Interiority and Law
Bahya ibn Paquda and the Concept of Inner Commandments
Omer Michaelis



The work of the Jewish Andalusi thinker Baḥya ibn Paquda—who most likely lived in Saragossa, Spain, in the second half of the eleventh century1—is among the most enigmatic in the long history of Jewish thought.2 Yet it is a riddle that does not present itself as such and which needs to be stirred and shaken from its dormant state in order for it to appear before us and demand our inquiry, since on the face of it, nothing is too hidden in Baḥya’s thought. His major, and to the best of our knowledge, only book, The Guide to the Duties of the Hearts (Kitāb al-hidāya ila farāʾiḍ al-qulūb), was printed in many editions.3 Among them are complexly layered editions, in which meticulous commentaries are adjoined to the original contents, as well as pocket editions that allow readers to recite the book’s chapters wherever they go.4 Furthermore, the work’s wide circulation is not a late phenomenon. Soon after it was first written, the Duties of the Hearts was translated into Hebrew from the Judeo-Arabic original, and discoveries from the Cairo Geniza attest that it was one of the most broadly copied works of Jewish thought in the Middle Ages, apparently already in the first hundred years after it was set in ink.5 It retained an important status in Jewish religious life throughout the Middle Ages and found its way to wider circles of readers in early modern times with the rise of print. The Hebrew editions of the work were printed in the centers of learning and knowledge dissemination in Naples, Istanbul, Hamburg, and Korzec, and it was translated between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries into many of the numerous languages of the Jews, from Italian, Portuguese, and Ladino to Judeo-German, Yiddish, and Dutch.6

However, over the eras, despite its widespread circulation, and, as we shall see, in a process that began with the initial translation of the work and among its very first readers, the work’s edge became blunted. On the one hand, its revolutionary proposal came to seem self-evident, and was perceived as part and parcel of Judaism from time immemorial, as if the author had offered no innovation. On the other hand, and in a complementary manner, Baḥya’s approach was significantly softened by his readers: it was interpreted as less daring, less demanding, and far less contentious vis-à-vis other versions of Jewish religiosity, both those that prevailed in Baḥya’s own time and those that have predominated since. What did this softening consist of? For generations, Baḥya was considered to have distilled a pious form of life that called not only for a high regard for the fulfillment of commandments but also for the enrichment of religious life through special attention to what was termed the “spiritual,” inner dimension of worship. This perception was consistent with the two appellations by which Baḥya came to be known: dayan (rabbinical judge), presumably in reference to his occupation, and ḥasid (pious), as he was described by some of the first generations of copiers of his book.7 Moreover, Baḥya’s approach was regarded as providing a systematic logic to the principles of religious life that stem from the canonical rabbinic literature—both biblical and talmudic. According to this view, Baḥya essentially echoed a voice that originates in the depths of the Jewish tradition, rather than aimed to break new ground. Indeed, it seems that Baḥya himself contributed immensely to this impression—though for a different reason, as will be discussed—in his decision to integrate hundreds of citations from both biblical and midrashic literature into his work, and to absorb his innovations in the familiar language of the sources.

The basic argument of this study is that careful attention to Baḥya’s own arguments and rhetorical gestures in his work, beginning with its very title, reveals that his outlook on Jewish religious life proposed to transform it radically. God, in this outlook, is to be worshipped not entirely or even primarily on the basis of the 613 commandments enumerated in the various lists of commandments that were available in Baḥya’s time and were based on the tradition of Rabbanite Halakhah, but rather through an extensive—indeed infinitely broad, as Baḥya argues—set of activities that take place in one’s inner life. Baḥya could have constructed this “inner” religious activity in different ways, and he chose the most audacious and strict of these possibilities. He could have conceptualized this realm of “inner” activities as a step beyond the prevailing religious norms, by using the category of middat ḥasidut (attribute of piety) that was developed in earlier talmudic literature and appeared in the writings of some of the Geonim, or alternatively, employed a category that was in ubiquitous use in his time, namely, supererogatory deeds, or miṣvot nedavah. Moreover, Baḥya could have opted to identify this activity with the category of kavvanah (intention) in the performance of the miṣvah, that is, as reflecting an inner dimension of the external deed. Instead, in his work he decided to explicitly reject the identification of the duties of the heart with supererogatory deeds and to marginalize the concept of kavvanah. He declares that the deeds that are to be performed in one’s inner recesses are indeed full-blown commandments. The duties of the heart are in fact superior to the performance of the duties of the members, as they reflect an obedience to God—and indeed, no word appears more frequently in the book than the Arabic term ṭāʿā, meaning obedience—in what Baḥya views as the superior realm of human life, namely, the inner dimension. Not at the enrichment of religious life nor at the enhancement or deepening of the attribute of ḥasidut did Baḥya aim, but at a reconceptualization of the concept of miṣvah in Judaism. Now, he argues in the book, it must include not only what one is obligated to perform in one’s body, but also the entire realm of one’s mental activity. This entails not only statements about the required mental or rational attitude toward God, put in the form of principles of faith or an abstract call for the love and awe of God. It consists mostly of the formulation of a new grammar of internal activity, which Baḥya put forward in ten “gates,” or a few hundred smaller sections, that lay down a broad and rich foundation for the different patterns of these inner actions. Baḥya regarded these internal acts as religious obligations that surpass any of the better-known commandments; fulfilling them gains one both proximity to God and the reward of the World to Come and failing to fulfill them is severely punished.

