Waves Shabazi Sharon

  • Issue: February 1999
  • Designer: Y. Granot
  • Stamp Size: 25.7 mm x 40 mm
  • Plate no.: 378
  • Sheet of 15 stamps, Tabs: 5
  • Printers: Government Printers
  • Method of printing: Offset

Rabbi Shalem Shabazi is the national poet of Yemenite Jewry, the greatest of Israel's poets  in Yemen and one of the knights of Hebrew poetry of all times. Rabbi Shalem Shabazi, whose father, Rabbi Yosef Avigad, was also a poet, was born in 1619 in the town of Shabaz in the Sharab region in southern Yemen. He was named Shabazi for his hometown. His family, the Mashta family, boasted many poets, the most important of whom was Rabbi Yosef Ben-Israel, who lived fifty years before him. Rabbi Shalem Shabazi's estimated year of death was 1680.

The poet lived during the mid 17th century, a very difficult period for Yemenite Jewry. The Jews in this period endured the harshest injunctions in the history of Yemenite Jewry, including the Edict of the Head Covering (removal of hats) passed in 1667, and the expulsion to the Mavza Desert during 1679 - 1680, During this period the Yemenite Jews comforted their agonized souls with Shabazi's poems, which provided them with the courage to bear the anguish of exile.

Shabazi was a poet in every sense of the word, and his poetry was among the most fruitful in the history of Israel. Thousands of volumes of his poems were copied, and his work greatly influenced every Jewish home in Yemen. To date, over 730 of his poems have been found, and new poems are constantly being discovered. Poetry throbbed in his every fiber, and his visions of redemption were ever present. It seems as if poetry flowed through his veins. Also when he was sleeping, poetry continued to possess his soul.

However, the great poet, schooled in the mysteries of the Torah and the Kabbalah, philosophy and astronomy, did not earn his living from his poetry. He barely earned his living as a weaver, and often suffered poverty, depending on the charity of others. When they closed their doors on him, he lifted his eyes to heaven and prayed to God.

Most of all he suffered the anguish of exile with his brethren, and he was haunted with questions of the final redemption. Zion and Jerusalem were ever present his heart was overflowing with expectation and powerful yearning.

Indeed most-of hiss poems are concerned with exile and redemption, and he envisioned that he would witness redemption in his own lifetime.
The gems of his poetry are the essence of a nation's yearnings for redemption and the return to Zion. Many of his poems use vibrant language and poignant expressions to describe the Redemption of Israel as a renewal of the nuptial covenant between the Almighty and the bride (the people of Israel). His poems are embellished with symbols and allegorical expressions of love of the Kabbalah, endowing them with a hue of love poetry that was very meaningful and expressed a conceptual richness.

He viewed the Age of Redemption as days of indefinable joy, as days of betrothal, bursting with happiness and laden with exquisite apparel.
The works of the admired poet have been a part of the spiritual lives of the Yemenite Jews for over 300 hundredyears. Shabazi's poems are recited every holiday and Sabbath, and at every celebration. Shabazi's name is associated with the entire Yemenite Jewish community for good reason. All that is beautiful and noble in this ancient Jewish tradition is combined in his great image. His poetry is a true reflection of this community's spirituality. After his death, many tales abounded about the holy poet and his wondrous deeds. His grave, in the town of Ta'iz, became an important site for Jews and Arabs alike who visited the site seeking a remedy for their afflictions.

The Jews of Yemen emigrated to Israel, and they continue to sing Shabazi's poems joyfully. The extraordinary of the poet spirit continues to hover over current generations who embrace his poems, which have become an asset toall Jewry, both in Israel and in the Diaspora.

Yehuda Amir
Bar-ilan University

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Rabbi Shalem Shabazi