Yehudah b. El'azar

  March 12, 2022   Read time 2 min
Yehudah b. El'azar
A Jewish Iranian author who emerged in the 17th century is Yehudah b. El'azar. In 1686, he wrote Hobot Yehudah (The Duties of Judah), which according to Moreen is the most important philosophical text we have from the Iranian Jewry.

Like Imrani, Babai b. Lutf and Babai b. Farhad, Yehudah b. El'azar came from Kashan, which in the 17th century was a prosperous town thanks to the commerce of silk, textile and rug weaving. Yehudah b. El'azar was a physician himself, and beside this philosophical treatise he also wrote a book on astronomy, Taqwim al-Yehudah (The calendar of Yehudah), and a short text about the hazards of wine. He was referred to by Refu'ah b. El'azar as rabbi and dayyan (Hebrew for ‘religious judge’), which reflects his level of scholarship.

He had a good command of Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic in addition to Persian. He was acquainted with rabbinic sources (such as the Talmud and Zohar), Greek and Islamic philosophers and Persian poetry, not to mention Jewish philosophers, and Kabbalists. In his tract he debated the ideas of Moses Maimonides (1135-1204)847 and David Messer Leon (1470-1526). Yehudah b. El'azar also lived during the period of forced conversions, resulting in his polemic against Jewish apostasy.

A very interesting poet from the end of the Safavid period is Amina (Benyamin Mishael Kashani). Although he originally stemmed from Bukhara, his panegyric to the Afghan monarch Ashraf (d. 1730) and his title Kashani show that he lived in Iran as well. He too followed the style of Shahin in his poetry. Moreen doubts whether his panegyrics ever reached the monarch, because they were written by a non-Muslim. However, as we saw, the Jews of Kashan were bribed by Ashraf, therefore they had certainly met him. Moreover, Ashraf must have been kind to Jews, otherwise Amina and Babai b. Farhad would not have eulogized him.
Moreen sees Amina as the greatest Jewish Iranian lyrical poet. According to her, Amina’s favourite poet, like the majority of Iranian Jews and Muslims, was Hafiz. Amina may have lived during a period of relative peace, for he was able to dedicate himself to writing poems about his sentimental life: She Is the Rose Garden’s Cypress, The Story of Amina and His Wife. However, there are also poems in which he laments and seeks God’s protection, such as: In Praise of Moses, Our Master; Peace Be upon Him and A Prayer.

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