Baḥya’s mode of intervention in the system of Jewish commandments differs significantly from two more common approaches to the commandments in the realm of Jewish thought. The first, characteristic predominantly in the field known as “Jewish philosophy,” entails adherence to the already-familiar halakhic edicts along with a reconceptualization of the system of Halakhah according to principles that were not formerly part of it, thereby effectively changing the meaning of these commandments—without changing the commandments themselves. In the second approach, prevalent in works written in Kabbalist circles, authors whose works are not specifically halakhic in nature nevertheless intervened in matters of disputed halakhic rulings, and ruled not only with regard to past disagreements but also in relation to contemporaneous quarrels. In his work, Baḥya departs from both of these more familiar patterns and establishes a novel system of commandments that was hitherto unknown in the realm of Halakhah.

Thus, unlike the previous scholarly treatments of the Duties of the Hearts as a work of musar, as a “spiritual” guide, or as a systematic “ethico-psychological” treatise, I will analyze Baḥya’s work in light of the discourse with which the author himself identifies his work—the discourse on commandments. Investigating this discourse will yield a remarkably paradoxical portrait. On the one hand, it will show Baḥya to be among the strictest and most demanding thinkers in his halakhic orientation. On the other hand, he will emerge as a revolutionary thinker in terms of his conception of Halakhah. This kind of study of Baḥya’s halakhic orientation, which has thus far been only preliminary and has not noted its centrality, is the first task of my study. I will address this task through three interrelated methods: a systematic analytic study—the first of its kind as far as I am aware—of Baḥya’s halakhic system, based on everything he states explicitly in this regard throughout his work; a contextualization of this discourse in light of other Jewish and Muslim sources, some of them previously unattended to in relation to Baḥya; and an examination of the broad hermeneutic strategies and specific exegetical choices through which Baḥya adapts his sources to his own proclivities and to the effort of fashioning a new halakhic discourse aimed at transforming the character of Jewish religiosity.

One of the most basic insights that emerges from exploring Baḥya’s discourse on commandments is that his outlook is founded on the distinction between “outer” and “inner”—respectively, commandments that are termed “duties of the members,” which are imposed on the body, and commandments termed “duties of the heart,” imposed on one’s interiority. But this distinction between “inner” and “outer,” which serves as an organizing principle for Baḥya’s notion of the commandments, is not exhausted within the confines of this particular discourse: it is fundamental to his overall system as well as to his more general outlook. According to Baḥya, the whole of Being is to be interpreted on the basis of a pair of concepts that are connected through relations of association and tension, namely, in the Arabic terminology of the book: bāṭin and ẓāhir. What do these words signify? First, a translation: bāṭin in English is the “inner,” “internal,” or “hidden,” while ẓāhir is the “outer,” “external,” or “manifest,” which can be superficially recognized.

As I will argue in this study, the pair bāṭin-ẓāhir serves as a kind of backbone or axis that supports the structure of Baḥya’s work. It is this axis that grants the different dimensions of the work the coherency of a system of thought, and that continuously feeds the work’s halakhic center of gravity.

