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CHAPTER EIGHT THE BELOVED WOMAN AS A METAPHOR FOR DIVINE WISDOM IN THE POEMS OF ŠELOMO IBN GABIROL I. Introduction In his wide-ranging biography of Šelomo ibn Gabirol, Y.N. Simoni writes: “A fairly good guess is that he never married and remained a bachelor all his life. At all, he led an ascetic life.” 1 Simoni also bases this view on what Moše ibn Ezra wrote about Ibn Gabirol, who recoiled from sexual urges and was infatuated by Wisdom. Here is Ibn Ezra’s expansive view on this subject, far beyond how he would nor- mally treat other poets: 2 Abū Ayyūb Sulaimān ibn Yayā ibn Gabirol [...] perfected his virtues and suppressed his natural inclinations, eschewed [every debase] worldly matter and succeeded in elevating his soul to more sublime matters aſter it had been cleansed 3 of the stains of lust, and it had thoroughly received all that he consigned to it from the most precious philosophical disci- plines and the mathematical sciences. For the Philosopher [Aristotle] said: Science is the color of the soul, and the color of a thing is not pure if it is not purged of its adulteration. Plato said: One who has not yet perfected his virtues cannot draw nigh to anything in [the field of] sci- ence. Hippocrates likewise said about the natural properties: Bodies that are not pure—to the extent that when you continually feed them, you continue to cause them harm. Certainly, Ibn Ezra’s statement finds corroboration in what Ibn Gabirol himself attested in some of his poems, such as Ani ha-’iš (193; 1 Simoni 1921/3, p. 217. Still today Simoni’s essay, published in three large chapters in Ha-Tequfa, is the most comprehensive and important study of Ibn Gabi- rol. 2 Simoni 1921/23, vol. 10, pp. 151‒152; Ibn Ezra 1924, pp. 69‒70; Ibn Ezra 1975, pp. 69‒71. 3 Simoni (ibid., n. 2) states that in the Arabic original in MS Bodleyana, which he used for his translation, intiqāyihā is written, and in another version irtiqāyihā, mean- ing “aſter it rose up.” Halkin (Ibn Ezra 1975) reads naqāhā without indicating any other version, and translates “cleansed it”; likewise Halper (Ibn Ezra 1924). Yosef Tobi - 978-90-04-18945-4 Downloaded from Brill.com03/29/2019 09:04:40AM via University of Sydney

WISDOM IN THE POEMS OF ŠELOMO IBN GABIROL I. Introduction · I. Introduction In his wide-ranging biography of Šelomo ibn Gabirol, Y.N. Simoni writes: “A fairly good guess is that

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  • the beloved woman as a metaphor 229

    CHAPTER EIGHT

    THE BELOVED WOMAN AS A METAPHOR FOR DIVINE WISDOM IN THE POEMS OF ŠELOMO IBN GABIROL

    I. Introduction

    In his wide-ranging biography of Šelomo ibn Gabirol, Y.N. Simoni writes: “A fairly good guess is that he never married and remained a bachelor all his life. At all, he led an ascetic life.”1 Simoni also bases this view on what Moše ibn Ezra wrote about Ibn Gabirol, who recoiled from sexual urges and was infatuated by Wisdom. Here is Ibn Ezra’s expansive view on this subject, far beyond how he would nor-mally treat other poets:2

    Abū Ayyūb Sulaimān ibn Yayā ibn Gabirol [...] perfected his virtues and suppressed his natural inclinations, eschewed [every debase] worldly matter and succeeded in elevating his soul to more sublime matters after it had been cleansed3 of the stains of lust, and it had thoroughly received all that he consigned to it from the most precious philosophical disci-plines and the mathematical sciences. For the Philosopher [Aristotle] said: Science is the color of the soul, and the color of a thing is not pure if it is not purged of its adulteration. Plato said: One who has not yet perfected his virtues cannot draw nigh to anything in [the field of] sci-ence. Hippocrates likewise said about the natural properties: Bodies that are not pure—to the extent that when you continually feed them, you continue to cause them harm.

    Certainly, Ibn Ezra’s statement finds corroboration in what Ibn Gabirol himself attested in some of his poems, such as Ani ha-’iš (193;

    1 Simoni 1921/3, p. 217. Still today Simoni’s essay, published in three large chapters in Ha-Tequfa, is the most comprehensive and important study of Ibn Gabi-rol.

    2 Simoni 1921/23, vol. 10, pp. 151‒152; Ibn Ezra 1924, pp. 69‒70; Ibn Ezra 1975, pp. 69‒71.

    3 Simoni (ibid., n. 2) states that in the Arabic original in MS Bodleyana, which he used for his translation, intiqāyihā is written, and in another version irtiqāyihā, mean-ing “after it rose up.” Halkin (Ibn Ezra 1975) reads naqāhā without indicating any other version, and translates “cleansed it”; likewise Halper (Ibn Ezra 1924).

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  • chapter eight230

    102):4 “He, that from his youth, chose wisdom.”5 Nevertheless, Ibn Gabi rol did not refrain from writing love poems. From Ibn Ezra’s words here, connected with what he said about Ibn Gabirol’s flight from desire, we should realize that the love poems he wrote are not bio-graphical testimony that he loved a woman, and was infatuated with her. In any event, one cannot ignore the fact that out of the 276 poems in the Dīwān of Ibn Gabirol’s secular poems (26 of them questionable) in Brody-Schirmann’s edition, over 40 are defined as love poems.6 So what is the meaning of the love poems of Ibn Gabirol?

    In Chapter Five it was shown that love poems, or the love openings in qa�īdas in medieval Hebrew verse in Andalusia, are often to be understood as allegory. Certainly, the earliest scholars were somewhat nonplussed by the presence of love poems in the work of Ibn Gabirol. S. Sachs, among the first of the important researchers of Ibn Gabirol’s poetry,7 connected to this matter the poem Im te’ehav (76; 176), in which the poet recommends not begetting children; in this critic’s view the poem was written after the poet despaired of having children of his own. In any event, even Simoni, who rejects Sachs’ opinion as “a very flimsy conjecture, because it is not proven from the plain text of the poem,”8 is at pains to state regarding Ibn Gabirol that “love poems by him are hardly to be found; by contrast, he did not abstain from wine, and from time to time sang its praises.”9 The following

    4 Here and in the following, the first figure in parentheses indicates the number of the poem in Brody-Schirmann’s edition (Ibn Gabirol 1975); the second indicates the number in Jarden’s edition (Ibn Gabirol 1985). The version of the poems usually is according to Brody-Schirmann’s edition.

    5 On Ibn Gabirol’s pursuit of wisdom see Chapter Nine; and below.6 Schirmann-Fleischer (1996, p. 297, n. 242) states that the number of love poems

    in Ibn Gabirol’s Dīwān is 41, and beside these are passages concerned with erotic subjects found at the start of three more poems. S. Or (1999, pp. 341‒342) compiled a list of 56 love poems by Ibn Gabirol.

    7 Sachs 1866; 1868; 1892.8 For Sachs’ comment, as published first in Ha-�ofeh Le-Ha-Magid 18 (1874),

    p. 313, and for Simoni’s response see Simoni 1921/23, p. 216, n. 1. Schirmann-Fleicher (1996, p. 298) writes in the same spirit, and cites the whole poem. He inter-prets: “Of course, one should not over-evaluate the epigram that contains this line; the writer possibly expressed here not necessarily a personal opinion but a general idea that appears occasionally in medieval poets and thinkers.” Later he adduces proof from Šemuel Ha-Nagid, who wrote similar things but certainly did not spurn family life. Long before, the Arab poet Abū al-ʿAtāhiya (748–828) pilloried the begetting of children in several of his poems, and even Saʿadia wrote in his famous rebuke Im le-fi bo�orkha about the troubles involved in raising children.

    9 Simoni 1921/23, p. 217. This critic, who did not yet avail of Bialik-Ravnitski’s edition of Ibn Gabirol’s secular and liturgical poems, and certainly not of MS Schocken

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    BillHighlightlove poems, or the love openingsin qaīdas in medieval Hebrew verse in Andalusia, are often to beunderstood as allegory

  • the beloved woman as a metaphor 231

    passage attests to Simoni’s uncertainty in interpreting Ibn Gabirol’s love poems:10

    An important question is how the poet related to the hardest of all ‘vanities’ of this world—love of a woman. [...] Presumably, the poet was a confirmed bachelor all his life. Some suppose, in the expression of the new poet,11 that “one song his soul did not know—the song of youthful vigor and love.” The truth is that we are right in thinking that a woman’s love carried no great value in Ibn Gabirol’s soul. In any event, his poetry contains no echo reflecting such love, as we see it, for example, in the verse of R. Moše ibn Ezra and R. Yehuda Ha-Levi. But one should not infer from this that the poet was entirely devoid of feelings of love, and seek some psychological foundation for this. In the opening of some poems, in which the poet addresses his muse with words of love and describes his ‘dove’, the gentle sound of this emotion is to be heard. Most powerful is the image of the beloved woman in one poem: “She deserted me and rose to the firmament [...].”12 It seems that this love too is a symbol of his muse; but the shadings that the poet uses here teach us a great deal.

    Simoni then, tends to see the beloved girl of which Ibn Gabirol speaks in his poem as a symbol of the muse, but explains that we can learn from the poem about the feelings of love that were firmly planted in the poet’s heart. Yet it transpires that Simoni was ambivalent on the question, because elsewhere in the same essay he writes that it seems reasonable that Ibn Gabirol knew the writing of the contemporary Arab poet ʿAli ibn �azm, who lived in Spain, “and received a certain impact from it, even though its main motif—love for a woman—remained foreign to him.”13

    I do not intend to deal here with every one of Ibn Gabirol’s love poems; nor do I mean to argue that the allegorical argument holds for all revelations of the theme of love in his works. But it seems to me that at least some of them, especially the love openings in the qa�īdas, should indeed be interpreted allegorically. That is, sometimes the image of beloved one (female or male) in these poems is not directed at a young girl or a youth, but at another human figure, such as

    37, according to which Brody and Schirmann redacted the poet’s secular poems, was unable to evaluate properly the volume of love poems in his works.

    10 Simoni 1921/23, vol. 12, pp. 162‒163.11 H.N. Bialik in his poem Ve-’im yiš’al.12 On the poem ʿAzavatni ve-ʿalta, which Simoni cites in full, see below.13 Simoni 1921/23, vol. 12, p. 166. Ibn �azm (994‒1064) is known, among other

    things, for his essay �awq al-�amāma, a monograph on love; he wrote love poems too, although poetry was not particularly his forte.

