Hasdai Ibn Shaprut
(915 - 970)
Hasdai Ibn Shaprut was the first Jewish dignitary
to serve the Arab caliphs.
Born into a wealthy family from Jaen, Hasdai
studied medicine and had a deep love of languages. He was fluent in Hebrew,
Arabic and Latin. In fact, it was his knowledge of Latin that helped launch
his phenomenal career. A diplomatic envoy from Byzantium brought a famous
pharmaceutical text as a gift to the Ummayad Caliph. It was written in Greek,
and a small committee was assigned to translate it into Latin. Hasdai was
responsible for translating the Latin to Arabic. His feat launched his noble
career. He was a patron of Jewish learning, supporting poets and Talmud
scholars alike. He, more than anyone, laid the foundation for the post
biblical Hebrew revival that took place in Cordoba. He kept alive national
Jewish consciousness and reoriented Jewish scholarship from Babylonia, where
it had declined, to Spain, where it flourished for several more centuries.
Writing about Hasdai, a Jewish poet quoted in Graetz's History of the Jews, said;
From off his people's neck he struck the heavy yoke;
To them his soul was given, he drew them to his heart;
The scourge that wounded them, he destroyed,
Drove from them in terror the cruel oppressor.
The Incomparable vouchsafed through him
Crumbs of comfort and salvation.
Sources: This material was originally published in Sparks! -
an e-zine for Jewish families located on the Internet at http://www.sparksmag.com