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In 1 2 15 arose the order of Preaching Monks, the 
Predicants or Dominicans, founded by Dominic de Guzman 
(bom 1170, died laai). One of the chief aims of the order 
was to place at the disposal of the church the invaluable 
aid of skilled disputants, who should revive the drooping 
spirits of the faithful, and by the assaults of rhetoric and 
passion subdue the stubborn intellect of the unbeliever. 
Against their will, unoffending rabbis, men of books and of 
peace, were fen-eted out from the safety of their obscurity, 
and forced to defend their religious teachings in the 
presence of kings and princes. The disputations of Rabbi 
Jehiel with Nicolaus, in Paris, in 1244; of Nachmanides 
with Friar Paul in 1 263 ; of Meir ben Simon with the 
Archbishop of Narbonne, 1245 5 ^-s well as others belong to 
this era, and were brought about by the activity of the 
Dominicans. Not trusting to themselves alone in this 
war of words, the ecclesiastical authorities called in the aid 
of some who had previously been Jews themselves. 

Abner of Burgos, a profound Jewish scholar of the 
latter half of the thirteenth century, was one of a band 
of authors whose works and perhaps whose names are 
practically unknown outside a limited circle now, though 
at one time they occupied very greatly the thoughts of 
their contemporaries and immediate successors. They were, 
or represented themselves as, the disciples of Nachmanides \ 
From the study of the mysteries of the Kabbala, wherein 
words and letters are made the foundations of mystic 

^ See Jellinek, Beitrage zur Gesch. der Kab., pp. 48 and 49. 


notions, and all things elude the grasp, the solid foundation 
of study passes away, and while all things can be easily 
proven, so too can all things be easily negatived. Abner 
was not only a Talmudist and Kabbalist of repute, he 
was a nnedecin, too, — so at least says Carmoly ^, who at the 
same time sums up in a few sentences most that we know 
of Abner. According to this account, Abner was bom at 
Burgos in 1270, but it was at Valladolid that he followed 
the practice of medicine. He died in 1346, in the seventy- 
sixth year of his age. It was as a man of sixty ^ that 
Abner left the faith of his fathers, and he became one 
of the most determined enemies of the religion he had 
discarded. From the stores of his extensive knowledge he 
wrote book after book wherein he exhibited, to the delight 
of his new patrons, and to the horror of his flesh and blood 
still strong in their allegiance to the citadel he had quitted, 
the weak points in the armour of Zion. While yet a young 
man Abner had composed several Hebrew works, among 
which is a commentary upon one of the writings of Ibn 
Ezra. His later works are devoted, however, to the defence 
of his new faith or to attacks upon Judaism. He put aside 
all that could remind him of Judaism, and he adopted the 
name of Alphonso after the reigning sovereign Alphonso XI. 
As a convert he wrote a book entitled niSD nioni'D "laD (The 
Book of the Wars of Duty), directed against the "n nv^rbo 'D 
(The Book of the Wars of God) of Joseph Kamhi ; another 
palled niKJp nnjD 'D (The Offering of Zeal) in defence of the 
Christian religion, and D''"lD 'D (The Book of Miriam, i. e. 
Maria) for the same purpose. Other writings of Abner are 
the pis nDln (The Kighteous Teacher), La Concordia de his 
Leyes (The Agreement of the two Testaments), while he is 
credited with being the Alphonsus Bonhominis, who 
ti'anslated a polemical work from Arabic into Latin. 
Reggio in his edition of the TblpT\ nJTia, Goritiae, 185a, 
quotes a work of Abner's containing a number of criticisms 

• See Revue Orientate, 1861, p. 519, quoting Ferrara, Hist. gen. d'E^agne. 
' Wolf, IV, p. 786. 


of the decisions of the Tur, Hoshen Mishpat, see Xin,pp. 51, 
193. Bedarride says Abner that wrote a book in Spanish on 
the plague ^. Abner went further than this. He presented 
charges against the Jews before the king in regard to their 
prayers, and a public investigation of the matter was held 
at Valladolid. 

These attacks of Abner met with many a rejoinder ^ and 
of these the following may be called to mind: Joseph 
Shalom, Isaac Nathan, Moses Narboni in his rn'rian "IDNO, 
Shemtob Shaprut in }nn pN, § 14, Moses Cohen Tordesillas 
(1375) in his n31DKn nrp, and Isaac of Acco in n"'rp nT'ND^, 
The rh^pn nWtJ', ed. Venice, 1.587, p. ^6, gives an account 
of an interview between Abner and Nachmanides, when 
the latter discomfits his opponent with an apt quotation 
from the Bible. Another rejoinder to Abner 's attack is 
the Ez&r ha-Dai mn nty (the Support of Keligion) of 
Pulgar, the subject of the present notes. 

The MS. of the Ezer ha-Dat, of the Montefiore College, 
Codex 94 (in the recently published Gatalog'Vbe of the 
Montefiore M88. the MS. of the mn ITJ? bears the number 
285), is a small 8vo volume of 91 leaves, written on both 
sides of the leaf, in a Spanish hand. It belonged formerly 
to the valuable Halberstam collection, which Dr. Gaster's 
care and foresight secured for the use of students in 
England. It is interesting to note that the MS. was 
formerly the property of a convert to Judaism, for on a fly- 
leaf we find the following M'3« Dn"i3K }3 Dm3t< T-yifni }Dpn ''3N, 
liber est mens, est Deus ilium querit hoc Nominerit 
Abraham natus Prinze. The MS. is clearly written, and 
shows by the notes on its margin that it has been read 
with care, for we meet with glosses and suggestions that 
seem to be in the handwriting of Prinz^ himself. Graetz's 
quotations from the Ezer ha-Dat are from the Breslau 

* Juifs en France, &c., p. 201. 

' See Steinschneider in JH. und G.'s Encyd., p. 410 ; and Kayserling, 
Sephardim, p. 327. 

' See Jellinek, Beiir&ge, p. 48. 


Codex, No. 53. A part of the work has been printed in 
the Wip'! Dj?t3 of Ashkenazi, Frankfurt am Main, 1854 (corre- 
sponding with ff. a8 b-41 a of the Montefiore Codex). 
Another and much smaller fragment appeared in the 
Revue des Mudes Juives, 1889, p. 64 (corresponding with 
ff. 74a-76a, and ff. 77-80 of the Montefiore MS.). With 
the exception of a line or two in Graetz's Qeschichte, vol. 
VII, p. 443, nothing else has appeared in print of this 
valuable and interesting contribution to a literature, 
which to the present day stands second to none in holding 
its own in the affections of readers and students K 

The author of the Ezer ha-Dat was Rabbi Isaac Pulgar, 
or more fully Isaac ben Joseph ben Pulgar, of whose 
personal history but little is known K The usual autho- 
rities quote each other, but add little themselves to the 
scanty stock of information. Graetz tells us that Pulgar 
was a common family name in Castille. and quotes a 
Fernando Pulgar, who was secretary of Ferdinand and 
Isabella, and author of a royal chronicle. Ibn Shaprut 
calls our author 1p"'^1D p pny 'n, and Steinschneider, 
Isaac Ibn Polqar. Here I follow Graetz, and adopt the 
form Pulgar. As has been said little is known of Pulgar, 
but an attentive study of his work reveals him as a 
profound scholar with wide attainments, in touch and 
sympathy with the busy life around him, and possessing 
an intimate knowledge of almost every branch of science 
then cultivated. His knowledge of Talmud is thorough, 
and this is especially seen in the Dialogue on Astrology, 
wherein Pulgar is called upon to square contradictory 
passages from the Talmud in regard to that pseudo-science. 
He possessed likewise an excellent acquaintance with 

' If Alphonse died in 1346, at the age of seventy-six, and if it was as a 
man of sixty that he left Judaism, I think we may for all necessary 
purposes assume that the Eser ha-Bat was composed somewhere about 
1335 to 1345. 

* Carmoly, B. 0., I, p. 327 ; Wolf, I, p. 687 ; compare also Stein- 
schneider's Pseud^aigraph. Literat., p 32. 