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    BillHighlighttends to see the beloved girl

    BillHighlightin his poem as a symbol of the muse

    BillHighlightsometimes theimage of beloved one (female or male) in these poems is not directedat a young girl or a youth, but at another human figure, such as

  • chapter eight232

    esteemed person or the friend in whose praise the poem was written. Examples are Šošan ʿale saʿif (216; 64) and Ha-yit’appaq ve-’im ye�še (221; 70). But at other times the intention is not flesh and blood at all, but an abstract entity, which changes from poem to poem, such as Ibn Gabirol’s own poetry in Ve-’at yona (130; 13) written in honor of his beloved patron and benefactor Yequtiel. This is so, if for the purpose of correctly understanding the poem, we adopt the integrative method,14 which subordinates the opening to the main part of the qa�īda, in that he invests the beloved girl in the opening with allegorical significance. By this method, the beloved young girl in the opening is no other than an allegory for the poetry of Ibn Gabirol himself, in adoration of Yequtiel, as attested by the two transitional stanzas:15

    Take the drum and the lyre and sing when playing the ʿasor and minnimStand up and praise Yequtiel, your chosen beloved, the chief of [all]

    ministers and rulers!

    Simoni understood that this was not the well known beloved girl in the openings of the Arabic poems, but an allegorical image—for the muse:16

    Is not this also no more than the cooing dove of the Arabians? It would seem that the matter is otherwise! As in the first opening,17 so in this one the poet turns to the Divine Presence (Heb. Šekhina) of his poetry, his muse. How many poems have been penned by many different poets, from Classical times to recent generations in honor of the muse, but they all did not overstep the limits of ancient Greek mythology with all the motifs present in it. Which is not so in the dove, this Narcissus of Šaron. Here a new creature is before us, a Hebrew muse in form and in all its qualities. Not from the poetry of Homer, Hesiod, Alcaeus and Pindar, or of Horatio, and their kind, did this muse acquire its content and its hue—even if we admit that the old Greek muse did make its way to our poet through several channels; but from the treasuretroves of Hebrew tradition the poet discovered for himself special rays of light and he worked them into a luminous picture of the Divine Presence (Šekhina) constituting his poetry.

    14 On the integrative method see Chapter Five, n. 53.15 For the Hebrew text see Chapter Six, p. 159. On poetry as a woman see Rosen

    2003, Chapter Three.16 Simoni 1921/23, pp. 254‒255; for a similar opinion from Bialik-Ravnitski cf.

    Ibn Gabirol 1924/8, I, notes and clarifications, p. 50; Schirmann-Fleischer 1996, pp. 296‒297; Katz 1997, pp. 150‒153. Mirsky 1990, pp. 442‒443, reads its as an ordi-nary love poem.

    17 The opening of the poem Mi zot kemo (159; 4), which I propose refers to wis-dom; see below.

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    BillHighlightesteemed person or the friend in whose praise the poem was written

    BillHighlightBut at other times the intention is not flesh and blood at all,but an abstract entity, which changes from poem to poem

    BillHighlighthe invests the beloved girl in the opening with allegorical significance.By this method, the beloved young girl in the opening is no other thanan allegory for the poetry of Ibn Gabirol himself, in adoration ofYequtiel, as attested by the two transitional stanzas

    BillHighlightan allegorical image—for themuse

    BillHighlightHow many poems have been penned by many different poets,from Classical times to recent generations in honor of the muse, butthey all did not overstep the limits of ancient Greek mythology with allthe motifs present in it.

    BillHighlightHere a new creature is before us, a Hebrew muse in form and inall its qualities. Not from the poetry of Homer, Hesiod, Alcaeus andPindar, or of Horatio, and their kind, did this muse acquire its contentand its hue—even if we admit that the old Greek muse did make its wayto our poet through several channels; but from the treasuretroves ofHebrew tradition the poet discovered for himself special rays of lightand he worked them into a luminous picture of the Divine Presence(Šekhina) constituting his poetry.

  • the beloved woman as a metaphor 233

    In the following I intend to discuss one property—perhaps the most important and significant—out of the range of abstract properties in the poet’s love poem: it is the desired woman as a symbol of Divine Wisdom.

    II. The Symbolic Image of the Female in Hebrew Literature and World Literature

    From the Bible to the present the image of the female in Hebrew literature has served as a symbol and an allegory of matters sublime in spirit,18 while disregarding entirely the basically negative attitude to woman. So it is in the narration of the seductions of the harlot, a flesh-and-blood woman, who lures the young lad to “the ways of Še’ol” and the “chambers of death” in chapters 6 and 7 and at the end of chapter 9 in the Book of Proverbs, Wisdom is presented, by contrast, in chapters 8 and 9 of the book as an allegorical image of woman, standing, “at the top of high places, by the way” and calling to foolish men wanting in understanding: “Come eat of my bread and drink of the wine that I have mingled” (Prov. 9:5). Also she who was with God when he created his world: “Then I was beside him, like a master work-man; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always” (Prov. 8:30).19 In ancient Greece not only the goddess of fate (Tyche) and her daughters (Moira) and the spirit of creation (Muse) were represented as female images, but wisdom (Sophia) also appeared in the image of different women, such as Penelope, the faithful wife of Odysseus.20 Under the influence of the Bible and Greek thought, the Jewish Sages too in their homilies and liturgical poems symbolized the Torah in the image of a woman, and indeed described the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai as a marriage ceremony between Moses and the people of Israel as the groom and the Torah as the bride.21

    Personification of Wisdom as a desired and passionate woman depicted in extravagant and luscious erotic motifs reached its zenith in

    18 The image of the female that symbolizes Earth, which treats human beings cru-elly, is not our concern here, as its source is pagan culture and it flies in the face of the religious perception underlying the relations of the good and wise God with the human. On the ancient image of Earth and predestination see Tobi 2004, pp. 217‒246; Huss 2002; Rosen 2003, pp. 14‒17.

    19 Yoder 2001; Sinnott 2005.20 Helman 1995.21 Wolfson 1989.

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    BillUnderlinethe desired woman as a symbol of DivineWisdom

    BillHighlightFrom the Bible to the present the image of the female in Hebrewliterature has served as a symbol and an allegory of matters sublimein spirit

    BillHighlightIn ancient Greece not only the goddess of fate (Tyche) and herdaughters (Moira) and the spirit of creation (Muse) were representedas female images, but wisdom (Sophia) also appeared in the imageof different women, such as Penelope, the faithful wife of Odysseus

    BillHighlightUnder the influence of the Bible and Greek thought, the Jewish Sagestoo in their homilies and liturgical poems symbolized the Torah in theimage of a woman, and indeed described the Giving of the Torah atMount Sinai as a marriage ceremony between Moses and the people ofIsrael as the groom and the Torah as the bride.

    BillHighlightPersonification of Wisdom as a desired and passionate womandepicted in extravagant and luscious erotic motifs reached its zenith in

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    the medieval Hebrew maqāma genre, through writers in Spain and the East who were devotees of Maimonides and who placed the pursuit of philosophy at the summit of religious-spiritual activity. They included Yosef b. Šimʿon in Ma�beret Yemima, Yaʿaqov b. Elʿazar in the first chapter in his Sefer Ha-Mešalim, and Abraham ibn �isday in Ma�-beret Temima.22 Without doubt, the license that these authors allowed themselves to draw philosophy/woman in bold language originates in the fact that Maimonides himself, so admired by them, likened the love of God to the love of a woman. He even asserted that as long as the soul was located inside the body it could not imagine the spiritual pleasure caused to it when it was joined by the active mind, just as a eunuch could not imagine the pleasure caused by sexual relations.23 According to Maimonides, Song of Songs in its entirety is an allegory of the love of God, which, speaking of, is pervasive for mankind in general than the love that exists for a woman.24 The discourse on the love of God in terms of a man’s love for a woman came to Maimonides under the influence of the Muslim philosophers Ibn Sīnā and al-Ghazālī,25 but the idea was already present in the writings of Philo; otherwise stated, “the philosophical Eros of Plato turned into a religious Eros.”26

    Obviously, love of God in Maimonides’ philosophy is not a mystic love but a requirement of wisdom, which is knowledge of metaphysics. That is, knowledge of God, which is the first commandment with which Maimonides opens the Book of Knowledge (1:1), the philosophy book which stands at the head of his halakhic codex, Mišne Tora: “The foundation of all foundations and pillar of all wisdoms is to know that

    22 For Ma�beret Yemima see Fleischer in Schirmann-Fleischer 1997, pp. 273‒278; Yahalom 1997; for the first chapter of Yaʿaqov b. Elʿazar see Ben Elʿazar 1993, pp. 15‒22; Rosen 2003, pp. 95‒102; for Ma�beret Temima see Schirmann-Fleischer 1997, pp. 256‒259.

    23 See Maimonides, Mišne Tora, Tešuva 10:3: “And how is the proper love? One that loves God with a great and fierce over-abundant love to the point that his soul be clasped in the love of God, and he be always ravished by it as if ill with love-sickness, that his mind is not free of love of that woman and he is crazed with it always.” Mai-monides 1965, Seder Neziqqin, introduction to Pereq �eleq, p. 203: “Just as the blind man cannot conceive of colors, and the deaf cannot perceive of sounds and the cas-trate cannot perceive of the lust of intercourse, so bodies cannot perceive of the spiri-tual joys [...]. So in this material world one does not know the pleasures of the spiritual world.”

    24 See Bacher 1932, pp. 23‒24.25 Eran 2002; Stroumsa 1998.26 Stein 1937, p. 235.

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    BillHighlightthe medieval Hebrew maqāma genre

    BillHighlightthrough writers in Spain and theEast who were devotees of Maimonides and who placed the pursuit ofphilosophy at the summit of religious-spiritual activity.

    BillHighlightthe license that these authors allowedthemselves to draw philosophy/woman in bold language originates inthe fact that Maimonides himself, so admired by them, likened the loveof God to the love of a woman

    BillHighlightSong of Songs in its entirety is an allegoryof the love of God, which, speaking of, is pervasive for mankind ingeneral than the love that exists for a woman

    BillHighlightthe idea was already present in the writings of Philo

    BillHighlightlove of God in Maimonides’ philosophy is not a mysticlove but a requirement of wisdom, which is knowledge of metaphysics

    BillHighlightThefoundation of all foundations and pillar of all wisdoms is to know that

  • the beloved woman as a metaphor 235

    there is a primeval existent.” Only later, in the same book (2:1) comes the fourth commandment of love of God: “It is a commandment to love this revered and awful God.” At the end of Guide for the Per-plexed, Maimonides is at pains to expound at length why the highest philosophical attainment, the ultimate prophetic degree, which was reached by Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, is described by the Sages as “dying with a kiss.” This language best expresses by way of a ‘poetic figure of speech’ the great joy of spiritual achievement attained by these three through the power of their passion for God.27

    At the other pole of Hebrew literature of the modern age we encoun-ter in the marvelous enigmatic poetry of �ayyim Naman Bialik, Hakhnisini ta�at kenafekh (Bring me in under your wing), when he asks of the female character to be for him “mother and sister / and let your bosom be a refuge for my head / the nest of my expelled prayers.” Scholars of Bialik and his poetry have been extremely uncertain about the identity of the woman personage in the poem, and have written a variety of interpretations. Some of them are convinced in their under-standing while others are uncertain with their view. We shall come back to this poem later, and suggest an interpretation based on its rela-tion to the poems of Ibn Gabirol, the object of our research here (Appen dix, below).

