SEDER OLAM - Revisited

סדר עולם - חדש



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Index of names


Generations  1-14
(3760 - 2080 BCE)

Generations 15-21
(2080 - 1240 BCE)

Generations 22-28
(1240 - 400 BCE)

Generations 29-35
(400 BCE - 440 CE)

Generations 36-42
(440 - 1280 CE)

Generations 43-49
(1280 - 2120 CE)

Generation 50

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The 100th Jubilee

The diffusion of the Zohar
(5040 AM - 1280 CE)

Shlomo ben Aderet
(5040 AM - 1280 CE)

The Maharam of Rothenburg
 (5046 AM - 1286 CE)

The Expulsion from England
(5050 AM - 1290 CE)

Jerusalem under the Sultanate of Egypt
(5051 AM - 1291 CE)

The Expulsion from France
(5066 AM - 1306 CE)

The curse of the Templars
(5067 AM - 1307 CE)

The Shepherds' Crusade
(5080 AM - 1320 CE)

Jewish asylum in Lithuania
(5083 AM - 1323 CE)

Casimir III and the Jews of Poland
(5095 AM - 1334 CE)

The Hundred Years' War
(5097 AM - 1337 CE)

The Black Plague
(5108 AM - 1348 CE)

The Jews of Toledo
(5117 AM - 1357 CE)

The Disputation of Pamplona
The Even Bohan
(5135 AM - 1375 CE)

Pablo de Santa Maria
(5151 AM - 1391 CE)

Hasdai Crescas and the Jews of Barcelona
(5151 AM - 1391 CE)

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Hebrew years 5040 to 5160 (1280 - 1400 CE)

This generation is marked by the cycle of the 100th Jubilee from the Creation (100 x 50 years = Hebrew year 5000) with a mixture of great scholarship, essentially in mysticism, and at the same time of great hardship for the Jews. Half the time ago from Creation, in the 50th Jubilee, their ancestors finally entered the Promised Land (Canaan) under the leadership of Joshua. Is there a parallel? We can suppose there is. The entrance to Canaan in the 50th Jubilee marked the end of the old generation of the desert and the start of a new episode in Israelite history. Similarly, the 100th Jubiless marked the end of most of the Jewish communities of Europe and the birth of a new era in the Jewish history, with two poles of scholarship, the Ashkenazim and the Sephardim. Every other community, in between, was doomed to disappear.

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Year 5040 – 1280 CE – The diffusion of the Zohar

A mystical book called the Zohar first appeared in Castile around 1275. It was later (wrongly) attributed to Moses of Leon, who may have been his first compiler. The book had existed for centuries as it was mainly written by Simeon bar Yohai and his son during their years of hiding from the Romans (to see related entry, click here). It had been kept away from broad knowledge and was only accessible to those involved in secret mystical studies. Some of the knowledge detailed in it would have been very sensitive to the Christian world who held other beliefs (for example to read about the Zohar's description of the shape and movement of the Earth, click here). But the demand for mystical studies in these days, as witnessed by the works written by Abraham Abulafia and others from Northern Spain to French Languedoc, made it relevant to bring the book of Simeon bar Yohai to broad light. And its success was immediate among the Jewish communities who reproduced the manuscript throughout Europe.

The Zohar
The Zohar

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Year 5040 – 1280 CE – Shlomo ben Aderet, the Rashba

Shlomo ben Aderet, the rabbi of the Synagogue of Barcelona since 1260, who had witnessed the Disputation of Barcelona with Nahmanides first hand and pleaded to stop it to avoid reprisals against his Jewish community, could also witness the spread of messianic works in Spain. Maybe this situation had been triggered by Nahmanides himself when he discussed the venue of the Messiah during the disputation and had even stated his expectation as for the year of this venue. Such bald announcement surely excited the thoughts of the communities of that time and it is not mere coincidence that the apparition of the Zohar as a mystical source, and of people like Abraham Abrabanel, came around that same time. Yet Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet, the Rashba, was determined to oppose this trend, by means of advice and responsa to the many communities of Europe who consulted him about this question first raised publicly in Barcelona. He is the one who excommunicated Abrabanel and forbade the study of his books. But he could not stop the hunger of his brethren for these questions and could only attest their wider spread over the years. In 1306, he wrote:

In that city [Barcelona] are those who write iniquity about the Torah and if there would be a heretic writing books, they should be burnt as if they were the book of sorcerers.
--- Dimitrovsky,  H.Z.,"Teshubot HaRishba", Jerusalem: Mossad Harav Kook, 1990, Vol. 2, p. 361, cited in Wikipedia

The Rashba also opposed those Franciscans and Dominicans who were endeavouring to convert the Jews in these times. One in particular, called Ramon [Raymond] Llull, had been the tutor of king James I of Aragon, and had surely been kept appraised of the Disputation of Barcelona. Following that remarkable event, he focused on building an argument, based on logical deductions, that the Church was right and the Synagogue was wrong ! This work, Ars generalis ultima, published in 1305, served as a reference for the subsequent debaters of the faith questions, even until the 18th century. Llull met his death in 1316 when he went to Bougie, North Africa, in order to convert the Muslims using his own method.

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Year 5046 – 1286 CE – The Maharam of Rothenburg

Rabbi Meir ben Baruch, so-called the Maharam, was a leading Jewish authority in Rothenburg, Germany. In 1286, he set out to emigrate in Israel, hoping to flee from the persecutions in Germany, but he was arrested in Lombardy and sent back to Germany where he was imprisoned in a fortress. As he forbade the Jewish community to pay for the huge ransom being asked for his release (20,000 marks), he was held imprisoned. During these years, his disciple, Rabbi Shimon ben Tzadok, was however allowed to visit him and he recorded his teachings which later formed the book called Tashbetz. When the Maharam died in 1293, his body was still held for the ransom. Finally in 1307, after 14 years, Rabbi Alexander Suskind of Frankfort paid it and the later obtained the promise to be buried next to the master in the Jewish cemetery of Worms. Rabbi Alexander died one year later and his wish was accomplished. The two tombstones still stand to this day, side by side.

The tombs of the Maharam and of Rabbi Alexander
The tombs of the Maharam and of Rabbi Alexander

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Year 5050 – 1290 CE – Expulsion of the Jews from England

King Edward I of England was a warrior king, nicknamed Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots. His campaigns against Wales and Scotland led him to growing debts and, as previous English kings, he had extorted from the Jewish community, which accounted for about 3000 people in England, all their assets over the years. By 1290, they had no more resources to help the king with hsi debts, so he passed the Edict of Expulsion which meant the formal expulsion of the Jews from England. They resettled in Holland, France and Germany where centers of Judaism had developed. The Jews will not be back to England for 350 years, until Cromwell nullified the edict in 1657.

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Year 5051 – 1291 CE – Jerusalem is taken by the Sultan of Egypt

In 1291, Asa the Sultan of Egypt, with an army of Mameluks, led a campaign in the Holy Land. He took the last bastian of Crusader presence, the city of Acre, and also the city of Jerusalem which had been conquered and occupied by the Tartars since 1244. The region remained in possession of the Sultanate of Egypt until 1518 when the Ottomans, under the reign of Selim of Constantinople, conquered it.

Siege of Acre
Le siège d'Acre en 1291- by Dominique Papety,19th century (Versailles)

In 1322,
a traveller from England who visited the Holy Land expressed the fact that God must have been keeping a watch over His promised land and condemned sinners to lose their hold of it:

This country and the land of Jerusalem have been in the hands of many different nations, and often, therefore, has the country suffered much tribulation for the sin of the people that dwell there. For that country has been in the hands of all nations, that is to say of Jews, Canaanites, Assyrians, Persians, Medes, Macedonians, Greeks, Romans, Christians, Saracens, Barbarians, Turks, Tartars, and of many other different nations. For God will not let it remain long in the hands of traitors or of sinners, be they Christians or others. And now the heathens have held that land in their hands forty years and more, but they shall not hold it long, if God will.
--- Wright, Thomas, "Early Travels in Palestine", London, 1848, chapter The Book of Sir John Maundeville, A.D. 1322-1356, p. 165

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Year 5066 – 1306 CE – Expulsion of the Jews from France 

Philip IV succeeded his father Philip III in 1285. He had several sons, so potentially as many heirs to the throne which seemed secured for the Capetian dynasty, and only one daughter, Isabella. In 1302, he lost an important battle in the North and, with it, all his designs to acquire the Flanders region. Weakened and lacking funding, he resolved to secure his alliances, in particular by marrying his only daughter to the heir of the throne in England, future Edouard II. He also married his sons to the heiresses of dukedoms or kingdoms neighbours with France (Burgundy, Navarre). His monarchy, he thought, was saved. 

