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 Disputation of Tortosa
(5173 AM - 1413 CE)

Solomon Ilami and Iggeret Musar
(5175 AM - 1415 CE)

French Jews in Hungary
(5192 AM - 1432 CE)

The fall of Constantinople
(5213 AM - 1453 CE)

The Catholic Monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand
(5229 AM - 1469 CE)

Census of the Jews of Castille
(5234 AM - 1474 CE)

The Spanish Inquisition
(5238 AM - 1478 CE)

Abraham Zacuto
(5238 AM - 1478 CE)

Obadiah ben Abraham
(5248 AM - 1488 CE)

The fall of Granada
(5252 AM - 1492 CE)

The expulsion of the Jews from Spain
(5252 AM - 1492 CE)

Christopher Columbus discovers America
(5252 AM - 1492 CE)

Was Columbus Jewish?

The expulsion of the Jews from Portugal
(5257 AM - 1497 CE)

The fate of the European monarchies

Expulsion of the Jews from Provence
(5258 AM - 1498 CE)

The massacre of Lisbon
(5266 AM - 1506 CE)

The Ottomans conquer Jerusalem
(5276 AM - 1516 CE)

Martin Luther exposes his theory
(5277 AM - 1517 CE)

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Hebrew years 5160 to 5280 (1400 - 1520 CE)
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Year 5173 – 1413 CE – The Disputation of Tortosa

In Tortosa, Spain, Jewish sages were asked to represent the Jews in a new disputation. As it happened before, in Paris and in Barcelona, it was initiated by a converted Jewish physician, Geronimo de Santa Fe ("Holy Faith") previously called Joshua ben Joseph ibn Vives (also called Joshua ha-Lorki in other sources, otherwise nicknamed as the Blasphemer by his fellow Jews), who convinced his patient Antipope Benedict XIII to convey such contest. But this time, there were of reprisals from the Inquisition against the Jewish debaters.

The disputation started on 7 February 1413. The main tool used by Geronimo de Santa Fe was a midrash published in Spain by Christians, but the Jewish sages rejected it as a forgery. Yet the debate continued for two weeks, after which time the Dominican inquisitors declared the Christian side as clear winner. When the Jewish debaters had asked for free debate, they were told that this venue was not a debate but an opportunity for the Jewish community as a whole to learn that Christianity was rooted in Jewish Scriptures and that Jesus was the expected Messiah. This set the tone for this disputation and its real goal.

The debate was however called again from May to August 1413, this time to discuss the redemption. When the Jews stated that Jesus did not bring the people of Israel out from their places scattered in the world, and that the diaspora actually was in vigor, they were told that the redemption from Jesus was spiritual rather than physical. Further they were told that their refusal to accept Jesus as the Messiah was the only cause for their continuous state of diaspora.

In a last phase opened in January 1414, the discussion was pursue on the Messiah. For the Jewish debaters, his existence was a mere matter of faith because he was not explicitely mentioned in the Torah. Thus the use of midrashim to "prove" his existence, while midrashim were only interpretation of the Scriptures, was a devious approach. The debate continued until May 1414 at which time Geronimo concluded at his own taste and formally closed the disputation in December 1414.
This is because, out of the 14 Jewish personalities, mostly rabbis, who participated to the disputation, 12 converted ! Only Rabbi Ferrer and Joseph Albo remained in their faith.

The result of the disputation was that the Christians claimed victory and an order was passed, as in Paris, to burn the Jewish books, Talmud and other works. The Jews felt threatened of further ordeal and many influential Jewish families felt the need to convert, as did their spiritual leaders, and avoid trouble. But, in April 1416, a new king rose on Aragon, Alfonso V, who cancelled every legislation passed against the Jewish community and even allowed those who were compelled to convert to Christianity to return to their faith should they feel the desire to do so.

Following this disputatiom, a book was written in Hebrew by one of the Jewish debaters, Joseph Albo, the Sefer ha-Ikkarim (the "Book of Principles") to clarify for the endangered Jewish community the mainstream ideas of Judaism, which are not focused solely on the expectation of the Messiah. The main principles being explained are: 1- belief in the existence of One God, 2- belief in His revelation, 3- belief in His justice with reward and punishment.

