The Kuzari by Yehuda Halevi
The Kuzari by Yehuda Halevi is one of the most warmly received and popular medieval Sephardic texts. In the summer zman course at the Web Yeshiva we will discuss the distinctive style of the Kuzari. More importantly we will study the ideas on Judaism presented by Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi and compare them to the ideas of other thinkers. We hope that the course will provide an appreciation of how richly varied the field of Hashkafa truly is.
This class is dedicated to a Refuah Shelaima (full recovery) for Stella Frankl, Tzuriya Kochevet Bat Sarah.
The Kuzari by Yehuda Halevi: Lesson 1
Today , baruch Hashem, we had our first shiur. We discussed some background to the Kuzari and learned the arguments of the philosopher and the rebuttal of those arguments by the king of the Khazars. We then learned the Ramban who explains that many mitzvot are the means by which we refute the assertions of Greek philosophy (which, as the Ramban says, predate the Greeks by many, many years).
The Kuzari by Yehuda Halevi: Lesson 2
Today we studied the opening remarks of the Chaver/Rabbi who explains Jewish belief to to the king. We saw how the ideas of Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi were the result of his discussion with the Ibn Ezra, and we saw how the Rambam has a different opinion on this matter. We ended with the Chaver’s admittedly difficult to accept ideas about converts to Judaism.
The Kuzari by Yehuda Halevi: Lesson 3
Today we studied the Mishna and Yerushalmi in masechet Bikkurim that addresses the question if a convert can refer to Hashem as the “God of our ancestors,” and how this question was discussed in the Halacha. We saw the Rambam’s letter to Rabbi Ovadiah the Convert , in which the Rambam emphatically states that converts are as much descendants of Avraham Avinu as are his biologic descendants and that there are no distinctions to be drawn at all between a convert and one who is born a Jew. On the other hand Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi openly declares (speaking through the Chaver to the king of the Khazars) that a convert is not the equal of one who is a born Jew, and today we started to read th e Chaver’s explanation of this position. I had some tech problems today and I could not get the video going. I doubt if that was a great loss to anyone.
The Kuzari by Yehuda Halevi: Lesson 4
The Kuzari by Yehuda Halevi: Lesson 5
Today we discussed the ideas Rabbi Yehudah Halevi, the Rambam and the Ran on the natral sciences and the y can lead to belief in God or to apostasy , and why, according to the rambam, thye teaching of the sciences needs to be limited to a select few (the Ran). Since I am travelling to New York for my nephew’s wedding I may not be able to give the shiur for the next two weeks.I will let you know how things stand later this week.
The Kuzari by Yehuda Halevi: Lesson 6
Today we studied Rav Yehudah Halevi’s explanation for chet ha’egel and by extension why people need tangible objects in order to practice their religion. At the end of the shiur we began the Rambam’s discussion of the same issue in Moreh Nevuchim Because I have to be at a wedding there will be no shiur next week.
The Kuzari by Yehuda Halevi: Lesson 7
The Kuzari by Yehuda Halevi: Lesson 8
The Kuzari by Yehuda Halevi: Lesson 11
Today we studied the final dialogue between the king and the Chaver. The Chaver explains why he needs to go to Eretz Yisrael and the king raises many arguments against such a rash action. I had a wonderful time learning Sefer HaKuzari with you and I hope you enjoyed the shiurim as much as I did. Have a nice summer, and bli neder we will meet again in Elul.
Rabbi Dr. Stuart Fischman graduated from Yeshiva University in 1980 and the dental school of Columbia University in 1985. In 1989 he began studying and teaching at Yeshivat Hamivtar and now studies and teaches at Yeshivat Machanaim in Efrat. He has rabbinic ordination from Rav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg.