12 Feb 2014

Kuzari – The “Kuzari: In Defense of the Despised Faith,” the magnum opus of Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi (1075-1141), completed in 1140, is a profound and comprehensive guide to Jewish thought, written in the form of a philosophical, historical novel. It is based on the historical event of the conversion to Judaism of Bulan, King of the Khazars, and the majority of his People. The story is told that the monarch had been having the recurring dream of being told by an angel that the Creator approves of his intentions, but not of his deeds.

To attempt to find the truth, the King summons a Greek philosopher, a Christian priest, an Islamic mullah, and a rabbi. The philosopher speaks first, then the representatives of the two daughter religions of Judaism. The King quickly exposes flaws in their world-views and turns to the rabbi, without expecting to hear much from that source. But the latter engages the King in persuasive arguments, and the resulting work is called by the Vilna Gaon “holy and pure, and the fundamentals of Israel’s faith and the Torah are contained within it.”

The work is divided into five parts, in which the rabbi explains and responds to the King’s questions concerning Jewish thought, of which the following is not even a smattering of a Table of Contents:

The “Kuzari” is a classic work of Jewish philosophy, and has occupied the hearts and the minds of Jews in all the generations since its appearance.