Arabic literature, and he quotes or refers to, as the case 
may be, in approval or otherwise, Ibn Gazali, § ^ 41 a, 5a a ; 
Ibn Zaled, 4a ; Ibn Sina, 80 a ; Ibn Hamad the Ishmaeli e, 
D'a''"'in3n •'i'Njrtsr'n iNon 13k nai, 61 a; Betalmius (=Ptolo- 
meus) 48, and Aristo are refeiTed to § 35, 64 a, 66 • Isaac 
ben Balag. § $2 ; Ibn Ezra, § 54 ; R. Jehudah ha-Hasid, 54 ; 
and a certain renowned Cabbalist DIpIO nOB^^NO, Maistre 
Marcus, 75 a ; a book on witchcraft ; the works of DNio'nn 
( = Hermes) and Dl3N''i'3 ( := Appolonius) on magic and 
Dyip-l ; an " Egyptian " work, El Falah el Nabit, HN^a !?« 
no^3N3 !?«, § 50; and. works on the names of angels 
and demons, &c. From the MS. we gather that Pulgar 
composed a commentary on Genesis, § 9 ; one on Eccle- 
siastes, often quoted, e. g. §§ 5^, 53 a, &c., and another on 
the book of Psalms, § 59. He wrote also a book entitled 
D»33 "IDID, § 76 ; and lastly a refutation of astrology, «m3n 
nwoJOVNn niB'n3n3, § 54, a copy of which is in the Vatican 
Library^ — in all five works. To these we add Pulgar's 
works enumerated by Graetz, viz. a continuation of Albalag's 
works ; the nisinn mjN against Abner's nixjp nmo ; a 
Spanish work against astrology (though this perhaps may 
be mrjaDSsn ntJ^nan mentioned above), and the mn lity now 
before us — or nine works in all. 

Pulgar was an old and intimate friend of Abner's (§ 8 a), 
and it is not difficult to imagine something of the feeling 
of surprise and disgust with which the news of Abner's 
conversion must have moved Pulgar. Geiger, in his 
JHchtungen, pp. S^tS"^^ gives specimens of the war of words, 
in the form of rhymed expostulation which took place 
between the two men. At length, no doubt, all intercourse 
was broken oflf. Abner, now an official of the Church, was 
drawing upon the stores of his knowledge to attack and 
defame his ancestral faith, while Pulgar, urged by friends 
around, girded up his loins to meet the attack. But 
Pulgar's views and wishes, his outlook and his ambition 

^ The sign 5 refers to the pages of the Montefiore Codex. 
» SeeWolf, I,p. 687. 


were wider. Abner's was but one of the many attacks 
which Judaism had to bear in those unhappy days. Besides 
it would have been impolitic, even dangerous to have 
answered Abner point by point. In his treatment of 
Christianity he was reserved, had to be reserved. He is care- 
ful. He is more outspoken when he deals with astrology, 
with the worship of images and the invocation of saints. 
But yet withal genial and fair. Judging from the Ezer ha- 
Dat, the Jewry of Pulgar's day was a busy one, with its 
contending parties, from the extreme on the one hand, of 
the deniers of all faith to the opposite, i. e. those that believed 
childishly in imposture of every description. Arranged 
between in endless gradations were the careful, cautious 
men, holding fast to the faith and religious practices they 
had received from their elders, but holding on also with 
equal tenacity to the study of natural science. In the 
world which we view in Pulgar's work, we meet the 
ignorant and learned, the rabbi, the doctor, the astrologer, 
the Kabbalist, the wizard, the witch, the gambler, the toiler 
working in the sweat of the brow, mentally indolent, 
supporting aU quackery, and at the background, as a 
sinister reminder of evil omen, the renegade and convert, 
ready to turn all he knew to the lowest of purposes — to 
blacken the faith of Israel and to besmirch the fame of its 
teachers — to inform upon a brother's deed, and to spy 
upon a father's word. 

The Ezer ka-Dat is written in bright, vivid, racy Hebrew, 
if I may use the expression, by a man who well knew how 
to use the pen. It abounds in passages of rare beauty, 
passing on to othei"s of playful sarcasm and profound 
scholarship, and withal a rare devotion to the truth. 
There is also in it the same happy use of Biblical phrases 
in new setting that is met with in many other writings of 
the period and which strikes the reader with such pleasure, 
like the meeting of old friends unexpectedly; the same 
easy-flowing, exhaustless toiTent of clever ingenious phraseo- 
logy, that charms and hurries us along in the pleasant 


company of the genial writer. A large part of the work is 
w^ritten in the so-called " rhymed prose," chiefly known 
to most as the vehicle of Alcharizi's Tackkemoni, of the 
Hebrew work, Ben ha-Meleck ve-Jia-Nazir (The Prince and 
the Derwish), Ibn Hasdai's adaptation of the Arabic, the 
Mashal ha-Kadmoni, &c. There is likewise in the Ezer 
ha-Dat the similar system of prologue and epilogue of 
verse, the latter being put into the mouth of the disputants, 
or the victor of them, or in the mouth of the judge or 
umpire. The dialogue form, so much admired in old 
writers, is used, and promising to be fair to all sides, 
Pulgar more than keeps his word. 

Let us turn now to the work itself, and as far as space 
will permit, call in the aid of the actual words of Isaac 
Pulgar in order the better to elucidate his arguments. 

Inteoduction nonpn. 

In his introduction Pulgar deals with five classes of 
opponents. Firstly, those who argue with the equipment 
of but a superficial knowledge of Scripture, "IK'S Q''B'J^?^ ns 
ly 1N3 N^i mn nu*ni vn'pn nao nsnpa ipoynn vh'\ \h'\rwn ^b 
na-iy lyT" k^ ''3 npoiy. The second class comprise the "Epi- 
koros." The third are the believers in astrology, D''DB' ''lain 
nND D''3'''incii onwi anain '•'•wb' •'ona b ''3 .oniboa ti'^mnn 
'131 onvn Dita n^oe'n. The fourth are superstitious people, 
eager for what is abnormal, '<'^^ niao bph jn»B>^ D^ppmE'DI 
yjDi DniN''VD IB'N nia^ann. The fifth are infidels, among 
whom are included those who deny the future life of the 
soul, and of doctrine of reward and punishment, ma li'ti'M 
pn ^?^1 p nh IIDNM. To combat these, and to show forth 
something of the glory and majesty of the Jewish religion, 
Pulgar composes his work, the subject to be treated sug- 
gesting the title mn iry inhya ''S3 ioe' tinipi. As we may 
naturally expect, the book is divided into five parts, each 
part professing to deal with one class of the above- 
mentioned opponents. Part I deals with the pre-emi- 


nence of the religion of Israel; part II, the consonance 
of religion with true philosophy ; part III, the worth- 
lessness of the claims of astrology, because things run in 
a natural manner, entirely independent of the position and 
movements of the stars ; in part IV Pulgar refutes the 
believers in prodigies, and in part V discourses on the 
immortality of the soul. To render the work pleasant and 
easy reading, Pulgar promises to introduce short poems, 
riddles, and Agadic narratives, and further he says that 
due prominence and a fair hearing shall be given to the 
views of his opponents, and the better to do this, he will 
introduce the dialogue form DDNH ''3 CWpDH noK'' i6& nai 
Tnan cinn nijna njja ntJ'N niaytan aina -rh^b ci^ynni noann 
'iai n^pbna ^ya w nainoa nijnn ana ia. After thus paying 
his devoirs, like a chivalrous knight of old times, Pulgar 
opens his first part. 

Paet I. 

