Page 249 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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WEINBERGER /THE LITURGICAL POETRY OF SAMUEL IBN NAGRELA
241
teachings, as in his
“Mahanot Elyonim
,” an exposition on the ac­
tivities of the angelic hosts and the movement of stars and plan­
ets. This poem cannot be understood in its plain meaning but
only with reference to rabbinic metaphysics in Hagigah 15-16.2
It is likely that in his criticism o f Qalir’s poetry Ibn Ezra had
in mind a model Hebrew poet who did meet the standards by
which Qalir is judged. The model was not Solomon Ibn Gabirol
or even Moses Ibn Ezra or Judah Ha-Levi whose liturgical works
rely in good measure upon statements in Talmud and Midrash.
Could Abraham Ibn Ezra’s model in this regard have been Sam­
uel Ibn Nagrela, whose surviving
piyyutim,
while few compared
to his “secular” works, are sufficient for the purpose of this
investigation.3 As has been demonstrated elsewhere, Ibn
Nagrela, the Courtier-Rabbi, was a model in many respects and
in the words of Gerson Cohen was “a typological figure” setting
the standards for the rabbinate and the Jewish community.4
Descended from a distinguished Merida family of Levites, Sam­
uel the Nagid, thoroughly familiar with all aspects of biblical,
rabbinic and Arabic studies and “Greek wisdom,” was an influ­
ential courtier, a gifted poet, a halakhic authority and patron
of the arts. From the 12th century historian, Abraham Ibn
Daud, we learn that Ibn Nagrela “earned four crowns: the
crown of Torah, the crown of power, the crown of a Levite
and . . . the crown of a good name.5
Abraham ibn Ezra is as effusive in his praise of Ibn Nagrela
as were his contemporaries. In his
Sefer Moznayim,
a treatise
on Hebrew grammar written in Rome in 1140, Ibn Ezra lauds
Nagrela’s work on this subject as “second to none in excellence,”
apparently taking sides with the latter in his dispute with the
grammarian Jonah Ibn Janah, even as in his
Sefer Zahot,
another
of Ibn Ezra’s grammatical works written in Mantua in 1145,
he writes, “my view (with regard to the V'tf stem) approximates
2. Cf. A. Mirsky, “Ha-ziqah,” pp. 248-249 .
3. Ezra Fleischer writes (in his “Iyunim be-shirato shel Rav Hai Gaon,”
Shai
Le-Heiman, Sefer Ha-yovel Le-A. M. Habermann
[Jerusalem, 5737] , pp.
246 -247 ) that in the 10th-11th centuries the man who served as congre­
gational cantor was obligated to compose the many liturgical works for
the synagogue service. And since the Nagid did not serve as cantor, he
had no cause to compose liturgical works and did so only occasionally.
4. Cf. Abraham Ibn Daud,
Sefer Ha-Qabbalah,
ed. G. Cohen (Philadelphia,
1967) p. 272.
5. Cf.
Sefer Ha-Qabbalah,
p. 75.