Very briefly, as befits an introduction, I will note that this pair of terms is presented in a multiplicity of ways throughout the work. Among the most significant of these is the anthropological outlook advanced by Baḥya, according to which being human is defined by two spheres: the bodily and the inner. The body is a network of interrelated organs that functions as a system and whose actions are visible and readily available to behold. By contrast, the inner realm of each human being, consisting of a complex of one’s intellect, heart, and soul, is an internal system. Though the activities of this internal system can produce outer actions performed by the external organs, most of its existence is characterized by a life lived in another realm: an undisclosed inner space that is not observed by anyone but the person whose interiority it is, and by the divine gaze. Baḥya does not merely define and delimit these two dimensions, but adds a judgment regarding their relative value. The external, in his view, reflects a derivative and secondary aspect of human life, whereas the internal is the primary, superior locus of human existence. These two dimensions are not entirely disjointed from each other—they are interrelated as well as struggle with each other. Thus, every action performed by the body is the outcome of one’s inner life. This action can echo one’s refined interiority, it can reflect one’s vileness, or most severely, in Baḥya’s view, it can be an expression of hypocrisy and deception, a corrupt interiority masquerading as external piety. Conversely, the body impacts the soul in its own ways, above all in the ongoing effort to incite it to yield to the desires of the inclination, manifested in the human senses that incessantly seek gratification. The human eyes have an insatiable desire to take pleasure in the beauty of the world, the human mouth seeks nourishment, and the whole of one’s body expresses unbridled desire. This can harness the soul in such a way that one’s own interiority, too, becomes a realm of constant engagement with such passions and the possibilities of their realization; or, alternatively, the passions aroused by the world can be restrained by the soul.

This anthropological outlook is not Baḥya’s own invention. It is based to a large extent on ascetic discourses that were prevalent in the Muslim world, both Eastern and Western, and had begun to shape Jewish discourse in different ways, as well as on a Neoplatonic trend that was partially adopted by Baḥya. However, what distinguishes Baḥya from contemporaneous or preceding Neoplatonically or ascetically inclined thinkers is that, in his case, the emphasis on the distinction between body (jism; jasad; badan) and soul (nafs) is designed to establish and strengthen his fundamental assertion that just as it is halakhically mandated to worship God with one’s body, so it is imperative—and indeed even more important—to do so also with the soul, within.

The basic distinction between body and soul does not exhaust the gamut of Baḥya’s distinction between the “inner” and the “outer.” A second mode in which this distinction is expressed is Baḥya’s theory of contemplation or careful consideration (iʿtibār), which serves as the phenomenological interpretative key to the Duties of the Hearts and which considers the human gaze on each and every phenomenon to be a religious challenge of crucial importance. According to Baḥya’s idea of contemplation, all phenomena—those that we consider to be positive, those that we see as ominous, those that indicate a well-ordered world, and those that show a disruption of the familiar order—contain, beyond their immediate appearance, “traces” (āthār, sing. athar), or are in themselves “traces,” that when deciphered, indicate, in ways that differ from case to case, the divine source of the phenomenon and its partaking in the overall abundance of creation. These traces also indicate—and here lies a serious hermeneutical challenge—how each phenomenon expresses a divine grace that is entailed by the very fact of its being. The traces or signs are not necessarily hidden, or better put, are not hidden in a simple sense, and a proper mode of contemplation may expose them even in the most visible dimension of the phenomenon. But in order for them to be revealed, the observer must know how to seek them, that is, to search even in the manifest dimension of reality after expressions that point at a reality not limited by the phenomenon itself, nor by the interconnections between different phenomena, but that in some way connect the phenomenon to the Creator and express divine grace. How does the theory of contemplation contribute to the idea of the “duties” imposed upon the heart? As we will see, consciousness of divine grace, according to Baḥya, is closely related to consciousness of debt. The more one recognizes the continuous and endless graces of creation, the more one understands the unfathomable depth of one’s duty, making it possible to break through the normative framework that confines the commandments to a finite, fixed, and predetermined number.

