June 19, 2020

Bahya Ben Joseph Ibn Pakuda, also known as Behay and Bahie, was an 11th Bahya was the author of the first Jewish treatise on ethics, written in Arabic in. Philosophy and Mysticism in Bahya ibn Paquda’s “Duties of the Heart”. Diana Lobel. pages | 6 x 9. Cloth | ISBN | $s | Outside. Rabbi Saadyah wrote the first Jewish work of philosophy in Rabbi Bachaya wrote the first work of Jewish ethics more than a century later. Rabbi Saadya.

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Dayyan and philosopher; flourished at Saragossa, Spain, in the first half of the eleventh century.

Bahya ben Joseph ibn Pakuda

Of his life nothing is known except that he bore the title of dayyan or judge at the rabbinical court. Even the student of the Law bbahya often prompted only by selfish and worldly motives.

He was also broad-minded enough to quote frequently the works of non-Jewish moral philosophers, which he used as a pattern. Though he quotes Saadia’s works pxquda, he belongs not to the rationalistic school of the Motazilites whom Saadia follows, but, like his somewhat younger contemporary, Solomon ibn Gabirolis an adherent of Neoplatonic mysticism, often closely imitating the method of the Arabian encyclopedists known as “the Brothers of Purity,” as has been shown by Kaufmann, “Die Theologie des Bachya ibn Pakuda,” pp.

Ibm wanted to present a religious system at once lofty and pure and in full accord with reason.

Yet it is not sufficient to accept this belief in God without thinking, as the child does, or because bajya fathers have taught so, as do the blind bqhya in tradition, who have no opinion of their own and are led by others. Nor should the belief in God be such as might in any way be liable to be understood in a corporeal or anthropomorphic sense, but it should rest on conviction which is the result of the most comprehensive knowledge and research.

Far from demanding blind belief—which ign anything but meritorious—the Torah, on the contrary, appeals to reason and knowledge as proofs of God’s existence, as is shown, for instance, in Deut. It is therefore a duty incumbent upon every one to make God an object of speculative reason and knowledge, in order to arrive at true faith.

He starts from the following three premises: The world is beautifully arranged and furnished like a great house, of which the sky forms the ceiling, the earth the floor, the stars the lamps, and man is the proprietor, to whom the three kingdoms—the animal, the vegetable, and the mineral—are submitted for use, each of these being composed of the four elements. Nor does the celestial sphere, composed of a fifth element —”Quinta Essentia,” according to Aristotle, and of fire, according to others—make an exception.

These four elements themselves are composed of matter and form, of substance and accidental qualities, such as warmth and cold, state of motion and of rest, and so forth. Consequently the universe, being a combination of many forces, must have a creative power as its cause.

Nor can the existence of the world be due to mere chance. Where there is purpose manifested, there must have been wisdom at work. Ink spilled accidentally upon a sheet of paper can not produce legible writing. No one would without sufficient cause ascribe a letter written altogether in the same style and handwriting to more than one writer.

The assumption of a plurality, which is an accident and not a substance, would lower God, the Creator, to the level of creatures. There is, he says, a unity that is obviously only accidental, as, for example, that of an army consisting of many soldiers; and there is another unity, the accidental character of which is less visible, as, for instance, that of the body, which consists of matter and form.

Contrasting with this, there is the substantial unity presented by the unit which forms the unit and the basis of all numbers.

BAHYA BEN JOSEPH IBN PAḲUDA (also known as Beḥay and Baḥie):

Still this unity exists only as an idea. But there is a substantial unity which exists as the reality of all truth. Not subject to any change or accident, it is the root of all things, and has no similarity to any other thing. ;aquda real unity, necessitated by the plurality of all things as their root and eternal cause, is God. Every other unity of things is accidental, since composite; God alone is the true unity; nothing exists beside Him that is absolutely and eternally one.

The question with him is rather, How can we know a being who is so far beyond our mental comprehension that we can not even define Him? Three attributes of God are essential, though we derive them from creation: But these three attributes are one and inseparable from the nature of God; in fact, they are only negative attributes: God can not be non-existent, or a non-eternal or a non-unit, or else He is not God.

The second class of attributes, such as are derived from activity, are most frequently applied to God in the Bible, and are as well applied to the creatures as to the Creator.

These anthropomorphisms, however, whether they speak paaquda God as having manlike form or as displaying a manlike activity, are used in the Bible only for the purpose of imparting in homely language a knowledge of God to men who would otherwise not comprehend Him; while the intelligent thinker will gradually divest the Creator of every quality that renders Him bzhya or similar to any creature.

The true essence of God being inaccessible to our understanding, the Bible offers the name of God as substitute; making it the object of human reverence, and the center of ancestral tradition. And just because the wisest of men learn in the end to know only their inability to name God paqufa, the appellation “God of the Fathers” will strike with peculiar force all people alike. All attempts to express in terms of praise all the qualities of God will necessarily fail Ber.

Man’s inability to know God finds its parallel in his inability to know his own soul, whose existence is manifested in every one of his acts.