As of Geronimo de Santa Fe, he had several sons. Some of them eventually returned to Judaism or hid their Jewish belief as Marranos. Most of Geronimo descendants were finally burned as Marranos between 1497 and 1499 after trials by the Inquisition.

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Year 5175 – 1415 CE – Solomon Alami

Alami witnessed the persecutions of 1391 in Spain and found refuge in Portugal. In a book he wrote, Iggeret Musar (meaning "Letter of Advice"), he exposed the reasons for which the terrible catastrophies fell upon the Jewish communities of Spain in his times:

If we ask ourselves why all this happened to us, then we have to accept the truth: we ourselves are at fault [...] Our scholars were jealous of each other and disrespectful [...]  There are those of our brethren who expend all their energies in solving Talmudic problems and in writing numberless commentaries and novellæ dealing in minute distinctions and interpretations, full of useless subtleties as thin as cobwebs. They diffuse darkness instead of light, and lower respect for the Law. There were scholars who attempted to interpret the Torah in the Greek manner and clothe it in Greek dress. They believe that Plato and Aristotle had brought to us more light than Moses our master [...] It serves no good to quote Scriptures as support for philosophical opinions: the way of reason and the way of faith are too far apart and will never meet [...] The next in line of decadence were the leaders of the communities and thoses favoured and trusted by the kings. Their riches and their high position made them forsake humility [...] They acquired costly wagons and horses, dressed in precious garnments [...] They gave up study and industry and cultivated idleness, vainglory and inordinate ambition [...] Everyone chased after these coveted positions; envy estranged a man from his fellow and they didn't mind denouncing one another before the court [...] The burden of taxation they shifted to the poorer classes. In the end the court itself found them despicable and removed them from power [...] There is no communal spirit among us; people quarrel over trifles. [...] Therefore the great punishment came: it was inevitable.
--- Alami, Solomon, Iggeret Musar, 1415
And Alami was right in his analysis. The catastrophes come upon Jews when assimilation threatens the core of their existence and when divisions are among their communities. This is the lesson that has repeated since the time of the Hebrews in Egypt, since the Israelites in Persia during the time of Esther and Mordechai, and then the time of the Hasmonean dynasty followed by the collapse of the Jewish nation at the time of the Romans. And there was more to come...

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Year 5192 – 1432 CE – French Jews in Hungary

In February 1432, Bertrandon de la Brocquiere, a nobleman from Ghent in Belgium, started a travel to the Holy Land. On his return, he crossed Europe after a stop in Constantinople which was still Christian at the time in 1433. When he arrived to Buda, one part of the city that later became Budapest, he wrote:

The town is governed by Germans, as well in respect to police as commerce, and what regards the different professions. Many Jews live there who speak French well, several of them being descendants of those driven formerly from France.
--- Wright, Thomas, "Early Travels in Palestine", London, 1848, chapter The Travels of Bertrandon de la Brocquiere, p. 371

This testimonial is interesting because if shows that, at that time in 1432-1433, many Jews in that part of Central Europe had immigrated from France after the expulsion of 1306, over 100 years before.
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Year 5213 – 1453 CE – The fall of Constantinople

Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine empire, finally fell to the Ottomans after a siege of about two months in April and May 1453. This meant the end of the Eastern Roman Empire which started in 395 CE. The fall of Constantinople was a matter of time, as most of the Eastern Roman Empire had already fallen to the Ottoman Empire by 1450. Only remained the area of Constantinople and part of Greece.

The region of Constantinople in 1450 CE
The region of Constantinople in 1450 CE
(source: Wikipedia)

This capture is iconic for Historians who use it as the end of the Middle Ages, and the start of the Renaissance. Iconically, the year 1453 also marked the end of the Hundred Years' Ware between France and England, with all the English possessions absorbed into the French kingdom with the exception of Calais in the north.