Another dimension of the distinction between “inner” and “outer” is related to Baḥya’s sociological perspective. Here, Baḥya does not entirely adhere to the common medieval distinction between an elite (khāṣṣa) and the masses (ʿāmma). In a sense, Baḥya marginalizes this distinction and instead posits a different basic distinction that colors the social sphere: between the people of the “manifest” and those of the “inner.” Interestingly, the category of the people of the “manifest” as it is portrayed in the Duties of the Hearts is not purely of Baḥya’s own innovation, and is not only a category that Baḥya inherited from earlier sources. In addition, it is possible, as was already noted in scholarship, that this category reflects a specific Jewish elite of Baḥya’s own time.8 This elite partook in the cultural life of al-Andalus and shared the values of Muslim Spain’s courtly culture—its gardens with their beds of spices, its banquets and fondness for wine, its admiration of and passion for beautiful bodies.9 Contra this culture, Baḥya proposes—and perhaps aims to create—another category, the people of the “inner.” These people do not gather together to form a community of the “inner” that establishes a collective life, rather, they mostly remain in their individual inner-solitude, each alienating themselves from the “outer” sphere in their own way and according to their own capacity, and devote their lives to the bāṭin, the interiority of their souls, the primary locus of sincere divine worship. Here, too, Baḥya’s distinction is not only analytic but also value laden: the inner is superior to the external. It reflects the highest good to which one ought to aspire, and makes possible a greater intimacy with the divine, as opposed to the exile from divine proximity that is imposed by a life lived in the “external” realm.

A fourth dimension closely related to the distinction between the “inner” and the “external” is Baḥya’s theory of divine reward, which we may also describe as the book’s soteriological interpretative key. According to this theory, human deeds that take place in a sphere that is—in principle—visible to others, namely, the duties imposed on the bodies, will be rewarded “visibly.” This reward is externally manifest, and it is granted already in one’s lifetime. It is also as ephemeral and transient as life in this world is. In contrast with this reward, there is another kind of reward, which is “hidden” and will be granted—in an unforeseeable future—for acts done in the nonvisible sphere, that is, in one’s interiority, between man and God alone. It will be given only in the undisclosed hour of one’s death; the nature of this reward—what exactly will be granted—is enigmatically not disclosed by Baḥya. Indeed, Baḥya remains reticent regarding the final recompense awaiting one who fulfilled the duties of the heart—in other words, regarding the highest reward, which expresses the superiority of the “inner” over the “manifest”—a choice that demands explanation and will be discussed later in this study.

A final dimension in which the distinction between the “inner” and the “manifest” is reflected in Baḥya’s Duties is his attitude toward Scripture and its proper mode of interpretation, or in other words, the work’s hermeneutical theory. Just as it is, according to Baḥya, with the manifold other dimensions of Being, so too Scripture, in his view, does not consist solely of the manifest meaning that can be superficially attained. The senses of Scripture include both ẓāhir and bāṭin. Just as Scripture reveals and speaks explicitly, it also conceals “signs” and speaks clandestinely. This mode of conveying meaning is not intended for the general public, and will not be exposed by the people of the “outer” sphere or by those who are led by the needs and passions of their bodies. It is a dimension of Scripture open to those who seek the path of the “inner,” whose intellect is qualified for the task, who know how to reign over their passions, and who estrange themselves from the pleasures of this world in pursuit of complete obedience and worship of God, which will lead them to divine proximity and to the World to Come. What are the contents of the hidden depths of Scripture and of the Jewish tradition, which according to Baḥya, had been neglected to such an extent that by his time were almost completely forgotten? In Baḥya’s view, the inner layer of Scripture consists of none other than the teachings of the proper mode of divine worship and the proper mode of human conduct, namely, the teachings of the duties of the heart that he elaborates in his own work.

