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Title: History of the Jews, Vol. IV (of VI)
Author: Graetz, Heinrich
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "History of the Jews, Vol. IV (of VI)" ***

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    VOL. IV

    IN HOLLAND (1618 C. E.)





    Copyright, 1894, by


    _All rights reserved. No part of this book may be
    reproduced in any form without permission in
    writing from the publisher: except by a reviewer
    who may quote brief passages in a review to be
    printed in a magazine or newspaper._





  Progress of the Kabbala--Todros Halevi and his Sons--Isaac
  Allatif and his Kabbalistic Doctrines--Adventurous Career
  of Abraham Abulafia--He assumes the Character of Messiah
  --Opposition of Ben Adret--The Prophet of Avila--Joseph
  Jikatilla and his Kabbalistic Mazes--The Impostor Moses de
  Leon--Forgeries of the Kabbalists--Origin of the Zohar--
  Its Doctrines and Influence--Shem-Tob Falaquera--Isaac
  Albalag--Levi of Villefranche--Samuel Sulami and Meïri--
  Abba-Mari's Exaggerated Zeal--Jacob ben Machir Profatius and
  the Controversy regarding the Study of Science--Asheri--The
  Poet Yedaya Bedaresi                                     _page 1._

  1270-1328 C.E.



  Philip le Bel--The Jews of France plundered and banished--
  Estori Parchi; Aaron Cohen; Laments of Bedaresi--Eleazar
  of Chinon, the Martyr--Return of the Jews to France; their
  Precarious Position--Progress of the Controversy regarding
  the Study of Philosophy--Abba-Mari and Asheri--Death of Ben
  Adret--Rabbinical Revival in Spain--Isaac Israeli II--
  Samuel and the Queen Maria Molina--Don Juan Emanuel and Judah
  Ibn-Wakar--The Jews of Rome--Robert of Naples and the Jews
  --Peril of the Jews in Rome--Kalonymos ben Kalonymos, his
  Satires--Immanuel and Dante--The Poet Judah Siciliano--
  Leone Romano and King Robert--Shemarya Ikriti--Position of
  Karaism--Aaron the Elder and the Prayer-Book of the Karaites
                                                          _page 46._

  1306-1328 C.E.



  Condition of Palestine--Pilgrims and Immigrants--Shem
  Tob Ibn-Gaon--Favorable Position of the Jews in Castile
  under Alfonso XI--Persecution in Navarre--Joseph de Ecija
  and Samuel Ibn-Wakar--Increase of Anti-Jewish Feelings
  --Abner-Alfonso of Burgos, Convert to Christianity, and
  Persecutor of the Jews--Gonzalo Martinez--Fall of Martinez
  and Deliverance of the Jews--Decline of the Study of Science
  --The Study of the Talmud prosecuted with Renewed Vigor--
  Jacob and Judah Asheri--Isaac Pulgar, David Ibn-Albilla--
  The Provençal Philosophers Ibn-Kaspi, Leon de Bagnols, and
  Vidal Narboni--Decline of the Study of the Talmud in Germany
  --Emperor Louis of Bavaria and the Jews--Persecution by the
  "Leather-Arms"                                          _page 73._

  1328-1350 C.E.



  Rise of the False Accusation against Jews of Poisoning the
  Wells--Massacres in Southern France and Catalonia--The
  Friendly Bull of Pope Clement VI--Terrible Massacres in all
  Parts of Germany--Confessions wrung from the Jews on the Rack
  --The Flagellants as a Scourge for the Jews--King Casimir of
  Poland--Persecution in Brussels--The Black Death in Spain
  --Don Pedro the Cruel and the Jews--Santob de Carrion and
  Samuel Abulafia--Fall of Don Pedro and its Consequences for
  the Jews--Return of the Jews to France and Germany--The
  "Golden Bull"--Manessier de Vesoul--Matathiah Meïr Halevi
  --Synod at Mayence                                     _page 100._

  1348-1380 C.E.



  The Jews of Spain after the Civil War--Joseph Pichon and
  Samuel Abrabanel--The Apostates: John of Valladolid--
  Menachem ben Zerach, Chasdaï Crescas, and Isaac ben Sheshet
  --Chayim Gallipapa and his Innovations--Prevôt Aubriot
  and the Jews of Paris--The French Rabbinate--Revival
  of Jewish Influence in Spain--The Jews of Portugal--The
  Jewish Statesmen, David and Judah Negro--Rabbis and Clergy
  --Persecutions in Germany and Spain--The First Germs of the
  Inquisition--Second Expulsion of the Jews from France--The
  Convert Pessach-Peter--Lipmann of Mühlhausen           _page 136._

  1369-1380 C.E.



  The Marranos--The Satirists--Pero Ferrus of Alcala, Diego
  de Valencia, and Villasandino--Astruc Raimuch and Solomon
  Bonfed--Paul de Santa Maria and his Zealous Campaign against
  the Jews--Joshua Ibn-Vives--Profiat Duran (Efodi)--Meïr
  Alguades--The Philosophy of Crescas--Death of Henry III of
  Castile and Unfavorable Change in the Position of the Jews--
  Messianic Dreams of the Kabbalists--Jews seek an Asylum in
  Northern Africa--Simon Duran--Geronimo de Santa Fé, Vincent
  Ferrer and Benedict XIII--Anti-Jewish Edict of Juan II--
  Special Jewish Costume--Conversion of Jews owing to Ferrer's
  Violent Efforts--Disputation at Tortosa--The Jewish
  Spokesmen at the Conference--Incidents of the Meeting--
  Geronimo instigates the Publication of a Bull for the Burning
  of the Talmud--Pope Martin V befriends the Jews        _page 179._

  1391-1420 C.E.



  The Hussite Heresy--Consequences for the Jews involved in
  the Struggle--Jacob Mölin--Abraham Benveniste and Joseph
  Ibn-Shem Tob in the Service of the Castilian Court--Isaac
  Campanton, the Poet Solomon Dafiera--Moses da Rieti--
  Anti-Christian Polemical Literature--Chayim Ibn-Musa--
  Simon Duran and his Son Solomon--Joseph Albo as a Religious
  Philosopher--Jewish Philosophical Systems--Edict of the
  Council of Basle against the Jews--Fanatical Outbreaks in
  Majorca--Astruc Sibili and his Conversion to Christianity
                                                         _page 221._

  1420-1442 C.E.



  Pope Eugenius IV, under the Influence of Alfonso de Cartagena,
  changes his Attitude towards the Jews--His Bull against the
  Spanish and Italian Jews in 1442--Don Juan II defends the
  Jews--Pope Nicholas V's Hostility--Louis of Bavaria--The
  Philosopher Nicholas of Cusa and his Relation to Judaism--
  John of Capistrano--His Influence with the People is turned
  against the Jews--Capistrano in Bavaria and Würzburg--
  Expulsion of the Breslau Community--Expulsion of the Jews
  from Brünn and Olmütz--The Jews of Poland under Casimir IV
  --Capture of Constantinople by Mahomet II--The Jews find
  an Asylum in Turkey--The Karaites--Moses Kapsali--Isaac
  Zarfati--Position of the Jews of Spain--Persecutions
  directed by Alfonso de Spina--The Condition of the Marranos
                                                         _page 248._

  1442-1474 C.E.



  Position of the Jews of Italy--The Jewish Bankers--Yechiel
  of Pisa--His Relations with Don Isaac Abrabanel--Jewish
  Physicians, Guglielmo di Portaleone--Revival of Learning
  among Italian Jews--Messer Leon and Elias del Medigo--
  Pico di Mirandola, the Disciple of Medigo--Predilection of
  Christians for the Kabbala--Jochanan Aleman--Religious
  Views of Del Medigo--German Rabbis immigrate into Italy--
  Joseph Kolon, his Character and his Feud with Messer Leon
  --Judah Menz, an Antagonist of Del Medigo--Bernardinus
  of Feltre--Jews banished from Trent on a False Charge of
  Child-Murder--The Doge of Venice and Pope Sixtus IV befriend
  the Jews--Sufferings of the Jews of Ratisbon--Israel Bruna
  --Synod at Nuremberg--Emperor Frederick III            _page 285._

  1474-1492 C.E.



  Jewish Blood in the Veins of the Spanish Nobility--The
  Marranos cling to Judaism and manifest Unconquerable Antipathy
  to Christianity--Ferdinand and Isabella--The Dominicans,
  Alfonso de Ojeda, Diego de Merlo, and Pedro de Solis--The
  Catechism of the Marranos--A Polemical Work against the
  Catholic Church and Despotism gives a Powerful Impulse to the
  Inquisition--The Tribunal is established in 1480--Miguel
  Morillo and Juan de San Martin are the first Inquisitors--
  The Inquisition in Seville--The "Edict of Grace"--The
  Procession and the Auto-da-fé--The Numbers of the Accused and
  Condemned--Pope Sixtus IV and his Vacillating Policy with
  Regard to the Inquisition--The Inquisition under the first
  Inquisitor General, Thomas de Torquemada; its Constitutions
  --The Marranos of Aragon--They are charged with the Death
  of the Inquisitor Arbues--Persecutions and Victims--
  Proceedings against two Bishops Favorable to the Jews,
  De Avila and De Aranda                                 _page 308._

  1474-1483 C.E.



  Friendship of Marranos and Jews--Torquemada demands of
  the Rabbis of Toledo the Denunciation of Marranos--Judah
  Ibn-Verga--Jewish Courtiers under Ferdinand and Isabella
  --Isaac Abrabanel: his History and Writings--The Jews
  of Portugal under Alfonso V--The Ibn-Yachya Brothers--
  Abrabanel's Flight from Portugal to Spain--The Jews of
  Granada: Isaac Hamon--Edict of Banishment promulgated by
  Ferdinand and Isabella--Its Consequences--Departure from
  Spain--Number of the Exiles--Decline in the Prosperity
  of Spain after the Banishment of the Jews--Transformation
  of Synagogues and Schools into Churches and Monasteries--
  The Inquisition and the Marranos--Deza, the Successor of
  Torquemada                                             _page 334._

  1483-1492 C.E.



  The Exiles from Navarre--Migration to Naples--King
  Ferdinand I of Naples and Abrabanel--Leon Abrabanel--
  Misfortunes of the Jews in Fez, Genoa, Rome, and the Islands
  of Greece--The Sultan Bajazet--Moses Kapsali--Spanish
  Jews in Portugal--The Jewish Astronomers, Abraham Zacuto
  and José Vecinho--The Jewish Travelers, Abraham de Beya and
  Joseph Zapateiro--Outbreak of the Plague among the Spanish
  Jews in Portugal--Sufferings of the Portuguese Exiles--
  Judah Chayyat and his Fellow-Sufferers--Cruelty of João II--
  Kindly Treatment by Manoel changed into Cruelty on his Marriage
  --Forcible Baptism of Jewish Children--Levi ben Chabib and
  Isaac Caro--Pope Alexander VI--Manoel's Efforts on Behalf
  of the Portuguese Marranos--Death of Simon Maimi and Abraham
  Saba                                                   _page 357._

  1492-1498 C.E.



  Widespread Consequences of the Expulsion--The Exiles--Fate
  of the Abrabanel Family--Leon Medigo--Isaac Akrish--The
  Pre-eminence of Jews of Spanish Origin--The North-African
  States: Samuel Alvalensi, Jacob Berab, Simon Duran II--The
  Jews of Algiers, Tripoli and Tunis--Abraham Zacuto and Moses
  Alashkar--Egypt: Isaac Shalal, David Ibn-Abi Zimra--The
  Jews of Cairo--Selim I--Cessation of the Office of Nagid--
  Jerusalem--Obadyah di Bertinoro--Safet and Joseph Saragossi
  --The Jews of Turkey--Constantinople--Elias Mizrachi:
  the Karaites--The Communities of Salonica and Adrianople--
  The Jews of Greece--Elias Kapsali--The Jews of Italy and
  the Popes: Bonet de Lates--The Ghetto in Venice--Samuel
  Abrabanel and Benvenida Abrabanela--Abraham Farissol--The
  Jews of Germany and their Sorrows--Expulsion of the Jews from
  Various Towns--The Jews of Bohemia--Jacob Polak and his
  School--The Jews of Poland                             _page 382._

  1496-1525 C.E.



  Antecedents of the Convert John Pfefferkorn--Pfefferkorn and
  the Dominicans of Cologne--Hoogstraten, Ortuinus Gratius
  and Arnold of Tongern--Victor von Karben--Attacks on the
  Talmud and Confiscation of Copies in Frankfort--Reuchlin's
  Hebrew and Kabbalistic Studies--The Controversy concerning
  the Talmud--Activity on both Sides--Public Excitement--
  Complete Victory of Reuchlin's Efforts in Defense of Jewish
  Literature--Ulrich von Hutten--Luther--Revival of Hebrew
  Studies                                                _page 422._

  1500-1520 C.E.



  Internal Condition of Judaism--Division in the Communities--
  The Lack of Interest in Poetry--Historical Studies---Leon
  Medigo's "Dialogues of Love"--Supremacy of the Kabbala--
  Messianic Hopes--The Marranos and the Inquisition--Henrique
  Nunes--The Traveler David Reubeni in Rome--Solomon Molcho
  --His Relations with David Reubeni--Joseph Karo and his
  "Maggid"--Clement VII--Molcho in Ancona and Rome--His
  Favor with the Cardinals--Death of Molcho--The Enthusiastic
  Regard in which he was held--Duarte de Paz--Paul III--
  Charles V and the Jews--Emanuel da Costa               _page 477._

  1500-1538 C.E.



  Efforts towards Unity--Jacob Berab proposes the
  Re-introduction of Rabbinical Ordination into Palestine--
  Successful Opposition of Levi ben Chabib--Joseph Karo--His
  Connection with Solomon Molcho and his Messianic Visions--
  Karo's Religious Code--Converts to Judaism at the Era of the
  Reformation--Expulsion of the Jews from Naples and Prague--
  Their Return to the latter Town--Dr. Eck--Martin Luther and
  the Jews--Moses Hamon--Jewish Histories by Joseph Cohen,
  the Ibn-Vergas, and Samuel Usque--Elegy of Samuel Usque--
  Reaction in the Catholic Church; Loyola establishes the Order
  of Jesuits--The Censorship of Books--Eliano Romano and
  Vittorio Eliano--Fresh Attacks on the Talmud--Paul IV and
  his anti-Jewish Bulls--Persecution of the Marranos by the
  Inquisition in Ancona--Joseph Nassi--The Levantine Jews--
  Expulsion of the Jews from Austria and Bohemia--Relations
  of Pope Pius IV and V to the Jews                      _page 529._

  1538-1566 C.E.



  Joseph Nassi's Favor with Sultan Solyman--His Friendship for
  Prince Selim--Hostility of Venice and France to Nassi--
  Joseph Nassi restores Tiberias, and is created Duke of Naxos
  --The Vizir Mahomet Sokolli--The Turks, at the Instigation
  of Nassi, conquer Cyprus--Rebellion against Philip II in
  the Netherlands--Solomon Ashkenazi--Election of Henry
  of Anjou as King of Poland--Ashkenazi negotiates a Peace
  between Venice and Turkey--Gedalya Ibn-Yachya and Jewish
  Literature in Turkey--Joseph Karo compiles the "Shulchan
  Aruch"--Azarya deï Rossi--Isaac Lurya--The Jewish "Dark
  Age"--Spread of the Kabbala--Lurya's Disciple, Chayim Vital
  Calabrese--Death of Joseph Nassi--Esther Kiera and the
  Influence of Jewish Women in Turkey                    _page 593._

  1566-1600 C.E.



  Condition of Poland--Favorable Situation of the Jews in
  that Country--Anti-Jewish Party in Poland--The Jewish
  Communities--Judaizing Poles--Studies of the Jews--
  The Talmud in Poland--Solomon Lurya--Moses Isserles--
  The Historian, David Gans--"Zemach David"--Supremacy of
  the Polish Authorities in Rabbinical Matters--The Jewish
  Seminaries in Poland--The Disputations at the Fairs--
  Chiddushim and Chillukim--Stephen Bathori--His Kindness
  towards his Jewish Subjects--Sigismund III--Restriction
  on the Erection of Synagogues--Jewish Synods--Vaad Arba
  Arazoth--Mordecai Jafa--Christian Sects in Poland--The
  Socinians or Unitarians--Simon Budny--The Reformers and the
  Jews--Isaac Troki--"The Strengthening of Faith"        _page 631._

  1566-1600 C.E.



  Revival of Catholicism--Decay in European Culture--
  Ill-treatment of Jews in Berlin--Emperor Rudolph II of
  Austria--Diminution in the Numbers of Italian Jews--Pope
  Gregory XIII--Confiscation of Copies of the Talmud--
  Vigorous Attempts at the Conversion of Jews--Pope Sixtus V--
  The Jewish Physician David de Pomis--Renewal of Persecution
  by Clement VIII--Expulsion from Various Italian States--The
  Censors and the Talmud--The Jews at Ferrara--Settlement
  of Jews in Holland--Samuel Pallache--Jacob Tirado and the
  Marranos in Amsterdam--Tolerant Treatment--The Poet, David
  Jesurun--Moses Uri--Hebrew Printing in Amsterdam       _page 650._

  1593-1618 C.E.



  The Amsterdam Jewish Community--Its Wealth, Culture, and
  Honored Position--Zacuto Lusitano--Internal Dissensions
  --The Talmud Torah School--Saul Morteira, Isaac Aboab, and
  Manasseh ben Israel--The Portuguese Congregation in Hamburg
  --The First Synagogue--Lutheran Intolerance--John Miller
  --Jewish Colony in Brazil--The Chief Communities in Germany
  --Persecution in Frankfort--Dr. Chemnitz--The Vienna
  Congregation--Lipmann Heller--Ferdinand II's Zeal for the
  Conversion of Jews--Influence of the Thirty Years' War on
  the Fortunes of the Jews                               _page 676_

  1618-1648 C.E.





    Progress of the Kabbala--Todros Halevi and his Sons--Isaac
    Allatif and his Kabbalistic Doctrines--Adventurous Career
    of Abraham Abulafia--He assumes the Character of Messiah
    --Opposition of Ben Adret--The Prophet of Avila--Joseph
    Jikatilla and his Kabbalistic Mazes--The Impostor Moses de
    Leon--Forgeries of the Kabbalists--Origin of the Zohar--
    Its Doctrines and Influence--Shem-Tob Falaquera--Isaac
    Albalag--Levi of Villefranche--Samuel Sulami and Meïri--
    Abba-Mari's Exaggerated Zeal--Jacob ben Machir Profatius and
    the Controversy regarding the Study of Science--Asheri--The
    Poet Yedaya Bedaresi.

1270-1328 C.E.

The secret science of the Kabbala, which hitherto had assumed a modest
deportment and been of a harmless character, began to foment discord
in Ben Adret's time, ensnare the intelligence and lead astray the
weak. What it lacked in intrinsic truth and power of conviction, it
endeavored to supply by presumptuousness. It had already spread from
Gerona, its original seat, and from northern Spain by way of Segovia
to southern Spain, as far as the Castilian capital, Toledo, the Jewish
community of which had before strenuously opposed obscurantism. In the
city of Toledo the Kabbala won the adherence, among others, of one man
who, by his noble birth, his princely state, his high position, his
wealth and learning, gave it great weight. This man, whose influence
is even now not fully recognized, was Todros ben Joseph Halevi, of
the noble Toledan family of Abulafia (born 1234, died after 1304).
He was a nephew of that Meïr Abulafia who had been so obstinate an
adversary of Maimuni and rationalistic thought. Todros Abulafia took
as a model his uncle, who in his old age had laid his hands on his
head, and blessed him. When he grew up, he applied himself to the
Talmud and to secret lore; but he must have been a man of affairs,
too, for he obtained an honorable position at the court of Sancho IV,
and was in special favor with the wise queen, Maria de Molina, as a
physician and financier. By the Jews he was esteemed and venerated as
their prince (Nasi). When the king and queen of Spain held a meeting in
Bayonne with the king of France, Philip le Bel, to settle their mutual
hostilities (1290), Todros Abulafia was in the train of the former, and
received the most flattering homage from the Jews of southern France.
Todros, like his uncle, was a determined opponent of philosophy and
its devotees. He had no words bitter enough against the would-be wise
people who hold everything which appears incompatible with logic as
incredible and impossible. Even Maimuni, whom he highly respected, he
censured for undervaluing the importance of the sacrifices so greatly
as to explain them merely as a concession to the heathen propensities
of the people, and for calling the offering of incense an expedient for
purifying the air. He waged vehement warfare against the philosophy
which denies the existence of evil spirits, which to him was identical
with doubting the existence of angels. Having been initiated into
the secret science by one of the earliest Kabbalists, perhaps by
Jacob of Segovia, who formed a school of his own, Todros valued it
as divine wisdom, to uncover whose veil to laymen was fraught with
danger. The recognition of the secret doctrine by a person of so high a
position could not but produce some effect. His sons, Levi and Joseph,
likewise plunged headlong into its study. Two of the four Kabbalists
of his time, who developed the Kabbala, and extended its influence,
ranged themselves under the banner of Todros Abulafia, and dedicated
their compositions to him. These four Kabbalists of the first rank,
who established new theories with more or less success, were Isaac
Ibn-Latif, Abraham Abulafia, Joseph Jikatilla, and Moses de Leon, all
Spaniards. They obscured the mental light, with which men of intellect,
from Saadiah to Maimuni, had illumined Judaism, and substituted for
a refined religious belief, fantastic and even blasphemous chimeras.
The intellectual degradation of the Jews in the following centuries
is to a large extent their work. They led astray both their own times
and posterity through designed or unintentional imposition, and the
injuries which they inflicted on Judaism are felt even at the present

The least harmful of these four was Isaac ben Abraham Ibn-Latif or
Allatif (born about 1220, died about 1290). He no doubt owed his origin
to the south of Spain, for he was acquainted with Arabic. Nothing is
known of his history beyond the fact that he was on friendly terms
with Todros Abulafia, to whom he dedicated one of his works. His
writings, as has been said by one who came after him, seem to "stand
with one foot on philosophy and with the other on the Kabbala." But
Allatif only toyed with philosophical formulæ, their meaning does
not seem to have become known to him. He was not of a thoughtful
nature, and did not enrich the Kabbala, although he attempted to give
himself the appearance of following original methods, and avoided
the usual Kabbalistic expressions. Allatif started with the thought
that a philosophical view of Judaism was not the "right road to the
sanctuary," and that it was, therefore, needful to seek a higher
conception, but, instead of making the way clear, he concealed it by
empty allusions and unmeaning phrases. Allatif laid more weight than
his predecessors on the close connection between the spiritual and the
material world--between God and His creation. For the Godhead is in
all, and all is in it. In soul-inspiring prayers the human spirit is
raised to the world-spirit (Sechel ha-Poel), to which it is united "in
a kiss," and, so influencing the Divinity, it draws down blessings on
the sublunar world. But not every mortal is capable of such spiritual
and efficacious prayer; therefore, the prophets, the most perfect
men, were obliged to pray for the people, for they alone knew the
power of prayer. The unfolding and revelation of the Deity in the
world of spirits, spheres and bodies, were explained by Isaac Allatif
in mathematical formulæ. Isaac Allatif must, however, be considered
a clear thinker, when compared with his enthusiastic contemporary,
Abraham Abulafia, who endeavored to establish a new order of things by
Kabbalistic sophisms.

Abraham ben Samuel Abulafia (born 1240, in Saragossa, died 1291) was
an eccentric personage, full of whims, and fond of adventures. Endowed
with a lively mind and with more than a moderate amount of knowledge,
he renounced the ways of common sense to throw himself into the arms of
enthusiasm. His whole life from his entry into manhood was a succession
of adventures. His father, who had instructed him in the Bible and
the Talmud, died when his son was a youth of eighteen, and two years
later Abraham undertook a journey of adventure, as he relates, in order
to discover the mythical river Sabbation or Sambation, and to become
acquainted with the supposed Israelite tribes dwelling on its banks, no
doubt with a Messianic purpose. His mind was in a constant tumult. He
wrestled for clearness, but fell ever deeper into mazes and illusions.
One thing, however, became evident to him, that the philosophy
with which he had much occupied himself offered no certainty, and,
therefore, no satisfaction to the religious mind thirsting after truth.
Even the trite Kabbala as commonly accepted, with its doctrine about
the Sefiroth, did not satisfy his soul, since both only nursed the
pride of knowledge. He, a Kabbalist, criticised the unsoundness of this
mystic theory so severely and correctly that it is surprising that
he should have conceived still more insane notions. Abraham Abulafia
sought after something higher, for prophetic inspiration, which alone
opens the fountain of truth, without traversing the laborious path of
systematic application.

At length Abulafia believed that he had found what his soul was
yearning for, and that through divine inspiration he had come upon a
higher Kabbala, in relation to which the lower mystical doctrine and
philosophy were only handmaids. This Kabbala alone, he maintained,
offers the means of coming into spiritual communion with the Godhead,
and of obtaining prophetic insight. This means was far from new, but
the firm conviction of its effectiveness and his application of it are
peculiar to Abulafia. To decompose the words of Holy Writ, especially
the all-hallowed name of God, to use the letters as independent notions
(Notaricon), or to transpose the component parts of a word in all
possible permutations, so as to form words from them (Tsiruf), or
finally to employ the letters as numbers (Gematria), these are the
means of securing communion with the spirit-world. But this alone is
not sufficient. He who desires to render himself worthy of a prophetic
revelation, must adopt an ascetic mode of living, must remove himself
from the turmoil of the world, shut himself up in a quiet chamber,
deliver his soul from earthly cares, clothe himself in white garments,
wrap himself up with Talith and Phylacteries, and devoutly prepare
his soul, as if for an interview with the Deity. Besides, he must
pronounce the letters of God's name at intervals, with modulations of
the voice, or write them down in a certain order, at the same time
making energetic movements, writhing and bending forward till the
mind becomes dazed, and the heart filled with a glow. Then the body
will be surprised by sleep, and a sensation will arise, as if the soul
were released from the body. In this condition, if it become lasting
through practice, the divine grace is poured into the human soul,
uniting with it in a kiss, and the prophetic revelation follows quite
naturally. This means of working himself up into a state of ecstasy
Abulafia certainly practiced, exciting his heated fancy to delirium. He
considered his Kabbala to be prophetic inspiration, by means of which
he alone could penetrate into the secrets of the Torah. For the plain
sense of the words and the simple practice of the religious precepts
were merely for the uninitiated, like milk for children. Experts, on
the other hand, find the higher wisdom in the numerical value of the
letters and in the manifold changes of the words.

In this way he laid down his Kabbala, in antithesis to the superficial
or baser Kabbala, which occupies itself with the Sefiroth, and,
as he gibingly said, erects a sort of Decem-unity instead of the
Christian Trinity. He lectured on his Kabbala in Barcelona, Burgos,
and Medina-Celi. So low was the general intelligence, that this
half-insane enthusiast found old and young to listen to him. Two
of his disciples, Joseph Jikatilla, and Samuel, alleged to be a
prophet, both of Medina-Celi, proclaimed themselves to be prophets and
workers of miracles. Abulafia appears, nevertheless, to have aroused
opposition in Spain, or at least not to have found any real sympathy;
he left his native country a second time, betaking himself once more
to Italy, where he reckoned upon stronger support. In Urbino for the
first time he produced prophetic writings, and alleged that God had
spoken with him. At last he conceived the mad idea of converting the
pope to Judaism (Sabbath-eve, 1281). The attempt cost him dear. He
was arrested two days later in Rome, languished twenty-eight days in
prison, and escaped the stake only through the circumstance that God,
as he expressed it, had caused a double mouth (or tongue?) to grow in
him. Possibly he told the pope that he, too, taught the doctrine of
the Trinity. After this he was allowed to walk about Rome in freedom.
Thence Abulafia proceeded to the island of Sicily, and in Messina
he met with a favorable reception, gaining six adherents. Here he
finally proclaimed that he was not only a prophet but the Messiah,
and set forth his claims in writing (November, 1284). God, he said,
had revealed to him His secrets, and had announced to him the end of
the exile and the beginning of the Messianic redemption. The gracious
event was to take place in the year 1290. Mysticism has always been the
ground on which Messianic fancies have thriven.

Through strictly moral deportment, ascetic life and revelations veiled
in obscure formulæ, perhaps also through his winning personality and
boldness, Abraham Abulafia found many in Sicily who believed in him,
and began to make preparations for returning to the Holy Land. But the
intelligent part of the Sicilian congregation hesitated to join him
without investigation. They addressed themselves to Solomon ben Adret,
to obtain information from him respecting Abraham Abulafia. The rabbi
of Barcelona, who was acquainted with Abulafia's earlier career, sent
an earnest letter to the community of Palermo, in which he severely
condemned the self-constituted Messiah as illiterate and dangerous.
Naturally, Abulafia did not allow this attack to remain unanswered,
but proceeded to defend himself from the denunciation. In a letter he
justified his prophetic Kabbala, and hurled back Ben Adret's invectives
in language so undignified that many thought the letter not genuine.

But his abusive retort was of no avail, for other congregations and
rabbis, who may have feared that a persecution might be the consequence
of his fantastic doctrines, also expressed themselves against Abulafia.
He was harassed so much in Sicily that he had to leave the island, and
settle in the tiny isle of Comino, near Malta (about 1288). Here he
continued to publish mystical writings, and to assert that he would
bring deliverance to Israel. Persecution had embittered him. He leveled
charges against his brethren in faith, who in their stubbornness would
not listen to him: "Whilst the Christians believe in my words, the Jews
eschew them, and absolutely refuse to know anything of the calculation
of God's name, but prefer the calculation of their money." Of those
who exclusively occupied themselves with the Talmud, Abulafia said
that they were seized by an incurable disease, and that they were far
inferior to those skilled in the higher Kabbala. Abraham Abulafia,
besides twenty-six on other subjects, composed at least twenty-two
so-called prophetic works, which, although the product of a diseased
brain, were used by the later Kabbalists. What at last became of the
prophetic and Messianic enthusiast and adventurer is not known.

His extravagant conduct did not fail to produce evil consequences, even
in his own time, and was as infectious as an epidemic. About the same
time there arose in Spain two enthusiasts, of whom one was probably
Abraham Abulafia's disciple. One of them made his appearance in the
small town Ayllon (in the district of Segovia), the other in the large
congregation of Avila. Both proclaimed themselves to be prophets, and
announced in mystic language the advent of the Messianic kingdom. Both
found followers. The adherents of the prophet of Avila related, that
in his youth he had been ignorant, and could neither read nor write;
that an angel, who appeared to him in his sleeping, and sometimes
also in his waking moments, suddenly endowed him through higher
inspiration, with the power of writing a comprehensive work, full of
mystical ideas, and a diffuse commentary (without which at that time
no fairly respectable book could be conceived). When the people of
Avila and remote congregations heard of this they wondered greatly. The
story excited extraordinary interest, and the representatives of the
congregation of Avila consulted Solomon ben Adret, the last commanding
authority of that time, as to whether they should accept this new

Himself a partial follower of the secret science, subscribing only
to the Biblical and the Talmudical miracles, the rabbi of Barcelona
replied that he would have considered the affair of the prophet of
Avila as arrant fraud, if trustworthy people had not attested its
truth. Still he could not possibly recognize him as a prophet, for he
lacked the principal conditions which the Talmud lays down as essential
to prophecy: outside of Palestine, prophecy is altogether impossible;
the age is not suitable for prophetic revelation, and the prophetic
spirit can not rest upon a perfectly ignorant person. It was incredible
that a man should go to bed an idiot and get up a prophet. The story
required the most painstaking and impartial investigation.

In spite of the warning of the most honored rabbi of the time, the
prophet of Avila pursued his course, and fixed the last day of the
fourth month (1295) as the beginning of the Messianic redemption. The
easily influenced and ignorant multitude made preparations for its
coming, fasted, and spent money lavishly in alms, that they might be
found acceptable in the Messianic kingdom, and be permitted to partake
of its bliss. On the appointed day, the deluded people, dressed as on
the Day of Atonement, hastened to the synagogues, and waited there
to hear the trumpet-blasts announcing the Messianic advent. But the
expected Messiah did not show himself, nor was there any sign of him.
Instead, they are said to have noticed on their garments small crosses,
for which they were totally unprepared, and which partly sobered and
partly terrified them. It is possible that some of the incredulous in
the congregation had fastened the crosses secretly on their garments,
either to practice a joke upon their credulous brethren, or to point
out to what end Messianic charlatanry was destined to lead them, and
thus cure them of their delusion. Some of the impostor's followers
are said to have gone over to Christianity in consequence of this
incident; others, to have been plunged into melancholy, because they
could not explain the presence of the crosses. What became of the
prophets, or beguiled deceivers, of Ayllon and Avila is not related.
Like Abraham Abulafia they were lost sight of, and have importance
only as the excrescences of a diseased state. It is possible that
another disciple of Abulafia, Joseph Jikatilla, who also was looked
upon as a performer of miracles, and had his dwelling not far from
Ayllon, played a part in the mad or deceitful pranks of the prophets of
Ayllon and Avila. Joseph ben Abraham Jikatilla (born in Medina-Celi,
died in Penjafiel, after 1305), heard, at the age of twenty years, an
exposition of the bewildering secret doctrine of Abulafia, and whilst
the latter still was in Spain, he composed a Kabbalistic book of his
own, in which he exhibits the same eccentricities as his master. He,
too, occupied himself with the mysticism of letters and numbers, and
with the transposition of letters. Joseph Jikatilla's writings are in
reality only an echo of Abraham Abulafia's fancies; the same delusion
is apparent in both. But far more influential and more pernicious
than these three Kabbalists, Allatif, Abulafia, and Jikatilla, was
Moses de Leon, whose ascendancy was felt both by his contemporaries
and posterity. Although a contemporary and fellow-specialist unmasked
his performances, Moses de Leon succeeded in introducing into Jewish
literature and thought a book which gave the Kabbala a firm foundation
and wide extension, in brief, raised it to the zenith of its power. The
question about Moses ben Shem Tob de Leon (born in Leon about 1250,
died in Arevalo, 1305) is only whether he was a selfish or a pious
impostor. His intention was certainly to deceive and lead astray, and
in this respect he appears much baser than Abulafia, who at all events
was sincere and naïve in his delusion. A sciolist, who had mastered
neither the Talmud nor any other subject thoroughly, Moses possessed
the skill to use deftly the little that he knew, to write easily and
fluently, to discover a connection between the most remote things and
verses of Scripture piled up in the chamber of his memory, and to
couple them with playful wit. Even the Kabbala was not present to him
as a system; he knew merely its forms and technical terms, and employed
them in a skillful manner.

Of careless prodigality, Moses de Leon expended everything that he
had without reflecting what would remain for the morrow; he made use
of the Kabbala which had come into fashion to procure for himself a
rich source of revenue. He led a wandering life, lived a long time in
Guadalaxara, then in Viverro, in Valladolid, and finally in Avila. At
first he published his intellectual productions under his own name
(about 1285). His writings, however, were not sufficiently noticed, and
brought him but little fame and money. Moses de Leon then hit upon a
much more effective means for opening hearts and purses. He commenced
the composition of books under feigned but honored names. If he put
the doctrines of the Kabbala, worn threadbare, to be sure, into the
mouth of an older, highly venerated authority, some imposing name from
the dazzling past,--taking care, of course, to make the coloring and
the method of presentation archaic--would not such a composition
be eagerly swallowed? Would he not be richly rewarded if he hinted
that he was in possession of so costly a treasure? Moses de Leon knew
well the credulity of those who devoted themselves with more or less
earnestness to the study of the Kabbala; how they eagerly sought for
every word which they were led to think originated from ancient times.
For, since the secret science had been promulgated, and had striven for
recognition, doctrines which sounded Kabbalistic had been fathered upon
old and illustrious names, and thus had found acceptance. But Moses de
Leon did his work much more cleverly than most forgers. He found the
most likely author for the secret doctrine, against whom there could be
little or no objection, in the person of the Tanaite Simon bar Yochaï,
who is said to have spent thirteen years in a cave, solitary and
buried in profound reflection, and whom ancient mysticism represented
as receiving revelations. Simon bar Yochaï was assuredly the right
authority for the Kabbala. But he must not be permitted to write or
speak Hebrew, for in this language the Kabbalists would recognize the
echo of their own voices. He must express himself in Chaldee, in a
half obscure language, peculiarly fit for secrets, and sounding as if
from another world. And thus there came into the world a book, the
book Zohar (brilliancy), which for many centuries was held by Jews
as a heavenly revelation, and was and partly is even now regarded by
Christians as an old tradition. But seldom has so notorious a forgery
so thoroughly succeeded. Moses de Leon well knew how to produce the
proper effect on credulous readers. He made Simon bar Yochaï appear
in splendor, surrounded by a halo, in the book Zohar, and impart his
revelation to a circle of select pupils (sometimes twelve, sometimes
six), "scholars who shine with heaven's light." "When they assembled
to compose the Zohar, permission was granted to the prophet Elijah, to
all the members of the celestial conclave, all the angels, spirits,
and higher souls to act in sympathy with them, and the ten spiritual
substances (Sefiroth) were charged with the duty of revealing to them
deeply hidden secrets, reserved for the time of the Messiah." Or in
another version: Simon bar Yochaï summoned his followers to a great
council, and heard the flapping of the wings of the celestial host, who
also had assembled to listen to the disclosure of mysteries till then
unknown even to the angels. The Zohar glorifies its author excessively.
It calls him the holy light, who stands higher than the greatest
prophet, Moses, "the faithful shepherd." "I swear by the holy heavens
and the holy earth," the Zohar makes Simon bar Yochaï exclaim, "that
I behold now what no other mortal since Moses ascended Sinai for the
second time has beheld, aye, even more than he. Moses knew not that
his countenance shone; I, however, know that my countenance shines."
On account of God's love for the writer of the Zohar, his generation
merited the revelation of truths till then hidden. As long as he who
illumines everything lives, the sources of the world are opened and
all secrets are disclosed. "Woe to the generation forsaken by Simon
bar Yochaï." He is almost deified in the Zohar. His disciples once
broke out into ecstatic praise that he had mounted the degrees to
heavenly wisdom, which none of his predecessors had done; and of him
it is written in Scripture, "All men are to appear before the lord,"
_i.e._, before Simon bar Yochaï. This extravagant glorification and
self-deification, sufficient to mark a forgery, are not without design.
They were to meet the objection, how the Kabbala, so long unknown, and
kept secret by the prudent Kabbalists--for they had hesitated to
impart any of it in writing--how this mysterious wisdom could all at
once come to light, and be revealed to every one's knowledge. The Zohar
frequently uses the following excuse: As the time in which Simon bar
Yochaï lived was especially meritorious and rich in grace, and as the
Messianic period was near, the veil which had concealed the book so
long could now be drawn aside.

There are certainly very few compositions which have exercised so much
influence as the Zohar, or which can be compared with it in regard to
the remarkable nature of its contents and form. It is a book without
beginning or end, of which it is unknown whether it once formed part
of a whole, whether the extant portions originally belonged to it,
or were added later, or whether at an earlier period more of it was
in existence. It consists of three principal parts, with appendices
and explanatory comments. The absence of form in this farrago made
it possible for certain portions to be imitated. It is so easy and
tempting to imitate its wild though sonorous style. Thus the forgery
was counter-forged. It is not positively certain whether the Zohar
is to be regarded as a running commentary to the Pentateuch, as a
theosophic manual, or as a collection of Kabbalistic sermons. And its
contents are just as curious, confused and chaotic as its form and
external dress. The Zohar with its appendages in no wise develops
a Kabbalistic system like Azriel's, neither does it unfold an idea
like Abraham Abulafia, but plays with the Kabbalistic forms as with
counters--with the En-Sof, with the number of the Sefiroth, with
points and strokes, with vowels, accents, with the names of God and
the transposition of their letters, as well as with the Biblical
verses and Agadic sayings--casts them about in eternal repetition,
and in this manner produces sheer absurdities. Occasionally it gives a
faint suggestion of an idea, but in a trice it evaporates in feverish
fancies, or dissolves in childish silliness.

The underlying principle of the Zohar (if we may speak of principles in
reference to this book) is that the historical narratives and religious
statutes of the Bible were never intended to be understood in a plain,
simple sense, but that they contain something higher, mysterious,
supernatural. "Is it conceivable," the Zohar makes one of Simon bar
Yochaï's circle exclaim, "that God had no holier matters to communicate
than these common things about Esau and Hagar, Laban and Jacob,
Balaam's ass, Balak's jealousy of Israel, and Zimri's lewdness? Does a
collection of such tales, taken in their ordinary sense, deserve the
name of Torah? And can it be said of such a revelation that it utters
the pure truth?" "If that is all the Torah contains," remarks Simon bar
Yochaï (or Moses de Leon), "we can produce in our time a book as good
as this, aye, perhaps better. No, no! the higher, mystical sense of the
Torah is its true sense. The Biblical narratives resemble a beautiful
dress, which enraptures fools so that they do not look beneath it. This
robe, however, covers a body, _i.e._, the precepts of the Law, and this
again a soul, the higher soul. Woe to the guilty, who assert that the
Torah contains only simple stories, and therefore look only upon the
dress. Blessed are the righteous, who seek the real sense of the Law.
The jar is not the wine, so stories do not make up the Torah." Thus
the secret lore of Moses de Leon naturally has free play to pervert
everything and anything, and give it the seal of sublimity, and in this
manner to promulgate a false doctrine, not only absurd, sometimes even
blasphemous and immoral. All laws of the Torah are to be considered
as parts and constituents of a higher world; they resolve themselves
into the mysteries of the masculine and feminine principle (positive
and negative). Only when both parts meet, does the higher unity arise.
Consequently, whenever any one transgresses one of the laws, he
obscures the brilliant image of the higher world.

It is almost impossible to give an idea of the abuse which the Zohar,
or Moses de Leon, practices in the interpretation of Holy Writ, and
how he twists the sense of the words. In the verse, "Raise your eyes to
heaven, and see who has created this," a profound mystery is supposed
to reside, which the prophet Elijah learned in the celestial school,
and revealed to Simon bar Yochaï; namely, that God had been unknown
and obscure before the creation of the world, in a manner existing,
and still not existing. He was the "Who" (the unknown subject). The
creation is part of His self-revelation. It was by the creation that He
first proclaimed Himself as God.

The Zohar is particularly concerned with that side of man which is an
eternal riddle to man,--the soul, its origin and end. Like the older
Kabbalists, the Zohar assumed the pre-existence of the souls in the
brilliant world of the Sefiroth. They are there wrapped in a spiritual
robe, and entranced in the contemplation of God's light. When the souls
are about to enter this world they assume an earthly garment, the body;
but as soon as they are to leave the earth, the angel of death divests
them of this earthly garment. If a soul lives piously and morally here
below, it receives its former heavenly robe, and can once more enjoy
the blissful ecstasy of God's presence; if not, particularly if it
departs from the world impenitent, it wanders about naked and ashamed
till purified in hell. The nakedness of the soul, paradise and hell
--depicted in fantastic, baroque, and terrible images--are themes
for which the Zohar often and gladly makes digressions. What happens
to the soul during sleep, and the shadows of life--sin, impurity in
small and great things--are likewise favorite subjects for discussion
in the Zohar, to which it frequently reverts, presenting them in the
greatest variety of guises and repetitions. One of the older Kabbalists
arrived at the notion that to the higher world, the world of light,
of holiness, and of angels, there was a sharp antithesis--a world
of darkness, of unholiness, of Satan, in short the principle of evil,
which was likewise developed into ten degrees (Sefiroth) at the
creation of the world. In spite of their opposite characters, the two
worlds are of one origin, forming opposite poles, and are in the same
relation to each other as the right side is to the left. Accordingly,
evil is called in the language of the Kabbalists the left or other
side. The Kabbalists gave another representation of the Satanic
empire. On the border of the world of light, the world of darkness is
situated, and encompasses it as the shell surrounds the kernel of the
fruit. Hence the Zohar metaphorically designates evil, or sin, with
its ten degrees, as shell (Kelifa). This side is the favorite topic
of the Zohar; for here it can apply its peculiar exposition of the
Scriptures. The ten Sefiroth of the left side, the Satanic kingdom, are
enumerated and denominated by names which savor of barbarism. The names
sound like those of the princes of the demons in the book of Enoch,
and are perhaps borrowed thence: Samael or Samiel, Azael, Angiel,
Sariel, Kartiel. The Zohar identifies all blasphemers and wicked
people with the evil principle of the "shells" (Kelifoth)--the first
serpent, Cain, Esau, Pharaoh, and Esau's empire, Rome, and the civil
and spiritual power of Christendom in the Middle Ages, which rested
on violence and injustice. Israel and righteous people, on the other
hand, belong to the world of light, the right Sefiroth. "He who goes
after the left side (sin), and defiles his actions, draws upon himself
the impure spirits; they attach themselves to him, nor do they ever
leave him." The laws of the Torah have no other object than to effect
and cherish the union of the souls with the world of light. Every
transgression of them brings the souls to the world of darkness, evil
spirits, and impurity. The Zohar coarsely represents the connection of
the souls with light or with darkness by the image of wedded union,
as, in general, it asserts the masculine and feminine principle in the
higher world, even in reference to the Deity. As long as Israel lives
in exile, the divine unity is deficient and disrupted; God will become
one only in those days when the Mistress (Matronita) will espouse the

Moses de Leon would have left a gap, if he had not spoken of the
Messianic period--the keynote of the Kabbala--and determined its
date. In fact, the sudden revelation of the doctrine so long held
secret rests on the assumption that the time of the Messiah is near.
But here the forger betrays himself. Instead of indicating a period or
a year for the appearance of the Messiah approximating the age of Simon
bar Yochaï (in the second century), the Zohar, with its casuistical
playing with letters and numbers, demonstrated that it would happen in
the beginning of the fourteenth century, therefore in the lifetime of
the author. "When the sixtieth or the sixty-sixth year will pass the
threshold of the sixth thousand, the Messiah will show himself;" but
some time will pass before all nations will be conquered, and Israel
be gathered together. The Messiah will first be summoned to appear on
earth from his secret abode in Paradise, "the bird's nest," where he
has been dwelling in bliss since the beginning of the world. A bloody
conflict will then break out in the world. Edom and Ishmael (Christian
and Mahometan nations) will vehemently contend with one another, and
eventually both will be annihilated by a mightier conquering people.
Signs and miracles will presage the time, and the resurrection of the
dead and a general diffusion of the Kabbalistic knowledge of God will
constitute the end of the world. Moses de Leon intended to arouse
in the minds of his contemporaries the hope that they would behold
the time of the Messiah with their own eyes. He was perhaps as much
a victim to Messianic enthusiasm as Abraham Abulafia. Despite the
Zohar's endeavor to exalt rabbinical Judaism and its law, and by a
mystical explanation to give every custom, however trivial, a special
signification and higher import, it carps at and criticises the Talmud
and its method, though in an obscure, equivocal manner, and with the
most innocent air in the world. It represents the study of the Kabbala
as of much higher importance than the study of the Talmud, and even
of the Bible. The Kabbala has the power of soaring, and is able to
follow the flight of the Deity in His inscrutable guidance of things;
the Talmud, on the other hand, and its adherents, have clipped wings,
and cannot elevate themselves to higher knowledge. The Zohar compares
the Mishna (Talmud) with a lowly slave; the Kabbala, on the other
hand, with a powerful mistress. The former has to do with inferior
matters, with "clean and unclean," with "permitted and prohibited,"
with "what is and is not fit to be used." As long as this woman rules
with her "now pure, at another time impure blood," the union of the
Father with the Matrona (God with Israel) cannot take place. In the
Messianic period, on the other hand, when the higher knowledge will
awake, and gain the ascendency, the Kabbala will once more assert
its dominion over the slave (Talmud), as in the time of the lawgiver
Moses. The Zohar lastly compares the study of the Talmud with a rugged,
unproductive rock which, when struck, gives out scanty drops of water,
causing only disputes and discussions. The Kabbala, on the other hand,
is like a spring flowing abundantly, to which only a word needs to be
spoken to cause it to pour out its refreshing and vivifying contents.

