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The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
Hadassi, Judah ben Elijah Haabel
Contents of the "Eshkol."
Karaite scholar, controversialist, and liturgist; flourished at Constantinople in the middle of the twelfth century. Regarding the name "ha-Abel," which signifies "mourner for Zion," see ABELE ZION. Neubauer thinks that "Hadassi" means "native of Edessa" ("Aus der Petersburger Bibliothek," p. 56). Nothing of Hadassi's life is known except that he was the pupil of his elder brother Nathan. He dealt with Hebrew grammar, Masorah, theology, and philosophy, and knew Arabic and Greek well (Mordecai b. Nisan, "Dod Mordekai," ch. 11). Hadassi acquired his reputation by his "Eshkol ha-Kofer," or "Sefer ha-Peles." It is a treatise on the Commandments, in which the author endeavored to explain them philosophically, and in which he applied all his analytical talent and scholarship. The work embodies not only much of the science of his time, but even legends and folk-lore, so that it has appropriately been termed "a sea of learning." It is written in rimed prose, the general rime throughout the work being ; and the initial letters of the successive verses form alternately the acrostics of and , repeated 379 times. The alphabetic chapters 105-124 are, however, in the regular form of poems. Hadassi began the work on Oct. 9, 1148. Starting from the premise that all laws contained in the Pentateuch, and those added by the Rabbis, as well as the minor ethical laws by which the Jews regulate their daily life, are implied in the Decalogue, Hadassi enumerates, under the head of each of the Ten Commandments, a complete series of coordinate laws; and the whole work is mapped out according to this plan.
The first commandment, affirming the existence of God, contains alphabets 1-95, in which the author treats of the duties of the created toward the Creator, dealing, for instance, with prayer, repentance, future punishment and reward, and resurrection. Beginning with alphabet 35, Hadassi treats of the nature of God, of creation (), of angels, of the celestial bodies, etc. In fact, this part of the work is a compendium of religious philosophy, astronomy, physics, natural history, geography, and folk-lore. The second commandment, affirming the unity of God, contains alphabets 96-129. Here Hadassi refutes the views of other sects; for example, the Christians, Rabbinites, Samaritans, and Sadducees, who maintain the eternity of the world. He is indignant at those who identify the Karaites with the Sadducees, and shows great animosity toward the Rabbinites. Alphabets 99-100 contain a violent attack upon Christianity. The third commandment is discussed in alphabets 130-143; the fourth, in alphabets 144-248. In the latter he treats of the laws concerning the Sabbath, and then proceeds to the holidays and to the laws connected with them, as those relating to sacrifices, which include all laws concerning the priests, slaughtering, ẓiẓit, etc.
This part is the more important as it contains Hadassi's views on exegesis and grammar. For, discussing with the Rabbinites the kinds of work permitted or forbidden on the Sabbath, he is obliged to state his exegetical rules, and he endeavors to show that the Karaites are not inferior to the Rabbinites as exegetes. After giving the thirteen rules ("middot") of R. Ishmael and the thirty-two of R. Eliezer ben Jose ha-Gelili, he gives his own, dividing them into two groups, one of sixty and one of eighty, and finding an allusion to them in Song of Solomon 6:8. The sixty "queens" denote the sixty grammatical rules, headed by five "kings" (the five vowels); the eighty "concubines" denote the eighty exegetical rules; and the "virgins without number" represent the numberless grammatical forms in the Hebrew language. Considering phonetics as necessary for the interpretation of the Law, Hadassi devotes to this study a long treatise, in the form of questions and answers. The fifth commandment contains alphabets 249-264, treating of the laws regulating the relations between parents and children, of inheritance, mourning, etc. The sixth contains alphabets 265-274, and the seventh, alphabets 275-336, the latter covering all the laws concerning adultery, incest, cleanliness and uncleanliness, women in childbirth, and the fruit of the first three years. The eighth commandment is discussed in alphabets 337-353, covering the laws on the different kinds of theft and fraud. The ninth embraces alphabets 354-362, in which are discussed all kinds of false witnesses, including false prophets. Finally, the tenth commandment contains alphabets 363-379, dealing with the laws implied in the prohibition against covetousness. Hadassi illustrates his explanations by examples interspersed with tales and legends.
His Model and Sources.
Obviously his model was Nissim ben Noah's "Bitan ha-Maskilim," or "Peles Bi'ur ha-Miẓwot," written 370 years earlier. The sources upon which he drew included the "Ma'aseh Bereshit" of R. Ishmael; the Baraita of R. Samuel, for astronomy; the "Yosippon," for history; David al-Muḳammaṣ' work on the sects; Eldad ha-Dani, for legends; while for grammar he utilized especially the Karaite grammarians, though he also made use of the Rabbinites, quoting Judah Ḥayyuj and Ibn Janaḥ. The fact ought to be mentioned that Hadassi has included in his "Eshkol" the first grammatical work of Abraham ibn Ezra ("Moznayim," composed in Rome, 1140), without acknowledging the fact ("Monatsschrift," 68 et seq.). Inattacking the Rabbinites, he followed the example of his predecessors, as Solomon ben Jeroham, Japheth b. 'Ali, Sahl b. Maẓliaḥ, and others. This work was printed at Eupatoria (1836), with an introduction by Caleb Afendopolo entitled "Naḥal Eshkol." Alphabets 99-100 and part of 98 were excluded from this edition by the censor, but have been published by Bacher in "J. Q. R." (8:431 et seq.). Hadassi mentions a previously written work of his entitled "Sefer Teren bi-Teren," a collection of homonyms which, he says, was an addition to the eighty pairs of Ben Asher (alphabets 163 ב, 168 ס, 173 נ). There exists also a fragment which Firkovich (Cat. No. 619, St. Petersburg) entitled "Sefer ha-Yalḳuṭ" and attributed to Hadassi, while Pinsker regarded it as an extract from Tobiah's "Sefer ha-Miẓwot." P. F. Frankl, however, agreed with Firkovich in regarding it as a part of the "Eshkol ha-Kofer," which Hadassi had previously written in prose. In the Karaite Siddur there are four piyyuṭim by Hadassi.
- Pinsker, Liḳḳuṭe Ḳadmoniyyot, p. 223; Supplement, p. 93;
- Jost, Gesch. des Judenthums, 2:352 et seq.;
- Fürst, Gesch. des Karäert. 2:211 et seq.:
- P. F. Frankl, in Monatsschrift, 31:1-13,72-85;
- Bacher, ib. 14, 68, 109;
- J. Q. R. 8:431 et seq.;
- Gottlober, Biḳḳoret le-Toledot ha-Ḳaraïm, p. 172;
- introduction to Eshkol ha-Kofer by Caleb Afendopolo, entitled Naḥal Eshkol.
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Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Hadassi, Judah ben Elijah Haabel'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/h/hadassi-judah-ben-elijah-haabel.html. 1901.