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Hebrew Studies 31 (1990) 195 Reviews THE COMMENTARY OF RABBI ABRAHAM IBN EZRA ON HOSEA. Abe Lipshitz, ed. and trans. pp. 148 + n"" + 3 plates. New York: Sepher-Hennon, 1988. Cloth. LANGUAGE, TORAH, AND HERMENEUTICS IN ABRAHAM ABULAFIA. By Moshe Idel. Menahem Kallus, trans. SUNY Series in ludaica. pp. xvii + 212. Albany: State University of New York, 1989. Cloth. On the surface these two books appear to have little in common. Their subjects represent two very different worlds. Abraham Ibn Ezra was a finn exponent of peshat who follows his familiar approach in treating as much of Hosea as possible historically rather than eschatologically. On the other hand, kabbalist Abraham Abulafia virtually ignores the literal meaning of the biblical text, instead dissecting it into "a narrative of the history of the Soul and its potential" (p. 121). On a deeper level, however, these two books (both of which originated as doctoral dissertations; the first at the University of Chicago in 1974, and the second two years later at the Hebrew University) reveal several surprising similarities. Although only the first is fonnally a "critical edition," Idel's collection of three essays is really an extensively annotated presentation of selections from Abulafia's writings. Both of the near contemporary figures (twelfth and thirteenth centuries respectively) whose works are treated in them were born in Spain and spent much of their lives traveling through Europe. Their writings suggest more substantive connections, as is clear from Abulafia's substantial interest in linguistic issues and his frequent reliance on Ibn Ezra. Finally, both sought to resolve biblical passages they regarded as theologically awkward. This is particularly apparent in their treatment of divine commands which seemed to violate their understanding of God's nature. For Abulafia, this can be seen in his approach to the binding of Isaac; for Ibn Ezra, in Hosea's marriage to a prostitute. Both narratives are carefully reinterpreted by their respective exegetes in ways that salvage God's moral integrity (Idel, p. 63 and Lipshitz, p. 113). Having said that, it must be stressed that these are two very different books by authors with very different interests. Lipshitz relies on six manuscripts to establish his text which is accompanied by an apparatus with variant readings and by a translation with abundant notes of its own. The translation is itself a virtual commentary rendered in such a way as to clarify the often technical issues being discussed and with numerous cita- Hebrew Studies 31 (1990) 196 Reviews tions and parenthetical expansions. Infonnation not easily accommodated in this fonnat has been placed in the notes, which include sources and parallels (in both ancient and modem works), as well as extensive references to Ibn Ezra's comments elsewhere, whether consistent or contradictory with what he says here. The brief but infonnative introduction summarizes the material presented in the text in the manner typical of translations and critical editions. In sum, this is a useful edition of a work the author admits contains few provocative ideas (p. 13, n. 21). Idel regards Abulafia as anything but ordinary. Rather, he sees the exegesis presented here as the revolutionary means for reaching the kabbalist 's own ideological ends, which understands the Bible as a guide for the individual's attainment of prophecy. Yet one cannot help but notice the presence of numerous connections with other, often widespread, medieval and even earlier views. Thus the Torah is considered primordial, certain pairs of letters as sometimes interchangeable, and the text's real meaning as psychological rather than historical or even theological (although God's presence is regarded as so pervasive that every word of the biblical text is considered an encoded divine name). By means of this method, Abulafia is able to treat both the Akeda and the Exodus as allegories describing the intellect's superiority to the imagination. At the same time, it must be acknowledged that these techniques are consistently used to bolster Abulafia's own mystical views. The ambivalence of his relation to prior biblical studies is apparent from his reliance on the traditional four methods of interpretation to which he has added three higher levels. If the conclusions seem extreme, the fundamental stance is not...


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