Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Samuel ibn Tibbon

Samuel is the most famous of the Ibn Tibbons, though he got something of a bum rap in his father's ethical will, as being lazy and uninterested in his studies. Maimonides thought he was good enough to be his authorized translator, and that has always been his claim to fame.

In the past few years, two major studies have been devoted to the independent thought of Samuel Ibn Tibbon - James Robinson translated his commentary on Ecclesiastes, and Carlos Fraenkel studied his criticisms of the Guide of the Perplexed.

I don't know whether this exchange is reported elsewhere - I found it today in a manuscript:

שאל לר' שמואל תבון החכם שנתחבר עמו מצאנו באיוב שהשם הורידהו מנכסיו ובניו וכל אשר לו ואשתו נשארה לו. השיבו השם רצה להכאיבו בשטן מלמעלה ושטן מלמטה. השיבו זאת טענת הרמאין אמור לי האמת השיבו אם יקח ממנו אשתו לא ישאר לו כלום ר"ל החמר.

[Someone] asked the sage, Rabbi Samuel Tibbon - we find that God took from Job his possessions and his sons and all he had, but left his wife. [Ibn Tibbon] responded - God wanted to torment him with a Satan above and a Satan below. [The questioner] retorted - that is the response of scoundrels. Tell me the truth! [Ibn Tibbon] said - if He took his wife, he would have nothing, i.e. no matter.

I'm curious what the questioner meant by 'te'anat ha-rama'im'. Did he consider the misogynist answer to be flippant, or really insidious?


We're slowly settling into our apartment, which is strategically positioned within walking distance of several supermarkets, body shops and schools for Jewish learning. But not a neighbourhood with a lot of English speakers (though there are some, and the ones we have met are extremely nice).

Our interactions with the other people in our building have been limited, but all positive. Still, it seems funny to me that we have now received three copies of Leah Goldberg's book for children, 'Flat to Let', about the tensions between the animals living in an apartment building and the prospective tenants checking out the vacant flat. Here's to the happy ending:
כך בעמק יפה, בין כרמים ושדות
עומד מגדל בן חמש קומות
ובמגדל גרים עד הים
שכנים טובים חיי שלום