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CULTURE & HERITAGE - Culture & History

Jews in Spain - Part VII... From the Virtual Jewish History Tour: Spain

- The Disputation of Barcelona.
- The Inquisition.
- The Expulsion.
- Nahmanides, Rambam.
- The Kuzari by Rabbi Yehuda Halevi.


Disputation of Barcelona

Though their holy texts were often burned by royal decree, and many Jews were forced to convert to Christianity, the Spanish monarchy started to take an interest in Jewish philosophy and religion, so that they could better understand Jews and convince them to convert.

In 1263, King James of Aragon convened a special council of Dominican (Christian) and Jewish clergymen to debate three key theological issues: whether the Messiah had already appeared, whether the Messiah was divine or human, and which religion was the true faith. Nachmanides (Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman Gerondi, Rambam), a Jewish theologian and philosopher was called upon to represent the Jews; while Friar Pablo Christiani, a Jew who had converted to Christianity, represented the Church.

201111-nachmanidesThe disputation lasted four days and drew the attention of the entire Jewish community. The King granted Nachmanides the freedom to speak freely....

The justice of his defense was recognized by the King and the commission, but to satisfy the Dominicans, Nachmanides was sentenced to exile for two years and his pamphlet was condemned to be burned. The Dominicans, however, found this punishment too mild and, through Pope Clement IV, they succeeded in turning the two years exile into perpetual banishment.

Nachmanides left Aragon never to return again.

The Inquisition

By the mid-15th century, hatred toward the Neo-Christians exceeded that toward the professed Jews. Later, in 1413, at the behest of Pope Benedict XIII, King Ferdinand I of Aragon called for another religious disputation similar to that held two centuries earlier. Yet, unlike the disputation in which Nachmanides successfully defended the Jews of Spain, the Disputation of Tortosa was structured in such a way that it always granted the final word to the Church.

The King also was not as favorable to the Jews, and the representatives of the Jewish community less eloquent and convincing than Nachmanides had been. Jews were subsequently forcibly converted and rabbinic texts were confiscated and burned........

Anti-Semitism in Spain peaked during the rule of Ferdinand and Isabella as they instituted the Spanish Inquisition, a Church sponsored investigation of anyone suspected of being a crypto-Jew (Marrano).

... During this period, thousands of Marranos (Jews who had converted to Christianity but still practiced Judaism in secret) were interrogated and executed. At first, the activity of the Inquisition was limited to the dioceses of Seville and Cordoba. From there, the Inquisition grew rapidly in the Kingdom of Castile.

By 1492, tribunals existed in eight Castilian cities. The first auto de fe (reading of a decree against someone found to be a heretic, followed by a prayer session and public procession) was celebrated in Seville on February 6, 1481 - six people were burned alive.

... The Inquisition was extremely active between 1480 and 1530, during which time about 2,000 Jews were executed. Many Spanish Jews immigrated to Portugal (from where they were expelled in 1497) and to Morocco. Much later the Sephardim, descendants of Spanish Jews, established flourishing communities in many cities of Europe, North Africa, and the Ottoman Empire.

Approximately 40,000 Jews converted to Christianity to escape death and expulsion.

Expulsion of 1492

Finally, Ferdinand and Isabella issued the Alhambra Decree in 1492, which officialy called for all Jews, regardless of age, to leave the kingdom by the last day of July (one day before Tisha B'Av). It is estimated that more than 235,000 Jews lived in Spain before the inquisition.

Of these, approximately 165,000 immigrated to neighboring countries (mostly to Italy, England, Holland, Morroco, Egypt, France, and the Americas), 50,000 converted to Christianity, and 20,000 died en route to a new location.

Maimonides (Nachmanides)

... From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Moses ben-Maimon, called Maimonides and also known as Mūsā ibn Maymūn (موسى بن ميمون) in Arabic, or Rambam (רמב"ם - Hebrew acronym for "Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon"), was a preeminent medieval Jewish philosopher and one of the greatest Torah scholars and physicians of the Middle Ages. He was born in Córdoba, Spain on Passover Eve, 1135, and died in Egypt (or Tiberias) in 1204.[6] He was a rabbi, physician and philosopher in Morocco and Egypt.

Although his writings on Jewish law and ethics were met with acclaim and gratitude from most Jews even as far off as Spain, Iraq and Yemen, and he rose to be the revered head of the Jewish community in Egypt, there were also vociferous critics of some of his rulings and other writings particularly in Spain.

Nevertheless, he was posthumously acknowledged to be one of the foremost rabbinical arbiters and philosophers in Jewish history, his copious work a cornerstone of Jewish scholarship. His fourteen-volume Mishneh Torah still carries canonical authority as a codification of Talmudic law. In the Yeshiva world he is known as "haNesher haGadol" (the great eagle) in recognition of his outstanding status as a bona fide exponent of the Oral Torah.


... From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Kitab al Khazari, commonly called the Kuzari, is one of most famous works of the medieval Spanish Jewish philosopher and poet Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, completed around 1140.

Its title is an Arabic phrase meaning Book of the Khazars. Divided into five essays ("ma'amarim," Articles), it takes the form of a dialogue between the pagan king of the Khazars and a Jew who was invited to instruct him in the tenets of the Jewish religion.

Originally written in Arabic, the book was translated by numerous scholars (including Judah ibn Tibbon) into Hebrew and other languages. Though the book is not considered a historical account of the Khazar conversion to Judaism, scholars such as D. M. Dunlop have postulated that Yehuda had access to Khazar documents upon which he loosely based his work. His contemporary, Avraham ibn Daud, reported meeting Khazar rabbinical students in Toledo in the mid-12th century.