When the Zohar or Midrash of Simon bar Yochaï was published, it aroused
the greatest wonder among the Kabbalists. They seized upon it with
avidity. Moses de Leon received vast multitudes of orders to send
copies. The question, whence all at once had come so comprehensive
a work of an old teacher of the Mishna, not a trace of which had
been known till then, was thus answered: Nachmani had exhumed it in
Palestine, had sent it to his son in Catalonia, by a whirlwind it had
been carried to Aragon or Alicante (Valencia), where it had fallen into
the hands of Moses de Leon, who alone possessed the original document.
The repute of the newly discovered Kabbalistic treasure soon spread
through the whole of Spain. The school of Abulafia at once gave the
Zohar the tribute of its acknowledgment, and considered it indisputably
genuine. Moses de Leon's wildest hopes were more than realized. There
were, of course, Kabbalists who doubted that the Zohar had originated
with Simon bar Yochaï and his school, but none the less did they pay
homage to the book as to a pure source for Kabbalistic theories. When
the Kabbalist Isaac of Accho, who had escaped the massacre that had
ensued upon the capture of that city, arrived in Spain, and saw the
Zohar, he was staggered, and became desirous of coming to the root
of the question, whether this alleged ancient Palestinian work was
really genuine, as he had been born and educated in the Holy Land, had
associated with Nachmani's pupils, and yet had never heard a syllable
about it. When he met Moses de Leon in Valladolid, the latter took a
solemn oath that he had in his house at Avila an old copy of the book
from the hand of Simon bar Yochaï, and pledged himself to submit it to
Isaac of Accho for examination. But Moses de Leon became ill on his
journey home, and died in Arevalo (1305). The veil around the origin
of the Zohar was wrapped still closer. Two influential men of Avila,
David Rafan and Joseph de Avila, had indeed discovered the simple
truth from Moses de Leon's wife and daughter. Moses de Leon had never
possessed the original copy, but had evolved it out of his own inner
consciousness, and had written it with his own hand. His wife frankly
related that she had often asked her husband why he published the
productions of his own intellect under a strange name, and that he had
answered that the Zohar would not, under his own name, have brought him
any money, but assigned to Simon bar Yochaï it had been a lucrative
source of income.

Thus wife and daughter, without being aware of the full gravity of
their assuredly unassailable testimony, unmasked Moses de Leon as a
forger. Nevertheless, the Zohar met with the unqualified applause
of the Kabbalists, because it supplied a want which would have had
to be provided for in one way or another. The Kabbalistic doctrine,
which had already gained so much weight, had hitherto been without
firm basis; it had no other authority than the very doubtful one of
Isaac the Blind. Now the dignified figure of a teacher of the Mishna
in communion with departed spirits and celestial hosts and angels
confirmed the truths which were not only doubted by many at the time,
but absolutely ridiculed. Should they, then, not cling to it and defend
it? What Moses de Leon put into the mouth of Simon bar Yochaï, "Many
will range themselves round the book Zohar, when it becomes known, and
nourish their minds with it at the end of days," actually happened soon
after his death. If the Zohar did not bring the Kabbalists anything
essentially new, it exhibited to them what they did know in so peculiar
a form and language, that they were wonderstruck. Everything in it
is contrived for effect, for illusion, and for fascination. The long
discussions which Simon bar Yochaï holds with his circle or with the
"faithful shepherd," have dramatic power, especially the scene in
which, in premonition of his speedy dissolution, he imparts once more
what he so often had proclaimed. Full of effect, and, upon minds
easily accessible to faith, of transporting and overwhelming influence,
are the oft-recurring exclamations in the Zohar: Woe, woe to those
who believe, or do not believe, or fail to respect, this and that.
Sometimes short prayers are interspersed, which, being elevated and
imaginative, are peculiarly fitted to fill the soul with mysterious
awe. Even the characteristic terms introduced instead of the usual
Kabbalistic forms are calculated to arouse interest by their double
sense. The author designated God and the higher spiritual substances
(Sefiroth) collectively or in their single parts and effects, as
father, mother, the prototype of man, bride, matron, the white head,
the large and the small face, the mirror, the higher heaven, the higher
earth, lily, apple-orchard, and so on. The pious were gained over to
the side of the Zohar, as it attributes to every religious custom and
every practice a higher import, a higher sanctity, and a mysterious

So a new text-book of religion was by stealth introduced into Judaism.
It placed the Kabbala, which a century before had been unknown, on the
same level as the Bible and the Talmud, and to a certain extent on a
still higher level. The Zohar undoubtedly produced good, in so far as
it opposed enthusiasm to the legal dry-as-dust manner of the study of
the Talmud, stimulated the imagination and the feelings, and cultivated
a disposition that restrained the reasoning faculty. But the ills which
it has brought on Judaism outweigh the good by far. The Zohar confirmed
and propagated a gloomy superstition, and strengthened in people's
minds the belief in the kingdom of Satan, in evil spirits and ghosts.

Through its constant use of coarse expressions, often verging on the
sensual, in contradistinction to the chaste, pure spirit pervading
Jewish literature, the Zohar sowed the seeds of unclean desires, and
later on produced a sect that laid aside all regard for decency.
Finally, the Zohar blunted the sense for the simple and the true, and
created a visionary world, in which the souls of those who zealously
occupied themselves with it were lulled into a sort of half-sleep,
and lost the faculty of distinguishing between right and wrong. Its
quibbling interpretations of Holy Writ, adopted by the Kabbalists and
others infected with this mannerism, perverted the verses and words
of the Holy Book, and made the Bible the wrestling-ground of the most
curious, insane notions. The Zohar even contains utterances which
seem favorable to the Christian dogma of the Trinity of the Godhead.
The mystics dismembered the fair form of Holy Writ, indulged in mad
sport, and stupefied all sense for truth, but they were scarcely
more guilty in this respect than the so-called philosophers of the
time. Maimuni's attempt to bring Judaism and its religious literature
into consonance with reason, to give certain too realistic verses
of the Bible a philosophical, or at least a tolerable sense, and
place religious precepts on the basis of an intelligible, acceptable
purpose, encouraged half-learned men to explain everything and
anything in the same way. Hence the allegorizing of the Scriptures,
the Agada, and the rites, was carried to an incredible extreme. These
pseudo-philosophers divested the stories of the creation and of the
patriarchs of their historical character, and interpreted them as
philosophical commonplaces, in which they sported with Aristotelian
and Maimunist terms, as the Zohar with Kabbalistic terms. Abraham and
Sarah, for example, denote to the allegorists matter and form, Pharaoh
denotes vicious desires, Egypt the body, the land of Goshen the heart,
Moses the divine spirit, and the Urim and Thummim, which the High
Priest wore on his breast in the Temple, were the astrolabe of the
astronomers, with which they calculated time, longitude and latitude.
If there had been at that time any Jewish thinkers of the first rank,
they would have made serious efforts to put a stop to this childish
proceeding, whether Kabbalistic or pseudo-philosophical. But the age of
Ben Adret happened to be poor in great intellects. Even the two chief
representatives of the philosophy of that time, Shem-Tob Falaquera and
Isaac Albalag, were not above mediocrity, and were themselves tainted
with the current errors.

There were, however, certain men of bolder spirit, who from
philosophical premises drew conclusions endangering the stability of
Judaism. Like their predecessors, the Alexandrine allegorists, many
intelligent and consistent thinkers were induced at this time to
disregard the ceremonies of Judaism by assigning erroneous purposes to
religious precepts. As the ceremonies are intended simply to awaken
certain religious, philosophical, or moral feelings, they argued, it
is sufficient to call up these thoughts, to be penetrated by them,
to occupy one's mind constantly with them, while the observance of
religious customs is superfluous. Several members of this school denied
Moses' prophetic character, accepting him only as an ordinary lawgiver,
such as other nations had, and thus rejected the divinity of the Torah.
The pseudo-philosophers cast a doubt upon the very fundamentals of
Judaism, and thereby provoked a reaction injurious to free inquiry.

The chief authority of this allegorical school was a man of vast
erudition, but full of crotchets, who, without desiring it,
occasioned violent conflicts. This was Levi ben Abraham ben Chayim,
of Villefranche, not far from Perpignan (born about 1240, died after
1315). Coming from a respectable family of scholars, he was deeply
read in the Talmud; but he was more attracted by Maimuni's philosophy
and Ibn-Ezra's astrology, being a warm adherent of the belief of the
latter in the influence of the stars over human destiny. Of a volatile
rather than a solid mind, Levi ben Chayim had no perfect conception
of Maimuni's aims. To him Judaism resolved itself into philosophical
platitudes, which, preposterous and childish as they sound to us, were,
strange to say, regarded by the people of early times as profound
wisdom. Ben Chayim was the disseminator of that superficial method
satisfied with formulæ instead of thoughts. He composed two chief
works, one in verse, the other in prose, a kind of encyclopædia, in
which he applied the theory derived from Maimuni to all branches of
knowledge. In these books he translated the historical narratives in
the Bible into philosophical generalities, explained the standing
still of the sun on the occasion of Joshua's victory as a natural
occurrence, and in general, adopted any method of expounding which
depends on word-twisting. Levi ben Chayim repudiated the allegorical
interpretations of laws; in fact, he denounced the allegorists as
heretics, and desired to preserve the historical character of the
biblical narratives as much as possible. Like his prototype, Ibn-Ezra,
he tried to keep secret his deepest convictions, so that not even his
friends could fathom his ideas. This Judaism, disfigured by absurd
philosophical interpretations, was not only privately taught, but
preached in the synagogues.

The home of this pseudo-philosophy was the not insignificant
congregation of Perpignan, the capital of the province of Roussillon,
which belonged to the kingdom of Aragon. Although the Jews had no
enviable lot, and were compelled to live in the most miserable part of
the town, that assigned to lepers, they nevertheless preserved a taste
for science and free inquiry, and eagerly awaited the new theories
taught by the exponents and followers of Maimuni's philosophy. Here
poor Levi of Villefranche had found a place of refuge at the house
of a rich and influential man, Don Samuel Sulami or Sen Escalita,
whose piety, learning and liberality were praised beyond measure
by his contemporaries. "From Perpignan to Marseilles there is not
another who can be compared with Samuel Sulami in knowledge of the
Law, benevolence, piety and humility. He gives charity in secret, his
house is open to every traveler; and he is indefatigable in getting
books for his collection." He corresponded on learned topics with
Ben Adret, and took interest in the philosophical interpretation of
the Bible and the Agada. Even the rabbi of Perpignan was a friend of
free thought and a determined enemy of mummified orthodoxy and the
unreflecting faith of the literalist. This was Don Vidal Menachem ben
Solomon Meïri (born Elul, 1249, died about 1306), little celebrated
in his own time, but none the less of great importance. Though not of
commanding influence, he possessed an attractive personality. He had
what nearly all his contemporaries sorely lacked, moderation and tact.
These qualities are revealed particularly in Meïri's style. Nearly all
the Jewish authors of Spain and Provence wrote their prose and verse
in a redundant, bombastic style, as if the whole literary thesaurus of
the Bible were needed to express a meager idea. The much-admired model
of this time, the moral poet Yedaya Bedaresi, is so prolix in saying
the most ordinary platitude, that one has to peruse whole pages of his
apology, reflections, and miscellaneous writings before coming across
a tolerable idea. The style in vogue, a mosaic of Biblical phrases,
favored verbosity. But Don Vidal Meïri forms a glorious exception to
this practice, his style being terse and clear. In his commentaries
to the tractates of the Talmud which relate to ceremonial duties, he
proceeds throughout in a methodical manner, advances from the general
to the particular, arranges his material in lucid order, and seeks to
give the reader information, not to confuse him. Of a similar character
is Meïri's exposition of Holy Writ. The philosophers and mystics always
endeavored to find some higher meaning in it, the simple explanation
being too prosaic for them, and accordingly they put upon the Bible
their own extravagant nonsense. Not so Meïri. He certainly assumed
that there are many commands and narratives in the Bible which point
to something higher than the literal meaning, but the majority of them
must, he maintained, be taken quite literally. Meïri was naturally
dissatisfied with the extravagant mannerisms of the allegorists, but
it did not enter his mind to reject the good together with the bad, to
interdict learning because of its abuse.

These proceedings were not regarded quite so calmly by certain bigots,
dwelling in the city which had produced the obscurantist Solomon of
Montpellier, the proscriber of Maimuni and his compositions, and
author of so much dissension and evil. Although pseudo-philosophical
extravaganzas were not more dangerous than the follies of the
Kabbalists, the watchers of Zion nevertheless overlooked the latter,
and waged energetic warfare with the former, so that the philosophers
obtained more weight than they would otherwise have had. The bigots of
Montpellier well-nigh kindled the fire of discord in Jacob. The first
instigator of this ill-timed zeal belonged to that class of men who
mark off the province of faith according to an exact rule, denounce
every movement and opinion which transgress their limit as heresy,
and desire to have them rooted out with anathemas and scourges, where
possible with fire and sword--a class of men in whom fanatical zeal
cannot be separated from a kind of egoism. To this category belonged
Abba-Mari ben Moses, of Montpellier, or, as his aristocratic title
ran, Don Astruc En-Duran de Lünel. Of a respectable family, and of
great influence in the capital of Languedoc, Abba-Mari was certainly
not without culture, and he had great veneration for Maimuni and his
compositions; but he had irrevocably attached himself to the Jewish
creed as laid down by Nachmani, and was indignant if any one ventured
to consider it from the point of view of another system. He did not
object to miraculous tales; on the contrary, the more the better. The
conclusions of philosophy and science, which denied the possibility
of these miracles, in no way disturbed him. In the choice between
Moses and Aristotle, or between the authorities of the Talmud and the
upholders of philosophy, he was not for a moment doubtful to whom to
give the preference. To be sure, this narrow-minded point of view is
justifiable; but Abba-Mari wanted to thrust his opinion upon every
one else, and to persecute all who thought otherwise. Not only did he
hold in abomination the allegorical exegesis publicly preached, but he
reprobated the study of all profane literature as the cause of this
aberration. He regretted that the scourge could no more be brought into
requisition to silence those who filled their minds with such learning
as endangered religion.

Abba-Mari, however, did not possess sufficient authority to proceed
against Levi of Villefranche and his school. He addressed himself to
the most influential rabbi of the time, Ben Adret of Barcelona, and
charged that their perversities would accomplish the dissolution of
Judaism, if a restraint were not put upon them. He importuned Ben
Adret to exercise his great influence. The rabbi naturally found the
circumstance deplorable that "strangers had forced their way through
the gates of Zion." He exhorted Abba-Mari to organize a party to oppose
this extravagant movement, but positively refused his support, as he
did not like to interfere in the affairs of congregations abroad. Other
bigots, however, took up the cause, and hurried it to a crisis, among
them Don Bonafoux Vidal, of Barcelona, and his brother, Don Crescas
Vidal, who had moved to Perpignan, both highly respected and learned,
but as intolerant as Abba-Mari. Don Crescas made a proposition,
which met with much applause. The study of science, and the reading
of profane literature in general, was to be prohibited to Jewish
youths till their thirtieth year. Only men of mature age, "who had
filled their minds with the Bible and the Talmud, were to be allowed
to warm themselves by the strange fires of philosophy and the natural
sciences." Although Ben Adret did not feel disposed to take measures
against the study of science, he nevertheless considered it his duty
to persecute the provoker of so much animosity. He took umbrage at the
pious Samuel Sulami for granting a heretic shelter in his house, thus
giving him an opportunity to spread his pernicious views. He harassed
Samuel Sulami so unmercifully, and subjected his conscience to such
torment, that the man, not very remarkable for strength of character,
became shaken in his previous convictions. When a daughter of his died
he believed that it was a punishment for his sinfulness, and renounced
his hospitality to Levi. Many members of the congregation of Perpignan
bitterly resented the suspicion of heresy cast upon Levi, and as they
knew Ben Adret to be a man of stainless character, they vented their
dissatisfaction on the instigator, Abba-Mari, to whom they imputed
sordid ulterior designs and personal motives.

Abba-Mari and his allies, who felt themselves helpless without
powerful support, labored without intermission to inflame the zeal of
the Barcelona rabbinate, that it might forbid free inquiry and the
study of science. At the same time they promised the co-operation of
the whole congregation of Montpellier, which, being the chief one in
southern France, would draw other communities after it. Ben Adret and
his college, imagining from Abba-Mari's exaggerated description that
Judaism was in the greatest danger, were at last determined to take up
the matter, but desired first to sound the congregation of Montpellier
as to its feeling on the subject, and for this purpose sent a letter
to be read before the members in case they felt disposed to join them
in interdicting the study of the natural sciences. But as soon as the
proposed ban against the sciences became known, decided opposition
arose among the most important men of the congregation.

There was at that time in Montpellier a man, who by reason of his
family, position, wealth and knowledge, was held in high estimation
by his people, and who had imbibed a love for the sciences with his
mother's milk. Jacob ben Machir Tibbon, known in Christian circles
as Don Profiat, or Profatius (born about 1236, died after 1312), was
descended on one side from the celebrated Meshullam of Lünel, the first
to promote a revival of learning in southern France, and on the other
side he was related to the Tibbonides. From his birth he was taught to
look upon Judaism and science as twin sisters, dwelling together in
the utmost harmony. Like all educated Jews of his time, he was well
grounded in Jewish literature, the Bible, and the Talmud, practiced
medicine as his profession, but devoted himself with particular zeal to
mathematics and astronomy. His accurate observation of the inclination
of the earth's axis to the orbit was taken by later master astronomers
as the basis of their investigations. As he had acquired a knowledge
of Arabic, he was able to translate useful scientific works from that
language into Hebrew. His wealth of knowledge was not employed as a
means of gratifying his vanity or ambition, but he properly regarded it
as the distinction of man, enabling him to arrive at self-knowledge.
Jacob Tibbon maintained that in the happy time of the Jewish people
science had its home in their midst, but exile and suffering had
banished it, and its former exponents now had to become students in
order to learn the results arrived at by foreign nations. In his
scientific labors Jacob ben Machir had a very noble end in view. He
aimed at elevating his co-religionists in the eyes of the Christian
world, and silencing the sneers of their enemies, who tauntingly said
that they were destitute of all knowledge.

This man was now asked to assist in banishing science from the Jewish
world. If Abba-Mari wished to carry out in Montpellier his scheme of
holding the Jewish youth aloof from the study of the sciences, he was
bound to take Jacob ben Machir into consideration. For he was held
in high esteem by his congregation on account of his many excellent
traits and his meritorious achievements, and had the greatest influence
with the members entitled to a vote. Indeed, he was the first to whom
Abba-Mari disclosed the project, supported by the Barcelona rabbinate,
against the study of the profane sciences, and he reckoned upon Jacob's
co-operation. With impressive decisiveness, Profiat not only refused
participation, but pointed out the sad consequences of so serious a
step, and importuned him to omit the public reading of Ben Adret's
letter. Abba-Mari and his ally, Todros of Beaucaire, nevertheless
persisted in their determination, and summoned the members of the
congregation to an important conference in the synagogue on a Sabbath
(Elul-August, 1304). It was immediately apparent that the zealots had
deceived themselves, or had been too confident in their assertion that
the Jews of Montpellier would give unanimous consent to the interdict
to be laid on science. A portion of the congregation even abstained
from taking part in the deliberations, and Jacob ben Machir raised an
emphatic protest against the proposed enslaving of the intellect. A
violent discussion ensued, and the meeting dispersed without coming to
a resolution. Soon a party, consisting of advocates of science, and
of friends, adherents and parasites of the highly esteemed leader,
rallied round Jacob Machir, the most distinguished representative of
science. The obscurantists and the simple-minded attached themselves
to Abba-Mari, so that the congregation became a prey to division and
conflict. Each party endeavored to gain supporters, both within and
without the community.

It became a point of honor with Abba-Mari to bring the affair to a
conclusion conformable to his own views, for his defeat had exposed his
true position to Ben Adret and the Barcelona congregation. After the
unfavorable issue of the first deliberation in the synagogue, he hardly
ventured to answer the man whom he had assured of a unanimous adoption
of his proposal. He, therefore, worked very energetically in collecting
at least twenty-five signatures of members of the congregation, to give
Ben Adret proof that he did not stand alone in his extreme views.

It was no less a point of honor with Jacob Tibbon not to allow the
interdiction of science to come into force. For he and the Tibbonides
believed that the attacks were directed chiefly against their
highly-venerated ancestors, Samuel Ibn-Tibbon and Jacob Anatoli,
because the latter's book of sermons (Malmed) had been the first to
explain away Biblical tales and religious laws, and at that time
was used in certain quarters for Sabbath devotions. Ben Adret, at
Abba-Mari's instigation, did, indeed, treat Anatoli, the favorite of
the Tibbonides, with scorn. Of Samuel Ibn-Tibbon, the translator of
Maimuni's works, and propagator of his theories, the austere bigots
had not a good word to say. Judah ben Moses, his great-grandson,
consequently became the soul of what may be called the Tibbonide party,
which agitated against Abba-Mari's plan. To attract outsiders, the
Tibbonides gave out that the adversaries of science once more had in
view the denunciation of Maimuni and his compositions as heretical,
and that Abba-Mari wanted to take up the position of Solomon of
Montpellier. This was a very happy party manœuvre; it won over even
those who had shown indifference to the burning topic of the day,
for they thought themselves in duty bound to take up arms on behalf
of Maimuni's honor. The Tibbonide party, thus strengthened, sent a
trenchant and pointed letter to Ben Adret and the Barcelonians, to
ask them to reconsider their decision. It is true, they were not able
to offer any convincing reasons for the admission of science into the
Jewish curriculum; but the arguments which they set forth in its favor
were considered satisfactory in a superficial age. They appealed to
King Solomon's wisdom, "from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop on the
wall," which, they said, referred to nothing but natural science. From
the Talmud, too, reasons were adduced for the study of science. They
would not admit the validity of the reply that it was not intended
to interdict research generally, only to prohibit immature young men
from its pursuit. That, they said, was an evasion of the main point at
issue. For a man not familiar with science before his thirtieth year
was permanently incapable of engaging in its study, and in advanced
age could never retrieve the loss. The Tibbonides, moreover, protested
that they were branded as heretics, because along with the Torah
they paid homage to the profane sciences. They did not recognize the
superiority of any one in piety and orthodoxy. Lastly, the Tibbonides
exhorted Ben Adret and his college to bury the hatchet of denunciation
and discord. The spirited and defiant tone assumed by Jacob ben Machir
and his adherents greatly provoked the Barcelonians. The tension
increased. Bitter and caustic letters flew hither and thither. Both
sides labored to gain new adherents in other congregations, and to draw
over the waverers. The communities of Argentière, Aix, Avignon and
Lünel, through their representatives, declared in favor of Abba-Mari
and his followers. In Perpignan, the chief seat of the much-assailed
enlightenment, a relative of Abba-Mari agitated in his favor. The
latter was particularly desirous of securing the assistance of a man
who, by reason of his noble birth and highly honorable position, had
powerful influence in Perpignan and elsewhere. This was Kalonymos
ben Todros of Narbonne, thought to be a descendant of the house of
King David. Kalonymos did not at first appear inclined to take part
in the proscription of science; but Abba-Mari from the one side and
Ben Adret from the other assailed him with such pertinacity that at
length he promised his consent and co-operation. As the Tibbonide party
had also gained new adherents, Ben Adret himself shrank from pushing
the controversy to extremes, and decided not to issue the decree
of excommunication till at least twenty congregations had declared
themselves unequivocally in favor of it.

Whilst in southern France and Spain the balance was inclining now to
one side, now to the other, in the dispute about the admission of
scientific studies into Jewish circles, the German communities were
passing through a series of the most deplorable events, which drove to
Spain a man who spoke the deciding word in favor of the excommunication
and proscription of free inquiry. He was of high morality, rare
disinterestedness, of pure aspiration and sincere piety, and possessed
profound Talmudical learning, but was filled with the fanatical hate
of his countrymen against profane knowledge. The emigration of Asheri
or Asher from Germany to Spain inaugurates an unhappy period for the
Spanish and Provençal Jews in their efforts for the progress of culture.

Asher ben Yechiel (born about 1250, died 1327) of the Rhine district,
sprang from ancestors who centered their whole world in the Talmud. A
disciple of the celebrated Meïr of Rothenburg, Asher acquired the acute
Tossafist method, composed Tossafist works, but had a finer sense
of system and order than this school. After the death of his master,
whose corpse the unprincipled emperor, Adolph of Nassau, refused to
give up for burial without remuneration, Asheri was reckoned among
the most influential rabbinical authorities of Germany. A paroxysm
of persecutions of the Jews broke out in his time, far worse than
those during the crusades; it robbed thousands of innocent men of
their lives, or sentenced them to a lot worse than death. A civil war
raged at that time in Germany between Adolph of Nassau and Albrecht
of Austria, who were contending for the empty glitter of the German
crown. This strife promised impunity for audacious attacks on the Jews,
who were proscribed by the church and society, and an opportunity was
easily found. A report was spread that the Jews of the little town
of Röttingen (in Franconia) had desecrated a sacramental wafer and
pounded it in a mortar, and blood was said to have flowed from it. A
nobleman of the place, named Rindfleisch, took up the cause of the
host alleged to have been desecrated, declared that he had received
a mission from heaven to root out the accursed race of Jews, and
gathered a credulous, besotted mob around him to assist in his bloody
intentions. He and his troops first of all consigned the Jews of
Röttingen to the flames (7th Iyar-20th April, 1298). From this place
the rabble of slaughterers, under Rindfleisch's leadership, traveled
from town to town, always swelling their numbers with others of their
description, and destroyed all the Jews who fell into their hands, even
those converted to Christianity. Rindfleisch, impelled by audacity and
spurious enthusiasm, fairly forced the inhabitants of various towns to
ill-treat their Jewish fellow-citizens brutally. The great community of
Würzburg was completely blotted out (12th Ab-24th July). In Nuremberg
the Jews had at first fled for refuge into the fortress, but being
attacked there, too, they took to arms, and though assisted by humane
Christians, were overpowered at last, and all butchered (22d Ab-1st
August). Asheri's relative and fellow-student, Mordecai ben Hillel,
who had compiled a very important rabbinical work, fell at about the
same time, together with his wife and five children. Many parents, lest
their children from fear of death should renounce their faith, threw
them with their own hands into the flames, and plunged in after them.
In Bavaria the congregations of Ratisbon and Augsburg were the only
ones to escape the slaughter. In the first city, where they had the
right of citizenship from time immemorial, the mayor protected them
with great zeal. In Augsburg, too, the mayor and council defended them
against the destroyers, Rindfleisch and his horde.

This bloody persecution spread from Franconia and Bavaria to Austria,
swept away more than a hundred and forty congregations and more than
100,000 Jews, and lasted nearly half a year. The Jews of Germany all
trembled, and were prepared to meet destruction. This would certainly
have come if the civil war in Germany had not been brought to an
end by the death of Emperor Adolph, and the election of Albrecht.
The second Habsburger energetically restored the country to a state
of peace, brought to book the perpetrators of the outrages on the
Jews, and imposed fines on the towns which had participated in them,
on the ground that he had suffered losses in his purse through the
immolation of his "servi cameræ" and their goods. The majority of
the Jews baptized through fear returned to Judaism, apparently with
the connivance of the emperor and the representatives of the church.
The after-throes of this massacre were likewise bitter enough. The
wives of those who had perished could not authenticate the death of
their husbands through Jewish witnesses, as no men remained alive
competent to give testimony. They could appeal only to the statement
of baptized Jews, whose evidence was considered by many rabbis to be
invalid according to the Talmudical marriage laws. Asheri, however, was
sensible enough to unbend from this strictness, and allowed the widows
to marry again on the evidence of baptized Jews returned to Judaism.

Asheri did not feel very secure in Germany after this bloody massacre,
or perhaps he was threatened with danger on the part of Emperor
Albrecht. It was said that the emperor demanded of him the sum of
money which the Jews were to pay as ransom for the imprisoned Meïr
of Rothenburg, for which Asheri had become security. He accordingly
left Germany (summer of 1303), and traveled from one country to
another with his wife, his eight sons and grandsons, and on account
of his reputation, he was everywhere treated with the utmost respect,
especially in Montpellier, even before the breaking out of the
controversy. He finally settled in Toledo, the largest city of Spain
(January, 1305). With joy the illustrious German rabbi was installed by
the Toledo congregation in the vacant rabbinate. With Asheri the dismal
spirit of over-piety, so hostile to knowledge, entered into the Spanish

Asheri did not conceal his antipathy to profane culture. He could not
conceive how pious Jews, in southern France and in Spain, could occupy
themselves with subjects outside of the Talmud. With the utmost scorn
he discountenanced the very aspiration of the Spanish and Provençal
Jews on which they prided themselves. He thanked his Creator that
He had protected him from the baneful influence of science. He did
not give the southern Frenchmen and the Spanish Jews credit for
thoroughness even in knowledge of the Talmud, and maintained that the
German and northern French Jews alone had inherited wisdom from the
time of the destruction of the Temple. A man like this, incapable of
appreciating the sciences, and harboring enmity to everything not
in the Talmud, was bound to exercise an influence prejudicial to
knowledge. Next to him Solomon ben Adret himself appeared more or less
of a freethinker. Abba-Mari forthwith availed himself of the man, from
whom he expected effectual support for his party. He requested him to
express his views on the pending question. Asheri, of course, gave
Abba-Mari his unqualified approval, but was of opinion that he did not
go far enough, for the evil would not be eradicated, if the pursuit
of the sciences were allowed at a ripe age. The poison of heresy had
spread too far, every one was infected by it, and the pious were open
to the reproach that they shut their eyes to it. His proposal was
that a synod should be convoked, and a resolution be taken that study
was to be devoted solely to the Talmud, while the sciences were to be
pursued only when it was neither day nor night--that is, not at all.
This exclusive fidelity to the Talmud, which rejected all compromise,
advocated by an energetic man of pure character, made an overpowering
impression on the unsettled minds of Spanish Jews. Ben Adret himself,
who had hitherto always hesitated to lead the movement, all at once
declared that he was prepared to pronounce the ban, if Abba-Mari and
the prince, Kalonymos, would prepare it. An officious zealot, Samson
ben Meïr, disciple of Ben Adret, took upon himself to collect assenting
signatures from twenty congregations. Toledo was especially reckoned
upon, having been swayed by Asheri's mind, and next, Castile generally,
which as a rule followed the guidance of the head community.

How artificial and opposed to the sentiment of the majority this zeal
was, became apparent especially in the congregation of Montpellier,
styled the tower of Zion by Abba-Mari's party. In this congregation
the zealots did not venture to collect signatures for the sentence of
excommunication. As if in defiance, one of the Tibbonides announced
that he would give a reading from Anatoli's book of sermons on a
certain Sabbath, and immediately drew a numerous audience. Abba-Mari,
who had repeatedly boasted to Ben Adret of his mighty influence, and
had persuaded him that the whole congregation, except a few deluded
people, were on his side, now had to admit that Montpellier was not
to be reckoned upon in this affair. In the consciousness that their
party was in a minority in southern France, the two leaders, Abba-Mari
and Kalonymos, of Narbonne, made the ecclesiastical ban unexpectedly
mild, both as to wording and contents. First, the reading of works on
natural science and of metaphysical books only was to be prohibited,
all other branches of learning being expressly allowed. Secondly, the
writings of Jewish authors, even those dealing with natural science
or metaphysics, were to be excluded from the inhibition. Abba-Mari,
with a view to meeting his adversaries half-way, had made the proposal
to fix the period when the study of every department of learning was
to be allowed, not at the thirtieth, but at the twenty-fifth year
of the student's age. Ben Adret, however, who could not tolerate
half-measures nor brook retreat, had now become more severe. He who
formerly had to be driven and urged on, now became the propeller.
Asheri's influence is not to be mistaken. On the Sabbath of Lamentation
in commemoration of the destruction of Jerusalem, he and his colleagues
ordered the anathema against the study of the sciences to be read
amid solemn ceremonies, the scroll of the Law in the arms of the
reader (4th Ab-26th July, 1305). Whoever read any scientific book
before the twenty-fifth year of his age was liable to the penalty of
excommunication. The ban was to remain in force for half a century.
The philosophical expounders of Holy Writ were doomed in the hereafter,
and in this world subjected to excommunication, and their writings
condemned to be burnt. As no exception was made of scientific works
composed in Hebrew, according to the formulation of the ban, not
only Anatoli's book of sermons was exposed to proscription, but also
Maimuni's philosophical writings. Ben Adret and his college allowed
only the study of medicine, on the ground that its practice is
permitted in the Talmud. This was the first heresy-tribunal in Jewish
history, and Ben Adret was at its head. The Dominicans had found docile
emulators among the Jews.

According to the communal system in the Middle Ages, every congregation
was independent, and the resolutions of one congregation had no force
with another. The ban accordingly had validity only in Barcelona,
unless some other congregation confirmed it. Ben Adret, however,
labored to have it adopted by other congregations. The sentence,
signed by Ben Adret, his two sons, and more than thirty of the most
influential members of the Barcelona congregation, was dispatched to
the congregations of Spain, Languedoc, northern France, and Germany.
But the ban was not so readily adopted as the authorities of Barcelona
had flattered themselves it would be. Jacob ben Machir and his party
had already received notice that a blow was being meditated against
them, and accordingly made preparations for a countermove. They
resolved from the first to frustrate the effect of the ecclesiastical
interdict of the study of science. They drew up a resolution in
Montpellier which contained three important points. A sentence of
excommunication was to fall upon those who, out of religious scruples,
ventured to debar or withdraw their sons, whatever their youth, from
the study of any science whatsoever, regardless of the language in
which it was treated; secondly, upon those who presumed to utter an
irreverent or abusive word against the great Maimuni, and, lastly,
also upon those who presumed to denounce a religious author on account
of his philosophical system. The last point was introduced for the
sake of Anatoli's memory, which his opponents had vilified. Thus
there was ban against ban. Jacob Tibbon and his friends caused their
resolution in favor of science and its advocates to be announced
in the synagogue, and the great majority of the congregation of
Montpellier took his side. Party zeal, however, impelled the Tibbonides
to take an ill-advised step, which threatened to produce the same
evil consequences as had ensued at the time of the first conflict in
Montpellier with the obscurantists. As Jacob ben Machir Profatius
and others of his party had influence with the governor of the city,
they wished to secure his assistance in the event of their opponents'
endeavoring violently to carry the Barcelona interdict into effect. The
governor, however, explained to them that he was interested only in
one point: that the Jewish youth should not be prevented from reading
other than Talmudical works. He should strongly deprecate any attempt
to discourage the study of extra-Talmudical literature, because, as he
frankly expressed himself, he would not consent to their being deprived
through fear of excommunication of the means to potential conversion to
Christianity. To the other points he was indifferent.

Abba-Mari and his party were now in despair on account of the activity
of their opponents. As the resolution in favor of the unrestricted
study of science had been adopted by the majority of the community,
according to rabbinical law it was binding on the minority as well,
and therefore on their leader, and they could not legally stand by
the interdict of Barcelona. Thus the zealots, the provokers of the
conflict, had their hands tied, and were caught in their own net.
They did what they could; they protested against the resolution of
the Tibbonides, and advertised their protest far and wide. But they
could not conceal that they had suffered a defeat, and were obliged
to consult certain authorities as to whether the resolutions of the
Tibbonides were binding on them. Ben Adret was thus placed in an
embarrassing position. The party of Jacob ben Machir believed, or
wished to have it believed, that the prohibition of the rabbis of
Barcelona in reference to the study of scientific books, was meant
to apply to Maimuni's works, too. They obtained the credit of having
taken up the cudgels in behalf of Maimuni's honor, and of contending
for the glory of Judaism; whilst their opponents, Ben Adret included,
through their narrow-mindedness and obstinacy, were exposing their
religion to the scorn of educated Christians. The vindicators of
science seemed to be continually gaining in public opinion. There now
appeared on their side a young poet, whose eloquent defense, written
in a highly imaginative style, made a great impression. It gives a
faithful picture of the feeling and excitement which agitated the
souls of the champions of science, and, therefore, awakens interest
even in the present day. In a modest manner, but with manly spirit,
the poet tells Ben Adret truths which he never had the opportunity of
hearing in his own circle. This young poet, more famous through his
letter than through his verses, was Yedaya En-Bonet ben Abraham, better
known under the name of Bedaresi (of Béziers) and under the poetical
pseudonym of Penini (born about 1280, died about 1340). Yedaya Penini,
son of the bombastic poet, Abraham Bedaresi, had more talent as a poet
than his father. He possessed a lively imagination and overflowing
wealth of language, and lacked only restraining tact, and a dignified,
universally acceptable, uplifting aim for poetry. This deficiency gave
his poems the appearance of empty grandiloquence and artificiality.
He had inherited the defect of his father, inability to control the
superabundance of words by the law of beauty. He was too ornate, and
he moralized, instead of elevating and impressing. In his seventeenth
year Yedaya Bedaresi wrote a book of morals (Pardes), and in his
earliest years, whilst his father was still alive, he composed a prayer
of about one hundred verses, in which all the words begin with the
same letter (Bekashoth ha-Memin), and which his father, and perhaps
his contemporaries, admired, but which is nevertheless very insipid.
An admirer of Maimuni and Ibn Ezra, Bedaresi considered science and
philosophy of equal importance with Judaism, or, like most thoughtful
men of that time, he believed that the one contained the other.

Bedaresi conceived that his deepest convictions had been assailed
by Ben Adret's anathema, and that it had in reality been directed
against Maimuni's name, and, therefore, he could not restrain himself
from addressing a sharp rebuke to the excommunicators. As he lived in
Montpellier and was certainly attached to Jacob ben Machir's party, it
is quite probable that he wrote the defense of Maimuni and of science,
sent to Ben Adret, at their instigation (December, 1305, or January,
1306). This missive, like most of those written in this controversy,
was intended not only for the individual addressed, but for the Jewish
reading public in general. After Bedaresi had expressed his respect for
the upright, learned rabbi of Barcelona, he remarked that he and his
friends were not indignant about the ban, for science was invulnerable,
and could not be injured by the fulmination of excommunicators. They
were only hurt that Ben Adret should brand the Jewish congregations
of southern France as heretics and renegades, and expose them to
contempt in his message to many congregations and countries. Ben Adret,
he continued, had allowed himself to be taken in tow by Abba-Mari,
and had made a mountain of a mole-hill. From time immemorial, from
Saadiah's age, science was not only tolerated in Judaism, but cherished
and fostered, because its importance in religious knowledge was
indisputable. Moreover, the denouncers of heresy were not consistent;
they excluded the science of medicine from the ban, although this
science, like every other, had a side which was in conflict with
religion. How could they dare impugn the writings of Maimuni, whose
dazzling personality outshone all his great predecessors? At the end,
Yedaya Bedaresi observed that violent faction fights had broken out in
Montpellier. Did they wish to continue to foment party strife, that
the absence of unity among the Jews might occasion the Christians
unholy satisfaction? "We cannot give up science; it is as the breath
to our nostrils. Even if Joshua would appear and forbid it, we could
not obey him, for we have a warranty, who outweighs you all, Maimuni,
who has recommended it, and impressed it upon us. We are ready to
set our goods, our children, and our very lives at stake for it." In
conclusion, he invited Ben Adret to advise his friends in Montpellier
to relinquish heresy hunting, and desist from stirring the fire of

At the same time, furious disputes broke out in the church, between
King Philip IV of France and Pope Boniface VIII, but here the subject
of the dispute was not ideal good, not science and free research, but
purely dominion, power and mammon. There was war to the knife between
the chiefs of the two parties. The king accused the pope of heresy,
simony, covetousness, perjury, and impurity. And the pope released the
subjects from their oath to their hereditary king, and gave away his
empire. The Jewish hostilities had neither the same wide range, nor yet
the same bottomless wickedness.

Ben Adret and several who had signed the decree of excommunication,
Moses Iskafat Meles and Solomon Gracian, were so unpleasantly affected
by Bedaresi's letter, and feared its effect so much, that they hastened
to offer the explanation that they had in no wise animadverted upon
Maimuni's writings, whom they revered in the highest degree. They even
exhorted Abba-Mari's party to make peace with their opponents, to
vindicate their dignity before their common enemy. But the controversy
was now at a stage when it could no longer be settled peaceably. The
mutual bitterness was too violent, and had become too personal. Each
party claimed to be in the right from its own standpoint; neither could
consent to a compromise nor make concessions. Each adhered to its own
principles; the one sought to enforce the freedom of science, the other
protested that Jewish youth, before maturity, must be guarded from the
deleterious poison of knowledge. Whilst the adherents of Abba-Mari
were seeking legal decisions to prove the ban of their opponents
unauthorized, a sad event happened, which, like a whirlwind, tore
friends asunder, and dashed enemies against each other.



    Philip le Bel--The Jews of France plundered and banished--
    Estori Parchi; Aaron Cohen; Laments of Bedaresi--Eleazar
    of Chinon, the Martyr--Return of the Jews to France; their
    Precarious Position--Progress of the Controversy regarding
    the Study of Philosophy--Abba-Mari and Asheri--Death of
    Ben Adret--Rabbinical Revival in Spain--Isaac Israeli II--
    Samuel and the Queen Maria Molina--Don Juan Emanuel and
    Judah Ibn-Wakar--The Jews of Rome--Robert of Naples and the
    Jews--Peril of the Jews in Rome--Kalonymos ben Kalonymos,
    his Satires--Immanuel and Dante--The Poet Judah Siciliano--
    Leone Romano and King Robert--Shemarya Ikriti--Position of
    Karaism--Aaron the Elder and the Prayer-Book of the Karaites.

1306-1328 C.E.

Philip IV, le Bel, at that time the king of France, one of those
monarchs who made arrogant and unprincipled despotism familiar to
Europe, suddenly issued a secret order (21st January, 1306), imposing
the strictest silence, to the higher and lower officials throughout
his kingdom, to put all the Jews of France under arrest on one and
the same day, without warning of any kind. Before the Jews had fully
recovered from fasting on the Day of Lamentation in remembrance of the
destruction of Jerusalem, and as they were about to begin their daily
business, the constables and jailors appeared, laid hands upon them,
and dragged young and old, women and children, to prison (10th Ab-22d
July). There they were told that they had to quit the country within
the space of a month, leaving behind both their goods and the debts
owing to them. Whoever was found in France after that time was liable
to the penalty of death. What could have induced this prudent rather
than clerical prince so suddenly to change his sentiments towards the
Jews? It was certainly not clerical intolerance, nor was it yielding
to the will of the people. For the French, even in the Middle Ages,
were not bigoted, and it was not their wish to remove the Jews to free
themselves from usurers. Avarice was the first motive of this cruel
order. For Philip's feud with the pope, and his war with the rebellious
Flemish, had so exhausted his treasury, and had rendered necessary
so unsparing an extortion of money that, as the ballads of the time
scoffingly said, "The fowl in the pot was not secure from the king's
grasp." The king wanted to replenish his coffers from the property
of the Jews. Another circumstance is said to have moved him to this
hard-hearted resolution. The German emperor Albrecht, who at that time
was not on good terms with Philip, had demanded the surrender of the
kingdom of Arles; further, that he should deliver up Jesus' supposed
crown of thorns, and lastly, that he should acknowledge the authority
of the successor of Vespasian, Titus, and Charlemagne over the French
Jews, _i.e._, yield to him a portion of the hard-earned property of the
Jews. Philip is said to have consulted his lawyers, to decide to whom
the authority over the Jews appertained, and as they adjudged it to the
German emperor, the idea occurred to him to fleece the Jews of their
property, and to send his "servi cameræ" naked and bare to Albrecht.
Before the world the king covered his act of violence, inhuman as it
was unstatesmanlike, with the excuse that incredible outrages of the
Jews had rendered their expulsion imperative. That he had aimed at the
possessions of the Jews was shown by his relentless plundering. The
officials left the unhappy Jews nothing beyond the clothes they wore,
and to everyone not more than seemed necessary for a day's living (12
gros Tournois). Wagonfuls of the property of the Jews, gold, silver
and precious stones were transported to the king; and less valuable
objects were sold at a ridiculously low price. At the appointed time
(September, 1306), they were banished, about 100,000 souls, from the
country which their ancestors had inhabited, in part at the time of the
Roman republic, long before Christianity had spread into France. Some
who could not separate themselves from their property and the country
which they loved went over to Christianity. The whole congregation of
Toulouse is said to have been guilty of this cowardice, which scarcely
seems credible. The celebrated seats, at which so much intellect had
been displayed, the colleges of Rashi, Tam, and the Tossafists: Troyes,
Paris, Sens, Chinon, Orleans; the places in which a higher culture had
had its temple: Béziers, Lünel, Montpellier, whence the combatants
for and against science were plunged into common misery,--all these
schools and synagogues were sold to the highest bidder or given away.
A German or an English king might have destroyed the holy places of
the Jews--King Philip le Bel made a present of a synagogue to his
--coachman. An approximate idea can be formed of the sums which the
expulsion and robbery of the Jews brought in to the king, if it is kept
in mind that the sale of the Jewish goods in the house of the prefect
of Orleans alone brought in 337,000 francs.

How many of the refugees, reduced to beggary, fell victims to the
hardships of their journey cannot be known. The bitter plaints of
those oppressed by the heavy affliction sound mournful and touching
even at this distance of time. Estori Parchi, then a youth of many
accomplishments and noble heart, a relative of Jacob ben Machir, whose
parents had emigrated from Spain to southern France, thus describes his
sorrow: "From the house of study have they torn me; naked was I forced
as a young man to leave my ancestral home, and wander from land to
land, from people to people, whose tongues were strange to me." Parchi
at length found a resting-place in Palestine. Another fugitive, the
learned Aaron Cohen of Narbonne, poured forth this elegy: "Unhappy me,
I saw the misery of the banishment of the sons of Jacob, like a herd
of cattle driven asunder. From a position of honor I was thrown into a
land of darkness." The sudden turn of fortune which changed rich men
into beggars, and exposed the delicate and those used to the comforts
of life to bitter privation, filled the bombastic poet Yedaya Bedaresi
with gloomy reflections. In vivid colors he painted the trouble and
pain of life, and man's helplessness and nothingness. His "Trial of the
World" (Bechinath Olam), suggested by personal observation and bitter
experience, consequently makes a depressing and mournful impression,
and reflects faithfully the melancholy feelings of the ill-starred race.

