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Bahya ibn Paquda

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Bahya ben Joseph ibn Paquda (also: Pakuda, Bakuda, Hebrew: בחיי אבן פקודה‎, Arabic: بهية بن فاقودا), c. 1050–1120,[1] was a Jewish philosopher and rabbi who lived at Zaragoza, Al-Andalus (now Spain). He was one of two people now known as Rabbeinu Behaye, the other being Bible commentator Bahya ben Asher.

Life and works[edit]

He was the author of the first Jewish system of ethics, written around 1080,[2] Guidance to the Duties of the Heart (Arabic: الهداية الى فرائض القلوب, romanizedAl-Hidāyat ilá Farāʾiḍ al-Qulūb), which contained many aphorisms of Ali, the cousin of Muhammad and an important figure in Islam, and of the Muslim mystic and scholar Hasan al-Basri. These were often copied verbatim; Abraham Yahuda provided several examples in his 1912 edition of the book.[3] It was translated into Hebrew by Judah ben Saul ibn Tibbon in the years 1161-80 under the title Hebrew: חובות הלבבות, romanized: Ḥoḇāḇoṯ hal-Leḇāḇoṯ, lit.'The Duties of the Heart'.

Little is known of his life except that he bore the title of dayan "judge" at the beth din. Bahya was thoroughly familiar with Jewish rabbinic literature and philosophical and scientific Arabic, Greek, and Roman literature, frequently quoting from the works of non-Jewish moral philosophers in his work.

In the introduction to Duties of the Heart, Bahya says that he wished to fill a great need in Jewish literature; he felt that neither the rabbis of the Talmud nor subsequent rabbis adequately brought all the ethical teachings of Judaism into a coherent system.

Bahya felt that many Jews paid attention only to the outward observance of Jewish law, "the duties to be performed by the parts of the body" ("Hovot HaEvarim"), without regard to the inner ideas and sentiments that should be embodied in the Jewish way of life, "the duties of the heart" ("Hovot HaLev"). He also felt that many disregarded all duties incumbent upon them, whether outward observances or inner moral obligations.

In his view, most people acted according to selfish, worldly motives. Bahya therefore felt impelled to attempt to present the Jewish faith as being essentially a great spiritual truth founded on reason, revelation (especially as regarding the Torah), and Jewish tradition. He laid stress on the willingness and the joyful readiness of the God-loving heart to perform life's duties. He wrote, "It is impossible to think that the nations would recognize us as being wise and understanding if we were not to provide infallible proofs and explanations for the truths of the Torah and our faith."[4]

Many Jewish writers familiar with his work consider him an original thinker of high rank. According to The Jewish Encyclopedia:

Bahya combined in a rare degree great depth of emotion, a vivid poetic imagination, the power of eloquence, and beauty of diction with a penetrating intellect; and he was therefore well fitted to write a work the main object of which was not to argue about and defend the doctrines of Judaism, but to appeal to the sentiments and to stir and elevate the hearts of the people.

Duties of the Heart became a popular book among the Jews throughout the world, and parts of it were once recited for devotional purposes during the days before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

Ibn Paquda's works served as inspiration and foundation for many later Jewish writers, including Berechiah ha-Nakdan in his encyclopedic philosophical work Sefer HaHibbur "The Book of Compilation".


He often followed the method of the anonymously-authored "Encyclopedia of the 'Brethren of Purity'" (Arabic: رسائل إخوان الصفاء وخلان الوفاء Rasā'il Ikhwān ṣ-Ṣafā').

Inclined to contemplative mysticism and asceticism, Bahya eliminated from his system every element that he felt might obscure monotheism, or might interfere with Jewish law. He wanted to present a religious system at once lofty and pure and in full accord with reason.


  1. ^ Menahem Mansoor, "Arabic sources on Ibn Pakuda's Duties of the Heart", Proceedings of the World Congress of Jewish Studies, Volume III, Division C, p. 81 (1973)
  2. ^ Diana Lobel, A Sufi-Jewish Dialogue: Philosophy and Mysticism in Bahya ibn Paquda's "Duties of the Heart", Introduction, text: "The Hidāya was written in Judeo-Arabic around 1080."
  3. ^ Yahuda, Abraham (1912). Al-Hidaja Ila Faraid al-Qulub. Brill - Leiden.
  4. ^ Duties of the Heart (Feldman 1996)

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