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Andalusi, Judaeo-Arabic, and Other Near Eastern Studies in Honor of Ross Brann
'His Pen and Ink are a Powerful Mirror' is a volume of collected essays in honor of Ross Brann, written by his students and friends on the occasion of his 70th birthday. The essays engage with a diverse range of Andalusi and Mediterranean literature, art, and history. Each essay begins from the organic hybridity of Andalusi literary and cultural history as its point of departure, introduce new texts, ideas, and objects into the disciplinary conversation or radically reassesses well-known ones, and represent the theoretical, methodological, and material impacts Brann has had and continues to have on the study of the literature and culture of Jews, Christians, and Muslims in al-Andalus.

Contributors include: Ali Humayn Akhtar, Esperanza Alfonso, Peter Cole, Jonathan Decter, Elisabeth Hollender, Uriah Kfir, S.J. Pearce, F.E. Peters, Arturo Prats, Cynthia Robinson, Tova Rosen, Aurora Salvatierra, Raymond P. Scheindlin, Jessica Streit, David Torollo.

Abstract

This essay explores, through the lens of Nasrid poets’ frequent evocations of the lands of Najd, Nasrid culture’s constructions of relationships with the origins of Islam, the origins of poetry, and the origins of the Arabic language itself; it argues that these elements are an integral part of the Nasrid dynasty’s claims to legitimacy in the realms of court, cultural production, and devotion.

In: 'His Pen and Ink Are a Powerful Mirror'

Abstract

This article reflects on the transmission process of the literary texts which conform the corpus of the fifteenth century Hebrew cancioneros, and on the difficulties which come across facing the elaboration of an actual critical edition of those contents. These considerations came from coping with the critical edition of Shelomo Bonafed’s production which is going to be published next year. Most of these texts are still unedited or unpublished.

In: 'His Pen and Ink Are a Powerful Mirror'

Abstract

This paper aims to deal with a layer in the history of the medieval reception and transmission of the headings of the Psalms. Taking as a main focus the glossary-commentary to Psalms included in MS Oxford, Bodleian Library, Hunt. 268, it explores the relationship between the vernacular glosses in this text and medieval and postmedieval translations of the Hebrew Bible into Castilian.

In: 'His Pen and Ink Are a Powerful Mirror'

Abstract

The protagonist of Judah al-Harizi’s Taḥkemoni is usually thought of as an amoral trickster, but this characterization does not apply to many of his appearances in the book, in which religion plays a much larger part than is usually thought. This article calls attention to Hever’s religious dimension and to other aspects of religion in the book.

In: 'His Pen and Ink Are a Powerful Mirror'
Author: S.J. Pearce

Abstract

This paper offers a reading of an unpublished essay by Yehuda Amichai written when he was a student of medieval Hebrew poetry at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in a seminar taught by Ḥayim Schirmann. His essay takes a comparative approach to the war poetry of Samuel ibn Naghrīla, making both sweeping claims about war poetry across time and space narrower ones about the specific qualities of poetry written in war contexts in Spain in all of its languages. Although Amichai hews closely to Schirmann’s interpretive line he goes farther than his professor does, arguing that not only does Ibn Naghrīla consolidate his roles in both the Jewish and Muslim communities in Granada through his poetry, he does so in a way that sublimates religion to other concerns; in doing so, Amichai begins to pave the way for the kind of poetic nationalism that would emerge in his own later work.

In: 'His Pen and Ink Are a Powerful Mirror'
Author: Peter Cole

Abstract

This paper is a new translation of three Hebrew poems composed in medieval Spain.

In: 'His Pen and Ink Are a Powerful Mirror'
Author: F.E. Peters

Abstract

The “quest of the historical Jesus,” like other such probes of the pre-modern world, is a progression that begins with the performing subject, Jesus of Nazareth; whose words and deeds pass into the memories of those of his followers who witnessed his life and heard his words and shared them with others; the oral transmission of those memories though a succession of tradents; their passage into literary form, in this instance, the Gospel According to Mark; which comes to the historian in the form of a manu-script, a document hand-copied again and again over the centuries, as the evidence for the message and meaning of Jesus of Nazareth. The entire sequence is fraught, but this essay looks more closely at its most problematic phases, the three of so decade passage from what Jesus did and said to the earliest Gospel, that “according to Mark.”