    But before moving to discuss Ibn Gabirol’s poems we note that in the long intervening period between the Bible and Modern Hebrew poetry the female image also served as allegory for issues far from material. Of course, the most prevalent use of this image is in the national context, that is, the people of Israel in relation to their God, a use whose expressions in rabbinic literature lie in the phrase Keneset Yisrael (the People of Israel). This allegorical usage, based on a liken-ing of the relation of the people of Israel and their God to the relation of a wife and her husband, found as early as the Bible and then in the rabbinic allegorical interpretation of Song of Songs, acquired preva-lence in the Midrašic literature, and still more in the ancient Eastern piyyut throughout its history, and then also in the Hebrew liturgical poetry of Spain and its many ramifications. Alongside this, another allegorical use developed: the female as a symbol of a man’s soul, whose origin is in Platonic philosophy and which first entered Jewish literature through Philo of Alexandria. From the 11th century on it spread through neo-Platonic literature, mainly in the writings of

    27 Guide, III, 51 (last part of the chapter).

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    BillHighlightthere is a primeval existent

    BillHighlightIt is a commandment tolove this revered and awful God.

    BillHighlightdying with a kiss

    BillUnderlineThis language best expresses by way of a ‘poeticfigure of speech’ the great joy of spiritual achievement attained bythese three through the power of their passion for God.

    BillHighlightinthe long intervening period between the Bible and Modern Hebrewpoetry the female image also served as allegory for issues far frommaterial

    BillHighlightthe people of Israel in relation to their God

    BillHighlightAlongside this, anotherallegorical use developed: the female as a symbol of a man’s soul,whose origin is in Platonic philosophy and which first entered Jewishliterature through Philo of Alexandria.

    BillUnderlineFrom the 11th century on itspread through neo-Platonic literature, mainly in the writings of

  • chapter eight236

    Ikhwān al-�afā’. Renowned in this respect are the poems of the soul, almost all of which formed an inseparable part of the liturgical poetry, the first of which are already found in the piyyutim of Saʿadia.28 Note that the allegorical development of the female image in the soul poems is quite sparse, particularly in comparison with the poems on Kenesset Yisrael, for these took shape in Hebrew liturgical poetry in Spain according to Biblical and Midrašic sources, but also through use of erotic motifs taken from Arabic love poetry, which is entirely secular.29 Among the first to adopt this method was indeed an Eastern poet, Yeezkel b. ʿEli, who apparently lived in Iraq at the end of the 10th and in the early decades of the 11th century.30

    Allegorical use of the female image was also to be found in medieval Hebrew secular poetry, in the classic opening of the qa�īda, called in Arabic nasīb or tašbīb; in the tradition of Arabic poetry as early as the jāhiliyya the image of the beloved woman appears, but the poet’s hopes of meeting her are dashed because her tribe has already struck camp and moved on somewhere else. In the Abbasid period, as an aspect of the Arab poets’ discomfort with the conventions of the jāhilī poetry of the desert society the status of the opening to the qa�īda was undermined. One expression of this is found in Hebrew poetry already in the love poems of Yi�aq ibn Mar Šaul and Yi�aq ibn Khalfūn: the beloved male or female in the qa�īda’s opening is not a living person but an allegorical figure who represents the esteemed person in whose praise the poem was written.31 In the openings of poems of this kind, the image of the beloved male or female is fashioned according to the best motifs and rhetorical devices of secular love poetry from the school of the Arab poets, and only the integrative principle gives us access to the true meaning of the openings. By contrast, we face a far more serious difficulty in respect of the short and independent love poems of Šemuel Ha-Nagid—the maqū’āt, which do not serve as openings to long qa�īdas and which he and his son, Yehosef, declare expressly to be alle-

    28 See Tobi 2004, pp. 86‒90. On spiritual poems in Spain see Scheindlin 1990; Tanenbaum 2002. On their connection to the essay al-Hidāia ilā farā’i� al-qulūb by Baye ibn Paquda see Mirsky 1992. On the soul poems in Yemen, composed as poems to the beloved woman, see Maswari-Caspi 1978.

    29 See, e.g., Levin 1971. On the image of beloved woman in Hebrew liturgical poetry in Spain as allegory for God, the soul, and Israel, see Scheindlin 1991; Rosen 2003, Chapter Four.

    30 Beeri 2006, pp. 9‒13.31 See Chapter Five, pp. 127‒135.

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    BillUnderlineIkhwān al-afā’.

    BillHighlightRenowned in this respect are the poems of the soul,almost all of which formed an inseparable part of the liturgical poetry

    BillHighlightAllegorical use of the female image was also to be found in medievalHebrew secular poetry

    BillHighlightOne expression of this is found in Hebrew poetry alreadyin the love poems of Yiaq ibn Mar Šaul and Yiaq ibn Khalfūn: thebeloved male or female in the qaīda’s opening is not a living personbut an allegorical figure who represents the esteemed person in whosepraise the poem was written

    BillUnderlineonly the integrative principle gives us access to thetrue meaning of the openings

  • the beloved woman as a metaphor 237

    gorical and that the image of the beloved male or female in them is not flesh and blood but an image for the People of Israel.32

    To conclude this section, we note that the most developed allegori-cal design for the female character in Hebrew poetry appears in the work of Šalom Šabazī, the 17th century Yemeni poet. Many of his verses, which like most Yemeni poems are not liturgical but imbued with fierce religious and national spirit, were written for nuptial celebra-tions, and the female figure apparently of the real-life bride acquires diverse allegorical meanings, even in a single poem: soul, Torah, wis-dom, and the Land of Israel. But Šabazī was affected not only by the Spanish Hebrew liturgical and secular poetry but also by the local Yemeni-Arab school, the �umainī, mainly in the work of the ufī poets in Yemen.33 This genre of Arabic love poems (ghazaliyyāt), in which the image of the beloved woman that appears in their openings signifies the Divine (al-dhāt al-ilāhiyya), is known from medieval ūfī poetry, as in the poems of ʿUmar ibn al-Fāri=, who lived in Egypt, 1181–1235. This poet was especially famed for his controversial long poem on ‘the ūfī Way’ (al-tā’iyya al-kubrā’), in which he describes the love of God as a poem of love for a woman called Layla, replete with erotic phrases; and for his wine poem (al-khamriyya), in which he sings of the divine ‘wine’ that causes happiness.34 As Scheindlin has shown, the influence of the ūfī poetry, obviously that predating Ibn al-Fāri=, is evident also in the liturgical poems of Ibn Gabirol, who lived in Andalusia in the first half of the 11th century.35

    III. Wisdom in the Poems of Ibn Gabirol

    All the foregoing hues of symbolism of the female are found in Ibn Gabirol’s poetry, the liturgical and the sacred. But our concern here is with the image of the female in his poems in which she serves as alle-gory for wisdom, both the love openings in the qa�īdas and short love poems, apparently of the kind of allegorical love poems of Ha-Nagid—

    32 This question has been discussed by many scholars of medieval Hebrew poetry, and not one of them could demonstrate from the poems themselves their allegorical sense. See Chapter Five, pp. 135‒139.

    33 Tobi 2006.34 On the love of God in the poems of Ibn al-Fāri=, see �ilmī 1971, and on the

    wine poem see Homerin 2005; see further, idem 1994, Index, p. 158, entry ʿIbn al- Fāri=’.

    35 Scheindlin 1994.

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    BillUnderlinethe most developed allegoricaldesign for the female character in Hebrew poetry appears in thework of Šalom Šabazī, the 17th century Yemeni poet. Many of his verses,which like most Yemeni poems are not liturgical but imbued withfierce religious and national spirit, were written for nuptial celebrations,and the female figure apparently of the real-life bride acquiresdiverse allegorical meanings, even in a single poem

    BillHighlightsoul, Torah, wisdom,and the Land of Israel.

    BillHighlightThis genre of Arabic love poems (ghazaliyyāt), inwhich the image of the beloved woman that appears in their openingssignifies the Divine (al-dhāt al-ilāhiyya), is known from medieval ūfīpoetry, as in the poems of ʿUmar ibn al-Fāri=, who lived in Egypt,1181–1235.

    BillHighlightn which he describesthe love of God as a poem of love for a woman called Layla, replete witherotic phrases; and for his wine poem (al-khamriyya), in which he singsof the divine ‘wine’ that causes happiness.

  • chapter eight238

    according to the latter’s own avowal and that of his son Yehosef, in which the girl symbolizes Wisdom. In fact, in Ibn Gabirol’s personal-ity, the love of Wisdom took the place of carnal love, as he declares in his poem Lu hayeta (96; 104):

    ּוְבַׂשר ֲאֵחִרים ַאֲהָבה אֹוֶכֶלת ֵהן ִמְּדרֹׁש ָחְכָמה ְבָׂשִרי ֶנֱאָכל Behold! From the pursuit of wisdom, my flesh is consumed, while the

    flesh of others, love is what consumes it!