Concerning the Jews, Philip had, like Edouard I of England, a taste for conquest and wars. As a result, he badly needed money and, as his English rival, started to seize what he could from the Jewish community of France. Then, in 1306, his treasury completely ran out of cash so he decided to expel all the Jews from France in order to put a total hand on their assets. At the time, the Jewish community was much larger than the one expelled from England, with an estimated 100.000 people. Yet History has recalled that king as Philip "the Fair". The Jews were not allowed to return to France until after the French revolution of 1789.

The exact date of the edict of expulsion has been lost, because the document itself was lost. But the expulsion started on the 22nd July 1306 (the month of Av). It is therefore estimated that the edict of expulsion was established six months earlier, to allow the Jews to either convert or leave the country. The date of 21st January 1306 corresponds to the 26 Tevet 5066.

The Jews relocated in neighbouring regions outside the French kingdom, such as Provence, Burgundy, Languedoc, and the Rhine Valley. In Provence, the Jewish population grew to about 10,000 people as a result. So most of the Jewish refugees from France went East rather than South. Some families also emigrated to Spain, for example 60 families in Barcelona,[3]
, 45 families in Anglesola, 30 families in Alcaniz, and so on.

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Year 5067 – 1307 CE – The curse of the Templars

Philip IV needed more and more money. After the Jews, he turned his attention to the Templars, this wealthy order created after the First Crusade, who was in possession of properties and acted as a bank for all pilgrims to the Holy Land. They had a lot of cash, but little use now that the Holy Land was lost after the fall of the last bastion, Acre. In Rome, a new Pope was to be elected, and with lot of manoeuvering, a French bishop bought to Philip's interests was chosen as Clement V. This Pope mounted at the request of Philip a series of accusations against the Templars, on heresy, immorality, blasphemous practices, and so on. With this official Papal backing, Philip had all the Templars arrested on Friday 13 October 1307, and their assets and money seized of course. The  rest followed a long procedure of tortures in order to push the Templars to agree to their sins, and be released on clemency. Meanwhile, Clement V was in conflict with Rome so moved his seat to France in 1309, first to Poitiers for a few years, and then to Avignon.

The head of the Order of the Templars, Jacques de Molay, refused any admittance of wrongdoing. He was burnt to the stake in March 1314, not without cursing the Pope and the King of France and his dynasty. What happened next?

- one month later, in April 1814, Clement V died

- Edouard II, husband of Isabella daughter of Philip IV, was defeated in June 1814 by Robert the Bruce and lost Scotland, a possession that made his father famous as the "hammer of the Scots"; the royal couple had a son, future Edouard III, born in 1312, and through whom the Hundred Years War started some time later against France

- Philip IV died in November 1314, in the same year

- the daughters in law of Philip IV were found guilty of adultery and were banished to convents, or assassinated in their jail

- within the next few years, all the sons of Philip IV, being without male issue, succeeded each other on the throne of France and died

- Isabella of France, accused of adultery, returned to France in 1825, but raised an army in 1326 and returned to England to wage a successful war against her husband Edouard II; she gets him emprisoned then assassinated in his jail in 1327; she is nicknamed the "she-wolf of France"

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Year 5080 – 1320 CE – The Shepherds' Crusade (Croisade des Pastoureaux)

In 1320, a young shepherd from Normandy asserted that he was visited by the Holy Spirit to raise a crusade and free Spain from the Moors. He gathered many followers (up to 10,000 according to Medieval chronicles) and, although they did not get support from the King of France, the mob marched south killing Jewish communities on their way. In the Papal State of Avignon, they were stopped so the Jews of that region of Provence didn't suffer from it. But in Toulouse for example, the Jewish community was massacred after having found refuge in the so-called  Château-Narbonnais at the entrance of the city. To avoid being killed, a very few Jews accepted to convert. One of them, Baruch, converted and but returned to Judaism once the mob had passed his city. But he was denounced as apostat to the Inquisition and brought a month later to trial after a "confession", which often meant torture. His trial, for which the Church kept the record and proceedings in a manuscript of the Library of the Vatican, gives some insight of what happened to the Jews when the Pastoureaux came to Toulouse:

The people [of Toulouse] followed them [the Pastoureaux] and together they rushed in the street where the Jews lived, shouting : "Death ! Death to the Jews !" Then the massacre started. Baruch was taken by surprise in his house, torn away from his studies and ordered to choose between baptism and death. By seeing the carnage carried out on his brethren who refused baptism, he thought it more wisely to agree to it. He was immediately accompanied to St Stephens' Cathedral where he was passed to the care of two clerics in charge of executing the given orders. He tried in vain to gain time in order to escape cunningly from the ceremony that was loathful to him. In vain he tried to invoke influential characters who would have helped him. Nothing worked. So finally he was given the baptismal water that made him a Christian whatever happened next. The massacre continued outside and only finished at the time of the Vespers [evening]. That day claimed the life of 115 Jews. 
--- "Confessio Baruc", manupscript MSS 4030, Biblioteca Vaticana, cited in Vidal, J-M, "L'émeute des Pastoureaux en 1320", Rome, 1898, pp. 18-19, translated by Albert Benhamou
In another city nearby, in Verdun-sur-Garonne, 500 Jews committed suicide, after finding refuge in a tower, rather than fall in the hands of the mob. In total, this "crusade" destroyed about 110 Jewish communities in Western and Southern France.

Crusade of the Pastoureaux
Crusade of the Pastoureaux (source: Wikipedia)
Jews, wearing the 'rouelle', being burned at the stake

Then the Pastoureaux aimed to cross into Spain but were prevented to do so by the King James II. They ignored the order and moved to Navarre where they continued to kill all the Jews, then passed the Pyreneans and attacked Jewish centers such as Tudela, until James II sent an army to get rid of them and killed 2000 of this mob, the rest fleeing back to France where they continued to lay waste the southern regions of France.

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Year 5083 – 1323 CE – Lithuania welcomes the Jews

The city of Vilna (modern-day Vilnius, Lithuania) probably came to existence about 1250 CE after a new ruler of Lithuania was crowned in its castle. Later, in 1323, the grand-duke Gediminas called for men of all professions and skills to come to his city and settle there.[1] A number of Jews from the German states took this opportunity to move East to Lithuania, fleeing the persecutions they had to suffer in the Christian kingdoms. This open door to Jews contrasted to the expulsions from England and France, and was followed by many Jews of Europe. 

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Year 5095 – 1334 CE – Casimir III of Poland protects his Jews

Following the policy of his predecessors, the king of Poland Casimir III so-called The Great extended the right to the Jews on 9 October 1334 (25 Tishri 5095) with a set of laws such as prohibition to force a Jewish child to conversion, prohibition to desecrate a Jewish cemetery, and so on. Such policy was guided by the desire of building a nation and to attract skills to build cities in a country which was otherwise mainly populated by peasants at the time.

Later in 1356, Casimir III fell in love with a
beautiful Jewess and took her for mistress. The Jews naturally nicknamed them and Ahasuerus and Esther (or Esterka in Polish). Her Polish family name was Cudka which means 'jacket' in Polish (her father was a tailor). She gave him two sons who were brought up in the Christian faith: Niemierz and Pelka. Many Polish people bear such names today and are said to come from this union. Some also mention that she had a daughter as well, but who was kept in the Jewish faith.

"Esterka" Cudka
"Esterka" Cudka

It is from the reign of Casimir III that the Jews of Europe came to Poland in great numbers, fleeing persecutions, expulsions and more ordeals to come, and thanks to his favourable policy.     

