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Italian philosopher, Talmudist, and Bible commentator; lived at the end of the sixteenth century. He belonged to the old noble Spanish family of Baruch, also called "Bet Ya'aḳob" (introduction to his work mentioned below, 8d). His father was apparently a scholar and a rich man, and Baruch himself was (1598-99) a member of the Venetian rabbinate (l.c. 9b), where he speaks of the many legal questions which he had to answer in that city. He is also said to have been a proof-reader of Hebrew books. In 1602 he was at Constantinople (Joseph b. Moses Trani, Responsa, i, No. 89) in scientific intercourse with the scholars of that city. Baruch was a prolific author in the field of the Halakah, writing explanations and comments on the Tosafists, on Maimonides' "Yad ha-Ḥazaḳah," etc. Very little has been preserved of these literary productions, except some extracts in the responsa of Joseph b. Moses Trani (Nos. 68,69, 89). Characteristic of his legal attitude is his decision (l.c. 68) that in communal questions the vote of the whole community must decide, even if the matter in question refer only to the rich class. Baruch's colleagues at Venice and elsewhere held that in those questions which affect only the well-to-do classes, these only should decide.

His View of Ecclesiastes.

The work which gives Baruch an honorable place among Jewish philosophic writers is his double commentary on Ecclesiastes. It consists of two parallel sections, a rabbinic-exegetic and a philosophicdiscussive commentary. The philosophic exposition of the book would hardly rank as a commentary, were it not that Baruch's method shows his keen critical insight. In order to have ground for his philosophical speculations, Baruch assumes the following genesis of the book: Ecclesiastes is a dialogue of Solomon, in which the wise king has grouped Epicurean sentences and opinions side by side with the views of the pious, Ecclesiastes being the representative of the former, and Ben David of the latter. As Ibn Baruch has no knowledge of the modern historico-critical method, it is extremely interesting to note how nearly he approaches the newer so-called "gloss-hypothesis" in criticizing Ecclesiastes. Although he offers little in explanation or exposition of the book, his many comments on haggadic passages of the Talmud and Midrash are not only ingenious, but also very apt. Baruch's work may be regarded as the last produced by Jewish medieval religious philosophy, having as such a considerable historic importance in addition to its intrinsic value. The following philosophical themes are, according to Baruch, treated in Ecclesiastes, he dilating upon them: the Creation, the reasons for creating man, the life of the senses and salvation, immortality of the soul, freedom of the will, Providence, spirit and matter, perfection of the human soul, Revelation as a means to perfection, the responsibility of man, predestination, retribution, instinct and will, bliss, the good. Such are the chief points discussed at length by Baruch, his work containing 229 folio pages.

Although he can not claim to be a philosopher of any originality, Baruch has a wide and comprehensive knowledge of philosophy. He is acquainted not only with the Jewish-Arabian school, but also with Christian scholasticism, especially with Thomas Aquinas, whose works he studied assiduously. Baruch's method deserves especial mention. Comparing him with Isaac Arama and Isaac Abravanel, who wrote similar works, he shows neither the dulness of the one nor the prolixity of the other. The many homiletic passages which he introduces serve to interpret and explain the train of thought, which he traces at first in general outlines and then in particular. The logical method of carrying out his assumption that Ecclesiastes is a dialogue is remarkable, each verse seeming to fit into the general system. The fourth section or root, as Baruch calls it, deserves especial notice for its ethical import, being a very clear exposition of his doctrine of true felicity. With him, felicity is not a superficial and transient joy, but is eternal; not a passive and passing sense of happiness, but a continuous activity of the soul, which victoriously rises above all material tribulations.

Baruch is also known as a ritual poet, three of his seliḥot having been printed; they are, however, of little poetic value.

  • Baruch's Introduction to his Commentary;
  • Leimdörfer, Lösung des Koheleträthsels durch den Philosophen Baruch ibn Baruch, 1900;
  • Jellinek, Thomas d' Aquino, pp. 11, 12;
  • Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. p. 772;
  • Zunz, Literaturgesch. p. 422;
  • Nepi-Ghirondi, Toledot Gedole Yisrael, p. 52.
K. L. G.
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