Acknowledging the apparatus of fundamental distinctions and essential homology employed by Baḥya also sets the ground for a reassessment and new answer to a question that had been addressed in previous studies of Baḥya, namely: To what extent can mystical elements be found in the Duties of the Hearts? Attempts to properly answer this question have followed one of two problematic tracks, both of which have made a resolution difficult: on the one hand, attempts to derive Baḥya’s mystical “model” from the various configurations and specific emphases of Neoplatonic mysticism or models of Christian mysticism; and on the other, a rejection of the presence of any mystical element in the Duties of the Hearts because of the disparity between Baḥya’s approach and that of some of the radical mystics associated with early Sufism.10 As I will argue, the term “mysticism” may indeed apply to Baḥya’s teachings, but differently from what has thus far been suggested by scholars, and in two distinct senses, which at this stage can only be presented in very preliminary form. One sense in which mysticism is present in Duties of the Hearts has to do with Baḥya’s incessant interest in and meticulous discussion of a hidden dimension of Being, which grounds and conditions the visible aspects of reality and is more precious than they are. Granted, for Baḥya, the focus of the study of this hidden dimension lies in human interiority, and the main areas in which it is developed are the inner workings of the intellect, heart, and soul and the theory of internal commandments—and not in a theosophic, cosmologic, or cosmogenic study, as in other works of mysticism in both Judaism and Islam;11 still, Baḥya insists on conceptualizing human interiority in terms of a hidden dimension. And in principle, Baḥya’s highlighting the relations between the inner and the external in all aspects of Being—even when it is not developed into a full-fledged and elaborately detailed view of the cosmos—and his introduction of the notion of an inner layer of scriptural meaning—even when it is not realized in the writing of a systematic work of biblical exegesis—both bring his work closer to the realm of mysticism. Another sense in which the term “mysticism” may be applied to Baḥya’s work is his elaborate theory of coming near to God, that is, of the interrelations between man and the most hidden of all hidden things. Here, Baḥya argues for the possibility of an ever-growing nearness to God, which is based on a process of increasing discovery of the duties incumbent upon the heart and an intensification in the realization of these duties. An analysis of this idea, and the technical terms Baḥya uses to discuss it, allows us to acknowledge a specific mystical model of proximity to God—that is closely related to and an outcome of Baḥya’s notion of “commandment”—and the correlation between this model and an Islamic mystical discourse that has yet to be considered and studied.

The main task I set myself in this study, then, is to explore a set of principles—first and foremost, Baḥya’s notion of “commandment” and its analysis in light of the various aspects of the distinction between “inner” and “external”—that together grant the Duties of the Hearts its grounding as a system of thought, provide the framework for the manifold arguments and rhetorical gestures presented in the work, and unite its various “gates” into a coherent whole. Thus, this study addresses only a limited number of foci, but I hope that exploring these will elucidate the foundations of Baḥya’s work. In this sense, this study is not a comprehensive introduction to the Duties of the Hearts, nor a study that progresses according to Baḥya’s own ordering of the different “gates” of his work. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, a study of this kind has already been written, if in French, more than seventy years ago, by Georges Vajda. Vajda’s work continues to be an illuminating introduction and a rich study that captures the multifarity of the Duties of the Hearts, even if it requires some updating, as Vajda himself had noted.12 But this is not the only reason. The other is that Baḥya’s work, for reasons that are not yet—and may never be—entirely clarified, is only apparently arranged systematically.13 It appears to progress from gate to gate, that is, from one religious category to the next, according to some internal logic, and the work’s thematics and basic terms and distinctions seem to be expressed by and reflected in the names and titles that Baḥya gave to its ten gates.14 However, a careful study of the work reveals that this is not so: the scope, character, and focus of each gate do not necessarily cohere with its title, and in some cases, the gates are only loosely interconnected. In my opinion, Baḥya’s work can be described much more accurately in one of the following two ways, though it is difficult to determine which one is more fitting. One way is to see the work as comprising ten discrete gates (though it may be that the first gate, dedicated to the purification of God’s unity, is exceptional in this regard) that develop different thematic variations on the basis of a system of more fundamental distinctions that cuts across all the book’s gates—and that grounds the very discourse on commandments imposed on the heart. This system of distinctions, even if partially mentioned in the introduction to the work, is not sufficiently elaborated upon and elucidated there. Thus, according to this option, beyond the categories that give the gates their titles, for example, “contemplation,” “humility,” “repentance,” and others, there lies a more basic network of categories that includes Baḥya’s notion of the relations between the inner and external, the character of the commandments, the role of the intellect and the interrelations between God and man. It is this more fundamental network that ties the different gates together, and only by attending to it can Baḥya’s thought be properly elucidated. The second way to describe the book is to see it as unevenly structured. According to this option, the book’s ten gates are not, on the one hand, equivalent in their importance or their orientation, but on the other hand, they also do not show a gradual progression from one gate to the next, climaxing in the tenth gate of true love of God that concludes the book, even though Baḥya himself seems at some point to hint at the validity of such a reading.15 Instead, it appears that Baḥya has different aims for different gates: in some, most especially in the gate of contemplation (2), the gate of the obligation to adhere to obedience of God (3), and possibly also in the gate of purification of God’s unity (1), he lays the groundwork for his system; in others, he develops religious categories that are based upon the foundations of the former gates; and in still others, especially the gate of self-accounting (8) and maybe also in the gate of true love of God (10), he offers a kind of overall summary of his religious outlook.16 In any case, it seems that studying the work by adhering closely to the order set by Baḥya and attempting to consider each gate as a self-standing unit, or alternatively reading the whole of the work as a ten-stationed path to the summit of religious experience, are strategies that risk missing the core of the Duties of the Hearts.

