Jewish Piety in Islamic Jerusalem by Jessica Andruss

Jewish Piety in Islamic Jerusalem by Jessica Andruss

The Lamentations Commentary of Salmon ben Yeruhim

The emergence of the Jewish Bible commentary in the tenth century marks a turning point in Jewish intellectual history, namely, the transition from ancient rabbinic culture to the Arabized Judaism of the medieval period. This book explores a formative moment in this cultural reorientation by analyzing one of the earliest Jewish Bible commentaries. Written in Arabic in tenth-century Jerusalem, Salmon ben Yeruhim’s commentary on Lamentations reveals a nuanced negotiation between the rabbinic tradition and the intellectual resources of the Islamic world.

Salmon was a prominent figure among the Karaites, a Jewish movement defined by its commitments to biblical scholarship and penitential practices. For him, Lamentations is “instruction for Israel”–spiritual guidance for the Jewish community in exile–and his task is to communicate that instruction. Jewish Piety in Islamic Jerusalem explores the medieval Arabic dimensions of Salmon’s project, tracing his engagement with the nascent fields of Arabic literary theory, historiography, and homiletics. The central argument of the book is that Salmon articulates a Jewish pietistic message through emergent Arabic-Islamic genres, transforming them to reflect his own religious and exegetical commitments. In this way, Salmon applies Arabic learning to the Bible at the same time that his understanding of the biblical text expands the Arabic intellectual tradition. The book advances these claims through six analytical chapters and an annotated English translation of the homilies and excursuses of Salmon’s commentary.

Year first published: 2023

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