The author of Kad Hakemach, Rabbeinu Bachya ben Asher, flourished in the second half of the thirteenth century. His mentor Rashba (Rabbi Shlomo ben Adereth), the noted Torah authority of Barcelona, had been the outstanding student of Ramban, making Rabbeinu Bachya the direct spiritual descendant of that great master.
As evidenced by his extensive Commentary on the Torah, Rabbeinu Bachya was an exemplary biblical scholar. He was undoubtedly aided in that role by his versatility in languages, which enabled him to study the original Arabic works of former Jewish commentators.
Rabbeinu Bachya’s own writings, however, synthesize all of the main scholastic movements that pervaded Spanish Jewry during his era. He was deeply indebted to the ethical writings of the saintly Rabbi Yonah of Gerona, among others, but the fundamental pattern of his own work was the inspiration he derived from the writings of Ramban.
It may truly be said that Rabbeinu Bachya’s main concern was to bring the spoken word of Torah to the synagogue audiences of Saragossa and Barcelona. To achieve this end, he assembled sixty major discourses in his encyclopedic work Kad Hakemach. Arranged in alphabetical order, these themes embrace every aspect of Jewish life, such as: man’s relation to G-d and His commandments; man’s duty to himself, to his fellow man, to his community, and to Israel; and the various basic thoughts concerning the Sabbath and festivals.
Kad Hakemach, a veritable treasure house of spiritual instruction and inspiration, is thus worthy of being studied in every generation. The eminent Rabbi Dr. Charles B. Chavel, whose scholastic talents have produced many a treasured work, has for the first time translated Kad Hakemach from its original classical Hebrew into English so that it can be understood, enjoyed, and studied by the English-speaking world. Like Rabbi Chavel’s other English translations, notably Ramban’s Commentary on the Torah and his Writings and Discourses, Kad Hakemach contains an enlightening introduction, a detailed index, and a beautifully rendered text replete with accompanying lucid explanatory notes. The abundant richness of this edition of Kad Hakemach will bring the contemporary reader back to thirteenth century Spain to be part of a synagogue audience listening intently to the discourses of the great master, Rabbeinu Bachya ben Asher. The present generation will thus be united with those of the past in seeking the living word of Torah, transcending the limits of time. Shilo Publishing House, Inc.
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