RISHONIM ROUNDUPS
by David Fhima

רבינו אברהם אבן עזרא

Rabbeinu Avraham Ibn Ezra

Rabbeinu Avraham Ibn Ezra was born to his father Rabbi Meir in the year 4849 (1089) in the city of Tudela, Spain. He spent his early life in Cordova, a city in the Andalusian region of Southern Spain studying Torah. He was also well versed with the Hebrew grammar and composed many beautiful Piyutim. Amongst the more famous ones are Ki Eshmera Shabbat and Tzamah Nafshi. He also acquired proficiency in the arts of science, philosophy, mathematics and astronomy. Tradition has it that he married the daughter of Rabbi Yehuda Halevi. His wife passed away at a young age leaving him with a young son, Yitzchak. We are told that although he had a brilliant mind, he was never successful in business. As an anecdote, I would like to add what my grandfather* told me about him a few years back. When he was once contemplating his lack of financial success he said ‘’if I would manufacture candles the sun would never set and if I were to make burial shrouds people would stop dying’’.


The Almoravid (a Berber tribe) uprising led to their conquest of the Andalusian region, prompting the migration of many Jews. Rabbeinu Avraham too left his hometown and journeyed to Italy where he began composing his Bible commentary. Unfortunately, this was not to be his last misfortune. His son Reb Yitzchak had in the meantime travelled to Baghdad and under duress converted to the Moslem faith. It was later clarified that he did not actually convert but merely stated he agreed that Mohammed was a prophet, an action that is sanctioned by the Rambam if one is under duress. He dies soon after. When his father heard about this a short while later, he was overcome by grief and from then on could not settle in any one place. His travels took him to Provence, Northern France, London and then back again to Southern France and Spain. Some say he even travelled to Eretz Yisrael. When he visited Northern France, he was welcomed with great respect and friendship by Rabbeinu Tam who even composed a song in honour of his visit.


He wrote a commentary on the whole of Scripture, Chiddushim to Tractae Kiddushin as well as scores of Piyutim and grammatical works. He also authored books on mathematics, astrology and astronomy.


It is said that the Chasam Sofer cherished his song Tzamah Nafshi so much that he would sing it every Friday night.
He was Niftar in the year 4924 (1164) approximately, probably somewhere in Spain.

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