Instructor: Alan Verskin, Professor of Islamic & Jewish History at the University of Rhode Island
Spain was both the birthplace of the father of Jewish rationalism, Moses Maimonides, and the father of Jewish mysticism, Moses de León, the author of The Zohar. It was in Spain that Jewish secular poetry about frivolity, love, and natural beauty began and flowered, yet it was also in Spain that the quintessential work of Jewish asceticism, "The Duties of the Heart" by Bahya Ibn Paquda, was written. So powerful was the creative energy of Spain that even the banning of Judaism in the country in 1492 could not efface Spanish Jewish (Sephardic) identity that persevered in Jewish communities across the Middle East and in the New World. In this class, we will discuss some of the core Jewish texts of Spain and explore their resonance among Sephardim and among Jews the world over.