In line with this understanding, the present study does not treat each of the work’s gates equally. Instead, after first identifying and offering a preliminary description of a network of categories and a complex of distinctions that I see as fundamental to the Duties of the Hearts, I try to locate the sections and passages in which these elements are most substantially elaborated upon in the Duties of the Hearts, offer an analysis of these sections, and consider how Baḥya fashions them, both rhetorically and argumentatively. A study of this kind is bound to fail to give proper attention to some aspects, religious categories, themes, and additional areas of interest that deserve careful and extensive consideration. So, for instance, Baḥya’s notion of contemplation (iʿtibār) is explored in this study only inasmuch as it contributes to an understanding of the consequences of contemplation for the concept of miṣvah; whereas a full account of the notion of iʿtibār requires a far wider consideration of the important role of this category in Muslim writings in al-Andalus, paying attention to points of convergence and of difference between the variety of approaches to this concept.17 In the same vein, a more comprehensive understanding of Baḥya’s hermeneutical approach demands not only an introduction of the exegetical principles presented by Baḥya and their coherence with the tenets of his religious approach, but also a consideration of the prevalent exegetical trends in al-Andalus in his time, on the one hand, and of the challenge posed by the notion of multilayered exegesis that was present in both Muslim and Jewish contexts, on the other. Another major task that has yet to be entirely realized—and that will hopefully be accomplished in a study that is now in progress by Ehud Krinis—is a full account of the notion of “asceticism” (zuhd) in Baḥya, which can shed light on various other aspects of the work as well as on its interrelations with earlier and contemporaneous Muslim sources.18 It is to be hoped that such studies will take into account Baḥya’s Jewish sources and the relevant scholarly literature, and no less seriously, the Muslim sources and the vast scholarly output in this field, including the many sources that were previously unavailable to scholars who studied the Duties of the Hearts.

Another important aspect that is only scantly addressed in this study is the wide corpus of literature—translations of the Duties of the Hearts, commentaries on it, and a variety of texts in which parts of the book were integrated—that together form the reception history of Baḥya’s work, and that attest to the different meanings that were ascribed to the work in medieval times and beyond. Indeed, the exploration of this field—even the initial stage of mapping the various sources—has barely begun.19 To some extent, we are still in too early a stage in the study of the book itself to be able to properly initiate a study of the history of its reception, however crucial such a study is. Until we get a better understanding of Baḥya’s work itself, on its own unique terms—which, of course, can only be clarified by exploring the different contexts with which the work was engaged—it will be difficult to gauge the different modes in which it was interpreted by those readers who took part in its reception and to identify the various layers of meaning it accrued throughout the ages.

An effort at such an understanding of the Duties of the Hearts is made in this study. I hope it will reveal new facets in the daring religious outlook of its medieval subject and in Baḥya’s attempt to forge a new path, even though this path was not the one taken by Jewish culture before his time or after. It will also shed light on the complexity of the interrelations between his work and three contexts with which he engaged: the preceding Jewish bodies of literature, both Rabbanite—to which Baḥya explicitly expressed his normative commitment, even when he sought to significantly reform its normative patterns, and Karaite—to which Baḥya only rarely refers, even though the challenges posed by this literature, and possibly some of its sources, are still present in his work; and Muslim thought in some of its stripes, most especially the branch that includes early Muslim mysticism. We will discover that even as Baḥya drew from this Muslim tradition some of its terms, emphases, and sensitivities regarding religious life, and although he, too, was caught up in some of its internal tensions and contradictions, he did so while effectively diverting all of these elements to his own ends, applying them to the canonical sources of Judaism and integrating them into a coherent framework of thought of his own making that was designed to intervene in one of the core issues of Jewish life.