The expulsion of the Jews from France by the stony-hearted Philip le
Bel did not come off without martyred victims. Those who transgressed
the time of grace, yet rejected solicitations to abjure their faith,
were punished by death. A martyr of this time, Eleazar ben Joseph of
Chinon, is specially famous. He was a learned, noble-minded man, a
correspondent of Ben Adret, master of many distinguished disciples,
among them the youthful Parchi, one of the last of the Tossafist
school. He was condemned to the stake, although no crime could be laid
at his door except that he was a Jew. With him died two brothers. The
expatriated Jews dispersed in all parts of the world; many traveled
to Palestine. But the majority remained as near as possible to the
French borders, in Provence proper, at that time partly under German
suzerainty, in the province of Roussillon, which belonged to the
Aragonian king of Majorca, and in that island. Their intention was to
wait for a favorable change of fortune, which would permit them to
return to the land of their birth. They had not speculated falsely.
King Philip himself was induced by avarice to unbend from his severity.

The vehement struggle in Montpellier about permitting Jewish youth to
engage in the study of the sciences, remarkable to relate, continued
after the banishment from France (September, 1306), and the mutual
hatred of the two parties was in no way abated by suffering. A portion
of the Tibbonide party had settled in Perpignan, which belonged to the
king of Majorca, who was no favorer of the Jews. At his command copies
of the Talmud were once more delivered up to the _auto-da-fé;_ but
as he hoped to gain some advantage by the settlement of intelligent,
industrious Jews, he suffered them. Abba-Mari and another portion of
the congregation of Montpellier at first took up their abode in the
town of Arles, but as he could not stay there, he, too, emigrated to
Perpignan (January, 1307). But the opposing party, which had influence
with the king or governor, endeavored to hinder his settlement in that
place. Abba-Mari's partisans, by making representations to the king,
succeeded in obtaining permission for him to live in Perpignan. Here
the controversy raged anew. Solomon ben Adret and Asheri, particularly
the latter, whose decision of character had acquired for him the chief
authority, again interfered. Asheri declared that he had given his
signature in a half-hearted manner to the decree prohibiting young
men from occupying themselves with profane studies; for, according to
his opinion, it was too great a concession to permit it at the age
of twenty-five. Science ought to be prohibited altogether, for it
inevitably lures on to unbelief. The defenders of science were to be
condemned without mercy, since the afflictions of exile had made no
impression on them, suffering had not broken their spirit of defiance,
and had not chastened their hardness of heart.

This view, that qualities prejudicial to Judaism were inherent in
science, gained supremacy after Ben Adret's death (1310), when Asheri
was acknowledged in Spain and in the neighboring countries as the only
authority in religious matters. Asheri, his sons and companions who
had migrated with him from Germany, transplanted from the Rhine to
vivacious Toledo that spirit of honest, but tormenting, narrow-minded
and intolerant piety; that gloomy disposition which regards even
harmless joy as a sin; that feeling of abjectness, which characterized
the German Jews of the Middle Ages, and they inoculated the Spanish
Jews with it. The free activity of the mind was checked. Asheri
concentrated all his mental power on the Talmud and its exposition.
His chief work was a compilation of the Talmud for practical use
(1307-1314). On all occasions he endeavored to enforce a difficult,
painful, and severe discipline. If any one desired to express his
thoughts on any department of knowledge whatsoever, he had to array
his subject in the garments of contrite orthodoxy. When the erudite
Isaac ben Joseph Israeli II, of Toledo, published an astronomical work
(1310), he had to adjust it to Talmudical standards, and introduce it
by a confession of faith, for only in this manner could he find grace
in Asheri's eyes.

At about this time, during Asheri's rabbinate in Toledo, prominent Jews
once more obtained influence at court. King Ferdinand IV (1295-1312)
had a Jewish treasurer named Samuel, whose counsels he followed in
political matters too. The dowager queen, Maria de Molina, who had
held the reins of government during her son's minority, with feminine
passionateness hated the favorite Samuel, who is said to have nourished
the enmity between mother and son. One day, when Samuel was in Badajos,
and was preparing to accompany the king to Seville, he was attacked by
an assassin, and so severely wounded that he was left for dead. It is
not known who instigated the deed. The king had such care and attention
devoted to Samuel, that he recovered from his wounds.

Don Ferdinand's death brought in its train a time of unquiet, of civil
war, and social anarchy for Spain. As the Infante Alfonso was still
a child in the cradle, several persons, the clever Maria de Molina,
the young queen-mother Constantia, and the uncles of the young king
contended for the guardianship and the regency, and provoked faction
feuds in the country (1312-1326). Donna Maria de Molina, who conducted
the government, did not extend her hate against her son's Jewish
counselor to the community to which he belonged. As in the lifetime of
her husband she had had a Jewish favorite, Todros Abulafia, so during
her regency she had a Jewish treasurer, Don Moses. When the council of
Zamora (1313) renewed canonical laws hostile to the Jews, the cortes of
Burgos demanded the exclusion of Jews from all honors and offices, and
the pope issued a bull that Christians were to be absolved from their
debts to Jews on account of usury, the wise regent submitted only in
part. She ordered that Jews should not bear high-sounding Christian
names, nor enter into close intercourse with Christians; but she most
emphatically declared herself against the unjust abolition of debts,
and published a law that no debtor could make himself free of his
obligation to professors of the Jewish faith by appealing to a papal

The regency of Don Juan Emanuel inaugurated an improvement in the
condition of the Castilian Jews (1319-1325). The regent was a friend
of learning, himself an author and poet, and was consequently held in
esteem by educated Jews. A Jew of Cordova, Jehuda ben Isaac Ibn-Wakar,
found high favor in his eyes, and probably acted as his treasurer. At
his solicitation Juan Emanuel once more invested the rabbinate with
penal jurisdiction, which the Jews had partly lost during the regency
of Maria de Molina, and had practiced only privately.

Jehuda Ibn-Wakar, however, was an admirer of Asheri, and, like
the latter, of excessive piety, desiring to have every religious
transgression punished with the utmost severity. When a Cordovan
uttered a blasphemy in Arabic, Ibn-Wakar asked Asheri what was to be
done with him, and the latter replied that his tongue should be cut
out. A beautiful Jewess having had intercourse with a Christian, Don
Juan Manuel resigned her to the punishment of the Jewish court, and
Jehuda Ibn-Wakar condemned her to have her face disfigured by the
removal of her nose, and Asheri confirmed the sentence.

The southern Spanish and Castilian congregations still lived in peace,
and in the undisturbed possession of their goods; on the other hand,
the northern Spanish, and still more the southern French congregations
were exposed to bloody attacks by fanatical hordes, which the church
had unfettered, and then could not restrain. Jews once more lived in
France. Louis X had recalled them nine years after their banishment
(1315). This king, himself seized by a desire to abrogate the
ordinances of his father and indict his counselors, had been solicited
by the people and the nobility, who could not do without the Jews, to
re-admit them into France. He accordingly entered into negotiations
with them in reference to their return. But the Jews did not accept
his proposal without deliberation, for they well knew the inconstancy
of the French kings, and the fanatical hatred of the clergy against
them. They hesitated at first, and then submitted their conditions.
These were, that they be allowed to reside in the same places as
before; that they should not be indictable for former transgressions;
that their synagogues, churchyards, and books be restored to them,
or sites be granted for new places of worship. They were to have the
right of collecting the money owing to them, of which two-thirds
should belong to the king. Their former privileges, as far as they
were still in force, were to be again extended to them, or new ones
conceded. King Louis accepted all these conditions, and granted them
also the right of emigration under certain restrictions. In order to
conciliate the clergy, he, on his side, imposed the conditions that
they wear a badge of a certain size and color, and hold neither public
nor private disputations on religion. Two high officials (prud'hommes,
auditeurs des Juifs) were appointed to superintend the re-settlement
of the Jews. Their residence in France was fixed for twelve years; if
the king should resolve to expel them again after the expiration of
that period, he put himself under the obligation to give them a year's
warning that they might have time to make their preparations. The king
published this decree, declaring that his father had been ill-advised
to banish the Jews. As the voice of the people solicited their return,
as the church desired a tolerant policy, and as the sainted Louis had
set him the precedent of first banishing and then readmitting them,
he had, after due consultation with the prelates, the barons, and
his high council, permitted the return of the Jews. The French Jews
streamed back in masses to their former dwelling-places, regarding
this event as a miraculous redemption. When Louis X died a year after,
and his brother Philip V, the Long, ascended the throne, he extended
their privileges, and protected them especially from the enmity of the
clergy; so that they and their books could be seized only by royal
officers. But they were not free from vexation by the degenerate
clergy, who insisted that the Jews of Montpellier, who thought they
could venture on certain liberties, should re-affix the Jew-badge on
their dress. At one time they accused the Jews of Lünel with having
publicly outraged the image of Christ on the Purim festival; at
another time they ordered that two wagonfuls of copies of the Talmud
be publicly burned in Toulouse. Such occurrences, however, were mere
child's play compared with what they had to endure from the bigoted

Philip V had the idea, repugnant to the spirit of the time, of
undertaking a crusade to wrest the Holy Land, after so many vain
attempts, from the hands of the infidels. This enterprise appeared so
foolish to the discerning, that even Pope John XXII, the second of the
popes that resided in Avignon instead of at Rome, dissuaded him from
it. Nevertheless, the fancy, as soon as it was known, inflamed the
minds of the rude populace. A young man of excited imagination gave out
that a dove had settled at one time on his head, at another, on his
shoulder, and when he had sought to seize it, it had transformed itself
into a beautiful woman, who urged him to gather a troop of crusaders,
assuring him of victory. His utterances found credulous hearers, and
the lower people, children, and swine-herds attached themselves to him.
A wicked priest and an unfrocked Benedictine monk used the opportunity
to force their way to the front, and thus arose in northern France
(1320) a numerous horde of forty thousand shepherds (Pastoureaux,
Pastorelli, Roïm), who moved in procession from town to town carrying
banners, and announced their intention of journeying across the sea to
deliver the so-called holy sepulcher. Their attention was immediately
turned to the Jews, possibly because they wanted to raise money for the
purchase of weapons by robbing the Jews of their possessions, or a Jew,
as is related, had made sport of their childish heroism. The massacre
of the Jews by the shepherds (Gesereth-ha-Roïm) is another bloody page
in Jewish history.

Nearly all the crusading enterprises had commenced with the murder of
Jews; so this time. The shepherd-gangs which had collected near the
town of Agen (on the Garonne) cut down all the Jews they met on their
march from this place to Toulouse, if they refused to be baptized.
About five hundred Jews had found refuge in the fortress of Verdun (on
the Garonne), the commandant having placed a strong tower at their
disposal. The shepherds took it by storm, and a desperate battle took
place. As the Jews had no hopes of rescue, they had recourse in their
despair to self-destruction. The unhappy people selected the oldest and
most respected man of their number to slay them one after the other.
The old man picked out a muscular young assistant in this ghastly
business, and both went to work to rid their fellow-sufferers of their
miserable lives. When at last the young man, after slaying his aged
partner, was left alone, the desire of life came strong upon him; he
declared to the besieging shepherds that he was ready to go over to
them, and asked to be baptized. The latter were just or cruel enough
to refuse the request, and tore the renegade to pieces. The Jewish
children found in the tower were baptized by force. The governor of
Toulouse zealously espoused the cause of the Jews, and summoned the
knights to take the approaching shepherds prisoners. Thus many of them
were brought in chains to the capital, and thrown into prison. But the
mob, which sympathized with them, banded together, and set them at
liberty, the result being that the greater part of the congregation
of Toulouse was destroyed. A few seceded to Christianity. On the
capture of the shepherds near Toulouse, the Jews in the neighborhood,
who had been granted shelter in Castel-Narbonnais, thought that they
were now free of all danger, and left their place of refuge. They were
surprised by the rabble, and annihilated. Thus perished almost all
the Jews in the neighborhood of Bordeaux, Gascogne, Toulouse, Albi,
and other towns of southern France. Altogether, more than 120 Jewish
congregations in France and northern Spain were blotted out through
the rising of the Shepherds, and the survivors were so impoverished by
spoliation that they were dependent upon the succor of their brethren
in other parts, which flowed to them in abundance even from Germany.

The following year, too, was very unfortunate for the Jews, the trouble
again beginning in France. This persecution was occasioned by lepers,
from whom it has its name (Gesereth Mezoraim). The unhappy people
afflicted by leprosy in the Middle Ages were banished from society,
declared dead as citizens, shut up in unhealthy quarters, and there
tended after a fashion. Once, when certain lepers in the province of
Guienne had been badly provided with food, they conceived and carried
into effect the plan of poisoning the wells and rivers, through which
many people perished (1321). When the matter was traced back to the
lepers, and they were examined under torture, one of them invented,
or somebody suggested to him, the lying accusation that the Jews had
inspired them with the plan of poisoning the waters. The charge was
generally believed; even King Philip V had no doubt about it. Sometimes
it was asserted that the Jews wanted to take revenge for the sufferings
experienced at the hands of the Shepherds the year before; again, that
they had been persuaded by the Mahometan king of Granada to cause the
Christians to be poisoned; or it was suggested that they had done it
in league with the Mahometan ruler of Palestine, to frustrate the
intended crusade of King Philip. In several places Jews were arrested
on this accusation, unmercifully tortured, and some of them burnt
(Tammuz--July, 1321). In Chinon a deep pit was dug, fire kindled in
it, and eight Jewish men and women thrown in, who sang whilst dying.
The mothers had previously cast in their children, to save them from
forcible baptism. Altogether five thousand are said to have suffered
death by fire in that year. Many were banished from France, and robbed
by the heartless populace. Philip was convinced later on of the untruth
of the accusation; but as the Jews had been accused, he seemed to think
that the opportunity might be used to swell the treasury. Accordingly,
the congregations were condemned by Parliament to a penalty of one
hundred and fifty thousand pounds (Parisian); they were to apportion
the contributions among themselves. Deputies (procureurs) from northern
France (de la langue française) and from Languedoc, met and enacted
that the southern French Jews, decimated and impoverished by the
previous year's massacre, were to contribute forty-seven thousand
pounds, and the remainder was to be borne by the northern French Jews.
The wealthiest Jews were put under arrest as security for the payment
of the fine, and their goods and debts distrained.

In the same year a great danger threatened the oldest of the European
communities. Misfortune came upon it the more unexpectedly as till
then it had tasted but little of the cup of misery which the Jews of
England, France and Spain so often had to drink to the dregs. It was
because Rome did not belong to the pope, but to the families of Orsini
and Colonna, to the Ghibellines and Guelphs--the great and minor
lords, who fought out their party feuds in that city--that the Jews
were left untouched by papal tyranny. It was well for them that they
were little considered.

At about this time the Roman Jews had made an advance in material
welfare and intellectual culture. There were some who possessed houses
like palaces, furnished with all the comforts of life. Since the time
when, through the concurrence of favorable circumstances, they had
tasted of the tree of knowledge, learning and poetry were cherished
by the Italian Jews. The seeds which Hillel of Verona, Serachya ben
Shaltiel and others had scattered, commenced to bear fruit. When the
flower of intellectual glory in southern France began to decay through
the severity of Talmudical rigorists and the bloody persecutions,
it unfolded itself in Italy, especially in Rome. At that time the
first rays of a new cultural development, breaking through the gloom
of priestcraft and the rude violence of the Middle Ages, appeared
in Italy. A fresh current of air swept the heavens in Italy in the
beginning of the fourteenth century, the epoch of Dante, thawing the
icy coat of the church and of knightdom, the two pillars of the Middle
Ages. A sense of citizenship, the impulse towards liberty, enthusiastic
love for science, were the striking symptoms of a new spirit, of a
striving for rejuvenescence, which only the emperor, the embodiment
of rude, ungainly knighthood, and the pope, the incarnation of the
stern, unbending church, failed to perceive. Every greater or lesser
Italian lord made it a point of honor to encourage art and science,
and patronize poets, artists and learned men at his court. Nor were
the Jews overlooked at this juncture. One of the most powerful Italian
princes, Robert of Anjou, king of Naples, count of Provence (Arelat),
vicar-general of the Papal States and for some time titular lieutenant
of the Holy Roman empire, was a friend of science, a warm admirer also
of Jewish literature, and consequently a protector of the Jews. Several
Jewish littérateurs were his teachers, or at his instance undertook
scientific and theological works.

Either in imitation of the current practice or from sincere interest
in Jewish literature, rich Jews, who played the part of small
princes, invited Jewish authors into their circle, lightened their
material cares by liberal support, and stimulated their activity by
encouragement. Thus it came to pass that three Jewish Italian men of
letters had the courage to compete with the Spaniards and Provençals.
These were Leo Romano, Judah Siciliano, and above all the poet Immanuel
Romi, who once more ennobled neo-Hebrew poetry, and raised it to a
higher level. The Roman congregation at that time displayed exceptional
interest in Jewish writings. Of Maimuni, the embodiment of science
for them as for the rest of the Jewish world, they possessed the
copious Religious Codex, and the translation of his "Guide;" but of
his luminous Mishna commentary, composed originally in Arabic, only
those parts which Charisi and Samuel Ibn-Tibbon had done into Hebrew.
The representatives of the Roman congregations, to whom probably the
poet Immanuel also belonged, wished to have a complete edition of the
work, and sent a messenger to Barcelona to Ben Adret expressly for the
purpose of procuring the remaining parts. The affair was not so simple
as the Roman Jews had imagined. The greater portion of the anxiously
desired commentary of Maimuni on the Mishna, on account of peculiar
difficulties, was not yet rendered into Hebrew. The greatest obstacle
was the circumstance that the Spanish Jews, except those in Toledo and
in the neighborhood of the kingdom of Granada, had forgotten Arabic.
Ben Adret, who wished to oblige the Roman congregation, endeavored
to get the required portions translated into Hebrew. He encouraged
scholars, learned both in Arabic and the Talmud, to undertake this
difficult task, and Joseph Ibn-Alfual and Jacob Abbassi of Huesca,
Solomon ben Jacob and Nathaniel Ibn-Almali, the last two physicians
of Saragossa, and others divided the labor among themselves. Jewish
literature is indebted for the possession of this most valuable work of
Maimuni to the zeal of the Roman congregation, of Ben Adret, and these

The Roman community was roused from its peaceful occupations and
undisturbed quiet by a rough hand, and awakened to the consciousness
that it existed under the scourge of priestcraft and the caprice of its

It is related that a sister of the pope (John XXII), named Sangisa,
had repeatedly exhorted her brother to expel the Jews from the holy
city of Christendom. Her solicitations had always been fruitless; she
therefore instigated several priests to give testimony that the Jews
had ridiculed by words and actions a crucifix which was carried through
the streets in a procession. The pope thereupon issued the command
to banish all the Jews from Roman territory. All that is certain is
that the Jews of Rome were in great danger during that year, for they
instituted an extraordinary fast, and directed fervent prayers to
heaven (21 Sivan-18 June, 1321), nor did they fail to employ worldly
means. They sent an astute messenger to Avignon to the papal court
and to King Robert of Naples, the patron of the Jews, who happened to
be in that city on state affairs. The messenger succeeded, through
the mediation of King Robert, in proving the innocence of the Roman
Jews in regard to the alleged insulting of the cross and the other
transgressions laid to their charge. The twenty thousand ducats, which
the Roman community is said to have presented to the sister of the
pope, silenced the last objections. The Jews of Rome entered their
school of trouble later than the Jews of other countries. For that
reason it lasted the longer.

Whilst King Robert was residing in southern France, he seems to have
made the acquaintance of a learned, genial Jewish satirist, Kalonymos
ben Kalonymos, and to have taken him into his service. This talented
man (born 1287, died before 1337) possessed solid knowledge, was
familiar with the Arabic language and literature (which was very
remarkable in a Provençal), and in his youth (1307-1317) translated
medical, astronomical, and philosophical writings from that language
into Hebrew. Kalonymos ben Kalonymos was not merely a hewer of wood
and drawer of water, an interpreter in the realm of science; he had
intellect enough to make independent observations. Disregarding
the province of metaphysical speculation, he was more interested
in pure ethics, which he especially wished to inculcate in his
co-religionists, "because neglect and ignorance of it leads men to all
kinds of perversities and mutual harm." He did not treat the subject
in a dry, uninteresting style, but sought to clothe it in attractive
garments. With this end in view, Kalonymos adapted a part of the Arabic
encyclopedia of science (which was in circulation under the name of
"Treatises of the Righteous Brethren") for a dialogue between man and
beasts, giving the theme a Jewish coloring.

In another work, "Touchstone" (composed at the end of 1322), Kalonymos
ben Kalonymos held up a mirror for his Jewish contemporaries, in which
they could recognize their perversities, follies, and sins. To avoid
giving himself the appearance of an irreproachable censor of morals, he
enumerated his own sins, more in satire than as a confession. Kalonymos
whimsically satirized even Judaism. He wished he had been born a woman,
for then he would not have had to bear the burden of six hundred and
thirteen religious laws, besides so many Talmudical restrictions and
rigorous ordinances, which could not possibly be fulfilled, even when
a man tried with the most exacting conscientiousness. As a woman,
he would not have to trouble himself with so much reading, to study
the Bible, the Talmud, and the subjects belonging to it, nor torment
himself with logic, mathematics, physics, astronomy, and philosophy. By
and by Kalonymos' satire grew deeply serious. The degradation of his
Jewish co-religionists, and the bloody persecutions occasioned by the
Shepherds and the lepers, dispelled his mocking humor, and satire was
changed into lamentation. In Rome, which King Robert assigned to him as
a place of residence, Kalonymos, having been furnished with letters of
recommendation, obtained entry into a joyous, vivacious, imaginative
circle of men, by whom he was stimulated to write a peculiar parody.
He composed a treatise for the Jewish carnival (Purim), in which he
imitated the tenor and spirit of the Talmud, its method, controversies,
and digressions, with considerable wit. It is a fine parody, exciting
laughter at every step, and one can not tell whether it was intended
as a harmless carnival joke or as a satire on the Talmud. Kalonymos
occupied a position of importance in the Roman congregation. Handsome
in form, of abundant accomplishments, solid character, all his
excellencies enhanced by the good opinion of King Robert of Naples,
he was everyone's favorite. The Italian Jews were proud of him. But
Kalonymos was not a true poet, still less an artist.

Much more gifted, profound, and imaginative was his older friend
and admirer, Immanuel ben Solomon Romi (born about 1265, died about
1330). He was an anomaly in the Jewish society of the Middle Ages. He
belonged to that species of authors whose writings are all the more
attractive because not very decent. Of overflowing wit, extravagant
humor, and caustic satire, he is always able to enchain his readers,
and continually to provoke their merriment. Immanuel may be called the
Heine of the Jewish Middle Ages. Immanuel had an inexhaustible, ready
supply of brilliant ideas. And all this in the holy language of the
Prophets and Psalmists. Granted that the neo-Hebrew poets and thinkers,
the grammarians and Talmudists, had lent flexibility to the language,
but none of Immanuel's predecessors had his power of striking from
it showers of sparkling wit. But if, on the one side, he developed
the Hebrew language almost into a vehicle for brilliant repartee,
on the other side, he robbed it of its sacred character. Immanuel
transformed the chaste, closely-veiled maiden muse of Hebrew poetry
into a lightly-clad dancer, who attracts the attention of passers-by.
He allows his muse to deal with the most frivolous and indelicate
topics without the slightest concealment or shame. His collection of
songs and novels tends to exert a very pernicious and poisonous effect
upon hot-blooded youth. But Immanuel was not the hardened sinner, as
he describes himself, who thought of nothing but to carry on amours,
seduce the fair, and deride the ugly. He sinned only with the tongue
and the pen, scarcely with the heart and the senses.

Though he often indulges in unmeasured self-laudation, this simple
description of his moral conduct must still be credited: "I never
bear my enemies malice, I remain steadfast and true to my friends,
cherish gratitude towards my benefactors, have a sympathetic heart,
am not ostentatious with my knowledge, and absorb myself in science
and poetry, whilst my companions riot in sensual enjoyments." Immanuel
belonged to those who are dominated by their wit, and cannot refrain
from telling some pointed witticism, even if their dearest friends are
its victims, and the holiest things are dragged in the mire by it.
He allowed himself to be influenced by the vivacity of the Italians
and the Europeanized Jews, and put no curb upon his tongue. What
is remarkable in this satirist is that his life, his position, and
occupation seem to have been in contradiction with his poetical craft.
In the Roman community he filled an honorable position, was something
like a president, at all events a man of distinction. He appears to
have belonged to the medical profession, although he made sport of
the quackery of physicians. In short, he led the domestic life of his
time, a life permeated by morality and religion, giving no opportunity
for excess. But his honorable life did not prevent him from singing
riotous songs, and from writing as though he were unconscious of the
seriousness of religion, of responsibility and learning. Immanuel
was acquainted, if not on intimate terms, with the greatest poet of
the Middle Ages, the first to open the gates of a new epoch, and to
prognosticate the unity of Italy in poetic phrase. Probably they came
to know each other on one of Dante's frequent visits to Rome, either
as ambassador or exile. Although their poetic styles are as opposite
as the poles--Dante's ethereal, grave, and elevated; Immanuel's
forcible, gay, and light--they, nevertheless, have some points of
contact. Each had absorbed the culture of the past; Dante the catholic,
scholastic, and romantic elements; Immanuel the biblical, Talmudical,
Maimunist, philosophical, and neo-Hebraic products. Both elaborated
this many-hued material, and molded it into a new kind of poetry. The
Italians at that time were full of the impulse of life, and Immanuel's
muse is inspired by the witchery of spring. He wrote ably in Italian,
too, of which a beautiful poem, still extant, gives evidence. Immanuel
was the first to adapt Italian numbers to the neo-Hebraic lyre. He
introduced the rhyme in alternate lines (Terza rima in sonnet form),
by which he produced a musical cadence. His poems are not equally
successful. They are wanting not in imagination, but in tenderness
and grace. His power lies in poetical prose (Meliza), where he can
indulge in free and witty allusions. In this style he composed a host
of short novels, riddles, letters, panegyrics, and epithalamia, which,
by clever turns and comic situations, extort laughter from the most
serious-minded readers.

In one of his novels he introduces a quarrelsome grammarian of the
Hebrew language, a verbal critic who takes the field in grammatical
campaigns, and is accompanied by a marvelously beautiful woman.
Immanuel enters into a hair-splitting disputation that he may have
the opportunity of coquetting with the lovely lady. He suffers defeat
in grammar, but makes a conquest in love. Immanuel's description of
hell and paradise, in which he imitated his friend Dante, is full of
fine satire. Whilst the Christian romantic poet shows gravity and
elevation in his poetical creation, represents sinners and criminals,
political opponents and enemies of Italy, cardinals and popes, as
being tortured in hell, metes out, as it were, the severe sentences of
judgment day; his Jewish friend, Immanuel, invents scenes in heaven
and hell for the purpose of giving play to his humorous fancy. Dante
wrote a divine, Immanuel a human, comedy. He introduces his pilgrimage
to heaven and hell by relating that he once felt greatly oppressed by
the burden of his sins, and experienced compunction; at this juncture
his young friend Daniel, by whose untimely death he had lately been
deeply affected, appeared to him, and offered to guide him through the
dismal portals of hell and the elysian fields of the blessed. In the
chambers of hell Immanuel observes all the wicked and godless of the
Bible. Aristotle, too, is there, "because he taught the eternity of
the world," and Plato, "because he asserted the reality of species"
(Realism). Most of all he scourges his contemporaries in this poem.
He inflicts the torment of the damned upon the deriders of science;
upon a Talmudist who secretly led a most immoral life; upon men who
committed intellectual thefts, and upon those who sought to usurp all
the honors of the synagogue, the one to have his seat by the Ark of
the Covenant, the other to read the prayers on the Day of Atonement.
Quack doctors are also precipitated into hell, because they take
advantage of the stupidity and credulity of the multitude, and bring
trusting patients to a premature grave. His young, beatified guide
goes with him through the gates of Paradise. How the departed spirits
rejoice at the poet's approach! They call out, "Now is the time to
laugh, for Immanuel has arrived." In the description of paradise and
its inhabitants, Immanuel affects to treat his theme very seriously;
but he titters softly within the very gates of heaven. Of course, he
notices the holy men, the patriarchs, the pious kings and heroes of the
Jewish past, the prophets and the great teachers, the poets, Jehuda
Halevi and Charisi, the Jewish philosopher Maimuni. But next to King
David, who fingers the harp and sings psalms, he observes the harlot
Rahab who concealed the spies in Jericho, and Tamar who sat at the
cross-roads waiting. Dante excludes the heathen world from paradise,
because it did not acknowledge Christ, and had no share in the grace
of salvation. Immanuel sees a troop of the blessed, whom he does not
recognize, and asks their leader who they are. "These are," answers
the latter, "righteous and moral heathens, who attained the height of
wisdom, and recognized the only God as the creator of the world and the
bestower of grace." The pious authors, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Ezekiel,
on seeing Immanuel, darted forward to meet him; each one thanks him for
having expounded his writings so well, and here older and contemporary
exegetists come in for their share of Immanuel's sly satire.

Neo-Hebraic poetry, which began with José ben José, and reached its
zenith in Ibn-Gebirol and Jehuda Halevi, attains its final stage of
development in Immanuel. The gamut had now been run. After Immanuel,
the Hebrew muse became silent for a long time, and it required a fresh
and powerful stimulus to awaken it from slumber to new energy. Verses
were, of course, written after his days, and rhymes polished, but they
are as far removed from poetry as a street-song from a soul-stirring
melody. The fate of Hebrew poetry is illustrated in Immanuel's career.
For a long period he was popular, every one sought his friendship, but
in old age he fell into neglect and poverty. His own statement is that
his generosity dissipated his means. He was as much derided as he had
formerly been praised. He left Rome with his family, traveled about,
and found repose at length at the house of a wealthy, influential
friend of art (Benjamin?) in Fermo, who interested himself in him, and
encouraged him to arrange the verses and poems written at different
periods of his life into a symmetrical whole.

The praises which Immanuel bestows on his own productions, and his
boast that he casts the old poets into the shade, certainly tend to
produce a bad impression. Nevertheless, like every expert in his
profession, he was far removed from that repulsive vanity which
perceives its own depreciation in the recognition of another. To true
merit Immanuel gave the tribute of his warmest praise, and modestly
conceded precedence to it. Not only did he extol the highly honored
Kalonymos, basking in the sunshine of the king's favor, with the most
extravagant figures of speech, but he praised almost more heartily the
poet Jehuda Siciliano, who lived in straitened circumstances. He gave
him the palm for poetical verse, maintaining his own superiority in
poetical prose. But for Immanuel, nothing would have been known of this
poet. Poor Siciliano had to waste his power in occasional poems for
his subsistence, and was thus unable to produce any lasting work. With
glowing enthusiasm Immanuel eulogizes his cousin, the young and learned
Leone Romano, Jehuda ben Moses ben Daniel (born about 1292), whom he
calls the "Crown of Thought." In paradise he allots to him the highest
place of honor. Leone Romano was the teacher of King Robert of Naples,
and instructed him in the original language of the Bible. He knew the
language of learned Christendom, and was probably the first Jew to pay
attention to scholastic philosophy. He translated for Jewish readers
the philosophical compositions of Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas,
and others. Leone Romano composed original works of exegesis, set
forth in philosophical method. Greatly as his contemporaries admired
his learning and intellect, which had achieved so much when he had
scarcely arrived at man's estate, he exercised no influence whatever on

The Roman society which promoted science and poetry may be said to
have included also the grandson of a Roman emigrant who took up his
abode in Greece, Shemarya Ikriti (Cretan) of Negroponte (flourished
1290-1320). He stood in close relation with the Roman community and
King Robert. Familiar with Talmudical literature, as he probably was
rabbi in Negroponte, he devoted himself to philosophical speculations,
and was, perhaps, well read in the Greek philosophical literature
in its original language. In his youth, Ikriti, like many of his
contemporaries, occupied himself with translations of philosophical
works. Later on he conceived a plan of practical utility, in which
he thought he could turn his knowledge to account. He sought to
smooth over the difference between the Rabbanites and the Karaites,
and lastingly to reconcile the sects at enmity with each other
for centuries, "that all Israel may once more be united in one
fraternal bond." Shemarya of Negroponte was the first, perhaps the
only Rabbanite, who, if he did not extend the hand of reconciliation
to Karaism, at least showed a friendly disposition towards it. He
recognized that both parties were in error; Karaism was wrong in
rejecting Talmudical traditions unconditionally; but the Rabbanites
sinned against truth in placing the Talmud in the forefront, and
overlooking the Bible. In Greece there may have been Karaites at that
time who had come from Constantinople. To these Shemarya Ikriti
addressed himself to incline their minds towards union with the mother

For the difficult task of bringing discordant faiths into harmony,
much intelligence and energy were required, and Shemarya could
furnish only good will. He was not deficient in knowledge, but his
mental grasp was not sufficiently powerful. At the instance of King
Robert, who interested himself in Jewish literature, he wrote a
commentary on the Bible, and forwarded to him, with a dedication, the
books first completed (1328). It read as follows: "To our noble king
Robert, adorned like King Solomon with the crown of wisdom and the
diadem of royalty, I send this exposition of the cosmogony and the
Song of Songs." His Biblical commentaries were set forth with great
diffuseness, covered a great range, and were not calculated to appeal
to the Karaites, and draw them over to the side of rabbinical Judaism.
His attempt at reconciliation miscarried, perhaps was not made in the
proper spirit; for there was a disposition on the part of some Karaites
to treat his overtures favorably, and his efforts would not have
failed, if they had been conducted with skill. Nevertheless, Ikriti was
held in such esteem in his time that the Roman congregation took an
interest in his labors, entered into correspondence with him, while the
Karaites assiduously read his works, and in later times considered him
a member of their own party.

Karaism was still dragging itself along in its decaying, stiffening
form. Internal schisms remained unaccommodated. Different Karaite
congregations celebrated the festivals at different times: the
Palestinians, according to the observation of the new moon, and the
extra-Palestinian congregations, in common with the Rabbanites. Their
extremely severe marriage laws were not finally settled even at this
epoch. Karaism at that time had three centers--Cairo in Egypt,
Constantinople in the Byzantine Empire, and Sulchat (Eski-Crim) in the
Crimean peninsula. Some importance was possessed by Aaron ben Joseph
the Elder, physician in Constantinople (flourished about 1270-1300). He
came originally from the Crimea, made extensive voyages, and acquired
a knowledge of medicine and philosophy. Aaron I also made himself
intimate with Rabbanite literature to a degree that few of his sect
attained. He made use of Nachmani's commentary on the Pentateuch, and
from this circumstance arose the mistake of later Karaites, that Aaron
had sat at Nachmani's feet. His familiarity with Rabbanite literature
had a beneficial effect on his style; he wrote much more clearly and
intelligibly than most of the Karaite authors. He was even disposed to
accept the tradition of the Talmud.

He completely fixed the Karaite prayer book (Siddur Tefila), hitherto
in an unsettled condition, incorporating into it hymns written by
Gebirol, Jehuda Halevi, Ibn-Ezra, and other Rabbanite liturgical
poets. Aaron himself possessed very little poetical genius, and his
metrical prayers, with which he enriched the prayer book of the
Karaites, have no great poetical merit, but by the admission of hymns
written by Rabbanites into his compilation, he showed that he knew
how to appreciate the devout sublimity in the prayers of the Spanish
Jews, and that he was not altogether devoid of taste. If Shemarya,
of Negroponte, had undertaken to effect a reconciliation between
the Rabbanites and the Karaites in a more intelligent and energetic
manner, there can be no doubt that Aaron would willingly have offered
his assistance, provided, of course, that he had known of Shemarya's
attempt. There was not wanting among Karaites a strong inclination for
union. Owing to the activity of Abraham Maimuni II, a great-grandson
of the renowned Maimuni, who had succeeded to the post of Chief
(Nagid) of the Rabbanite communities in Egypt after the death of his
father David, an important Karaite congregation in Egypt on one day
openly acknowledged the teachings of the Rabbanites. In Palestine,
too, frequent conversions of Karaites to Talmudical Judaism took
place. On this account the rabbis of the time were more favorably
disposed towards them. On the one hand, the strict Talmudist Samson
of Sens denounced the Karaites as heathens, whose wine was not to be
partaken of by orthodox Jews; on the other hand, Estori Parchi, who
had been banished from Provence, and who, emigrating to Palestine, had
settled in Bethshan, recognized them as co-religionists, led astray by
erroneous notions, but not to be rejected.



    Condition of Palestine--Pilgrims and Immigrants--Shem Tob
    Ibn-Gaon--Favorable Position of the Jews in Castile under
    Alfonso XI--Persecution in Navarre--Joseph de Ecija and Samuel
    Ibn-Wakar--Increase of Anti-Jewish Feelings--Abner--Alfonso
    of Burgos, Convert to Christianity, and Persecutor of the
    Jews--Gonzalo Martinez--Fall of Martinez and Deliverance of the
    Jews--Decline of the Study of Science--The Study of the Talmud
    prosecuted with Renewed Vigor--Jacob and Judah Asheri--Isaac
    Pulgar, David Ibn-Albilla--The Provençal Philosophers
    Ibn-Kaspi, Leon de Bagnols, and Vidal Narboni--Decline of the
    Study of the Talmud in Germany--Emperor Louis of Bavaria and
    the Jews--Persecution by the "Leather-Arms."

1328-1350 C.E.

The Holy Land was once more accessible to its children. The Egyptian
sultans, into whose power it passed after the fall of Accho and the
expulsion of the Christians, were more tolerant than the Christian
Byzantine emperors and the Frankish crusading kings. They did not
hinder the coming of Jewish pilgrims who desired to lighten their
over-burdened hearts by praying and weeping over the ruins of the past,
so rich in recollections, or at the graves of their great men there
interred; nor did they oppose the settlement of European exiles, who
again cultivated the soil of the land of their fathers. The long, firm,
yet mild, reign of the Mameluke sultan, Nassir Mahomet (1299-1341),
was a happy time for the Jews who visited Palestine. Whilst under the
rule of the Christian governors of the country no Jew was permitted to
approach the former capital, at this time Jewish pilgrims from Egypt
and Syria regularly came to Jerusalem, to celebrate the festivals, as
in the time when the Temple shone in all its splendor. The Karaites
established special forms of prayer for those who went on pilgrimages
to Jerusalem: at their departure, the whole congregation assembled to
give utterance in prayer to the bitter-sweet emotions connected with
Zion. The immigrants who settled in Palestine engaged in agriculture.
They came to feel so thoroughly at home there that the question was
mooted whether the laws of tithes, of the year of release, and others
ought not to be again carried into effect. In consequence of the
freedom and tolerance which the Jews were enjoying, many enthusiastic
spirits were again seized by the ardent desire to kiss the dust of the
Holy Land. Emigration to Palestine, especially from the extreme west,
became very common at this time.

A pupil of Meïr of Rothenburg, named Abraham, a painstaking copyist
of holy writings, considered his dwelling in the Holy Land a mark of
divine grace. Two young Kabbalists, Chananel Ibn-Askara and Shem Tob
Ibn-Gaon from Spain, also traveled thither, probably to be nearer
the source of the mystic doctrines, which fancy assigned to this
country, and took up their residence in Safet. But instead of obtaining
fresh information upon the doctrines of the Kabbala, one of them--
Ibn-Askara died in his youth--introduced new features of the science.
Shem Tob ben Abraham Ibn-Gaon, from Segovia (born 1283, died after
1330), whose teacher in the Talmud had been Ben Adret, and in the
Kabbala Isaac ben Todros, was a zealous adherent of the secret science,
and described even Maimuni as a Kabbalist.

The congregation of Jerusalem was at this time very numerous. A
large portion of the Rabbanite community led a contemplative life,
studied the Talmud day and night, and became engrossed with the secret
lore of the Kabbala. There were also handicraftsmen, merchants, and
several acquainted with the science of medicine, with mathematics and
astronomy. The artistic work of the famous calligraphers of Jerusalem
was in great demand, far and near. Hebron, too, possessed a vigorous
community, whose members engaged chiefly in the weaving and dyeing of
cotton-stuffs, and in the manufacture of glass wares, exported in large
quantities. In the south of Palestine, in company with Mahometans,
Jewish shepherds again pastured their flocks after the manner of the
patriarchs. Their rabbi was also a shepherd, and delivered discourses
upon the Talmud in the pasture fields for such as desired to obtain

Although the Holy Land was the goal of ardent, longing hearts, yet
it was no more a center for the dispersed of the Jewish race than it
had been for a long time previous. It could not produce an original
leader of any sort, and lived upon the crumbs of culture dropped by
the Jews in Europe. The Kabbala, studied in Palestine since the time
of Nachmani, was an exotic plant which could never flourish very well
there, and degenerated into rankest superstition. The Holy Land did
not even produce a Talmudical authority of widespread renown; also
for earnest rabbinical studies it had become dependent upon Europe.
The leadership of Judaism in the days after the death of Ben Adret
and Asheri remained with Spain, not as formerly Aragon, but Castile,
where the family of Asheri and their views prevailed. Here lived
Talmudical authorities whose decisions were considered final. Here was
still to be found, if not a flourishing state of science, at least
appreciation of scientific research. In Castile, under the rule of the
powerful and intelligent Alfonso XI, the Jews were in so prosperous a
condition that, compared with other countries in Europe, this period
may be called a Golden Age. Several clever Jews in succession, under
the modest title of ministers of finance (Almoxarif), exercised an
influence upon the course of politics. Not only the court, but also
the great nobles, surrounded themselves with Jewish counselors and
officers. In place of the humble, servile bearing, and the degrading
badge which the church decreed for the Jews, the Jewish Spaniards
still bore their heads erect, and clothed themselves in gold and
silk. Dazzled by the glitter of this favorable state of affairs, some
recognized the fulfillment of the old prophecy, "the scepter shall not
depart from Judah," which Christians had so often employed in their
attacks on Judaism.

It is scarcely to be wondered at, if the Spanish Jews were unduly
elated because of the promotion of a few from their midst to state
offices. Such prominent public men were for the most part a protecting
shield for the communities against the avaricious and turbulent lower
orders of the nobility, against the stupid credulity and envy of the
mob, and the serpent-like cunning of the clergy, lying concealed but
ready to attack the Jews. Jewish ministers and counselors in the
service and the retinue of the king, clothed in the costume of the
court, and wearing at their sides the knightly sword, by these very
circumstances, without special intercession, disarmed the enemies
of their brethren in faith and race. The impoverished nobles, who
possessed nothing more than their swords, were filled with envy of
the rich and wise court Jews; but they were compelled to stifle their
feelings. The masses, guided by appearances, did not venture, as was
done in Germany, to ill-treat or slay any Jew they chanced across, as
an outlaw and a pariah, because they knew that the Jews were held in
high favor at court. They often overrated their influence, believing
that the Jews at court could obtain a hearing with the king at any
time. Even the haughty clergy were obliged to restrain themselves
so long as Joseph of Ecija, Samuel Ibn-Wakar, and others, were in a
position to counteract their influence.

If the Castilian Jews compared the condition of their brethren in
neighboring countries with their own, they must certainly have felt
exalted, and entitled to be proud of their lot. In Aragon, at this
time united into one kingdom with the islands of Majorca and Sicily,
the persecuting spirit of the church, which Raymond de Penyaforte had
stirred up, and Jayme I had perpetuated by means of oppressive laws,
was rampant. In Navarre, which for half a century had belonged to the
crown of France, the hatred against the Jews burned with a frenzy
hitherto to be met with only in Germany. The last of the Capets,
Charles IV, was dead, and with the accession of Philip VI to the French
throne the House of Valois began. It is noteworthy that even Christians
believed that the extinction of the lineal successors of Philip le Bel
was retribution for his merciless expulsion of the Jews from France.
The people of Navarre strove to separate themselves from the rule of
France, and form an independent state. It is not known in how far the
Jews stood in the way of their project. Anyhow it is certain that
suddenly, throughout the whole country, a bloodthirsty enmity arose
against the Jews, prompted by envy of their riches, and fostered by the
monks. A Franciscan, named Pedro Olligoyen, made himself most prominent
in goading on the deluded mob against the innocent Jews. In the large
congregation of Estella a most horrible massacre began on a Sabbath
(23d Adar-5th March, 1328). The infuriated mob raised the cry, "Death
to the Jews, or their conversion."

In vain did the Jews attempt to defend themselves in their streets;
the inhabitants of the city, strengthened by troops from other places,
besieged them, and took by storm the walls which surrounded the Jewish
quarter, breaking them down and slaying almost all the Jews of the
city. They also set fire to the Jewish houses, and reduced them to
ashes. The description by an eye-witness of his own sufferings gives
only a feeble idea of the horrors of this savage massacre in Estella.
The murderers had slain the parents and the four younger brothers of
Menachem ben Zerach, then barely twenty years old, afterwards a scholar
of commanding influence. He himself was wounded by the murderers and
knocked down, lying on the ground unconscious, from evening till
midnight, beneath a number of corpses. A compassionate knight, a friend
of Menachem's father, searched for him beneath the pile of corpses,
took him to his house, and had him carefully tended till he recovered
from his wounds. Similar scenes of barbarity were enacted in other
parts of the country, especially in Tudela, the largest community in
Navarre, and in the smaller ones of Falcos, Funes, Moncilla, Viana
and others, but nowhere to so frightful an extent as in Estella. Over
six thousand Jews perished in these massacres. Only the Jews of the
capital, Pampeluna, appear to have escaped these savage attacks. The
people of Navarre at length succeeded in their desire; their country
was separated from France, and obtained a king of its own, Philip
III, Count of Evreux and Angoulême. As soon as he was crowned, the
relatives of the murdered entreated him to mete out justice. At first,
Philip prosecuted the guilty persons in real earnest; he ordered the
ringleaders, the Franciscan Pedro Olligoyen and others to be cast into
prison, and laid a fine upon the cities in which these crimes had been
committed. But, in course of time, he liberated all the imprisoned, and
remitted the fine as an act of grace. He took good care, too, not to
let the stolen property and the possessions of persons without heirs
escape him; they had to be surrendered to him, just as in Germany.
There was no objection to the Jews' being slaughtered, but the royal
treasury was not to suffer loss on that account. This king and his
successors imposed new burdens upon the wretched people. The Jews of
Navarre now began to sink into degradation like those of Germany.

