A Treasury of Jewish Letters: Letters from the Famous and the Humble - Vol. 1

By Franz Kobler | Go to book overview
Save to active project

19
The Epic of a Letter and of a People - Hasdai ibn Shaprut's Correspondence with Joseph, King of the Khazars

THE dawn of the splendid epoch in the history of the Diaspora called the Spanish Period was illuminated by one of the most distinguished figures of post-Talmudic times: Hasdai ben Isaac ben Ezra ibn Shaprut, of whom H. Graetz has said that from his time on Jewish history bears a European impress. He was the principal minister of Abd al-Rahman III, the Caliph of Cordova ( 912-961), and of his successor Hakem II ( 961-976), being in charge of commercial, financial and foreign affairs, and also Court physician. At the same time he was head of the Jewish communities in the Iberian peninsula and a great patron of Jewish learning, besides being himself a Hebrew scholar and writer. Above all, Hasdai was the protector of his brethren in exile, always on the watch to improve their lot and yearning for their restoration to their own land.

The fascinating life of Hasdai ibn Shaprut is, in a striking way, linked with another most romantic episode in Jewish history, which took place on the opposite side of the then known world: the story of the Jewish kingdom of the Khazars, a people of mixed Turkish and Finnish origin living between the Caucasus, the Caspian Sea, the Volga and the Dnieper. Judaism spread among the Khazars gradually, and the seal was set on their conversion when the khakan (king) Bulan formally embraced the religion of Israel about 740. Beginning with the khakan Obadiah, the Khazar kings bore Hebrew names. Although the Khazar kingdom was held in such high esteem in the East that one of the Byzantine emperors married a Khazar princess, the strange kingdom of the Jewish proselytes remained hidden from the greater part of the medieval world. But about the middle of the tenth century certain emissaries from Khorasan and ambassadors of the Byzantine emperor came to Cordova and told Hasdai ibn Shaprut of the Jewish kingdom of Khazaria. This report so excited his curiosity and hopes for a redemption of Israel that he at once took steps to obtain further information about this mysterious empire.

For this purpose Hasdai composed, with the help of his secretary, the distinguished Hebrew grammarian Menahem ibn Saruk, a most notable and impressive letter to Joseph, the king of the Khazars, and, as explained in the letter itself, made all possible efforts to have it conveyed to its distant

-97-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
A Treasury of Jewish Letters: Letters from the Famous and the Humble - Vol. 1
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 328

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?