Shmuel, like his Christian and Muslim counterparts in medieval Spain, believes in God: a deity that currently has Islam, Christianity, and Judaism as followers with different interpretations in the 11th century. Throughout Shmuel’s poetry, he upholds his Jewish faith through spiritual imagery and religious beliefs.
Shmuel’s admiration towards God in his poems establishes the foundation of his Jewish faith. For example, in Shmuel’s “On Fleeing the City” he uses phrases like “By God and God’s faithful—and I keep my oaths,” “and soul will save us,” and “May YAH be with you as you love” in order to demonstrate that when Shmuel left Cordoba he relied on his personal beliefs to guide him through leaving the city as a youth (Selected Poems of Shmuel HaNagid, Page 6). Because Shmuel fled his city during the Berber War, he relied on his faith to get him through the situation as written by “I’ll climb cliffs, and descend to the innermost pit, and sew the edge of the desert to desert … until the word forever makes sense to me,” which evokes a sense of child-like purpose behind his determination as well as allusions to the Jewish Exodus from Egypt (Selected Poems of Shmuel HaNagid, Page 6 & 167). Also, Shmuel describes the unknown in “The Miracle at Sea” by writing that “God restores what He levels, though He keeps His secrets and erases His ways” (Selected Poems of Shmuel HaNagid, Page 7). This expresses how Shmuel justifies the unknown beast “tinyya” that the merchants encounter at sea: “book-like leviathan… then it sank in the dark of the sea, like a soldier that God had thrown in its parting,” and by extension conceptualizes the idea that God intervenes even when he is mysterious with his wishes (Selected Poem...
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...ough the lattice” (Selected Poems of Shmuel HaNagid, Page 152). This suggests that God watches over people in darkness, doing nothing to help them get out of it, which to Shmuel means that God doesn’t treat everything equally. Overall though, this continues to demonstrate Jewish beliefs in a vengeful God that despises sinners like “they who’ve been brought to the shadow of death by dismiss,” so in a way Shmuel is able to justify the treatment of people in darkness because they could be sinners.
Throughout Shmuel’s poems, he expresses his beliefs in Judaism, both personal and religious as he navigates through a world where Muslims, Christians, and Jews live together. Shmuel’s poetry gives insight into how Jews thought of their own faith during this time, and by extension shows how Shmuel thought day by day as the most influential Jewish man in Iberia during the time.
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