Pulgar laments the evUs brought upon Israel by rene- 
gades who defame their old associates, '•jaD D'-NVi^ a<mH nan 
Mi-irh w'^y arhrh Q-'bniW) .irsjiti' bv an dj q'Sidm ^looy. He 
has often expostulated personally with such men with 
varying results, and at last at the request of those to whom 
deference is due, takes his pen in hand — '•'T'an '•^N INa 
'nnain •'j'-yy laoa mb aina!? *Dy» iB'pa^i ^d^cyini D^anxin q'-codpi 
"lOND nx imam /n^ mmb ny noiNi /a^ya nam an^i TiDn^D niiiNi 
D^annn D^bDn ■'rtj' ns ninpni? ^Dnipias naiE'n vn^np iw ntn 
i3Dy nDxn ni^na ^u^sn nainnh ^wa onbrh. The chapter or 
treatise — ntn IDXO — was likely enough the one object of 
Pulgar's pen, and doubtless the success it met with and 
the encouragement Pulgar received, led him to go further 
and endeavour to deal with other classes of critics. This 
treatise is divided into eight paragraphs, and deals with 
such matters as the necessity of I'evelation, for man's 
nature needs it, the excellence of the Torah, that Moses is 
the chief of the prophets, the future life, the coming of the 



Messiah, &c. I pass all this by, except to remark that 
through these pages runs the cheery optimism of the 
devout Jew — the It DJ tfn — making the best of pei-secution, 
and clinging as proudly as ever to the belief that the 
possession and obedience to the Law of God is the highest 
nobility and happiness of man. But as an example of 
his method let us see how Pulgar proves that Moses is 
worthy to be considered the chief of the prophets, the burden 
of the seventh principle of Maimonides, as well as his 
treatment of the question of a future life. First, in respect 
of Moses, twelve are the characteristics of the true leader 
and guide of men, the possession of which in such a leader 
justifies mankind in placing confidence in him. They are 
as follows : (i) he should be healthy and strong, physically ; 
(2) with a due knowledge of his powers and the calls of 
nature upon him ; (3) of a retentive memory ; (4) logical, 
able to educe the unknown from what is known ; (5) 
fluent in his speech ; (6) anxious to assist others from the 
stores of his own knowledge ; (7) a lover of truth ; (8) 
temperate, abstemious ; (9) animated by a becoming self- 
respect; (10) independent, possessing a sufficiency, yet 
using wealth only as a means to an end ; (i i) a lover 
of justice and a friend of the innocent; and lastly, (12) 
self-reliant, because animated by the purest of motives. 
These are the characteristics desiderated by the Philosopher. 
Pulgar adds, however, a thirteenth, that such a legislator 
and leader should be animated not by a love of men only, 
but by feelings of respect for them also. Yet says our 
author, where shall we find such a prodigy, what would 
be the life of such a man in this world of misery and 
sori'ow ? His good qualities would be but the instruments 
of his own undoing. But there would remain a sense 
of comradeship between such a man and those around 
him, and this link is the existence of the spiritual life 
which exists in all men, be it ever so weak and small. It 
is this which is common both to them and to him, and 
which would enable him to influence them, to guide and 


cherisli them, according to their ability to receive his 
instruction. Engaged in so noble a task, such a man would 
not -willingly contemplate the extinction of his influence, 
both from a virtuous pride in his own power, and again 
by reason of the love he bears to mankind in general, 
extending to nations yet unborn, jJWltpan minn nniDN N^n mi) 
"b naas' DJ?n nt^N. In the character and history of Moses, 
alone, do we find all these great qualities combined, and 
Pulgar, with evident satisfaction, goes carefully through 
the list of thirteen points, and indicates, in the words of 
Scripture, how each and all are to be found in Moses, 
Israel's great lawgiver, )T'2i HE'D 15 Tny ima i? '•nnain ran 
»iNn .TH Nin nmp htj? bv bttrw< bv i?o wa^o Kin ab^m vbv 
KHipn DP bv B'Nii psp n)'<nb niNJi. 

The paragraph dealing with the future life is one of the 
most eloquent in the entire work. We look up to the 
heavens and planets, and we see, but know not what we 
see : we turn to the earth, and perplexity fills our hearts, 
D'aawn 'ns mm D''»tJ' oni' i3"'j''jr n2>3 • • • • ntn thi]h usy^'a 
D'331 y\m pmiv nm anjrun yoi ab in u^m^m nniNon '•jn 
Q»j?3 D^'-nni nianom rro^m itdsi nnnjni b''DNT hnij j-iNn i^N 
Dnvin fp -iiDjij Dn^i Da-is t^pa^ amp. The plants live till 
the span of their life is reached, and then fade, and animals 
live but to seek to satisfy the means by which they live, 
tm'onm noartn onnB'nni rmn Dnnnsi. Their elements separate, 
and they are as if they never had been. The fate of man 
is equally sad, nniB' ma" inx b «mp m nnp3 unsp uhjn ds 
.wnias ^B'N-i bv yrmi vhi-ri ipi) .wnisnnS m&^b n^an nt< }iax^ 
/D^jnnNij nip'' dji ,Di3ie>Kin csBna nt ^u-'K^i ^y le'y naa wn dji 
DipD 110 /UnnnNi) mpn e** dni ^unsna n''tJ>N"i» ,i3Na pxD ynj xh 

UtSSO" '•D plDV piDP. 

We pass to the various expectations which men have 
formed concerning the state and joys of the world to come. 
There are those who look upon death but as a passage 
or transition, DlpO? DIpDD ny^DJ DN ''a, and that the pleasures 
of this world will be increased a thousandfold, and eating 
and drinking, with eternal appetite, will be men's lot in 

D 2, 


the ton th'iV. Others look upon death as the last stage 
of this " sad eventful history," the falling of the curtain, 
the end of all, of good and bad alike • mpnni nntaan DW ps 
p nt nica pn ' tna'Dn bv:ib ' p-ini^ nnns r«'' ' "i^ ■>o''K'i' 1« 
byn b^n 13 'pN nonnn p tiian nniDi 'nj niD. At death, the 
elements of which our bodies are composed separate, 
and then, exactly as with animals and plants, they 
join the constituents of nature from which they severally 
came ; we can neither aid nor impede this ; for the heart 
which palpitates with righteous aspirations nothing remains ; 
without choice man comes, without responsibility he 
disappears. But a fuller examination of the matter, says 
Pulgar, relieves our minds from this load of sadness. 
The future life is that state when, freed from all low 
and ignoble influence and desii-e, the divine spirit will 
be no longer held captive within the folds of the body. 
The human body is not an essential element of life ; the 
body is but the instrument and tool of the divine spirit 
within, nax'' ph dnsn p phm sin ?iun '•a laab rhy^ ^ni 
onsn ^ys'' Dna it^N D'-bi ona^s Nin irun pn • innnB'na nby^ 
■)'yct^n:i -IK'S hThan thii Nini • 'b:itm -fisni a^'non Nin -ib'n "ntrnn 
ppiDB'Dn nan Nim • f[m ni'-N^ anpn yjon yjn^ iiiyni miB'iai 
K'Tipn nnn Nini MiJ^n naaan pin ?iian mix Kin ne's im-in 
ai? ^B' l^^na nvx^n, § 16. This divine impulse generates in 
man the good inclination aitan 'n\ while its passivity, owing 
to man's wilfulness, gives use to the bad inclination 
ynn -iS'' or p^. It is not the aim of his work, says Pulgar, 
to develop these theories. Enough, however, has been 
given to show the position of Jewish philosophera in regard 
to the condition in the Future Existence. Lightly touching 
on the sad state of Israel, Pulgar passes on to the subject 
of the Messiah. His treatment of the matter is similar, 
for instance, to that of Albo. The belief in the Messiah 
is not so much a dogma of Judaism as a necessary con- 
sequence to the belief in the veracity of the Scriptures, 
i. e. it is a matter which depends upon individual explana- 
tion of the text of Scripture "'a ]'mr6 he'aD uwb iikt ps 