In: 'His Pen and Ink Are a Powerful Mirror'
In: 'His Pen and Ink Are a Powerful Mirror'
Author: Ali H. Akhtar

Abstract

This article asks how political administrations in the age of empires historically conceptualized political borders and the legal process of naturalization. It specifically examines the legal status of two groups of Ottoman imperial subjects—the Genoese-heritage Latin-rite residents of Istanbul and the Sephardi residents who settled throughout Istanbul and the Aegean. In periods of limited territorial expansion, in what ways did the naturalization of itinerant merchant communities become a mechanism for imperial governments to extend their political boundaries? As individuals within merchant communities began to straddle the jurisdictions of competing polities, to what extent did administrators either loosen or reinforce those political boundaries and why? One of the phenomena this article identifies is that during the history of economic competition between the Italian republics and the Ottoman sultanate, Ottoman administrators leveraged privileges in residency, movement, and customs duties in order to pull itinerant Genoese and Sephardi merchants into the Ottoman imperial realm and, in effect, expand the empire’s socio-spatial reach.

In: 'His Pen and Ink Are a Powerful Mirror'

Abstract

This article presents the edition of the folios of Minḥat Yehudah sone ha-nashim by Yehudah ibn Shabbetai (c. 1168–c. 1225) in the New York, Jewish Theological Seminary MS. 10774 which are unedited to date. This manuscript offers a unique testimony to the textual community that the Minḥat Yehudah sone ha-nashim and Ohev nashim by Yedaiah ha-Penini (ca. 1280-after 1340) created in the medieval era. This codex constitutes a material trace of a dialogic exchange between debating poets and communities in a Jewish context.

In: 'His Pen and Ink Are a Powerful Mirror'
Author: Jonathan Decter

Abstract

At the conclusion of Moses Ibn Ezra’s Kitāb al-muḥāḍara wa’l-mudhākara, appended to the final chapters in which he outlines twenty chapters concerning the “beautiful elements of poetry” (maḥāsin al-shiʿr), the author presents a sixty-verse qaṣīda on the subject of praise and blame. This highly contrived poem was written for the very purpose of exemplifying the poetic devices of the “novel style” (al-badīʿ) and so might be considered an example of didactic verse, comparable to poems composed to illustrate grammatical systems or medical knowledge. This article presents a systematic overview of Ibn Ezra’s treatment of al-badīʿ by using the critic’s didactic poem as a heuristic and pedagogical device. One goal of this article is thus simply to give an update on the “state of the field” of Arabized Hebrew poetics with more detail about Ibn Ezra’s sources, helpful parallels, or expansions from Maqālat al-ḥadīqa, as well as some refinements of definition. Further, the article will engage with many of the examples from Hebrew poetry, Arabic poetry, the Bible and the Qurʾān that the critic saw as exemplifying the devices under discussion. The review helps situate Ibn Ezra both as a consumer and producer of the naqd al-shiʿr (literary criticism) genre; the very instability of terms, as well as the numerous strategies by which the maḥāsin al-shiʿr are configured taxonomically, demonstrates the degree to which this discipline, a relative latecomer among the Islamic sciences, was very much “under construction.”