Ibn Paqūda, Baḥya (Abū Isḥāq) ben Joseph – Brill Reference

Just as each of the five senses has its natural limitations—the sound that is heard by the ear, for instance, not being perceptible to the eye—so human reason has its limits in regard to the comprehension of God.


Insistence on knowing the sun beyond what is possible to the human eye causes blindness in man; so does the insistence on knowing Him who is unknowable, not only through the study of His work, but through attempts to ascertain His own essence, bewilder and confound the mind, so as to impair man’s reason.

Men, as a rule, fail to appreciate the mercies of God, either because their insatiable longing for pleasure deprives them of the sense of gratitude, or because they are spoiled by fortune, or dissatisfied and disappointed in their expectation of life. All the more necessary is it to contemplate the active working of God in order to penetrate as far as possible into the Divine wisdom, which, while ever the same, is infinitely manifold in its effects, just as the rays of the sun differ in color according to their mode of refraction.

Following the idea expressed in Prov. But, as has been said by one of the sages, “True philosophy is to know oneself. How diverse the qualities of soul and of body! And how wisely are all the tender organs shielded by flesh, skin, hair, or nail against the perils surrounding them! And what marvelous foresight is exhibited in the way the infant is sheltered in the womb against the harmful influences of the atmosphere and nourished like a plant until it enters life, when the blood in the mother’s breast is transformed for it into nurturing milk.

The long dependence of the child upon the mother, the gradual awakening of the senses, and the slow development of the intellect lest its state of helplessness become unbearable, the frequent shedding of tears, even the mode of teething and the frequent sicknesses that befall children, betoken an especial training of man for the higher objects and obligations of life.

In nature likewise, the consideration of the sublimity of the heavens and of the motion of all things, the interchange of light and darkness, the variety of color in the realm of creation, the awe with which the sight of living man inspires the brute, the wonderful fertility of each grain of corn in the soil, the large supply of those elements that are essential to organic life, such as air and water, and the lesser frequency of those things that form the objects of industry and commerce in the shape of nourishment and raiment —all these and similar observations tend to fill man’s soul with gratitude and praise for the providential love and wisdom of the Creator.

This necessarily leads man to the worship ofGod, to which the third section, “Sha’ar ‘Abodat Elohim” Gate of Divine Worshipis devoted.

Also charity bestowed by the rich upon the poor is bahha or less prompted by commiseration, the sight of misfortune causing pain of which the act of charity relieves the giver; likewise does all helpfulness originate in that feeling of fellowship which is the consciousness of mutual need.

God’s benefits, however, rest bhya love without any consideration of self. On the other hand, no creature is so dependent upon helpful love and mercy as man from the cradle to the grave. Worship of God, however, in obedience to the commandments of the Law is in itself certainly of unmistakable value, inasmuch as it asserts the higher claims of human life against the lower desires awakened and fostered by the animal man.

Yet it is not the highest mode of worship, as it may be prompted by fear of divine punishment or by a desire for reward; or it may be altogether formal, external, and void of that spirit which steels the soul against every temptation and trial.

There is another tendency to despise the world of the senses altogether, and to devote oneself only to the life of the spirit. Both are abnormal and injurious: The Law therefore shows the correct mode of serving God by following “a middle way,” alike remote from sensuality and contempt of the world. It educates the whole people, the immature as well as the mature intellects, for the true service of God, which must be that of the heart.

Bahya ben Joseph ibn Pakuda | Jewish philosopher |

Here an exposition of the teachings of the Law and the Paqudq is given, with the view of emphasizing the need of spirituality without which all the observances of the ceremonies and the painstaking study of the dry volumes of rabbinical law fail of their purpose. Yet only God, whose wisdom and goodness comprise all times and all circumstances, can be bxhya confided in; for He provides for all His creatures out of true love, and with the full knowledge of what is good for each. Particularly does He provide for man in a manner that unfolds his faculties more and more by new wants and cares, by trials and hardships that test and strengthen his powers of body and soul.

Confidence in God, however, should not prevent man from seeking the means of livelihood by the pursuit of a trade; nor must it lead him to expose his life to perils.

Particularly is suicide a crime often ibbn from lack of confidence in an all-wise Providence. Likewise is it folly to put too much trust in wealth and in those who own great fortunes. In fact, all that the world offers will disappoint man in the end; and for this reason the Saints and the Prophets of old often fled their family circles and comfortable homes to lead a life of seclusion devoted to God only.

Not succeeding therein, he will endeavor to show the lack of justice in this world, and will deny the existence of another world which is to readjust the wrongs of the one that now is; and, finally, he will deny the value of every thought ibm does not redound to bodily welfare.

Wherefore, man must exercise continual vigilance regarding the purity of his actions. The sixth gate, “Sha’ar ha-Keni’ah,” deals with humility “keni’ah”. This has its seat within, and is manifested in gentle conduct toward one’s fellowman, whether he be of equal ib or superior, but especially in one’s attitude toward God.