51B' DIN DIB'i' "lE'S'-N Kin DS '•a • UH^B'O HNOa D'-li^n UTlilDN 

ij^min naiDNO n? niajji n^n^ty inxn by pso, § aa. The 
belief is valuable, though it does not portend any alteration 
of nature, for as the rabbis have told us, nfn Di>lJ?n f3 pN 
nab ni"'3^» liarE' nJ'K nit^m niD»^,a phrase which our author 
quotes with much satisfaction. But though believing that 
the Scriptures foretell the coming of the Messiah — though 
an open mind would perhaps better describe his position — 
Pulgar goes on to prove that so far the Messiah has not 
come, and he takes us through all the well-known Messianic 
passages to support his argument. Whoever Jesus was, 
whoever he claimed to be, or his disciples and followers 
claim on his behalf, Jesus, says Pulgar, was not the Messiah 
foretold by the prophets. It is here that we get an intro- 
duction to Abner, the fonner friend of Isaac Pulgar, ins dya 
• N^BiDi^-'aa m mn '•ama yw into ^tj'sj '•n im ^» dj? imanru 
ii3E> Nin '"un-iin la-nD ait^b ia^ ntsji 'iiffln niN^o^ 'Vip iv Nai 
••Dan nana poNn • •b'sa inainna "h idn'-i jri * "uax 'i dtipd 
PDND "'JN DTana • p ikjini • D^cyjn cinnanai • Qionpn TiD^nn 
Dninijfi ruani 'nii»N driDan -la • i>Non fc ntjs n^ dnnanoi 
"ifllpn, § 34 a. Having thus agreed upon a common founda- 
tion and basis of argument, Abner, we are told, challenges 
Pulgar, and offers to prove from the Talmud itself the 
necessity of a further revelation, or, in other words, the 
necessity of the New Testament, d^oan nJiDN dN ■•!» lON'l 
m ya • dnTiivsJiDtt nafiNsi • dnnanD ^n1N hnik ijn • g'pan 
n85^-ij HK'to • nnJNi n^Da n^n"' nE>iim nais^n naija ne^ dnirrn 
ntnn niini' j'-anx ums *ai • rrer^HO, § 24 a. The answer of 
Pulgar deserves the utmost consideration, as it shows us 
not only the manner by which he meets this challenge, 
but also because it doubtless reveals the standpoint from 
which the Jewish sages in Spain viewed the serious matter 
of conversion in the constant controversies of the time. By 
reason of their by no means too secure position and from 
the fear of offending the ruling powers, the rabbi had to be 
wary. He had to weigh his words. He had to be careful 
not to use words that might even be construed by the 


mischief-maker into sentiments of disrespect to the faith 
of the people, the practices of the priests, and the acts of 
royalty. He must needs conduct a war of defence. Pulgar 
proceeds to justify the Oral Tradition by showing its need. 
The Torah, he says, deals only with questions of faith and 
theory. But at the same time it refers to matters of daily 
practice, wherein its authority is supreme. The Torah, 
therefore, constantly needs elucidation and commentary 
before its behests can be put into practice. The men of the 
gi-eat Sanhedrin, in their piety and wisdom, had shown us 
how, notwithstanding the perplexing variety of each day's 
events, to keep the spirit of the Torah and as many 
of its commands as circumstances require. The course of 
events rendered it necessary to commit to writing as 
many of the dicta of the sages as could be got together, 
and they exist for us, though with but little care for order 
or proper arrangement, in the volumes of the Talmud. 
But the Talmud contains also a mass of material, dealing 
with every conceivable subject, important and the con- 
trary, nxi ♦ "i3{y3n p Knan nsi • lan p jann nx ma^e^ 'hia 
layn }D TTiyn, § 26. This great work of codification of the 
Talmud was undertaken by Maimonides, who has arranged 
in his master work, the min ruro, all that is essential for 
our faith and religious life from the vast material to be 
found in the Talmud. Those matters, however, which are 
essential neither to the elucidation of the doctrines of our 
faith nor the needs of our religious duties are omitted from 
this work, and they do but engage our attention either by 
reason of our respect and affection for theii- authors or for 
their purely intrinsic value. The valuable elements in 
these we take, the rest we leave, either because, it may be, 
they seem opposed to our faith, or because the real meaning 
of the sage is not clear to us mjnn bv p3''B1D f^- Turning 
now to Abner, Pulgar thus continues : As for thy challenge, 
let this suffice thee. Though we greatly respect the sages 
our guide is the Torah and Reason. What is opposed to the 
Torah (Deut. xiii. 3-6) we will not accept. What is opposed 


to Eeason and Experience we will not accept either. What 
is contradictory to Nature or to Reason can find no room 
amongst us n''p''fnio □'•an h^'ma yba isa 'ha i^K^a snaon tttdi 
"1NSD1 anix mo fw Qniyty wb^ iN-itr ctijo npim pND 
^'''DB'o nniD Tiija '•n inie? in lEwij^n jd chiJ Tib mni dno d'JtJ' 
dnn poNDn Najnci, § 27. Judaism is founded on the Torah, 
and is agreeable to Reason, and in Pulgar's opinion, not 
indeed expressed, but clearly implied, Abner's new faith is 
neither the one nor the other • mn) m^y pl^l DDNH nw b]) 
n'Di pwb i? ffDY rro) ^^ jn'' no, § 27. In the last paragraph of 
this part of the book Pulgar deals with the various kinds 
of readers, each with his own peculiar tendencies and 
exaggerations, and to each of them the words of the sages 
naturally appear to give forth a different meaning. There 
is the wise student, subjecting all to a reverent investigation, 
and, on the other hand, the reader who looks upon such a 
method as impiety. The former, says Pulgar, is more likely 
to reach to the real meaning, and the better able to withstand 
temptation than the latter ; the latter is perhaps a little too 
modest diE> v&rb unns O'n^n bJ? ab dji u^ 1^''^ '•nb' noiw 
(=accordingto his opinion) ii?^{N nijrT'ni nije>nn b '•a .ubtya nbyi 
pjj/a T-j-iya D^tnion cJionpni d'oann ••on wbm) ion laa 
DnTiutyn iM imnij n^i d.T>^y fcotnb n)V\ U)^ ):b pkb* 
nai»l njj?ti nw arm hKt^61, § 27 a. A living tradition is ever 
aware of the needs of a living community, and therefore 
provides for all. In the Talmud are to be seen explanations 
suitable for all, especially for the simple and undoubting 
nature of the student who takes things in their literal sense. 
The Torah, we read, has no less than seventy explanations. 
Yet we know the Torah is one, and has no second. The 
phrase is, therefore, only a hint to the teacher to render his 
teaching comprehensible to the simplest as well as to the 
most refined intelligence, that all men may learn of God. 
How truly admirable, explains Pulgar, must have been the 
character of those revered men who could take so large 
a view of mankind, and arrange so well for all ! 


Part II. 

The larger portion of this part of the mn itj? has already 
appeared. It was printed in the Q''Jpf DJ?t3 of Israel Ash- 
kenazi, Frankfurt a. M. 1854, pp. 12-19, from a Paris MS. 
This fragment occupies over twenty pages of the Montefiore 
Codex, namely, from fol. 28 a to fol. 41. Ashkenazi's extract 
is complete in itself, and is an excellent specimen of vivid 
Hebrew dialogue. Only one who has gone through it can 
become aware of all the interesting points of the argument 
— the fairness with which both sides, the divine and the 
philosopher, get their hearing. Its beauty grows with 
renewed acquaintance. The opinion of the reader as to 
the relative merits of the disputants inclines first to the 
one side and then to the other. Pulgar enlivens the dis- 
cussion, as is his custom, with wit and humour. The sarcasm 
is rich. A knowledge of the Hebrew Bible and an 
acquaintance with the many Talmudical phrases is required 
if the reader is to grasp the give and take of the arguments 
as they are bandied about. The picture of the two men is 
very skilfully drawn. The ancient venerable divine, 
bearing his years lustily, with his withering contempt for 
his young antagonist, conscious that so far the world is 
on his side, is well contrasted with that of the young 
philosopher, fuU of new knacks and notions, a little flighty 
too, and with loud assertion of his ability to reconcile Faith 
and Science, a labour which the divine thinks unnecessary, 
and if performed entirely useless. But the Montefiore 
Codex has much more in this second part than is con- 
tained in Ashkenazi's fragment. For after the hearer and 
narrator (l^JDn) has returned home the argument is, as it 
were, resumed between the narrator T'JD and a philosopher 
fjIDI^'ia (the argument before, we ought to explain, was held 
between a )pt and a 1J?3), in which the opinions of various 
Arabian philosophers become the subject of a conversation 
concerning Free-will, the Eternity of Matter, God's inter- 
ference and interest, or otherwise, in mundane affairs. The 