The sun that was shining upon them in Castile at this time was,
strictly speaking, only a false sun, but its glimmer, compared with the
gloom wherein the congregations of other countries were steeped, gives
at least momentary pleasure. Alfonso XI, as soon as he came of age,
and obtained the sovereignty (1325-1380), had two Jewish favorites,
Don Joseph of Ecija and Samuel Ibn-Wakar. The former, whose full name
was Joseph ben Ephraim Ibn-Benveniste Halevi, had a pleasing exterior,
understood music, and knew how to ingratiate himself with those in
power. At the recommendation of his uncle, the king had made him
not only minister of finance (Almoxarif), but also his confidential
counselor (privado), whose opinion he highly valued. Joseph of Ecija
possessed a state carriage, knights accompanied him as an escort on
his journeys, and hidalgos dined at his table. On one occasion the
king dispatched him on a very important and honorable mission which
almost cost him his life. He was besieged by the citizens of Valladolid
in the palace of the Infanta, and they demanded his surrender with
tumultuous clamor. Some of Joseph's retinue succeeded in escaping from
the city, and they hastened at full speed to the king, to whom they
related what had taken place. Alfonso rightly considered this a revolt
against his sovereignty. He marched rapidly against Valladolid, and
summoned the knights of Old Castile to join him. For the sake of his
Jewish favorite, he besieged the former capital of his kingdom, burnt
many houses, and would have destroyed the place entirely, had not more
moderate persons intervened, and explained to the king that the people
were not so much embittered against Don Joseph as against Don Alvar
Nuñez, whose influence was most hateful to them. Don Alfonso thereupon
condescended to remove Alvar from his public offices, whilst Don Joseph
continued in favor with the king.

The other favorite of King Alfonso was his physician, Don Samuel
Ibn-Wakar (Abenhuacar). This man had a scientific education, was an
astronomer, and perhaps the astrologer of his master. Although he
occupied no public office, and took no part in state affairs, yet,
through the favor of the king, he possessed very great influence. There
existed between Don Joseph of Ecija and Ibn-Wakar the jealousy which is
common among courtiers who bask in the rays of the same sun. On account
of their rivalry, these two favorites sought to injure each other, and
thus they and their co-religionists incurred the hatred of the people.

Some wealthy Jews, probably relying upon the favorable position
of their friends at court, carried on money transactions in an
unscrupulous manner. They extorted a high rate of interest, and
mercilessly persecuted their dilatory Christian debtors. The king
himself encouraged the usury of the Jews and Moors, because he gained
advantage therefrom. The complaints of the people against the Jewish
and Mahometan usurers grew very numerous. The cortes of Madrid,
Valladolid and other cities made this point the subject of petitions
presented to the king, demanding the abolition of these abuses, and the
king was compelled to yield to their entreaty.

The minds of the people, however, remained embittered against the Jews.
The cortes of Madrid thereupon called for several restrictive laws
against the Jews, such as, that they should not be allowed to acquire
landed property, and that Jewish ministers of finance and farmers
of taxes should not be appointed (1329). Alfonso replied, that, in
the main, things should continue as they had been before. Don Samuel
Ibn-Wakar rose even higher in the royal favor. Don Alfonso intrusted
him with the farming of the revenues derived from the importation
of goods from the kingdom of Granada. He, moreover, obtained the
privilege empowering him to issue the coinage of the realm at a lower
standard. Joseph of Ecija now became jealous and offered a higher
sum for the right of farming the import-taxes from Granada. When he
thought he had supplanted his rival, the latter dealt him a severe
blow. Ibn-Wakar succeeded in persuading the king that it would be more
advantageous to the people of Castile to carry the protective system
to its uttermost limits, and prohibit all imports from the neighboring
Moorish kingdom (1330-1331).

Whilst the two Jewish courtiers were striving to injure each other, the
enemies of the Jews were busily at work to imperil their reputation
and the existence of all the Castilian congregations. They inflamed
the minds of the people by representing to them that, owing to the
depreciation in the value of money, brought about by the farmer of the
coinage, Ibn-Wakar, the price of the necessaries of life had risen,
these articles being exported to the neighboring countries, where they
were bartered for silver, which had a higher value in their own land.
The enemies of the Jews also brought the influence of the church to
bear to arouse the prejudices of the king against all the Jews. Their
champion was a Jew, who no sooner had embraced Christianity, than he
became a fanatical persecutor of his brethren. This was the infamous
Abner, the forerunner of the baptized and unbaptized Jew-haters, who
prepared, and at length accomplished, the humiliation and banishment of
the Spanish Jews.

Abner of Burgos, or as he was afterwards called, Alfonso Burgensis de
Valladolid (born about 1270, died about 1346), was well acquainted
with biblical and Talmudical writings, occupied himself with science,
and practiced medicine. His knowledge had destroyed his religious
belief, and turned him not only against Judaism, but against all
faiths. Troubled by cares for his subsistence, Abner did not obtain
the desired support from his kinsmen in race. He was too little of a
philosopher to accept his modest lot. His desires were extravagant,
and he was unable to find the means to satisfy them. In order to be
able to live in ease and splendor, Abner determined, when nearly sixty
years of age, to adopt Christianity, although this religion was as
little able to give him inward contentment as that which he forsook.
As a Christian, he assumed the name of Alfonso. The infidel disciple
of Aristotle and Averroes accepted an ecclesiastical office; he became
sacristan at a large church in Valladolid, to which a rich benefice was
attached, enabling him to gratify his worldly desires. He attempted
to excuse his hypocritical behavior and his apostasy by means of
sophistical arguments.

Alfonso carried his want of conscientiousness so far that not long
after his conversion to Christianity he attacked his former brethren
in faith and race with bitter hate, and showed the intention of
persecuting them. Owing to his knowledge of Jewish literature, it
was easy for him to discover its weak points, employ them as charges
against Judaism, and draw the most hateful inferences. Alfonso was
indefatigable in his accusations against the Jews and Judaism, and
composed a long series of works, in which he introduced arguments
partly aggressive, partly defensive of his new faith against the
attacks upon it by the Jews. In his abuse of Judaism, the Hebrew
language, in which he composed with much greater ease than in Spanish,
was made to do service.

Alfonso had the brazen impudence to send one of his hateful writings
to his former friend, Isaac Pulgar. The latter replied in a sharply
satirical poem, and pressed him close in his polemical writings. The
Jews of Spain had not yet become so disheartened as to suffer such
insolent attacks in silence. Another less renowned writer also answered
Alfonso, and thus a violent literary warfare broke out.

Alfonso of Valladolid, however, did not content himself with polemical
writings; he boldly presented himself before King Alfonso XI, and
laid his accusations against the Jews before him. He raked up anew
the remark of the Church Father Jerome and others, that the Jews had
introduced into their book of prayer a formula of imprecation against
the God of the Christians and his adherents. The representatives of
the Jewish community in Valladolid, probably summoned by the king to
justify themselves, emphatically denied that the imprecation originally
leveled against the Minim (Nazarenes) referred to Jesus and his
present followers. Alfonso, however, would not admit the validity of
this exculpation, and pledged himself to prove his charges against
the Jews in a disputation. The king of Castile thereupon commanded
the representatives of the Valladolid community to enter upon a
religious discussion with the sacristan. It took place in the presence
of public officials and Dominicans. Here Alfonso Burgensis repeated
his accusations, and was victorious, inasmuch as, in consequence of
this disputation, King Alfonso issued an edict (25th February, 1336)
forbidding the Castilian communities, under penalty of a fine, to use
the condemned prayer or formula of imprecation. Thus the enemies of the
Jews succeeded in winning over the king, who was really well-disposed
towards the Jews. More ominous events were to happen.

King Alfonso was not very constant; he transferred his favor from one
person to another. He took into his confidence a man unworthy of the
distinction, named Gonzalo Martinez (Nuñez) de Oviedo, originally
a poor knight, who had been promoted through the patronage of the
Jewish favorite, Don Joseph of Ecija. Far from being grateful to his
benefactor, he bore deep hatred against him who had thus raised him,
and his hostile feeling extended to all Jews. When he had risen to
the post of minister of the royal palace, and later to that of Grand
Master of the Order of Alcantara (1337), he revealed his plan of
annihilating the Jews. He lodged a formal charge against Don Joseph and
Don Samuel Ibn-Wakar, to the effect that they had enriched themselves
in the service of the king. He obtained the permission of the king to
deal with them as he chose, so as to extort money from them. Thereupon
Gonzalo ordered both of them, together with two brothers of Ibn-Wakar,
and eight relatives with their families, to be thrown into prison, and
confiscated their property. Don Joseph of Ecija died in prison, and
Don Samuel died under the torture to which he was subjected. This did
not satisfy the enemy of the Jews. He now sought to destroy two other
Jews, who held high positions at court--Moses Abudiel and (Sulaiman?)
Ibn-Yaish. He implicated them in a charge, pretending all the while
to be friendly towards them. Through their downfall Gonzalo Martinez
thought to carry into effect his wicked plan against the Castilian Jews
without difficulty.

The Moorish king of Morocco, Abulhassan (Alboacin), whose help was
implored by his oppressed co-religionists in Granada, had sent a very
large army under the command of his son, Abumelik, over the straits
to undertake a vigorous campaign against Castile. On the reception
of this news, terror spread throughout Christian Spain. King Alfonso
forthwith appointed Gonzalo Martinez, Master of the Order of Alcantara,
as general in charge of this war, and invested him with plenary power.
But funds were wanting; at the deliberation on ways and means of
procuring them, Gonzalo propounded his plan for depriving the Jews of
their wealth, and then expelling them from Castile. By this means,
large supplies of money would flow into the royal treasury; for all
the Christians who were dunned by the Jews would willingly pay large
sums of money to rid themselves of their enemies. Fortunately this
proposal met with opposition in the royal council, and even from the
most prominent clergyman in Castile, the archbishop of Toledo. The
latter urged that the Jews were an inexhaustible treasure for the king,
of which the state should not deprive itself, and that the rulers
of Castile had guaranteed them protection and toleration. Don Moses
Abudiel, who obtained information concerning the council held to decide
on the weal or woe of the Jews, advised the congregations to institute
public fasts, and to supplicate the God of their fathers to frustrate
the wickedness of Gonzalo. The latter marched to the frontier against
the Moorish army, and secured an easy victory. It happened, fortunately
for the Spaniard, that the Moorish general, Abumelik, fell pierced by
an arrow, and his army, filled with dismay at this event, was defeated
and put to rout. The vainglory of the Grand Master of Alcantara now
attained a high pitch. He thought to obtain such great importance in
Spanish affairs that the king would be compelled to approve of all
measures proposed by him. He was, indeed, filled with that pride which
precedes a fall.

The feeble hand of a woman was the cause of his downfall. The beautiful
and sprightly Leonora de Guzman, who had so enthralled the king with
her charms that he was more faithful to her than to his wife, hated the
favorite Gonzalo Martinez, and succeeded in making the king believe
that he spoke ill of him. Alfonso desiring to learn the real truth of
the matter sent a command to Gonzalo to present himself before him
in Madrid; he, however, disobeyed the royal command. To be able to
defy the anger of the king, he stirred up the knights of the Order of
Alcantara and the citizens of the towns assigned to his government,
to rebel against his sovereign, entered into traitorous negotiations
with the king of Portugal and with the enemy of the Christians, the
king of Granada. Alfonso was forced to lead his nobles against him, and
besiege him in Valencia de Alcantara. In mad defiance, Gonzalo directed
arrows and missiles to be aimed at the king, which mortally wounded a
man in the vicinity of Alfonso. But some of the knights of the Order of
Alcantara forsook their Grand Master, and surrendered the stronghold to
the king. There remained nothing for Gonzalo except to yield. He was
condemned to death as a traitor, and was burnt at the stake (1336), and
thus ended the man who had sworn to annihilate the Jews. The Castilian
congregations thereupon celebrated a new festival of deliverance, in
the same month in which the evil plans of Haman against the Jews had
recoiled on his own head. Alfonso again received the Jews into his
favor, and raised Moses Abudiel to a high position at his court. From
this time till the day of his death, Alfonso XI acted justly towards
his Jewish subjects.

It may be thought that, under these on the whole favorable
circumstances, the Jews occupied themselves with their intellectual
culture, which had already developed its full blossom; but it was not
so. Castile in particular, and all Spain, at this epoch, were very
deficient in men who cultivated Jewish science. The Talmud constituted
the only branch of study which intellectual men attended to, and even
here there was no particular fertility. Decrease in strength manifested
itself even in the study of the Talmud. The most famous rabbis of
this period had so great a mistrust of their own powers that they no
longer dared take an independent view of anything, and relied more
and more upon the conclusions of older authorities. They made it very
convenient for themselves by slavishly following Maimuni's Code in
practical decisions, deviating from it only in such particulars as
Asheri had objected to. The latter had pretty well succeeded, if not
in altogether destroying the inclination of the Spanish Jews to engage
in scientific inquiry, at least in bringing science into disrepute, and
thus weakening its study. The distinguished supporters of philosophy
henceforth no more came from Spain; the few that came into prominence
were from southern France. These were Ibn-Kaspi, Gersonides and
Narboni. Asheri and his sons, who inherited his hostility to science,
in causing the view to become general throughout Spain, that a man
should not engage in higher questions concerning Judaism and its
connection with philosophy, did not consider that by this means the
spirit of the Spanish Jews would become enfeebled and incapacitated
for Talmudical investigations, too. The Jewish sons of Spain were
not so well suited for the study of narrow Talmudism as the German
Jews. Prevented from occupying themselves with science, they lost
their buoyancy of spirit, and became unfit for the studies permitted.
Even their pleasure in song and their poetical talents died away.
Occasionally a poem was still produced, but it consisted merely of
rude and unimaginative rhymes. In time they were no better than the
German Jews, whom they had before so greatly despised. Even their prose
style, on which the Spanish Jews had formerly bestowed so much care,
degenerated for the most part into spiritless verbosity. The charming
writer, Santob de Carrion, who as early as the time of Alfonso XI had
clothed his thoughts in beautiful Spanish verse, was a solitary poet,
whose song awoke no echo.

The eight sons of Asheri, his relatives, who had emigrated with
him from Germany to Toledo, together with his numerous grandsons,
dominated Spanish Judaism from this time onwards. They introduced
a one-sided Talmudical method of instruction deeply tinged with a
gloomy, ascetic view of religion. The most famous of the sons of Asheri
were Jacob (Baal ha-Turim) and Jehuda, both intensely religious,
and of unselfish, self-sacrificing dispositions; they were, however,
limited to a very narrow range of ideas. Both were as learned in the
Talmud as they were ignorant in other subjects, and possessed every
quality calculated to bring the decay of religion into accord with the
increasing sufferings of the Jews in this third home of their race.

Jacob ben Asheri (born about 1280, died 1340) was visited by bitter
misfortunes. His life was one chain of sufferings and privations; but
he bore all with patience, without murmur or complaint. Although his
father, Asheri, had brought much wealth with him to Spain, and had
always been in good circumstances, yet his son, Jacob, had to suffer
the bitterest pangs of poverty. Nevertheless, he received no salary as
a rabbi: in fact, he does not appear to have filled that post at any
time. As with all the family of Asheri, both sons and grandsons, the
Talmud constituted his exclusive interest in life; but he displayed
more erudition than originality. His sole merit consists in the fact
that he brought the chaos of Talmudical learning into definite order,
and satisfied the need of the time for a complete code of laws for
religious practice.

Owing to his German origin and to his residence in Spain, Jacob Asheri
became familiar with the productions of the different schools and
authorities in their minutest details. He was thus well suited to
control this chaotic mass and reduce it to order. On the basis of the
labors of all his predecessors in this field, especially of Maimuni,
Jacob compiled a second religious code (in four parts, Turim, shortened
to Tur, about 1340). This work treated solely of religious practice,
that is, of the ritual, moral, marriage and civil laws. He omitted all
such things as had fallen into disuse since the destruction of the
Temple and because of altered circumstances. With the composition of
this work, a new phase in the inner development of Judaism may be said
to begin.

Jacob's code forms part of a graduated scale, by means of which it
can be ascertained to how low a level official Judaism had sunk since
the time of Maimuni. In Maimuni's compilation thought is paramount;
every ritual practice, of whatever kind, whether good or bad, is
brought into connection with the essence of religion. In Jacob's
code, on the other hand, thought or reasoning is renounced. Religious
scrupulousness, which had taken so firm a hold of the German Jewish
congregations, inspires the laws, and imposes the utmost stringency
and mortifications. Maimuni, in accepting religious precepts as
obligatory, was guided entirely by the Talmud, and but seldom included
the decisions of the Geonim as invested with authority. Asheri's
son, on the contrary, admitted into his digest of religious laws
everything that any pious or ultra-pious man had decided upon either
out of scrupulosity or as a result of learned exposition. In his
code, the precepts declared to be binding by rabbinical authorities
far outnumbered those of Talmudic origin. One might almost say that
in Jacob Asheri's hands, Talmudical Judaism was transformed into
Rabbinism. He even included some of the follies of the Kabbala in his
religious digest.

Jacob's code is essentially different from that of Maimuni, not only in
contents, but also in form. The style and the language do not manifest
the conciseness and lucidity of Maimuni's. Notwithstanding this, his
code soon met with universal acceptance, because it corresponded to
a want of the times, and presented, in a synoptical form, all the
ordinances relating to the ritual, to marriage, and civil laws binding
on the adherents of Judaism in exile under the rule of various nations.
Rabbis and judges accepted it as the criterion for practical decisions,
and even preferred it to Maimuni's work. A few of the rabbis of that
age refused to forego their independence, and continued to pronounce
decisions arrived at by original inquiry, and therefore paid little
heed to the new religious code. The great majority of them, on the
other hand, not only in Spain, but also in Germany, were delighted to
possess a handy book of laws systematically presenting everything worth
knowing, making deep, penetrative research superfluous, and taxing
the memory more than the understanding. Thus Jacob's Tur became the
indispensable manual for the knowledge of Judaism, as understood by the
rabbis, for a period of four centuries, till a new one was accepted
which far surpassed the old.

His brother, Jehuda Asheri, was on a par with Jacob in erudition and
virtue, but did not possess similar power of reducing chaos to order.
He was born about 1284, and died in 1349. After the death of his
father, the community of Toledo elected him as Asheri's successor in
the rabbinate of the Spanish capital. He performed the functions of his
office with extraordinary scrupulousness, without respect of persons,
and was able to call the whole community to witness that he had never
been guilty of the slightest trespass. When Jehuda Asheri, on account
of some small quarrel with his congregation, resolved to take up his
abode in Seville, the entire community unanimously begged of him to
remain in their midst, and doubled his salary. In spite of this show of
affection, he did not feel comfortable in Spain, and in his will he is
said to have advised his five sons to emigrate to Germany, the original
home of his family. The persecution of the German Jews, during the year
of the epidemic pestilence, probably taught them that it was preferable
to dwell in Spain. By reason of his position in the most important
of the congregations and of his comprehensive rabbinical learning,
Jehuda Asheri was regarded as the highest authority of his age, and was
preferred even to his brother Jacob.

Seeing that even the study of the Talmud, so zealously pursued
in Spain, had fallen into this state of stagnation and lassitude,
the other branches of science could not complain that they made no
progress, or were not attentively cultivated. The study of the Bible,
Hebrew grammar, and exegesis were entirely neglected; we can recall
hardly a single writer who earnestly occupied himself with these
subjects. Owing to the energetic zeal of Abba-Mari, the interdict
of Ben Adret, and the pronounced aversion of Asheri, reasoning had
fallen into disrepute and decay. The truly orthodox shunned contact
with philosophy as the direct route to heresy and infidelity, and
pseudo-pious people behaved in a yet more prudish fashion towards
it. It required courage to engage in a study inviting contempt and
accusations of heresy. The Kabbala, too, had done its work, in dimming
the eyes of men by its illusions. There were but few representatives of
a philosophical conception of Judaism in those days; these were Isaac
Pulgar, of Avila, David Ibn-Albilla of Portugal, and Joseph Kaspi of
Argentière, in southern France.

Levi ben Gerson, or Leon de Bagnols, was more renowned and more
talented than any of these. He was also called Leo the Hebrew, but
more usually by his literary name Gersonides (born 1288, died about
1345). He belonged to a family of scholars, and among his ancestors
he reckoned that Levi of Villefranche who had indirectly caused the
prohibition of scientific study. In spite of the interdict of Ben
Adret forbidding the instruction of youths in science, Gersonides was
initiated into it at a very early age, and before he had reached his
thirtieth year he was at work at a comprehensive and profound work
upon philosophy. Gersonides was gifted with a versatile and profound
intellect, and averse to all superficiality and incompleteness. In
astronomy he corrected his predecessors, and made such accurate
observations that specialists based their calculations upon them. He
invented an instrument by means of which observations of the heavens
could be made more certain. This discovery filled him with such ecstasy
that he composed a Hebrew poem, a kind of riddle, upon it, though he
was an unpoetical man, and had his head filled with dry calculations
and logical conclusions. He also wrote works upon the science of
medicine, and discovered new remedies. At the same time he was held in
very high repute by his contemporaries as a profound Talmudist, and
inspired by his love for systematic arrangement, wrote a methodology of
the Mishna.

Maestro Leon de Bagnols, as he was called as a physician, fortunately
did not belong to the Jews of France proper: he successively lived
in Orange, Perpignan, and in Avignon, at this time the home of
popedom. Therefore, he had not been a sufferer in the expulsion of his
co-religionists from this land; but his heart bled at the sight of the
sufferings which the exiles were made to undergo. He moreover escaped
from the effects of the rising of the Shepherds, and the subsequent
bitter calamities. At about the same time, his fertile powers of
production began to put forth fruit, and he began the series of
writings which continued for more than twenty years (1321-1343). None
of his writings created such a sensation as his work on the philosophy
of religion (Milchamoth Adonaï). In this he set forth the boldest
metaphysical thoughts with philosophical calmness and independence, as
if paying no heed to the fact that by his departure from the hitherto
received notions upon these questions, he was laying himself open to
the charges of heresy and heterodoxy. "If my observations are correct,"
he remarked, "then all blame leveled against me, I regard as praise."
Leon de Bagnols belonged to a class of thinkers seldom met with, who,
with majestic brow, seek truth for its own intrinsic value, without
reference to other ends and results which might cause conflict. Levi
ben Gerson thus expressed his opinion upon this subject: Truth must be
brought out and placed beneath the glare of open daylight, even if it
should contradict the Torah in the strongest possible manner. The Torah
is no tyrannical law, which desires to force one to accept untruth as
truth, on the contrary, it seeks to lead man to a true understanding of
things. If the truth arrived at by investigation is in harmony with the
utterances of the Bible, then so much the better. In his independence
of thought, the only parallel to Gersonides among Jewish inquirers
is Spinoza. Unlike many of his predecessors, he would not look upon
science as a body of occult doctrines designed for an inner circle of
the initiated. He moreover refused to follow slavishly the authorities
in philosophy regarded as infallible. He propounded independent views
in opposition not only to Maimuni and Averroes, but also to Aristotle.
Leon de Bagnols did not establish a perfect and thoroughly organized
system of the philosophy of religion, but treated of the difficulties
which interested the thinkers of the age more incisively than any of
his predecessors.

In spite of his great ability, Gersonides exercised very little
influence upon Judaism. By the pious, he was denounced as a heretic,
because of his independent research, and his ambiguous attitude towards
the doctrine of the creation. They took the title of his chief work,
"The Battles of the Lord," to mean "Battles against the Lord." So much
the warmer was his reception by Christian inquirers after truth. Pope
Clement VI, during the lifetime of the author, commanded his treatise
upon astronomy and the newly-invented instrument to be translated into
Latin (1342).

Of a similar nature was another representative of philosophical Judaism
of this age, Moses ben Joshua Narboni, also called Maestro Vidal (born
about 1300, died 1362). His father Joshua, who belonged to a family
in Narbonne, but resided in Perpignan, was so warmly interested in
Jewish, that is to say Maimunistic, philosophy, that in spite of the
interdict hurled against all who studied the subject, he instructed
his son therein when he was thirteen years old. Vidal Narboni became
an enthusiastic student. He divided his admiration between Maimuni
and Averroes, his writings consisting chiefly of commentaries upon
their works. His travels from the foot of the Pyrenees to Toledo and
back again to Soria (1345-1362) enriched and amended his knowledge. He
was interested in anything worth knowing, and made observations with
great accuracy. No calamities or troubles succeeded in damping his
zeal in the inquiry after truth. In consequence of the Black Death,
an infuriated mob fell upon the community at Cervera. Vidal Narboni
was compelled to take to flight with the rest of the congregation; he
lost his possessions, and, what was more painful to him, his precious
books. These misfortunes did not disturb him; he took up the thread of
his work where it had been interrupted. He accomplished no entirely
independent or original work; he was a true Aristotelian of Averroist
complexion. Narboni conceived Judaism as a guide to the highest degree
of theoretical and moral truth: the Torah has a double meaning--
the one simple, direct, for the thoughtless mob, and the other of a
deeper, metaphysical nature for the class of thinkers--a common
opinion in those times, Gersonides alone demurring. Narboni, too, gave
expression to heretical views, that is, such as are contrary to the
ordinarily accepted understanding of Judaism, but not with the freedom
and openness of Levi ben Gerson. He rejected the belief in miracles,
and attempted to explain them away altogether, but defended man's
freedom of will by philosophical arguments. Death overtook him in the
very midst of his labors when, advanced in years, he was on the point
of returning to his native land from Soria, on the other side of the
Pyrenees, where he had spent several years.

Though the Karaite, Aaron ben Elia Nicomedi, may be reckoned among the
philosophers of this time, he can scarcely be admitted into the company
of Levi ben Gerson and the other Provençal thinkers. His small stock of
philosophical knowledge was a matter of erudition, not the result of
independent thought. Aaron II, of Nicomedia (in Asia Minor, born about
1300, died 1369), who probably lived in Cairo, was indeed superior
to his ignorant brother Karaites, but several centuries behind the
Rabbanite philosophers. His thoughts sound like a voice from the grave,
or as of one who has slumbered for many years, and speaks the language
of antiquity, not understood by the men of his own day.

Aaron ben Elia was not even able to indicate the end aimed at by his
work, "The Tree of Life." Without being himself fully conscious of his
motives, he was guided in its composition by jealous rivalry of Maimuni
and the Rabbanites. It vexed him sorely that Maimuni's religious
philosophical work, "The Guide," was perused and admired not only by
Jews, but also by Christians and Mahometans, whilst the Karaites had
nothing like it. Aaron desired to save the honor of the Karaites by his
"Tree of Life." He sought to detract from the merits of the work of
Maimuni, and remarked that some of the statements to be found in the
book had been made by Karaite philosophers of religion. Notwithstanding
this, he followed Maimuni most minutely, and treated only of those
questions which the latter had raised; but he sought to solve them not
by the aid of philosophy, but by the authority of the Bible.

The history of this period, when dealing with events in Germany, has
nothing but calamities to record: bloody assaults, massacres, and
the consequent intellectual poverty. Asheri and his sons were either
deluded or unjust when they preferred bigoted Germany to Spain, at that
time still tolerable, and cast longing looks thitherwards from Toledo.
From the time of Asheri's departure till the middle of the century,
misfortune followed upon misfortune, till nearly all the congregations
were exterminated. On account of this state of affairs, even the study
of the Talmud, the only branch of learning pursued in Germany with
ardor and thoroughness, fell into decay. How could the Germans gather
intellectual strength, when they were not certain about one moment
of their lives, or their means of sustenance? Their state in a most
literal way realized the prophetical threat of punishment: "Thy life
shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night.
In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! and at even
thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! for the fear of thine heart
wherewith thou shalt fear." Emperor Louis, the Bavarian, is reported to
have been favorably inclined towards the Jews, which is said to have
made them proud. But this is idle calumny both against the emperor and
the Jews. No German ruler before him had treated his "servi cameræ"
so badly, pawned them and sold them, as Louis the Bavarian. He also
imposed a new tax upon the Jews, the so-called golden gift-pence. As
the emperors had gradually pawned all the revenues derived from their
"servi cameræ" to enable them to satisfy their immediate necessity for
money, Louis the Bavarian was driven to cogitate upon some new means
of obtaining supplies from them. He promulgated a decree (about 1342),
which commanded that every Jew and Jewess in the German Empire above
the age of twelve, and possessed of at least more than twenty florins,
should pay annually to the king or the emperor a poll-tax of a florin.
He probably derived his right, if, indeed, the question of right was
considered in reference to the treatment of Jews, from the fact that
the German emperors were in possession of all the prerogatives once
claimed by those of Rome. As the Jews, since the days of Vespasian and
Titus, had been compelled to pay a yearly tax to the Roman emperors,
the German rulers declared themselves the direct heirs to this golden

Hitherto the massacres of Jews in Germany had taken place only at
intervals, and in a few places; but now, under the reign of Louis,
owing to riots and civil wars, they became much more frequent.
During two consecutive years (1336-1337), a regularly organized
band of peasants and rabble, who called themselves "the beaters of
the Jews," made fierce attacks upon them with unbridled fury and
heartless cruelty. Two dissolute noblemen were at the head of this
troop; they gave themselves the name of Kings Leather-arm (Armleder)
from a piece of leather which they wore wound round the arm. In this
persecution, as in that of Rindfleisch, the fanaticism and blind
superstition inculcated by the church played an important part. One of
the Leather-arms announced that he had received a divine revelation
which directed him to visit upon the Jews the martyrdom and the wounds
which Jesus had suffered, and to avenge his crucifixion by their
blood. Such a summons to arms seldom remained unanswered in Germany.
Five thousand peasants, armed with pitchforks, axes, flails, pikes,
and whatever other weapons they could lay hands upon, gathered around
the Leather-arms, and inflicted a bloody slaughter upon the Jewish
inhabitants of Alsace and the Rhineland as far as Suabia. As frequently
happened during such barbarous persecutions, numbers of Jews, on this
occasion also, put an end to their own lives, after having slain
their children to prevent their falling into the hands of the Church.
Emperor Louis the Bavarian did indeed issue commands to protect the
heretic Jews (April, 1337), but his help came too late, or was of
little effect. At length the emperor succeeded in capturing one of the
Leather-arms, whom he ordered to be executed.

At about the same time a bloody persecution, prompted by the frenzy
of avarice, was set on foot in Bavaria. The councilors of the city
of Deckendorf (or Deggendorf) desired to free themselves and all the
citizens from their debts to the Jews, and enrich themselves besides.
To carry out this plan, the fable of the desecration of the host by the
Jews, with the accompaniment of the usual miracles, was spread abroad.
When the populace had been incited to a state of fanatical frenzy, the
council proceeded to execute the project which it had secretly matured
outside the town, so as not to arouse any suspicion among the Jews. On
the appointed day (30th September, 1337), at a signal from the church
bell, the knight Hartmann von Deggenburg, who had been initiated in
the conspiracy, rode with his band of horsemen through the open gates
into Deckendorf, and was received with loud rejoicing. The knight and
the citizens thereupon fell upon the defenseless Jews, put them to
death by sword and fire, and possessed themselves of their property. In
honor of the miracles performed by the host that had been pierced by
the knives of the Jews, a church of the Holy Sepulcher was erected, and
appointed as a shrine for pilgrims; and the puncheons which the Jews
had used, together with the insulted host, were placed beneath a glass
case, and guarded as relics. For many centuries they were displayed for
the edification of the faithful,--perhaps are still displayed. The
lust for slaughter spread abroad into Bavaria, Bohemia, Moravia, and
Austria. Thousands of Jews perished by different forms of torture and
death. Only the citizens of Vienna and Ratisbon protected their Jewish
inhabitants against the infuriated mob. The friendly efforts of Pope
Benedictus XII were of little avail against the brutal spirit of the
then Christian world.



    Rise of the False Accusation against Jews of Poisoning the
    Wells--Massacres in Southern France and Catalonia--The
    Friendly Bull of Pope Clement VI--Terrible Massacres in all
    Parts of Germany--Confessions wrung from the Jews on the Rack
    --The Flagellants as a Scourge for the Jews--King Casimir of
    Poland--Persecution in Brussels--The Black Death in Spain
    --Don Pedro the Cruel and the Jews--Santob de Carrion and
    Samuel Abulafia--Fall of Don Pedro and its Consequences for the
    Jews--Return of the Jews to France and Germany--The "Golden
    Bull"--Manessier de Vesoul--Matathiah Meïr Halevi--Synod at

1348-1380 C.E.

The assistance of the pope was of very little use to the Jews, and
the protection of the German emperor was like the support of a broken
reed. Within ten years they learned this comfortless experience; for
soon came most mournful days for the Jewish communities in most parts
of Europe where the cross held sway, to which the slaughter by the
Leather-arms and the brutal atrocities of Deckendorf were but a weak

The glimpse of good fortune which the Spanish Jews enjoyed under
Alfonso XI served only to bring down upon their brethren in the
other Christian countries a widespread, intense, indescribably cruel
persecution with which none of the massacres that had hitherto taken
place can be compared. The destroying angel called the Black Death,
which carried on its ravages for over three years, made its way from
China across lands and seas into the heart of Europe, heralded by
premonitory earthquakes and other terrifying natural phenomena. Sparing
neither rank nor age, it left a devastated track behind, sweeping
away a fourth part of all mankind (nearly 25,000,000) as with a
poison-laden breath and stifling every noble impulse. In Europe the
invisible Death with its horrors turned the Christians into veritable
destroying angels for the Jews. Those whom the epidemic had spared
were handed over to torture, the sword, or the stake. Whilst neither
Mahometans nor Mongols who suffered from the plague attacked the Jews,
Christian peoples charged the unhappy race with being the originators
of the pestilence, and slaughtered them _en masse_. The church had so
often and impressively preached that infidels were to be destroyed;
that Jews were worse than heretics, even worse than unbelieving
heathens; that they were the murderers of Christians and the slayers
of children, that at last its true sons believed what was said, and
carried its doctrines into effect. Owing to the prevailing misery,
discipline and order, obedience and submissiveness were at an end, and
each man was thrown upon his own resources. Under these circumstances,
the effects of the education of the church appeared in a most hideous
form. The Black Death had indeed made itself felt among Jews also; but
the plague had visited them in a comparatively milder form than the
Christians, probably on account of their greater moderation, and the
very careful attention paid their sick. Thus the suspicion arose that
the Jews had poisoned the brooks and wells, and even the air, in order
to annihilate the Christians of every country at one blow.

It was charged that the Spanish Jews, supposed to be in possession
of great power and influence over the congregations of Europe, had
hit upon this diabolical scheme; that they had dispatched messengers
far and wide with boxes containing poison, and by threats of
excommunication had coerced the other Jews to aid in carrying out their
plans, and that these directions issued from Toledo, which might be
viewed as the Jewish capital. The infatuated populace went so far as
to name the man who had delivered these orders and the poison. It was
Jacob Pascate, said they, from Toledo, who had settled in Chambery
(in Savoy), from which as a center he had sent out a troop of Jewish
poisoners into all countries and cities. This Jacob, together with a
Rabbi Peyret, of Chambery, and a rich Jew, Aboget, was said to have
dealt largely in the manufacture and sale of poisons. The poison,
prepared by the Jewish doctors of the black art in Spain, was reported
to be concocted from the flesh of a basilisk, or from spiders, frogs
and lizards, or from the hearts of Christians and the dough of the
consecrated wafers. These and similar silly stories invented by
ignorant, or, perhaps, malicious people, and distorted and exaggerated
by the heated imagination, were credited not alone by the ignorant mob,
but even by the higher classes. The courts of justice earnestly strove
to learn the real truth of these rumors, and employed the means for
confirming a suspicion used by the Christians of the Middle Ages with
especial skill--torture in every possible form.

As far as can be ascertained, these tales concerning the poisoning of
the brooks and wells by Jews first found credence in southern France,
where the Black Death as early as the beginning of the year 1348 had
obtained many victims. In a certain town of southern France, on one
day (the middle of the month of May), the whole Jewish congregation,
men, women, and children, together with their holy writings, were cast
into the flames. From that place the slaughter spread to Catalonia and
Aragon. In these provinces, in the same year, anarchy was rife, because
the nobles and people had revolted against the king, Don Pedro, in
order to secure certain of their privileges against the encroachments
of the monarch. When the tales of the poisoning of the wells had taken
firm root in the minds of the people of these countries also, the
inhabitants of Barcelona gathered together on a Saturday (towards
the end of June), slew about twenty persons, and pillaged the Jewish
houses. The most distinguished men of the city received the persecuted
people under their protection, and aided by a terrible storm, loud
thunder and flashes of lightning, they made a successful attack upon
the deluded or plunder-seeking assailants of the Jews.

A few days later the community at Cervera was attacked in a similar
manner, eighteen of its members killed, and the rest compelled to
flee. The Jewish philosopher, Vidal Narboni, happened to be in the
town, and in the assault he lost his possessions and his books. All
the congregations of northern Spain knew themselves in danger of being
attacked; they instituted public fasts, implored mercy from heaven,
and barricaded those of their quarters which were surrounded by walls.
In Aragon, however, the higher classes came to the help of the Jews.
Pope Clement VI, who had taken so much interest in the astronomical
works of Gersonides, and who, terrified at the approach of death,
had shut himself up in his room, still felt for the sufferings of
an innocent, persecuted people. He issued a bull in which, under
pain of excommunication, he prohibited anyone from killing the Jews
without proper judicial sentence, or from dragging them by force to
be baptized, or from despoiling them of their goods (the beginning
of July). This bull was probably of some use in southern France, but
in the other parts of the Christian world it produced no effect. One
country followed the example of another. The ideally beautiful region
surrounding Lake Geneva next became the scene of a most frightful
persecution. At the command of Amadeus, duke of Savoy at that time,
several Jews suspected of poisoning were arrested and imprisoned in
two small towns, Chillon and Chatel, on Lake Geneva. A commission of
judges was appointed to inquire into the charges brought against the
prisoners, and, if convicted, they were to be severely punished.
In this country, then, a prince and his tribunal believed the
preposterous fable of the poisoning by Jews. On the Day of Atonement
(15th September, 1348), three Jews and a Jewess in Chillon were made
to undergo torture: the surgeon Valavigny, from Thonon, Bandito and
Mamson, from Ville-Neuve, and, three weeks later, Bellieta and her son
Aquet. In their pain and despair, they told the names of the persons
from whom they had received the poison, and admitted that they had
scattered it in different spots near wells and brooks. They denounced
themselves, their co-religionists, their parents and their children as
guilty. Ten days later the merciless judges again applied the torture
to the enfeebled woman and her son, and they vied with each other in
their revelations. In Chastelard five Jews were put to the torture, and
they made equally incredible confessions of guilt. Aquet made the wild
statement that he had placed poison in Venice, in Apulia and Calabria,
and in Toulouse, in France. The secretaries took down all these
confessions in writing, and they were verified by the signatures of
their authors. To remove all doubts concerning their trustworthiness,
the crafty judges added that the victims were only very lightly
tortured. In consequence of these disclosures, not only the accused who
acknowledged their crime, but all the Jews in the region of Lake Geneva
and in Savoy were burnt at the stake.

The report of the demonstrated guilt of the Jews rapidly made its way
from Geneva into Switzerland, and here scenes of blood of the same
horrible description were soon witnessed. The consuls of Berne sent
for the account of the proceedings of the courts of justice at Chillon
and Chastelard. They then put certain Jews to the torture, extracted
confessions from them, and kindled the funeral pyre for all the Jews

The annihilation of the Jews on the charge of poisoning was now
systematically carried out, beginning with Berne and Zofingen (canton
Aargau). The consuls of Berne addressed letters to Basle, Freiburg,
Strasburg, Cologne, and many other places, with the announcement that
the Jews had been found guilty of the crime imputed to them; and also
sent a Jew, bound in chains, under convoy, to Cologne, that every one
might be convinced of the diabolical plans of the Jews. In Zurich the
charge of poisoning the wells was raised together with that of the
murder of a Christian child. There, also, those who appeared to be
guilty were burnt at the stake, the rest of the community expelled
from the town, and a law passed forbidding them ever to return thither
(21st September). The persecution of the Jews extended northwards with
the pestilence. Like the communities around Lake Geneva, Jews in the
cities surrounding Lake Constance, in St. Gall, Lindau, Ueberlingen,
Schaffhausen, Constance (Costnitz), and others, were burnt at the
stake, put to the wheel, or sentenced to expulsion or compulsory
baptism. Once again Pope Clement VI took up the cause of the Jews; he
published a bull to the whole of Catholic Christendom, in which he
declared the innocence of the Jews regarding the charge leveled against
them. He produced all possible reasons to show the absurdity of the
accusation, stating that in districts where no Jew lived the people
were visited by the pestilence, and that Jews also suffered from its
terrible effects. It was of no avail that he admonished the clergy to
take the Jews under their protection, and that he placed the false
accusers and the murderers under the ban (September). The child had
become more powerful than its parent, wild fancy stronger than the

Nowhere was the destruction of the Jews prosecuted with more
thoroughness and more intense hatred than in the Holy Roman Empire.
In vain the newly-elected emperor, Charles IV, of Luxemburg, issued
letter after letter forbidding the persons of the Jews, his "servi
cameræ," to be touched. Even had he possessed more power in Germany,
he would not have found the German people willing to spare the Jews.
The Germans did not commit their fearful outrages upon the Jews merely
for the sake of plunder, although a straightforward historian of that
epoch, Closener of Strasburg, remarks that "their goods were the poison
which caused the death of the Jews." Sheer stupidity made them believe
that Jews had poisoned the wells and rivers. The councils of various
towns ordered that the springs and wells be walled in, so that the
citizens be not poisoned, and they had to drink rain water or melted
snow. Was it not just that the Jews, the cause of this evil, should

There were some too sensible to share the delusion that the Jews were
the cause of the great mortality. These few men deserve a place in
history, for, despite their danger, they could feel and act humanely.
In the municipal council of Strasburg, the burgomaster Conrad (Kunze)
of Wintertur, the sheriff, Gosse Sturm, and the master workman, Peter
Swaber, took great trouble to prove the Jews innocent of the crimes
laid at their door, and defended them against the fanatical attack
of the mob and even against the bishop. The councilors of Basle and
Freiburg likewise took the part of the unhappy people. The council of
Cologne wrote to the representatives of Strasburg that it would follow
the example of the latter town with regard to the Jews; for it was
convinced that the pestilence was to be considered as a visitation
from God. It would, therefore, not permit the Jews to be persecuted
on account of groundless reports, but would protect them with all its
power, as in former times. In Basle, however, the guilds and a mob
rose in rebellion against the council, repaired with their flags to
the city hall, insisted that the patricians who had been banished on
account of their action against the Jews, should be recalled, and the
Jews banished from the city. The council was compelled to comply with
the first demand; as to the second, it deferred its decision until
a day of public meeting, when this matter was to be considered. In
Benfelden (Alsace) a council was actually held to consider the course
to be followed with regard to Jews. There were present Bishop Berthold
of Strasburg, barons, lords, and representatives of the towns. The
representatives of Strasburg bravely maintained the cause of the
Jews, even against the bishop, who either from malice or stupidity
was in favor of their complete destruction. Although they repeatedly
demonstrated that the Jews could not be the cause of the pestilence,
they were out-voted, and it was decided to banish the Jews from all the
cities on the upper Rhine (towards the close of 1348).

The Jews of Alsace, through the decision of Benfelden, were declared
outlaws, and were either expelled from the various places they visited,
or burnt. A hard fate overtook the community of Basle. On an island
of the Rhine, in a house especially built for the purpose, they were
burnt to death (January 9th, 1349), and it was decided that within the
next two hundred years no Jew should be permitted to settle in that
city. A week later all the Jews of Freiburg were burnt at the stake
with the exception of twelve of the richest men, who were permitted to
live that they might disclose the names of their creditors, for the
property of the victims fell to the community. The community of Speyer
was the first sacrifice amongst the communities of the Rhineland. The
mob rose up and killed several Jews, others burning themselves in their
houses, and some going over to Christianity. The council of Speyer
took the property of the Jews, and confiscated their estates in the
neighborhood. The council of Strasburg remained firm in its protection
of the Jews, sending out numerous letters to obtain proofs of their
innocence. But from many sides came unfavorable testimony. The council
of Zähringen said that it was in possession of the poison the Jews had
scattered. When tried it proved fatal to animals. The council would not
let it go out of its hands, but would show it to a messenger.

A castellan of Chillon had the confessions of the Jews tortured in
the district of Lake Geneva copied, and sent them to the council of
Strasburg. Only the council of Cologne encouraged Wintertur to support
the cause of the Jews, and to take no notice of the demands of their
enemies. At length the trade-guilds rose against Wintertur and his two
colleagues, who were deposed from office. A new council was chosen that
favored the persecutions of the Jews. In the end, the entire community
of Strasburg--2,000 souls--were imprisoned. The following day, on
a Sabbath (14th February, 1349), they were all dragged to the burial
ground. Stakes were erected, and they were burnt to death. Only those
who in despair accepted the cross were spared. The new council decreed
that for a period of a hundred years no Jew should be admitted into
Strasburg. The treasures of the Jews were divided amongst the burghers,
some of whom were loth to defile themselves with the money, and, by the
advice of their confessors, devoted it to the church.

Next came the turn of Worms, the oldest Jewish community in Germany.
The Jews of this town had the worst to fear from their Christian
fellow-citizens, Emperor Charles IV having given them and their
possessions to the town in return for services, so that "the city
and the burghers of Worms might do unto the Jews and Judaism as they
wished, might act as with their own property." When the council
decreed that the Jews should be burnt, the unfortunates determined to
anticipate the death which awaited them from the hangman. Twelve Jewish
representatives are said to have repaired to the town hall and begged
for mercy. When this was refused to them, they are said to have drawn
forth the weapons concealed in their clothes, to have fallen on the
councilors, and killed them. This story is legendary; but it is a fact
that nearly all the Jews of Worms set fire to their houses, and that
more than 400 persons were burned to death (10th Adar-1st March, 1349).
The Jews of Oppenheim likewise burnt themselves to death to escape
being tortured as poisoners (end of July). The community of Frankfort
remained secure so long as the rival emperors, Charles IV and Gunther
of Schwarzburg, were fighting in that neighborhood; the latter holding
his court in Frankfort. When he died, and the contest was ended, the
turn of the Jews of Frankfort came to be killed. On being attacked they
burned themselves in their houses, causing a great conflagration in the
city. In Mayence, where the Jews had hitherto been spared, a thief,
during a flagellation scene, stole his neighbor's purse. An altercation
arose, and the mob seized the opportunity to attack the Jews. They
had, no doubt, been prepared, and 300 of them took up arms, and
killed 200 of the mob. This aroused the anger of the entire Christian
community, which likewise took to arms. The Jews fought a considerable
time; at length, overpowered by the enemy, they set fire to their
houses (24th August). Nearly 6,000 Jews are said to have perished in
Mayence. In Erfurt, out of a community of 3,000 souls, not one person
survived, although the council, after their slaughter in the whole of
Thuringia, including Eisenach and Gotha, had long protected them. In
Breslau, where a considerable community dwelt, the Jews were completely
destroyed. Emperor Charles gave orders to seize the murderers and give
them their due punishment. But he had taken no steps to hinder the
horrible slaughter enacted everywhere, although informed of the plots
against the Jews. In Austria, also, the outcry was made that the Jews
were poisoners, and terrible scenes ensued. In Vienna, on the advice
of Rabbi Jonah, all the members of the congregation killed themselves
in the synagogue. In Krems, where there was a large congregation, the
populace of the town, assisted by that of a neighboring place named
Stein and the villages, attacked the Jews, who set fire to their houses
and died (September, 1349), only a few being saved.

