoshe'a ,Yo'el, Amos. Israel, 1989.</address>
- Sheinfeld, Nechemiah. Da'at Ezra. Mosad Ha-Rav Kook. Jerusalem, 2010.
- <address>Sherim, Yitzchak. Be'er Yitzchak. Israel, 5789.</address>
- <address>Yosef Ben Eliezer Tov-Elem Ohel Yosef in Margaliot Tuva.Jerusalem, 1973.</address>
Bibliography: On the Web
Hughes,Aaron .The Philosophical Thought of Ibn Ezra http://www.academia.edu/8994505/
Rock, Avigail . Virtual Bet Midrash -
Lecture #13: R. Avraham ibn Ezra, Part I-Biography. http://www.etzion.org.il/en/lecture-13-r-avraham-ibn-ezra-part-i
Lecture #14: R. Avraham ibn Ezra, Part II-Exegetical Approach
Lecture #15: Rabbi Avraham ibn Ezra, Part III.- Evaluating Midrash Halakha; Relationship to Karaites; Covert and Overt Writing.
Roth, Norman . Abraham Ibn Ezra and Mysticism ...
Strickman, H. Norman. Abraham Ibn Ezra's Non-Literal Interpretations - Hakirah www.hakirah.org/Vol20