final decision will perhaps be made all the clearer by a 
short rdsumS. It appears, as already stated, that a report 
of the original conti'oversy was brought by the hearer to 
his native town, which report itself gives rise to a further 
discussion. Gazzali's arguments against the philosophers 
are mentioned, when there arises a man, Abraham, who 
reminds the bystanders that Gazzali's strictures of philo- 
sophy have already been met and answered by the counter- 
arguments of Abu Alzalid and by R. Isaac ben Albalag 
(§ 42 a) (our MS. has the word PDX^ Isaac, written and 
marked out and Dfnax inserted). The man Abraham proceeds 
then to sum up the whole lengthy discussion in something 
like the following manner : Is it not the better plan to hold 
fast to the belief in the continuity and permanence of the 
creative act >nMn ''T'Dnn B'ln^na pnnn^ aita vhn, § 4a a, 
rather than to say that God's power was, as it were, brought 
to an end at the termination of the week of creation? 
In other words, God did not endow Nature with a con- 
tinuous generative faculty and power of adjusting Matter, 
The Universe is continually renewed by God, who exerts 
to-day a power and control over Matter equal to that 
when he first called the world into being. God is con- 
stantly at work in the world {'PSM n^on biB bys> ton ^3, § 42 a. 
God reneweth every day the works of the creation. Thus 
the act of prayer is a logical one, and its hope of fulfilment 
a becoming one for a philosopher to stand by ^KIKTi nB>p31 
mpn njnnai ♦ Thy\pD bbsr^n rtemi • nijvwi nvno ' n^Ntwni 
n7nini, § 42 a. But the subject of the prayer, or rather the 
object prayed for, must be a possible one ; it must be within 
the bounds of what God in his absolute untrammelled free- 
will fixed as proper, that is, possible. God knoweth what 
is possible, and what is not possible or proper "IK'S VMin 
-1K'2'> ^b iniN''Xa. Now, says Pulgar, the possible is twofold. 
What is possible in action i>yiB3 nne'SN, and what is possible 
in the " acted " bsM nnu'BN. God's will and God's power 
are alike unlimited, but in order to benefit mankind 
God has placed a limit to his own unrestricted power. 


Power is responsibility, if we may say so, even in 
the case of God, and this world is governed by a moral 
Governor, and not by an irresponsible tyrant. It would be 
tyranny to rule sentient creatures in a captious, capricious, 
constantly changing way. Pulgar, fearing perhaps that he 
is becoming too dogmatic, says further that this abstention 
on the part of the Divinity is voluntary, and that occasions 
have arisen when God has directly interfered with the 
usual order of Nature '•i'nj iT" hv l3'noiN3 D''DJn nn^J'SX na D3l 
Eibvim noUDH mon •<b2 • nhyi jnwn jjaon p pn • ijix'-aj, § 43 a. 
This explanation brings about the result we expect. 
The opposition is disarmed, and harmony reigns supreme 
"iK'N • iwrbv) bs m "i3t5'''i * ine'pij lain n''n3i * iriK-p isn wnpni 
inx vn. Part II concludes with praise to God : — 

nnxa n^nni m '•a mi 
nibiija nipano nntripD 
niainsi nunp jn ni'-nx 

Part in. 

This part deals with the question of Astrology, a matter 
which occupied so great a position in the Middle Ages that 
we are bewildered when we observe the talent that was 
devoted to its study, and the greatness and fame of the men 
who were guided by the oracles of the astrologers. The 
great mediaeval rabbis were nearly all enthusiastic be- 
lievers in this pseudo science, which finds a thoroughgoing 
defence in some commentaries, and a place in the liturgical 
compositions of the time. Sachs, in ^U1^^, I, p. 61, suggests 
that the belief of the rabbis in Astrology was rather in the 
nature of an attempt to make a compromise between the 
apparent Talmudic support of the belief and their own 
more rationalistic methods of exegesis ^. Ibn Ezra, perhaps 

'■ See Steinschneider, " Jud. Lit.," in E. u. G.'s Bncycl., p. 441 ; Sachs, 
njvn, I, pp. 59-93 ; and Zunz's Rdig. Poesie, p. 250. The literature on the 
subject is a large and interesting one. 


the most devoted, certainly the most famous of the many 
followers of Astrology (though Pulgar, § 54, protests against 
the practice of regarding Ibn Ezra and Jehudah the Hasid 
as believers), mentions Jacob Ibn Tarik and Andruzagar 
ben Zadi Faruk, and among others may be mentioned also 
Shabattai Donolo, 913-970, Abraham ben Hiyya, Abraham 
ben David of Posquiferes, Jehudah ha-Levi (in Kuzari, IV, 
9, but see also Kuzari, IV, 33), Abraham Ibn Daud, author 
of the EviUTiah Ramah, Albo (see Ikkarim, IV, 4), Isaak 
Arama, author of the 'Akedah, Shelomoh b. Aderet — all of 
whom show the influence of the current belief in their writ- 
ings. Maimonides, however, opposed the belief, asserting that 
it bordered on idolatry, see the Yad, Akkum, XI, 8. The 
reader may also turn to Harizi's polemic against astrologers 
in his Tachkemoni, chap. xxii. A study of this part of the 
mn "5TJ? will show us the vigour and independence of 
Pulgar as a thinker. He attacks Astrology. He pours 
ridicule on the pretences of the astrologers. He laughs 
at its dupes. He shows it to be a source of imposture, 
depressing the brave, and enervating the hopeful. He 
asserts that the astrologers do but repeat each other, 
and repetition and not justification is the source and 
foundation of theii- belief. And going to the very front 
and forehead of the science, the original and much lauded 
authorities upon whom astx'ologers relied, and whom it is 
sinful to ciiticize and question, he asks who are these men 
that so much reliance should be placed upon their opinions. 
Neither should we rely upon the reports of the ignorant 
mob \'\'<Gin naa D^^njriD niorun "•inis be'n '•^po nisn pn''3d ps 
• • • • nubann njiDN^ D^nc'D |iDn ann '•a yn^n joi • i-Tiiwrn 
niD^yj 'hir\'< oniT" ^j? ■•a dosj?3 onNsnoi pjiB^an ••^ani a<im ms'Di 
rhv.2 niN^SJl, § 60. Pulgar, it is apparent, had a fine, healthy 
contempt for wonder-mongers. Our author discusses the 
matter in a dialogue between two speakers — an Astrologer 
nam and a lan, a thinker (Haber), and an interesting, even 
amusing debate it proves to be. In the market-place of a 
populous town stands the Astrologer addressing the large 


crowd gathered before him. At his side stands his table 
covered with the various instruments of his science, the astro- 
labe, circles, sun-dials, mathematical tools, books of charts, 
&c. D''33i23 nnn Nin •>2 inyna aennn ♦ d''ob> naino ty''N oainn tim 
IMSDi W3SN3 '•i^n mnmn ^bi * vi^n b loiy xini • niiTiyn -ie'ddi 
V'3ai>i • vnini^ T^yn^i nenn )''3n!'i iB'jn ''3p33 t^otyn ^viyj N''3ni' 
ninib D''3iy3x ^j''D3 cyipni Dn«iSD D^nina onao v^j) * inj? jni'itj' 
D''i'3» CJiens cbi noo-ie'Di njino nhij? y^3n • D''n^N neTfts 
(§ 45)) 8, life-like sketch. Among the crowd stood a 
scholarly man 13''13nD ins ^a. After listening to the speech 
of the Astrologer for some time he stepped forward and took 
up the challenge on behalf of true science nUVJnn Di^b 
nvn^NHI nVWDni, and the discussion commences. It is witty 
and clever, and heavy blows are exchanged between the 
champions. The fortunes of the day vary, both speakers 
earning their fair share of success. The Astrologer, as we 
may suppose, is much shocked at the levity of the Haber, 
who answers that in his attitude of criticism he does but 
follow the examples of Abraham and Moses, who in 
their generation sought to uproot the superstitions of their 
contemporaries. The success of these men of the Bible 
was but partial, and much remains to-day upon the surface 
of the earth which debases truth. Astrology, asserts the 
Haber, is forbidden to us alike by the Torah and Eeason. 
He then proceeds to explain that there is nothing occult or 
mysterious even in the case of prophecy. Ordinary men 
argue on the basis of probability. So, too, does the 
prophet. Wherein, then, consists the difference ? The 
difference is slight, though in another sense profound. 
The data of the prophet's reasoning are fuller and wider. 
The prophet takes into account the immutable laws of God's 
morality, and his earnestness is based on his conviction 
that if those laws be disobeyed certain disastrous results 
foUow, as sure as cause and effect. The prophet is states- 
man in the exercise of the highest functions of the latter. 
The view of a statesman is often limited ; that of the 
prophet never ' \'?)2 vh Q^wiD nvpi f?o i6 nwon nti> v&'< senm 


