Israel Ben Moses Najara - Encyclopedia

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ISRAEL BEN MOSES NAJARA, Hebrew poet, was born in Damascus and wrote in the latter part of the 16th century (1587-1599). He was inspired by the mystical school, and his poems are marked by their bold, sensuous images, as well as by a depth of feeling unequalled among the Jewish writers of his age. He often adapted his verses to Arabic and Turkish melodies. To tunes which had been associated with light and even ribald themes, Najara wedded words which reveal an intensity of religious emotion which often takes a form indistinguishable from love poetry. Some pietist contemporaries condemned his work for this reason; but this did not prevent many of his poems from attaining wide popularity and from winning their way into the prayer-book. In fact, Najara could claim the authority of the Biblical "Song of Songs" (mystically interpreted) for his combination of the language of human love with the expression of the relationship between God and humanity.

He published during his lifetime a collection of his poems, Songs of Israel (Zemiroth Israel), in Safed in 1587; an enlarged edition appeared in Venice (1599-1600). Others of his poems were published at various times, and W. Bacher has described some previously unknown poems of Najara (Revue des etudes juives, Nos. 116 seq.).

(I. A.)

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