I finished Uriel Simon’s Four Approaches to the Book of Psalms: From Saadiah Gaon to Abraham Ibn Ezra. Here are some items from today’s reading:
1. On pages 266-267, Simon discusses Abraham Ibn Ezra’s view that the sense of hearing is superior to the sense of sight. Simon then states: “There is impressive support for Abraham Ibn Ezra’s…argument in a saying attributed to Helen Keller, who was blind and deaf, that deafness was the more severe of these two handicaps, because a blind person is cut off from objects, but the deaf person is cut off from society.”
2. I talked yesterday about Abraham Ibn Ezra’s slightly less-than-reverent attitude towards the Prophets and the Writings. Well, on page 276, Simon mentions a statement by Rabbi Abba Shaul that was in The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan 1, 5: “Originally, it is said, Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes were suppressed; for since they were held to be mere parables and not part of the Holy Writings [the religious authorities] arose and suppressed them; [and so they remained] until the men of Hezekiah came and interpreted them.” This is different from Ibn Ezra’s view that the Prophets and the Writings often are not useful reading for Jews, who should be more preoccupied with the Torah. But Abba Shaul does appear to cast a shadow on some of the Writings.
3. On page 278, Simon talks about Ibn Ezra’s view on levels of prophecy. Ibn Ezra believed that “the levels of prophecy depend on the varying capacities of the prophets to absorb, and…this capacity diminished over the generations.” Before the exile, prophecies were clear, as when the reign of Josiah was predicted in I Kings 13:2. This was because God’s glory dwelt with Israel. In the exile, and even more so in the post-exilic period, by contrast, angels interpreted prophecies, which were not clear on their own. And angels did not even interpret parts of Daniel’s prophecies, and so their meaning will be unclear before the time of their fulfillment.