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THE LITERARY STRUCTURE OF THE FIRST BOOK OF THE KUZARI / המבנה הספרותי של המאמר הראשון מן "הכוזרי"

אליעזר שביד and Eliezer Schweid
Tarbiẕ / תרביץ
כרך ל‎, חוברת ג‎ (ניסן תשכ"א), pp. 257-272
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23590628
Page Count: 16
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THE LITERARY STRUCTURE OF THE FIRST BOOK OF THE KUZARI / המבנה הספרותי של המאמר הראשון מן "הכוזרי"
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Abstract

This discussion is based on the assumption that the literary structure of the first book reflects a programatic attitude and that Yehuda Hallewi's teachings cannot be properly understood without paying attention to the mode of presentation. 1. The personality of the Khazar king: The choice of the Khazar king as an umpire can chiefly be traced to the desire not to admit the right of philosophy to decide which religion was the true one. The king is an ordinary person who stands outside the rival religions and judges them empirically. For this purpose he does not require special scholarship or intellectual training but only high moral character, a clear mind and most important — he has to be a dreamer, i.e. endowed with religious experience. 2. The dream: The dream lays the foundation for Yehuda Hallewi's outlook: a) religion is based on revelation and not on reason. b) revelation is proved by the evidence of its occurrence. c) its content is deeds not creeds. 3. The speech of the philosopher: Since the king is not a perfect believer he first turns to the philosopher. The philosopher's speech runs deliberately counter to the theological assumptions which alone postulate that the dream is a possible reality. But the dream authenticates itself by its undoubted evidence whereas the philosopher's words are convincing in their logic. Yehuda Hallewi does not at the moment wish to undermine them but to circumvent them through a prior decision to prefer empirical knowledge. In other words, religion cannot be built on philosophy or its refutation. Moreover, because they were not refuted the words of the philosopher remain valid as a source for doubting the Christian and Islamic sages. 4. Disputation with the representatives of Religion: After the discussion with the philosopher, the king demands empirical authentication and not theoretical reasonings. But Christianity and Islam cannot soundly base this authentication upon themselves. The philosophic argument still impugns their validity so long as they do not rest their testimony on Judaism. This intermediate status of Islam and Christianity between Judaism and philosophy and the correspondence created thereby between Judaism and philosophy is mirrored in the literary structure. On the one hand, the question addressed by the king to the philosopher is equivalent to the one he directs at the ḥaver, and on the other, the formulation of the beginning of the Christian's and Muslim's answer is similar to that of the philosopher. 5. The dramatised paradox: The appearance of the Jewish sage as the last of the debaters was deliberately planned. He is the last because the king disparages Judaism from the very beginning. But his coming last constitutes a great advantage in the debate. Moreover, the first moments of his appearance arouse disappointment, and only later, do his persuasive powers become evident. By this, Yehuda Hallewi demonstrates his mode of argumentation: the proof that it is precisely in its weakness that the strength of Judaism lies. This principle runs through the structure of the first book from beginning to end. 6. Between the master and his disciple: The first book is divided into two: a. from the opening to the beginning of the appearance of the ḥaver. b. From there to the end of the book. The second part details the assumptions laid down in the first part. From the story of the dream the ḥaver goes on to the historical account of the history of the revelation, and the assumptions that are necessitated by this account he proves in the process of his argumentation with the words of the philosopher at the beginning of the book. But the order of the discussion conforms to the chronological sequence of the historical experience.

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