In Bavaria and Suabia, persecution was also rife, and the communities
of Augsburg, Würzburg, Munich, and many others succumbed. The Jews
of Nuremberg, through its extensive commerce, possessed great riches
and grand houses, and were the especial objects of dislike to the
Christians. Their destruction was so imminent that Emperor Charles IV
freed the council from responsibility if they should be injured against
its wish.

At length their fate was fulfilled. On a spot afterwards called
Judenbühl (Jews' hill), the followers of the religion of love erected
a pile, and all those who had not emigrated were burnt or killed.
The council of Ratisbon did its utmost to save the community, the
oldest in the south of Germany. For here also the mob demanded the
annihilation or banishment of the Jews. The dukes of Bavaria, the sons
of Emperor Louis, who favored the persecution of the Jews, had given
the people permission in writing to "treat the Jews as they liked,
according to honor or necessity, and banish them with or without
justice." Margrave Louis of Brandenburg, son of Emperor Louis, one of
the partisans of the rival emperor, Gunther of Schwarzburg, showed his
religious feeling by giving orders to burn all the Jews of Königsberg
(in Neumark), and to confiscate their goods. So inhuman were people
in those days that the executioner boasted of his deed, and gave
documentary evidence that Margrave Louis had commanded the Jews to be
burnt. In North Germany there lived but few Jews, except in Magdeburg,
but there, too, they were burnt or banished. In Hanover (in 1349) the
flagellants were rampant. Outside of Germany, amongst the nations
still uncivilized, there were comparatively few persecutions. Louis,
King of Hungary, an enthusiast for his faith, drove the Jews out of
his land, not as poisoners, but as infidels, who opposed his scheme of
conversion, although he had given them equal rights with the Christians
and privileges besides. The Hungarian Jews who remained true to their
faith emigrated to Austria and Bohemia. In Poland, where the pestilence
also raged, the Jews suffered but slight persecution, for they were
favored by King Casimir the Great. At the request of some Jews who had
rendered services to him, the king, after his ascent upon the throne
(October 9th, 1334) confirmed the laws enacted nearly a century before
by Boleslav Pius, duke of Kalish, or rather by Frederick the Valiant,
archduke of Austria, and accepted by the king of Hungary and various
Polish princes. Holding good only in the dukedom of Kalish and Great
Poland, they were extended by Casimir to the whole of the Polish
empire. Thirteen years later, Casimir altered the laws by which the
Jews were permitted to lend money at interest, but we must not deduce
that he was inimical to the Jews, for he expressly states that he made
this limitation only at the request of the nobility. In the years of
the pestilence, too, Casimir appears to have protected the Jews against
the outbreaks of the misguided multitude, for the accusation of the
poisoning of wells by the Jews had traveled from Germany across the
Polish frontier, and had roused the populace against them. Massacres
occurred in Kalish, Cracow, Glogau, and other cities, especially on
the German frontier. If the number of Jews stated to have been killed
in Poland (10,000) be correct, it bears no relation to the enormous
multitudes who fell as victims in Germany. Later (1356) Casimir is said
to have taken a beautiful Jewish mistress named Esther (Esterka), who
bore him two sons (Niemerz and Pelka) and two daughters. The latter are
said to have remained Jewesses. In consequence of his love to Esther,
the king of Poland is supposed to have bestowed special favors and
privileges on some Jews, probably Esther's relations. But the records,
handed down by untrustworthy witnesses, cannot be implicitly believed.

At all events, the Jews of Poland fared better than those of Germany,
seeing that they were placed on an equality, if not with the Roman
Catholics, yet with the Ruthenians, Saracens, and Tartars. The Jews
were permitted to wear the national costume and gold chains and swords,
like the knights, and were eligible for military service.

As on the eastern frontier of Germany, the Jews on the western side,
in Belgium, were also persecuted at the period of the Black Death.
In Brussels a wealthy Jew stood in great favor with the duke of
Brabant, John II. When the flagellants came, and the death of his
co-religionists was imminent, this Jew entreated his patron to accord
them his protection, which John willingly promised. But the enemies
of the Jews had foreseen this, and ensured immunity from punishment
through the duke's son. They attacked the Jews of Brussels, dragged
them into the streets, and killed all--about 500.

In Spain, the congregations of Catalonia, which, after those of
Provence, supplied the first victims, conceived a plan to prevent the
outrages of fanaticism. They determined to establish a common fund in
support of their people who should become destitute through a mob or
persecution. They were to choose deputies to entreat the king (Don
Pedro IV) to prevent the recurrence of such scenes of horror. Other
concessions were to be sought, but the plan was never carried into
effect, owing to delay on the part of the Jews of Aragon, and also
probably because too much was expected of the king. The Jews under
Aragonian rule were still behind those in the kingdom of Castile.

In Castile also the Black Death had held its gruesome revelries; but
here the population, more intelligent than elsewhere, did not dream of
holding the Jews responsible for its ravages. In Toledo and Seville
the plague snatched away many respected members of the community,
particularly from the families of Abulafia, Asheri, and Ibn-Shoshan.
The grief of the survivors is vividly depicted in such of the tombstone
inscriptions of the Toledo Jewish cemetery as have come down to us.
King Alfonso XI was amongst the victims of the insidious plague, but
not even a whisper charged the Jews with responsibility for his death.
During the reign of Don Pedro (1350-1369), Alfonso's son and successor,
the influence of the Castilian Jews reached a height never before
attained. It was the last luster of their splendid career in Spain,
soon to be shrouded in dark eventide shadows. The young king, only
fifteen years of age when called to the throne, was early branded by
his numerous enemies with the name of "Pedro the Cruel." His favors to
the Jews had a share in procuring him this nickname, although he was
not more cruel than many of his predecessors and successors. Don Pedro
was a child of nature with all the good and the bad qualities implied;
he would not submit to the restrictions of court etiquette, nor allow
himself to be controlled by political considerations. Through the
duplicity and faithlessness of his bastard brothers, sons of Alfonso's
mistress, Leonora de Guzman--the same who had unconsciously saved the
Jews from imminent destruction--the king was provoked to sanguinary
retaliation. The instinct of self-preservation, the maintenance of his
royal dignity, filial affection, and attachment to an early love, had
more to do with his reckless, bloody deeds than inherent cruelty and
vengeance. The young king, destined to come to so sad an end, involving
the Castilian Jews in his fall, was from the beginning of his reign
surrounded by tragic circumstances. His mother, the Portuguese Infanta
Donna Maria, had been humiliated and deeply mortified by her husband at
the instigation of his mistress, Leonora de Guzman. Don Pedro himself
had been neglected for his bastard brothers, and particularly for his
elder half-brother, Henry de Trastamara. The first important duty of
his reign, then, was to obtain justice for his humiliated mother, and
degrade the rival who had caused her so much misery. That he tolerated
his bastard brothers is a proof that he was not of a cruel disposition.
His severity was felt more by the grandees and hidalgos, who trampled
on justice and humanity, and ill-treated the people with cavalier
arrogance. Only in these circles Don Pedro had bitter enemies, not
amongst the lower orders, which, when not misled, remained faithful to
him to death. The Jews also were attached to him. They risked property
and life for their patriotism, because he protected them against
injustice and oppression, and did not treat them as outcasts. The Jews
certainly suffered much through him, not in the character of patient
victims, as in Germany and France, but as zealous partisans and fellow
combatants, who shared the overthrow of their leader with his Christian

Shortly after Don Pedro had ascended the throne, when the grief
caused by the death of King Alfonso XI was still fresh, a venerable
Jewish poet ventured to address to the new monarch words of advice in
well-balanced Spanish verses. This poet, Santob (Shem Tob) de Carrion,
from the northern Spanish town of that name (about 1300-1350), a
member of a large community, has been entirely neglected in Jewish
literature. Christian writers have preserved his memory and his verses.
Santob's (or as abbreviated, Santo's) poetical legacy deserves to
be treasured. His verses flow soft and clear as the ripples of an
unsullied spring, dancing with silvery brightness out of its rocky
hollow. He had not only thoroughly mastered the sonorous periods of the
Spanish language, at that time in a transition state between tenderness
and vigor, but had enriched it. Santob embodied the practical wisdom of
his time in beautiful strophes. His "Counsels and Lessons," addressed
to Don Pedro, have the character of proverbs and apothegms. He drew
upon the unfailing wealth of maxims of the Talmud and later Hebrew
poets for his verse, and the sweetness of his poetry was derived from
various sources.

Santob's verses are not always of this gentle, uncontroversial
character. He did not hesitate to speak sternly to those of his
co-religionists who had become wealthy by the king's bounty, and he
denounced the prejudice with which Spanish Christians regarded whatever
was of Jewish origin. Even to the young king he was in the habit of
indulging in a certain amount of plain speaking; and in his stanzas,
more than 600 in number, he often drew for his majesty's benefit
suggestive pictures of virtue and vice. He reminded the king, too, of
promises made to Santob by his father, and bade him fulfill them. From
this it would appear that our Jewish troubadour, who wooed the muse so
successfully, was not a favorite of fortune. Little, however, is known
of him beyond his verses, and we have no knowledge of the reception
which his representations met at the hands of Don Pedro.

To other prominent Jews the king's favor was unbounded. Don Juan
Alfonso de Albuquerque, his tutor and all-powerful minister,
recommended for the post of minister of finance a Jew who had rendered
him great services, and the king appointed Don Samuel ben Meïr Allavi,
a member of the leading family of Toledo, the Abulafia-Halevis, to a
state situation of trust, in defiance of the decision of the cortes
that Jews should no longer be eligible. Samuel Abulafia not only became
treasurer-in-chief (Tesoreo mayor), but also the king's confidential
adviser (privado), who had a voice in all important consultations and
decisions. Two inscriptions referring to Don Samuel, one written during
his lifetime, the other after his death, describe him as noble and
handsome, instinct with religious feeling, a benevolent man, "who never
swerved from the path of God, nor could he be reproached with a fault."

Another Jew who figured at Don Pedro's court was Abraham Ibn-Zarzal,
the king's physician and astrologer. Don Pedro was, indeed, so
surrounded by Jews, that his enemies reproached his court for its
Jewish character. Whether the protection he extended to his Jewish
subjects was due to the influence of these Jewish favorites or to his
own impulses is unknown. On opening for the first time the cortes of
Valladolid (May, 1351), he was presented with a petition, praying him
to abolish the judicial autonomy enjoyed by the Jewish communities and
their right to appoint their own Alcaldes; he replied that the Jews,
being numerically a feeble people, required special protection. From
Christian judges they would not obtain justice, or their cases would be

Whilst the relatives of the young king were intriguing to arrange
a marriage between him and Blanche, daughter of the French Duc de
Bourbon, he fell in love with Maria de Padilla, a clever, beautiful
lady of a noble Spanish family. It is said that he was formally
married to her in the presence of witnesses. At any rate, he caused
the marriage proposals to Blanche to be withdrawn; but the Bourbon
princess, either of her own accord, or at the instance of her ambitious
relatives, insisted on coming to Spain to assume the diadem. Her
resolve brought only sorrow to herself and misfortune to the country.
The nearest relatives of the king strained every nerve to procure
the celebration of the marriage, and in this they succeeded; but Don
Pedro remained with his bride only two days. The result of this state
of things was that to the old parties in the state another was added,
some grandees taking part with the deserted queen, others with Maria de
Padilla. To the latter belonged Samuel Abulafia and the Jews of Spain.
The reason assigned was that Blanche, having observed with displeasure
the influence possessed by Samuel and other Jews at her husband's
court, and the honors and distinctions enjoyed by them, had made the
firm resolve, which she even commenced to put into execution, to
compass the fall of the more prominent Jews, and obtain the banishment
of the whole of the Jewish population from Spain. She made no secret of
her aversion to the Jews, but, on the contrary, expressed it openly.
For this reason, it is stated, the Jewish courtiers took up a position
of antagonism to the queen, and, on their part, lost no opportunity of
increasing Don Pedro's dislike for her. If Blanche de Bourbon really
fostered such anti-Jewish feelings, and circumstances certainly seem
to bear out this view, then the Jews were compelled in self-defense to
prevent the queen from acquiring any ascendency, declare themselves for
the Padilla party, and support it with all the means in their power.
Dissension and civil war grew out of this unhappy relation of the king
to his scarcely recognized consort. Albuquerque, who was first opposed
to the queen, and then permitted himself to be won over to her side,
fell into disgrace, and Samuel Abulafia succeeded him as the most
trusted of the king's counselors. Whenever the court moved, Samuel,
with other eminent grandees, was in attendance on the king.

One day Don Pedro's enemies, at their head his bastard brothers,
succeeded in decoying him, with a few of his followers, into the
fortress of Toro. His companions, among whom was Samuel Abulafia, were
thrown into prison, and the king himself was placed under restraint
(1354). Whilst a few of the loyal grandees and even the Grand Master
of Calatrava were executed by the conspirators, the favorite Samuel
was, strange to say, spared. Later on he succeeded in escaping with
the king. Having shared his royal master's misfortune, he rose still
higher in his favor, and the esteem in which he was held by the king
was largely increased by his successful administration of the finances,
which he had managed so as to accumulate a large reserve, of which few
of Don Pedro's predecessors had been able to boast. The treacherous
seizure of the king at Toro formed a turning point in his reign. Out
of it grew a fierce civil war in Castile, which Don Pedro carried on
with great cruelty. In this, however, the Jewish courtiers had no hand;
even the enemies of the Jews do not charge the Jewish minister with any
responsibility for Don Pedro's excesses. The bastard brothers and their
adherents endeavored to seize the chief town, Toledo. Here Don Pedro
had numerous partisans, amongst them the whole of the Jewish community,
and they contested the entrance of the brothers. One of the gates was,
however, secretly opened to them by their friends, and they immediately
attacked the quarters in which the Jews lived in large numbers. In
Alcana street they put to the sword nearly 12,000 people, men and
women, old and young. But in the inner town they failed to make any
impression, the Jews having barricaded the gates and manned the walls,
together with several noblemen belonging to the king's party (May,
1355). A few days later Don Pedro entered Toledo. By his adherents
in the city he was received with enthusiasm, but he dealt out severe
retribution to all who had assisted his brothers.

Samuel Abulafia, by the wisdom of his counsels, his able financial
administration, and his zeal for the cause of Maria de Padilla,
continued to rise in the favor of the king. His power was greater
than that of the grandees of the realm. His wealth was princely, and
eighty black slaves served in his palace. He seems to have lacked
the generosity which would have suggested employing some portion of
his power and prosperity for the permanent benefit of his race and
religion. He certainly "sought to promote the welfare of his people,"
as an inscription tells us; but he failed to understand in what this
welfare consisted. Against injustice and animosity he protected
his brethren, promoted a few to state employment, and gave them
opportunities for enriching themselves, but he was far from being
what Chasdaï Ibn-Shaprut and Samuel Ibn-Nagrela had been to their
co-religionists. Samuel Abulafia appears to have had little sympathy
with intellectual aspirations, or with the promotion of Jewish science
and poetic literature. He built synagogues for several of the Castilian
communities, and one of especial magnificence at Toledo, but not a
single establishment for the promotion of Talmudic study.

The Abulafia synagogue at Toledo which, transformed into a church, is
still one of the ornaments of the town, was, like most of the Spanish
churches of that period, built partly in the Gothic, partly in the
Moorish style. It consisted of several naves separated from each other
by columns and arches. The upper part of the walls is decorated with
delicately cut arabesques, within which, in white characters on a green
ground, the eightieth Psalm may be read in Hebrew. On the north and
south sides are inscriptions in bas-relief, reciting the merits of
Prince Samuel Levi ben Meïr. The community offers up its thanks to God,
"who has not withdrawn His favor from His people, and raised up men to
rescue them from the hands of their enemies. Even though there be no
longer a king in Israel, God has permitted one of His people to find
favor in the eyes of the king, Don Pedro, who has raised him above the
mighty, appointed him a councilor of his realm, and invested him with
almost royal dignities." The name of Don Pedro appears in large and
prominent letters, suggesting that this prince, in intimate relations
with the Jews, belonged, one may say, to the synagogue. In conclusion,
the wish is expressed that Samuel may survive the rebuilding of the
Temple, and officiate there with his sons as chiefs of the people.

This large and splendid synagogue was completed in the year 1357. For
the following year the beginning of the Messianic period had been
predicted, a century before, by the astronomer Abraham ben Chiya
and the rabbi and Kabbalist Nachmani, and, a few decades before, by
the philosopher Leon de Bagnols. As this prophecy was not literally
fulfilled, many Jews began to regard the eminence attained by Samuel
and other leading Jews as a suggestion of the scepter of Judah. It
was a dangerous aberration, whose pitfalls were fully appreciated by
Nissim Gerundi ben Reuben (about 1340-1380), rabbi of Barcelona, the
most important rabbinical authority of his day. Justly fearing that
the belief in the coming of a Messiah would suffer discredit by the
non-fulfillment of such prophecies, he preached against the calculation
of the end of the world from expressions in the book of Daniel.

Don Samuel exercised too decided an influence over the king to avoid
making enemies. Even had he been a Christian, the court party would
have devised schemes to bring about his fall. Attempts were made to
stir up the Castilian population against the Jews, particularly
against the Jewish minister, not only by Don Pedro's bastard brother,
Don Henry, and Queen Blanche, but by all formerly in the king's
service. Don Pedro Lopez de Ayala, poet, chronicler, and the king's
standard-bearer, has given us, in one of his poems, a picture of the
feelings of the courtiers for favored Jews: "They suck the blood
of the afflicted people; they lap up their possessions with their
tax-farming. Don Abraham and Don Samuel, with lips as sweet as honey,
obtain from the king whatever they ask." Samuel's fall was desired
by many. It is even said that some Toledo Jews, envious of his good
fortune, charged him with having accumulated his enormous wealth at his
royal master's expense. Don Pedro confiscated Samuel's entire fortune
and that of his relatives, 170,900 doubloons, 4,000 silver marks, 125
chests of cloth of gold and silver and 80 slaves from the minister,
and 60,000 doubloons from his relatives. According to some writers,
an extraordinary quantity of gold and silver was found buried under
Samuel's house. Don Pedro ordered his former favorite to be imprisoned
at Toledo and placed upon the rack at Seville, in order to force him
to disclose further treasures. He, however, remained firm, revealed
nothing, and succumbed under the torture (October or November, 1360).
His gravestone recites in simple phrase how high his position had been,
and how his soul, purified by torture, had risen to God. Concerning Don
Pedro, the inscription has not a single condemnatory expression.

Samuel Abulafia's death did not change the friendly relations between
the king and the Jews. They remained faithful to him, and he continued
to confer important distinctions on members of their body. They
consequently came in for a share of the hatred with which the enemies
of the king regarded him. The king resolved to put to death his
detested consort (1361). Whatever the character of the queen, whether
she was a saint or the reverse, whether or not she had deserved her
fate, the method of her death must ever remain a stain on Don Pedro's
memory. In spite of the animosity with which De Ayala regarded the
Jews, there is no intimation in his chronicle that any of Don Pedro's
Jewish favorites were concerned in this crime. It was reserved for
a later period to invent fables identifying them with the king's
guilt. A story was forged to the effect that a Jew had administered
poison to the queen on the king's order, because she had insisted
on the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. A French romance, in which
an endeavor is made to varnish the deeds and misdeeds of the French
adventurers who fought against Don Pedro and the Jews, attributes the
queen's death to a Jewish hand.

Don Pedro announced publicly, before the assembled cortes at Seville,
that his marriage with Blanche of Bourbon had been illegal, inasmuch
as he had been previously married to Maria de Padilla. He called
witnesses, among them a few of the clergy, and these confirmed his
statement on oath. Through the murder of Blanche, and its consequences,
an opportunity offered itself to Don Henry de Trastamara to obtain
allies for the dethronement of the king, and of this he was not slow
to avail himself. The Bourbons in France and the king promised him
aid, and allowed him to enlist the wild lances of the so-called great
or white company, who, at the conclusion of the war with England, were
rendering France insecure. The pope, displeased at the favors shown by
Don Pedro to the Jews, also supported Don Henry, and placed the king of
Spain under the ban.

To invest his rebellion with a tinge of legality and win the feelings
of the people, Don Henry blackened his brother's character, picturing
him as an outcast who had forfeited the crown because he had allowed
his states to be governed by Jews, and had himself become attached to
them and their religion. Don Henry carried his calumnies so far as to
state that not only his mistress, Maria de Padilla, was a Jewess, but
that Don Pedro himself was of Jewish extraction.

With the mercenaries of the "white company," graceless banditti, Henry
crossed the Pyrenees to make war on and, if possible, depose his
brother. At the head of these French and English outlaws stood the
foremost warrior of his time, the hero and knight-errant, Bertrand du
Guesclin (Claquin), celebrated for his deeds of daring, his ugliness,
and his eccentricity, who, like the Cid, has been glorified by legend.
The Jews consistently cast in their fortunes with those of the Don
Pedro party, and supported it with their money and their blood. They
flocked to its standard in the field, and garrisoned the towns against
the onslaughts of Don Henry and Du Guesclin. The wild mercenaries
to whom they were opposed avenged themselves not only on the Jewish
soldiers, but also on those who had not borne arms.

The approach of the enemy compelled Don Pedro to abandon Burgos, the
capital of Old Castile, and at an assembly of the inhabitants it was
prudently resolved not to contest Don Henry's entrance. On taking
possession of the town, where he was first proclaimed king (March,
1360), Henry levied a fine of 50,000 doubloons on the Jewish community,
and canceled all outstanding debts due from Christians to Jews. The
Jews of Burgos, unable to pay this large contribution, were compelled
to sell their goods and chattels, even the ornaments on the scrolls of
the Law. Those who could not make up their share of the contribution
were sold into slavery. The whole of Spain fell to the conqueror in
consequence of Don Pedro's neglect to concentrate round himself that
portion of the population on which he could rely, or to buy over the
free lances of the "white company," as he had been advised. The gates
of Toledo, the capital, were opened to the victor, although Don Pedro's
party, to which the Jews belonged, strongly counseled defense. Upon the
Toledo community Don Henry also levied a heavy fine for its fidelity to
the legitimate king. Don Pedro's last refuge was Seville, which he also

Once again fortune smiled on Don Pedro, after he was compelled to cross
the Pyrenees as a fugitive, and leave the whole of his country in the
hands of the enemy. The heroic Prince of Wales, called the Black Prince
from the color of his armor, being in the south of France, undertook
to come to the aid of the deposed monarch both for the sake of a
legitimate cause, and in expectation of rich rewards in money and land.
Henry de Trastamara was compelled to leave Spain (1367). The whole
of the peninsula hailed the victor Don Pedro and his ally, the Black
Prince, with enthusiasm, as it had previously rejoiced at the triumph
of his brother and the wild Constable of France, Bertrand du Guesclin.
Soon, however, the scene changed. The Black Prince left Don Pedro, and
Don Henry returned with new levies from France. The northern towns of
Spain again fell before his arms. The citizens of Burgos opened their
gates to the conqueror, but the Jews remained true to the unfortunate
Don Pedro. Assisted by a few loyal noblemen, they bravely defended the
Jewry of Burgos, and were subdued only by the superior strength of the
enemy. They obtained a favorable capitulation, providing for their
undisputed continuance in the town, but they were forced to pay a war
indemnity of one million maravedis.

This time the Christian population was desirous of profiting by the
revolt against Don Pedro. The cortes of Burgos represented to Henry
that the Jews, having been favorites and officials under the former
king, were largely responsible for the civil war, and that he should
sanction a law to exclude them in future from all state employment,
including the post of physician to the king or queen, and also from the
right of farming taxes. To this Don Henry replied that such a practice
had not been countenanced by any former king of Castile. He would,
however, not consult with the Jews at his court, nor permit them the
exercise of functions which might prove detrimental to the country.
From this it is evident that Henry had no particular aversion to the
Jews. Possibly, he feared that by oppressing them he might drive them
to acts of desperation.

Don Pedro still counted many adherents in the country. Most of the
Jewish communities remained true to him, and Jews served in his army,
and fought against the usurper for the king, who to the last treated
them with special favor. Even when in despair he was obliged to call to
his assistance the Mahometan king of Granada, he impressed upon that
monarch the duty of protecting the Jews. Notwithstanding this, the Jews
endured indescribable sufferings at the hands of both friend and foe.
Don Pedro being entirely dependent on the auxiliaries of the Black
Prince and on those of the Mahometan king, his wishes with respect to
the Jews were not regarded. The community of Villadiego, celebrated for
its benevolence and the promotion of learning, was utterly destroyed
by the English. The same evil fortune befell Aguilar and other
communities. The inhabitants of Valladolid, who paid allegiance to Don
Henry, plundered the Jews, demolished their eight synagogues, despoiled
them of their treasures, and tore up the sacred writings. A period of
shocking degeneracy followed. Wherever Don Henry came, he laid the
Jews under heavy contributions, precipitating them into poverty, and
leaving them nothing but their lives. The Mahometan king, Don Pedro's
ally, carried three hundred Jewish families as prisoners from Jaen to
Granada. Still worse was the treatment of the violent Du Guesclin. A
prey to French Jew-hatred, he could not look upon Jews as his equals in
party strife and war, but only as slaves who had dared draw the sword
against their masters. The misery was so great at this time that many
Jews became converts to Christianity.

The community of Toledo suffered most severely. In emulation of Don
Pedro's Christian adherents, they made the greatest sacrifices for the
defense of the town, and endured a long and frightful siege. The famine
during the investment was so great that the unfortunates consumed,
not only the parchment of the Law, but even the flesh of their own
children. Through hunger and war the greater portion of the Toledo
community perished--according to some 8,000 persons, according to
others more than 10,000. At last, at Montiel, Don Henry defeated his
brother, who had been abandoned by all his partisans (14th March,
1369). Don Pedro's end was tragic. When the brothers met, Henry is
said to have hurled these insulting words in his face: "Where is the
Jew, the son of a harlot, who calls himself king of Castile?" They
then closed in a struggle. Don Pedro was overcome, and beheaded by his
brother's general, Du Guesclin. Pope Urban V could not contain his
delight on hearing the news of Don Pedro's death. "The church must
rejoice," he wrote, "at the death of such a tyrant, a rebel against the
church, and a favorer of the Jews and Saracens. The righteous exult in
retribution." The humiliation and abasement of the Spanish Jews, which
the papacy had so long failed to accomplish, was obtained unexpectedly
by the civil war in Castile. At Montiel they suffered a defeat pregnant
with consequences fatal to their future.

Had a traveler, like Benjamin of Tudela, journeyed through Europe in
the latter half of the fourteenth century, with the object of visiting,
enumerating, and describing the various Jewish communities, he would
have had a dismal picture to give us. From the Pillars of Hercules and
the Atlantic Ocean to the banks of the Oder or the Vistula, he would
have found in many districts no Jews at all, and elsewhere only very
small, poverty-stricken, wretched communities, still bleeding from
the wounds inflicted by the plague-maddened populace. According to
human calculation, the destruction of the Jews in western and central
Europe was imminent. Those who had survived the pitiless massacre,
or been spared a desperate suicide, had lost courage. Communal ties
were for the most part rent asunder. The recollection of the scenes of
horror through which they had passed long agitated the small number of
surviving Jews, and left them no hope of better times. Lord Byron's
elegiac lines--

        "The wild dove hath her nest, the fox his cave,
        Mankind their country--Israel but the grave,"

are applicable to the whole of the mediæval history of the Jews, but
to no period more than to this. Western and central Europe had become
for the descendants of the patriarchs and the prophets one vast grave,
which insatiably demanded new victims.

It is remarkable that the Jews had become indispensable to the
Christian population, in spite of the venomous hatred with which the
latter regarded them. Not only princes, but cities, and even the
clergy, had a mania for "possessing Jews." A few years after the
terrible frenzy which followed the Black Death, German citizens and
their magistrates hastened to re-admit the Jews; they soon forgot
their vow, that for a hundred or two hundred years no Jew should dwell
within their walls. The bishop of Augsburg applied to Emperor Charles
IV for the privilege "to receive and harbor Jews." The electors,
ecclesiastical as well as secular, were bent upon curtailing the
exclusive right of the German emperor to possess serfs of the chamber
(servi cameræ), and upon acquiring the same right for themselves.
Gerlach, archbishop of Mayence, especially exerted himself to wrest
this privilege from Emperor Charles IV, his success being to no small
extent due to the desire of the emperor to retain his popularity
amongst the electors. At an imperial Diet held at Nuremberg in
November, 1355, where a kind of German constitution, known as the
"Golden Bull," was promulgated, the emperor conferred on the electors,
in addition to the right of discovery of metal and salt mines, the
privilege to hold Jews; that is to say, he yielded to them this source
of revenue in addition to such sources as deposits of metal and salt.
But it was only to the electors that the emperor conceded this right;
he retained his rights over the "servi cameræ" living under the rule of
the minor princes and in cities. The archiepiscopal elector of Mayence
lost no time in utilizing the new privilege, and immediately employed
a Jew to obtain others for him. Thus the Jews were at once repelled
and attracted, shunned and courted, outlawed and flattered. They were
well aware that it was not for their own sake that they were tolerated,
but solely on account of the advantages they afforded the authorities
and the population. How, then, could they be expected not to devote
themselves to money-making, the sole means by which they were enabled
to drag out a miserable existence?

In France, as in Germany, financial considerations induced the rulers
to consent to the re-admission of the Jews. The embarrassments
resulting from frequent wars with England, particularly felt after
the captivity of King John (September, 1356), threatened to reduce
this chivalrous land to the condition of a province of the English
crown. Money especially was wanting. Even to ransom the imprisoned
king the assembled States-General did not vote supplies, or they
burdened their grant with heavy conditions. The third estate rose in
rebellion, and encouraged the peasants to throw off the yoke of the
nobles. Anarchy reigned throughout the country. At this juncture the
Jews, with their financial skill, appeared to the dauphin Charles,
who acted as regent during the captivity of the king, as providential
deliverers of the state. A clever Jew, Manessier (Manecier) de Vesoul,
actively negotiated the return of the Jews to France, whence they had
been so frequently banished. The dauphin-regent had granted permission
to a few Jews to return, but if the impoverished state or court was
to reap any real benefit from such return, it was necessary that it
should take place on a large scale. Hence, the plan which Manessier
submitted to the prince was approved in every detail, and the return
of the Jews for twenty years was authorized under the most favorable
conditions. Neither the Jews nor their representative, Manessier,
cared to take advantage of so important an offer without the consent
of the imprisoned king. The plan was accordingly submitted to him
for confirmation. At the instance of Manessier de Vesoul, the Jews
at the same time laid before the king a memorial setting forth that
they had been unjustly expelled from France, and that they could not
forget the land of their birth. The imprisoned monarch then issued a
decree (March, 1360), by which, with the consent of the higher and
lower clergy, the higher and lower nobility, and the third estate,
permission was granted to all Jews to enter France and reside there
for twenty years. They were allowed to take up their abode in any part
of the country, in large and small towns, villages and hamlets, and to
possess, not only houses, but also lands.

The head of every Jewish family was, however, compelled, on entering
the country, to pay a sum of fourteen florins (florins de Florence) for
himself, and one florin for each child or other member of his family;
besides this, he became liable to an annual Jew tax of seven florins,
and one for each individual of his household. On the other hand, the
emigrants were to enjoy extensive privileges. They were not amenable
to the jurisdiction of the ordinary courts or officials, but had a
special justiciary in the person of Count d'Etampes, a prince of the
blood royal, who acted as their protector (gardien, conservateur), and
whose duty it was to appoint investigating judges and commissioners,
and to safeguard the interests of the community when endangered. Cases
of misdemeanor and crime amongst themselves were to be tried by two
rabbis and four assessors. From the decisions of this tribunal there
was no appeal. The property of the convicted Jewish criminal, however,
became forfeited to the king, to whom, in addition, the rabbis had to
pay the sum of one hundred florins. For past misdemeanors and crimes
the king granted them a complete amnesty. They were protected against
the violence of the nobles and the petty annoyances of the clergy.
They could not be forced to attend Christian services or discourses.
Their furniture, cattle, and stores of grain and wine, as well as their
sacred books, not merely the Bible, but copies of the Talmud also, were
to be guaranteed against confiscation, so that the public burning of
the Talmud at Paris could not be repeated. The amplest protection was
given their trade. They were allowed to charge 80 per cent interest (4
deniers on the livre) on loans, and to take pledges, their rights upon
which were safeguarded by a fence of laws. Manessier de Vesoul himself,
the active and zealous negotiator of these privileges, was appointed
to a high position at court. He became receiver general (procureur
or receveur-general), and in this capacity was responsible for the
punctual payment of the Jew taxes, his commission being nearly 14 per
cent. The result of the granting of these privileges was that the Jews
entered France in large numbers, even foreigners being permitted to
settle there, or take up a more or less protracted residence.

The extensive privileges granted to the Jews excited envy. The
Christian physicians, exposed to the competition of Jewish doctors,
complained that the latter had not passed a public examination, and
denounced them as charlatans. The judges and officials, without power
over the Jews and having no opportunity for extorting money from them,
complained that they abused their privileges. The clergy, indignant
at the favored position of the Jews, but having no real grievance,
complained that they no longer wore the prescribed badge. The feeble
king allowed an order to be extorted from him, to some extent in
contradiction of his own decree, by which only such Jews were to be
permitted to practice medicine as had passed an examination, and
all Jews, not excepting those even who enjoyed especial privileges
(Manessier and his family), were to wear a red and white wheel-shaped
badge (rouelle) of the size of the royal seal. Finally the Jews were
re-committed to the jurisdiction of the ordinary courts, and the
earlier arrangements annulled.

As soon as the politic dauphin ascended the throne, under the title
of Charles V, and adopted a strict system of government, to deliver
himself from dependence on the States-General (May, 1364), he proceeded
to assure himself of the sources of revenue possessed by the Jews. He
restored the privileges partly abolished by his father, lengthened the
period of residence by six years, and secretly granted permission to
Hebrew money dealers to exceed the charge of 80 per cent on loans. At
the instance of Manessier de Vesoul, always zealous in the interests
of his co-religionists, the Jews were again withdrawn from the
jurisdiction of the ordinary tribunals, and committed to the care of
their official protector, Count d'Etampes. The clergy, whose hatred of
the Jews bordered on inhumanity, were rendered powerless. In the south
of France, the heads of the church had threatened with excommunication
any Christians who should trade with Jews, or provide them with fire,
water, bread, or wine, and by this means, had so stirred up the
fanaticism of the people, that the lives and property of the Jews were
imperiled. To counteract this, the governor of Languedoc issued, in the
name of the king, an ordinance informing the officials, both lay and
ecclesiastical, that all who exhibited hostility toward the Jews would
be unsparingly punished in person and substance.

During the reign of Charles V (1364-1380), then, the condition of
the Jews was at least endurable. Manessier remained receiver general
of the Jew taxes for the north of France (Langue d'Oyl), and the
same functions were discharged by Denis Quinon in Languedoc. On the
complaint of the latter that a few Jewish converts, in conjunction
with the Christian clergy, had forced their former brethren to attend
the churches to hear sermons, the king issued a rescript (March, 1368)
severely prohibiting all such unseemly compulsion. Subsequently,
Charles prolonged the period for remaining in the country by ten
years, and later on by six more. All this was brought about by the
indefatigable Manessier (1374). His zeal in the Jewish cause and
the advantages the king derived from his exertions were rewarded
by the exemption of himself and his family from every kind of tax,
contribution and service to the crown (1375).

Although the German and French Jews appeared to revive after their
dreadful sufferings, it was only a material revival; their spirit
remained dead. Their intellectual powers had disappeared. In France,
where, during more than two centuries, from Rashi to the last of the
Tossafists, the study of the Talmud had been carried to its most
flourishing point, and where remarkable acuteness and intellectual
depth had been developed, the new emigrants exhibited so astonishing
an ignorance that they were obliged to commence their studies anew.
The indulgences of the kings, John and Charles, certainly spoke of
rabbis who should be invested with authority to try Jewish criminals;
but there was not a single profound Talmudist among them; indeed,
according to the avowal of contemporary writers, not more than five
of even mediocre attainments. The only devotee of Talmudical study,
Matathiah ben Joseph Provenci, has left nothing in writing to testify
to his ability. Held in such esteem by Charles V that he and his
family were exempted from wearing the distinctive badges prescribed
by law, and apparently related to the receiver general, Manessier de
Vesoul, Matathiah was in the best position to deal with the prevailing
ignorance. He re-established a college at Paris, assembled pupils,
expounded the Talmud to them, ordained them to rabbinical offices,
and caused copies of the Talmud to be written. In consequence of his
energy and his comparatively great learning, he was chosen by the newly
established French communities to the office of chief rabbi and chief
justice in civil and penal cases, his appointment being confirmed by
the king. His school had to supply the communities with rabbis, but his
pupils enriched rabbinical literature by their contributions as little
as he himself. Even Provence, once so fruitful of Jewish literature,
had become intellectually impoverished.

In Germany, where the rabbis had once been so proud of their
traditional knowledge, the Black Death, with its attendant
persecutions and banishments, had so thinned the ranks of the Jews
that extraordinary intellectual decay had set in. The illiterate and
the superficial, in the absence of better men, were inducted into
rabbinical offices. This mischievous practice was vigorously opposed by
Meïr ben Baruch Halevi, a rabbi, who, in his time, passed for a great
authority in Germany (1370-1390). Rabbi at Vienna, as his father had
been before him, Meïr Halevi (Segal) ordered that no Talmudical student
should exercise rabbinical functions unless authorized by a rabbi of
standing. Until then it had been the practice for anyone who felt able
and willing to assume the rabbinical office without further ceremony,
or, if he perchance settled in the neighborhood of his teacher, to
obtain permission from him. As from the time of Gershom of Mayence
there had always been great Talmudists in Germany, public opinion
counteracted the abuse of this liberty; for had an unqualified person
arrogated to himself the exercise of rabbinical functions, he would
have incurred general derision and contempt. After the Black Death,
however, this deterrent lost much of its force through the scarcity of
Talmudists. The order of Meïr of Vienna, that every rabbi should be
ordained, that he should earn the title (Morenu), and that, without
such preparation, he should be precluded from dealing with matrimonial
matters, marriages and divorces, was dictated by the exigencies of the
times, not the presumptuousness of its author. The insignificance of
even the most respected of the German rabbis of this period is apparent
from the fact that not one of them has left any important Talmudical
work; that, on the contrary, they all pursued a course productive of
mental stagnation. Meïr Halevi, his colleague Abraham Klausner, and
Shalom, of Austria, rabbi at Neustadt, near Vienna, devoted themselves
exclusively to writing down and perpetuating the customs of the
communities (Minhagim), to which, formerly, but very little attention
had been given. They and their disciples, Isaac Tyrnau of Hungary, and
Jacob Mölin (Maharil) have left behind them nothing but such insipid
compilations. If the Austrian school, which at this time preponderated,
was so wanting in intellectuality, how much more the Rhenish, from
which only names have come down to us.

Through the disasters that resulted from the Black Death, the memories
of old times had become so obliterated that the Rhenish rabbis found
themselves compelled, in consequence of differences of opinion on
points of marriage law, to convene a synod, exclusively for the purpose
of restoring old regulations. At the meeting at Mayence (15th Ab-5th
August, 1381) a few of the rabbis, together with some of the communal
leaders, renewed the old decisions of Speyer, Worms and Mayence
(Tekanoth Shum); as, for instance, that the childless widow should be
released, without extortion or delay, from the obligation of marrying
her brother-in-law, and should receive a definite portion of the
property left by her husband. Among the rabbis who took part in this
synod there is not one name of note.



    The Jews of Spain after the Civil War--Joseph Pichon and
    Samuel Abrabanel--The Apostates: John of Valladolid--Menachem
    ben Zerach, Chasdaï Crescas, and Isaac ben Sheshet--Chayim
    Gallipapa and his Innovations--Prevôt Aubriot and the Jews of
    Paris--The French Rabbinate--Revival of Jewish Influence in
    Spain--The Jews of Portugal--The Jewish Statesmen, David and
    Judah Negro--Rabbis and Clergy--Persecutions in Germany and
    Spain--The First Germs of the Inquisition--Second Expulsion of
    the Jews from France--The Convert, Pessach-Peter--Lipmann of

1369-1380 C.E.

The heart of the Jewish race had become not less crippled and sickly
than its members. In Spain disintegrating forces were at work on
the firm nucleus of Judaism, which had so long defied the corroding
influences of ecclesiastical and civil animosity. The prince, whom
the Jews at the dictates of their loyalty had so sturdily resisted,
against whom they had even taken up arms; the bastard, Don Henry de
Trastamara; the rebel who had brought civil war upon his native land,
and flooded it with a marauding soldiery; the fratricide, who had burst
the bonds alike of nature and law, had, after the victory of Montiel,
seized the scepter with his blood-stained hands, and placed the stolen
crown of Castile on his guilty head. Of the large Jewish population, a
considerable proportion had, during the protracted and embittered civil
war, met death on the field of battle, in the beleaguered towns, and,
armed and unarmed alike, at the swords of the mercenaries of the "white

The Jewish community of Toledo, the Castilian capital--the "Crown
of Israel" of the Middle Ages, and, in a measure, the Jerusalem of
the Occident--did not number, after the raising of the siege, as
many hundreds of Jews as previously thousands. The remainder of the
Jews of Castile had been reduced to beggary by the depredations and
confiscations of friend and foe. Not a few, in their despair, had
thrown themselves into the arms of Christianity. A striking picture of
the unhappy condition of the Castilian communities at this period is
furnished by a contemporary writer, Samuel Çarça: "In truth, plunderers
followed on plunderers, money vanished from the purse, souls from the
bodies; all the precursory sufferings of the Messianic period arrived
--but the Redeemer came not!"

After Don Henry's victory, the Jews had good reason to tremble. One
pretext for making war on his brother was the favor shown by Don Pedro
to Jews. Now he had become the arbiter of their destinies. Would he
not, like another Vespasian or Hadrian, place his foot on the necks of
the vanquished? The gloomiest of their anticipations, however, were not
realized. Don Henry II was as little able to dispense with the Jews as
his predecessors, or the French and German princes. Jews were the only
financiers able to keep the state exchequer in prosperity and order,
and for this purpose Don Henry stood in need of them more than ever.
During the war he had incurred debts for the payment of the troops with
which Du Guesclin had assisted him, and for help received in other
quarters he had made promises which had to be redeemed. The country
had become impoverished by the protracted war. Who was to procure
the necessary sums, and provide for the systematic collection of the
taxes, if not the Jews? Henry was not blind to the merits of the Jews
exemplified in their constancy to his brother. Instead of punishing the
conquered, he appreciated their fidelity, saying: "Such subjects a king
must love and reward, because they maintained proper loyalty to their
conquered king unto death, and did not surrender to the victor."

Don Henry, then, was guilty of the conduct which, in the case of his
brother, he branded as a crime in the eyes of all Christendom; he
employed able Jews in the service of the state, confiding to them the
finances in particular. Two Jews from Seville, Don Joseph Pichon and
Don Samuel Abrabanel, he appointed to important posts, the former as
receiver general of taxes, and Almoxarif to the king, by whom he was
held in high esteem. Other Jews, distinguished for their ability or
their wealth, had access to Don Henry's court.

If the king bore the Jews no grudge for the part they had taken in the
war against him, the general population was not so magnanimous. The
nobility and the commonalty could not forgive their having confronted
them as foes in the besieged towns and on the open battle-fields. A
passion for vengeance, linked with the usual Jew-hatred, blinded them
to the benefits which the Jews contributed to the welfare of the state,
and their only thought was how to gratify their resentment. The Jews,
being the vanquished, ought, as they thought, to be reduced to a kind
of serfdom. The hostile feeling of the populace manifested itself on
the assembling of the first cortes at Toro (1371). Here the enemies
of the Jews opened the attack. The cortes expressed to the king their
displeasure that this "evil, audacious race," these enemies of God
and Christendom, were employed in "high offices" at court and by the
grandees of the realm, and that the farming of the taxes was confided
to them, by which means feeble Christians were held in subjection and
fear. The cortes accordingly made explicit demands upon the crown
with respect to the Jews. From that time forward they were not to
be eligible for any kind of state employment; they were to live in
Jewish quarters separated from the Christian population, be forced
to wear Jew-badges, be prohibited from appearing in public in rich
apparel, from riding on mules, and from bearing Christian names. To
Don Henry these demands were very unwelcome, but he dared not refuse
some concessions. The majority he dismissed with the remark that in
his treatment of Jews he only followed the example of his ancestors,
especially that of his father, Alfonso XI. The two restrictions
conceded were, if not of material significance, yet calculated to
have a sinister effect. These were that the Castilian Jews should
don the degrading badges, and give up their Spanish names. The pride
of the Jews, equal to that of the grandees and the hidalgos, was
deeply wounded. A century and a half had elapsed since the canonical
law concerning the Jew-badge, the outcome of papal intolerance and
arrogance, had been promulgated. During the whole of that period the
Jews of Castile had been able to prevent its application to themselves,
but now they also were to be compelled to wear the stigma on their
garments. They who had been accustomed to hold their heads high, and
rejoice in sounding titles, were, like the German Jews, to slink along
with downcast eyes, and be called by their Oriental names. They could
not accustom themselves to this humiliating situation.

In consequence of an outcry made by some of his subjects, who had been
ruined by loans from Jewish creditors, and complained of usurious
interest, Don Henry made encroachments upon their private rights. He
decided that if the Christian debtors discharged their obligations
within a short space of time, they need refund only two-thirds of the
principal borrowed.

The misery resulting from the civil war and the new restrictions
exercised a depressing effect on the Castilian Jews. Their most
prominent men, those who had access to court, and possessed wealth and
influence, especially Samuel Abrabanel, exerted themselves to remedy
the gloomy state of affairs. They particularly endeavored to restore
the abased, impoverished, and disorganized community of Toledo; but it
was beyond their power to revive the scholarly culture and intellectual
distinction to which the Toledo community had been as much indebted
for its leading position as to the prosperity of its members. The
unhappy war, and the evils following in its trail, had stunted the
Jewish mind, and diverted it from intellectual to material interests.
Disorganization proceeded with great strides. Indifference to
scientific work resulted in so general an ignorance, that what formerly
every tyro was familiar with now passed for transcendent wisdom. We
have an example of the mawkishness to which the new Hebrew poetry had
fallen in the verses of the poetaster Zarak (Zerach) Barfat, who, in a
poetical paraphrase of the book of Job, completely marred the beauties
of that work of art. Just at this period men of learning and ability
were urgently required, for representatives of Christianity began to
make earnest and energetic attacks on Judaism to obtain converts from
amongst its adherents.

