Page 64 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 9 (1950-1951)

Basic HTML Version

A PERSPECTIVE OF BACHYA
Author of Hobot Ha-Levavot
By
N
ima
H.
A
d l e r b l u m
B
ACHYA Ibn Paquda belongs to that group of great men who
can be viewed from a better perspective with the flow of
time. Nine centuries separate us from him, yet his portrait could
perhaps be best delineated in our own days. Preceding generations
no doubt enjoyed a closer intimacy with him, but the depth of
his ideas and their import have a pertinent bearing on a period
like ours which is undergoing such radical moral changes. Bachya’s
personality has deeply impressed itself upon the mind of posterity,
even though all we know about him is that he was a
dayan
(judge)
in Spain, and probably the son of a
dayan.
We have no accurate
knowledge as to when he was born and when he died, whether he
lived in Saragossa or in Cordova, and whether or not we have
the proper vowelization of his name. Scholars had differed in
their conjectures by as much as one hundred years as to the cen-
tury to which he belonged. It is now the consensus of opinion
based on solid grounds, that he lived in the eleventh century.
Our scant knowledge of the circumstances of his life is fully
compensated by the rich picture which, no doubt without his
being aware of it, emerges from the lines of his book — a picture
which has become more real and living with every generation.
He is referred to as
Rabenu
Bachya with that sort of deep rev-
erence bestowed by the people upon their few anointed ones. The
sincerity, the deep spirituality, the humility, the passion to re-
deem mankind from its follies, the vision of a far better human
life in terms of deeper meaningfulness, the profound moral sense,
the tolerance towards other creeds and opinions, the respect for
human intelligence, and a love of God such as perhaps only few
can experience, — all these merge into our picture of him as it
is delineated in the pages of his great book
Hobot Ha-Levavot
Duties of the Heart.
The book is not an autobiography, even in the spiritual sense;
it is an ascent towards the very fountain of morality which is in
God. Like a mountain guide, Bachya wants to help others climb
towards spiritual heights from which one could look at life in its
proper perspective. From those heights human incidents look
56