    As we know, the attachment of Ibn Gabirol—the philosopher poet—to Wisdom serves as the central theme in his poetry, secular and liturgi-cal alike.36 Our discussion here will concentrate on the secular poems only, because the liturgical poems were written from an emotional posture, and with a social and religious commitment entirely differ-ent from those of the secular poems, and they call for a separate discus-sion. This connection was extremely complicated and intricate, and involved serious frustrations in Ibn Gabirol’s attitude to his human environment and to God. His relations with human beings find expression in two facets:

    a) A debate with friends who chastise him for devoting his interests to the study of Wisdom and for holding back from the pleasures and delights of life, including love of women. Ibn Gabirol dedicated a good number of his poems to thrust and parry with friends on this subject, akin to the polemic poems between Yehuda Ha-Levi and his friends who wanted to deter him from his daring and perilous intention of

    36 Bregman 1987/88; Tobi 1990; Katz 1992, pp. 73‒82; Abū Dā’ūd 2003; Or 1999, pp. 18‒133, especially p. 133, on which appears under the heading ‘The Quest for Wis-dom’ a list of 29 of Ibn Gabirol’s secular poems, classified according to the conven-tional genres. In her discussion in the main part of her thesis too, Or tries to attach every poem to one of the conventional genres, with no grounds at all for doing so. I also doubt that all the self-praise poems should be included in the poems of ‘quest for Wisdom’, since most of them contain a ferocious polemic against those whom the poet feels do not respect him as is his due, and not always do they contain any refer-ence to his pursuit of Wisdom. Alongside these secular poems she enumerates 14 poems defined as ‘private liturgical poems’. In the main part of the thesis she discusses these poems under the heading ‘A search for proximity to God in private poems of prayer’ (pp. 122‒131) but later (pp. 123‒134) she herself hesitates over their very defi-nition as liturgical poems. The definition ‘private poems of prayer’ certainly applies to these poems and they should not be seen as liturgical poems. This gains confirmation from the fact of their inclusion in the Dīwān of secular poems, as Or notes herself (p. 124). Later we shall return to the subject of accepted classification of medieval Hebrew poems. We shall also see that the list of ‘quest for Wisdom’ poems should be augmented with several more.

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    BillHighlightthe attachment of Ibn Gabirol—the philosopher poet—toWisdom serves as the central theme in his poetry, secular and liturgicalalike

    BillHighlightA debate with friends who chastise him for devoting his intereststo the study of Wisdom and for holding back from the pleasures anddelights of life, including love of women

  • the beloved woman as a metaphor 239

    going up to the Land of Israel.37 These are the poems in which Ibn Gabirol immortalizes the argument with his friends: Emor la-omerim (103; 105); Be�ar me-ha-�ali (139; 20); Ke-šoreš ʿe� (203; 95);38 Lu hayeta (96; 104); Lu neʿ�era (237; 260); Meli�ati be-da’gati (160; 116); Nefeš ašer ʿalu (122; 100); Šaʿalu nafši (176; 247). In these poems, and in his polemic poems with his rival poets and others, the poet displays absolute self-assurance that he has indeed succeeded in achieving wis-dom. The following are a few stanzas on this:

    ְוֵהם ֶאל ָּכל ְּבֵני ַעִּמי ְסגּורֹות ְוַדְלֵתי ַהְּתבּוָנה ִנְפְּתחּו ִלי ּוִמֵּלא ִמְּכָתִמים אֹוְצרֹוָתיו ֲאֶׁשר ָצַפן ְּפִניֵני ַהְּתבּוָנה

    ְוַהַּדַעת ֲאָזַרִני ְרִבידֹו ְוָלַבְׁשִּתי ְלבּוׁש ָחְכָמה ּומּוָסר ְוַהֵּׂשֶכל ֱהִביַאִני ֲחָדָריו ְוֵאיְך ָאבֹוא ְּבַלְהַקת ַהְּפָתִאים

    ְוִציץ ֵנֶזר ָחְכָמה ֲאַׁשֶּוה ַעל ִמְצִחי [...] ְוָאִניף ָיד ָרָמה  ְּבַדַעת ּוְמִזָּמה ּוִמֶּמּנּו ֶאְקצֹר  ְׁשִחיִסי ּוְסִפיִחי ְוַדְרֵכי ִבין ֶאּצֹר ּוַבֵּׁשֶכל ֶאְעצֹר

    ְלַהִּׂשיג ַמֲעלֹות ָחְכָמה ְוָיכֹל ְוַאל ִּתְתַמּה ְּבִאיׁש ָּכַמּה ְּבָׂשרֹו ַּכִּמְצֶנֶפת—ַוְאִני ִציָצּה ִאם ַאְּת, ָאִחי, ַעל רֹאׁש ָחְכָמה

    ֲעֵלי ֹגַבּה ְּדָרֶכיָך ְּתֵמִהים ְואֹוֵמר: ּכֹוְכֵבי רֹום ַהְּגבֹוִהים The doors of Understanding have been opened to me, which upon all

    my kinsmen have been closed.39Who stored away the jewels of Understanding and filled up his treasures

    with gold.40I have worn the clothing of Wisdom and Instruction, while Knowledge

    has girded me with its necklace41How then should I come into the company of simpletons, when pru-

    dence has brought me into its chambers? 42I shall openly gesture with knowledge and discretion, and a [golden]

    plate of the crown of Wisdom I shall place on my forehead [...]I shall observe the paths of Understanding and by prudence, I shall

    arrest [vain thoughts]; I shall reap from that which grows wild and which grows of itself.43

    37 On this episode see Schirmann-Fleischer 1996, pp. 457‒466; Gil-Fleischer 2001, pp. 184‒199; Scheindlin 2008.

    38 Under the title ‘Quest for Wisdom in the private poem’ S. Or distinguishes ‘monologue poems’ from ‘dialogue poems’, and defines this poem as a monologue (Or 1999, p. 133) even though it contains stanzas spoken by the poet’s friends who berate him.

    39 Ha-tilʿag le-’enoš, l. 14 (200; 54).40 Tenassu yam, l. 4 (241; 248).41 Zeman boged, l. 13 (28; 26).42 Ke-šoreš ’e�, l. 55 (203; 95).43 Afalles maʿgali, ll. 40, 42 (96; 113).

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    Be not astonished at the man whose flesh yearns to attain the virtues of Wisdom and is able to do so.44

    If only you, my brother, will don Wisdom upon thy head as a miter, then I’d be its [golden] plate!45

    He then said: The lofty stars in the highest heavens are astonished at the height of your [ambitious] paths!46

    b) His attitude to ‘time’ (fate), which tries to frustrate him and prevents him from attaining Wisdom. Yet he does not flinch from the darts of time, in his pursuit of wisdom. Here are some appropriate stanzas:

    ְוָעֶליָך ְתִהי חֹוָמה ְבצּוָרה ְוִהָּמֵׁשְך ְּבַחְבֵלי ַהְּתבּונֹות ְוַרְגָליו ִמְּנטֹות ֵאָליו ֲחשֹּוִכים ְוַיְעִּפיל ַלֲעלֹות ֶאל ַהר ְּתבּוָנה

    ְוַנְפִׁשי ִתֲהַלְך ַעל ָהֲעָנִנים ְוֵגִוי ַיֲהֹלְך ַעל ָהֲאָדָמה ּומֹוֶאֶסת ְּבָרב עֶֹׁשר ְוהֹוִנים ְוֶיֶתר ַמֲעלֹות ָחְכָמה ְתַבֵּקש

    Be drawn by the cords of Wisdom, and it shall be upon you as a fortified wall.47

    Let him be rash to ascend on Wisdom’s mount and [keep] his legs so that men that are reft [of understanding] may not turn aside after him.48

    My body, while it walks upon the Earth, my soul saunters upon the clouds!

    She’ll seek the higher virtues of Wisdom and despise the abundance of wealth and riches.49

    c) As for his relations with God, who prevents him from attaining wis-dom, Ibn Gabirol explains God’s deed as jealousy of man, his own creation, and describes it as the obscuring of moonlight with clouds.50 Apparently, his reaction to this is like that to the wounds of time: he is not deflected from his path, and does not cease to pursue Wisdom. But contrary to the fighting spirit in regard to time and the confidence that he will triumph, his response in respect of God is very mild: it is quite clear to him that he depends on God, and he expects God to bestow his grace upon him. This attitude appears in two of his poems:

    44 Ve-al titmah, l. 1 (72; 110).45 Ša’alu nafši, l. 5 (176; 247).46 Ve-’omer kokheve, l. 1 (43; 261).47 Ha-lo tir’i, l. 11 (189; 227).48 Zemami hah, l. 12 (70; 55).49 ʿAe hod, l. 12‒13 (132; 53).50 On God’s jealousy of the human and the image of motivation to darken moon-

    light by means of clouds see Chapter Nine; on the latter effect see Bregman 1987/88.

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    BillHighlightAs for his relations with God, who prevents him from attaining wisdom,Ibn Gabirol explains God’s deed as jealousy of man, his owncreation, and describes it as the obscuring of moonlight with clouds

    BillHighlightit is quiteclear to him that he depends on God, and he expects God to bestow hisgrace upon him

  • the beloved woman as a metaphor 241

    ְלָבִבי ִמְּׁשֵני ָפָניו ֲאָסרֹו [...] ְוָסַגר ַמְחְׁשבֹוַתי ֵאל, ְוֵחֶפץ ְוַעל ֵּכן ָמְנעּו ֶמִּני ְמאֹורֹו ְּכִאּלּו ִקְּנאּו ָעִבים ְלַנְפִׁשי

    ְּכִגיל ֶעֶבד ֲאֶׁשר ָאדֹון ְזָכרֹו ְוַאְׁשִקיף ֵעת ְיַגל ָּפָניו, ְוָאִגיל ָעָליו ָעָנן ְּבצּוַרת ֵמם [...] ָיֵרַח ַּכֲחִצי ָסָמְך ַעד לֹא ָיכֹל—ְוִיַּתֵּמם [...] ִיְמׁשֹוְך ָעַלי ְזַנב ִקְנָאה

    ַעל ָׂשם ַעִין ְּבָך—ִׂשיֵמם ּוְזכֹר ֶחֶסד ְוֵעיֶניָך God closed in my thoughts. He barred my heart’s desire from all sides

    [...]As though the clouds were jealous of my soul and therefore deprived

    me of his light.And when I chance to see his face revealed, I rejoice like a slave whose

    master remembers him.51

    The moon is like a half samekh, upon which there is a cloud in the form of a mim [...]

    [The lightning] draws over me a tail of jealousy until he can no longer do so—and so pretends to be upright [...]

    Remember grace, and may your eyes be upon Him whose eye is upon you.52

    The poet’s low spirit and modesty, which express dependence on God to attain Wisdom, appear also in Ni�ar be-qor’i (120; 111), the most argumentative and bitter of Ibn Gabirol’s poems, concerned with the entire chapter of his ill relations with people (ll. 52–54):

    ְּכִמְצַות ְׁשֹלֹמה ְזֵקִני ֶאְדרֹׁש ְּבעֹוִדי, ֲאַחֵּפׂש ְיַגֶּלה ְתבּוָנה ְלֵעיִני אּוַלי ְמַגֶּלה ֲעֻמקֹות

    ִמָּכל ֲעָמִלי ְוהֹוִני ִּכי ִהיא ְמָנִתי ְלַבָּדּה But as long as I live, I shall diligently inquire, I shall search, as my

    grandfather Solomon bade me.Perhaps He who uncovers deep mysteries will reveal wisdom to my eyesFor that is mine only portion of all my labors and assets.

