“Toward a New Understanding of Judah Halevi’s Kuzari”

Michael S. Berger, “Toward a New Understanding of Judah Halevi's Kuzari,” Journal of Religion 72 (1992), pp. 210–228.


“Judah Halevi, a noted poet, philosopher, and physician of medieval
Spanish Jewry, continues to be of both scholarly and lay interest. His
poetry, included in the liturgy of severalJewish communities, still inspires
readers in its simplicity and emotional force. His theological masterpiece,
the Kuzari, composed in 1140, possibly shares the distinction (along with
Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed, written roughly fifty years later) of
being the most widely read and influential work in medieval Jewish
thought. Set in the legendary land of the Khazars, the King, on a spiritual
quest, learns aboutJudaism from a Rabbi, and the dialogue between them
constitutes the bulk of the book. In the Kuzari’s literary setting of a dia-
logue, Halevi mounts a defense of Judaism’s practices and beliefs that is
read and studied by many even today. And since the author himself made
a dramatic move to the land of Israel at the end of his life, Halevi speaks to
modern Jews who relate to the reborn state of Israel.”