♦ IT] UDD thyn''^ 'h^K nn ne'Na a^wion bat nn'on b^ i'^&^ «U3ni 
Q-wyan an pnx^ rrtb), § 51 a. Yet even the predictions of the 
prophet are at times put aside, e. g. the repentance of 
Nineveh and the warning of Jonah. The discussion now 
passes to an examination of the question of Free-will and 
Necessity, that problem of the ages, always new and always 
old. The Astrologer argues, of course, against Free-will, 
the Haber in favour of the same ; there we get the 
interesting note that Pulgar had written a study on 
Kohelet, § 5$, nSnp 'ob '•tJ^T'sa '•mN'l nB'M, and further 
^B^Tsa iTmar piDsn naiiai, § s^ a. The text referred to is 
Eccles, V, 7, This verse the Astrologer had quoted, and the 
following is the Haber's explanation given in his work: 
"The great aim of Solomon's book is to point out the 
mutability of all earthly things. Nothing is permanent. 
All things hasten to change their external forms. Yet let 
not man be too greatly distressed at this, for .similar 
changes await the view of all generations, and to be 
distressed then at a necessary condition of life is absurd. 
Nevertheless, the spectacle of constant change will generate 
in the heai't of man a becoming reverence and fear of God. 
God must be man's hope, the one permanent Being, and 
not the false appearances to which the Astrologer directs 
the gaze of his dupes. Again, let no man be unduly 
depressed at the sight of misery and oppression. Tyranny 
is but the act of a mortal, here to-day and in the grave 
to-morrow, and the actor and the action alike doomed to 
pass away, and the righteous shall inherit the earth. 
' Boast not thyself of to-morrow,' said Koheleth, ' for thou 
knowest not what a day shall bring forth.' Shall astrology 
then claim Solomon as authority for its false prognostica- 
tions 1 " The Astrologer then avers that the sages of the 
Talmud inculcate the belief in astrology — ri'TD n'ano bn2 
ijtpa M^n b^n ♦ T'E'yD, and undoubtedly, admits the Haber, 
some of the ancients believed in astrology. David sought 
to know the day of his death. It was hidden from him, 
and from all mortals too, including astrologers. Bab and 


Shemuel spoke against the practice. So did Akiba ; so did 
Natan bar Yitzhak, Rab bar Nahman, and others. And 
so the discussion proceeds. Anon the combatants attack 
the insoluble problem — the prosperity of the wicked and 
the unfortunate state of the pious 1^ 31D1 ye'i 1^ J?ll pns. 
The Bible, says the Haber, teaches us to follow the good 
and forsake, the evil. He who follows this does well, and 
vice versa. Take an example. Two men travel. They 
come upon a deep, wide river, which blocks their progi-ess, 
and, alas, without a bridge at hand. A man sitting upon 
the bank informs them that lower down there is a bridge. 
" Go there," said he, " and cross in peace." The wise man, 
using his brains, seeks out the bridge, and crosses in safety ; 
the other distrusts the advice, and is drowned in his attempt 
to swim across. Safety and danger more often than not, 
says the Haber truly enough, are in our own hands, and we 
bring most of our misfortunes upon ourselves. And even 
in the midst of misfortunes the good man sees subjects for 
intense satisfaction, and he is never entirely overwhelmed. 
Pulgar speaking as the Haber tells the Astrologer to read 
up his (Pulgar's) work on the Psalms ("inTiSJ noipna p^yon 
nii>nn naoi), § 59), says he has shown that there is no real 
contradiction between the theory that God cares for the 
righteous and the reality of the ills that befall them. 
The Haber is not to have it all his own way. " Suppose," 
says the Astrologer, " all the arguments are on your side. 
Nevertheless, facts are against you. Events have been 
foretold. What then ? " The Haber denies it. His opponent, 
holding to his first opinion that events have been foretold, 
says that where predictions have been falsified the reason 
was because the prognosticator was not qualified, and did 
not understand his business. " Oh," says the Haber, laughing, 
" you put me in mind of the story of the fisherman. He had 
bought putrid fish, and exposed it for sale in the market. 
The crowd drew back at the fearful smell. ' Come on/ 
said he, ' come and buy, my fish is good. It is I that am 
putrid ! ' " At this the Astrologer's patience gives out, and 


he declines to continue the argument. The Haber there- 
upon proceeds to formulate certain weighty reasons to 
justify his opposition to astrology rt)pm nwyo na moo ^3Jn 
'''•iifV ''3 dnninn nj?3 D''3j?iDn bsb) "rbn nni» nnna niiisni 
'IJI OnosJI DTinCJ N^nn naxi'Dn. Incidents arise from natural 
causes, i. e. we know what will be the result of the depre- 
dations of locusts upon vegetation. Let no man believe 
what some philosophers have taught, that matter possesses 
endless possibilities, because since the Creator has impressed 
his will upon matter its potentialities are necessarily limited 
by the control of such will. The Creator has chosen to 
impress upon matter an order and form — i. e. it has become 
" natural." The forms of matter, it is conceivable, are not 
limited, or not yet complete, but the act of creation renders 
the process orderly and not arbitrary. Again, it is univer- 
sally acknowledged that the superior governs the inferior ; 
how then shall the planets, purely material bodies, influence 
and control the decisions of the mind of man? All the stars 
in the heavens could not make a three-sided figure anything 
but a triangle. Further, we observe around us an orderly 
procession of facts and incidents, everywhere but in the 
mental sphere. Men hesitate. They are often undecided. 
They are free. If you assert that mental acts are controlled 
and inevitable, as are physical results, what becomes of the 
soul and the freedom of the will 1 Here the Astrologer 
begins to give way, and acknowledges the weight and value 
of the Haber's arguments, who therefore continues, perhaps 
in a little more complacent mood. It may be that certain 
changes result from the position of the stars ; such as 
atmospheric changes. But man is endowed with energy 
and industry. He can, as it were, put aside such influence, 
or act as to counterbalance their weight. He is master of 
his fate. He may, if he will, become as a skilled equestrian 
that can control the fiery steed, which, however, would 
throw an inexpei-ienced rider. Both men at last shake 
hands, swear eternal friendship, and the disputation is at an 
end. But the crowd around was angry. " If the stars will 


not help us, what shall become of us all 1 " they cried in 
anguish. " They have taken away his God, what can he do 
now ? " The answer from the two friends is the old answer. 
God will help those that help themselves. They must not 
depend upon the stars and lead a life of idleness. They 
must put their shoulders to the wheel. The stars in heaven 
will not weed their fields, nor gather in their crops. Work 
brings wealth ; indolence spells ruin. But far better than 
a material prosperity is the equanimity of the mind based 
on study and the friendship of the wise. At these words 
joy came to the congregation (the Kahal ^np— observe the 
subtle touch, not to pon the crowd, the mob is always 
foolish), and they, too, praised God. The narrator T'JOn, the 
man that witnessed and reported the discussion, hereupon 
comes forward, and in a singularly beautiful poem repeats 
the lesson of responsibility, industry, and fearlessness in 
well doing. God's mercies are daily renewed for the benefit 
of mankind, therefore let not the fear of plague or misfor- 
tune enervate a man in his daily work. With all the charm 
in his pen Pulgar sings the old text : Work, and God is 
faithful to compensate. As a specimen of Pulgar's verse 
I place the following before the reader : — 