It springs from a consideration of the low origin of man, the vicissitudes of life, and one’s own failings and shortcomings compared with the duties of man and the greatness of God; so that all pride even in regard to one’s merits is banished. The high priest himself, in order to learn humbleness in his high station, had to remove the ashes from the altar every morning Lev. The conditions of humility are meditation on God’s greatness and goodness, observance of the Law, magnanimity toward the shortcomings of others, patience to endure without complaint every hardship that God imposes, kindness to others and charitable judgment of their paqua, and forgiveness of injuries received.


Especially is humility shown in refraining from finding fault in others, and in patiently bearing insults from them. Pride in outward possessions is incompatible with humility, and must be suppressed; still more so is pride derived from the humiliation of others.

There is, however, a pride which stimulates the nobler ambitions, such as the pride on being able to acquire knowledge or to achieve good: The practical tendency paqud the book is particularly shown in the seventh section, “Sha’ar ha-Teshubah” the Gate of Repentance. The majority even of the pious, the author says, belong not to paauda class of those who have kept free from sins, but to such as feel regret at having committed them; wherefore, the prayer for divine forgiveness is one of the first of the eighteen benedictions.

As there are sins both of omission and of commission, man’s repentance should be directed so as to stimulate good action where such had been neglected, or to train him to abstain from evil pawuda where such had led to evil actions, just as the cure of a patient is of a stimulating or prophylactic character, according to the cause of his sickness. True repentance shows itself in fear of the deserved divine punishment, in contrition of soul, in tears and sighs, in ;aquda signs of grief—such as moderation abhya sensual enjoyment and display, and pqquda pleasures paqudx legitimate —and in a humble, prayerful spirit and an earnest contemplation of the soul’s paqudaa.

Most essential is babya discontinuance of sinful habits, however excusable in themselves; because the longer they are adhered to, the more they grow from thin threads into thick ropes which can no longer be torn asunder. An especial hindrance to repentance is procrastination, which waits for a tomorrow that may never come.

Repentance is the one coin that will carry man across the stream of life to the shore of eternal salvation, when all life’s treasures have been foolishly spent.

It contains a solemn exhortation to take as serious and lofty a view as possible of life, its obligations and opportunities for the soul’s perfection, in order to attain to a state of purity in which is unfolded the higher faculty of the soul, which beholds the deeper mysteries of God, the sublime wisdom and beauty of a higher world inaccessible to other men —a state reached only by the truly righteous ones, the chosen ones of God, where one is capable of “seeing without eyes, of hearing without ears, of speaking without tongue, of perceiving without the sense of perception, and of arriving at conclusions without the methods of reason.

Accordingly, he devotes the following section, entitled “Sha’ar ha-Perishut” Gate of Seclusion from the Worldto the problem that is uppermost in his mind, the relation of true religiousness to asceticism. Still, as the normal law of human life requires the cultivation of a world which God has formed to be inhabited, and the perpetuation of the race, asceticism can only be the virtue of a few chosen ones who stand forth as teachers of a higher art of life; but, in the same measure as the massesinclined at all times toward sensualism, in the same measure there arose Nazarites, prophets, and saints in the midst of them to point to the higher needs of the soul.

But there are different modes of seclusion from the world. Some, in order to lead a life devoted to the higher world, flee this world altogether, and live as hermits far away from all civilization, quite contrary to the design of the Creator; others retire from the world’s turmoil and strife and live a secluded life in their own homes; a third class, which comes nearest to the precepts of the Law, participates in the world’s struggles and pursuits, but leads a life of abstinence and moderation, regarding this world as a preparation for a higher one.

The object of all religious practise is the exercise of self-control, the curbing of passion, and the placing at the service of the Most High of all personal possessions and of all the organs of life. Accordingly, the generation of the Patriarchs, being less passionate, required fewer legal restrictions than the people of Israel in Canaan surrounded by idolatrous nations, where the Nazarites and Prophets, who led a life of abstinence, became a necessity for them.

The aim and goal of all ethical self-discipline he declares to be the love of God, which forms the contents of the tenth and last section of the work, “Sha’ar Ahabat Elohim” The Gate of the Love of God.

This is explained as the longing of the soul, amid all the attractions and enjoyments that bind it to the earth, for the fountain of its life, in which it alone finds joy and peace, even though the greatest pains and suffering be imposed on it. Those that are imbued with this love find easy every sacrifice they are asked to make for their God; and no selfish motive mars the purity of their love.

Thus was the love of Abraham and Job, of Daniel and all the saintly martyrs, filled with the joy of self-sacrifice. For those that truly love their God the commandments of the Torah are rather few in number, their whole life being consecrated to the God with whom they are one. A man may be as holy as an angel, yet he will not equal in merit the one that leads his fellow-men to righteousness and to love of God.

A number of compendiums of the work were composed and published for this purpose. According to Steinschneider, one was written as early as the thirteenth century by a grandson of Meshullam b. Jacob of Lunel, and reedited not composed, as was formerly assumed by Jacob Pan in They are, according to Steinschneider, in “Jew.

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