Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, author of the Kuzari (1075-1141)

Rabbi Yehuda Halevi describes a dialogue between the king of the Khazars and a rabbi. The rabbi states that the Jewish people is closer to G-d today, in their humble state of exile, than if they were a mighty nation. The king asks: “That might be so if your humility were voluntary; but it is involuntary, and if you had power you would slay.” The rabbi replies: “You have touched our weak spot, O King of the Khazars. If the majority of us had accepted our humble status for the sake of G-d and His Torah, G-d would not have forced us to bear it for such a long period. But only the smallest portion of our people thinks thus. Still, the majority can expect some reward as well, because they bear their degradation partly from necessity, partly of their own free will. For whoever wishes to do so can become the friend and equal of his oppressor by uttering one word, and without any difficulty. Such conduct does not escape the just Judge. If we bore our exile and degradation for G-d’s sake, as we should, we would be outstanding even by the standards of the generation of the messianic era, for which we hope, and we would accelerate the day of our long-awaited deliverance.” (Kuzari Maamar 1, 113-115)

Today Rabbi Yehuda Halevi is portrayed by some as a Zionist, because he wrote beautiful poems of longing for Zion, and made “aliyah” himself at the end of his life. But the above passage from the Kuzari shows us that this is a great error. Rabbi Yehuda Halevi considered it a great merit to accept exile for G-d’s sake; his longing was not to break out of exile by force, only to experience the long-awaited redemption and, in the meantime, to see the beloved Holy Land.


Rabbinic Quotations