Dnsi '•nnaina nk>n ijipi W'T^n b't^N sipN oyba § 67 a 
omyi ry Dino b iixoa imni pis '^bivo i^poK 

Dno pNi DV» r^^i i^iani nn'' inn i^K'an b^ 

onitj Dn onaT noNn bn) D3»3b by dni^n my '•nn 

a<^V2 oi'pD PSI D130 PN1 VW ''SIT Dn3 JW3 HDI 

tanmn b ihn pvna t:h nnai Dty ^''''no pN ^a ij?t 

Dnann nin^ pan'- nya -iira^i i>a y<n'o woa 

DniK'p an roi nncsNa dinivo in'' irs one i>aK 

nnpDi nncj'BNa nna ij^n warn wn^N jixia nn 

onno i^n'' nE'xa vasn inw bn yT-n ^wb' bi 

Di-iiKB'3 Djiya nj; vn'«n D'-ni* iniboa b»w loa 

cnrsN iiN nyn^ ^a latj'na niboa ynni) s^'dv niyi 

nnaiva in n'T-nj? oyiDa D^hb vrf pt nnn ^B'N 


Dny^i pon^ i&ta niDn!> n*3 K*n njinj ^a b nicT 

DniDN an nn"ii nSy niN fana pai iT-n' »jist 

omn Tin nasj n mxi w ids bn 'an non pxi 

nnspn o'-tsia nn^ pNi ba '•e'sd an laa sa ham § 68 
D'-iK'^ D''DSB^a bvin '•an nnnan hpy!? iitJ'nn bn) 

c-inon nnsa ntaaiD '•nn pijno lain hpa yDrn njn 
anooi omiD 103 nsj-Di nipoij in vish ntti n^ji 

Dnpa^ D'B'in nny *n' J"}* pan* b ne'N ynn n^i 

In an appendix, which Pulgar calls the piy» IIBD— "the 
narrative of the confused" (?), many amusing instances 
are educed to show the disappointments that have awaited 
the dupes of the astrologers, but the space at my disposal 
does not allow me to linger any further upon this part, 
interesting though it is, and looking forward to the time 
when I may enjoy the good fortune to publish the nin iTj; 
in its entirety, I pass on to Part IV. 

Pabt IV. 

This contains a defence of the study of philosophy and 
natural science. From a careful study of the mn "ity and 
our knowledge that Pulgar was a doctor, it may reasonably 
be inferred that he devoted much time and attention to 
scientific research, as it was understood in his age, and that 
he, in this part of his work, is defending himself against the 
complaints and criticisms which such pursuits undoubtedly 
received from many of his contemporaries, who looked 
upon a too curious investigation into the working of 
natural laws as signs of a weak faith and of indifierence 
to the practices of religious piety. Returning to the text 
before us, we read that the author complains of the 
annoyance and the irritation to which men of knowledge 
are subjected by reason that the most foolish of men take 



upon themselves to attack the doings of their betters. Not, 
however, that this is a matter for surprise. Solomon has 
told us (Prov. xxix. 27) that the perfect way is the abomina- 
tion of the wicked, &c. From the oft-quoted confession 
of Akiba (Piesachim, 49 b) we know how severe and bitter is 
the contempt and loathing which the psn Dy bears towards 
the wise man. Pulgar says he feels impelled to come 
forward and defend those studies which confer so great a 
benefit upon mankind, and he divides the opponents of the 
study of natural science into four classes. The first class 
comprises those who look upon themselves as the only good 
and pious ones, the only true defenders of religion. These 
men cast a slur upon students, and not, as Pulgar feels 
bound to acknowledge, without some just cause. For it 
must be owned that w'e do find men, with much pretension, 
but with little or no real claim to scientific culture, who 
speak disrespectfully of the Totah and its behests nvp noxai 
jHD DIB' n^bn ij? ly-'jn N^i nioana dji rcjnn Tityby ti'h''r\non 
mn noiD *Ti3''a3 ]'hibi'o') • • • • onnai in^ts'' n''aDi'snD D'-Nipjn Dm, 
§ 74. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. But such a 
man is the Epikoros. The truly wise man acts differently. 
He scrupulously observes every precept great and small, 
and, his knowledge and investigations throwing much 
light upon the reasons for the precepts, he is enabled to 
perform his religious duties with a truer devotion than 
would otherwise be the case. He uses the great gifts 
of God — knowledge, thought, reason — to justify the 
ways of Heaven to man. The second class of objectors 
are the Kabbalisfcs. The Kabbalists wiU have it that all 
their traditions and practices are derived, unaltered and 
untainted, direct from on high. They forget that it was 
the constant practice of the sages to keep the text of 
Scripture free from all addition and alteration, and that 
notwithstanding all their solicitude and care discrepancies 
have crept into the sacred text DniHnK>ni Dnwin bs Djn 
i>3 ^VN jnT nn ni»ip» nvpa tnipn ^anaa d^ub' di-ti ij; DmiDoa 
niinn laoa p'-jran, § 75. If time has, then, left its mark 


even upon the word of God, how far-fetched is the claim 
that the strange practices of the Kabbala should have 
reached the present generation without blemish. Two 
faults in particular Pulgar finds in the books of the 
Kabbalists — the first being the introduction of strange, 
uncouth words and expressions, and, secondly, an utter 
absence of precision and logic, leading in some cases to a 
positive denial of the Unity of God miDa m^aa Dnxpci 
n'n ban lin' (=« mystery ") nT-noD, § 75 a \ The Kabbalists 
claim that they understand mysteries hidden from other 
men, and that they possess the power by means of charms 
to change the course of Nature. Pulgar relates the 
following little incident as related to him by a certain 
Kabbalist, Maistre Marcus by name B'P"ID ntaE^ND (§ 75 a), 
who when a youth was the pupil of a renowned scholar 
living in the German isles MSB'N ''''N'. The savant, jealous 
lest his disciple should, when his studies were completed, 
have acquired as profound a knowledge of the mysterious 
as he himself, refrained from imparting to the youth as 
much of his knowledge as the latter desired. Our student 
was driven to strategy. One night, whilst his master was 
sleeping, the enterprising seeker after knowledge took from 
beneath the pillow of his teacher, where it had been placed 
for greater security, a certain famous work the perusal of 
which had hitherto been denied him. The fates, ever on 
the side of the brave, caused the master's sleep to be 
prolonged until the student had the time not only to make 
a copy of the work, but likewise to replace it beneath the 
pillow of the unsuspecting pedagogue. What was the 
reward of the student's action ? He made his way home- 
ward, and by the help of one of the incantations found in 
the book he made a journey of four months in the third 
part of one day. This, says Pulgar, as it were triumphantly, 
is the trash taught, and alas unfortunately believed by 

* On the critieism of the language of Kabbalistic works the reader is 
referred to Luzzatto's rfjlpn no3n is ni3l ; and on the alleged denial of 
the doctrine of the Unity of Q-od to Jellinek's Beitrdge, Leipzig, 185 a, p. 51. 

