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14 PUBLIC SERVICE IN

EnglishHebrew
by Joseph Yahalom
14 PUBLIC SERVICE IN CORDOBA AND LUCENA In the first quarter of the twelfth century Halevi benefited from the patronage of the head of the yeshiva in Cordoba, Yosef Ibn Sahal, a prominent poet in his own right as well as a defender of poetry and its practitioners. He excelled, according to Moshe Ibn Ezra, in the writing of poems of mockery and satire: “ And he did not hold back his satirical barbs, but rather launched them freely as he pleased. Most of his barbs were aimed at a group of people who attacked rhetoric and condemned the works of poets” ( The Book of Discussion and Remembrance, 77– 79). With the death of Yosef Ibn Sahal in 1124 poets lost an enthusiastic supporter whose authority had been drawn from the traditional world of Jewish learning. It was not for nothing that Moshe Ibn Ezra spoke of him as “ The last of the great notables.” The world was orphaned at his death and Halevi must have felt that the ground under his feet had been swept away. Within a year and a half he would suffer another blow with the untimely death of his benefactor and close friend Baruch Ibn Albalia, one of the privileged scholars of Cordoba. This was on the eve of the Jewish New Year 1125. In a rhymed letter Halevi dispatched from Cordoba some time earlier ( Epistle 4), he asks of his correspondent, the learned David Narbonni, to be forgiven for not being able to reach, as Narbonni had requested, “ The exemplary scholar and my teacher and master, Baruch.” Baruch, according to Halevi, had been in Lucena for some twenty days at the time of the writing of the letter, and only upon his page TOC Home

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