Don Henry had much to thank the clergy for; they had sanctified his
usurpation, and acquiesced in his arrogated succession. From gratitude
and a false conception of religiousness, he conceded much to them. At
his command, Jews were again forced to take part in religious debates,
in which there was much to lose and nothing to gain.

Two baptized Jews received from the king the privilege of holding
religious discussions in every province and town of Castile, which they
might compel Jews to attend.

One of these apostates was John of Valladolid. At Burgos the discussion
took place before Archbishop Gomez of Toledo. At Avila the whole
community was compelled to repair to the great church (1375), where
the debate was carried on in the presence of many Christians and
Mahometans. Moses Cohen de Tordesillas, who was as familiar with
Christian as with Jewish theological authorities, appeared on behalf of
the Jews. He entered upon his dangerous enterprise with trepidation,
for he had had an opportunity to form an estimate of Christian charity.
During the civil war, Christian marauders had robbed him of all his
possessions, and had even personally ill-used him in order to force
him to embrace Christianity. All these trials he had suffered with the
courage of strong convictions, but he had become so poverty-stricken
that he had to accept support from the community of Avila.

Moses de Tordesillas did not find his part in the discussion too
difficult. The apostate John of Valladolid laid stress on the
proposition that the dogmas of Christianity--the Messianic claim, the
Divinity and Incarnation of Jesus, the Trinity, and the Virginity of
the "Mother of God"--could be demonstrated from the Old Testament.
It was consequently not difficult for his Jewish opponent to confute
his arguments. After four debates John was obliged to abandon his task,
vanquished. This, however, did not conclude the matter. A pupil of the
apostate, Abner-Alfonso, appeared soon after, and challenged Moses de
Tordesillas to a debate on the Talmud and Agadic texts. In case of
refusal, he threatened publicly to impeach the Talmud as the source of
anti-Christian sentiments. Moses was again forced to meet a series of
silly assertions and charges, and to drag himself through the thorny
length of another controversy. By the advice of the Avila community, he
committed to writing the principal arguments used in these discussions
under the title, "Ezer ha-Emuna," and sent them to his Toledan
brethren for use under similar circumstances. Moses de Tordesillas'
disputations, notwithstanding the difficulties of his position, were
characterized by calmness and equanimity. Not a word of abuse or
invective escaped him, and he counseled his Toledo brethren not to
permit themselves to be tempted by their zeal to vexatious expressions,
"for it is a fact," he said, "that the Christians possess the power and
disposition to silence truth by force." Toledo, formerly recognized as
the teacher of Jewry, was now obliged to play the part of pupil, and
follow formularies in the disputations to which its members might be

As if the more far-seeing Jews had anticipated the approach of the
gloomiest era of Spanish Judaism, they provided their co-religionists
for the coming struggle with casque and buckler, so that the inexorable
foe might not surprise them unarmed. A Spanish Jew, contemporary with
Moses de Tordesillas, compiled a polemical work, more exhaustive than
its predecessor, defending Judaism and attacking Christianity. Shem-Tob
ben Isaac Shaprut of Tudela had at an early age been forced into the
position of a defender of his brethren against proselytizing attempts.
Cardinal Don Pedro de Luna, who later on, as Pope Benedict XIII,
brought so much confusion into the church and evil on the Jews, was
possessed of a perfect mania for conversion and religious controversy.
At Pampeluna he summoned Shem-Tob ben Shaprut to a debate on original
sin and salvation, and the latter was compelled to sustain his part in
the presence of bishops and learned prelates. The war between England
and Castile, the scene of which was Navarre, obliged Shem-Tob ben
Shaprut, with many other Jews, to quit the country (1378) and settle
in the neighboring town of Tarazona, in Aragon. Observing here that
Jews of the stamp of John de Valladolid were extremely zealous in the
promotion of religious discussions, the conversion of weaklings, and
the maligning of Jewish literature, he published (1380) a comprehensive
work ("Eben Bochan"), unmasking the speciousness of the arguments
deduced by Christian controversialists from the Bible and the Talmud.
The work is written in the form of a discussion between a believer in
the unity of God and a Trinitarian. To enable the Jews to use weapons
out of the Christian armory, Shem-Tob ben Shaprut translated into
Hebrew extracts from the four Gospels, with incisive commentaries.
Subsequently the anti-Jewish work of the apostate Abner-Alfonso fell
into his hands, and he refuted it, argument by argument.

These polemical works did not prove of far-reaching importance; at any
rate, their effect was not what their authors had expected. The Jews
of Spain did not so much stand in need of writings as of men of force
of character, commanding personality and dignity, able to raise, if
not the masses, at least the half-educated classes, and imbue them
with somewhat of their own spirit. The ban against scientific studies,
pronounced by excessive fear and extreme religiousness, notably avenged
itself. It dwarfed the intelligence of the people, and deprived them
of that capacity for appreciating the signs of the times which only a
liberal education can develop. Even faith suffered from this want of
culture in the rising generation. Only one Jew of profound philosophic
genius stands out prominently in the history of this period, and the
influence he exerted over a rather small circle was due less to his
superior intelligence than to his position and Talmudic knowledge.
The majority of the Spanish rabbis, if not actually hostile, were
indifferent to the sciences, especially to religious philosophy. Only
laymen devoted themselves to such pursuits, and they were neither
exhaustive in their inquiries nor creative in their speculations.
It is characteristic of this period that Maimuni's philosophical
"Guide of the Perplexed" was entirely neglected, the fashion being
to read and discuss Ibn-Ezra. The fragmentary nature of the writings
of this commentator, the ingenuity and acuteness, the disjointedness
of thought, the variety of matter, which characterize his work,
appealed to the shallowness of this retrograde generation. Shem-Tob ben
Shaprut, Samuel Çarça, Joseph Tob-Elem, Ezra Gatiño, and others wrote
super-commentaries on Ibn-Ezra's commentary on the Pentateuch. The
solution of riddles propounded by Ibn-Ezra, and the discovery of his
secrets, and explanations of his obscurities, seriously exercised the
minds of large circles of students.

The Talmud, with which the more thoughtful minds, prompted by a
religious bias, continued to be engaged, fared no better than secular
learning. Here, also, a state of stagnation, if nothing worse, had
supervened. The rabbis of some large communities were not even able
to discharge one of their chief duties, the explanation of the Talmud
to their disciples. A French Talmudist, Solomon ben Abraham Zarfati,
who had settled at Majorca, could venture to speak slightingly of
the Spanish rabbis, not excepting the celebrated Nissim Gerundi, and
compare them disparagingly with the French and German rabbis. A measure
of the average intelligence of the rabbis of this period is yielded by
the works of Menachem ben Zerach, chief rabbi of Toledo, even after its
misfortunes a very important Jewish community.

Menachem ben Aaron ben Zerach (born 1310, died 1385) counted several
martyrs in his family. His father, Aaron, was one of the unfortunates
whom the cupidity and tyranny of a French king had banished. With the
limited means spared by legalized robbery he had settled in Estella, a
not inconsiderable Navarrese community. His father, mother, and four
brothers perished in the massacre of Jews instigated by a Dominican
friar. Young Menachem was severely wounded in this outbreak, and might
have succumbed but for the assistance of a nobleman of his father's
acquaintance. On his recovery he devoted himself daily to Talmudical
study, and later on attended the celebrated school of the Asheride
Judah of Toledo. After he had passed his fortieth year, Menachem ben
Zerach became chief of an academy, the care of which was confided to
him by the Alcala (de Henares) community. During the civil war in
Castile he was wounded and plundered by the lawless soldiery, and of
his entire fortune, only his house, field, and collection of books
remained. Don Samuel Abrabanel assisted him in his distress, so that
he was enabled to recover somewhat from his misfortunes. Through his
interposition Menachem was called from Alcala to assume the rabbinate
of Toledo, where he opened an academy. As the disciple and successor
of Jehuda Asheri, considerable Talmudical attainments were with
justice expected of him. But he did not rise above the mediocrity of
his times. To remedy the increasing ignorance of religious forms and
duties, he wrote a compendium of theoretic and practical Judaism ("Zeda
la-Derech," 1374), as comprehensible as it was short, for the use of
prominent Jews, who, employed at court and by the grandees, had not
sufficient leisure to search an extensive literature for instruction.
His work is interspersed with scientific elements--psychological
and religio-philosophical--but it is weak and commonplace, full of
platitudes, and its several parts do not cohere. Even the Talmudical
elements are neither profound nor original. The only redeeming feature
is that it is conceived in a warm, sympathetic spirit, distinguishing
it from the usually dry rabbinical disquisitions.

Only two men of this time are raised by their character and learning
above the dead level of prevailing mediocrity: Chasdaï Crescas and
Isaac ben Sheshet. They both lived in the kingdom of Aragon, where the
Jews under Pedro IV and Juan I were neither so poor nor so oppressed as
their brethren in Castile. Chasdaï Crescas and Isaac ben Sheshet were
not sufficiently great to dominate their contemporaries, or prescribe
their own views as rules of conduct; they were, however, the foci of
large circles, and were frequently appealed to for final decisions on
complicated and difficult questions. Both worked earnestly for the
maintenance and furtherance of Judaism, for the preservation of peace
in the communities at home and abroad, and for the consolation and
re-animation of the broken in spirit, notwithstanding that their means
were limited, and the times unpropitious.

Chasdaï ben Abraham Crescas (born 1340, died 1410), originally of
Barcelona, and subsequently of Saragossa, where he ended his days, did
not belong to the class of ordained rabbis, but he had been educated
on Talmudical lines, and was an accomplished Talmudist. His wealth
and his occupations seem to have indisposed him for this honorable
position. Chasdaï Crescas was in close relation with the court of Juan
I, of Aragon, was frequently consulted on important state questions,
and also had much intercourse with the grandees of the kingdom. In the
views of the various schools of philosophy he was well versed; the
independence and depth of thought he evinced in dealing with them stamp
him an original thinker. His ideas, of course, were largely based upon
religious, or rather Jewish convictions, which, however, he presented
in an original form. Chasdaï Crescas was the first to recognize the
weak points of the prevailing Aristotelianism, and he attacked it with
irresistible force. Of his youth nothing is known, and it is impossible
to say under what influences those ripe powers of mind were developed
which enabled him to question the authority not only of Maimonides
and Gersonides, but of Aristotle himself. His ancestors were learned
Talmudists, and his grandfather enjoyed a reputation equal to that of
the famous Asheri family. In Talmudical studies he was a disciple of
Nissim Gerundi, of Barcelona. Chasdaï Crescas was kind and gentle, a
friend in need, and a faithful defender of the weak. During the unhappy
days which broke upon the Jews of Spain in his lifetime, he devoted all
his powers to the mitigation of the disasters which befell his brethren.

Similar in character, but fundamentally opposed to him in the
disposition of his mind, was his friend and senior, Isaac ben Sheshet
Barfat (Ribash, born 1310, died about 1409). A native of Barcelona, and
having studied under Ben Adret's son and pupils, Isaac ben Sheshet may,
in a measure, be considered a disciple of Ben Adret. He acquired his
teacher's capacity for seizing the spirit of the Talmud and expounding
it lucidly, and far surpassed him in hostility to secular studies. Ben
Adret had permitted the circumstances of his times to extort from him
the prohibition of such studies, as far as raw youths were concerned;
Ben Sheshet, in his rigid orthodoxy, took the view that even mature
men should hold aloof from them, although at that period there was but
little fear of heresy. The physical sciences and philosophy, he held,
should be completely avoided, as they were calculated to undermine the
two essential supports of the Torah, the doctrines of the creation, and
of a Providence; because they exalted reason over faith, and generated
doubts of miracles. In Gersonides, and even Maimuni, Ben Sheshet found
illustrations of the pernicious effects of philosophic speculation.
He granted that they were men of incomparable genius, but he insisted
that they had been seduced by philosophy to adopt heterodox views, and
explain certain miracles of the Bible rationalistically. Ben Sheshet
was of high moral character; his disposition was kindly, and on several
occasions he willingly sacrificed his personal interests to advance the
common good and to promote peace. But when he suspected the violation
of a Talmudical precept or the non-observance of even an unessential
custom, his mildness was immediately transformed into most obdurate

On account of his Talmudical learning, his clear, penetrating
intellect, and his irreproachable character, he was much sought
after. The important community of Saragossa elected him its rabbi.
Immediately on taking office, Isaac ben Sheshet gave an illustration
of the tenacity with which he clung to the letter of the Law, even
when it conflicted with the spirit. He observed, with regret, that the
practice obtained of reading the book of Esther on the feast of Purim
in a Spanish translation, for the benefit of the women. This practice
had been introduced into other Spanish communities, and was not only
applauded by all men of common sense, but had even been authorized by a
few rabbis, who considered it unobjectionable from a Talmudical point
of view. Ben Sheshet raised a cry of alarm, as if Judaism had been
threatened with ruin. He called to his assistance the authority of his
teacher, Nissim Gerundi, and together they opposed the excellent custom
with sophistical argument. They appear to have been successful in
abolishing it.

Still more characteristic of Isaac ben Sheshet is his quarrel with
Chayim ben Gallipapa, a rabbi, stricken in years, whose opinions
differed from those of the rabbi of Saragossa. This man (born 1310,
died 1380), rabbi of Huesca and Pampeluna, was a singular figure in the
Middle Ages, whom it is difficult to classify. Whilst the rabbis of the
time, particularly since the rise of the Asheride teaching, exceeded
all bounds in the imposition of burdensome observances, and always, in
cases of doubt, decided in favor of their most rigorous fulfillment,
Gallipapa took the opposite view, and maintained that the aim of all
Talmudical exegesis should be to disencumber life. The times, he
considered, had improved, and neither the ignorance of the people
nor the fear of defection was so great as to warrant such severity.
This principle was no mere theory with Gallipapa, for he followed it
practically. The freedom he suggested concerned matters of comparative
insignificance, but at that time every trifle was regarded as
important. On certain dogmas, also, Gallipapa held independent views.
The Messianic belief which, since the time of Maimonides, had become
an article of faith, to deny which was heresy, he boldly set aside.
Gallipapa considered that the prophecies, in Isaiah and Daniel, of the
great prosperity of Israel in the future, had been fulfilled in the
days of the Maccabees, and wrote a work on the subject. Against this
hardy innovator, a storm naturally arose. A neighboring rabbi, Chasdaï
ben Solomon, of Tudela, a man of not over-fine sensibilities, denounced
him to Isaac ben Sheshet, and the latter lectured the venerable
Gallipapa, who had sent disciples into the world, as if he had been a
mere schoolboy. He adjured Chayim Gallipapa to avoid scandal and give
no opportunity for schism amongst his brethren. The modest attempt at
reform went no further.

This severe tendency in matters of religion was the natural outcome
of the prevailing spiritual needs; and it must be confessed that the
more rigorous, the better it was adapted to them. Isaac ben Sheshet
and his friend Chasdaï Crescas, who, although no enemy of secular
learning, entertained the same view as his colleague, and defended his
orthodoxy on philosophic grounds, were considered, after the death
of Nissim Gerundi, the most eminent rabbinical authorities of their
day, not in Spain only. From far and near, inquiries were addressed to
them, principally to Isaac ben Sheshet, but also to Chasdaï Crescas.
The proudest rabbis and the largest communities invoked their counsel,
and were content to abide by their decisions. The court of Aragon
also regarded them as the leaders of the Jewish communities, but this
operated to their disadvantage. In consequence of the denunciation
of some malevolent person, the ground of which is unknown, the king,
Don Pedro IV, ordered Chasdaï Crescas, Isaac ben Sheshet, his brother,
Crescas Barfat, the aged Nissim Gerundi of Barcelona, and two others,
to be thrown into prison. After a long time, they were released on
bail. We may believe Isaac ben Sheshet, when he assures us that he and
his fellow-prisoners were all innocent of the offense or crime laid
to their charge. Their innocence must have come to light, for they
afterwards remained unmolested.

The authority of Chasdaï Crescas and Isaac ben Sheshet was appealed to
by the French communities to settle an important point in a dispute
about the chief rabbinate of France. A change, largely the outcome of
the political condition of the country, had come over the circumstances
of these communities. Manessier de Vesoul, the zealous defender and
protector of his co-religionists, was dead (about 1375-1378). Of his
four sons--Solomon, Joseph, Abraham, and Haquinet--the eldest
succeeded to his father's post of receiver general of the Jew taxes
and political representative of the French Jews, and the second became
a convert to Christianity. Solomon and his brothers enjoyed the same
esteem at the royal court as their father. They were exempted from
wearing the humiliating Jew badge, and they diligently cared for the
interests of their brethren. Among Jews, however, they do not seem
to have obtained the consideration that their father had enjoyed. On
the death of the king, Charles V, their importance ceased altogether.
The regent Louis, Duke of Anjou, confirmed, for a consideration, the
privileges acquired by the French Jews (14th October, 1380), and
prolonged their term of sufferance in the land by another five years.
His protection, however, did not reach far, or rather it involved the
Jews in his own unpopularity. The impoverished population of Paris,
driven to despair by burdensome taxation, loudly and stormily demanded
redress of the young king and the regent. Egged on by a nobility
involved in debt, they included the Jews in their outcry, and demanded
that the king should expel from the country "these shameful usurers
who have ruined whole families." The people did not stop at words; at
the instigation of the nobles, they attacked the houses of the Jews
(November 16th, 1380), robbed the exchequer of the receiver general
(of the Vesoul family), pillaged their dwelling-houses, destroyed the
bonds of the debtors, appropriated the accumulated pledges, murdered
a few Jews, and tore children from the arms of fleeing and weeping
Jewish mothers to baptize them forthwith. A large number of Jews
saved themselves by flight to the fort Châtelet. The regent was much
irritated by this violent outbreak, but was unable to punish the
offenders at once on account of the excited state of the people. He
ordered that the Jews be reinstated in their homes, and the plunder
restored to them. Few complied with the order. The prevôt of Paris,
Hugues Aubriot--a man of considerable energy, who had beautified and
enlarged the French capital--also interested himself in the Jews.
In particular, he brought about the restitution of the stolen and
baptized children. For this he was violently attacked by men whose
learning should have taught them better. Aubriot, by his orderly
administration, had made enemies of the university professors and
students, who denounced as criminal his interference for the benefit
of the Jews. He was accused before the bishop of Paris of having held
intercourse with Jewish women, and even of being a secret adherent of
Judaism. He was found guilty of heresy and infidelity, and made to pay
with imprisonment for his humane conduct towards the Jews. Not only
in Paris, but also in other towns where the people rose against heavy
taxation, Jews fell victims to the popular excitement. Four months
later, similar bloody scenes were enacted in Paris and the provinces
when the rising of the Maillotins (so called from the mallets with
which the insurgents were armed) took place. For three or four days in
succession Jews were again plundered, ill-treated, and murdered (March
1st, 1381). The king, Charles VII, or rather the regent, attempted to
protect the Jews and to obtain some indemnification of their losses.
They were, however, unable to recover from the blow they had received.
In these tumults the sons of Manessier de Vesoul appear either to have
lost their lives, or, at any rate, their position of influence.

This change in the fortunes of the French Jews brought in its train
a violent communal dispute, the excitement of which extended far and
wide. The chief rabbi, Matathiah Provenci, had been gathered to his
fathers. The communities had elected his eldest son, Jochanan, in his
place, and the king had confirmed their choice. He had been in office
five years, and was projecting the establishment of an academy, when
a former pupil of his father, one Isaiah ben Abba-Mari, arrived in
France from Savoy with the authorization of the German chief rabbi,
Meïr ben Baruch Halevi, granting to him alone the right to maintain
an academy and ordain pupils as rabbis. Whoever exercised rabbinical
functions without his authority and, especially, meddled with marriages
and divorces, was threatened with excommunication. All unauthorized
documents were declared null and void. By virtue of his authority, and
in consequence of Jochanan's refusal to subordinate himself to him,
Isaiah relieved him of his office (about 1380-1390). The Vesoul family
being extinct or having lost prestige, Jochanan found himself without
influential support. Many of the French Jews, however, were extremely
wroth at this violent, imperious behavior of the immigrant rabbi. They
condemned the presumptuousness of the German rabbi, Meïr Halevi, in
treating France as though it were a German province, and protested
against his dictating laws to the French communities, as it had always
been the custom to regard each community, and certainly the Jews of
each country, as independent. The result was a storm of indignation,
which increased considerably when Isaiah proceeded to appoint his own
relatives to the various rabbinates. It being impossible to settle
the dispute by an appeal to the home-authorities, Jochanan turned
with his grievance to the two foremost representatives of Spanish
Judaism, Chasdaï Crescas and Isaac ben Sheshet. Both these "Catalonian
grandees," as they were called, pronounced in favor of Jochanan. This
decision, however, was not destined to bring about lasting peace, for
the days of the Jews in France were numbered.

The storm on this occasion arose in Spain, and convulsed for a time
the entire Jewish race. The golden age of the Spanish Jews had passed
away; still they were more firmly established in the Peninsula than in
any other country. It required a series of violent shocks, extending
over an entire century, to completely uproot them, whilst in France
they were swept away by a breath, like twigs planted in quicksand. For
the sanguinary drama which commenced towards the end of the fourteenth
century, and ended in the latter part of the fifteenth, the Spanish
Jews were themselves largely to blame. It is true that the many had
to suffer for the few, for when the enemies of the Jews complained of
their obsequious attendance at court and on the grandees, of their
wealth accumulated by usury, and their flaunting in silks and satins,
blame was due only to a few of the most prominent, for whose follies
and extravagances the masses were not responsible. Indeed, there were
Jews who complained that their moral sense was deeply wounded by the
selfishness and covetousness of their wealthy brethren. "For these
troubles," says one, "the titled and wealthy Jews are greatly to be
held responsible; their only consideration is for their position and
money, whilst for their God they have no regard." In fact, the union
that had previously been the chief source of strength among the Spanish
Jews, was broken up. Jealousy and envy among the Jewish grandees had
undermined fraternal feeling, which formerly had induced each to merge
his interests in those of the community at large, and all to combine
for the defense of each. Generosity and nobility of mind, once the
brilliant qualities of the Spanish Jews, had now become almost extinct.
A contemporary writer pictures their degeneracy in darkest hues, and if
only one half of what he tells us is true, their decline must have been
grave indeed.

"The majority of wealthy Jews," says Solomon Alami in his "Mirror of
Morals," or "Letter of Warning," "who are admitted to royal courts, and
to whom the keys of public exchequers are confided, pride themselves
on their dignities and wealth, but give no thought to the poor. They
build themselves palaces, drive about in splendid equipages, or ride
on richly caparisoned mules, wear magnificent apparel, and deck their
wives and daughters like princesses with gold, pearls, and precious
stones. They are indifferent to their religion, disdain modesty, hate
manual labor, and live in idleness. The wealthy love dancing and
gaming, dress in the national costume, and go about with sleek beards.
They fill themselves with dainties, whilst scholars starve on bread
and water. Hence, the rabbis are despised, for all classes prefer to
have their sons taught the lowest of handicrafts to bringing them up to
the study of the Law. At sermon time, the great resign themselves to
sweet slumber, or talk with one another, and the preacher is frequently
disturbed by men and women at the back of the synagogue. On the other
hand, how devout are the Christians in their houses of worship! In
every town the noble live at variance with one another, and stir up
discord on the most trivial questions. Still worse is the jealousy with
which they regard each other; they slander one another before the king
and the princes."

It is certainly true that at this period secret denunciations, once
almost unknown among the Jews, were exceedingly rife, even rabbis
being occasionally the victims. As the aged Nissim Gerundi, Isaac
ben Sheshet, Chasdaï Crescas, and their friends were victimized by
the conspiracy of some miserable calumniator, so an attempt was made
to ruin the rabbi of Alkolea de Cinca, En-Zag Vidal de Tolosa, by
representations to the queen of Aragon.

The rabbis, who, with one or two assessors, constituted courts of
justice for criminal cases, dealt severely with such traitors, and
even sentenced them to death. In the communities of Castile, Aragon,
Valencia, and Catalonia, the privilege of passing death-sentences
was of great antiquity. The Jewish courts required for the execution
of such sentences special sanction from the king in a sealed letter
(Albala, Chotham); but, if necessary, this could be obtained through
the medium of Jewish courtiers, or by bribery. Such proceedings,
however, only increased the evil they were designed to cure. The
accused were made short work of without exhaustive inquiry, or
sufficient testimony, and this naturally infuriated their relatives and
friends. It did not unfrequently occur that utterances were construed
as treasonable which had no such character. The ill-advised action
of the Jewish court of Seville (or Burgos) on an unfounded charge of
disloyalty to the community preferred against an eminent and beloved
co-religionist was, if not the actual cause, at any rate the occasion
of the first widespread and sanguinary persecution of the Jews in
Spain, the final result being the total expulsion of the Jews from the

Joseph Pichon, of Seville, high in favor with the king of Castile,
Don Henry II, whose receiver general of taxes he had been, was
accused of embezzlement by some jealous Jewish courtiers. He was
imprisoned by the king, condemned to pay a fine of 40,000 doubloons,
and then set free. He afterwards retrieved his reputation, and became
extraordinarily popular among the Christian population of Seville. To
avenge his wrongs, or possibly with a view to his own vindication, he
had entangled his enemies in a serious accusation, when Don Henry died.
His son, Don Juan I, was crowned at Burgos, the capital of Old Castile
(1379). During the coronation festivities, a Jewish court of justice
(at Burgos or Seville) condemned Pichon as an enemy to the community
and a traitor (Malshim, Malsin), without affording him an opportunity
of being heard in defense. Some Jews, having access to the court, asked
permission of the young king to execute a dangerous member of their own
body without mentioning his name. Confidants of the king are said to
have been bribed to obtain the royal signature to this decree. Provided
with the king's warrant and the death sentence of the rabbinical
college, Pichon's enemies repaired to the chief of police (Alguacil),
Fernan Martin, and obtained his assistance at the execution. Early
on the morning of the 21st August, two or three Jews, together with
Martin, entered Pichon's house whilst he was yet asleep, and awoke him
under the pretext that his mules were to be seized for debt. As soon as
he appeared at the door of his dwelling, he was arrested by the Jews
intrusted with the carrying out of the sentence, and, without a word,

Whether Pichon had deserved death, even according to rabbinical law,
or whether he fell a victim to the intrigues of his enemies, is not
known. It is not difficult to understand that so cruel an act should
have stirred up widespread indignation. The anger of the young king
knew no bounds when he learnt that his coronation festivities had been
stained with the murder of one who had rendered his father substantial
services, and that his own sanction had been surreptitiously obtained.
He immediately ordered the execution of the Jews who had carried
out the sentence, and of a Jewish judge of Burgos. Even the chief
of police, Fernan Martin, was ordered to be put to death for the
assistance he had given; but at the intercession of some nobles, his
life was spared, and his punishment commuted to the chopping off of
one hand. This incident had other grave consequences. The king at
once deprived the rabbis and Jewish courts of justice of jurisdiction
in criminal cases, on the ground of their abuse of the privilege.
At the first meeting of the cortes at Soria (1380), he made this
restriction a permanent statute. By its terms the rabbis and communal
leaders were thenceforth prohibited from decreeing punishments of
death, dismemberment, or exile, and in criminal cases were to choose
Christian judges. One of the reasons assigned was that, according to
the prophets, the Jews were to be deprived of all power and freedom
after the advent of Jesus. The still exasperated king then arraigned
the Jews on other charges. He accused them particularly of cursing
Christians and the Christian church in their prayers, and with
receiving Mahometans, Tartars, and other foreign persons into the pale
of Judaism, and having them circumcised. These alleged practices were
forbidden under heavy penalties. The feeling against the Jews was
not limited to the king and the court circle. The entire population
of Castile was roused by the apparently unjust execution of Joseph
Pichon, and by the circumstance that his death was not the work of
irresponsible individuals, but of the foremost leaders of the Jewish
community. In Seville, where Pichon had been very popular, the fury
against the Jews rose to such a height that, had the opportunity
presented itself, summary vengeance would have been taken.

Accusations against the Jews and petitions for the restriction of their
liberties became the order of the day at the meetings of the cortes,
as formerly at the councils of the Visigothic kings. The infuriated
Don Juan acquiesced in this agitation, in so far as it did not tend
to the detriment of the royal finances. At the cortes of Valladolid
(1385), he granted the petition for the legalization of the canonical
restrictions, presented by the clergy, and accordingly prohibited the
living together of Jews and Christians, and the suckling of Jewish
infants by Christian nurses, under pain of public whipping. He also
consented to the passing of a law excluding Jews (and Mahometans) from
the post of treasurer to the king, queen, or any of the royal family.

Curiously, it was the quarrel over the chief rabbinate of Portugal that
snatched the crown of that country, at the moment when it was within
his grasp, from this monarch, who cannot be said to have been wholly
hostile to the Jews. By a treaty with King Ferdinand of Portugal,
it had been agreed that, male heirs to the crown failing, he, or
rather his second wife, the Portuguese Infanta Beatrice (Brites),
should have the first right to the succession. In Portugal the Jews
had always been tolerated, and, up to the time of their expulsion
from the country, suffered no persecution. During the reign of King
Ferdinand (1367-1383), their position was exceptionally happy. Since
the thirteenth century (1274), the government of the community had
been more completely in its own hands than in any other European
country. Some of their peculiar institutions dated even further back.
At the head of the Portuguese Jews was a chief rabbi (Ar-Rabbi Mor),
possessing almost princely privileges. On account of the importance of
the office he was always appointed by the king, who conferred it as a
reward for services rendered to the crown, or to add to the dignity
of some particular favorite. The chief rabbi used a special signet,
administered justice in all its branches, and issued decrees under
his own sign-manual with the addendum: "By the grace of my lord, the
king, Ar-Rabbi Mor of the communities of Portugal and Algarve." It was
his duty to make an annual circuit of all the Portuguese communities,
to investigate their affairs, invite individuals to lay before him
their grievances, even against the rabbis, and remedy abuses wherever
they existed. On these journeys he was accompanied by a Jewish judge
(Ouvidor), a chancellor (Chanceller) with his staff, a secretary
(Escrivão), and a sheriff (Porteiro jurado), to carry out the sentences
of his court. The chief rabbi or Ar-Rabbi Mor, appointed in each of
the seven provinces of the kingdom provincial rabbis (Ouvidores)
subject to him. These rabbis were established in the seven principal
provincial Jewish centers, Santarem, Vizeu, Cavilhão, Porto, Torre de
Montcorvo, Evora and Faro. They governed the provincial communities,
and were the judges of appeal for their several districts. The local
rabbis were elected by the general body of contributing members of the
community; but the confirmation of their election and their investiture
proceeded from the chief rabbi, under a special deed issued in the
name of the king. The judicial authority of the rabbis extended to
criminal cases, and they retained this privilege much longer than their
Spanish brethren. Public documents had to be written in the vernacular.
The Jewish form of oath was very simple, even in litigation with
Christians; it required nothing but the presence of a rabbi and the
holding up of the Torah.

The king, Don Ferdinand, had two Jewish favorites, who supervised his
monetary affairs: Don Judah, his chief treasurer (Tesoreiro Mor),
and Don David Negro, of the highly-respected Ibn-Yachya family, his
confidant and counselor (Almoxarif). When this frivolous and prodigal
monarch died, and the regency was undertaken by the queen, Leonora--a
princess whose beauty rendered her irresistible, but who was hated for
her faithlessness and feared for her vindictiveness and craft--the
municipal authorities of Lisbon approached her with an urgent prayer
for the abolition of sundry unpopular measures of the late king. Among
other things they asked that Jews and Moors should no longer be allowed
to hold public offices. Leonora craftily replied that during the
lifetime of the king she had exerted herself to procure the exclusion
of Jews from public offices, but her representations had always been
unheeded. Immediately after the king's death she had removed Judah
and David Negro from the public service, and dismissed all the Jewish
receivers of taxes. She nevertheless retained Judah in her immediate
circle, anticipating that, on account of his wealth and experience,
he might prove of use to her. Leonora's scheme to obtain absolute
authority and share the government with her paramour was frustrated by
the still craftier bastard Infante Don João, Grand Master of Avis. In
the art of winning public favor and turning it to account, Don João
was a master, and he soon brought things to such a pass that the queen
regent was forced to leave the capital. Burning for revenge, Leonora
invoked the aid of her son-in-law, King Don Juan of Castile, with the
result that a sanguinary civil war was commenced. In opposition to the
aristocratic faction, supporting the queen regent and the Castilians,
there arose a popular party, which enthusiastically espoused the cause
of Don João of Avis. Leonora was obliged to fly before the hatred of
her people and take refuge in Santarem. Among her escort were the two
Jewish grandees, Judah and David Negro, who had escaped from Lisbon
in disguise. Hither came King Juan of Castile; and Leonora, in order
to be enabled to take full vengeance on her enemies, renounced the
regency in his favor, and placed at his disposal all her adherents,
comprising the entire Portuguese nobility, together with a large number
of fortresses. The idea of the Castilian king in undertaking this
enterprise was to unite the crowns of Portugal and Castile; but for the
realization of this project a thorough understanding between Leonora
and her son-in-law and her ungrudging co-operation were indispensable.
This important harmony was disturbed by a question as to the
appointment of a chief rabbi, and owing to this dispute their agreement
was transformed into bitter and disastrous enmity.

The rabbinate of Castile became vacant in 1384. Leonora, desiring to
obtain the appointment for her favorite Judah, made application to the
king on his behalf. At the instance of his wife Beatrice, he conferred
the dignity upon David Negro. Leonora's anger at this rebuff was
expressed with vehemence. She is reported to have said to her circle
of adherents: "If the king refuses so trivial a favor, the first I
have asked of him, to me, a woman, a queen, a mother, one who has
done so much for him, what have I and what have you to expect? Even
my enemy, the Grand Master of Avis, would not have treated me thus.
You will do better to go over to him, your legitimate master." Leonora
transferred to her son-in-law, King Juan, all the hatred with which
she had formerly regarded the Grand Master of Avis. She organized a
conspiracy to murder him, the details of which she confided to the
former treasurer Judah. The plot was, however, discovered by the
chief rabbi elect, David Negro, who saved the king's life. Don Juan
immediately caused the queen dowager to be arrested and thrown into
prison. Judah also was imprisoned, and ordered to be executed, but at
the energetic intercession of his rival, David Negro, his life was
spared. This quarrel with and imprisonment of his mother-in-law cost
Don Juan all support in Portugal. Thenceforth he encountered resistance
on every side, and was obliged to resort to forcible measures for the
subjugation of the country. His plans, however, all failed, and in the
end he found himself compelled to renounce his hope of a union of the
two lands.

A few rabbis intrigued to obtain rabbinical office, and involved
their several communities in much unseemly strife, as, for example,
David Negro and Judah, Isaiah ben Abba-Mari and Jochanan in France,
Solomon Zarfati and En-Vidal Ephraim Gerundi in the Island of Majorca,
and Chasdaï ben Solomon and Amram Efrati in Valencia, but it must
be acknowledged that such incidents were of rare occurrence. To the
majority, the rabbinate was as a holy priesthood, the duties of which
they sought to discharge in all purity of heart and deed, with devotion
and self-denial. They were generally examples to their communities, not
only in learning and piety, but in high-mindedness, conscientiousness,
and the purity of their morals. Even the less worthy cannot be charged
with anything more serious than a desire for place, and a certain
degree of irascibility. It would be a gross libel on their memory to
compare them with the servants of the church during the same period.
At no time in its history had Christianity more reason to be ashamed
of its representatives than during the fourteenth and the succeeding
century. Since the papacy had established itself at Avignon, it had
become a perfect hot-bed of vice, the contagion of which spread over
the clergy down to the lowliest friar. Besides, there arose passionate
strife between pope and anti-pope, between one college of cardinals
and another, dividing the whole of Christendom into two huge, bitterly
hostile camps. It was only natural that the clergy should infect the
lay world with their immeasurable dissoluteness and vice. Yet these
degenerate, inhuman and degraded Christian communities presumed to
treat the modest, virtuous, pious Jews as outcasts and accursed of God.
Although superior in everything save wickedness and the virtues of a
robber chivalry, they were denied the commonest rights of man. They
were baited and slaughtered like beasts of the field. In Nördlingen the
entire Jewish community, including women and children, was murdered
(1384). All over Suabia they were persecuted, and in Augsburg they were
imprisoned until a ransom of 20,000 florins was paid. A characteristic
illustration is furnished by the following occurrence: The rabbis and
communal leaders of central Germany had determined to hold a synod at
Weissenfels, in Saxony, for the purpose of deliberating upon certain
religious questions, and adopting resolutions of public utility
(1386). They had provided themselves with safe-conduct passes from
the Saxon princes, it being unsafe for Christians to travel on the
public highroads, and, of course, much more so for Jews. Nevertheless,
a party of German robber-nobles, anticipating rich booty, waylaid the
travelers on their return journey, and, having plundered and ill-used
them, threw them into prison, and liberated them only on the payment of
a ransom of 5,000 groschen. The rabbis and their companions complained
to the princes of this attack, and the latter, indignant at the
disrespect with which their authority had been treated, summoned the
noble marauders to answer the charges urged against them. The line of
defense adopted by the spokesman of the accused was that they had no
idea of disregarding the safe-conduct passes of the princes, but that
they held the opinion that the Jews, the enemies of the church, did not
deserve the protection of Christian authorities. The speaker continued
that, for his own part, wherever he met the enemies of Christ, he would
give them no quarter. A defense of this kind could not fail to obtain
applause. Its spirit was that of the majority of the Christians of
that day. The accused were absolved from blame, and the Jews dismissed
without redress, "for the defense captivated the princes."

The art of poetry, which should beautify life, began to work like
poison on the moral atmosphere of the Jews. For some centuries past
romantic works had variously portrayed the character of a creditor,
who, as equivalent for a debt, claimed a certain portion cut from
the body of his creditor, either a liege lord from his vassal, or
a nobleman from a burgher. At first this was harmless fiction, but
afterwards it was turned against the Jews, as though only a Jewish
Shylock could be capable of such hardness of heart as to insist on the
payment of a pound of flesh from a Christian. Thus cannibal hatred of
Christians was foisted on the Jews, and received credence. Romances
took up the theme, and made it popular.

The depraved, dissolute clergy--a class of men who, in an age of
public decency, would have been objects of universal contempt, or might
have earned the corrections of a Bridewell--affected to feel insulted
by contact with the Jews, and, under the pretext that their cloth was
disgraced by them, caused new scenes of horror and cruelty. In Prague,
since the time of Charles IV the chief city of Germany, a bloody
persecution was set on foot by their agency. A local priest--perhaps
one of those whom Emperor Wenceslaus had caused to be pilloried with
their concubines--passed through the Jewish quarter on Easter Sunday
(April 18th, 1389) with the host, to visit a dying person. Jewish
children playing in the street--it was one of the latter days of the
Passover feast--were throwing sand at one another, and a few grains
happened to fall upon the priest's robe. His attendants immediately
turned upon the children, and cruelly beat them. Their cries quickly
brought their parents to their rescue, whereupon the priest fled to
the market-place, loudly proclaiming that his holy office had been
profaned by Jews. To invest the incident with the necessary importance,
he exaggerated it, and said that he was pelted with stones until forced
to drop the host. The citizens and lower orders of Prague immediately
banded themselves together, and, armed with murderous weapons of every
description, made a violent attack upon the houses of the Jews. As
usual, they offered their victims the choice between death and baptism,
but they found them steadfast in their faith. Many thousands perished
in the massacre, which lasted a whole day and night. Several of the
Jews, among them their venerable rabbi, first took the lives of their
wives and children, and then their own, to escape the cruelties of
their enemies. The synagogue was laid in ashes, and the holy books and
scrolls torn and trodden under foot. Not even the burial ground escaped
the fury of these Christian zealots. The corpses in the streets were
stripped of their clothing, left naked, and then burnt.

For the same offense--that is, for no offense at all--the
communities in the vicinity of the Bohemian capital were "confined,
oppressed, ill-treated and persecuted." The reigning pope issued a bull
condemning the outrages (July 2d, 1389), and based his action upon
the edict of Pope Innocent IV, which enacted that Jews should not be
forcibly baptized, nor disturbed in the observance of their festivals;
but he failed to produce an impression on the consciences of the
faithful. It was in vain, too, that the Jews appealed to their liege
lord, the German emperor Wenceslaus, in whose capital the persecution
had originated. This prince--who, had he not been an emperor, would
certainly have been a freebooter--was a man of sense only on the rare
occasions when he was not intoxicated. His reply to the representations
of his Jewish subjects was that they had deserved the attacks made upon
them, as they had had no right to show themselves outside their houses
on Easter Sunday. For the goods and chattels they had left behind them
he exhibited more concern, promptly ordering them to be appropriated
to his empty exchequer. This was the measure of his general attitude
towards the Jews. During several years he attempted to possess himself
of their monetary claims on his Christian subjects, and to carry out
his design he convened (1385) a conference of representatives of the
Suabian cities, which met at Ulm. Despite the impoverishment of the
German communities, he exacted from every Jew, even from every Jewish
youth and maiden, the so-called "golden penny" poll-tax, amounting to
one gulden annually. He openly declared that the possessions of the
Jews were his personal property, and forbade them to sell or mortgage
anything. And still Emperor Wenceslaus was not the worst of rulers in
the eyes of the Jews. The rabbi, Avigedor Kara, of Prague, boasted his
friendship; and the Jews of Germany whispered significantly to one
another that his allegiance to the teaching of Christ was very weak.

This storm of spoliation and persecution had no far-reaching
consequences in the history of the German Jews. It could not affect
their abject condition, for they had been too long accustomed to turn
their cheeks submissively to the smiter. Quite different were the
effects of a contemporary persecution in Spain. Here the very heart
of the Jewish race was attacked, and the results made themselves felt
in the history of the whole Jewish people. The Spanish Jews had until
then been more hated than despised; the horrors of this persecution,
however, so thoroughly cowed their spirits, so paralyzed their
energies, and humbled their pride, that they, too, became the scorn
of their oppressors. As in Prague, the outbreak was the work of an
ecclesiastic and a mob, but here it assumed the vastest proportions,
and developed permanent results, the operations of which were
disastrous in the extreme. It arose in Seville through the agitation
of a fanatical priest, Ferdinand (Ferrand) Martinez, who seemed to
consider implacable hatred of the Jews as the essence of his religion.
His discourses were devoted to stirring up the populace against them,
and he thundered against their hardened infidelity, their pride, their
heaped-up riches, their greed, and their usury. In Seville he found
the people only too ready to listen to him, for there the Jews were
hated with special intensity. The citizens could not forgive them the
important part they had played in the civil war between Don Pedro
and Don Henry II, and particularly the suspicious circumstances of
the death of Joseph Pichon, who had been so popular among them. As
long as Don Juan I lived, Martinez took care to restrain the mob from
open violence, for though the king regarded the Jews with but little
affection, he was in the habit of punishing lawless outbreaks with
the utmost severity. No sooner was he dead, however, than the bigoted
cleric thought he might dare the utmost. The circumstances of the
government were favorable to the development of his plans. The new
monarch, Henry III, was a boy of only eleven years of age, and in the
council of regency discord reigned, threatening to involve the country
in another civil war.

One day (March 15, 1391)--a memorable day, not only for the Jews and
for Spain, but for the history of the entire world, for on that day
the first germ of the monstrous Inquisition was created--Martinez,
preaching as usual against the Jews, deliberately incited the mob to
riot in the expectation that many Jews would abjure their religion.
The passions of the multitude became inflamed, and broke out in wild
uproar. The authorities of the city, the Mayor (Alguacil mayor), Don
Alvar Perez de Guzman, and two of the magistrates interposed to
protect the Jews, arresting two of the ringleaders in the riot, and
ordering them to be flogged. This proceeding excited the fanatical
mob only the more. In their fury they put a large number of Jews to
death, and threatened with a like fate the governor of the city, Don
Juan Alfonso, and the officials who were attempting to shield the
unfortunate Hebrews. A few of the leading Jews of Seville, perceiving
that the local authorities were not strong enough to grapple with the
rising, hurried to the court of the young king, and appealed to the
council of regency to stop the slaughter of their brethren. Their
representations were favorably received. Messengers were dispatched
forthwith to Seville with instructions to tell the populace to abstain
from further outrage. The local nobility seconded the action of the
king, and, ranging themselves on the side of the Jews, succeeded
in mastering the rioters. When the Christian inhabitants of the
neighboring towns showed a disposition to imitate the scenes enacted
in Seville, the council of regency also sent messengers thither armed
with the same powers. Thus, for a brief moment, the threatened Jew-hunt
was delayed, but by no means suppressed. It was soon renewed with
greater violence, and on a far more extended scale. The young king and
a few of the members of the council of regency were probably earnest
in their desire not to permit the massacres, but, unfortunately,
they were not sufficiently interested to take adequate precautions
against them. One such precaution should have been to silence the
outrage-monger, Ferdinand Martinez, or at least to prohibit his
inflammatory harangues; but they did nothing of the kind. They left
him perfectly free to level his poisonous eloquence at the Jews, and
he was not slow to take advantage of their inaction. Encouraged by the
dissensions in the government, and the disorder which consequently
reigned throughout the entire land, he again set himself to stir up
the rabble of Seville, and this time with greater success. Hardly three
months after the last outbreak, the mob resumed (June 6th, 1391) its
holy work of massacre by setting fire to the Jewish quarter (Juderia)
and slaughtering its inhabitants. The result was that, of the important
and wealthy community of Seville, which had numbered 7,000 families,
or 30,000 souls, but few remained. Murder counted not more than 4,000
victims, but to escape death the majority permitted themselves to be
baptized. Women and children were sold into Mahometan slavery by the
bloody rioters. Of the three synagogues of Seville two were transformed
into churches. Among the large number who sought refuge from fire and
sword at the baptismal font was Samuel Abrabanel, the ancestor of
the afterwards celebrated Abrabanel family, and an ornament of his
community in the reign of Don Henry II, with whom he possessed great
influence. He adopted the Christian name of Juan de Sevilla.

