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Full Access Saadia’s Seven Guidelines for “Conviviality in Exile” (from His Commentary on Esther)

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Saadia’s Seven Guidelines for “Conviviality in Exile” (from His Commentary on Esther)

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Saadia Gaon (892–942ce) viewed himself not only as a pedagogue and scholar, but also as the chief steward of his people’s religious health and interrelated constitutional ethos—that special scholar who is raised up by God “in every generation … to instruct and teach the people, that by his hand they might succeed in all of their affairs.” This self-perception is especially pronounced in Saadia’s commentary on Esther, which he construes as a specific paradigm of the manner in which Jewish life is to be lived amidst and in interaction with a dominant Gentile population. In his introduction Saadia didactically (and dialectically) unpacks the paradigmatic utility of the book by presenting seven “guidelines” (tadābīr) which are required for the socio-spiritual health of any ethnos (Arab. umma) “when abased beneath the population of the dominant powers”—which steps he subsequently applies to the situation of Israel in the book of Esther and around which, moreover, he organizes that book’s unfolding narrative structure. In the present article we briefly survey these seven “guidelines” and the manner in which they are “unpacked” by Saadia in the body of his commentary, focusing our attention on selected passages that reveal something of the realia—both psychological and practical—attending Jewish-Gentile conviviality, and Saadia’s approach thereto, in a tenth-century Islamicate milieu.

Affiliations: 1: Moody Bible Institute wechslers4@yahoo.com

10.1163/2212943X-20130109
/content/journals/10.1163/2212943x-20130109
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Saadia Gaon (892–942ce) viewed himself not only as a pedagogue and scholar, but also as the chief steward of his people’s religious health and interrelated constitutional ethos—that special scholar who is raised up by God “in every generation … to instruct and teach the people, that by his hand they might succeed in all of their affairs.” This self-perception is especially pronounced in Saadia’s commentary on Esther, which he construes as a specific paradigm of the manner in which Jewish life is to be lived amidst and in interaction with a dominant Gentile population. In his introduction Saadia didactically (and dialectically) unpacks the paradigmatic utility of the book by presenting seven “guidelines” (tadābīr) which are required for the socio-spiritual health of any ethnos (Arab. umma) “when abased beneath the population of the dominant powers”—which steps he subsequently applies to the situation of Israel in the book of Esther and around which, moreover, he organizes that book’s unfolding narrative structure. In the present article we briefly survey these seven “guidelines” and the manner in which they are “unpacked” by Saadia in the body of his commentary, focusing our attention on selected passages that reveal something of the realia—both psychological and practical—attending Jewish-Gentile conviviality, and Saadia’s approach thereto, in a tenth-century Islamicate milieu.

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/content/journals/10.1163/2212943x-20130109
2013-01-01
2016-12-08

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