1. On Saragossa as Baḥya’s native homeland see Ramos Gil, “La Patria.” To Ramos-Gil’s finding, which is based on MS Biblioteca Nacional de España 5455, we can now add a Geniza fragment in Judeo-Arabic of the opening page of the work, T-S K6.175, in which it is written: “Our Rabbi Baḥya the judge [dayan] . . . from the city of Saraqusṭa in al-Andalus,” which has yet to be discussed in scholarship as far as I know. This document can be assessed, with some caution, as written in Fustat in the thirteenth century. I am grateful to Judith Olszowy-Schlanger and Ben Outhwaite for their assistance in dating and locating the origins of this fragment. On dating the life and work of Baḥya, see Kokowzow, “The Date of the Life of Baḥya”; Kokowzow’s position has generally been accepted. See Baneth, “Common Teleological Source,” 24; Goldziher, “Review of A. S. Yahuda”; Ramos Gil, “Algunos aspectos,” 131; Vajda, La Théologie ascétique, 8, stating that Baḥya’s work should most probably not be dated before 1080; but see also a challenge to Kokowzow’s dating in Lobel, Sufi-Jewish Dialogue, 246–47n4.

2. On the proper pronunciation of Baḥya’s name see Steinschneider, Hebrew Translations, §214, p. 74.

3. It may be that the Hebrew title of the work, Torat ḥovot ha-levavot, an abridged translation of the Arabic title of the work, was coined by its translator, Judah ibn Tibbon. In his introduction to the translation, Ibn Tibbon refers to the title in the following words: “For one of the sages of Sefarad, our Rabbi Baḥya ibn Paqūda of blessed memory, has a work of Torat ḥovot ha-levavot,” Duties of the Hearts (Ibn Tibbon), 57. I did not find any indication that Baḥya translated either the work’s title or any other occurrence of the Arabic compound farāʼiḍ al-qulūb with the Hebrew compound ḥovot ha-levavot. Moreover, in the remaining fragment of Joseph Qimḥi’s translation (Gate of Repentance, chapter 9) it is evident that farāʼiḍ al-qulūb is translated as ḥovot ha-lev, and is contrasted with ḥovot ha-guf. Qimḥi probably uses here the talmudic term ḥovat ha-guf (e.g., bYevamot 6b; bQiddushin 37), even though the term has different sense in its talmudic usage; see also Saʿadya Gaon’s rhymed list of the 613 commandments: “Thou shall fear your Lord,” in Saʿadya Gaon, Kitāb jāmiʿ al-ṣalawāt wal-tasābīḥ, 169 l. 130, and compare with miṣvot ha-guf, ibid., 160 l. 42. Qimḥi’s fragment, kept in MS Leipzig Uni. B.H. duod. 39 (the compound ḥovot ha-lev in folio 3a), was reprinted in the introduction to Adolf Jellinek’s introduction to his edition of Duties of the Hearts; see specifically ibid., 24 (Jellinek). For the original Judeo-Arabic see al-Hidāya, 322. The compound Kitāb al-hidāya also served as the title of a work by Samuel b. Ḥofni that deals with Muʿtazilite-style taklīf, centring on the relationship between God as a law-giver and humanity as those who are required to obey to the law; on this work see Sklare, Samuel ben Ḥofni, 25, 63; Ben-Shammai, Leader’s Project, 61; for the remaining fragments of the work brought by Sklare see Samuel b. Ḥofni, Kitāb al-hidāya; on the difficulty distinguishing in medieval booklists between Samuel b. Ḥofni’s Kitāb al-hidāya and Baḥya’s work see Sklare, ibid., 26n111.

4. On the integration of commentaries in print editions of the Duties of the Hearts see Gries, “Tradition and Change,” 25–26.

5. On the many fragments of the Duties of the Hearts in the different Geniza collections, see Ben-Shammai, “Medieval History and Religious Thought,” 145; Stroumsa, “Between ‘Canon’ and Library,” 32. On the Duties of the Hearts in the second Firkovitch collection see Fenton, Handlist of Judeo-Arabic Manuscripts, 150.

6. On the various Hebrew editions of the Duties of the Hearts see Haberman, “Towards the Investigation”; on translations of the work see Steinschneider, Hebrew Translations, §214, pp. 81–82, and see also the editor’s notes, ibid.