As for the Jews, the capture of Constantinople proved providential to them because the Ottoman Empire started to prosper and opened its doors to the Jews who were about to be expelled from Spain and Portugal in the years that followed.

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Year 5229 – 1469 CE – The Catholic Monarchs

The two second cousins, Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, married in October 1469 in their late teens. Their union put an end to succession disputes in the Spanish kingdoms and created a stronger unified kingdom. Isabelle reigned over Castile from 1474, and Ferdinand over Aragon from 1479. They were called the Catholic Monarchs by Pope Alexander VI in 1496.

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Year 5234 – 1474 CE – Census of the Jews of Castile

In 1474, Henry IV, king of Castile and father of Isabella, commissioned his Jewish physician, Jacob ibn Nunes, who was also his chief judge, to arrange a census of the Jews of Castile in order to check the tax they had to pay to the crown annually. The document is interesting because it gives the number of almajas (Jewish quarters or ghettos) in the cities of Castile in these times.[4] This number was of 217 and the tax calculated was of 453,600 maravedis which, at 3 maravedis per head of people aged 16 years and above, shows a population of 150,000 Jews in Castile, not counting infants and children. With a shorter life expectancy in these times, and a high number of children, we could assume that the number of children and infants added a further third of the Jewish population thus totalling 500,000 people, of all ages, in Castile alone.  

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Year 5238 – 1478 CE – The Spanish Inquisition 

The Catholic Monarchs established the Spanish Inquisition in 1478, replacing the previous medieval Inquisition ordered by the Pope. This time, the Inquisition was conducted under the rule of the monarchs, and acted as a police to purge Spanish society from heretics. This was particularly aimed at the Jews who had converted to Christianity in the past, because they felt threatened, and who continued to practice Judaism in secret. These conversos (the converted), also called the Marranos, were often denounced to the newly established Spanish Inquisition which was increasing its presence, with tribunals, tortures and public executions at the stake called auto-da-fé (meaning act of faith). These executions were generally carried out during Christian festivals so that a larger crowd would be able to attend them, and be used as a deterrent for those who would be considered enemies of the Church..

Marranos celebrating Passover in secret
Marranos celebrating Passover in secret -- by Moshe Maimon, 1893
(source: Wikipedia)

The first auto-da-fé took place in Seville:

On the 6th of January [1481], four days after the tribunal of Inquisition started to office, six marranos, tortured, are condemned to death and burnt at the stake. This first auto-da-fé is celebrated with a pompous procession. The priests dressed in somptuous costumes and covered with gold and the dignitaries dressed in black with their banners bring to the stake the misfortunate victims covered with san benito. Seventeen others suffer the same fate some days later. In less than six months, two hundred ninety-eight new Christians suffered the punishment of the fire and seventy-nine others were condemned to life emprisonment. All this only in Seville. during the same time, more than two thousand Marranos, all rich, are taken up to the stake in the other parts of Spain, were secondary tribunals of the Inquisition have been formed. Seveteen thousand suffer various canonical penalties.
--- Ha-Cohen, Joseph, The Vale of the Tears, 1575, from the introduction by Julien See translated by Albert Benhamou

Two years later, in 1483, Jews were expelled from Andalusia, where they had been established since the arrival of the Muslim invasion and maybe even before, for some 1000 years. In October of that same year, the Dominican Tomas de Torquemada was named Inquisidor General of Aragon, Valencia and Calalonia.[5] In Aragon where the news of the Inquisition was badly received, and where the Conversos were influential families, the inquisitor Pedro Arbues was assassinated in Zaragossa cathedral on 14 September 1485, a few days before the Jewish New Year. This caused an outcry against the Jews and led to revenge by the public.

The Christian authorities have attempted over the years to minimize the impact of the Inquisition, stating that it was not as bad as generally thought, and revising the number of victims from over 30,000 to less than 3,000. It is hard to believe though that words or names such as "Inquisition", "auto-da-fé" or "Torquemada", would have had such an impact on the centuries that followed if the number of victims would be so low. The Inquisition was established in about 10 main cities of Spain and principally against the converted Jews from about 1480 to 1530. So 50 years of tribunals over 10 cities makes 500; if we consider 3000 victims, it would mean 6 victims per year per city: this number would probably be lower than the condemnations of any normal criminal tribunal and would barely justify the infamous reputation of the Spanish Inquisition.

