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David Torollo

Published On


Page Range

pp. 1–18


  • David Torollo (author)
Introduction presents Sefer ha-Pardes in its broad context, argues why it is of interest, and sets out the aims of the monograph.

Chapter 1 focuses on the transmission and reception of Sefer ha-Pardes. It offers a description of the three sixteenth-century manuscripts that contain the work, as well as of the sixteenth-century Constantinople printed edition, and the nineteenth-century reproductions (Ha-Levanon and ʾoṣar ha-sifrut), highlighting the interest that a Provençal work received in Italy and the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century and in Ashkenaz three centuries later. The chapter also explores the work’s structure, and explains the differences in the arrangement of the content in the two textual families that can be identified: (1) the three manuscripts and the Ha-Levanon version, and (2) the Constantinople printed edition and the ʾoṣar ha-sifrut publication.

Chapter 2 deals with the content of the different chapters of Sefer ha-Pardes. In the prologue, the author of Sefer ha-Pardes explains his method: he will write new moral sayings that will be elegant, brief and comprehensible. Then he writes chapters on different topics, such as the service of God, friendship, the deceitfulness of this world, the value of wisdom, medicine, judging, logic, sophism, music, magic, and poetry. But unusually, these epigrams lack practicality or a direct application: it seems that the author is teaching the reader how to feel about the epigrams, rather than how to use them in their daily life.

Chapter 3 situates Sefer ha-Pardes within the intellectual environment and literary tradition of Provence, where compilations of epigrams and meshalim flourished in the thirteenth century. The chapter also sheds light on the transformation of the Provençal Jewry from a Torah-centred community to a hub of philosophical and secular study. Its ultimate goal is to understand the literary work within a cultural sphere in which it is both a product and an agent.

Conclusion opens future lines of research by linking the compilation of Sefer ha-Pardes to the compilatory practices of troubadour lyrics that non-Jewish Provençal authors carried out at the same time and in the same place, illustrating the need to situate Hebrew writing in a non-Hebrew context.


David Torollo