Abu Musa Levi bar Ishaq ibn Mar Sahl

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About Abu Musa Levi bar Ishaq ibn Mar Sahl

Ibn Mar Saul, Levi ben Isaac

According to Moses ibn Ezra (Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wa ʾl-Mudhākara; Halkin ed., p. 66), Levi ben Isaac ibn Mar Saul was a native of Cordova, where he seems to have lived until 1013. The civil war known as the Fitna that occurred in al-Andalus at that time led him to leave his home and settle in Tortosa, an important nucleus of Jewish culture. He was probably the son of the Lucena poet and philologist Isaac ibn Mar Saul, although no sources confirm this hypothesis. Levi ben Isaac is cited as an author of panegyrics in the Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wa ʾl-Mudhākara alongside Joseph ibn Qaprel from Cordova, who was living at the time of the 1066 massacre in Granada, and Abun ben Sherara, a native of Lucena who later settled in Seville.

Ibn Mar Saul was the author of at least two liturgical poems (Heb. piyyuṭim), edited by Ḥ. Schirmann (1938 and 1954). His Libbavtini Aḥoti (My Sweetheart, My Bride), which includes his name in acrostic (Levi bar Yiṣḥaq) uniting the first letters of certain verses, belongs to the ahava genre (on divine love). This short composition is one of the first examples of the allegorical use of the Song of Songs in the Hebrew poetry of al-Andalus. The poetic dialogue between the female lover (Israel) and her beloved (God), which reformulates rabbinical interpretations and introduces elements taken from secular amorous poetry, is one of the most notable innovations of the Andalusian school. A well-known seliḥa (penitential poem), Yom la-Riv (Day of Dispute) has also been attributed to Levi ben Isaac ibn Mar Saul. The composition expresses man’s fear after death of the judgment of God.

It is quite possible, given what Ibn Ezra says in his dedication, that Levi ben Isaac ibn Mar Saul composed poems in honor of the Ibn Naghrella family, as did some of his contemporaries. However, no example of any secular poetry has been preserved.

Aurora Salvatierra Ossorio


Ashtor, Eliyahu. The Jews of Moslem Spain (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1973–84).

Ibn Ezra, Moses. Sefer ha-ʿIyyunim veha-Diyyunim: ʿal ha-Shira ha-ʿIvrit [Kit%C4%81b al-Mu ḥ ā ḍ ara wa ʾl-Mudhākara], ed. Avraham S. Halkin (Jerusalem: Hotṣaʾat Meqiṣe Nirdamim, 1975).

Sáenz-Badillos, Ángel, and Judit Targarona Borrás. Diccionario de autores judíos (Sefarad. Siglos X–XV) (Cordova: El Almendro, 1988).

Schirmann, Ḥayyim. “Ha-Meshorerim Bene Doram shel Moshe ibn ʿEzra,” Yediʿot ha-Makhon le- Ḥ eqer ha-Shira ha-ʿIvrit 4 (1938): 254 and 276.

———. Ha-Shira ha-ʿIvrit bi-Sfarad uve-Provans (Jerusalem: Mosad Bialik, 1954–56).

Citation Aurora Salvatierra Ossorio. " Ibn Mar Saul, Levi ben Isaac." Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman. Brill Online , 2013. Reference. Jim Harlow. 24 January 2013 <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopedia-of-jews-...>

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Abu Musa Levi bar Ishaq ibn Mar Sahl's Timeline

Córdoba, Córdoba, Andalusia, Spain
Age 24
Córdoba, Córdoba, Andalusia, Spain