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Year 5097 – 1337 CE – The Hundred Years' War

In 1328, the reigned King of France and last son of Philip IV died for some unknown reason, and without issue. This signalled the end of the Capetian dynasty in France which had been so bad for the Jews of France. The crown was given to Charles of Valois, a regional vassal to the King of England. Edouard III refused to pay hommage to his vassal, and claimed that he was the legitimate King of France, from his mother Isabella and being the only grandson of Philip IV. The French brought to bear an old law of succession, valid in France but not in England, that heirs to the throne could only be male heirs, which disqualified Isabella for this purpose, and thus her son Edouard III. But Charles used this pretext of non-submission to attack the English possessions in the Southern region of Aquitaine. This led to the Hundred Years' War between France and England from 1337 until 1453.

One Hundred Years' War in 1337
Hundred Years' War in 1337 -- France in Yellow and England in Grey
(source: Wikipedia)

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Year 5108 – 1348 CE – The Black Plague

The European Christendom was cursed by a major epidemy of bubonic plague in the years 1348-1350. It started from Asia Minor or the Black Sea region, and spread from the harbours in Southern and Northern Europe into the rest of the continent. It was mainly devastating in the large cities because of their density, and killed an estimate 30 million people in Europe, anywhere between 30% and 80% of the population depending of the city. 

The Triumph of Death
The Triumph of Death - by Brueghel the Elder, 1562
(Museo del Prado, Madrid)

Of course, Jews were accused of this evil or used as scapegoats everywhere in the affected regions where they had settled after the expulsions of England and France:

In Strasbourg, two thousand of them [the Jews] were burned together in a huge stake. Some beautiful Israelite maidens were taken away from the stake by young bourgeois but they threw themselves in the stake again. In Bern, the Magistrate gave himself the signal for the Most Chritian massacre.  In Meinz 12000 Jews, in Erfurt 6000, in Lubeck 9000. Many other cities followed suit, such as Soleure, Zofingue, Stuttgart, Augsburg, Landsberg, Burren, Memmingen, Lindau, Basle. The massacre spread like a flame in France, Spain, Savoy, and Switzerland. The communanties were destroyed one after the other. Those in Essling, Spire, and Krems, threw themselves in the fire. And those of Vienna immolated themselves in the synagogue. The slaughter was so big across all Europe that, in many regions where the Jews had been numerous, there was none left. Half of the Jewish population [of Europe] died a violent death.
--- Ha-Cohen, Joseph, "The Vale of the Tears" (Emek Ha-Beqah), translation Albert Benhamou

In the city of Chinon, in the Loire Valley, a French witness narrated:

A very big pit was dug where a big fire was lit and where about a hundred of Jews of both sexes were burned. Many of them, women as men, threw themselves in the fire while singing, as if they went to a wedding celebration; some widows their their small children to the flames fearing that the Christians would take them away to baptise them.
--- Malvezin, Theophile, "Histoire des Juifs de Bordeaux", 1875, page 46, translation Albert Benhamou

Those among the Jewish communities who wanted to stay alive, and could do it in time, had to flee further East, thus creating the Ashkenazi population of Eastern Europe.

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Year 5117 – 1357 CE – The Jews of Toledo

Samuel ha-Levi Abulafia inaugurated the completion of his private synagogue in Toledo in 1357, as he was the wealthy treasurer for the King of Castile, Pedro. This Pedro (Peter in English) was known as the Cruel or the Just depending on historians. Pedro was however in favour of the Jews and punished harshly anyone who harmed them.

The walls of the synagogue featured rich stucco decoration as seen in the Alhambra, and also scenes taken from the Bible. 

Synagogue El Transito - Toledo
From the synagogue El Transito - Toledo (photo: Albert Benhamou)

But this policy towards the Jews was short-lived because Pedro was defeated by Henry, pretender to the throne, in 1366. Then the crown passed to Henry, supported by a French army, who was openly against the Jews as he saw them allies to Pedro who was even nicknamed the "King of the Jews". During this civil war, the Jews often sided with the legitimate king and this caused them terrible reprisals from Henry's forces when cities fell one after the other. A French account of this war however mentioned that the Jews fought valiantly in Burgos and Toledo. Yet the massacre was inevitable after the cities fell:

