This book could never have reached completion without the guidance and support of a great number of people. I will necessarily omit some who deserve mention, and for this I hope to be forgiven.
Considering that this book is based on my doctoral dissertation, my first expression of thanks belongs to my doctoral advisor, Professor James T. Robinson. With tremendous erudition and infectious curiosity, he became my guide in the world of medieval Judeo-Arabic thought and literature. For this, I am forever grateful. The University of Chicago brought me into contact with many fine teachers and fellow students, and I cannot do them all justice in the present context. However, I must thank Professors Michael Sells and Tahera Qutbuddin in particular. It was truly a privilege to be able to work with scholars of such a caliber throughout the course of my PhD, and their guidance has left its mark on the present volume.
The Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation (ACJC) at Monash University has provided me with a supportive and collegial environment since returning to Australia in 2014. At Monash, I have been fortunate to have had two luminous souls as mentors, confidants, and interlocutors: Nathan Wolski and Aydoğan Kars. I have benefited deeply from their friendship and wise counsel.
The editors and reviewers at Brill have been a pleasure to work with. I thank the editors not only for bringing this volume into the light of day, but also for making the process of producing it a pleasure. I thank the reviewers for their close reading and thoughtful suggestions, which left their mark upon this book. My thanks go in particular to the editors of Brill’s series Études sur le Judaïsme Médiéval, who awarded the manuscript of this book the 2018 David R. Blumenthal Prize in Medieval Jewish Studies.
I also thank my teachers in Torah, who exposed me to the depth and richness of the Jewish spiritual and intellectual tradition, and without whom I never could have completed this book. While it is not possible to mention all of my teachers, I thank the following in particular: Rabbi Daniel Landes, Rabbi Elisha Ancselovits, and Rabbi Arye Strikovsky. The period that I spent at Yeshivat Ha-Kibbutz Ha-Dati (Ein Tzurim), which sadly closed its doors in 2008, was profoundly formative. I must also acknowledge my first serious teacher in biblical language, thought, and exegesis – Ribbi u-Mori Michael Benstock of Sydney, Australia.
I am deeply grateful to my family. My parents, Karen Loblay and Sorin Dascalu, have provided me with unwavering support for many years. I thank my step-mother, Doina Dascalu, for many years of conversation on a broad range of matters, and for her continuous love and encouragement. My in-laws, Judy and Albert Kaplan, have been extremely supportive since our return to Australia.
Finally, I thank my partner in love and grime, Dalit Alte Rivka Tsipora Kaplan, for too much than I could possibly express in these few lines. I dedicate this book to our two children, Ezra Ḥanan and Temima Meira Sara. I hope that one day they will attempt to read a little bit of it. No pressure.
מודה אני לפני בוראי, ששם חלקי מיושבי בתי מדרש וספריות, וזיכני לסיים ספר זה. ויהי רצון מלפני בוראי, החונן לאדם דעת, שיביאני תלמודי לידי תקון המדות וידיעת תורתו הקדושה.
Melbourne, March 2019/Adar Sheni 5779