7. See Kaufmann, Die Theologie, 4n3l; see below chapter 1, pp. 40–43.

8. See Safran, “Bahya ibn Paquda’s Attitude”; however, see the important critique in Goldreich, “Possible Arabic Sources,” 185n22, 199n95. Although it is highly probable that Baḥya’s condemnation of sensual pleasures indeed derives from earlier sources, an issue that casts some doubt on Safran’s argument regarding Baḥya’s critique of the courtier class of his times, it does not provide sufficient evidence to reject it.

9. On the courtier culture of al-Andalus in Baḥya’s times see Robinson, In Praise of Song; on the role of Jews in courtly life see García-Arenal, “Jews of al-Andalus”; Scheindlin, “Merchants and Intellectuals”; Wasserstein, “Muslims and the Golden Age”; idem, “Jewish Elites.”

10. See Vajda, La Théologie ascétique, 140–45, esp. 141–42; Ramos Gil, “Algunos aspectos,” 148–50, 174–80; Lobel, Sufi-Jewish Dialogue, 21, 31–32; Dan, “Spiritual Ascent and Mysticism,” 296–310, esp. 303, 313; Afterman, Devequt, 62–72.

11. On this distinction in relation to the study of Islam, see Ebstein, Mysticism and Philosophy, 3–4, 231–34.

12. See Vajda, La Théologie ascétique. On the necessity of updating this work see Fenton, Treatise of the Pool, 54n4; Goldreich, “Possible Arabic Sources,” 187n33; and another indication in Vajda, Review of van Ess, 209.

13. In general, although a statement by Baḥya in the Gate of True Love seems to attest to the principle of gradual progress, the author does not indicate such a principle in the opening passages of any of the other gates. Moreover, Baḥya’s presentation of the ten gates in the general introduction to his work does not refer to gradual order even when it does propose other types of links between the different gates (see Duties of the Hearts, 103–5; al-Hidāya, 36–38).

14. See such explicit argument in Schweid, “Path of Repentance,” 25 (“The content of all previous gates is present once again in each gate, and in a more profound and thorough manner. This is indeed the essence of progressing to the goal.”)

15. In the opening passage of the Gate of True Love, Baḥya asserts: “For the love of God is the highest stage and the supreme rank for those who obey God.” Duties of the Hearts, 314; al-Hidāya, 409.

16. Clearly, Baḥya considered the Gate of Self-Accounting, and especially its third chapter, as a concise version of the whole work. In any case, the specific literary traits of this chapter are unique when compared with any of the work’s other chapters. It is not only exceptionally long, but it is also distinctive in the way its subject unfolds in thirty discrete subsections, compared with other chapters that mostly do not exceed ten subsections, a number that the author was fond of. Moreover, Baḥya himself argues that in the thirty modes of self-accounting “human obligations towards God will be clarified in their entirety” (Duties of the Hearts, 356, trans. altered; al-Hidāya, 333, my italicization). On the term lawāzim as paralleling farāʼiḍ, see Baḥya’s phrasing in his introduction, “roots of the duties of the hearts and the obligations of the interior (farāʼiḍ al-qulūb wa-lawāzim al-ḍamāʾir),” Duties of the Hearts, 100, trans. altered; al-Hidāya, 32. For an evident case of the use of lawāzim in the sense of commandments, see “the duties of circumcision” (lawāzim al-mila), Duties of the Hearts, 206; al-Hidāya, 166.

17. See Fenton, Treatise of the Pool, 54n4; Goldreich, “Possible Arabic Sources,” 187n33; and an indication toward this in Vajda, Review of van Ess, 209.

18. See Vajda, La Théologie ascétique, 118–23; Lazaroff, “Baḥyā’s Asceticism”; Kreisel, “Asceticism in the Thought”; Ilan, “al-Iʿtidāl Al-Sharīʿi”; Krinis, Stranger in This World; I am grateful to Ehud Krinis for sending me a preliminary copy of the outline of his manuscript, as well as an early version of one of its chapters.

19. Few exceptions to this can be found in Gries’s discussion of the modes of canonizing the Duties of the Hearts in the age of print, and see note 4 above; Mirsky, From Duties of the Heart; pace Tobi, Review of Mirsky; Ilan, “Beginning of Wisdom”; Ta-Shma, “A Summary.”