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The Meditation of the Sad Soul

 R. Abraham bar Hiya Hanasi

Manuscript. Ca. 1400. Ashkenazi semi-cursive script. 32 fols. 190x130mm.

The Meditation of the Sad Soul, by Abraham bar Hiya Hanasi, is a work of moral philosophy in the neo-Platonic vein. This manuscript features addenda between the third and fourth pages. These include Maimonides' three responses to Ovadya HaGer; a fourth response probably to Ovadya HaGer, which is a citation of several Hilchot Gedolot and a selection of excerpts from the Rabbinic literature; section 13 from Judah Alharizi's "Tahkemoni"; and a text relating a story about 80 witches in Ashkelon in the days of Simon ben Shetach. The manuscript was kept for some time in the library of the Livorno Talmud Torah, and was listed on its inventory of manuscripts in 1915.

Abraham bar Hiya was a 12th-century mathematician, astronomer and philosopher. Probably born in Spain, he lived in Barcelona and later in Provence. He died ca. 1136. It is believed that he was in Marseilles, ca. 1130. bar Hiyya’s writings cover many fields: science, astrology, geography, mathematics and philosophy. The Meditation of the Sad Soul is Abraham bar Hiya's most notable work. It is a philosophical study of the world and of human nature. Abraham bar Hiya, known to non-Jewish writers as Abraham Judaeus and to Muslims as savasorda (captain of the guards) found a delicate balance between his neo-Platonic philosophical leanings and his loyalty to the main precepts of Judaism. He believed in the preeminence of matter, i.e. pre-creationism, but held that all was the work of an almighty force that governed all matters.


The Meditation of the Sad Soul