In: 'His Pen and Ink Are a Powerful Mirror'

Abstract

Ms Bernkastel-Kues 313 is a liturgical collection from the French tradition, containing piyyutim for the festivals and a collection of occasional piyyutim. Half of the poems in this collection are Sephardic, attesting the importance this tradition gained in French and Ashkenazic liturgy. In addition to well known authors like Judah ha-Levi and Abraham Ibn Ezra, also less known Sephardic authors are present in the collection, next to piyyutim by known and less known French and three Ashkenazic piyyutim. The most prominent genre present in the collection is ofanim, where Sephardic influence is visible in all compositions. Structural changes to some piyyutim attest to the local performance that included community participation. The majority presence of Sefardi poetry in the quntras ha-piyyutim in Kues 313 offers one example among many of cultural contact among medieval European Jewish communities. The multi-faceted process of importing cultural objects, adapting them for use within a group’s own cultural portfolio, and mixing them freely into established rites and rituals was an inherent aspect of the development of Jewish cultural development in medieval Europe. An appendix contains edition of two compositions from this collection.

In: 'His Pen and Ink Are a Powerful Mirror'
Author: Uriah Kfir

Abstract

The article addresses one short poem by Solomon ibn Gabirol, We-shinei haṣevi, though less for the sake of the poem itself than as a conceptual key to Ibn Gabirol’s poetics in particular, and the relationship between Hebrew and Arabic poetries and cultures in general. The core of the poem criticizes King Solomon, who, in his Song of Songs, compares the teeth of the beautiful beloved to a herd of ewes. The article suggests reading the poem against the backdrop of the poetic attacks by the contemporary shuʿūbiyya movement on classical Arabic motives, and leads to the conclusion that it aimed to tighten the bonds between the Arabic and Hebrew poetries and cultures of the time by giving the impression that their glorious pasts were closely intertwined.

In: 'His Pen and Ink Are a Powerful Mirror'
Author: Tova Rosen

Abstract

The story translated hereby is the eighth in a collection of ten stories (titled “The book of fables”) by Jacob Ben Elʿazar, a late thirteenth-century Jewish author from Toledo. His stories take the form of the Andalusi variety of the maqāma, allowing for more liberty of theme, narrative experimentalism and openness to diverse influences—Arabic as well as Romance. The story’s narrator, Lemuʾel, joins a huge crowd fascinated by a humongous beard belonging to a (Moslem?) preacher named Akhbor. His unruly beard, as well as his long pious sermon, are exaggeratedly represented. After being generously paid by the crowd, the seemingly-poor preacher returns to the luxurious mansion he owns. Suspicious Lemuʾel secretly follows him home. Peering from an ambush, he sees Akhbor merrily and lavishly partying with four young maidservants. As the four leave, a black woman enters to have fierce sex with Akhbor. Lemuʾel, being disgusted with the scene, calls back the four maidservants who smuttily insult Akhbor, pluck his beard off, and finally beat him up to death. Days later, in spring, the same four ex-maidservants stroll like ladies in blooming orchards. Four young gentlemen make awkward advances to them, upon which the ladies teach them a lesson in the art of Courtly Love. The story culminates in the marriage of the four couples. The epilogue, clearly detached from the story’s main body, introduces a novel romantic theme: Romance Courtly Love replacing the carnal eroticism of al-Andalus. The story’s hybrid cultural scene, may well epitomize the transition underwent by thirteenth-century Iberian Jewry from al-Andalus to Christian Spain.

In: 'His Pen and Ink Are a Powerful Mirror'
Author: David Torollo

Abstract

In this article I take the story of a Jewish female wine merchant (chapter 28, Mishle he-ʿarav) as a witness of the phenomenon of cultural translation that was developing within the Jewish communities in Medieval Iberia and Provence. I present the Hebrew transcription of the story and provide the first English translation. Then, I examine the motivations that led the author of the work to stress the religion of the wine seller and the consequences of this fact from a cultural translation perspective. The objective is not to find the source and parallels of the story but to understand its meaning in a specific cultural context. Therefore, this article offers my reading of the story as a multilayered text in which we can see intermingled traces of different cultural traditions: the story of the hermit Barṣīṣā, the doctrine of martyrdom in Judaism and the ḥudud crimes in Islamic law.

