Profiat Duran

Profiat Duran (c. 1350 – c. 1415) (Hebrew: פרופייט דוראן), also known as Efodi (האפודי); also known as Isaac ben Moses ha-Levi; was a philosopher, grammarian, and controversialist in the 14th century. It is not known whether he was born at Perpignan, where he lived for some years, or in a town of Catalonia. In his youth he attended a Talmudic school in Germany for a short time, but instead of confining his studies to the Talmud, he took up philosophy and other sciences also, in spite of the interdiction of his teachers. Duran became a tutor in the Crescas family, and during the bloody persecution of 1391 was forced to become an ostensible convert to Christianity.

Be Not Like Thy Fathers

In order to return to Judaism, he and his friend David Bonet Bongoron agreed to emigrate to Palestine. Duran set out on his journey, but instead of meeting his expected friend, he received a letter from him stating that in consequence of the persuasions of the neophyte Paul de Burgos he had decided to remain true to the new faith, and exhorting Duran to follow his example. Duran's answer was the famous satiric epistle called, after the repeatedly recurring phrase, Al Tehi Ka-Aboteka (Be Not Like Thy Fathers). It was written about 1396, and was circulated by Don Meïr Alguades, to whom it had been sent. It is so ingeniously ambiguous that the Christians, who called it Alteca Boteca, interpreted it in their favor; but, as soon as they recognized its satirical import they burned it publicly. This epistle, with a commentary by Joseph ibn Shem-Tov and an introduction by Isaac Akrish, was first printed at Constantinople in 1554, and was republished in A. Geiger's Melo Chofnajim, 1840, in the collection Ḳobeẓ Wikkuḥim, 1844, and in P. Heilpern's Eben Boḥan, part 2, 1846. Geiger also translated most of it into German (Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift, iv. 451).

Connected with this epistle is the polemic Kelimmat ha-Goyim (still in manuscript as of 1906), a criticism of Christian dogmas written in 1397 at the request of Don Hasdai Crescas, to whom it was dedicated.

Other Works

In 1395 Duran compiled an almanac in twenty-nine sections entitled Ḥesheb ha-Efod, and dedicated to Moses Zarzal, physician to Henry III., King of Castile. That Duran was familiar with the philosophy of Aristotle as interpreted by the Arabian philosophers, is apparent from his synoptic commentary on Maimonides' Moreh Nebukim, which was published at Sabbionetta in 1553, at Jessnitz in 1742, and at Zolkiev in 1860.

Duran's chief work, praised by both Christians and Jews, is his philosophical and critical Hebrew grammar, Ma'aseh Efod, containing an introduction and thirty-three chapters, and finished in 1403. He wrote it not only to instruct his contemporaries, who either knew nothing about grammar or had erroneous notions concerning it, but especially to refute mistakes promulgated by the later grammarians. He frequently cites the otherwise unknown Samuel Benveniste as an eminent grammarian. See the edition of J. Friedländer and J. Kohn (Vienna, 1865).

Duran was also a historian. In an unknown work entitled Zikron ha-Shemadot he gave the history of Jewish martyrs since the destruction of the Temple. Graetz has shown that this work was used by Solomon Usque and Ibn Verga.

In 1393 Duran wrote a dirge on Abraham ben Isaac ha-Levi of Gerona, probably a relative; three letters containing responsa, to his pupil Meïr Crescas; and two exegetical treatises on several chapters of II Samuel, all of which have been edited as an appendix to the Ma'aseh Efod.

At the request of some members of the Benveniste family, Duran wrote an explanation of a religious festival poem by Ibn Ezra (printed in the collection Ta'am Zeḳenim of Eliezer Ashkenazi), as well as the solution of Ibn Ezra's well-known riddle on the quiescent letters of the Hebrew alphabet (quoted by Immanuel Benvenuto in his grammar Liwyat Ḥen, Mantua, 1557, without mentioning Duran), and several explanations relating to Ibn Ezra's commentary on the Pentateuch.

Jewish Encyclopedia Bibliography

  • Monatsschrift, iii.320 et seq.;
  • J. Friedländer and J. Kohn, Ma'aseh Efod, Introduction, pp. 2-12;
  • S. Gronemann, De Profiatii Durani Vita ac Studiis, Breslau, 1869;
  • Moritz Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. cols. 2112 et seq.;
  • Giovanni Bernardo De Rossi-C. H. Hamberger, Historisches Wörterbuch, pp. 261 et seq.;
  • Henri Gross, Gallia Judaica, pp. 358 et seq., 472;
  • Heinrich Grätz, Gesch. viii.94, 403.

References

1350 in other calendars
Gregorian calendar 1350
MCCCL
Ab urbe condita 2103
Armenian calendar 799
ԹՎ ՉՂԹ
Bah' calendar -494 – -493
Buddhist calendar 1894
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1380s  1390s  1400s  - 1410s -  1420s  1430s  1440s
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Joseph ibn Shem-Tov (15th century) was a prolific Judæo-Spanish writer born in Castile.
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Hasdai ben Abraham Crescas (Hebrew: חסדאי קרשקש) (born in Barcelona, Catalonia c. 1340 – 1410/1411) was a Jewish philosopher and a renowned halakhist (teacher of Jewish law).
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The Crown of Castile, as a historic entity, is usually considered to have begun with the final and definitive union of the two kingdoms of León and Castile in 1230, or in fact with the union of their parliament a few decades later.
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Aristotle (Greek: Ἀριστοτέλης Aristotélēs) (384 BC – 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great.
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Moses Maimonides (March 30 1135 Córdoba, Spain – December 13 1204 Fostat, Egypt) was a Jewish rabbi, physician, and philosopher in Andalusia, Morocco and Egypt during the Middle Ages.
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Abraham ben Isaac of Narbonne (c. 1110 – 1179) was a French rabbi, also known as Raavad II, and author of the halachic work Ha-Eshkol (The Cluster).

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Giovanni Bernardo De Rossi (October 25, 1742, Castelnuovo – March, 1831, Parma) was an Italian Christian Hebraist. He studied in Ivrea and Turin. In October 1769, he was appointed professor of Oriental languages at the University of Parma, where he spent the rest of his life.
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Heinrich Gross, writing also as Henri Gross, (born Szenicz, Hungary, now Senica, Slovakia, November 61835) was a German rabbi. He was a pupil in rabbinical literature of Judah Aszod.

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Heinrich Graetz (October 31, 1817 - September 7, 1891) was amongst the first historians to write a comprehensive history of the Jewish people from a Jewish perspective.
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