The Info List - Dunash Ben Labrat

--- Advertisement ---

Dunash ha-Levi ben Labrat (920-990) (Hebrew: דוֹנָש הלוי בֵּן לָבְרָט‬; Arabic: دناش بن لبراط‎) was a medieval Jewish commentator, poet, and grammarian of the Golden age of Jewish culture in Spain. He was, according to Moses ibn Ezra, born in Fes.[1] the name Dunash being of Berber origin. In his youth he travelled to Baghdad
to study with Saadia Gaon.[2] Dunash is called the founder of Andalusian Hebrew poetry.[3] He first introduced Arabic meter into Hebrew poetry. Traditional Arabic poetry was built on interspersing long and short vowels. In contrast, Hebrew distinguishes between the quality of the vowels, rather than their length. Dunash's innovation came in drawing a parallel between the šəwâ (ə) and ḥāṭēp̄ (ĕ/ă/ŏ) and the Arabic short vowels (i/a/u), so as to create a new Hebrew meter. This meter formed the basis for all subsequent medieval Hebrew poetry. At the time, however, it opened him up to severe criticism, particularly among the students of Menahem ben Saruq, that he was corrupting the Hebrew language
Hebrew language
by introducing Arabic forms, and changing traditional Biblical styles to conform to Arabic meter and rhyming schemes. For instance, in his classic poem D'ror Yikra, he begins the second line: Ne'im shim'chem ("pleasant [is] your name"), with a modifying form of the adjective "pleasant," where properly it should be na'im. In the field of grammar, Dunash's major work was a book attacking Menahem ben Saruq and his Mahberet ("Notebook") for violating religious standards and opposing the teachings of the sages. He dedicated his work to the leader of the Jews of Spain at the time, Hasdai ibn Shaprut. In his book, he was the first Hebrew grammarian to distinguish between transitive and intransitive verbs, the first to list verbs by their three-letter roots in the Paal construction, and the first to distinguish between "light" and "heavy" roots. He also condemned Menahem ben Saruq for failing to see the relationship between Hebrew and Arabic. Dunash also wrote a book containing two hundred reservations about the teachings of his old mentor, Saadia Gaon. The students of Menahem ben Saruq responded with a scathing attack on Dunash, condemning him for using Arabic meter and grammar in studying the Hebrew language, as well as on issues of Jewish philosophy
Jewish philosophy
about which they were at odds. Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra
Abraham Ibn Ezra
also wrote a response to Dunash's work, in defense of Saadia Gaon. These challenges were met by Yehudi ben Sheshet, one of Dunash's students, who wrote a work in defense of his master that strongly opposed all of his detractors. The debates between Dunash and others were finally decided in the centuries after his death by Rabbeinu Tam, a grandson of Rashi, who attempted to judge between the two schools of thought, and by Rabbi Joseph Kimhi, father of the noted grammarian Rabbi David Kimhi (RaDaK), who supported Dunash's positions. Nevertheless, many of the issues raised by Dunash have yet to be resolved today. Dunash is remembered as a poet and a grammarian who uncovered many of the major problems of Hebrew grammar. Poetry of Dunash's wife[edit] Though her name is unknown, Dunash's wife is held to be the author of a poem on the subject of Dunash's exile. This makes it the only known medieval Hebrew verse by a woman (and the only known medieval verse by a Jewish woman in Andalusia apart from those of Qasmuna and, if she was Jewish, Sarah of Yemen).[4] As translated by Peter Cole, it reads:

Will her love remember his graceful doe,

her only son in her arms as he parted?

On her left hand he placed a ring from his right,

on his wrist she placed her bracelet.

As a keepsake she took his mantle from him,

and he in turn took hers from her.

Would he settle, now, in the land of Spain,

if its prince gave him half his kingdom?[5]

The poem was discovered only in the 1980s, among Genizah
fragments, and first edited by Ezra Fleischer.[6] It is thought that Dunash's wife composed it shortly after his departure, around 950.[7] References[edit]

^ David Goldstein, Hebrew Poems from Spain, Routledge & Kegan Paul 1965, p. 13 ^ David Cole, The dream of the poem: Hebrew poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492, Princeton University Press, 2007, p. 23 ^ D.G. Blaunder, "The Early Literary Riddle", in: Folklore, Vol. 78, No. 1 (Spring, 1967), pp. 49-58 ^ The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492, ed. and trans. by Peter Cole (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007), p. 27. ^ The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492, ed. and trans. by Peter Cole (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007), p. 27. ^ E. Fleischer, 'ʿAl Dunash Ben Labrat veIshto uVeno', Mehqerei Yerushalayim be-Sifrut Ivrit, 5 (1984), 196. ^ Emily Taitz, Sondra Henry, and Cheryl Tallan, 'Wife of Dunash Ben Labrat of Spain, Hebrew Poet (10th century)', in The JPS Guide to Jewish Women: 600 B.C.E. to 1900 C.E. (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 2003), pp. 58-59 (p. 59).

Further reading[edit]

Cole, Peter. The dream of the poem: Hebrew poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492, Princeton University Press, 2007, p. 23-27 ("Dunash Ben Labrat" and "The wife of Dunash"). Eisenberg, Ronald (2006). Lash Balint, Judy; Barak, Daniella, eds. The Streets of Jerusalem. Devora Publishing Company. p. 56. ISBN 1-932687-54-8.  Kolatch, Yonatan (2006). "Chapter 6: The Spanish Linguists". Masters of the Word: Traditional Jewish Bible Commentary from the First through Tenth Centuries. Jersey City: KTAV Publishing House. pp. 331–337. ISBN 0-88125-936-5.  Maman, Aaron. Comparative Semitic philology in the Middle Ages, Brill, 2004, p. 289-295 (Chapter 11, "Dunash ben Labrat").

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 61947743 LCCN: nr88006878 ISNI: 0000 0000 6668 0943 GND: 1057550434 SELIBR: 50105 SUDOC: 121296741 BNF: cb12200732b (da