Notes to the Cuzari, Spring 2017

Notes to Cuzari

Apropos my claim that Halevi had no serious interest in the issue of the world’s creation…this is intimated in the very first exchange with the Jewish haver–but lost in the medieval translation. In passage [10] the Cuzar King tells us that he has no choice but to interview a Jew, though that was not his original intention, but he now sees that “they are the proof that God has a law code [or: revelation? li-lah shar’ia fi-l-ard] on earth”. Ibn Tibbon (in addition to some other things that don’t quite agree with the Arabic) has borei, “creator”, instead of God (correctly displayed in Even Shmu’el and Rav Qafih).

This is no oversight. In his first presentation [11] the haver says nothing about creation, and the King reacts in [12] that he had expected to hear from the Jew about his belief “in the creator of the world, the one who orders it and governs it”–he is pleasantly surprised NOT to have heard all of this, and this leads him to continue the conversation.

Note also the end of the statement, where the Khazar king supposes that the goal of Judaism is to become like the Creator…imitatio dei must mean to become creative … so with the dismissal of Creator as (primary) attribute, so also are we not expected to become Creator-like?

Indeed, what role does imitatio dei play in haLevi?

Remark of the Haver in one of his opening statements that there have been “thousands” of prophets: an optimistic statement, indicating that prophecy may be within reach of more than just a very select few.

book 1, [47]
mention of Enosh; cf. Maimonides, also Kevin van Bladel on Mandeans and role of Enosh in their tradition

phrase: עלי אתצאלהם לבאב אדם וצפותה; does this refer their unbroken genealogical lineage which goes back to Adam, or to their personal achievements, which bring them to the rank of Adam?

note that the commentary of Shelomo ben Yehuda of Lunel (ed. D Schwartz) uses the translation of Cardinal –this is not noted by the editor –examples in table saved in a dropbox file of mine

interesting coincidence that Black Sea and Crimea home to pagan monotheistic communities in late antiquity–monotheistic pagan cults called sebomenoi theon hypsiston (“Worshippers of the All-Highest God,” or “God-Fearers”)–no evidence that haLevi knew about this, and their connection to the conversion of the Khazars is controversial–but that is NOT what I am talking about–I want only to point out that the Khazar King is behaving like a pagan monotheist

book 1, [79]
additional evidence that the Cuzari is not a book about beliefs; note the definition of the mu’min given at the beginning of this passage (my translation frmo the Arabic):

“whoever has had this command (al-amr, scilicet al-amr al-ilahi, “the divine command or thing” so famous in this book, discussed by Goldziher a century ago and by many others since) descend upon him, and he has obeyed it in conformity with its definitions and stipulations, with a pure intention, he is the mu’min“.
For this reason I am not sure that mu’min ought to be translated as “believer”, since the criterion for being a mu’min is obeisance, in strict conformity to the rules, measures, timings, etc. of the divine command. Since al-amr is something that is to be obeyed, it ought to be translated here “command” rather than “thing”. Mu’min here would better be translated “faithful” or “loyalist”. No mentioned is made of belief, only of intention, niyya –the same word that features in the message relayed by the angel to the Cuzar king at the beginning of the book, “your intention is pleasing to God”. There is no difference in intention between the Cuzar king and the Jew, the only difference lies in the details of ritual and praxis. Belief plays no role.

2 thoughts on “Notes to the Cuzari, Spring 2017

  1. >>Remark of the Haver in one of his opening statements that there have been “thousands” of prophets: an optimistic statement, indicating that prophecy may be within reach of more than just a very select few.

    Compare also his opinion that all present attained a degree of prophecy at Sinai (contra Maimonides).

    Liked by 1 person

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