Medieval Literature

The first decades of the Historical Dictionary Project were primarily devoted to collection and analysis of ancient and Haskalah literature, leaving a seven-century gap, from the eleventh to the eighteenth centuries. The time has come to fill this lacuna. But, because of the wide geographical distribution of Jewish cultural centers during this period, and the scope and variety of its most significant literature, only a portion of the extant medieval compositions will be analyzed for the database.


In 2009 the HDP undertook compilation of the sourcebook for selected 11th- to 16th-century rabbinical works, the most widespread genre of the age in Hebrew writing, whose influence on future generations was decisive. The chosen sources encompass halakhic, exegetical, and homiletical works from different traditions and periods. Additional literary genres will be analyzed in the future, first and foremost scientific tracts and Hebrew translations of classical works.


The poetry of the Spanish Jews, both religious and secular, was preserved by the Spanish exiles. Viewed by many in the Jewish and non-Jewish world alike as the acme of Hebrew poetry, it influenced other centers of poetry — Yemen, Italy, and even Ashkenaz. The poetry of the early Spanish poets (such as Dunash ibn Labrat, Menahem ben Saruq, and their disciples) has already been entered into the database. At present, the works of the “Golden Age” in Spain (11th-12th centuries), including works by the three outstanding poets of the day — Samuel ha-Nagid, Solomon ibn Gabirol, and Judah Halevi — are being processed.

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