Inquisition torture chamber
Inquisition torture chamber
by Bernard Picard in "Mémoires historiques pour servir à l'histoire des Inquisitions", 1716

The process to abolish the Inquisition was started by Napoleon after he invaded Spain in 1808, and it was approved by the Cortes parliament in 1813.

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Year 5238 – 1478 CE – Abraham Zacuto

Abraham Zacuto (or Zacut) was a Jew from Salamanca, Castile, who became a reknown mathematician and astronomer. In 1478, he wrote a book in Hebrew, ha-Hibur ha-Gadol (the Great Compilation), which proved to be invaluable for maritime explorers in the years that followed. Because, until then, no explorer could pass the Line of the Equator without getting lost and shipwrecked, simply because the North Star was no longer in sight for them. Zacuto's book provided the necessary tool to conduct maritime travel based on the Sun, which was useable in any part of the globe. The book was so important that it was translated in Spanish as early as 1481. But, in 1492, Zacuto had to flee from Spain due to the Inquisition and was welcomed to Portugal. The Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama met several times with Zacuto in 1497, before he organised his travel to the other side of the world. Thanks to Zacuto's Perpetual Almanac of the Heavenly Bodies (otherwise known as the Book of Tables on the Celestial Motions), de Gama became the first navigator to achieve the maritime travel across the Southern Hemisphere.

Zacuto tables
Extract from
Zacuto's Perpetual Almanac

Christopher Columbus also met Zacuto in Spain before 1492, and the explorer's own copy of the tables, along with his hand-written side notes, is held in one library of Portugal. During his last voyage in 1504, one of his ships was wrecked in Jamaica and the fleet had to remain there for some time. They needed fresh supplies but the natives were hostile and did not want to supply anything. Columbus consulted  Zacuto’s tables and found out that a lunar eclipse was scheduled for 1 March 1504. So he threatened 
the Indians to deprive them from moonlight. What happened next was narrated by Ferdinand, the son of Columbus and his biographer:

The Indians observed this [the eclipse] and were so astonished and frightened that, with great cries and lamentations, they came running from all directions to the ships, carrying provisions and begging (...) and promising they would diligently supply all their needs in the future.
--- Columbus, Ferdinand, The Life of Admiral Christopher Columbus by his son Ferdinand, 1959

Abraham Zacuto left his name in the Hall of Fame of astronomers because one of the lunar crater has been named after him: the Zagut Crater.

Zacuto is also known to Jewish literature as the author of the Sefer Yuhasin (meaning the Book of Lineage), completed in 1498 after years of research, which offers an historical genealogy for the Jewish people. 

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Year 5248 – 1488 CE – Obadiah ben Abraham in Jerusalem

Obadiah ben Abraham, born in Bertinoro in 1445, left his native town in Italy in 1486 to settle in Jerusalem. He arrived there in 1488 and was immediately given the role of head of the community there which was in bad situation at the time. His scholarship enabled him to restart the process of studying the Torah with the young generation in Jerusalem and sermons. His venue in fact signalled the start of a new era for the Jews of Jerusalem who badly needed some leader in these times. Obadiah was later followed by other Jews from Spain and Portugal who fled the Inquisition. They progressively came either directly to the Holy Land, or later after one generation or two who settled in other parts of Europe, either Provence, Italy, Greece or the Muslim dominion.

Obadiah was also the author of an authoritative commentary of the Mishnah, considered as one of the best and commonly called in the subsequent publications of the Talmud as The Bartenura.

Obadiah died in Jerusalem in 1515.

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Year 5252 – 1492 CE – The Fall of Granada

The Catholic Monarchs also engaged from 1482 in the reconquista of the region of Granada which was still Muslim under the rule of the Almohads, and the only Muslim state in the Iberian peninsula since the last Christian conquests of 1252. The war against Granada took 10 years with intermittent progress siege after siege of the Muslim cities. The ruler of Granada, Boabdil, asked from support from fellow Muslim dominions but received none due to politics and conflicts between them. In April 1491, the Catholic monarchs started a siege of the last city, Granada, that lasted 8 months until its surrender in early January 1492.

