Jehudah (Ha-levi) Ben-samuel
Jehudah (Ha-Levi) Ben-Samuel (called in Arabic Abulhassan) a distinguished Spanish Jew, great alike as linguist, philosopher, and poet, one of the greatest lights in Jewish literature, was born in Castile about 1086 according to Grätz, or 1105 according to Rappoport. But little is known of the early history of his life; when a youth of fifteen he was already celebrated as a promising poetical genius. In the vigor of manhood we find Jehudah endeavoring to spread a knowledge of Rabbinical and Arabian literature, both by poetical productions and by disciples whom he gathered about him at Toledo, where he founded a college. About 1141 he is supposed to have completed his Kozari (כוזרי), generally called Cusari, the best work ever written in defense of the Jewish religion, and aiming to refute the objections urged against Judaism by Christians, Mohammedans, philosophical infidels, and that sect of the Jews known to be bitterly opposed to the recognition of the authority of tradition — the Karaites. Many eminent critics, among whom ranks Bartolocci, have long discredited the supposition that it is the production of Jehudah, but of late all seem agreed that he was really the author of the work, which is entitled כתאב אלחג8 8ה ואלדליל פי נצר אלדין אלדליל (The Book of Evidence and Argument in Apology for the despised Religion, i.e. Judaism). In style, this work is an imitation of Plato's dialogues on the immortality of the soul. According to Grätz (Geschichte der Juden, 5, 214 sq.; 6, 146 sq.), the Khozars, a tribe of the Finns, which was akin to the Bulgarians, Avarians, and Ugurians, or Hungarians, had settled on the borders of Asia and Europe and founded a dominion on the mouth of the Volga and the Caspian Sea, very near Astrachan. After the destruction of the Persian empire, this Finnish tribe invaded the Caucasus, made inroads into Armenia, conquered the Crimea, exacted tribute from the Byzantine emperors, made vassals of the Bulgarians, etc., and compelled the Russians to send annually to their kings a sword and a costly fur. Like their neighbors, the Bulgarians and Russians, they were idolaters, and gave themselves up to gross sensuality. and licentiousness, until they became acquainted with Christianity and Mohammedanism through commercial intercourse with the Greeks and Arabs, and with Judaism through the Greek Jews who fled from the religious persecutions of the Byzantine emperor Leo (A.D. 723). Of these strangers called Khozarians the Jews gained the greater admiration, as they especially distinguished themselves as merchants, physicians, and councillors of state; and the Khozars came to contrast the Jewish religion with the then corrupt Christianity and Mohammedanism. King Bulan, the officials of state, and the majority of the people, who had determined to forsake their idolatrous worship, embraced Judaism, A.D. 731. This important item of Jewish history, which is rigidly contended for as authentic by some of the best students of Oriental history (compare Vivien de St. Martin, Les Khazars, mémoire lu à l'Academie des Inscriptions et des Belles-Lettres [Paris, 1851]; Carmoly, Itinéraires de la Terre Sainte
[Bruxelles, 1847], p. 1-104; Grätz, Gesch. d. Juden, 5, 210 sq.), throws light upon Eldad Ha-Dani's description of the lost tribes; the references in the Chaldee paraphrase on 1Ch 1:5,26; the allusion in Josippon ben-Gorion, ch. 10, ed. Breithaupt; and many other theories about the whereabouts of the ten tribes. SEE RESTORATION. It is this item of Eastern history that furnished Jehudah a basis for his work. In his Kozari he represents Bulan as determined to forsake idolatry, and earnestly desirous to find the true religion. To this end he sends for two philosophers, a Christian and a Mohammedan, listens to the expositions of their respective creeds, and, as they all refer to the Jews as the fountainhead, he at last sends for an Israelite, one Rabbi Isaac of Sanger, probably a Bithynian, to propound his religious tenets, becomes convinced of their divine origin, and embraces the Jewish religion. The real importance of this work, however, rests on the discussions into which it enters on many subjects bearing upon the exposition of the Hebrew Scriptures, Jewish literature, history, philosophy, etc., all of which are in turn reviewed. Thus, for instance, synagogual service, feasts, fasts, sacrifices, the Sanhedrim, the development of the Talmud, the Masorah, the vowel points, the Karaites, etc., are all minutely discussed in this work, which De Sacy (see Biographie Universelle, 22, 101 sq.) has pronounced to be one of the most valuable and beautiful productions of the Jewish pen. Aben-Ezra and David Kimchi frequently refer to it, the former in his Commentary, the latter in his Lexicon. A Hebrew translation of Kozari was prepared by Jehudah Ibn-Tibbon, who named it הכוזרי ספר (The Book of Kozari), after the heroes of it, and it was first published at Fano in 1506, then at Venice in 1547, with an introduction and commentary by Muscato (Venice, 1594); with a Latin translation and dissertations by Jo. Buxtorf, fil. (Basle, 1660); a Spanish translation of it was made by Abendana without the Hebrew text (Amsterd. 1663). The work has more lately been published with a commentary by Satorow, (Berl. 1795); with a commentary, various readings, index, etc. by G. Brecher (Prague, 1838- 40); and the very latest, with a German translation, explanatory notes, etc. by Dr. David Cassel (Leipzig, 1853), which is generally considered the most useful edition. Jehudah, like many other eminent Jewish literati of his day, seems to have practiced medicine to secure to himself a sufficient income, which his literary labors evidently failed to provide for him. After the completion of his Kozari he determined to emigrate to the Holy Land and die and be buried in the land of his forefathers. Tradition says that he was murdered by an Arab (about 1142) while he was lying on his face under the walls of Jerusalem, overcome by his contemplations at the ruins of Zion, of "the depopulation of a region once so densely inhabited, the wilderness and desolation of a land formerly teeming with luxuriance" a gift which God had given unto his forefathers, who had failed to appreciate the goodness of their Lord. He is said to be buried at Kephar Kabul. See Geiger, Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift, 1, 158 sq.; 2, 367 sq.; Cassel, Das Buch Kusari (Leipzig, 1853), p. 35; Grätz, Geschichte der Juden, 6, 140- 167; Steinschneider, Catalogus Libr. Hebr. in Bibliotheca Bodleiana, col. 1338-1342; Sachs, Relig. Poesie der Juden in Spanien, p. 287; Turner, Jewish Rabbis, p. 22 sq.; Kitto, Bibl. Cyclop. s.v.; Rule. Karaites (London, 1870), p. 80 sq.; Fürst, Biblioth. Jud. 2, 35 sq.