From Seville the persecution swept like a raging torrent over a large
portion of Spain. Its progress was stimulated more by a craving for
plunder than by fanatical eagerness to proselytize. Cordova, the parent
community of the Peninsula, the mold in which the high character of
Spanish Judaism had been cast, was the next scene of its activity.
Here also many Jews were cruelly murdered, and a large number forced
to embrace Christianity. On the fast day commemorating the fall of
Jerusalem (Tammuz 17th-June 20th) the population of the capital,
Toledo, rose against the largest Jewish community in Spain. The blood
of the believers in the unity of God, who steadfastly refused to change
their faith, deluged the streets. Among the many martyrs who fell at
Toledo were the descendants of the Asheri family. They met death with
the same unflinching courage as their German brethren. Jehuda ben
Asher II, one of Asheri's great-grandsons, who lived in Burgos, but
happened to be at Toledo, took with his own hands the lives of his
mother-in-law and wife, and then his own. Here also a large number
went over to Christianity. About seventy communities were visited by
this terrible persecution, among them those of Ecija, Huete, Logroño,
Burgos, Carrion, and Ocaña. At Ascalona not a single Jew remained
alive. The thoroughly maddened Christian population meditated a similar
fate for the Moors, or Mahometans, living in the kingdom of Seville.
The more prudent among them, however, pointed out the danger of such
a step, reminding them that the Christians living in the Mahometan
kingdom of Granada, or held as prisoners by the Moors on the other side
of the straits of Gibraltar, might be sacrificed in retaliation. The
massacre of the Moors was consequently abandoned. The Jews alone were
made to drain the cup of bitterness to the dregs, because they were
too weak to protect themselves. Nothing demonstrates more impressively
that the clergy had succeeded in transforming the people into a race of

In the kingdom of Aragon, where both ruler and people were opposed to
Castile, and, as a rule, held that to be wrong which in the latter
state was considered right, the hatred and persecution of the Jews
were promoted with the same zeal. Here the government was in the
hands of the weak but well-meaning king, Juan I, who, absorbed by his
love of music and the chase, wielded but little authority, and was
the laughing-stock of his generally uncultured subjects. About three
weeks after the outbreak at Toledo, the inhabitants of the province of
Valencia rose against the Jews (Ab 7th-July 9th). Of the 5,000 souls
that constituted the Jewish community in the city of Valencia, not one
was left. Some 250 were murdered, a few saved themselves by flight,
and the rest embraced Christianity. Throughout the length and breadth
of the kingdom the defenseless Jews were attacked with fire and sword,
the community of Murviedro alone being spared.

The sanguinary madness then crossed the sea, and alighted on the island
of Majorca. In the capital, Palma, a crowd of roughs and sailors
paraded the Monte-Zion street, in which the Jews resided, and holding
aloft a cross, rudely formed by tying together two cudgels, shouted
"Death to the Jews" (August 2d-Ellul 1st). One sturdy Jew, assaulted
by the rabble, ventured to defend himself, and severely punished his
assailants. Hereupon the mob broke out in uncontrollable violence, and
300 martyrs fell to its fury. Among the victims was the rabbi, En-Vidal
Ephraim Gerundi, whose controversy with Solomon Zarfati has already
been referred to. A large number of Jews here also sought safety in

Three days later, as if by previous arrangement, the Jew-massacres
began in Barcelona, one of the proudest homes of Jewish intelligence.
The great wealth which the Jews of this city had acquired by their
extensive maritime commerce appears to have excited the envy of the
Christians, and tempted them to outrage. On the 5th August, a Sabbath,
on which was held a minor festival in honor of Mary, the mob attacked
the Jews as if to honor their queen of heaven with human sacrifices.
In the first assault, close upon 250 victims fell. The larger portion
of the community were harbored and cared for in the citadel by the
governor of the town; but here again the rabble opposed the nobility.
They attacked the citadel with crossbows, laid siege to it in due form,
and ultimately set it on fire. When the imprisoned Jews saw that there
was no longer a chance of being saved, a large number slew themselves
with their own hands, or threw themselves from the walls. Others
sallied forth from the fortress to meet their assailants in the open
field, and fell in honorable combat. Among the martyrs was the noble
Chasdaï Crescas' young and only son, then on the eve of his marriage.
Eleven thousand Jews are said to have been baptized on this occasion.
Only a very few escaped, and not one remained in Barcelona. The same
fate befell the communities of Lerida, Gerona, and other towns, in
each case a large number of Jews being murdered, some being baptized,
and a very few escaping by flight. In Gerona, where the community was
distinguished for rigid piety, the number of converts to Christianity
was exceedingly small, the rabbis setting their flocks an example
by their steadfastness and contempt for death. In Catalonia, as in
Valencia, but few Jews were spared, and they owed their good fortune to
the protection received--in exchange, of course, for large sums of
money--in the castles of the nobility. In Aragon itself the outbreaks
were not so serious, as the Jewish communities had made a timely and
prudent offer of all their wealth for the protection of the court.

For three months fire and sword raged unresisted in the majority of
the Spanish Jewries. When the storm abated, the Jews remaining were
so broken in spirit that they did not venture forth from their places
of refuge. The sad occurrences were described in a heart-breaking,
tearful epistle to the community of Perpignan, which Chasdaï Crescas,
who had been robbed of an only son and his entire fortune, penned in
answer to their sympathetic inquiries. Thus, to Spanish Jews came
the tragical fate which had befallen their German brethren, hardly
half a century before, at the time of the Black Death. They also had
acquired materials for bitter songs of lamentation, which they inserted
in the Jewish liturgy. But the consequences of the persecution were
even more terrible than the persecution itself. Their pride was
completely crushed, and their spirit permanently darkened. They who
had formerly held their heads so proudly aloft, now slunk timidly
along, anxiously avoiding every Christian as a possible murderer or
instigator of murderous assaults. If hundred Jews were assembled, and a
single rough abused them, they fled like a flock of frightened birds.
This persecution gave them their first experience of the bitterness
of exile, for, notwithstanding many untoward circumstances, they had
always imagined themselves secure and at home in Spain. Now, for the
first time, their haughty demeanor was humbled. They were no longer
the men who had so valiantly wielded the sword in the armies of Don
Pedro. In Portugal alone the Jews were free from fanatical attacks.
Its king, Don João I, enjoyed a popularity to which, in a crisis, he
was able to appeal. As his instructions were cheerfully obeyed, he was
able to preserve order and put down outbreaks with a firm hand. The
chief rabbi, Don Moses Navarro, brought under his notice the two bulls
of the popes Clement VI and Boniface IX, in which force was forbidden
in converting Jews. The king immediately issued an order (July 17th,
1392) prohibiting persecutions. Wide publicity was given to the bulls
in every town in Portugal, and they were inserted among the statutes of
the realm. Portugal thus became an asylum for the persecuted Jews of

The Jews of the south of France were not entirely exempted from the
horrors of this persecution. The tempest which had crossed the sea to
the island of Majorca also whirled over the snow-capped Pyrenees, and
caught up the Jews of Provence in its deadly eddies. No sooner was
intelligence received of the bloody massacres of the Jews of Spain than
the populace of Provence rose, and began to plunder and murder their
Jewish neighbors.

The Jews in France had been permitted to settle in the country only
for a specified time, and, although this term was frequently extended,
their thoughts were necessarily always directed towards possible
banishment. They were compelled to amass and keep in readiness
sufficient money to enable them, at any moment, to start life afresh
in another land. Like their ancestors in Egypt, they were ready for an
exodus, their loins girded, their shoes on their feet, and their staffs
in their hands. Although the acquisition of land was allowed them,
they were obliged to concentrate themselves on the money business,
and pursue the advantages offered by each moment. Necessity made
them usurers. Some among them charged a higher rate of interest than
permitted by the privileges granted them, and exacted even compound
interest from dilatory debtors. But it was the king himself who forced
them to immoderate, exasperating usury, by the extravagant demands
he made upon their purses to meet the expenses of his wars, and the
Jews could fulfill his demands only by transgressing the laws, but
their exactions naturally rendered them hateful in the eyes of the
general public. That Jewish creditors frequently had ill-intentioned
or tardy Christian debtors imprisoned to force them to discharge their
liabilities tended to increase the bitterness. The exercise of this
right was regarded as a triumph of "the children of the devil over the
children of heaven." The public became so angered at their possessing
the privilege that the king, Charles VI, was obliged to abolish it. On
the other hand, the necessity of maintaining the privilege was shown to
be so imperative--the Jews being threatened with the entire loss of
their outstanding debts--that the king and parliament had to grant it
a month later in a modified form. They permitted the Jews to imprison
only the debtors who, in their bonds, made themselves answerable with
their bodies.

A trifling circumstance sufficed to kindle into a flame these embers
of Jew-hatred in France. A wealthy Israelite, Denys Machault, of
Villa-Parisis, became a convert to Christianity, and then suddenly
disappeared. The affair became the subject of strange rumors. Some said
that he had been murdered by Jews; others that he had been hurried
abroad with a view to providing him with an easy means of returning to
Judaism. The clergy interested themselves in the mystery, fanatical
appeals were made to the people, and, eventually, the Paris tribunals
prosecuted seven prominent Hebrews. A commission of priests and
lawyers subjected the accused to the rack, and extorted the confession
that they had advised Denys Machault to abandon his new faith. The
commission condemned them to the stake as promoters of apostasy from
Christianity. Parliament substituted an apparently milder punishment.
It ordered the accused to be scourged in three of the public places
of Paris, kept in goal until Denys Machault re-appeared, and then,
stripped of all their possessions, expelled the country. From the
publicity given to this affair, it created an extraordinary sensation,
and still further inflamed the popular passions against the Jews.

For about three months the court extended a protecting wing over
the unfortunate Jews, but soon withdrew it in face of the stormy,
menacing clamor of the clergy and people. At last the enemies of the
Jews prevailed upon the king to promulgate the order of banishment.
Doubtless with malice aforethought the day chosen for the issue of
the decree was the solemn Fast of Atonement (September 17th, 1394),
when the Jews were afflicting their souls during the entire day in the
synagogues. The prolonged term granted for their sojourn in the country
not having expired, it became necessary to put forward an excuse for
ignoring the convention. The royal decree was not able to impute to
the Jews specific crimes or misdemeanors, and, consequently, confined
itself to vague generalities. It had been reported to his majesty
by trustworthy persons, including many of his lieutenants and other
officials, that complaints had been made concerning offenses committed
by the Jews against the Christian religion and the special laws drawn
up for their control. That meant that they had encouraged baptized
Jews to recant, and had practiced extortionate usury--the latter
Charles had partly approved and partly condoned. The decree then stated
that his majesty had made the irrevocable law that henceforth no Jews
should be allowed to reside or tarry in any part of France, either in
Languedoil or Languedoc (northern and southern France).

Thus, ninety years after their first expulsion by Philip le Bel, and
after a second sojourn of thirty-four years, the French Jews were
compelled once more to grasp the wanderer's staff. Charles, however,
dealt more leniently with them than his heartless ancestor. They were
not, as before, robbed of all their possessions, and turned adrift
stripped to the skin. On the contrary, Charles VI issued orders to
the prevôt of Paris and his provincial governors, instructing them to
see that no harm come to the Jews, either in their persons or their
chattels, and that they cross the frontier safely. Time was also
allowed them up to the 3d November to collect their debts. They did not
leave France until the end of 1394 or the beginning of the following
year. To some of the nobility and towns the expulsion was not a welcome
measure. Thus, the Count de Foix wished at all hazards to retain the
community of Pamier, and had to be forced by royal officers to expel
the Jews. In Toulouse twelve Jewish families, and in the vicinity
seven more, remained behind, so that they must have received special
indulgences. Jews also remained in the provinces not directly dependent
on the French crown--in the Dauphiné, in Provence proper, and in
Arles, these being fiefs of the German empire. The flourishing seaport,
Marseilles, possessed a Jewish community for a long time after the
expulsion. Even the popes of Avignon tolerated Jews in Avignon and
Carpentras, the chief towns of their small ecclesiastical province
of Venaissin; and here they remained until very recent times, using
a ritual of their own, which differed from that of their Spanish and
their French brethren. The papacy had now little to fear from the
helpless, enfeebled Jews; hence, doubtless, this parade of toleration.

The exiles who failed to find an asylum in the tolerant principalities
of France emigrated to Germany and Italy; only a few directed their
steps to Spain, formerly the most hospitable refuge for persecuted
Jews. Since the massacres of 1391 that country had become a purgatory
to the native Jews, and so long as foreign Jews could find a shelter
elsewhere, they naturally avoided its frontiers. French communities
migrated in a body to Piedmont, and settled in the towns of Asti,
Fossano, and Moncalvo, where they could maintain unchanged their old
synagogue ritual. The fate of the larger number of the French exiles
may be described in the words of Amos: "As if a man did flee from
a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his
hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him." Almost everywhere they were
met with a storm of barbarity, not unfrequently stirred up against
them by baptized Jews. In Germany an apostate named Pessach, who,
with Christianity, had adopted the name of Peter, brought serious
accusations against his brethren in race, with a view to bringing
about another persecution. To the usual charges that the Jews called
Jesus the crucified or the hanged, and that they cursed the Christian
clergy in one of their prayers, Pessach-Peter added others. He stated
that an abusive allusion to Jesus was contained in the sublime Alenu
prayer, which pictures the future reign of God on earth, and he made
other lying and ludicrous charges. The result was that a large number
of the Jews of Prague were arrested and imprisoned (August 3d, 1399).
Among them was the foremost and, perhaps, only really learned German
Jew of the Middle Ages, Lipmann (Tab-Yomi) of Mühlhausen, a scholar
accomplished alike in Biblical and Talmudical lore, who had read not
only Karaite authors, but also the New Testament in a Latin version.
The clergy called upon him to answer Pessach-Peter's charges. His
defense was forcible, but seems to have had little effect, for on
the day Emperor Wenceslaus was deposed, and Rupert of the Palatinate
elected his successor (August 22d, 1400), seventy-seven Jews were
executed, and three weeks later three more led to the stake.



    The Marranos--The Satirists--Pero Ferrus of Alcala, Diego
    de Valencia, and Villasandino--Astruc Raimuch and Solomon
    Bonfed--Paul de Santa Maria and his Zealous Campaign against
    the Jews--Joshua Ibn-Vives--Profiat Duran (Efodi)--Meïr
    Alguades--The Philosophy of Crescas--Death of Henry III of
    Castile and Unfavorable Change in the Position of the Jews--
    Messianic Dreams of the Kabbalists--Jews seek an Asylum in
    Northern Africa--Simon Duran--Geronimo de Santa Fé, Vincent
    Ferrer and Benedict XIII--Anti-Jewish Edict of Juan II--
    Special Jewish Costume--Conversion of Jews owing to Ferrer's
    Violent Efforts--Disputation at Tortosa--The Jewish Spokesmen
    at the Conference--Incidents of the Meeting--Geronimo
    instigates the Publication of a Bull for the Burning of the
    Talmud--Pope Martin V befriends the Jews.

1391-1420 C.E.

The baptized Jews who had abandoned their faith during the terrible
persecution of 1391 became a source of considerable trouble to their
Spanish brethren. They had embraced the cross only to save their lives,
or the lives of those dear to them; for, surely, they had found no
convincing demonstration of the truth of the Christian religion in
the violence of its missionaries, or in the death agonies of their
brethren in race who had perished rather than apostatize. Dazed and
broken-hearted, these forced converts (Anusim) to Christianity felt
more intense antipathy to their new religion than when they had been
openly opposed to it. It was natural for them to resolve to take the
first opportunity of casting away their disguise, and returning to
Judaism with increased zeal. Many of these new Christians emigrated to
the neighboring Moorish countries; to Granada or across the straits
to Morocco, Tunis, or Fez, where the people, wiser and more tolerant
than Christian Europe, gladly opened their doors to a wealthy and
industrious race. The majority, unable to leave Spanish territory,
yet averse to wholly discarding their ancient faith, joined in Jewish
ceremonies and celebrations whilst outwardly appearing Christians.
The kings of Castile, Aragon and Majorca, who had disapproved of
conversions by mob violence, allowed the Jews to do as they pleased.
The authorities either did not or would not see their relapse into
Judaism, and the Inquisition had not yet been established in Spain.
These forced converts gradually formed themselves into a peculiar
class, outwardly Christians, at heart Jews. By the populace, who
nicknamed them Marranos, or "The Damned," they were regarded with
more distrust and hatred than the openly observant Jews, not because
of their secret fidelity to Judaism, but on account of their descent
and inborn intelligence, energy, and skill. Baptized Jews, who had
been glad to disencumber themselves of their Judaism, shared in these
feelings of aversion. They were the worldlings who valued wealth, rank,
and luxury above religion, or the over-educated whose philosophy had
led them to skepticism, and whose selfishness induced them to welcome
a change which brought them out of the narrow confines of a small
community, and opened up a wider world to them. Their hearts had never
been with Judaism, and they had adhered to it only out of respect
or a certain compunction. To them, forced baptism was a relief from
chafing fetters, a welcome coercion to overcome scruples which had
always sat lightly upon them. For their own advantage they simulated
devotion to Christianity, but were on that account neither better nor
more religious men. The unscrupulous among them found special pleasure
in the persecution of their former religion and its followers. To
gratify their malice, they brought charges against rabbis and other
representative Jews, or any member of the community, thus endangering
the existence of the whole body of Jews in the country. It was bad
enough that the latter had been robbed of so many able and learned men
--physicians, authors, poets--and that the church had been enriched
by their wealth and intelligence; but these very forces were used to
inflict further mischief on the Jews that had remained steadfast.
Knowing the faults of their former brethren, the converts could easily
attack them. Don Pero Ferrus, a baptized Jew, made the community and
rabbis of Alcala the target for his ridicule. In a poem he represents
himself exhausted from want of sleep finding repose at last in the
synagogue of this town, when suddenly he is disturbed, and scared away
without mercy by "Jews with long beards and slovenly garments come
thither for early morning prayer." A sharp rejoinder to this effort of
Ferrus' "buffoon tongue" was put forth by a Jewish poet in the name
of the Alcala community. Spanish poetry reaped considerable advantage
from these passages at arms. Verse, up to that period starched, solemn,
and stately as the punctilious ceremonial of the Madrid court, in the
hands of Judæo-Christian satirists acquired the flexibility, wit and
merriment of neo-Hebraic poetry at its best. This tone and style were
gradually adopted by Christian poets, who borrowed expressions from
Jewish writers to give point to their epigrams. Not only the apostate,
the monk, Diego de Valencia, used Hebrew words in lampoons on the Jews,
but the same practice was adopted with surprising dexterity by the
Christian satirist, Alfonso Alvarez de Villasandino, the "poet prince"
of his day. A malicious critic might have been inclined to say that
Spanish poetry was in process of being Judaized.

A few of the new-Christians showed as active a zeal in the propagation
of Christianity as if they had been born Dominicans, or as if they felt
isolated in their new faith among the old Christians, and yearned for
the companionship of their former friends. A newly-baptized physician,
Astruc Raimuch, of Fraga, who, as a Jew, had been a pillar of
orthodoxy, exerted himself to make converts, taking to himself the name
of Francisco God-flesh (Dios-Carne). He spread his snares particularly
with a view to entrapping one of his young friends. A fluent writer of
Hebrew, Astruc-Francisco drew up a letter in that language, dwelling on
the decline of Judaism and enthusiastically propounding the dogmas of
Christianity. His applications of Biblical texts to the doctrines of
the Trinity, Original Sin, Redemption, and the Lord's Supper, appear
almost droll in Hebrew. His friend's answer was meek and evasive, every
word carefully weighed to avoid offending the delicate sensibilities
of the church and its zealous servants. More spirited was the reply
of the satirical poet, Solomon ben Reuben Bonfed, who in rhymed prose
set himself to confute Astruc-Francisco's arguments with unsparing
incisiveness. Apologizing in his introduction for interfering between
two friends, he proceeded to point out that as a Jew the questions
discussed concerned him nearly, whilst the misstatements made rendered
it impossible for him to remain silent. Solomon Bonfed examined
somewhat minutely the dogmas of the Incarnation, Original Sin, and
Transubstantiation, showing them to be irrational and untenable. He
justly said: "You twist and distort the Bible text to establish the
Trinity. Had you a Quaternity, you would demonstrate it quite as
strikingly and convincingly from the books of the Old Testament."

Of all the Jews baptized in 1391, however, none inflicted so much
injury on his former brethren as Rabbi Solomon Levi of Burgos (born
1351-1352, died 1435), who as a Christian rose to very important
ecclesiastical and political dignities under the name of Paul
Burgensis, or de Santa Maria. Previous to his change of creed he
had been a rabbi, and he was well versed in Biblical, Talmudical,
and Rabbinical literature. As a Jew he was extremely orthodox and
punctilious, passing in his own circle for a pillar of the faith. His
nature was, however, shrewd and calculating. Ambitious and vain to the
last degree, he soon began to regard as too narrow his sphere of action
within the walls of the college, which during a long period counted him
amongst its students and teachers. He longed for a life of bustling
activity. To obtain a state appointment, he sought access to court, and
began to live like a grandee, with equipage and horses and numerous
retinue. It was his ambition to become a Jewish Almoxarif or even to
obtain a higher appointment. His occupations bringing him into daily
contact with Christians, and frequently involving him in religious
controversies, he devoted some attention to church literature, in
order to be able to make a display of learning. The massacres of 1391
dissipated his last hope of obtaining high preferment as a Jew, and
he consequently resolved, in his fortieth year, to be baptized. To
derive the best advantage from his conversion, the new Christian,
Paul de Santa Maria, caused it to be understood that he had embraced
Christianity willingly, as a result of the convincing arguments put
forth in the theological writings of the schoolman Thomas Aquinas. The
Jews received such protestations with distrust. Knowing him well, they
did not scruple to ascribe his conversion to a craving for rank and
power. After his change of creed, his family, wife and sons, renounced

For a commoner, the only road to high office lay through the church.
Solomon-Paul knew this well, and at once proceeded to Paris and
attended the University, where he pursued theology. His knowledge
of Hebrew gave him a great advantage, and helped him to distinguish
himself. It was not long before the quondam rabbi became a duly
ordained Catholic priest. Then he betook himself to the papal court
at Avignon, where the haughty, obstinate, and proselytizing cardinal,
Pedro de Luna, reigned as anti-pope under the title of Benedict XIII.
Here, during the stormy church schism, favorable opportunities for
intrigue and personal advancement presented themselves. Paul won the
pope's favor by his shrewdness, zeal, and eloquence. He was appointed
archdeacon of Trevinjo and canon of Seville, his first steps on the
ladder of the Catholic hierarchy. He abandoned himself to the most
ambitious dreams: he might become a bishop, a cardinal, and why not
the pope? The times were propitious. He boasted that he was descended
from the most ancient and the noblest branch of the Hebrew race, the
tribe of Levi, the same that had given birth to Mary, the mother of
Jesus. He was not an ordinary priest sprung from the people, but had
ancestors bound to be acknowledged and distinguished by the church. On
the recommendation of the pope, he was later on overwhelmed with honors
and favors by the king of Castile, Don Henry III, and his ambition was

The apostasy of so respected a rabbi as Solomon Burgensis not only
created the greatest astonishment among Jews, but filled them with
anxiety. Would this example not find imitators in a time of so much
trouble and temptation? Would it not bias waverers, or at least
encourage pretending Christians to persevere in the course begun? The
prevailing disquietude was increased when it was found that after
his own conversion Paul considered it his duty to convert his former
co-religionists. To this end he left no stone unturned. With voice
and pen he assailed Judaism, seeking his weapons in Jewish literature
itself. Not long after his conversion he addressed a letter to his
former acquaintance, Joseph (José) Orabuena, physician in ordinary
to King Charles III of Navarre, and chief rabbi of the Navarrese
communities, in which he stated that he acknowledged and honored Jesus
as the Messiah whose advent had been foretold by the prophets, and
invited Orabuena to follow his example. To another chief rabbi, Don
Meïr Alguades, physician in ordinary to the Castilian king, Don Henry
III, Paul de Santa Maria addressed a Hebrew satire in prose and verse,
in which he ridiculed the innocent celebration of the Jewish feast of
Purim. As if grudging the Jews the moderate pleasures in which they
indulged during this festival, he exaggerated their love of drink, and
boasted of his own sobriety. Paul evinces in this satire considerable
skill in handling the new-Hebrew language, but, notwithstanding his
opportunities, he exhibits little wit.

As soon as he had acquired a position at the papal court at Avignon, he
devoted himself to calumniating the Jews with a view to bringing about
new persecutions. His purpose became so obvious that the cardinal of
Pampeluna himself, and other ecclesiastics, ordered him to desist. It
is true the Jews had to pay dearly for his silence. He also intrigued
against Chasdaï Crescas. So far did this apostate carry his enmity
to Judaism that he advised the king, Don Henry III, to abstain from
employing both Jews and new-Christians in state offices. Did he wish
to render impossible the rivalry of some fellow-Hebrew, his superior
in adroitness? In his writings Paul de Santa Maria exhibited as much
hatred of Judaism as of Jews. While the Franciscan monk, Nicholas
de Lyra, a born Christian, held up the works of Jewish commentators
like Rashi as models of simple exegesis, the former rabbi found
every observation of a Rabbinical writer insipid, nonsensical, and
scandalous. On the other hand, the most ridiculous commentary of a
church writer was to him a lofty, unsurpassable work.

Thoughtful Jews were not slow to recognize their bitterest foe in
this new-Christian, and they prepared for a severe struggle with him,
notwithstanding that their choice of weapons was limited. Christians
were not only free to say what they pleased in demonstration and
defense of their doctrines, but could appeal to the summary authority
of the sword and the dungeon. Jews were forced to all kinds of
circumlocution and ambiguity to avoid provoking the violence of their
adversaries. The gallant stand of a mere handful of Jews against power
and arrogance should excite the admiration of all whose sympathies are
not with victorious tyranny, but with struggling right.

The campaign against Paul de Santa Maria was opened by a young man,
Joshua ben Joseph Ibn-Vives of Lorca (Allorqui), a physician and an
Arabic scholar, who had formerly sat at the feet of the renegade
rabbi. In an humble epistle, as though a docile pupil were addressing
an illustrious master, Joshua Allorqui administered many a delicate
reproof to his apostate teacher, and at the same time, by his naïve
doubts, dealt destructive blows at the fundamental doctrines of
Christianity. He observes in his introduction that the conversion of
his beloved teacher had to him more than to others been a source of
astonishment and reflection, as his example had been a main support
of his own religious belief. He was at a loss to conceive the motives
of the sudden change. He could not think that he had been led away by
desire for worldly distinction, "for I well remember," he says, "how,
surrounded by riches and attendants, thou didst yearn for thy former
humble state with its life of retirement and study, and how it was thy
wont to speak of thy high position as empty mockery of happiness." Nor
could he suppose that Paul's Jewish convictions had been disturbed
by philosophic doubt, as up to the moment of his baptism he had
conscientiously observed all the ceremonial laws, and had known how to
discriminate between the kernel of philosophic truth which harmonizes
with religion and the pernicious shell which so often passes for the
real teaching. Could it be that the sanguinary persecution of the Jews
had led him to doubt the possibility of the enduring power of Judaism?
But even this theory was untenable, for Paul could not be unaware
of the fact that only a minority of Jews live under Christian rule,
that the larger numbers sojourn in Asia, and enjoy a certain degree
of independence; so that if it pleased God to allow the communities
in Christian lands to be extirpated, the Jewish race would not by any
means disappear from the face of the earth. There remained, continued
Joshua Vives of Lorca, the assumption that Paul had carefully studied
Christianity, and had come to the conclusion that its dogmas were well
founded. He begged him, therefore, to impart to him the convictions at
which he had arrived, and thus dissipate the doubts which he (Joshua)
still entertained as to the truth of Christianity. Allorqui then
detailed the nature of his doubts, covertly but forcibly attacking the
Christian system. Every sentence in this epistle was calculated to cut
the Jew-hating new-Christian to the quick. The evasive and embarrassed
reply, which Paul indited later on, clearly indicated how he had winced
under this attack.

The philosopher, Chasdaï Crescas, also came forward in gallant defense
of the religion of his fathers. He composed (1396) a polemical treatise
(Tratado), in which he tested philosophically the Christian articles of
faith, and demonstrated their untenableness. This work was addressed
to Christians more than to Jews, and was particularly intended for the
perusal of Spaniards of high rank whose friendship Chasdaï Crescas
enjoyed. Hence it was written not in Hebrew but in Spanish, which
the author employed with ease, and its tone was calm and moderate.
Chasdaï Crescas set forth the unintelligibility of the doctrines of
the Fall, the Redemption, the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Immaculate
Conception, and Transubstantiation, and examined the value of baptism,
the coming of Jesus, and the relation of the New Testament to the Old,
with dispassionate deliberation, as if he did not know that he was
dealing with questions which might at any moment light the fires of an

At about the same time an accomplished Marrano, who had relapsed
into Judaism, published a pungent attack on Christianity and the
new-Christians. In the entire history of Judæo-Christian controversy no
such stinging satire had been produced on the Jewish side as that now
issued by the physician, astronomer, historical student, and grammarian
Profiat Duran. During the bloody persecution of 1391 in Catalonia,
Profiat Duran, otherwise Isaac ben Moses, or, as he called himself in
his works, Efodi (Ephodæus), had been forced to simulate conversion
to Christianity. He was joined by his friend David Bonet Buen-Giorno.
Both resolved at a convenient opportunity to abandon their hated
mask and emigrate to Palestine, where they could freely acknowledge
Judaism. Their affairs being arranged, Profiat Duran traveled to a
seaport town in the south of France, and there awaited his friend.
The latter, in the meantime, was sought out by or came across the
Jew-hating apostate, Solomon Paul de Santa Maria, and was prevailed
upon to remain a Christian. What was Profiat Duran's astonishment when
he received a letter announcing, with much exultant vaporing, the
definite acknowledgment of Christianity by En Bonet, who exhorted him
also to remain in the pale of his adopted faith. The letter contained
an enthusiastic panegyric of Paul de Santa Maria, who had been taken
into the favor of the king of Castile. Profiat Duran could not remain
silent. In reply, he inflicted punishment on his friend, and more
particularly on the proselytizing Paul, in an epistle characterized
by the keenest irony, which has not yet lost its sting. It pretends
to assent to everything advanced by Bonet, and to confirm him in his
resolve to remain a Christian. "Be not ye like your fathers" (Altehi
ka-Abothecha) is the refrain throughout, and so artfully is this
admonition employed that Christians used it (under the title Alteca
Boteca) as an apology for Christianity. Whilst thus pretending to
criticise the errors of the older faith, Profiat Duran dwells on the
Christian dogmas, naïvely describing them in their most reprehensible
form. He concentrates on the weaknesses of Christianity the full light
of reason, Scriptural teaching and philosophic deduction, apparently
with no desire to change his friend's intention. A portion of the
satire is directed against the Jew-hater Paul de Santa Maria, upon
whom Bonet had bestowed unstinted praise. "Thou art of opinion that he
may succeed in becoming pope, but thou dost not inform me whether he
will go to Rome, or remain at Avignon"--a cutting reference to the
papal schism distracting the church. "Thou extollest him for having
made efforts to free Jewish women and children from the obligation of
wearing the Jew badge. Take the glad tidings to the women and children.
For myself, I have been told that he preached mischief against the
Jews, and that the cardinal of Pampeluna was compelled to order him
to be silent. Thou art of opinion that he, thy teacher, will soon
receive the miter or a cardinal's hat. Rejoice, for then thou also
must acquire honors, and wilt become a priest or a Levite." Towards
the end Profiat Duran changes irony into a tone of seriousness: he
prays his former friend not to bear as a Christian the name of his
respected father who, had he been alive, would sooner have had no son
than one faithless to his religion. As it is, his soul in Paradise
will bewail the faithlessness of his son. This satirical epistle was
circulated as a pamphlet. Its author sent copies not only to his former
friend, but also to the physician of the king of Castile, the chief
rabbi, Don Meïr Alguades. So telling was the effect produced, that the
clergy, as soon as they discovered its satirical character, made it the
subject of judicial inquiry, and committed it to the flames. At the
request of Chasdaï Crescas, Profiat Duran wrote another anti-Christian
work, not, however, a satire, but in the grave language of historical
investigation. In this essay he showed, from his intimate acquaintance
with the New Testament and the literature of the church, how in course
of time Christianity had degenerated.

Favored and promoted by the anti-pope, Benedict XIII, of Avignon, Paul
of Burgos rose higher and higher; he became bishop of Carthagena,
chancellor of Castile and privy counselor to the king, Don Henry III.
His malice did not succeed in prejudicing the king against the Jews,
or inducing him to bar them from state employment. Don Henry had two
Jewish physicians, in whom he reposed especial confidence. One, Don
Meïr Alguades, an astronomer and philosopher, he appointed, perhaps in
imitation of Portugal, to the chief rabbinate of the various Castilian
communities. He was always in the king's train, and it is probable that
to some extent he influenced him favorably towards his co-religionists.
The other was Don Moses Zarzel (Çarçal), who celebrated in rich Spanish
verse the long wished for birth of an heir to the Castilian throne,
borrowing the beauties of the neo-Hebraic poetry to do honor to the
newly-born prince, in whose hands, he prophesied, the various states
of the Pyrenean Peninsula would be united. The calm, as between two
storms, which the Spanish Jews enjoyed during the reign of Don Henry
was favorable to the production of a few literary fruits, almost the
last of any importance brought forth in Spain. None of these works was
epoch-making; they were useful, however, in keeping alive the spirit
of better times, and in preventing the treasures of Jewish literature
from being forgotten. Profiat Duran managed to make people forget
his baptism and to settle down quietly in Spain or Perpignan, where
he commentated Maimuni's philosophy, and some of Ibn-Ezra's works.
He also composed a mathematical and calendarial essay (Chesheb-Efod)
and an historical account of the persecutions to which his race
had been subjected since the dispersion. His best work is a Hebrew
grammar ("Maasé Efod," written about 1403), in which he summarizes the
results of older writers, rectifies their errors, and even attempts to
formulate the principles of Hebrew syntax.

A production of more than common merit was written by Chasdaï Crescas,
now on the brink of the grave, his spirits shattered by persecution. He
was a profound, comprehensive thinker, whose mind never lost itself in
details, but was forever striving to comprehend the totality of things.
His scheme for a work treating, in the manner of Maimuni, of all phases
and aspects of Judaism, investigating the ideas and laws out of which
Jewish teaching had gradually developed, and reharmonizing the details
with the whole where the connection had ceased to be apparent, bears
witness to the extraordinary range of his learning and the perspicacity
of his mind. The work was to be at once a guide to Talmudical study
and a practical handbook. Death appears to have prevented the
accomplishment of this gigantic enterprise, only the philosophic
portion, or introduction, being completed. In this introduction Chasdaï
Crescas deals, on the one hand, with the principles of universal
religion, the existence of God, His omniscience and providence,
human free-will, the design of the universe, and, on the other, with
the fundamental truths of Judaism, the doctrines of the creation,
immortality, and the Messiah.

Crescas was less dominated by the Aristotelian bias of mediæval
philosophy than his predecessors. It had lost its halo for him; he
perceived its weaknesses more clearly than others, and probed them more
deeply. With bold hands he tore down the supports of the vast edifice
of theory constructed by Maimuni on Aristotelian grounds to demonstrate
the existence of God and His relation to the universe, and, conversant
with the whole method of scholastic philosophy, he combated it with
destructive force.

While the philosophy of his day appeared to him thus vague and
illusory, he considered the foundations of Judaism unassailable, and
set himself to show the futility of the criticisms of the former. The
acknowledgment of Divine omniscience led him to the daring statement
that man in his actions is not quite free, that everything is the
necessary result of a preceding occurrence, and that every cause, back
to the very first, is bound to determine the character of the final
action. The human will does not follow blind choice, but is controlled
by a chain of antecedent circumstances and causes. To what extent can
the doctrine of reward and punishment be admitted, if the will is not
free? Chasdaï Crescas' answer to this is that reward and punishment
wait on intentions, not on actions. He who, in purity of heart, wishes
to accomplish good--which must, of course, necessarily follow--
deserves to be rewarded, as the man who willingly promotes evil,
deserves punishment. The highest good to which man can aspire, and the
end of all creation, is spiritual perfection, or bliss everlasting,
not to be obtained, as the philosophers imagine, by filling the mind
with metaphysical theories, but only through the active love of God.
This is the substance of all religion and particularly of Judaism. From
this point of view it may with justice be said that "the world was
created for the sake of the Torah," for the aim of the Law is to lead
to immortality by means of ideas and commandments and the guidance of
thoughts and actions.

Chasdaï Crescas, the first to distinguish between universal religion
and specific forms, such as Judaism and Christianity, propounded,
deviating from Maimuni's system, only eight peculiarly Jewish tenets.
His just objection to Maimuni's thirteen articles of faith was that
they were either too many or too few, inasmuch as they blended
indiscriminately fundamental truths common to all religions, and
teachings peculiar to Judaism.

Together with Profiat Duran and Chasdaï Crescas, Don Meïr Alguades,
the Castilian chief rabbi, appeared, in the brief interval between
two bloody persecutions in Spain, as a writer of philosophic works.
He was not an independent inquirer; he merely translated the ethics
of Aristotle (1405, in collaboration with Benveniste Ibn-Labi) into
Hebrew, making the work accessible to Jews, who, in practical life,
lived up to its principles better than the Greeks, who produced them,
or the Christians, who, in the pride of faith and church doctrine,
considered themselves above the necessity of conforming to the
requirements of morality.

Throughout the reign of Don Henry III of Castile the life of the Jews
was tolerable. The young but vigorous monarch severely punished Fernan
Martinez, the prime mover in the massacres of 1391, as a warning
against further excesses. He permitted the Jews to acquire land,
renewed the law of his ancestor, Alfonso XI, and relieved his Jewish
tax-farmers and finance administrators from restrictions. As soon
as he died (the end of 1406) the affairs of the Jews again took an
unfavorable turn, foreshadowing unhappy times. The heir to the crown,
Juan II, was a child, barely two years old. The regency devolved on
the queen-mother, Catalina (Catherine) of Lancaster, a capricious,
arrogant and bigoted young woman, who imagined that she ruled, while
she was herself ruled by her various favorites. The co-regent, Don
Ferdinand, later king of Aragon, who was intelligent and kind, allowed
himself to be guided by the clergy. By his side in the council of
state sat the apostate rabbi, Solomon _alias_ Paul de Santa Maria,
another and more mischievous Elisha-Acher, in whose eyes Judaism was
an abomination, and every Jew a stumbling-block. The deceased king,
Don Henry III, had appointed him executor of his will and tutor to
his heir; he consequently had an influential voice in the council of
the regency. What a prospect for the Jews of Castile! It was not long
before they were made to feel the hostile spirit of the court. First it
exhibited itself in attempts to humiliate the more notable Jews who had
intercourse with the court circle and the grandees of the kingdom, and
occupied positions of distinction. The intention was to dismiss them
from these positions with the reminder that they belonged to a despised

An edict was issued (October 25th, 1408), in the name of the infant
king, reviving the anti-Jewish statutes of the code of Alfonso the
Wise. "Whereas the exercise of authority by Jews may conduce to the
prejudice of the Christian faith," their occupation of posts in which
they might possess such authority was forbidden for all future time.
Every Jew permitting himself to be invested with official functions,
either by a nobleman or a municipality, was to be fined twice the
amount of the revenue of such post, and, if his fortune did not suffice
to make up the required amount, it would be confiscated, and the
delinquent become liable to a punishment of fifty lashes. A Christian
appointing a Jew to a post of influence would also be punished with
a fine. To insure the working of the edict, it was enacted that the
informer and the court of law concerned in a case should secure each
one-third of the confiscated estates. Officials were charged to make
the edict known everywhere, and carefully to watch that its injunctions
were carried out. It is impossible not to suspect the hand of Paul de
Santa Maria in this decree. No one knew better than he the strong and
the weak points in the character of the Spanish Jews, and he doubtless
calculated that Jewish notables, in danger of losing their official
employment and high social position, would go over to Christianity,
while the faithful, excluded from intercourse with Christian society
and from participation in the public life of the country, would suffer
a decline similar to that of the German Jews.

At the same time he vented his hate on Meïr Alguades, the physician
of the dead king. The queen-regent had no cause to injure this Jewish
notable; only Paul could desire his ruin, because he was the mainstay
of his opponents and the leader of those who held him up to contempt.
With the object of procuring his downfall, a vindictive accusation
was trumped up against him. While the queen-mother, with the infant
king, was staying at Segovia, some priests charged a Jew of the town
with having bought a consecrated host from the sacristan, in order
to blaspheme it. They further stated that the holy wafer had worked
such terrible wonders while in the possession of the Jew, that in fear
and trembling he had delivered it up to the prior of a monastery.
Whether this story was fabricated, or whether there was a grain of
truth in a bushel of fiction, it is impossible to say; it sufficed,
however, to attract the serious attention of the bishop, Velasquez de
Tordesillas, who caused a number of Jews to be arrested as accomplices
in the crime, among them Don Meïr Alguades. Criminal proceedings were
formally commenced by order of the queen-regent, and Alguades and
his fellow-prisoners were subjected to torture, and confessed their
guilt. It is stated that in his agony Meïr Alguades made a confession
of another kind--that the king, Henry III, had come by his death
at his hands. Although everybody knew that the king had been ailing
from his youth, Don Mëir--who must have been specially interrogated
while under torture as to whether he had poisoned the king--was put
to death in the most inhuman manner. He was torn limb from limb. The
same fate befell the other prisoners. Still not satisfied, the bishop
of Segovia accused some Jews of having bribed his cook to poison his
food, and they also were put to death. At about this time one of the
synagogues in Segovia was transformed into a church.

The troubled times, projecting shadows of a still more unhappy future,
produced the melancholy phenomenon of another Messianic frenzy. Again
it arose in the minds of mystics. The Zohar having adroitly been raised
to the dignity of an approved authority, the Kabbala daily acquired
more influence, although it was not studied in proportion to the
zeal with which its authority was advocated. Three Kabbalists were
particularly active in exciting the emotions and turning the heads
of the people--Abraham of Granada, Shem Tob ben Joseph, and Moses
Botarel. The first composed (between 1391 and 1409) a Kabbalistic work,
a farrago of strange names of the Deity and the angels, of transposed
letters, and jugglery with vowels and accents. Abraham of Granada
had the hardihood to teach that those who could not apprehend God
by Kabbalistic methods belonged to the weak in faith, were ignorant
sinners, and like the depraved and the apostate were overlooked by
God, and not found worthy of His special providence. He thought that
the relinquishment of their religion by cultured Jews was explained by
their fatal application to scientific study, and their contempt for the
Kabbala. On the other hand, he professed to see in the persecutions of
1391, and in the conversion of so many prominent Jews to Christianity,
the tokens of the Messianic age, the suffering that must precede it,
and the approach of the redemption. Shem Tob ben Joseph Ibn-Shem Tob
(died 1430) accused the Jewish philosophers, Maimuni, Gersonides, and
others, of seducing the people to heresy and infidelity, and with
being the real cause of apostasy in troubled times. In a work entitled
"Emunoth" he made violent attacks on Jewish thinkers and philosophic
studies generally, and taught that the salvation of Israel lies in the
Kabbala, the oldest Jewish tradition, and the genuine, pure truth. The
entire book is composed of grave charges against the more enlightened
school of Jewish thinkers, and panegyrics of Kabbalistic nonsense.

These two men, Abraham of Granada and Shem Tob, though narrow-minded,
were sincere, differing in this respect from Moses Botarel (or
Botarelo), also a Spaniard, from Cisneros, in Castile, who pursued his
course with fraudulent intent. He gave out that he was a thaumaturge
and prophet; he announced himself even as the Messiah. He prophesied
that in the spring month of 1393 the Messianic age would be ushered
in by extraordinary marvels. Later on he wrote a work full of lies
and delusions. In his pride and boastfulness, he addressed a circular
letter to all the rabbis of Israel, declaring that he was in a position
to solve all doubts, and throw light on all mysteries, that he was
the chief of the great Synhedrin, and a great deal more in the same
charlatanic strain.

As in the days of the oppression by the Visigothic kings, an asylum for
persecuted Jews was formed on that portion of the African coast facing
Spain. Many of the north African towns, such as Algiers, Miliana,
Constantine, Buja, Oran, Tenes, and Tlemçen, were filled with Jews
fleeing from the massacres of 1391, and with new-Christians anxious to
get rid of the Christianity which they had been forced to embrace,
but which they hated cordially. Almost daily there came fresh troops
of refugees from all parts of Spain and Majorca. They transplanted
to their new fatherland their intelligence, wealth, industry, and
commercial enterprise. The Mahometan Berber princes, then more tolerant
and humane than the Christians, received them without imposing a poll
tax. At first the Mahometan population grumbled a little at so sudden
and considerable an increase in the number of inhabitants, fearing
that the price of provisions would be raised. When, however, the
narrow-mindedness and selfishness of their complaints were pointed out
to them by an intelligent kadi they were satisfied, and the Jews were
allowed to settle in their midst in peace. The small Berber communities
formed since the cessation of the Almohade persecution a century
before, acquired greater importance through this immigration. The
new-comers preponderated in numbers over the native Jews, so that the
latter, to a certain extent, were forced to adopt the Spanish communal
organization and the Sephardic ritual. The Spaniards, in fact, became
the leading element in the old African communities.

The distinguished rabbi, Isaac ben Sheshet-Barfat, who had escaped
from Spain and settled in Algiers, was recognized by the king of
Tlemçen as chief rabbi and judge of all the communities. This he owed
to the influence of one of his admirers, Saul Astruc Cohen, a popular
physician and an accomplished man, who not only practiced his art
gratuitously, but spent his fortune in relieving both Mahometan and
Jewish poor. In the name of the king the local rabbis were forbidden
to assume clerical or judicial functions without the authority of
the chief rabbi, Isaac ben Sheshet. This in no way detracted from
the esteem in which Ben Sheshet was held, and applications for the
decision of difficult questions continued to pour in upon him. In
Algiers he continued to oppose wrong-doing with the conscientiousness
and impartiality that had always characterized him. Among the members
of his community was a mischievous personage (Isaac Bonastruc?), who
had considerable influence with the Algerian authorities. Actuated
by self-interest he was desirous of stopping the daily increasing
immigration of Marranos, and to this end persuaded the kadi to
impose a tax of one doubloon on every immigrant. Finding that troops
of fugitives continued to arrive, he set himself to work upon the
selfishness of the community, so that they might oppose any further
influx of their brethren. Fifty-five new-Christians, who had recanted,
from Valencia, Barcelona, and Majorca, were waiting to land in the
harbor of Algiers, but were refused permission by Jews. This was
tantamount to throwing them on the mercy of Christian executioners.
Such selfishness and injustice the chief rabbi, Isaac ben Sheshet,
could not tolerate, and he laid the ban on the heartless Jews, who
tried to escape the punishment. So determined was his attitude that,
with the assistance of Astruc Cohen and his brother, the Marranos were
ultimately brought safe to land. In Africa Ben Sheshet-Barfat worked
for nearly twenty years, promoting the welfare of his co-religionists
and the interests of religion and morality. His declining years were
embittered by the persistent attacks of a young rabbi, Simon ben Zemach
Duran, an able Talmudist, who had emigrated from Majorca.