The surrender of Granada
The surrender of Granada - by Francisco Ortiz, 1882

Boabdil and his family were allowed to leave under the surrender agreement and he established himself in the city of Tlemcen, Algeria, where he died a few years later.

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Year 5252 – 1492 CE – Expulsion of the Jews from Spain

On 31 March 1492, the Catholic monarchs issued the Alhambra Decree to expulse the Jews from Spain. Many of them had found refuge in the Muslim kingdom of Granada and had been trapped there during the Reconquista. Jews were given four months to either convert to Christianity or to leave. The deadline was the end of July 1492, which corresponded to the Hebrew month of Av year 5252. About one hundred years earlier, in the month of Av 5151 (August 1391), the first massacres of Jews had taken place in Christian Spain. The Hebrew year 5252 is written with the letters רבים and interpreted as the passage of Isaiah 54:1:  
 כִּי-רַבִּים בְּנֵי-שׁוֹמֵמָה מִבְּנֵי בְעוּלָה אָמַר יְהוָה which means: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, says the Lord. 

The Alhambra Decree of 1492
The Alhambra Decree of 1492

Many Jews who had business and wealth opted to convert rather than lose everything.[1c] But the majority, who lived just ordinary lives, decided to leave. The expulsion decree threw on hazardous roads about 800,000 Jews from Spain. The departures were heart breaking for them who lived in Spain for about 2000 years and had their ancestors buried in this land. amd all of them had to sell their property and belongings for very little money because there was so much being put on sale and little number of buyers:

In Segovia, said Don Diego de Colmenares,[1a] the Jews spent three days in tears in the cemetary on the tombs of their ancestors. Some parents were so desperate that they sold their children to pay for their passage; others, who managed to save some remains of their former wealth to take with them were thrown in the sea by seamen who coveted their spoil. The luckiest ones managed to escape.
--- Malvezin, Theophile, "Histoire des Juifs de Bordeaux", 1875, page 70 (translation: Albert Benhamou)

Most of the Jews from Al-Andalus naturally opted to go to Muslim countries, in particular in Northern Africa where many were killed on arrival by Moorish tribes, but also further east to the Ottoman Empire who was welcoming them because its ruler, Bayesid II, sent a fleet to Spanish harbours to transport Muslims and Jews alike away from Spain. In his court, the Sultan ridiculed the Catholic Monarchs for expelling so useful subjects as the Jews: You venture to call Ferdinand a wise ruler, he who has impoverished his own country and enriched mine!
[1b] Future proved him right. As a start, in 1493, the exiled Spanish Jews introduced in Constantinople the first printing press.

The Jews who lived in cities of Northern Spain naturally headed further north towards Languedoc, Aquitaine and Provence. Some of them went to Italy.

Other Jews from Western Spain went to nearby Christian Portugal, because the king there granted them asylum in return for payment. And over 50,000 of the Jews opted for conversion, but came under the scrutiny of the Inquisition in the years that followed and many were condemned to be burned at the stake for suspicion of secret practice of Judaism.

The Jews who succeeded to make a safe passage to North Africa mainly settled in cities of the plains and coasts of what became Algeria and Morocco. They came in contact with the Jews who had lived in that region for centuries before them, but mostly in the mountains, as did the Berbers initially, to keep away from the Muslim world. The local Jews were called the metushavim meaning the ones who were settled, while the new comers from Spain were called the megurashim meaning the one who were separated (from their home land). Over the next centuries, both populations would combine in a mixture referred as the Sephardim, although strictly speaking the 
metushavim Jews were more Oriental Jews (mizrahim) than Hispanic Jews (sephardim). The latter adopted new names, sometimes reflecting the Spanish city they originated from such as Toledano for Toledo, Marciano for Murcia, and so on.