    IV. The Desired Maiden as an Allegory for the Esteemed in Poems of Praise (Panegyrics) and for the Deceased in an Elegy

    Above, we spoke of the integrative principle, whereby the qa�īda’s opening is a precursor to its main part. This structure is revealed in two poems of praise and in an elegy by Ibn Gabirol, in which the image of the desired maiden in the opening in fact stands for the esteemed

    51 Ani ha-’iš, ll. 22, 24‒25 (193; 202); English translation: Carmi 1981, p. 306.52 Ekh lo ed’ag, ll. 5, 10, 14 (105; 257).

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    one, or for the deceased, which words of praise spoken of him relate to his wisdom and to his understanding.

    1. The most famous poem here is Mi zot kemo (159; 4), a qa�īda whose opening is an allegorical love poem to Wisdom and the main part of the poem is praise to Ha-Nagid, where the sole theme of the praise is Ha-Nagid’s Wisdom.53 Below are some lines of the opening and of the praise in the main part of the poem (1–2, 4–5, 13–15):

    ָּתִאיר ְּכמֹו ַחָּמה ָּבָרה, ְמֹאד ָיָפה ִמי זֹאת ְּכמֹו ַׁשַחר עֹוָלה ְוִנְׁשָקָפה ֵריָחּה ְּכֵריַח ֹמר ֻמְקָטר ְוִכְׂשֵרָפה [...] ְּכבּוָּדה ְּכַבת ֶמֶלְך ֲעִדיָנה ְמֻעָּנָגה

    ּוְבָכל ְיָקר ֶאֶבן ַסִּפיר ְמֻעָּלָפה ַּתְעֶּדה ֲעִדי ָזָהב ּוִמיֵני ְבדָֹלִחים ֶׁשִהיא ְמׁשֶֹהֶמת ֻּכָּלּה, ְמֻיָּׁשָפה [...] ְּכַסַהר ְּבמֹוָלדֹו ִּכְתָרּה ֲעֵלי רֹאָׁשּה

    ֵעת ָרֲאָתה אֹוִתי ָאז ִּכְּסָתה ַאָּפּה ַרְצִּתי ְלִקְרָבָתּה ֵעת ֶׁשְרִאיִתיָה ְוֵתֵבל, ְרִאי, לּוֵלי אֹוֵרְך, ְּכמֹו ֵעיָפה ָאָנה ְפנֹוֵתְך, ָאן? ְוַהּיֹום ְמֹאד ָּפָנה

    [...] ַּכֲעלֹות ְׁשמּוֵאל ָּבָרָמה ּוַבִּמְצָּפה ְלִכי ֶאל ְׁשמּוֵאל ֶׁשָעָלה ְבַאְרֵצנּו

    ְוִנְפֶזֶרת ָׂשָמּה ְמֻאָּסָפה ּגֹוָלה ָחַקר ְּתבּוָנה, ָׂשַכל סֹוד ְסָתֶריָה ּוָבַטח ְּבַמְחַמֵּדי ְזָהָבּה ְוַגם ַּכְסָּפה ָׁשַלל ְׁשָלֶליָה ְוָכַמס ְּבאֹוְצרֹוָתיו Who is this that arises like the dawn and looks down, who shineth like

    the clear sun, exceedingly beautiful!Her honor is like the king’s daughter, delicate and pampered; her fra-

    grance like the sweet-smell of myrrh emitted over live coals, and like burning [...]

    She wears a golden ornament and different varieties of pearls, and above all her precious substance is the lapis-lazuli stone set in ouches.

    Like the crescent moon at its renewal, so is her crown upon her head, whereby she is entirely covered in beryl and in jasper! [...]

    I ran up beside her when I saw her, when she saw me, she covered her face.

    Whither dost thou turn aside, whither? Whilst the day is far spent! Look! Were it not for thy light, the world would lie in darkness! [...]

    Go onto Samuel who came up into our land, just as Samuel went up into Rama and Mi�pa.

    He searched out Wisdom, even comprehended its mysterious secrets; The exile and the scattered [remnant] he gathered them together.

    He took of her spoils and hid [them] in his treasure houses! He trusted in the pleasantries of her gold and also in her silver!

    53 Simoni 1921/23, p. 254, interprets the opening as concerning the muse; Katz 1997, pp. 153‒159, interprets it as Kenesset Israel. Jarden (Ibn Gabirol 1985, I, p. 195) defines it as ‘a very beautiful description’ and does not consider the allegory or the connection between the opening and the main part of the poem; likewise Mirsky 1990, pp. 440‒442.

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  • the beloved woman as a metaphor 243

    Identification of the beloved as Wisdom is of course reinforced by its likening to sun and moon, which in many of Ibn Gabirol’s poems are distinct symbols of Wisdom.54 Identification of the beloved as Wisdom is also corroborated by the use of images from the domain of precious metals and stones in respect of the beloved and in respect of the understanding of Ha-Nagid. Contrary to ordinary love poems, in which the lover seeks the beloved, the beloved/Wisdom in our poem is that which seeks its sweetheart, and the poet guides her to Ha-Nagid, who schooled himself in understanding, achieved it, and assembled its diverse parts. We must of course think about what the poet had to say about the beloved/Wisdom, because time—the late evening hour—is pressing and if she does not reach its destination darkness (ʿefa) will fall on the land (tevel). Darkness certainly symbollizes absence of Wisdom.

    2. Ibn Gabirol’s other poem of praise, it too apparently in honor of Ha-Nagid, is Heye ʿed ʿal (232; 240). According to Jarden, the opening is a poem about the unfaithful beloved, who does not keep her pledges and vows to her lover, namely the poet.55 There is nothing surprising in this conventional description of the beloved one. However, there are two concerns that should be considered here in the opening poem: One is the name Devora given to the beloved, which to the best of my knowledge is a unique occurrence in medieval Hebrew secular poetry. Recalling that the Bible does not speak of the beauty of women called Devora—not Devora the prophetess (Jud. 4–5) nor Devora, Rebecca’s wet-nurse (Gen. 35:8), we may assume that Ibn Gabirol is not alluding to either of these but to the bee—devora in Hebrew. In his poem about the bee, Le-’iekh dabberi (273; 184), Ibn Gabirol addresses the insect with great esteem (l. 4): ֲהלֹא ִאם ַאְּת ְּבֵעיַנִיְך ְקַטָּנה / ְּכבּוָדה ַאְּת ְוָלְך ִמְׁשַּפט Is it not so, that when you are little in thine own sight, thou) ְּבכֹוָרהshalt be greatly respected, and the right of the firstborn is yours). But in two other mentions the poet refers to the bee’s characteristic of stinging. So it is in Haser levavi (242; 263, l. 18): ַהִאם ְלמֹו ֵאִלי ֲחָמ–/ָתְך

    54 See Chapter Nine; Bregman 1987/88. It would be worth researching in detail the occurrence of stars and heavenly bodies in Ibn Gabirol’s poems and treating on their symbolic function. Of great use in this study is the list of mentions of clouds, thunder and lightning, sky, sun, moon and stars, and signs of the zodiac in the index to the secular poems edited by Jarden (Ibn Gabirol 1985, II, pp. 544‒546). We were also helped by this index in locating the mentions of a ‘bee’ in the Ibn Gabirol’s poems: ibid., p. 540.

    55 For Jarden’s discussion of the poem see Ibn Gabirol 1985, II, pp. 595‒596.

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    BillHighlightIdentification of the beloved as Wisdom is of course reinforced byits likening to sun and moon, which in many of Ibn Gabirol’s poemsare distinct symbols of Wisdom

    BillHighlightroborated by the use of images from the domain ofprecious metals and stones in respect of the beloved and in respect ofthe understanding of Ha-Nagid.

    BillHighlightontrary to ordinary love poems, inwhich the lover seeks the beloved, the beloved/Wisdom in our poemis that which seeks its sweetheart, and the poet guides her to Ha-Nagid,who schooled himself in understanding, achieved it, and assembledits diverse parts.

    BillHighlightDarkness certainly symbollizes absence ofWisdom.

    BillHighlightRecalling that the Bible does not speak of the beauty of women calledDevora—not Devora the prophetess (Jud. 4–5) nor Devora, Rebecca’swet-nurse (Gen. 35:8), we may assume that Ibn Gabirol is not alludingto either of these but to the bee—devora in Hebrew

  • chapter eight244

    ;(Has God’s wrath afflicted you or a bee distressed you) אֹו ְדבֹוָרה ִיְּסָרָתְךwhile in the last line (36) of the poem Ke-šemeš meromim (191; 98) the poet refers not only to the bee’s stinging but also to the fact that by this it condemns itself to annihilation: ְולֹא / ִאיׁש ְּבַׂשר ַהְּדבֹוָרה ָנְׁשָכה ְוִאם If a bee bites a man’s flesh, does it not know her) ָיְדָעה ַאֲחִריָתּה ְּדבֹוָרהend). According to our integrative principle, the intention is appar-ently the esteemed one, who apparently is Ha-Nagid,56 to whom the bee/beloved is equated (ll. 7–6). Ibn Gabirol indeed writes a poem of praise in honor of Ha-Nagid, but cannot hide his anger at him for snubbing him, so he thought, at one time.57 We saw that Ibn Gabirol inserted slight stings against Ha-Nagid in two of his poems: Šemuel met (115; 5) and Sefat mizraq (239; 195).58 But the poet’s lines about the bee, the beloved one, in the opening of the poem Heye ʿed (240, l. 3): ְוַעָּתה—ַּבֲעבֹותֹות ַאְהָבה, ְּבחּוט / ִמְּנעּוַרי ְלָבִבי ָמְׁשָכה She that) ֲאֶׁשר drew away my heart from my youth by a [mere] string of love, but now—by thick ropes), the like of which the poet recites often in his Wisdom poems, such as ּוָבַחר ַּבְּתבּוָנה ִמְּנעּוָריו (He, that from his youth, chose wisdom) in Ani ha-’iš59 enhance the possibility that by the bee, the desired one, he means Wisdom. Presenting it in the conventional image of an unfaithful beloved woman, Ibn Gabirol expresses his dismay with his inability to attain her and he turns precisely to God, on whom the thing depends, in the very first line: ַעל ֵעד ֱהֵיה -God of truth, be a wit) ְּדבֹוָרה, ֵאל ֲאִמּתֹות, / ֲאֶׁשר לֹא ָׁשְמָרה ַעל ַהְּבִריתֹותness against the bee, who did not respect the treaties). In his subtle way Ibn Gabirol links Wisdom to the name of his patron Ha-Nagid, refer- ring to his wisdom in the main part of the poem (l. 10): ּוָפַתח ִמְּתעּוַדת ֵמֲעָנתֹות ִיְרְמָיהּו ְוָדָמה / ְסגּורֹות He illustrated the vague insights) ֵאל of God’s Testimony and he is equal to Jeremiah of ʿAnatot), yet he manages to find a way to insinuate criticism of his ignoring him, like

    56 Jarden surmises thus according to what is said in the poem (ll. 7–8): ְּכרֹאש ּדֹורֹו Like the chief of his generation who is) ְׁשהּוא רֹאש ַהְּלִוִּיים [...] ְוהּוא ֵלִוי ְּככֵֹהן ָרב ְּבֶאָחיוthe chief of the Levites […], and who is a Levite like the high priest amongst his brothers).