In: 'His Pen and Ink Are a Powerful Mirror'

Abstract

The Qurʾan continues to be translated with either little attention, or outright inattention, to rhyme. This contribution is an attempt to produce a rhyme-led translation of Sūrat Luqmān, the 31st surah in the Qurʾan. It has been chosen, on the one hand, for its amenability to rhyme and rhythm (end sounds are ūn/īn/īm / īr/ūr / īẓ / īd), and on the other for its content: the surah includes much good counsel by a wise older man to a younger one, which is an apposite offering from me to the volume’s honoree.

In: 'His Pen and Ink Are a Powerful Mirror'

Abstract

This paper interprets the ornamental program of the Almohad Great Mosque of Seville, completed between 1172 and 1198 CE. The mosque’s extant minaret and fragmentary archaeological material recovered from its prayer hall suggest that it was a relatively ornate building comparted to previous Almohad Friday mosques, such as the Kutubiyya Mosque in Marrakesh (c. 1158 CE), featuring a more overt depiction of vegetal forms and a more systematized ornamental program. In partial explanation of these characteristics, this study argues they share key thematic features with the written works of two of the building’s contemporaries: Abū Bakr Muḥammad bin Muḥammad bin Ṭufayl al-Qaysī (d. 1185) and Abū-l-Walīd Muḥammad bin Aḥmad bin Muḥammad bin Rušd, al-Ḥafīd (d. 1198). Read side-by-side, the texts and mosque evidence a preoccupation with the observation of a divinely-ordered created world, and they represent continued efforts of the Almohad elite to wrestle with the theological issue of how the divine might manifest in the mundane.

In: 'His Pen and Ink Are a Powerful Mirror'
Editor: Yosef Kaplan
From the sixteenth century on, hundreds of Portuguese New Christians began to flow to Venice and Livorno in Italy, and to Amsterdam and Hamburg in northwest Europe. In those cities and later in London, Bordeaux, and Bayonne as well, Iberian conversos established their own Jewish communities, openly adhering to Judaism. Despite the features these communities shared with other confessional groups in exile, what set them apart was very significant. In contrast to other European confessional communities, whose religious affiliation was uninterrupted, the Western Sephardic Jews came to Judaism after a separation of generations from the religion of their ancestors. In this edited volume, several experts in the field detail the religious and cultural changes that occurred in the Early Modern Western Sephardic communities.

"Highly recommended for all academic and Jewish libraries." - David B Levy, Touro College, NYC, in: Association of Jewish Libraries News and Reviews 1.2 (2019)
From Catalonia to the Caribbean: The Sephardic Orbit from Medieval to Modern Times is a polyphonic collection of essays in honor of Jane S. Gerber’s contributions as a leading scholar and teacher. Each chapter presents new or underappreciated source materials or questions familiar historical models to expand our understanding of Sephardic cultural, intellectual, and social history. The subjects of this volume are men and women, rich and poor, connected to various Sephardic Diasporas—Spanish, Portuguese, North African, or Middle Eastern—from medieval to modern times. They each, in their own way, challenged the expectations of their societies and helped to define the religious, ethnic, and intellectual experience of Sephardim as well as surrounding cultures throughout the world.
Author: Uriah Kfir
A Matter of Geography: A New Perspective on Medieval Hebrew Poetry takes a ground-breaking approach to the relationships between centers of medieval Hebrew poetry and their implications regarding matters of poetics. It shows on the one hand how literary efforts by members of the Spanish school of secular poetry, from its zenith in the eleventh century to the thirteenth century, helped gradually shape its predominance. On the other hand, it presents thirteenth century Hebrew poets from Iraq, Egypt, Italy and Provence, and charts the different strategies of these “peripheral” authors, who had to cope with Iberian fame. The analysis, which draws on concepts from literary and cultural theories, provides close readings of many works in both the original Hebrew and, in most cases for the first time, an English translation.

