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Todros ben Judah HaLevi Abulafia

(1247 - c.1295)


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Todros ben Judah HaLevi Abulafia should not be mixed up with Todros ben JOSEPH HaLevi Abulafia, his first cousin. Ben JUDAH was a poet and a womanizer. Ben JOSEPH was a kabbalist and a rabbi. They knew one another, but their lives were very different.

Todros ben JUDAH was born in Toledo. He got a reputation by writing poetry praising people prominent in the court of Alfonso X of Castile and, later, of Sancho IV. He accompanied Isaac Solomon ibn Zaddok on his diplomatic missions. He gained admission into Alfonso's court, where he was recognized for his financial wizardry. He became quite a womanizer as he composed more than 1,000 poems which scholars today describe as "mediocre, repetitive, and shallow." Since sexual relations with Gentiles was forbidden, Todros BEN JUDAH and his friends got into trouble and, in 1281, they were imprisoned. (At this same time all Jewish tax farmers were imprisoned. The Church planned to force them to convert.)

While in prison, Todros BEN JUDAH he wrote many more poems. His cousin, rabbi Todros ben JOSEPH HaLevi Abulafia, worked hard for his release. He threatened to excommunicate any Jews caught having affairs with Gentile women, but Todros BEN JUDAH apparently ignored him. He succeeded in regaining favor at court and became a leading financial adviser to Sancho IV. His poems show the morally-lax lifestyle of at least some of the wealthy Jews in 13th century Christian Spain.


Sources: Gates to Jewish Heritage

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