Judah ha-Levi

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Judah ha-Levi

Judah ha-Levi or Judah Halevy (both: jo͞oˈdə) (häˌlēˈvī), c.1075–1141, Jewish rabbi, poet, and philosopher, b. Tudela, Spain. His poems—secular, religious, and nationalist—are filled with a serene and lofty spirit. In his great philosophic work Sefer ha-Kuzari he emphasized the superiority of religious truths, arrived at through intuition, over philosophical and speculative truths, arrived at through logic and reason. In this work he developed a philosophy of history wherein he explains the force of the “divine influence” at work in the world, known first by the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), through them by the Jewish people, and ultimately, through the martyrdom of the Jews, by all mankind.


See The Kuzari (tr. by H. Hirschfeld, 1964).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Judah Ha-Levi


(Abu’l Hasan Yehuda ben Samuel). Rabbi. Born about 1075 in Toledo; died 1141 in Egypt. Jewish poet and philosopher.

Judah ha-Levi wrote poetry in Hebrew and partially in Arabic, as well as philosophical works in Arabic. He traveled widely and was known as a physician. After 1109 he lived in Córdoba, and he died on his way to Palestine. His poetic work comprises secular and religious poems, collected in a divan. The exuberant, bacchanalian love of life in many of his verses on friendship, love, wine, and feasting contrasts with the elegiac grief of the verses devoted to the burdens and suffering of the people. He is the first poet to write about the sea in Hebrew literature. An outstanding master of the form, he used various meters and stanzaic schemes, interspersing his verses with paraphrases from the Old Testament and introducing Arabic and Spanish meters and phrases.

As a philosopher he asserted in his Book of Proof and Argument: An Apology for a Disdained Faith (in the Hebrew translation, Al-Kuzari) the antinomy of science as a manifestation of reason and faith as a manifestation of intuition. Therefore, according to ha-Levi, the system of proofs essential to science cannot be essential to faith.

The work of Judah ha-Levi had a great influence on Hebrew literature and philosophy. His image became legendary, and one of the legends about him was treated by the author H. Heine.


Kul shiray rabbi Yehuda Halevi. Tel Aviv, 1955.


Garkavi, A. Ieguda Galevi, 2nd ed. St. Petersburg, 1896.
Kayser, R. The Life and Times of Jehudah Halevi. New York [1949].
Mohr, A. Yehuda Halevi ha-ish v’ha-m’shorer. Tel Aviv, 1956.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Judah ha-Levi

?1075--1141, Jewish poet and philosopher, born in Spain; his major works include the collection in Diwan and the prose work Sefer ha-Kuzari, which presented his philosophy of Judaism in dialogue form
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Judah ha-Levi set out for the Holy Land via Egypt but died before he reached his destination.
Judah Ha-Levi, as has been mentioned above, developed a theory that the Jews possess a divine biological faculty enabling them to communicate prophetically with God.
The approach taken by Rambam (Maimonides) in the Guide of the Perplexed I:63 differs fundamentally from that of Judah Ha-Levi. Nevertheless, we have here an even clearer case for the initiative of the Jews, specifically their ancestor Abraham, who, Rambam suggests, arrived at a rational understanding of God through "speculation and reasoning" (Arabic: nazar wa-istadal; Hebrew: 'iyyun u-mofet):
Whereas Judah Ha-Levi had argued that the philosophical concept of the impersonal "God of Aristotle" is intellectually inferior to, and less existentially compelling than, the biblical concept of the personal "God of Abraham," Rambam in effect is arguing that the God of Abraham is the God of Aristotle.
Even a theory such as Judah Ha-Levi's, which attributes Jewish distinctiveness to an inhering biological faculty, emphasized that this "divine power" is latent, and can be activated only under certain conditions and by correct behavior.
Keep in mind, again, that even such an ardent nationalist as Judah Ha-Levi recognized, in all honesty, that Jews are, in fact, no better ethically and no more intelligent or wiser than any other people.(47)
This views harks back to Judah Ha-Levi, who, when chided by the Khazar king about the remarkable promises of Christianity in the hereafter, retorted sarcastically: "None of them are realized until after death."(23) The Torah, however, does not promise, "If you keep this law I will bring you after death into beautiful gardens and great pleasures,"(24) It limits itself to events and experiences in the here and now, thus showing an inextricable bond between man's ethico-religious conduct and divine providence.