The massacre that Henry's soldiers was terrible. In Toledo, 12,000 Jews perished by the sword or fire, the shops, the Alcana were razed, and to put aljamas [Jewish quarters] looted. Samuel ha-Levi [Abulafia], accused of having received with no right the royal revenues, died under torture. The winning king imposed to them a fine of 20,000 gold doubloons. The persecution against the Jews even reached those who lived with the prince. Don Meir, Henry's own physician, was accused of desecrating a consecrated hostie, which was a common and dreaded accusation, and of having tried to poison the monarch.
--- Malvezin, Theophile, "Histoire des Juifs de Bordeaux", 1875, page 64, citing Sire de Joinville (translation: Albert Benhamou)

Then, after taking power, Henry often organised pogroms in order to force Jews to convert. His attitude towards the Jews was pursued by his son, Juan of Castile, during all his reign until 1390. This caused many Jews to leave Castile, but their situation was not much better in Aragon so several of them moved to Northern Africa where the Jews enjoyed better tolerance at the time. This was the first massive arrival of Spanish Jews to Northern Africa, while the second one took place about 100 years later, in 1492.

After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, the synagogue was given to the Knights of San Juan de Calatrava in exchange for the Alcazar of Toledo. the synagogue was later transformed into a church named "El Transito" (from a Christian topic called "Transit of the Virgin"). Today it is a museum about Jewish culture called the "Sefardi Museum".

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Year 5135 – 1375 CE – The Disputation of Pamplona and the Even Bohan

Shem Tov ibn Shaprut was a physician and Jewish scholar born in Tudela, Spain, about 1340. He was also a polemicist and engaged in several public debates with Christians. His most known debate took place in Pampluna, on 26 December 1375, against Cardinal Pedro de Luna, a former Jew converted to Christianity. The topic of the disputation was about the Original Sin and the Redemption, and, of course, whether Jesus was the Messiah expected by the Jews. After the disputation, Shem Tov moved out of Navarre into Aragon in 1378 because of the war in his country. There he wrote a book about 1380-1385, Even Bohan (the Touchstone), in which he gave details of the disputation and also criticised the Jews who converted to Christianity (the Maranos). As part of this effort to convince his brethren to remain in the Jewish faith, he also translated the four main Gospels into Hebrew and added a critical commentary.

Eben Bohan manuscript
Even Bohan manuscript, Bibliotheque Nationale, France
(source: Timeline of Jewry in Spain)

An example of the argumentation presented in Even Bohan is as follows. After citing the passages of the Torah that contradict the belief in a Messiah who had already come, Shem Tov explains why the Jewish condition of exile continued to prevail, by citing from Leviticus 26:33 and 20:22, as well as Deuteronomy 28:15-64, 30:2-3, and 32:46-47. He then explained:

From these passages, six principles emerge concerning our Redemption contrary to the opinion of the Christians. The first is that the neglect of the Torah will bring curses and exile upon the Jews, while its observance will make their standing in the land of Israel permanent, which is opposite of the opinion of the Christians who say that our exile is for the sin of killing their Messiah. The second, that it was because of the neglect of the commandments that our king was exiled and our rule was discontinued, while they say that this was caused by the killing of the aforementioned. The third, that it is destined for us that even if we sin and go to exile, if we turn back to Him,blessed ne He, He will gather us and bring us back to our land, etc., that it this depends on our repentance, and if we do turn back to Him, blessed be He, He will inevitably bring us out of the exile. The fourth, that the Redemption will consist of the bringing back of all of us to our land, and He will circumcise our hearts to love the Lord our God and to observe His commandments. And from this it can be seen that Jesus, who did not fulfill the commandments, was not the [Jewish] Messiah.
--- Shem Tov ibn Shaprut, Even Bohan

The Even Bohan was very successful among the Jews of Spain, who experienced various forms of critics from the Christians and, for most of them, lacked arguments to defend themselves, with the result of some of them accepted conversion.

As of Cardinal Pedro de Luna, he became Antipope Benedict XIII in 1394.[2] The reason for this was that the Papaucy was moved back from Avignon to Rome, and a new Pope (Urban VI) was elected there. However, Avignon remained a center for the dispute against the legitimacy of the Papaucy in Rome, and Antipopes were elected in Avignon instead (Clement VII and then Benedict XIII). This situation caused the Western Schism in the Roman Catholic world, from 1378.