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Year 5252 – 1492 CE – Columbus discovers America

The year 1492 is also the year when Christopher Columbus departed from the Indies and found the American continent instead. After having been rejected by Portugal, Genoa, Venice and England about his plans, he presented them to the Catholic Monarchs in 1486 thanks to Abraham Zacuto who introduced Columbus to Don Isaac Abrabanel who had his entries to the royal court. After six years of financial support from the monarchs, and just after they conquered the kingdom of Granada, they finally granted to Colombus what he needed for the expedition despite negative advice from their entourage.

Columbus before the Catholic monarchs
Columbus before the Catholic monarchs in Cordoba - by Emmanuel Leutze, 1843 (Brooklyn Museum)

After four voyages to America, Columbus died in Spain in 1506, two years after Queen Isabella. Shortly before his death, he wrote a Book of Prophecies in which he showed his passion about liberating the Holy Land from Muslim hands to allow Jesus (as the Messiah) to come back. He also stated that the Garden of Eden ought to be found.

Was Columbus Jewish?

In recent years, several scholars have demonstrated that Columbus was himself issued from a family of Marranos who found refuge in Genoa although they didn't speak Italian but Spanish. The facts were explained in an article that stated: [2]

- his will contained provisions derived from Jewish tradition, such as giving 10% of his assets to tithes

- his signature, that he asked his heirs to use, contains dots and letters in a cryptic format that is similar to those found in Jewish tombs of Spain; they are the initial of a Hebrew prayer in Latin and Hebrew: Sanctus. Sanctus, Adonai, Sanctus. Chesed Moleh Yehovah meaning "God. God, Lord, God. Lord grant mercy" (read from right to left, as in Hebrew)

- twelve letters (out of thirteen that remain) addressed to his son contained cryptic symbol on the left (top) side of the letter; it was suggested that these were Beth and Hei letters in Hebrew as Jews would normally do and that state Be-ezrat Hashem meaning "with God's help"

For the Jews of 1492, the fall of the last Muslim kingdom in Spain followed by the decree of expulsion that put hundreds of thousands of them on the road to exile, or return, was probably seen as a Messianic age. In addition, 1492 is 5252 in Hebrew calendar, which is twice 2626, 26 being the number of God's four letters name. There is a theory that Columbus himself was a Messianic Jew. Also it is worth noting that the expedition of Columbus, although finally approved by the Catholic monarchs, was mostly financed by Jewish Conversos, mainly by Luis de Santangel, the finance minister to Ferdinand, and also Gabriel Sanchez, the treasurer of the kingdom of Aragon. It is assumed that a number of passengers of this expedition were 
Conversos who had to flee from the claws of  Inquisition.

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Year 5257 – 1497 CE – Expulsion of the Jews from Portugal

Many Jews found initial refuge in nearby Portugal after their expulsion from Spain in 1492, because King Joao II granted them asylum. This king disliked the Spanish monarchs and was in conflict with Castile after the return of Columbus from his expedition. The tension had been aggravated by the fact that the Catholic Monarchs had no sure male heir, only daughters, and the eldest of them had been married to Joao's son and heir, Alfonso. The latter would become king of both Portugal and Spain after the Catholic Monarchs would die. But Alfonso died from a suspicious horse riding accident and there was suspicious that Spain had orchestrated it. Meanwhile the threat of the crown of Spain going to Portugal was thus removed. Since Joao showed bitterness towards the Spanish monarchy and this had led him to welcome the Jews to Portugal, after their expulsion from Spain, in return for payment. But many more Jews entered Portugal "illegally" and Joao jailed those he could catch and enslaved many of them some months later. However he died of poisoning in 1495,[3a] at the young age of 40, and with no heir.

Joao's cousin Manuel succeeded him. Manuel was not particularly against the Jews and even fred all those who were emprisoned. But he desired to marry the heiress of Castile, widow of Alfonso, and the Pope intervened in the transaction. One condition fot this marriage was that Portugal had to apply the same policy towards the Jews. So, in December 1496, Manuel passed a decree to expel the Jews from Portugal as well, and without their children, or must convert.

