Wine and Poetry by Hillel Halkin

Hillel Halkin, "Wine and Poetry: The Young Yehuda Halevi," Sephardic Horizons, vol. 3, issue 1, Winter/Spring 2013.    

Hillel Halkin, one of the leading contemporary writers on Jewish poetry and the biographer of Halevi, discusses Halevi’s youthful poetry in this article in Sephardic Horizons.


“It happened in Andalusia, in the Muslim-ruled south of Spain. We can’t say exactly where. It could have been in Cordoba, or in Granada, or in Seville, or in any of the other towns that the young man passed through and lived in after leaving the Christian north as an adolescent. We can’t say exactly when it happened, either. Since the young man was born sometime between 1070 and 1075, we know only that it was toward the end of the eleventh century. This was a time—a thousand years after the destruction of the Second Temple, eight hundred years after the redaction of the Mishnah, and five hundred years after the compilation of the Babylonian Talmud—in which 90 percent of the world’s Jews lived in a Muslim expanse that stretched from the Atlantic coasts of Spain and Morocco to the Indian subcontinent, and from Yemen to the Aral Sea. Andalusia was in the far northwestern corner of this vast territory, pressing against and pressed back on by Christian Europe. It had been a part of the Islamic realm ever since Arab and Berber warriors from North Africa stormed the Straits of Gibraltar in 711 and conquered most of Spain.”

Sephardic Horizons