Samuel ha-Nagid

(993-1056 / Spain)

Biography of Samuel ha-Nagid

Samuel ibn Naghrela , also known as Samuel HaNagid , (born 993 - died after 1056), was a Talmudic scholar, grammarian, philologist, poet, warrior, and statesman, who lived in Iberia at the time of the Moorish rule.

Born in Mérida, his main poetic works include "Ben Tehillim" (Son of Psalms), "Ben Qoheleth" (Son of Ecclesiastes), and "Ben Mishlei" (Son of Proverbs), each of which imitates the "father work". His choice of poetic themes reflected his myriad occupations and personal world-view, including poems describing the battlefield using the analogy of a game of chess, poems speaking of the great beauty of nature, of which there are numerous, etc. His power in word choice of poetic portrayal of nature rivals that of the other great Jewish poets, namely ibn Saruk. He founded the Yeshiva that produced such brilliant scholars as R' Yitzhaq ibn Ghiath and R' Maimon ben Yosef (father of Maimonides). The "Introduction to the Talmud" is erroneously attributed to Shmuel.

He fled Córdoba when the Berbers took the city in 1013. For a while he ran a spice shop in Málaga, but eventually he moved to Granada, where he was first tax collector, then a secretary, and finally an assistant vizier to the Berber king Habbus al-Muzaffar.

When Habbus died in 1038, Samuel HaNagid made sure that his son Badis succeeded him. In return, Badis made Hanagid his vizier and top general, two posts which he held for the next seventeen years.

HaNagid's son Joseph ibn Naghrela inherited those jobs. Some Muslims accused Joseph of using his office to benefit Jewish friends, assassinated him, and launched a massacre of Granada's Jews the next day (December 31, 1066).

Kfar HaNagid, a moshav in modern Israel was named after him.

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An Invitation

My friend, tell me,
When shall I pour you my wine?
The cry of the cock woke me,
And sleep has deserted my eyes.
Come out and see the morning light
Like a scarlet thread in the East.
Make haste, give me a cup,
Before the dawn starts to rise,
Of spiced pomegranate juice

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