    57 This complex and tense framework of relations between Ibn Gabirol and Ha-Nagid suffuses the novel by S. Gluzman on Ibn Gabirol (Gluzman 1978).

    58 Jarden (Ibn Gabirol 1985, I, p. 354; II, pp. 591‒592) has reservations about the conclusions regarding Ibn Gabirol’s criticism of Ha-Nagid’s poetry; I venture to state that he is not right, but there is no room to pursue the matter here.

    59 See Chapter Nine; section III above; and Appendix below.

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    BillHighlightAccording to our integrative principle, the intention is apparentlythe esteemed one, who apparently is Ha-Nagid,56 to whom thebee/beloved is equated

  • the beloved woman as a metaphor 245

    the bee, which in the past was the poet’s beloved but betrayed him at some stage.

    3. A similar structure of a qa�īda is found by means of integration in another famous poem by Ibn Gabirol, Be-šuri ha-ʿaliyya (121; 167). The opening is a poem of desire for the beloved, who seduces the lover to come to her house and delight in her charms, but the main part of the poem is not praise for living human but an elegy for the death of wise men.60 The connection of the opening to the main part of the poem is therefore quite clear—the issue of Wisdom, especially as in both parts it is not attained: in the opening because the poet is prevented from lodging with her permanently, even though he has come to her house and has enjoyed her delights; in the main part of the poem because of the death of the wise men. As we know, this motif of the attainment of Wisdom for a short time only, and the inability of a man to achieve it permanently is in several of Ibn Gabirol’s poems envisioned as a sud-den brief lightning flash in the blackness of the night, an image that Maimonides likewise uses in the introduction to Guide for the Perplexed to depict the fleeting moment of prophetic inspiration.61 The absence, or unattainability, of wisdom also fulfills the technical function required by the stiff rules of rhetoric of the qa�īda, namely the transi-tional link from the opening to the main part. At the end of the open-ing the poet grieves over his inability—because of his sins!—to sojourn forever at the house of the desired one/Wisdom. This dirge continues into the main part of the poem, but here it is intoned for the death of sages and the loss of Wisdom, to the point that the poet wonders if his life is worthwhile without Wisdom. The following are a few lines of the poem (1–2, 4, 9–11, 13–14, 16, 18–21):

    ְמֹאד ָׂשְגבּו ְמעֹוֶניָה ְּבׁשּוִרי ָהֲעִלָּיה ִּכי ּוָבאִתי ַעד ְּתכּוֶניָה [...] ֲאַזי ַחְׁשִּתי ְוָעִליִתי ְלׂשּוִמי ַעל ְמכֹוֶניָה [...] ְותֹאַמר ַלֲהִביֵאִני

    ֱאֵלי ַנַחל ֲעָדֶניָה [...] ְמָׁשַכְתִני ְּבַאְהָבָתּה

    60 Jarden (Ibn Gabirol 1985, I, p. 324) divides the poem into two: the poet and Wisdom; an elegy for the death of wise men. There are no grounds for the interpreta-tion of S. Or (1999, pp. 25‒26), who rejects Jarden’s comments on the main part of the poem.

    61 See Chapter Nine, p. 287. According to what is stated here the significance of the appearance of lightning in Ibn Gabirol’s nature poems should be studied, for example, ָּבֶרֶקת ְּכֵעין ֵעינֹו The lightning, whose color is as the color of an) ָּבָרק ֲאֶׁשר emerald) (188; 180) and ָּפַקד ָּבָרק ַׁשַחק ְּבֵאׁש יֹוֶקֶדת (The lightning hit the heavens with a burning fire) (40; 256).

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    BillHighlightbut the main part of thepoem is not praise for living human but an elegy for the death of wisemen

    BillHighlightin the opening because the poet is prevented fromlodging with her permanently, even though he has come to her houseand has enjoyed her delights; in the main part of the poem because ofthe death of the wise men

    BillHighlightfleeting moment of prophetic inspiration

    BillHighlightthe transitionallink from the opening to the main part

    BillHighlightThis dirge continuesinto the main part of the poem, but here it is intoned for the death ofsages and the loss of Wisdom, to the point that the poet wonders if hislife is worthwhile without Wisdom

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    ֲחַבֶּצֶלת ְׁשרֹוֶניֵה ְוֶהְעַלְתִני ֱאֵלי ַפְרֵּדס ְּבַמְנַעֵּמי ְמלֹוֶניָה [...] ְוַנְפִׁשי ָחְׁשָבה ִלְהיֹות

    ֲאֶׁשר ִיְזּכֹר ֲעוֹוֶניָה ֲאָבל ִלִּבי—ְיגֹון ַנְפִׁשי ְוהּוא ַמְעֶלה ְׁשאֹוֶניָה [...] ְוהּוא פֹוֵקד ֲחָטֶאיָה

    ְּבקֹול ָיִעיר ְיֵׁשֶניָה [...] ְוֵתֵׁשב ַלְיָלה ִלְבּכֹות ֲאֶׁשר ַּתְחִריד ְׁשֵכֶניָה ְואֹוְמִרים: ַמה ְלהֹוִמָּיה

    ְּבִכי ִצּיֹון ְלָבֶניָה? ֲאֶׁשר ִּתְבֶּכה ְּבַאְׁשמּורֹות ֲחיֹות ַאַחר ֱאמּוֶניָה ֲעִניִתימֹו: ּוַמה ִּלי עֹוד

    ֲחָכֶמיָה ְנבֹוֶניָה [...] ְנִׂשיֶאיָה ְסָגֶניָה When I beheld the upper room that its dwelling places were made very

    lofty!62I then hurried myself and ascended and came unto its fixed places [...]She then thought to bring me in to have me set down upon her founda-

    tions [...]She hast drawn me by her love unto the brook of her pleasures [...]And hast taken me up to the orchard, even the narcissus of her Šaron

    valleys.My soul thought to remain in the midst of the pleasures of her lodgings

    [...]But my heart—the anguish of my soul, which remembers her iniquitiesAnd calls to remembrance her sins and it makes her clamor to be heard

    [...] She spent the night crying with a voice that will awaken its sleepers [...]They would say: What is with this riotous woman, who causes trembling

    to her neighbors,Who weeps in the watchhours of the night, like the weeping of Zion for

    her sons?I answered them: What have I more to live for, after [the death] of her

    faithful men?Her princes and her deputies, her Sages and her wise men [...]

    4. The identification of Wisdom with love also appears in a short poem that Ibn Gabirol wrote about his friend, Be-ʿet lo e�eze (26; 75). But here love for the friend is mentioned only in the first half of the first line; in the remaining three lines his quality of Wisdom and understanding recurs time and again, with great emphasis:

    62 Jarden interprets this word as ‘Heaven, the abode of Wisdom’, but in my hum-ble opinion it should be seen as ellipsis for bat ʿaliyya [lit. ‘a daughter of ascent’], meaning dignified and important, according to R. Shimʿon Bar Yoai in Sukka, 45b: “I have seen bene ʿaliyya [lit. ‘sons of ascent’] and they are few”; the intended meaning is the beloved woman/Wisdom; see further below, on ʿaliyya.

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    BillHighlightidentification of Wisdom with love

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    ֲאָבֵרְך ִמְּמקֹוִמי ֵׁשם ְּכבֹודֹו ְּבֵעת לֹא ֶאֱחֶזה ּדֹוד ָהֲאָהִבים ְלָבִבי ֶאְּתָנה ִלְהיֹות ְּתִמידֹו ְוִאם ִלּבֹו ְּכמֹו ִמְזַּבח ְתבּונֹות

    ְוָנְתנּו ַמְפְּתחֹות ָחְכָמה ְּבָידֹו ְצָבא רֹום ָקְראּו אֹותֹו ֲאִחיֶהם ְוִהֵּנה ַעל ְיִמין ָחְכָמה ְצִמידֹו ְוֵאיְך לֹא ַיֲאִמינּו בֹו ְמַקְנָאיו

    When I shall no longer see my beloved of whom I am most fond, I shall bless from my place His honorable name.

    And if his heart were like the altar of Understanding, I would give my heart to be its daily [whole-burnt] offering.

    The heavenly host has called him their brother, and committed the keys of Wisdom into his hand.

    How, then, will those that are jealous of him not believe in him? Behold! Upon the right hand of Wisdom he has espoused her with his brace-let!

    Note that the phrase The heavenly host also symbolizes Wisdom, as all the heavenly bodies do, and by hyperbole the poet says that these wise entities not only see in the friend their brother, but also deposit in his hands the keys to Wisdom; that is, he alone is able to open the gates of Wisdom. We have seen in the poems of praise above that the poet says of the revered sage that it was he who opened the closed gates of Wisdom and gathered in its treasures. It transpires, then, that the poet’s love for his friend is based on the latter’s Wisdom, and his admiration for him is so great on account of his enormous Wisdom, to the extent that he is willing to sacrifice himself for him (l. 2).