E a, 


some of the most honoured of our people ni33t3 D''B'3N nanna 
UinoiN (§ 76). On passing from this subject, Pulgai- asks 
his reader to turn to his book Q^33 IDIO ,— 'D3 3in3 Nin vhn 
''b -itJ'K D-iJa nmo, § 76. Who are the third class of objectors 1 
This class comprises the men who elevate the laws of 
Nature, which are but the desires of Heaven, until they 
consider them the equals of God, aye, even as the enemy of 
the Creator nj33 rmv) biai na'pn b^ iwitf' jJitan '•a oacm 
IPIN ni7N Nin 1^5X3, and therefore deny the omnipotence of 
God and the possibility of miracles. Pulgar explains the 
word V3D. The word yao, generally translated as Nature, 
or material, denotes the channel and instruments of God's 
desires operating- upon matter, the 5>atD:. The laws of 
Nature are the agency, call this agent as you will ']i6o, or 
f)"iK>, or ^&, or anything else you wish. The important 
thing to remember is that it is not an independent agent. 
It is dependent and subordinate to God "IVI'" b^ mb^ Nin 
1^ layiB'Di. What God ordains it to do it does. Its activity 
is from God, and God, too, can suspend and destroy this 
activity whenever he wishes it. Such is the teaching of 
true philosophy. Nature is one of the agents of Heaven, 
carrying out the work of a Power outside itself — subject to 
Heaven, and to Heaven alone. In the same way that 
God controls Nature^ so too does man control himself, and 
Free-will is the gift of God to man. This leads us to the 
fourth class, i. e. those that believe in wizards, witches, the 
power of incantation, and the like — all of which, he says, 
are numerous indeed to-day among us. I3'>3icn3 n^N3 nwiONI 
••a DnjiON Nim siie'^an njios dhd • nun am (the pon again) 
n^i>n Dity t6^ Tiy nw dhd -mab pNtJ* D-yiT* onan la-iyrr'B'a 
DDnan-'i nta nan woo BnnrcB' yiT Dipoa ■mmt ^yDj!? )r\mb 
n<:)bs)b eiit5"3 n&a m'hs)) m-hnn eiiB>^a ncy 'jiija ia Dn^j'-a 
♦ " • nniD na^h ni^oni n^Ji^aij ^jitfa nnm r\^i)bs>'\ ' innpc'm 
rw\ )'N -icN ij; Dniab niypK'3 nia-i nwiwB'i niirinD n^sai 
CT-jJoni Di5>aB>3ni ia cii-iyun an ■'jaa ona cnai? i>''aB'D Ditya 
DH'-^j? (§§ 77, 77 a). We are told that such a witch has 


done this, and such a witch has done that. And there is 
no end. On this point the Torah is clear, rrnn mb naB>3D 
She that claims to be a witch — suffer her not to live. The 
belief in witchcraft results from the bad influence of a 
belief in astrology. Pulgar gives us a quotation from a 
work on witchcraft as follows (§ 78) : fiwan "iSDl 2in3 xvon 
njpi pwn W2 pitya i? ' D'can pi£>rh'\ mmb tajw^ nti nrb& 
IB i? -iDOTi nnu^ aitji ''jwnn b»^ ne'N pe'Nnn Tnoa hn-id ib 
psnriB' HB'N v '•N^ HNnon ns nNini mtna n^ji nybr\2 naT nain 
inanNfii ioj> raib m mrpni ttid nijsa mo . " If you desire 
a certain woman to love you, act as follows: Go to the 
market on the market day. Buy a mirror, and pay for it 
the first price asked by the vendor. Speak neither going 
nor when returning home. Hold the mirror in front of 
the woman in question before you put it away from your 
hand, and that hitherto obdurate female will find you 
irresistible." Again, once there was a man gambling, 
and he had a spindle (^?a) beneath him. He won at 
the gaming. Therefore, say these foolish ones, to win at 
gaming don't forget the spindle. But, says Pulgar, these 
people go beyond this. They have prayers formed to the 
names of angels and demons DnB' IN D*3Ni>D niOB'i> nunn nn. 
From this dangerous practice arises the suggestion that 
idol worship is not entirely false, for they go on to say 
that having secured the intercession of God's favourites, 
the Deity will be loath to deny requests backed up by the 
supplications of saints and angels ^t<D rUiT" 'n'' ?Nn '•3 baE'n 
)n)-\2r xi'B'a JNT'i vi'N l^^EJlT'K'a pTirfi (§ 78 a). The aid of 
God alone, protests Pulgar, we seek, this and the cultivation 
of the world in which he has placed us. We rely upon 
him and upon the energies and the brain he has given us. 
For food we till the ground, to cure our pains and assuage 
our infirmities we study and practise the science of medi- 
cine, &c. It is said that it is impossible for us ever to get 
into the inner mysteries of nature. It may be so. It is 
not derogatory for a scientist to acknowledge this. Yet 


though there be many things we do not know, neverthe- 
less much have we found out by research. We reason from 
effects back to causes, and although we cannot be sure of 
the precise nature of the cause, the important thing is that 
we can fairly well predict the nature of the result. We do 
not know, says Pulgar, why fire is heating, nor the causes 
of magnetic attraction ^nan b» ]2tin naE'on, yet in both 
cases we have a good working knowledge, and this know- 
ledge we use with certainty and for our benefit. Pulgar 
does not deny that there are more things in heaven and 
earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy. He does not 
deny, he says, that there may be matters subject to mental 
effort at present beyond our vision on the surface. In 
such matters a philosopher pleads ignorance. He does not 
know ; he becomes an agnostic papiji irnoi) ij'-ae'D DiK'^ pN 

n''3B'no3 ^'T'^5»1 D'-aiaai' na-non wmin hn-bv hidk (§ 80). It 
is against practices absolutely forbidden by the Torah that 
the author lifts up his voice in resolute and unceasing 

Part V. 

This, the concluding chapter of the work, though not 
without interest of its own, is less likely to engage the 
attention of the historical student than other parts of the 
Ezer ha-Dat. It deals with an old question, i. e. the 
attraction which a certain class of men find in depreciating 
the world in which they live, and in building up charming 
castles in the air in respect of their expectations of a future 
and happier existence. Having weaned his thoughts from 
the attractions of this world, the author once during his 
wanderings found himself in the company of an aged man 
clad in the garb of an anchorite or hermit. To him the 
author opened his heart. The hermit was all kindness, 
and led him to Mount Gilboa, where they reached the graves 
of Desire (nisnn ni"i3p}. In the modest hut or cave the two 


men shared the frugal meal, and then, resting after the 
repast, they heard the conversation of immortal spirits. 
In the words familiar to those acquainted with the eschato- 
logical phrases of the Talmud the one spirit said to the 
other, " Sister, let us not converse here, for living men listen 
to the words of immortal spirits." The hermit thereupon 
arose and besought the invisible speaker not to remove 
hence, for indeed, he said, it is to learn from you that we 
have come hither. A conversation then ensued between 
the hermit and the spirit, to which the author listens, an 
edified spectator. The joys and energies of the body are 
passed in review between the speakers, the hermit in 
praise, the unknown on the other hand bent on showing- 
how all physical joys become the source of sorrow, shame, 
and weakness. Passing from the discussion of the merits 
or otherwise of the attractions of the body, tho hermit seeks 
to gain from the spirit the admission that the nether world 
contains nothing so exquisite as the ambitions and gratifi- 
cations of the mind in the contemplation of its creations 
and victories. No, answers the spii-it, imagination is 
illusion, and because of the contrast the greater source of 
disappointment. The Living are as in a net ; the Dead alone 
know what is existence, for they alone have reached " the 
rest and the knowledge." They alone are free from the 
trammels and limitations of the body. They have put off 
the mortal coil, and live eternally. The angel is here intro- 
duced, and reconciles the views of the disputants. The 
scale, or degree of importance, of living is threefold. The 
first, or lowest, is that found among ordinary, even ignorant 
folk. These appreciate only what is material. They do 
not comprehend, indeed they despise all mental discipline, 
and spiritually they are dead. The second is an advance 
over the previous. They are able to reason from the 
material to the mental, from the coarse and visible to the 
finer and invisible. But they do not. Knowing the better 
way they are yet content to follow the worse. The third and 
highest stage is that of the D^>l3pn h'b''2&D, those in a state 


of constant wisdom ^. Freed from the limitations of the body 
they are united and are at one with the Active Intelligence. 
The author finds himself compelled to own that the Dead 
had won the day. For it is clear that none attain this life 
while still swathed by the cerements of earth, and in truth 
no man sees God while alive >ni D*iKn ^JNT" sb *3. In 
a beautiful poem, the author, addressing his soul, bids it 
rejoice in the contemplation of its glorious future, and 
hearing this the Dead too give utterance to the praises 
of God. 

Such in outline is the Ezer ha-Dat, the Hebrew text 
of which I hope soon to publish, and from these notes 
may perhaps be gleaned something of the power and 
character of its author. Isaac Pulgar is a name but little 
known to the present generation, but undoubtedly its 
possessor was a man fit to take his seat among the greatest 
of Israel's sons that shed lustre and fame upon the 
communities of the Iberian Peninsula. 

G. Belasco. 

* Comp. Buxtorf s Lexicon, p. 2391, mbicinrt J"3p = Habitus intellectualis.