"Kfir’s book makes a strong case for the craft, vibrancy, and richness of Medieval Hebrew poetry as rooted in place. Highly recommended for scholars of medieval Hebrew poetry, poetry aficionados, and historians." - David B. Levy, Touro College, in: Association of Jewish LIbraries 8.4 (2018)
Socio-Political Conflict Over Wage-Gaps in Israel, 1954-1956
Authors: Avi Bareli and Uri Cohen
This new research investigates socio-political and ethnic-cultural conflicts over wage gaps in Israel during the 1950s. The Academic Middle-Class Rebellion exposes the struggle of the Ashkenazi (European) professional elite to capitalize on its advantages during the first decade of Israeli statehood, by attempting to maximize wage gaps between themselves and the new Oriental Jewish proletariat. This struggle was met with great resistance from the government under the ruling party, Mapai, and its leader David Ben-Gurion. The clash between the two sides revealed diverse, contradictory visions of the optimal socio-economic foundation for establishing collective identity in the new nation-state. The study by Avi Bareli and Uri Cohen uncovers patterns that merged nationalism and socialism in 1950s Israel confronting a liberal and meritocratic vision.
Editor: Josef Meri
This volume assembles multidisciplinary research on the Judaeo-Islamic tradition in medieval and modern contexts. The introduction discusses the nature of this tradition and proposes the more fluid and inclusive designation of “Jewish-Muslim Relations.” Contributions highlight diverse aspects of Jewish-Muslim relations in medieval and modern contexts, including the academic study of Jewish history, the Qur’anic notion of the “upright community” referring to the “People of the Book,” Jews in medieval fatwas, use of Arabic and Hebrew script, Jewish prayer in Christian Europe and the Islamic world, the permissibility of Arabic music in modern Jewish thought, Jewish and Muslim feminist exegesis, modern Sephardic and Morisco identity, popular Tunisian song, Jewish-Muslim relations in cinema and A.S. Yehuda’s study of an 11th-century Jewish mystic.

Abstract

The scholarly study of Islamicate Jewry had its beginnings in the nineteenth century as a tangential part of Orientalist research on Islam. Until that time, European travel literature had taken notice of the Jewish communities living in Muslim countries. Medieval Judeo-Arabic civilization became one of the major foci of the Wissenschaft des Judentums scholars of Central and Western Europe. They took little interest in later periods and set the academic agenda that was to continue well into the twentieth century. The only exception being a few researchers in Mandatory Palestine and in the French colonial Maghreb. However, the mass exodus of most Jews from the Islamic world during the twenty-five years that following the establishment of the State of Israel and the end of European colonialism sparked an intense interest in the modern history, ethnography, and culture of Islamicate Jewry which was thought to be in need of “salvage” research before it disappeared with assimilation into Israeli and French societies. The 1970s marked a definite turning point worldwide in the development of the overall field of Islamicate Jewish Studies due to a concomitance of factors: the entry into the field of new young scholars in Israel, France, and North America, significant new trends in the wider world of academe, and a new recognition and institutional response within Israel which was partially a result of social pressures from within the society by the so-called ʿedot ha-mizraḥ (literally, “the communities of the East”).

This essay surveys the evolution of this field of academic endeavor from its beginnings in the nineteenth century to the present highlighting the major scholars and their publications.

In: Jewish-Muslim Relations in Past and Present
Author: Camilla Adang

Abstract

This contribution presents and analyses a fatwā (legal opinion) issued by Abū ʿAbd Allāh al-Māzarī (d. 536/1141), a well-known Tunisian scholar of Sicilian descent, concerning a Jewish silk trader who was accused of having obtained his merchandise by unlawful means. In the fatwā, apparently issued at the request of the qāḍī of Gafsa, al-Māzarī argues that since the accusers have been unable to produce incontrovertible proof, the Jewish defendant should be given the opportunity to clear himself of all suspicion by swearing an oath in the synagogue. By objectively applying the rules of evidence prevailing in Islamic law, al-Māzarī quashes the claim of the accuser, although he was in all likelihood a Muslim.

In: Jewish-Muslim Relations in Past and Present
In: Jewish-Muslim Relations in Past and Present