"Separated in neither death nor life": The folk traditions linking Judah Halevi and Abraham Ibn Ezra

Uriah Kfir, David Rotman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Judah Halevi and Abraham ibn Ezra are two of the most celebrated pre-modern Jewish figures of all time. Born in late eleventh-century Spain, their lives intersected on several occasions. However, there is also an extensive web of folk narratives and traditions that have been told about them from the Middle-Ages to the present day which links them to each other through their imagined biographies. In fact, many stories were told about them separately depicting various facets of each man's character. Here, however, we show that unlike other stories, those that bring them together revolve around a specific type of activity common to both; namely, poetry. Furthermore, their hagiographies tend to reproduce the typical milestones characteristic of biographies of saints and cultural heroes (Noy 1975): the prenatal legend, the biographical legend, the posthumous legend, events associated with the hero's descendants, and events associated with the hero's possessions. In this case, however, we argue that the stories not only correspond to their biographical phases, but that these stories shape their poetic endeavors as adhering to these phases as well, thus turning these two poets into a timeless couple separated in neither life or death, before their births or posthumously.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)278-300
Number of pages23
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The title of this paper is based on David’s lamentation for Saul and Jonathan (2 Sam 1:23). This article is part of a research project entitled “The Hebrew Poet from Spain as a Literary Hero.” This research is supported by the Israel Science Foundation (grant No. 1472/17). We would like to thank our research assistants, Maayan Morag, Nufar Rashkes, Gali Siton, and Yael Eisenberg, as well as the anonymous readers of this article for their comments and insights.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 De Gruyter. All rights reserved.


Dive into the research topics of '"Separated in neither death nor life": The folk traditions linking Judah Halevi and Abraham Ibn Ezra'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this