Judah Halevi: Poet and Pilgrim

By :  Raymond Scheindlin Professor Emeritus of Medieval Hebrew Literature Posted On Jun 28, 2021 / 5781 | A Wandering People: Jewish Journeys, Real and Imagined Monday Webinar

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Part of the series, “A Wandering People: Jewish Journeys, Real and Imagined”

In the summer of 1141, Judah Halevi, a distinguished doctor, poet, and religious thinker sailed from his homeland, Spain, for the Holy Land, leaving behind his family, his medical practice, and his position as a distinguished leader of the Jewish community. Although little is known of his life before the pilgrimage, we can trace his journey in detail thanks to letters preserved in the Cairo Geniza. More importantly, we can follow Halevi’s inner religious journey through the stirring poems that he composed in anticipation of and during the voyage. In this session with Dr. Raymond Scheindlin, we will touch on both the external and internal journeys by drawing on the letters and the poems, all in translations by Dr. Scheindlin. 


As the pandemic surged and forced us into our homes, many of us dreamed with new intensity of being elsewhere. For Jews throughout the ages, the promises and perils of travel have been central to shaping the individual and collective experience. Notions of home and homeland have been redefined by Jewish wandering. Drawing on literary, spiritual, and historical sources and responses, JTS scholars explore what happens when Jews—whether by force or voluntarily, whether in reality or in the imagination—travel from one place to another. 

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