Sephardic Tid-Bits: Shmuel Ha-Nagid's Positions

I have told you several stories about Shmuel Ha-Nagid (who is also known by other names). Now I want you to know how he got the positions that he did. This quote comes from Peter Cole’s book: “Selected Poems of Shmuel Ha-Nagid” which you can find in our library.

Besides being a great scholar and a highly cultured person, R. Samuel (Shmuel Ha-Nagid) was highly versed in Arabic literature and style and was, indeed, competent to serve in the king's palace. Nevertheless, he maintained himself in very modest circumstances as a spice merchant. Since his shop happened to adjoin the courtyard of Ibn al'Arif, who was the Katib (religious advisor) of King Habbus ben Maksan, the Berber king of Granada, the Katib's maidservant would ask Shmuel to write letters for her master, the vizier Abu'l Qasim ibn al'Arif. When the latter received the letters, he was astounded at the learning they reflected. Consequently, when, after a while, this vizier, Ibn al-'Arif, was given leave by his King Habbus to return to his home in Malaga, he inquired among the people of his household: “Who wrote the letters which I received from you?” They replied: “A certain Jew of the community of Cordoba, who lives next door to your courtyard, used to do the writing for us.” The Katib thereupon ordered that R. Samuel be brought to him at once, and he said to him: “It does not become you to spend your time in a shop. Henceforth you are to stay at my side."

... He thus became the scribe and counselor to the counselor of the king. Now the counsel which he gave was as if one consulted the oracle of God, and thanks to his counsel King Habbus achieved great success."

... Subsequently, when the Katib Ibn al-'Arif took ill and felt his death approaching, King Habbus paid him a visit and said to him: “What am I going to do? Who will counsel me in the wars which encompass me on every side?” He replied: “I never counseled you out of my own mind, but out of the mind of this Jew, my scribe. Look after him well, and let him be a father and priest to you. Do whatever he says, and God will help you.''
Accordingly, after the death of the Katib, King Habbus brought R. Samuel HaLevi to his palace and made him Katib and counselor.