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Year 5151 – 1391 CE – Pablo de Santa-Maria

The ha-Levi family had been very prominent in Burgos, Castile, and was respected by all the Jewish community. But the pressure became too harsh in the years of the reign of Henry and his son. In July 1391, Rabbi Solomon ha-Levi decided to abandon the Jewish faith after the great massacres that preceded in June 1391, and converted publicly to Christianity. He was followed by his brothers and sons, but not by his wife who remained Jewish. His high position enabled him to become the Bishop of Cartagena around 1400, then of Burgos in 1415.

Pablo de Santa Maria
Pablo de Santa Maria, former Rabbi Solomon ha-Levi

One of his sons, Pedro de Cartagena, became an able army commander and friend to the royal family. One of Pedro's daughters, Teresa de Cartagena born in 1425, entered the Franciscan Order and soon after became deaf around 1455. She was a writer and considered in Spain as the first feminist writer.

Unfortunately it was due to Pablo's earlier Jewish scholarship and knowledge of the Jewish scriptures that, because of pamphlets he wrote against Judaism, the Church had been able to direct accusations against the Jews or the Talmud and caused further disputations.

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Year 5151 – 1391 CE – Hasdai Crescas and the Jews of Barcelona

Hasdai Crescas was born in Barcelona in 1340. He became a famous Jewish philosopher, precursor to Baruch Spinoza but attached to the Jewish faith. He was considered as the main spokesman of the Jewish communities of Spain at a time when these communities started to suffer greatly, and more than ever before. Crescas wrote a letter to lament about the fate of his native community of Barcelona on August 1391 (Av 5151) which he witnessed:

The following Shabbat [6 August 1391, 27 Av 5151], the Lord poured out His anger like fire, shook His sanctuary and desecrated the crown of the Torah that is the community of Barcelona, which was overtaken on that day. The number of dead reached two hundred and fifty. The rest of the community escaped to the fortress where they took refuge while the enemies looted the Jewish streets and put some on fire. The governor of the city had no hand in the attack. On the contrary, he did his best to save them. [...] The Jews were fed and it was decided to punish criminals severely. Then the masses and the mobs rebe;;ed against the city leaders. they attacked the Jews who were in the fortress. Many died in martyrs, among them my only son who was newly married. I have offered him for a sacrifice as an innocent lamb. Many committed suicide, some by throwing themselves down the fortress. Before reaching the ground, their bodies were totally torn apart. Some others went out from there and sanctified the Divine Name in the street. All the rest were baptized. Only a few escaped to baronial cities, even a child could count them. They were the elite. Because of our sins, there is today no one known as a Jew in Barcelona.
--- Letter from Hasdai Crescas to the Jewish community of Avignon, October 1391
The toll of the anti-Jewish riots of 1391 was high: thousands of Jews were murdered or forcibly converted to the Christian faith.[4] Some escaped to nearby spanish kingdoms, others to Muslim lands even to Northern Africa. The famous disputation of Barcelona in 1263 should have acted as a warning for the Jewish community of that city. Nahmanides had to escape from there and settled in the Holy Land. More of his brethren should have followed him at the time. No Jews lived in Barcelona after this massacre for about 500 years. Some settled in the city again in the 19th century.

Sinagoga Major de Barcelona
Sinagoga Major de Barcelona
(source: Wikipedia)

As of Hasdai Crescas, he spent the rest of his life trying to rehabilitate the lost communiities of the Spanish cities, but to no avail. The restrictions against the Jews became more severe over time and culminated with their expulsion from Spain about a hundred years later in 1492. The two events, the massacres of 1391 and the expulsion of 1492, have the Hebrew years of 5151 and 5252 respectively.

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[1] This has been shown by the letters he addressed to German states and the pope John XXII. For these letters in Lithuanian, click here

[2] An Antipope is a person who opposes the elected Pope, and makes a competing claim to be the Pope; in the Middle Ages, there were many disputes about the election of the Pope and this resulted in the existence of Antipope until the 15th century; to see a list of Antipopes, click here

[3] Source: Archivo de la Corona de Aragon, Reg. 203, folio 134, August 1311

[4] In the sole city of Sevilla, 4000 Jews were massacred in a single day; and it has been estimated that one third of the Jews of Spain converted to Christianity in 1391 by fear of being killed

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