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Hanagid on God and Men

Eddy M. Zemach
Vol. 24, No. 1 (Winter 2004), pp. 87-98
Published by: Indiana University Press
DOI: 10.2979/pft.2004.24.1.87
Stable URL:
Page Count: 12
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Hanagid on God and Men
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In several poems, Shmuel Hanagid advises “the wise”—those aware that ultimately God judges us all—not to forswear worldly pleasure but to indulge in it. How is one to understand that advice? Dan Pagis reads it as a manifesto of a hedonistic theology: what God ordained is pleasure. Comparing the said poems with other—mainly erotic—poems of Hanagid, this article suggests an alternative reading: Hanagid advocates a version of tragic existentialism. We cannot fathom God's ways; life on earth is a game that reason cannot win. Thus, it is wise to put reason away and stick to what we like best in this world. Although we may be punished for it, carnal pleasure is not to be given up. We should hold our cup of wine “in wise hands”: fully enjoy life while cognizant of the terrible price we may have to pay for it.

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