    5. The image of the friend as the beloved recurs in the short poem �evi �ašuq (91; 242), composed with all the motifs of the poems of pas-sion. True, the words of adoration for the friend refer to his talents as a poet, while a nice poem that the friend once sent to the poet inspired his writing the poem, no doubt as a favor in return; but we should bear in mind that Ibn Gabirol identifies Wisdom of the poem with Wisdom in general (Appendix, below). Furthermore, he names him ְמאֹור ֵּתֵבל ,The light of the world and its radiance) (l. 8), after his Wisdom) ְוָנְגָהּהand he hurries to come to him ְּבֶטֶרם ֶיֱעַרב ֶׁשֶמׁש (Before the sun sets) (l. 9), that is, before Wisdom disappears from the earth. We have already encountered these images for Wisdom, and for the fear of its vanishing, in a poem of praise above, Mi zot kemo which Ibn Gabirol dedicated to Ha-Nagid. In this poem, too, Ibn Gabirol expresses his boundless esteem for his friend, to the point that he willing to be his slave (l. 5). Here are some of its lines (1, 3–6, 8–10):

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    BillHighlightNote that the phrase The heavenly host also symbolizes Wisdom, asall the heavenly bodies do, and by hyperbole the poet says that thesewise entities not only see in the friend their brother, but also depositin his hands the keys to Wisdom; that is, he alone is able to open thegates of Wisdom

    BillHighlightFurthermore, he names him מְאוֹר תֵּבֵלונְגָהְָהּ (The light of the world and its radiance

    BillHighlightand he hurries to come to him בּטְ רֶֶם יעֶ רֱַב שֶׁמֶשׁ (Before the sun sets)(l. 9), that is, before Wisdom disappears from the earth

  • chapter eight248

    ְוִלּבֹות ָּכל ְמֵתי מּוָסר ְׁשָלָליו [...] ְצִבי ָחׁשּוק ֲאֶׁשר ַרִּבים ֲחָלָליו ְוָטַבְעִּתי ְּבַמְעַמֵּקי ְצָלָליו ֱהִביַאִני ְלַחְדֵרי ַאֲהָבתֹו ְּכָרִקיַע ְּבכֹוָכָביו ְוֵחיָליו ֲאֶׁשר ָׁשַלח ְּכָתב ָרַקם ְּבָידֹו ְוֶכָעָפר ְלִמַּתַחת ְלַרְגָליו ְלִמי ֵאֶּלה ְוֶאְהֶיה לֹו ְלֶעֶבד

    ְוֵאֵלְך ַוֲאַבֵּקש ֶאת ְׁשִביָליו [...] ּוִמי ִיְׁשַלח ְּכֵאֶּלה ַהְּפִניִנים ְוֶאָּמֵׁשְך ְוֹאַחז ַּבֲחָבָליו ְוָנְגָהּה ְוֵאֵלְך ֶאל ְמאֹור ֵּתֵבל

    ְוִיָּנטּו ְצָלָליו ֲהלֹא ִיְפֶנה ְּבֶטֶרם ֶיֱעַרב ֶׁשֶמש, ְוַהּיֹום ְואּוַלי ַהְּזָמן ִיּטֹׁש ֲאֵמָליו ְוִנְתַעֵּלס ְּבַיַחד ַּבֲאָהִבים

    O hart of my desires, whose slain are many and the hearts of all men of equity having been made his spoils [...]

    He brought me into the chambers of his love while I sunk down into the depths of his deep waters

    Who sent a writing embellished by his hand, like the firmament with its stars and its host

    Whose are these [words], and I shall be to him as a slave or like the dust beneath his feet!

    And who can send jewels such as these, let me go and seek his meander-ing trail [...]

    I shall go in the direction of the world’s light and its brightness; I shall be drawn and grasp firmly to its ropes

    Before the sun sets; as for the day shall it not withdraw, and its shadows incline themselves?

    Then we shall delight ourselves in love together and perhaps time will forsake its wretched ones!

    V. Love Poems as an Allegory for Wisdom

    In one of his short poems, and in the opening to one of his qa�īdas, Ibn Gabirol speaks of his beloved, who dwells on high. The usual inter-pretation is that this is the well known beloved of medieval Hebrew love poetry. However, and despite the fact that the words understand-ing and wisdom do not feature in the poems, it seems to me that this beloved is no other than an allegory for Wisdom.

    1. Še’ela eš’ala (113; 124). Here is the poem in full:

    ְּבֶלְכֵּתְך ַלֲאחֹוֵתְך ַהְּלָבָנה ְׁשֵאָלה ֶאְׁשֲאָלה ִמֵּמְך, ֲעִדיָנה, ֲאֶׁשר ִהיא ַמֲעַלת ֶׁשֶמש ְׁשֵכָנה ְוִתְרִאי ָהֲעִלָּיה ַהְּנכֹוָנה ְוַעל ָּכל ַהְּקִציִנים ִהיא ְקִציָנה: ֲאֶׁשר ַעל ָּכל ְּגאֹוִנים ִהיא ְּגאֹוָנה

    ְיִׂשיֵמם ֵאל ֲעֵלי ֵתֵבל ְׁשִניָנה ְוָלָּמה ִׁשְּמצּוָה ֵהם ְּבִׂשְטָנם ֲהִריקֹוִתי ֲאִני ֶחֶרב ְׁשנּוָנה ְוִאם ִיְׁשּגּו—ְוִאם ֵהם ָׁשְגגּו—עֹוד

    A question let me ask of you, O delicate one, when you go to your sis-ter, the moon

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    And you espy the settled upper storey, whence she takes up her dwelling at the sun’s height

    Who, above all majesties, she is majestic and above all rulers, she rules:Why have they derided her with their hatred? May God put them for

    gossip in the world.But if they shall err—and if they shall yet dwell in error, I shall brandish

    my sharp sword!

    Simoni realized that this was not to be taken as an ordinary love poem: “In its beginning the poem seems a little like the foregoing poem, but apart from the opening it has no trace of love.”63 Jarden felt that this was not an ordinary love poem and summed up the ‘matter of the poem’ thus: “The poet fights the fight of one of the great ones, perhaps the fight of himself, whose opponents slandered him.”64 The meaning of the poem, Jarden maintains, is that the sun, mentioned in lines 2–4, which is the image on which the entire poem turns, is the great man. Probably Ibn Gabirol is referring to himself and not to anyone else, as in many of his poems he struggles for his status in society against his disparag-ers and his rivals. In any event, ʿadina (the delicate one) is clearly not a flesh-and-blood lover; he plainly refers here to Wisdom, for three reasons: (a) its comparison to the moon and the sun, obvious symbols of wisdom in Ibn Gabirol’s poetry;65 (b) the sun’s stupendous quality of brilliance, that is, Wisdom;66 (c) the word ʿaliyya (upper room or storey, ascent) as indicating the abode of the sun, which ʿadina will see on going to her sister the moon. This ʿaliyya, signifying the abode of Wisdom whither the poet constantly ascended, has already been met in the poem: “When I beheld the upper room that its dwelling places were made very lofty! I then hurried myself and ascended and came unto its fixed places.” Also influenced by Ibn Gabirol’s poems was the Yemeni poet Saʿadia b. ʿAmram, whose place in time is put later than the 16th century. He apparently wrote his famous poem Sapperi tamma in which too the ʿaliyya is also noted as the dwelling of a wise entity, that is, the soul. Here are the first two strophes:67

    63 Simoni 1921/23, p. 260. He notes that Leopold Dukes scribbled above the poem, la-�ašuqato (to his beloved one).

    64 Ibn Gabirol 1985, I, p. 262.65 See n. 54 above.66 It seems that the words qe�inim (leaders) and qe�ina (female leader) are to be

    interpreted in the sense of Wisdom, according to the Arabic cognate of this noun, qā�i, a judge.

    67 For the complete version and the interpretation of the poem see Tobi-Seri 1988, pp. 224 –225; English translation: Carmi 1981, p. 484, with variations.

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    BillHighlightadina (the delicate one) is clearly nota flesh-and-blood lover; he plainly refers here to Wisdom, for threereasons: (a) its comparison to the moon and the sun, obvious symbolsof wisdom in Ibn Gabirol’s poetry;65 (b) the sun’s stupendous qualityof brilliance, that is, Wisdom;66 (c) the word ʿaliyya (upper room orstorey, ascent) as indicating the abode of the sun, which ʿadina will seeon going to her sister the moon

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    ַסְּפִרי ַתָּמה ְתִמיָמה ַסְּפִרי ָנִגיל ְּבֵתיָמא

    ַּבת ְמָלִכים ַהֲחָכָמה ָאן ְמקֹוֵמְך ַסְּפִרי ִלי:

    ָעְנָתה יֹוָנה: ְסַעְדָיה, ִלי ְּבַפְלֵטִרין ֲעִלָּיה

    ַוֲאִני ּתֹוְך ֵלב ֳאִנָּיה ַּבְּיִפי עֹוָטה ְמִעיִלי:

    ‘Tell me, pure and perfect oneTell me so that we may rejoice in TemaO wise princessTell me, where do you make your home?’The dove answered: ‘Saʿadia,There is a high chamber reserved for me in the PalaceBut I am within a shipRobe myself in beauty.’

    It is worth noting that in many poems Ibn Gabirol speaks of degrees of Wisdom and of the ascending on the mountain of understanding.68 In any event, indicating the dwelling place of the beloved on high, a motif unknown in simple secular poetry, may serve as a key to identi-fying the desired one/Wisdom in Ibn Gabirol’s love poems. For lack of space we can note two poems only, without discussing them at length:

    a) ʿAzavatni ve-ʿalta (183; 34), a qa�īda whose opening is a poem about the cruel, hurtful beloved’s parting of her lovers, while the main part of the poem is a complaint about the departure of the poet’s friends.69 It is interesting that in the elegy Ha-til’eh mi-neso (211; 149), which Ibn Gabirol wrote about the death of his father, Wisdom approaches him in a personified figure that is intimately close to him, with the complaint about his leaving her and ignoring her, even though she had given him understanding to comfort his soul (ll. 7–10):

    ֲעַזְבַּתִני ּוִפַּתְחָּת ֲחגֹוָרְך ְוַהָחְכָמה ְתִׂשיֵחִני ְבֶאְבִלי: ֲעֵלי ַגֵּבי ְּבֵני ַעִיׁש ְמדֹוָרְך ֱאֹמר: ָלָּמה ְתַהֵּלְך ַאט ְּכִאּלּו ְּבָפֶניָך ְוֵאין ָׁשלֹום ְּבִעיָרְך ְוָלָּמה ַתֲעבֹר ָעַלי ְוִתְפֶנה ְוָהעֵֹזב ְתבּוָנה לֹא ְיבָֹרְך ֲהלֹא ַׂשְמִּתי ְלָך ַבִּבין ְמַנֵחם

    68 See the citations in section III above.69 For a detailed analysis of the opening of the poem as a love poem see Zemah

    1973, pp. 170–178; Schirmann-Fleischer 1996, p. 296, n. 237, also understands this poem according to the plain text.

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    BillHighlightspeaks of degreesof Wisdom and of the ascending on the mountain of understanding

    BillHighlightWisdomapproaches him in a personified figure that is intimately close to him,with the complaint about his leaving her and ignoring her, even thoughshe had given him understanding to comfort his soul

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    Wisdom conversed with me during my mourning: Thou hast forsaken me and have become indolent.

    Tell me, why dost thou go slowly [as a mourner], as if upon the Bear Constellation you have your dwelling!

    And why will you pass over me and turn away with your face, while there is no peace in thy city?

    Have not I given to you solace by your understanding, but he that for-sakes Understanding shall not be blest.

    b) Ke-šemeš meromim (191; 98),70 a qa�īda in whose opening the poet speaks of the beloved/Wisdom and in the main part of the poem he berates the fools devoid of Wisdom.

