Skyscript home page

Brief Summary
Major Contribution
Short Biography
Most Significant Publication
Interesting Fact
Recommended Further Reading
About Astro Mundi

An Introduction to Ibn Ezra - compiled by Mari Garcia and Joy Usher
Brief Summary :
Rabbi Abraham ben Meir Ibn Ezra (1089 - 1167) was born at Tudela, Navarre (now in Spain) in 1089, and died c. 1167, apparently in Calahorra. He was one of the most distinguished Jewish men of letters and writers of the Middle Ages. Ibn Ezra excelled in philosophy, astronomy/astrology, mathematics, poetry, linguistics, and exegesis; he was called The Wise, The Great and The Admirable Doctor.

Major Contribution :
His works, which were all in the Hebrew language, fulfilled the great mission of making accessible to the Jews of Christian Europe the treasures of knowledge enshrined in the works written in Arabic, which he had brought with him from Spain.

Short Biography :
He was born at Tudela (current day province of Navarre) when the town was under the Muslim rule of the emirs of Zaragoza. Later he lived in Córdoba. In Granada, it is said, he met his future friend (and perhaps his father-in-law) Yehuda Halevi. He left Spain before 1140 to escape persecution of the Jews by the new fanatical regime of the Almohads and became a roving scholar. Dogged by poverty and misfortune, he once alluded to these hardships in characteristically tragicomic verse: "Were I to deal in candles, The sun would never set. Were selling shrouds my business, No one would ever die!".

A factor in Ibn Ezra's wanderings may well have been his son Isaac's conversion to Islam, which prompted an initial journey to Egypt, Israel, and Iraq in the hope of winning this only surviving son back to Judaism. He led a life of restless wandering, which took him to North Africa, Egypt in 1109 (maybe in the company of Yehuda Halevi), the Land of Israel, Italy in 1140-1143, France and England in 1158, and back again to Narbonne in 1161, until his death on January 23 or 28, 1167, either at Calahorra on the border of Navarre and Aragon, or in Rome or in the Holy Land.

Quote :
I come at morn to the nobly born: they say "He's away".
I return at night: "He needs his rest", they say.
With my patron asleep or riding afar,
I clearly live under an evil star.

Most Significant Contribution :
Reshit Hokhma ('The Beginning of Wisdom'), an introduction to astrology; Sefer ha-Te'amim ('Book of Reasons'), an overview of Arabic astrology, giving explanations for the material in the previous book; Sefer ha-Moladot ('Book of Nativities'), on astrology based on the time and place of birth; Sefer ha-Me'orot ('Book of Luminaries' or 'Book of Lights'), on medical astrology; Sefer ha-She'elot ('Book of Interrogations'), on questions about particular events; Sefer ha-Mivharim ('Book of Elections', also known as 'Critical Days'), on optimum days for particular activities; and Sefer ha-Olam ('Book of the World'), on the fates of countries and wars, and other larger-scale issues.

Interesting Fact :
The name Rudhyar is derived from the Sanskrit god Rudra, the Destroyer and Regenerator.

Recommended Further Reading :
Ibn Ezra
The Life & Work of Ibn Ezra by David McCann
Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra by Meira Epstein
Abraham Ibn Ezra (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Books by or about Ibn Ezra
Wikipedia entry on Abraham Ibn Ezra

© Mari Garcia, Joy Usher, April 2012.