He [Bishop Osorius] says that this [decree] produced a most horrid spectacle the natural affection between the parents and their children, and moreover their zeal to their ancient belief, contending against this violent decree, fathers and mothers were commonly seen making themselves away, and by a yet much more rigorous example, precipitating out of love and compassion their young children into wells and pits, to avoid the severity of this law. As to the remainder of them, the time that had been prefixed being expired, for want of means to transport them they again returned into slavery. Some also turned Christians, upon whose faith, as also that of their posterity, even to this day, which is a hundred years since, few Portuguese can yet rely; though custom and length of time are much more powerful counsellors in such changes than all other constraints whatever.
--- Michel de Montaigne,[3b] "Essays", first published 1580, book I, chapter XL

So, in essence, many Jews with families opted for the conversion rather than leaving their children behind. This was made possible because Manuel would not admit the Inquisition to question the faith of these "New Christians" and he even granted them 30 years of freedom without being investigated. For example, the Zacuto family converted under such condition and took names such as Rodriguez and Nunez, and they were able to continue practice Judaism in secret for 30 years. Yet this situation led to assimilation of their children over the years, except those who decided to finally leave Portugal for other countries, such as Holland, where they returned to the Jewish faith and retook their family name Zacuto. One of them, Rabbi Moses ben Mordechai Zacuto (1625-1697), became a famous kabbalist under the acronym name Ramaz. As of Abraham Zacuto himself, he did not convert and rather fled with his son to Tunis, where the latter married, and from there he travelled alone to Jerusalem where he spent his last years of life before his death in 1514, the year he had predicted for the venue of the Messiah !

As of those Jews who had left before the expulsion decree or were without children, they managed to leave in 1497 and mostly went north to Holland and England, leading to the establishment of a strong Spanish and Portugese community in Amsterdam. But in London, where Jews were not allowed since the expulsion of 1290, the Spanish and Portugese Jews who arrived there before and after 1492 where Marranos who continued to practice Judaism in secret, without the scrutiny of the English authorities.

What happened to the dynasties of Spain and Portugal?
only son of Ferndinand and Isabella was of feeble health and died in 1497, thus putting at risk the dynasty of Spain. As of thewife of Manuel of Portugal, she died in childbirth in 1498. Manuel remarried in 1500 with one of his wife's sisters who gave birth to a son and heir in 1502. In Spain, after the death of the Catholic Monarchs, their eldest daughter Joanna started to reign in Castile from 1504, after the death of her mother Isabella, while her father Ferdinand continued to reign over Aragon. But Joanna was named "the Mad". Her marriage led to the dynasty of Habsburg to rule over Spain in the years that followed. 

It is a fact that all four royal dynasties in England, France, Spain and Portugal experienced succession crisis within a short number of years after the Jews had been expelled from their dominions. All the heirs of the related monarchs of France, Spain and Portugal died, and the heir of England, Edouard II, was assassinated by his wife who ruled England with her lover.

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Year 5258 – 1498 CE – Expulsion of the Jews from Provence

Provence had been a shelter for Jews since Roman times and especially in the Middle Age where Jews were expelled from France in 1306, a decree renewed in 1394. But, with the death of the last independent ruler of Provence, Rene, in 1480, the dominion passed under the crown of France. Anti-Jewish disorders started in 1484 with calls for their expulsion, despite the initial protection from the king of France, Charles VIII. Monks and priests incited the population of Provence against the Jews again in 1489, 1493 and 1495, and repeated their request to expell them. The next French monarch, Louis XII, finally ceded to these pressures from Christian bodies and issued a decree of expulsion of the Jews in 1498. Some 150 Jewish families preferred to stay and converted to Christianity, but they were heavily taxed from 1512 as "neophytes". As of those who left Provence, many of them embarked for the Ottoman Empire and settled in Constantinople.

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Year 5266 – 1506 CE – The massacre of Lisbon

After the decree of expulsion from Portugal, many Jews had remained in Lisbon, faking conversion to Christianity rather than leave their children behind. They were soon caught up by the resentment of the Christian population, fed by Dominican friars, who massacred or burned 2000 of them on 19 April 1506 (Pessah day, 15 Nisan 5266).

