Bahya Ibn Asher

Biblical commentator looked at Torah in both traditional and kabbalistic ways.


Reprinted from
The Jewish Religion: A Companion
, published by Oxford University Press.

Bahya Ibn Asher was a 13th-century Spanish biblical exegete, kabbalist, and the author of a commentary to the Pentateuch written in the year 129I. Bahya was a disciple of Solomon Ibn Adret, whose kabbalistic ideas as well as those of Adret’s teacher, Nahmanides, are expressed more or less openly in his commentary. 

Bahya accepted the notion of cycles according to which the history of the world proceeds in a series of 6,000 years followed by a 1000-year Sabbath and then another series and so on, until the great Jubilee at the end of 49,000 years.

In the introduction to the commentary, Bahya remarks that the Torah is bound up with the Supernal Wisdom and it therefore embraces all the sciences. Bahya employs in his commentary the fourfold method of exegesis. Verses are explained according to their plain, their homiletical, and their allegorical meanings, and their “mysteries,” the kabbalistic meaning. The popularity of his commentary can be gauged from the title given to it by later generations, Rabbenu Bahya, “our master Bahya,” that is, master par excellence.

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Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs (1920-2006) was a Masorti rabbi, the first leader of Masorti Judaism (also known as Conservative Judaism) in the United Kingdom, and a leading writer and thinker on Judaism.

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