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Rabbi Yehudah Halevi

Rabbi Yehudah Halevi is a great Sfardic scholar and poet. He is very prolific.

Here's one of his poems. We sing it at our family Shabbos table. The poem is based partially on the tradition that Noah's dove found dry land to rest upon during the seventh day, our day of rest. Sorry, no rhyme. It is written in Hebrew. The Hebrew letters that begin each paragraph spell the name of the author, Yehuda.

Forget not the day of Shabbos; Its mention is like a pleasant offering.
During it the dove found resting place; And there the weary may relax.
The day is honored by the Children of Faith; Careful to observe it are fathers and sons.
Engraved upon two tablets of stone; From great power and mighty strength.
And they all came in Covenant together; In unison they said, "We shall do and we shall listen".
And they commenced and answered, "G-d is One"; Blessed is He that gives strength to the weary
He spoke in His holiness by the mountain of Mohr spice; "Remember and guard the seventh day".
And all of his commandments to be completed together; Strengthen the loins and gather up power
The nation that is in motion, like lost sheep; By covenant He will remember to recall it.
So that an evil happening may not befall them; Just as You have sworn by the waters of Noah.

In the year 4900 (1140 Common Era) Rabbi Yehuda Halevi authors the Kuzari, a great philosophical defense of Judaism. It’s written as an imaginary discourse between a Rabbinical scholar and the legendary King of the Khazars, who seeks truth within an organized religion. The king seeks council from scholars of the great faiths of his time. Upon learning that Islam and Christianity are both based upon Judaism, the king begins an intensive investigation of the mother religion and, according to the legend, the king and his subjects eventually convert to Judaism.

Rabbi Yehuda Halevi is concerned about assimilation and urges his Sfardic brethren not to consider Spain as their homeland. He writes passionately about the Holy Land. In his final years he makes the arduous trip to Israel. As he reaches the gates of Jerusalem he bows down to kiss the ground. Tragically, he is stabbed to death at that moment by an Arab.

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