The massacre of Lisbon in 1506
The massacre of Lisbon in 1506 -- German engraving
depicting Christian friars leading the populace

The Portuguese crown also established their Inquisition in 1536, which lasted until 1821 following Napoleon's conquest.

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Year 5277 – 1517 CE – The Ottomans conquer Jerusalem

The Ottomans had been in conflict against the Mameluks of Egypt since 1485. This was one of the cause of the fall of the kingdom of Granada as no Muslim nation, who were allied to one party or another, could engage in supporting the Almohads in their war against the Christian Reconquista. The Ottoman Sultan Selim I, the son of Bayesid II who had welcomed the Jews from Spain, had probably gained divine merit as he first won against the Persians in 1514. This enabled him to take over a part of their empire. He then turned against the Mameluks who occupided Syria and Palestine. And, in 1516, he finally conquered that region and took Jerusalem in 1517. The Holy Land and Jerusalem thus passed under the Ottoman control and will remain so for just over 400 years until 1917 when General Allenby of the British Forces liberated the region during WW-I.

This conquest of Jerusalem by the Ottomans and the subsequent period of 400 years had been predicted by Rabbi Judah of Regensburg back in 1217.

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Year 5277 – 1517 CE – Luther exposes his theory

Martin Luther, a German monk, disputed the idea that money could cancel God's punishment against sinners who would then avoid avoid the fires of Hell. This sale of "Indulgences" was used by the Church as a fund-rising tool, but local clerics also abused the system to extort money from people in order to accept their confessions. Luther published a book, Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences, in 1517 to explain his doctrine. 

Initially, Luther was looking at the Jews as having a role in the destiny of the world. In January 1514, he criticized the doctrine of hatred that existed since the time of Emperor Justinian in a letter he wrote to Revd. George Spalatin:

I have come to the conclusion that the Jews will always curse and blaspheme God and his King Christ, as all the prphets have predicted. He who neither reads nor under understands this, as yet knows no theology in my opinion. And so I presume that the men of Cologne cannot understand the Scripture because it is necessary that such things take place to fulfill prophecy. If they are trying to stop the Jews blaspheming, they are working to prove the Bible and God liars. But trust God to be true, even if a million men of Cologne sweat to make him flase. Conversion of the Jews will be the work of God alone operating from within, and not of man working — or rather playing — from without.
--- Luther's Correspondence and other Contemporary Letters, edited by Preserved Smith, Philadelphia, 1913, volume 1, page 29

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[1a] Diego de Colmenares (1586-1651) was a Spanish Historian who authored a history of Segovia: Historia de la insigne Ciudad de Segovia y compendio de las historias de Castilla

[1b] Source: Funk and Wagnalls, The Jewish Encyclopedia, 1912, Volume 2, p.460

[1c] Recent DNA research has concluded that 20% of the current population of Spain and Portugal is of Jewish origin, while the Muslim/Moor descent only represents 11%; to read an article on this finding, click here

[2] Special report from CNN, by Charles Garcia, dated 20 May 2012; to read it, click here

[3a] History books do not mention this but a Jewish chronicle of these times, The Vale of the Tears, stated it; this assassination was probably arranged by Portuguese lords who disliked the total power that Joao exerced in his reign, and wanted to favour an alliance rather than a war with Spain

[3b] Michel de Montaigne himself was from a wealthy Jew, Pedro Lopes, who fled from Zaragossa, Spain, and settled in the city of Bordeaux in Aquitaine, France; Montaigne's mother was Antoinette de Louppes (meaning Lopes) according to Mazerin, Theophile, "Michel de Montaigne; son origine, sa famille", 1875

[4] Jose Amador de los Rios, Historia de los Judios de Espana y de Portugal, 1875, Vol. iii. 590-602, published from a manuscript held at the National Library in Madrid

[5] Torquemada was himself a descendant of Conversos and a fierce Jew hater; he became the Queen's personal confessor

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