    From all the foregoing, the correct interpretation of the poem becomes clear: Ibn Gabirol specifically wonders why wise and edu-cated people, ge’onim, qe�inim (magesties; rulers) tarnish his name out of spite. Yet, not content with this, he curses them that God would put them to shame in the world, and indeed retaliates with his keen sword-like poem.

    2. �aqor ve-’hav (21; 211). This too is a love poem, which could not be understood if it concerned a living woman; therefore, its allegorical meaning has to be cracked.71 We cite the entire short poem here also, so that we may understand it properly:

    ’ְמָצא ֶפֶלס ְלַאְהָבָתְך, ּוַמְעָּגל‘ ִיְּגַעִני, ’ֲחקֹר ֶוְאַהב‘, ְיִדיִדי ֲעִדיָנה ָיְׁשָבה ֶאְצִלי ְכֵׁשָגל ֲעֵדי ַׂשְרִּתי ְבִחְקֵרי ָהֲאָהִבים ְמֻסֶּתֶרת, ְולֹא ֵתֶרא ְוִתָּגל ְואֹוֶמֶרת: ’ְוַעד ָאן ַאֲהַבְתֶכם

    ְוִׁשית ֶחְרֵמׁש ֲעֵלי ָקָמה, ּוַמָּגל ְוַהָּקִציר ְּבַכִּׁשיל ִיְקְצרּוהּו ֲהלֹא ָׁשַלח ְוָקָרא ַלֲאִביָגל‘? ּוֶבן ִיַׁשי, ְּבעֶֹצם ַאֲהָבתֹו,

    ‘Seek out and love,’ my friend wearied me, ‘Find a balance and a circuit to vent thy love!’

    While I prevailed in my search of love, she who is delicate sat with me as a consort

    Saying, ‘Until when shall thy love be concealed, and shan’t be seen or revealed?

    70 Jarden (Ibn Gabirol 1985, I, p. 195) interprets the opening as praise of the beau-tiful, and S. Or (1999, p. 108) sees it as referring actually to the sun; both are mistaken, and do not explain the connection between the opening and the main part of the poem.

    71 Jarden (Ibn Gabirol 1985, I, p. 366) interprets this as an ordinary love poem. Luria 1985, pp. 114–119, is also unsure how to comprehend the poem; he asserts that this is not a ‘typical’ love poem in that the poet does not deny, “of course, the natural-ness or the regularity that there is in love, but wishes to point to the other side of the coin—to the chance and the mystery in it” (p. 119).

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    BillHighlightThis too is a love poem, which could notbe understood if it concerned a living woman; therefore, its allegoricalmeaning has to be cracked

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    As for the harvest, with an axe they can reap it and the scythe be put to the standing grain, or the sickle

    Now the son of Jesse, by the fierceness of his love, sent and called for Abigail?’

    This is the tale that emerges from the poem: a friend of the poet pesters him to seek a suitable way to win his beloved (l. 1). The poet indeed takes his advice, and he prevails over (sarti)72 the subject of love to the point that his beloved, whom he calls ‘Delicate’ (ʿadina), is found with him inside his house, not as a mistress but as a queen, seated beside the king as his lawful wife (šegal).73 But it transpires that this situa-tion is not to her liking, and she wishes the poet’s love for her to be realized, as it is usual to reap the fruits as soon as they have ripened (l. 4). She indeed brings proof for her request in that King David (the son of Jesse) cannot, ultimately, keep pent-up and hide his love for Abigail, the wife of Nabal the Carmelite, and after her husband’s death he sends messengers to her to ask her hand and to bring her to himself (1 Sam. 25:39).

    Of course, there is no way of understanding the poem as a true story concerning Ibn Gabirol, nor does it suit any pattern of those known and accepted by us in all the Hebrew love poetry of Spain. An alle-gorical interpretation is thus indispensable, and it seems that from the range of possibilities as to the identity of the beloved woman, one alone conforms with the text: Wisdom. This interpretation is rein-forced by the use of the root �qr for the quest for love (ll. 1, 2) and by the names ʿAdina and Abigail for the beloved one. Ibn Gabirol uses the first of these in the poem discussed just above, while the second is based on the character of the biblical Abigail who was renowned not only for her beauty but also for her wisdom: “and the name of his wife Abigail. The woman was of good understanding and beautiful” (1 Sam. 25:3). This then is the actual meaning of the poem: a friend of the poet, no doubt his soul talking to him, presses him to preoccupy himself with Wisdom, and indeed the poet does so, until he succeeds in attain-

    72 Jarden (previous note) points the word šarti and interprets it as “while I peruse the limits of love.” But this meaning does not feel right.

    73 This is the meaning in the two occurrences of the word in the Bible—Psalms אֹוִפיר :45:10 ְּבֶכֶתם ִליִמיְנָך ֵׁשַגל ִנְּצָבה ִּביְּקרֹוֶתיָך ְמָלִכים Daughters of kings are) ְּבנֹות among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir); Neemia 2:6: ַוּיֹאֶמר ִלי ַהֶּמֶלְך ְוַהֵּׁשַגל יֹוֶׁשֶבת ֶאְצלֹו : (And the king said to me, while the queen is sitting beside him). See Appendix below, on the use of kinships to describe the relations between Ibn Gabirol and Wisdom.

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    BillHighlightThis is the tale that emerges from the poem: a friend of the poet pestershim to seek a suitable way to win his beloved (l. 1). The poet indeedtakes his advice, and he prevails over (sarti)72 the subject of love to thepoint that his beloved, whom he calls ‘Delicate’ (ʿadina), is found withhim inside his house, not as a mistress but as a queen, seated besidethe king as his lawful wife (šegal).73 But it transpires that this situationis not to her liking, and she wishes the poet’s love for her to berealized, as it is usual to reap the fruits as soon as they have ripened(l. 4). She indeed brings proof for her request in that King David (theson of Jesse) cannot, ultimately, keep pent-up and hide his love forAbigail, the wife of Nabal the Carmelite, and after her husband’s deathhe sends messengers to her to ask her hand and to bring her to himself(1 Sam. 25:39).

    BillHighlightbiblical Abigail who was renowned notonly for her beauty but also for her wisdom: “and the name of his wifeAbigail. The woman was of good understanding and beautiful

    BillUnderlinea friend of the poet,no doubt his soul talking to him, presses him to preoccupy himselfwith Wisdom, and indeed the poet does so, until he succeeds in attain-

  • the beloved woman as a metaphor 253

    ing it, and it has become an inseparable part of him. But the poet feels that he has to publish the matter of his Wisdom far and wide, appar-ently in the form of a composition, but for modesty’s sake he expresses this feeling of his in words that he puts into the mouth of his beloved one/Wisdom.

    Naming the desired woman Abigail is known from another famous poem of Ibn Gabirol: Ma la-avigayil (51; 213) and that beloved woman seems to be Wisdom too.74 Ibn Gabirol expresses the force of his love in this poem by means of a deed already mentioned in the previous poem, the people whom David sent to Abigail to seek her hand, but in an exaggerated way: ֶאְׁשָלָחה ְולֹא ֵביָתּה ֱאֵלי ֵאֵלְך ַוֲאִני ְלֵביָתּה ִיַׁשי ְּבנֹו ָׁשַלח (Jesse’s son sent [envoys] to her home, but I shall go myself and will not send [envoys]). The character of Abigail as a positive being, apparently Wisdom, arises also in the poem Ke-tamar be-qomatekh. (243; 212): ְּבִצְדָקֵתְך ֲאִביַגִיל / ֶצֶדק ַּבֲעַלת I thought you to be a righteous) ֲחַׁשְבִּתיְך person, like Abigail in your righteousness).

    VI. Summary

    Many gates are to be found in scholarship on medieval Hebrew poetry, some open and some obscure and not leading to broad vistas. On the one hand, the discoveries in the Geniza prove that not everything stored in it has been exhausted, and the traditional ways of research for the publication of new texts, mainly from the treasures of St. Petersburg, have still not lost their force. On the other hand, little has been done in studying the known texts since then and the new ones as well, as works of art, which as literary documents may teach us about the cultural and mental world of the society in which they were written. Still less has been learnt about the private cultural and mental world of the individ-ual poet, be it Ha-Nagid, Ibn Gabirol, or any other poet who has left us a wealth of works that he has drawn up from the depths of his soul and in which he pores over the feelings of his heart and the meditations of his spirit. In the large outer circle the Jewish poet has of course to be

    74 Schirmann-Fleischer 1996, p. 299, interprets it literally. Levin 1995, II, pp. 329–330, has no uncertainty at all in his perception of this poem: “The woman and the speaker in it are very similar to the images of the beloved woman and the lover in medieval poetry from the Arab school, in the way of their conventional design for many generations.”

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    BillUnderlineing it, and it has become an inseparable part of him

    BillHighlightmedieval Hebrew poetry

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    placed as a hero of culture, and his Hebrew poetry in the broad, rich and diverse multicultural framework of the Jewish society that lived in the middle period of the medieval Arab-Muslim world;75 the inner circles, each separate and unique, are the place for the individual poet in him-self, whose world is his own private domain and his experience fills it to the brim, leaving no room for any other than he.

    Beyond the traditional areas of research, that is, the discovery, pub-lication, and interpretation of the poetic works, and writing the histo-ries of the poets, many important studies have appeared in other fields, such as Yellin’s book on rhetoric, the books of Schippers and Levin on literary genres, and recently Ratzaby’s volume on motifs. All these works are done excellently, through examination of the affinity to Arabic poetry, a subject at the center of the present book. General studies too have been published, on major themes in poetry, such as the book by Scheindlin on the Gazelle, the book by Brann on ‘the com-punctious poet’ and the book by T. Rosen on the image of the woman. Through all this, our grasp of the world of the medieval Hebrew poet has deepened. But there’s another side: all this treats the Hebrew poet as a cultural hero, and not as an individual with his own particular face;76 thus, not only has the poet’s image become blurred, it has even become twisted, on account of hasty and irresponsible inferences from the general to the particular.

    In this study, therefore, I wished to discuss one issue in medieval poetry in an attempt to enter the complex and elaborate inner world of Ibn Gabirol, the most interesting medieval Hebrew poet. This study has touched on several matters addressed in research: (a) the love poem genre; (b) the image of the beloved woman; (c) Wisdom in Ibn Gabirol’s poetry. Of course, all these have been discussed in themselves in the above researches and in various articles. All have been taken into account in the discussion in this study, but not in submission to what might appear to be required by the rules of the literary genre or the convention of the beloved woman as a central image in love poems. Researcher of medieval Hebrew poetry should be well aware that the poet, especially the excellent poet, did not see himself bound by the

    75 On the connection between medieval Hebrew poet