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Solomon Ibn Gabirol

(c. 1021—1058)


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Poet and philosopher (1020–57). Few details of Ibn Gabirol's life are known. He was born in Malaga, Spain, where a modern statue of him is to be found near the sea-shore. But the statue depicts him as a tall, venerable old sage, whereas, in fact, he died before reaching the age of 40. It is known that while Malaga was his native city (he signs some of his poems as Malki, meaning ‘from Malaga’), he was taken as a child to Saragossa where he received a sound education and acquired a reputation as a scholar. Ibn Gabirol's poems, together with those of Judah Halevi, are considered to be the choicest of medieval Hebrew poetry. Some of his poems were composed when he was no more than 16 years of age.

Ibn Gabirol's philosophical poem, Keter Malkhut (The Kingly Crown) is still recited by Sephardi Jews at the Neilah service on Yom Kippur. This poem is in three parts: 1. a hymn celebrating the divine attributes; 2. a description of the wonders of creation, rising from contemplation of the sun, moon, stars, and planets to the ultimate mystery of the Godhead; 3. confession, penitence, and supplication.

Ibn Gabirol's philosophical work, Mekor Hayyim (Source of Life), composed under the influence of Neoplatonic thought, was written in Arabic and translated into Latin as Fons Vitae. This work, treating of the relationship between form and matter, makes no reference to the Bible or to the Rabbinic literature and is so universalistic in character that it was attributed by Christian writers to an unknown Christian or Muslim philosopher operating solely in philosophical categories.

An oft-quoted stanza in The Kingly Crown sees all men as wroshipping God without knowing the object of their worship; the act of worship itself is sufficient evidence that this is so:Thou art God, and all creatures areThy slaves and worshippers,and Thy glory is not diminished bythose who worship othersthan Thee, for the goal of all ofthem is to attain to Thee.

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies.


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