Page 46 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 1

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of the adu l t . T h e very challenge which it offered to the m ind
added to its popu lar i ty , and whenever a Jew came across the
phrase, “and the inte l l igen t will und e r s tand ,” which Ib n Ezra
used to cover some pa r t icu la r ly astute remark , the reade r re-
doub led his men ta l efforts. Even his critical remarks, which
savored of h igher criticism centuries before such an app roach to
the Bible became general, were accepted w i th interest, even if
no t taken too seriously.
T h e commentary rema ined Ib n Ezra’s most famous work, b u t
his poetry, too, has no t been forgotten. In this case, however, he
does no t rank wi th the o the r poets of Spa in ’s Go lden Age. Wh i le
r ising occasionally to real poetic heights, he was usually r a th e r
mediocre and often no more than a versifier. He loved the
in tr ica te allusion and the mechanical construct ion. Genera t ions
of Jews were en te r ta ined by his metrical riddles.
For more than ten years Ib n Ezra stayed in Rome; then he
star ted ou t on his journeys th rough Chr is t ian Europe . By now
he had a respectful following wherever he went. English Jewry
ha i led his coming w i th delight; the Jews of no r th e rn France
welcomed him; the cu l tu red commun i ty of the Provence con-
sidered th a t his arrival marked the beg inn ing of a new era. I t is
no t ha rd to unde rs tand why this should have been so. I t was
no t only a venerable scholar whom they welcomed, b u t the very
personification of the finest Jewish cu l tu re of tha t day.
Eigh t h u n d r ed years af ter Ab raham ibn Ezra, the Jewish
people finds itself once more in need of cu l tu ra l unification. In
par t , ou r p rob lem parallels tha t which Ib n Ezra tr ied to solve
in his day. Amer ican Israel sorely needs insp i r ing ins t ruc t ion in
the con t r ibu t ions made to Jewish life by such Jewries as those
of Germany and Poland , now tragically destroyed, or tha t of
Palestine daily rising i n impor tance . In par t , ou r p rob lem goes
even deeper. For Amer ican Israel has for two generat ions been
largely cut off from the stream of Jewish cu l tu re which flowed
so un in te r rup ted ly u n t i l the mode rn era. An Ib n Ezra is needed
to re-unite ou r spir i t w i th the sp i r i tua l heri tage of the Jewish past.