Ben Sheshet was succeeded on his death by Simon Duran (born 1361, died
1444). The community of Algiers elected him on condition that he did
not seek a ratification of his appointment from the king, probably
because the authority derived by his predecessor from the royal
confirmation had been too uncontrolled. Simon Duran, an accomplished
mathematician and physician, was the first Spanish-Jewish rabbi to
take pay. He publicly excused himself for doing so, on the ground of
his necessitous circumstances. During the persecutions in Majorca a
portion of his large fortune had been lost, and the remainder had been
sacrificed in bribing the informers who threatened to deliver him as a
Judaizing Christian to the Dominican Moloch. He had arrived in Algiers
almost a beggar, and the healing art, by which he had hoped to earn a
subsistence, had brought him nothing, physicians enjoying but little
consideration among the Berbers. Subsequently Simon Duran justified
the payment of rabbis from the Talmud. Were the abbots, bishops, and
princes of the church equally conscientious?

As if the Jews of Spain had not had enough enemies in the poor,
indolent burghers and nobles, who regarded their opulence with so much
jealousy, in the clergy, who cloaked their immorality with zeal for
the propaganda of the faith, or in the upstart converts, who sought
to disguise their Jewish origin by a show of hatred of their former
brethren, there arose at about the beginning of the fifteenth century
three new Jew-haters of the bitterest, most implacable type. One was
a baptized Jew, another a Dominican friar, and the third an abandoned
anti-pope. On these three men, Joshua Lorqui, Fra Vincent Ferrer, and
Pedro de Luna, or Benedict XIII, the responsibility must rest for the
events which directly conduced to the most terrible tragedy in the
history of the Jews of Spain. Joshua Lorqui of Lorca assumed on his
baptism the name Geronimo de Santa Fé, became physician in ordinary
to the Avignon pope, Benedict, and, like his teacher, Solomon-Paul
de Santa Maria, considered it his mission in life to draw his former
brethren over to Christianity by every possible means. Vincent Ferrer,
afterwards canonized, was one of those gloomy natures to whom the
world appears a vale of tears, and who would wish to make it one. In
saint-like virtue, indeed, he stood alone among the clergy and monks
of his day. The pleasures of life had no charm for him; for gold
and worldly distinction he thirsted not; he was penetrated with true
humility, and entered on his work with earnestness. Unfortunately, the
degeneracy and foulness of society had impressed him with the fantastic
idea that the end of the world was at hand, and that mankind could
be saved only by adopting the Christian faith and a monastic mode of
life. Vincent Ferrer consequently revived flagellation. He marched
through the land with a troop of fanatics who scourged their naked
bodies with knotted cords, and incited the masses to adopt the same
form of penance, believing that it would bring about the salvation of
the world. Gifted with a sympathetic voice, an agreeable manner, and
considerable eloquence, this Dominican friar soon obtained ascendancy
over the public mind. When amid sobs he recalled the sufferings of
Jesus, and depicted the approaching end of the world, the emotions of
his auditors became violently agitated, and he could lead them to good
or to evil. He had given up a high position at the papal court to lead
the life of a flagellant and barefooted friar. This helped to increase
the number of his admirers and disciples, for renunciation of position
and wealth on the part of an ecclesiastic was without parallel. Ferrer,
however, abused his power by the promotion of sanguinary deeds.
He directed his fanatical denunciations not only against Jews and
heretics, but even against friends who had helped to raise him from the
dust. The terrible demoralization of the church is illustrated in this
monk. The wrangling of three contemporary popes, each declaring himself
to be the vicegerent of God, one of whom, John XXIII (1410-1415),
had exhausted the catalogue of vices and deadly sins, a pirate, a
trafficker in indulgences, an assassin, and a debauchee--all this did
not so strikingly indicate the prevailing degeneracy as the fanatical
excesses of one really pure, moral nature like Vincent Ferrer. The
dove had become transformed into a venomous snake, the lamb into a
rapacious beast. So much viciousness cannot be spontaneous in human
character, in the adherents of Christianity; it must have been derived
from the Christian teaching itself.

Unlike Wycliffe and other reformers, Ferrer did not raise his voice
against the shortcomings of the church, but devoted himself to Jews
and heretics, whom he hated as adversaries of Christianity and
opponents of the infallibility of the pope. With pen and voice he
opened a crusade against Jews, which he sustained for several years.
His most vehement invective was aimed at the Spanish new-Christians,
who during the massacres of 1391 had gone over to the church, but
still largely conformed to Judaism. Partly from fear of incurring the
severe punishment attaching to apostasy, partly won over by the fiery
eloquence of the preacher, the Marranos made a contrite confession
of faith, which Ferrer regarded as a great victory for the church, a
triumph for the truths of Christianity, leading him to hope that the
conversion of the entire body of Jews might be vouchsafed to him. By
his influence with the people, who honored him as a saint, he was very
useful to the kings of Spain in putting down popular risings during the
civil wars without bloodshed. Encouraged by the consideration of the
Castilian royal family, Ferrer craved permission not only to preach
in the synagogues and mosques, but to force Jews and Mahometans to
listen to his addresses. A crucifix in one arm, the Torah in the other,
escorted by flagellants and spearmen, he called upon the Jews, "with a
terrible voice," to enrol themselves under the cross.

Seraphic as he was, Vincent Ferrer was not averse to the employment of
force. He represented to the Spanish rulers that the Jews should be
strictly isolated, as their intercourse with the Christian population
was calculated to injure the true faith. His suggestions met with
too ready a response. Through him and the other two conversionists,
unspeakable sorrows were brought upon the Spanish Jews; indeed,
the years from 1412 to 1415 may be reckoned among the saddest in
the sorrowful history of the Jewish people. Shortly after Ferrer's
appearance at the most Christian court, the regent Donna Catalina, the
Infante Don Ferdinand, and the apostate Paul Burgensis de Santa Maria,
in the name of the child-king, Juan II, issued an edict of twenty-four
articles (January 12th, 1412), the aim of which was to impoverish
and humiliate the Jews, and reduce them to the lowest grade in the
social scale. It ordered that they should live in special Jew-quarters
(Juderias), provided with not more than one gate each, under pain of
confiscation of fortune and personal chastisement. No handicraft was to
be exercised by them; they were not to practice the healing art, nor
transact business with Christians. It goes without saying that they
were forbidden to hire Christian servants and fill public offices.
Their judicial autonomy was abolished, not only in criminal cases, in
which they had long ceased to exercise it, but also in civil disputes.
The edict prescribed a special costume for the Jews. Both men and women
were to wear long garments, in the case of males, of coarse stuffs.
Whoever dressed in the national costume, or in fine materials, became
liable to a heavy fine; on a repetition of the offense, to corporal
punishment and confiscation of property. The wearing of the red Jew
badge was, of course, insisted upon. Males were prohibited from shaving
the beard or cutting the hair under pain of one hundred lashes. No Jew
was to be addressed, either in conversation or in writing, by the title
"Don," to the infringement of which a heavy fine was also attached.
They were interdicted from carrying weapons, and might no longer move
from town to town, but were to be fixed to one place of abode. The Jew
detected in an evasion of the latter restriction was to lose his entire
property, and be made a bondman of the king. Grandees and burghers were
sternly enjoined to afford not the slightest protection to Jews.

It is not unwarrantable to assume the influence of the apostate Paul
de Santa Maria in the details of these Jew-hating laws. They singled
out the most sensitive features of the Jewish character, pride and
sense of honor. Wealthy Jews, in the habit of appearing in magnificent
attire and with smoothly-shaven chins, were now to don a disfiguring
costume, and go about with stubbly, ragged beards. The cultivated, who
as physicians and advisers of the grandees had enjoyed unrestricted
intercourse with the highest ranks, were to confine themselves to
their Jew quarter, or be baptized, baptism being the hoped-for result
of all these cruel restrictions, enforced with merciless vigor. A
contemporary writer (Solomon Alami) describes the misery caused by the
edict: "Inmates of palaces were driven into wretched nooks, and dark,
low huts. Instead of rustling apparel we were obliged to wear miserable
clothes, which drew contempt upon us. Prohibited from shaving the
beard, we had to appear like mourners. The rich tax-farmers sank into
want, for they knew no trade by which they could gain a livelihood, and
the handicraftsmen found no custom. Starvation stared everyone in the
face. Children died on their mothers' knees from hunger and exposure."

Amid this tribulation the Dominican Ferrer invaded the synagogues,
crucifix in hand, preached Christianity in a voice of thunder, offering
his hearers enjoyment of life and opportunities of preferment, or
threatening damnation here and hereafter. The Christian populace,
inflamed by the passionate eloquence of the preacher, emphasized his
teaching by violent assaults on the Jews. The trial was greater than
the unhappy Castilian Jews could bear. Flight was out of the question,
for the law forbade it under a terrible penalty. It is not surprising,
then, that the weak and lukewarm among them, the comfort-loving and
worldly-minded, succumbed to the temptation, and saved themselves by
baptism. Many Jews in the communities of Valladolid, Zamora, Salamanca,
Toro, Segovia, Avila, Benavente, Leon, Valencia, Burgos, Astorga, and
other small towns, in fact, wherever Vincent Ferrer preached, went
over to Christianity. Several synagogues were turned into churches
by Ferrer. In the course of his four months' sojourn (December,
1412-March, 1413) in the kingdom of Castile, this proselyte-monger
inflicted wounds upon the Jews from which they bled to death.

When, however, he repaired to the kingdom of Aragon--summoned thither
to advise on the rival claims of several pretenders to the throne--
and when through his exertion the Castilian Infante, Don Ferdinand,
was awarded the Aragonese crown (June, 1414), a trifling improvement
took place in the condition of the Castilian Jews. The regent, Donna
Catalina, issued a new edict in the name of her son (17th July).
In this document the Jews were still interdicted the exercise of
handicrafts, but were allowed, under a multitude of conditions, to
visit markets with their merchandise. The prohibition to hire Christian
or Mahometan domestics was confirmed; but, on the other hand, the
employment of day-laborers and gardeners for the fields and vineyards
of Jews, and shepherds for their flocks, was permitted. The new law
triflingly allowed Jews to trim their hair and to clip with shears, but
not entirely remove, their beards; a fringe of hair was ordered to be
left on the chin, and shaving with the razor was forbidden, as though
the queen-regent and her sage counselors were anxious that Jewish
orthodoxy should not be wronged. The new decree conceded the wearing of
dress materials of a value of sixty maravedis (under the former edict
the value had been fixed at half this sum), but imposed a funnel-shaped
head-covering, to which it was forbidden to attach tassels. The
vehemence with which the edict declaimed against the ostentation of
Jewish women disclosed its female authorship. Under this decree,
freedom of domicile was once more accorded to Jews. It is noteworthy
that the new edict applied only to Jews, whereas its predecessor
restricted Mahometans as well.

With the transfer of the fanatical Ferrer to Aragon, the communities
of that kingdom began to experience trials and misfortunes. The
newly-elected king, Don Ferdinand, owed his crown to Ferrer, for as
arbitrator between the rival pretenders he had warmly espoused his
cause, proclaimed him king, and united the populace in his favor.
Ferdinand consequently paid exceptional veneration to his saintliness,
appointed him his father-confessor and spiritual adviser, and granted
him his every wish. Foremost among Ferrer's aspirations was the
conversion of the Jews, and to advance it the king commanded the Jews
of Aragon to give every attention to his discourses. The zealous
proselytizer made a tour of the kingdom, vehemently denouncing the Jews
in every town he visited. His intimidations succeeded in converting a
large number, particularly in Saragossa, Daroca, Tortosa, Valencia, and
Majorca. Altogether Ferrer's mission to the Jews of Castile and Aragon
is said to have resulted in not less than 20,500 forced baptisms.

This, however, did not end the woes of Spanish Jews. Pope Benedict XIII
had still worse troubles in store for them, employing as his instrument
his newly-baptized Jewish physician, Joshua Lorqui, otherwise Geronimo
de Santa Fé. This pope, deposed by the council of Pisa as schismatic,
heretic and forsworn, deprived of his spiritual functions and put
under the ban, projected the conversion of the entire body of Jews in
Spain to the church, at that time the object of universal opprobrium.
On the Pyrenean peninsula he was still regarded as the legitimate pope,
and from this base of operations he used every effort to procure a
general acknowledgment of his authority. He was not slow to perceive
that the general conversion of the Jews would powerfully assist his
design. If it were vouchsafed to him to overcome at last the obstinacy,
blindness and infidelity of Israel, and to bring it under the
sovereignty of the cross--would it not be the greatest triumph for
the church and for himself? Would it not put all his enemies to shame?
Would not the faithful range themselves under the pope who had so
glorified the church? What better proof could he give that he was the
only true pontiff?

To promote this scheme, Benedict, by the authority of the king, Don
Ferdinand, summoned (towards the end of 1412) the most learned rabbis
and students of Scripture in the kingdom of Aragon to a religious
disputation at Tortosa. The apostate Joshua Lorqui, who was well read
in Jewish literature, was to prove to the Jews, out of the Talmud
itself, that the Messiah had come in the person of Jesus. The design
was to operate on the most prominent Jews, the papal court being
convinced that, their conversion effected, the rank and file would
follow of their own accord. Geronimo carefully selected the names of
those to be invited, and the pope or the king attached a punishment to
their non-attendance. What were the Jews to do? To come or to remain
away, to accept or to refuse, was equally dangerous. About twenty-two
of the most illustrious Aragonese Jews answered the summons. At their
head was Don Vidal ben Benveniste Ibn-Labi (Ferrer), of Saragossa, a
scion of the old Jewish nobility, a man of consideration and culture,
a physician and neo-Hebrew poet. Among his companions were Joseph
Albo, of Monreal, a disciple of Chasdaï Crescas, distinguished for his
philosophic learning and genuine piety; Serachya Halevi Saladin, of
Saragossa, translator of an Arabic philosophic work; Matathias Yizhari
(En Duran?), of the same town, also a polished writer; Astruc Levi, of
Daroca, a man of position; Bonastruc Desmaëstre, whose presence was
most desired by the pope, because he was learned and distinguished; the
venerable Don Joseph, of the respected Ibn-Yachya family, and others of
lesser note.

Although the Jewish notables summoned to the disputation were men
of liberal education, and Don Vidal even spoke Latin fluently, none
of them possessed that stout-heartedness and force of character
which impress even the most vindictive enemy, and which Nachmani so
conspicuously displayed when alone he encountered two of the bitterest
adversaries of Judaism--the Dominican General De Penyaforte and
the apostate Pablo Christiani. A succession of humiliations and
persecutions had broken the manhood of even the proudest in Jewry, and
had transformed all into weaklings. They were no match for perilous
times. When Benedict's summons reached them, they trembled. They
agreed to act with circumspection and calmness, not to interrupt
their opponent, and, above all, to be united and harmonious, but they
disregarded these resolutions, exposed their weakness, and eventually
broke up into factions, each of which took its own course.

Duly commissioned by his schismatic master, the renegade Geronimo drew
up a program. In the first place, proofs were to be adduced from the
Talmud and cognate writings that the Messiah had already come in the
person of Jesus of Nazareth. The papal court flattered itself that
this would bring about widespread conversion of the Jews, but, in
case of failure, there was to follow a war of extermination against
the Talmud on account of the abominations it contained, and the
support it afforded the Jews in their blindness. Geronimo de Santa Fé
accordingly composed a treatise on the Messianic character and Divinity
of Jesus as illustrated in Jewish sacred writings. He collected all
the specious arguments, the sophistries and text twistings which his
predecessors had developed from their obscure, senseless, Scriptural
interpretations, added nonsense of his own, declared playful Agadic
conceits to be essential articles of faith, and refuted Jewish views
of the questions discussed. He enumerated twenty-four conditions of
the coming of the Messiah, and exerted himself to show that they had
all been fulfilled in Jesus. His fundamental contention was that the
Christians constituted the true Israel, that they had succeeded the
Jewish people in Divine favor, and that the Biblical terms, mountain,
tent, temple, house of God, Zion and Jerusalem were allegorical
references to the church. An instance of his ridiculous arguments
may be mentioned. Like John of Valladolid, he saw in the irregular
formation of a letter in a word in Isaiah a deep mystery, indicating
the virginity of Mary, and the realization of the Messianic period by
the advent of Jesus. From another prophetic verse he expounded the
immaculate conception of Jesus in so indecent a manner that it is
impossible to repeat his explanation. This treatise, which blended the
Patristic and the Rabbinic spirit, having been examined by the pope and
his cardinals, was ordered to serve as the theme of the disputation.

No more remarkable controversy was ever held. It occupied sixty-eight
sittings, and extended, with few interruptions, over a year and nine
months (from February, 1413, until the 12th November, 1414). In the
foreground stands a pope, abandoned by almost the whole of Christendom,
and hunted from his seat, anxious for a favorable issue, not for the
glorification of the faith, but for his own temporal advancement; by
his side, a baptized Jew, combating Rabbinical Judaism with Rabbinical
weapons; and in the background, a frenzied Dominican preacher with his
escort of flagellants, promoting a persecution of the Jews to give
force to the conversionist zeal of Tortosa. The helpless, bewildered
Jews could only turn their eyes to heaven, for on earth they found
themselves surrounded by bitter enemies. When, at their first audience
with Pope Benedict (6th February, 1413), they were asked to give their
names for registration, they were seized with terror; they imagined
their lives in jeopardy. The pope quieted them with the explanation
that it was only a customary formality. On the whole he treated
them at first with kindness and affability, the usual attitude of
princes of the church when they have an end to attain. He assured
them that no harm would befall them; that he had summoned them merely
to ascertain whether there was any truth in Geronimo's statement
that the Talmud attested the Messianic character of Jesus, and he
promised them the fullest freedom of speech. At the end of the first
audience he dismissed them graciously, assigned quarters to each of
the notables, and gave instructions that their comfort should be cared
for. A few prophesied from this friendly reception a successful issue
for themselves and their cause, but they knew little of Rome and the
vicegerents of God.

A few days later the disputation began. When the Jewish notables
entered the audience hall, they were awe-struck by the splendor of
the scene: Pope Benedict, on an elevated throne, clad in his state
robes; around him the cardinals and princes of the church, resplendent
in jeweled vestments; beyond them nearly a thousand auditors of the
highest ranks. The little knot of defenders of Judaism trembled before
this imposing and confident array of the forces of Christianity.
The pope himself presided, and opened the sitting with an address
to the Jews. He informed them that the truth of neither Judaism
nor Christianity was to be called into question, for the Christian
faith was above discussion and indisputable, and Judaism had once
been true, but had been abrogated by the later dispensation. The
disputation would be confined to the single question, whether the
Talmud recognized Jesus as the Messiah. The Jews were consequently
limited to mere defense. At a sign from the pope, the convert Geronimo
stood forth, and, after a salutation of the papal toe, delivered
himself of a long-winded harangue, abounding in Christian, Jewish, and
even scholastic subtleties, and full of praise of the magnanimity and
graciousness of the pope in endeavoring to bring the Jews into the way
of salvation. His text, applied to the Jews, was a verse from Isaiah:
"If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land; but
if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword"--which
disclosed the final argument of the church. In reply, Vidal Benveniste,
who had been elected spokesman by the notables, delivered a speech
in Latin, which evoked a compliment from the pope. Don Vidal exposed
Geronimo's malignity in threatening the sword and other punishments
before the arguments on either side were heard. The pope acknowledged
the justice of the reproof, and said in extenuation that Geronimo had
still the boorishness derived from his Jewish origin. The notables
plucked up courage to petition the pope to release them from further
controversy, giving as their reason that their opponent employed
scholastic methods of reasoning, in which it was impossible for them
to follow him, as their faith was founded not on syllogisms but on
tradition. The pope naturally declined to accede to this request, but
invited them to continue the discussion on the following day, and had
them escorted to their quarters by officers of high rank.

Overwhelmed with anxiety, the Jewish notables and the entire community
of Tortosa assembled in the synagogue to implore help of Him who had so
often stood by their fathers in their hours of need, and to pray that
acceptable words might be put into their mouths, so that by no chance
expression they should provoke the wild beasts seeking to devour them.
Serachya Halevi Saladin gave expression to the gloomy feelings of the
congregation in his sermon.

For a time the controversy retained its friendly character. Geronimo
quoted obscure Agadic passages from the Talmud and other Hebrew
writings to establish his astounding contention that the Talmud
attests that Jesus was the Messiah. Generally the pope presided at the
disputations, but occasionally grave matters affecting his own position
necessitated his absence. The maintenance of his dignity was threatened
by the convening of the council of Constance by the Christian princes,
which constituted itself the supreme court in the conflict between the
three popes. Consequently, Benedict had to hold frequent consultations
with his friends. On these occasions, his place was taken by the
general of the Dominicans or the chamberlain of the papal palace.
The proofs adduced by Geronimo in support of his statements were so
absurd that it should have been easy for the Jewish delegates to refute
them. But their words were wilfully misinterpreted, so that in several
instances it was recorded in the protocol that they had conceded the
point under discussion. A few of them consequently committed their
refutations to writing; but they still met with arbitrary treatment.
Some points raised by them were condemned as not pertinent to the
discussion. The Jewish delegates, who had entered on the controversy
with unwilling hearts, were exhausted by the talking and taunting,
and were anxious to avoid retort. Suddenly the pope threw aside his
mask of friendliness, and showed his true disposition by threatening
them with death. Sixty-two days the war of tongues had lasted, and
the representatives of Judaism showed no sign of their much-hoped-for
conversion. Their power of resistance appeared to grow with the battle.
So, in the sixty-third sitting, the pope changed his tactics. At his
command Geronimo now came forward as the censor of the Talmud, accusing
it of containing all kinds of abominations, blasphemy, immorality and
heresy, and demanding its condemnation. A few new-Christians, among
them Andreas Beltran (Bertrand) of Valencia, the pope's almoner,
valiantly seconded this demand.

Geronimo had prepared, at the instance of the pope, a treatise
with this purpose in view. He had collected all the extravagances
accidentally uttered by one or two of the hundreds of Agadists figuring
in the Talmud. Shameless malice or ignorance dictated manifestly
false accusations against the Talmud. Thus, he stated that it
permitted the beating of parents, blasphemy, and idolatry, also the
breaking of oaths, provided that on the previous Day of Atonement the
precaution had been taken to declare them invalid. Conscientiousness
in respect to oaths and vows he thus construed as perfidy, and, like
Nicholas-Donin, drew the conclusion that the Jews did not fulfill their
obligations towards Christians. Of course, he revived the calumny of
Alfonso of Valladolid, that the Jews cursed the Christians in their
daily prayers. Every inimical reference in the Talmud to heathens or
Jewish Christians, Geronimo interpreted as applying to Christians,
a fabrication with disastrous consequences, inasmuch as the enemies
of the Jews repeated these deadly charges without further inquiry.
When the attacks on the Talmud unexpectedly became the subject of
discussion, the Jewish representatives defended the arraigned points,
but were so hard pressed that they split up into two parties. Don
Astruc Levi handed in a written declaration, setting forth that he
ascribed no authority to the Agadic sentences quoted incriminating the
Talmud; that he held them as naught, and renounced them. The majority
of the notables supported him. To save the life of the whole they
sacrificed a limb. Joseph Albo and Ferrer (Don Vidal) alone maintained
their ground, declaring that the Talmudic Agada was a competent
authority, and that the equivocal passages had a different meaning from
that ascribed to them, and were not to be interpreted literally. So the
machinations of the pope and his creatures had at least succeeded in
bringing about a division in the ranks of the defenders of Judaism.

The principal object of the disputation--the conversion of the
Jews _en masse_ through the example of their most prominent leaders
--was not attained. All the means employed failed--the benignant
reception, the threats of violence, the attack on Jewish convictions.
An expedient, calculated entirely for effect, had also been tried,
which, it was thought, would so mortify the notables that, dazed
and overwhelmed, they would throw down their arms and surrender at
discretion. The fanatical proselytizer Vincent Ferrer had returned
from Majorca to Catalonia and Aragon, and, surrounded by his
terror-inspiring band of flagellants, had renewed his mission to the
Jews, amid dismal chants and fiery exhortations to embrace the cross.
Again he succeeded in winning over many thousands to Christianity.
In the great Jewish communities of Saragossa, Calatajud, Daroca,
Fraga and Barbastro, the conversions were limited to individuals;
but smaller congregations, such as those of Alcañiz, Caspe, Maella,
Lerida, Alcolea and Tamarite, hemmed in by hostile Christians, who
spared neither limb nor life, went over in a body to Christianity. All
these proselytes were gradually brought, in small and large troops, to
Tortosa, and conducted, at the order of the pope, into the audience
hall, where, before the entire assembly, they made public profession
of the Christian faith. Living trophies, they were intended to shadow
forth the impending victory of the church, dishearten the defenders of
Judaism, and press upon them the conviction that, as in their absence
the Jewish communities were melting away, all resistance on their part
was in vain. It is no small merit that Don Vidal, Joseph Albo, Astruc
Levi, and their companions refused to yield to the pressure. The pope
saw his hopes shattered. Not a single notable wavered, and conversions
of large masses did not take place. The great communities of Aragon and
Catalonia remained true to their faith, with the exception of a few
weaklings, amongst them some relations of Vidal Benveniste. The council
of Constance would soon meet, and Benedict would be unable to appear
before it as the triumphant conqueror of Judaism--would have no
special claim to preference over the other two competing popes.

In his disappointment he vented his spleen on the Talmud and the
already restricted liberties of the Jews. At the last sitting of the
disputation he dismissed the Jewish notables with black looks, from
which they easily divined his evil intentions. Various obstacles
prevented him from putting them into force for six months, when (May
11th, 1415) they were embodied in a bull of eleven clauses. The Jews
were forbidden to study or teach the Talmud and Talmudic literature;
all copies of the Talmud were to be sought out and confiscated.
Anti-Christian works, written by Jews, especially one entitled
"Mar Mar Jesu," were not to be read under pain of punishment for
blasphemy. Every community, whether large or small, was prohibited
from possessing more than one simple, poorly appointed synagogue. The
Jews were to be strictly separated from Christians, were not to eat,
bathe, or do business with them. They were to occupy no official posts,
exercise no handicrafts, not even practice medicine. The wearing of the
red or yellow Jew badge was also enjoined by this bull. Finally, all
Jews were to be forced to hear Christian sermons three times a year--
during Advent, at Easter, and in the summer. In the first sermon the
Prophets and the Talmud were to be used to prove that the true Messiah
had come; in the second, their attention was to be directed to the
abominations and heresies contained, according to Geronimo's treatise,
in the Talmud, alone responsible for their infidelity; and in the third
it was to be impressed upon them that the destruction of the temple and
the dispersion of the Hebrew people had been predicted by the founder
of Christianity. At the close of each sermon the bull was to be read
aloud. The strict execution of this malignant edict was confided by the
pope to Gonzalo de Santa Maria, son of the apostate Paul, who had been
taken over to Christianity by his father.

Fortunately, the vindictive schemes of Pope Benedict never came into
active operation. While he was still engaged in tormenting the Jews,
the council of Constance decreed his deposition. As he had obstinately
opposed the advice of the king, Don Ferdinand, and the German emperor,
Sigismund, to lay aside the tiara of his own initiative, he was
abandoned by his Spanish protectors. The weapons he had employed
recoiled upon himself. His last adherents were drawn from him by
Vincent Ferrer's fanatical preaching. The flagellant priest not only
exhorted the king of Aragon to renounce "this unfrocked and spurious
pope," but he held forth everywhere--in the churches and the open
streets--that "a man like this pope deserves to be pursued to death
by every right-thinking Christian." Deserted by his protectors, his
friends, and even his protégés, there now remained to Pedro de Luna,
of all his possessions, only the small fortress of Peñiscola, and even
here King Ferdinand, urged on by Santa Maria, the pope's creature,
threatened him with a siege. In the end this ambitious and obstinate
man covered himself with ridicule by attempting to continue to play
the part of pope in his tiny palace. He appointed a college of four
cardinals, and pledged them before his death not to recognize the pope
elected at Constance, but to choose a successor from among their own
body. When he died, his college elected two popes instead of one. Such
was the infallibility of the church, into the pale of which it was
sought to force the Jews. What became of the malicious apostate, Joshua
Lorqui-Geronimo de Santa Fé, after the fall of his master, is not
known. In Jewish circles he was remembered by the well-earned sobriquet
of "The Calumniator" (Megadef). King Ferdinand of Aragon, who had
always allowed himself to be influenced by enemies of the Jews, died in
1416. His death was followed, after a short interval, by that of the
Jew-hating regent, Catalina of Castile, the instrument of Vincent's
Jew-hunt (1418), and finally by that of Vincent himself (1419), who had
the mortification to see the flagellant movement, to which he owed his
saintly reputation, condemned by the council of Constance, he himself
being compelled to disband his "white troop."

Although the chief persecutors of the Jews had disappeared, the
unhappy conditions created by them remained. The exclusive laws of
Castile and the bull of Pope Benedict were still in force. Ferrer's
proselytizing campaigns had severely crippled the Spanish, and even
foreign communities. In Portugal alone they met with no success. The
Portuguese ruler, Don João I, had other interests to pursue than the
conversion of Jews. He was then occupied in that first conquest on
the coast of Africa, opposite to Portugal, which laid the foundation
of the subsequent maritime supremacy of the Portuguese. When Vincent
Ferrer petitioned King João for permission to come to Portugal in order
to make the pulpits and streets resound with his dismal harangues on
the sinfulness of the world and the blindness and obstinacy of the
Jews, the Portuguese king informed him that he "might come, but with
a crown of red-hot iron on his head." Portugal was the only refuge on
the Pyrenean peninsula from the proselytizing rage of the flagellant
preacher, and many Spanish Jews who had the means of escaping fled
thither. Don Judah Ibn Yachya-Negro, held in high esteem by King João
I, and, perhaps, appointed by him chief rabbi of Portugal, represented
to him the horrors of enforced baptism, and the necessary insincerity
of the professions of unwilling converts. The king consequently issued
his commands that the immigrant new-Christians should not be interfered
with or delivered up to Spain.

In other parts of Europe, where the fanatical Dominican had been, or
whither reports of his deeds or misdeeds had penetrated, the Jews
were forced to drain the cup of bitterness to the dregs. In Savoy,
which Vincent Ferrer had visited, they were obliged to hide themselves
with their holy books in mountain caves. In Germany, persecutions of
Jews had always found a congenial soil, and they were promoted by the
anarchy which prevailed during the reign of Sigismund and the sessions
of the council of Constance. Even the Italian communities, though
for the most part undisturbed, lived in continual anxiety, lest the
movement strike a responsive chord in their politically distracted
land. They convened a great synod, first at Bologna, then at Forli
(1416-1418), to consider what measures might be adopted to avert the
threatened danger.

Happily, at this moment, after a long schism, bitter strife and a
plurality of anti-popes, the council of Constance elected a pope,
who, though full of dissimulation, was not the most degraded in the
college of cardinals. Martin V, who was said by his contemporaries
to have appeared simple and good before his election, but to have
shown himself afterwards very clever and not very kind, received the
Jews with scant courtesy when, during his progress through Constance,
they approached him carrying lighted tapers in festive procession,
and offered him the Torah with a prayer for the confirmation of their
sufferance. From his white palfrey with silk and gold trappings he
answered them: "You have the law, but understand it not. The old has
passed away, and the new been found." (The blind finding fault with the
seeing.) Yet he treated them with leniency. At the request of Emperor
Sigismund, he confirmed the privileges granted to the Jews of Germany
and Savoy by the preceding emperor, Rupert, denouncing attacks on their
persons and property, and the practice of converting them by force. The
emperor, who may be accused of thoughtlessness but not of a spirit of
persecution, thereupon issued his commands to all the German princes
and magistrates, cities and subjects, to allow his "servi cameræ"
the full enjoyment of the privileges and immunities which had been
given them by the pope (February 26th, 1418). A deputation of Jews,
commissioned by the Italian synod, also waited upon the now generally
acknowledged pope, and craved his protection. Even the Spanish Jews
appear to have dispatched an embassy to him, consisting of two of their
most distinguished men, Don Samuel Abrabanel and Don Samuel Halevi.
When the Jews complained of the insecurity of their lives, the attacks
on their religious convictions, and the frequent desecration of their
sanctuaries, the pope issued a bull (January 31st, 1419), with the
following preamble:

    "Whereas the Jews are made in the image of God, and a remnant
    of them will one day be saved, and whereas they have besought
    our protection, following in the footsteps of our predecessors
    we command that they be not molested in their synagogues; that
    their laws, rights, and customs be not assailed; that they
    be not baptized by force, constrained to observe Christian
    festivals, nor to wear new badges, and that they be not
    hindered in their business relations with Christians."

What could have induced Pope Martin to show such friendly countenance
to the Jews? Probably he had some idea of checkmating by this means
the Jew-hating Benedict, who still played at being pope in his obscure
corner. The principal consideration probably was the rich gifts with
which the Jewish representatives approached him. Although at the
council of Constance no cardinal was poorer than Martin, and his
election was in great measure owing to this fact, on the throne of St.
Peter he showed no aversion to money. On the contrary, everything might
be obtained from him if money were paid down; without it, nothing.



    The Hussite Heresy--Consequences for the Jews involved in the
    Struggle--Jacob Mölin--Abraham Benveniste and Joseph Ibn-Shem
    Tob in the Service of the Castilian Court--Isaac Campanton,
    the Poet Solomon Dafiera--Moses Da Rieti--Anti-Christian
    Polemical Literature--Chayim Ibn-Musa--Simon Duran and his
    Son Solomon--Joseph Albo as a Religious Philosopher--Jewish
    Philosophical Systems--Edict of the Council of Basle against
    the Jews--Fanatical Outbreaks in Majorca--Astruc Sibili and his
    Conversion to Christianity.

1420-1442 C.E.

Meanwhile history received a fresh impulse, which, although coming
from weak hands, produced a forward movement. The spreading corruption
in the church, the self-deifying arrogance of the popes and the
licentiousness of priests and monks revolted the moral sense of the
people, opened their eyes, and encouraged them to doubt the very
foundations of the Roman Catholic system. No improvement could be
expected from the princes of the church, the jurists and diplomatists
who met in council at Constance to deliberate on a scheme of thorough
reform. They had only a worldly object in view, seeking to gloss over
the prevailing rottenness by transferring the papal power to the high
ecclesiastics, substituting the rule of an aristocratic hierarchy
for papal absolutism. A Czech priest, John Huss, of Prague, inspired
by the teachings of Wycliffe, spoke the magic word that loosened the
bonds in which the church had ensnared the minds of men. "Not this
or that pope," he said in effect, "but the papacy and the entire
organization of the Catholic church constitute the fundamental evil
from which Christendom is suffering." The flames to which the council
of Constance condemned this courageous priest only served to light
up the truth he had uttered. They fired a multitude in Bohemia, who
entered on a life and death struggle with Catholicism. Whenever a
party in Christendom opposes itself to the ruling church, it assumes
a tinge of the Old Testament, not to say Jewish, spirit. The Hussites
regarded Catholicism, not unjustly, as heathenism, and themselves as
Israelites, who must wage holy war against Philistines, Moabites, and
Ammonites. Churches and monasteries were to them the sanctuaries of a
dissolute idolatry, temples to Baal and Moloch and groves of Ashtaroth,
to be consumed with fire and sword. The Hussite war, although largely
due to the mutual race-hatred of Czechs and Germans, and to religious
indignation, began in a small way the work of clearing the church
doctrine of its mephitic elements.

For the Jews, this movement was decidedly calamitous, the
responsibility for which must rest, not with the wild Hussites, but
with the Catholic fanaticism stirred up against the new heresy. The
former went little beyond denunciations of Jewish usury; at the most,
sacked Jewish together with Catholic houses. Of special Hussite
hostility to the Jews no evidence is forthcoming. On the other hand,
Catholics accused Jews of secretly supplying the Hussites with
money and arms; and in the Bavarian towns near the Böhmerwald, they
persecuted them unmercifully as friends and allies of the heretics. The
Dominicans--the "army of anti-Christ" as they were called--included
the Jews in their fierce pulpit denunciations of the Hussites, and
inflamed the people and princes against them. The crusades against the
Hussites, like those against the Mahometans and Waldenses, commenced
with massacres of Jews. Revived fanaticism first affected the Jews in
Austria--a land which, like Spain, passed from liberal tolerance
of Jews to persecution, and in bigotry approximated so close to the
Iberian kingdom that it ultimately joined it. The mind of Archduke
Albert, an earnest and well-intentioned prince, was systematically
filled with hatred against the "enemies of God." Fable after fable
was invented, which, devoid even of originality, sufficed to drive to
extreme measures a man of pure character, ignorant of the lying devices
of the Jew-haters. Three Christian children went skating in Vienna;
the ice broke through, and they were drowned. When the anxious parents
failed to find them, a malicious rumor was set on foot that they had
been slaughtered by Jews, who required their blood for the ensuing
Passover celebration. Then a Jew was charged with a crime calculated
to incense the populace to a still greater degree. The wife of the
sacristan of Enns was said to have purloined the consecrated host from
the church, and sold it to a wealthy Jew named Israel, who had sent
it to a large number of Jewish communities in and out of Austria. The
charges of Jewish murders of Christian children and Jewish profanations
of hosts had not lost their charm in the fifteenth century, and their
inventors could calculate their effect with accuracy. By order of the
archduke, the sacristan's wife and her two accomplices or seducers,
Israel and his wife, were brought to Vienna, examined, and forced to
confess. The records of the case are silent as to the means employed to
obtain the avowal of guilt; but the procedure of mediæval Christendom
in such trials is well known.

Archduke Albert issued the order that in the early morning of the 23d
May, 1420 (10th Sivan), all the Jews in his realm should be thrown into
prison, and this was promptly done. The moneyed Jews were stripped
of their possessions, and the poor forthwith banished the country.
In the gaols, wives were separated from their husbands, and children
from their parents. When from helplessness they fell to hopelessness,
Christian priests came to them with crosses in their hands and honeyed
words on their lips to convert them. A few of the poorer-spirited saved
their lives by accepting baptism. The more resolute slew themselves and
their kinsfolk by opening their veins with straps, cords, or whatever
they found to hand. The spirit of the survivors was broken by the
length and cruelty of their imprisonment. Their children were taken
from them, and immured in cloisters. Still they remained firm, and on
the 13th March (9th Nisan), 1421, after nearly a year's confinement,
they were committed to the flames. In Vienna alone more than a hundred
perished in one field near the Danube. Another order was then issued by
Archduke Albert, forbidding Jews to stay thenceforth in Austria.

The converts proved no gain to the church. The majority seized the
first opportunity of emigrating and relapsing into Judaism. They bent
their steps to Bohemia, rendered tolerant by the Hussite schism,
or northwards to Poland and southwards to Italy. How attached the
Austrian Jews were to their religion is shown by the conduct of one
clever youth. Having received baptism, he had become the favorite of
Duke Frederick, afterwards the German emperor, but, although living
in luxury, he was seized with remorse for his apostasy, and boldly
expressed his desire to return to Judaism. Frederick exerted himself
to dissuade his favorite from this idea. He begged, entreated, and
even threatened him; he sent a priest to advise him; all, however, in
vain. Finally, the duke handed the "obstinate heretic and backslider"
over to the ecclesiastical authorities, who condemned him to the stake.
Unfettered and with a Hebrew song on his lips the Jewish youth mounted
the scaffold.

In the meantime, the devastating war broke out between the fierce
Hussites and the not less barbarous Roman Catholics, between the
Czechs and the Germans. A variety of nationalities participated in
the sanguinary struggle as to the use of the cup by the laity in
the eucharist. Emperor Sigismund, who found it impossible to subdue
the insurrection with his own troops, summoned the imperial army to
his standard. Wild free-lances, men of Brabant and Holland, were
taken into his pay. From all quarters armed troops poured into the
Bohemian valleys and against the capital, Prague, where the blind
hero, Zisca, bade defiance to a world of foes. On the way, the German
imperial army exhibited its courage by attacks on the defenseless
Jews. "We are marching afar," exclaimed the mercenaries, "to avenge
our insulted God, and shall those who slew him be spared?" Wherever
they came across Jewish communities, on the Rhine, in Thuringia and
Bavaria, they put them to the sword, or forced them to apostatize. The
crusaders threatened, on their return from victory over the Hussites,
to wipe the Jewish people from the face of the earth. Jewish fathers
of families true to their faith gave orders that, at a certain signal,
their children should be killed to avoid falling into the hands of
the bloodthirsty soldiery. Letters of lamentation over the threatened
disaster, calling upon him to implore the intervention of heaven, were
addressed from far and near to the illustrious rabbi of Mayence, Jacob
ben Moses Mölin Halevi (Maharil, born 1365, died 1427), the most pious
rabbi of his time. His arrangement of the synagogue ritual and melodies
is used to this day in many German communities, and their colonies in
Poland and Hungary. Jacob Mölin ordered a general fast, accompanied by
fervent prayer, and his instructions were circulated from one community
to another throughout the land. The German congregations forthwith
assembled for solemn mourning and humiliation, and fasted during four
days between New Year and Atonement (8th-11th September, 1421), and
for three successive days after Tabernacles, the observance being
as strict as on the most sacred fast days of the Jewish calendar. It
was a time of feverish tension for the German Jews. In their despair
they prayed that victory might be vouchsafed to the Hussites, and it
seemed as if their supplications were heard. For, shortly afterwards,
the imperial army and its mercenary allies assembled near Saatz were
stricken with such terror at the news of Zisca's approach, that they
sought safety in disorderly flight, disbanding in all directions, and
hurrying home by different routes. Famished and footsore, a few of the
very men who had vowed death and extirpation to the Jews, appeared at
the doors of their houses, begging for bread, which was gladly given
them. Privation had so reduced the fugitives that they could not have
harmed a child.

The Dominican clergy commissioned to preach against the Hussites
did not cease to foster Catholic hatred of Jews. From their pulpits
they thundered against heretics and Jews alike, cautioning the
faithful against holding intercourse with them, and consciously and
unconsciously inciting to attacks on their persons and property. The
Jews flew for help to the pope, Martin V--doubtless not with empty
hands--and again obtained a very favorable bull (23d February,
1422), in which Christians were enjoined to remember that their
religion had been inherited from Jews, who were necessary for the
corroboration of Christian truth. The pope forbade the monks to preach
against intercourse between Jews and Christians, and declared null
and void the ban with which transgressors had been threatened. He
recommended to Catholics a friendly and benevolent attitude towards
their Hebrew fellow-citizens, severely denounced violent attacks upon
them, and confirmed all the privileges which had from time to time
been granted by the papacy. This bull was, however, as ineffectual as
the protection which Emperor Sigismund had so solemnly promised the
Jews. A persecuting spirit continued to animate the Christian church.
The monks did not cease to declaim against the "accursed" Jewish
nation; the populace did not refrain from tormenting, injuring and
murdering Jews; even succeeding popes ignored the bull, and restored
the odious canonical restrictions in all their stringency. Turning a
deaf ear to both pope and emperor, the citizens of Cologne expelled
the Jewish community, perhaps the oldest in Germany. The exiles took
up their abode at Deutz (1426). In the South German towns, Ravensburg,
Ueberlingen and Lindau, the Jews were burnt because of a lying blood
accusation (1431).

The literary work of the German Jews was, as a consequence, poor
and inconsiderable. Anxiety and persecution had deadened their
intellect. Even in Talmudical study the German rabbis hardly rose above
mediocrity, and gave nothing of consequence to the world. Some rabbis
were installed by the reigning prince; at least Emperor Sigismund
commissioned one of his Jewish agents, Chayim of Landshut, "to
appoint three rabbis (Judenmeister) in Germany." Under such auspices,
appointments were probably determined less by merit than by money.
For a college, in which students were prepared for the rabbinate, a
heavy tax had to be paid, notwithstanding that the instruction was
given gratuitously. Besides Jacob Mölin, only one name of importance
emerges from the darkness of this period, Menachem of Merseburg, or,
as he was generally called, Meïl Zedek. He wrote a comprehensive work
on the practice of the Talmudic marriage and civil law, which the
Saxon communities adopted for their authoritative guidance. He, at
least, departed from the beaten track of his older contemporaries or
teachers, Jacob Mölin and Isaac Tyrnau, who attached value to every
insignificant detail of the liturgy. By and by Menachem of Merseburg
was recognized as an authority, and an excellent regulation drawn up by
him received universal assent. Among the Jews at that period, marriages
took place at a very early age; girls in their teens were hurried into
matrimony. According to Talmudical law a girl, under age, who had been
given in marriage by her mother or brothers and not by her father, was
permitted, on attaining her majority, in her twelfth year, and even
much later under some circumstances, to dissolve her union without
further ceremony than a declaration of her intention to do so, or the
contracting of another marriage (Miun). Menachem of Merseburg felt the
indecency of so sudden and often capricious a dissolution of marriage,
and he decided that formal bills of divorce should be required.

The literary achievements of the Spanish Jews during this period were
not of a higher character; they exhibited unmistakable signs of decay,
notwithstanding that their situation had become more tolerable since
the death of the bigoted and wanton queen regent, Catalina, and the
fall of the anti-pope, Benedict XIII, and his Jewish accomplices.
Don Juan II--or, rather, his favorite, Alvaro de Luna, to whom the
management of the state was confided--stood too much in need of the
assistance of Jewish financiers during the frequently recurring civil
wars and insurrections to do anything to offend them. Hence, during his
reign, restrictive laws against the Jews seem to have been enacted only
to be broken. Jews were again admitted to public employment, regardless
of the fact that such appointments had been sternly forbidden both
by kings and popes. An influential Jew, Abraham Benveniste, surnamed
Senior, distinguished for his intelligence and wealth, was invested
with a high dignity at the court of Don Juan, and was thus in a
position to frustrate threatened persecutions of his co-religionists.
Also Joseph ben Shem Tob Ibn-Shem Tob, a cultivated and fruitful
writer, proficient in philosophic studies, was in the service of the
state under Juan II. On the one hand, the cortes did not fail to remind
the king that by his father's laws and by papal decrees the Jews were
excluded from public offices, and, on the other hand, Pope Eugenius
IV, successor to Martin V, strained every effort to humiliate the Jews
and harden their lot, even forbidding Don Juan to befriend them; but
these representations were of no avail. To the cortes of Burgos the
king replied evasively that he would cause an examination to be made of
the laws promulgated in regard to the Jews by his father, and of the
papal bulls, and he would take care to observe everything calculated to
promote the service of God and the welfare of the state. Against the
pope's interference with his crown-rights he entered a protest.

This king gave permission to the no less noble than wealthy rabbi,
Abraham Benveniste, to hold a meeting of delegates from various
communities in the royal palace of Avila (1432). These delegates were
to bring harmony into the state of moral and religious disorder caused
by the attacks of the masses in 1412-1415. The smaller communities were
without teachers, the large ones without rabbis and preachers. Many of
them had been reduced to poverty, and the richer members were unwilling
to contribute to the support of religious institutions. Evil ways and
denunciations by the unscrupulous had acquired the upper hand, because
the representative men and the few rabbis did not venture to punish the
evildoers. Abraham Benveniste, therefore, framed a statute (the law of
Avila), which compelled people to establish schools and colleges, to
introduce order into the communities, and to punish miscreants. Juan II
confirmed this statute.

The literature of the Spanish Jews, however, was powerless to recover
itself. Despite the calm succeeding the storm, it seemed to wither
like autumn leaves. The decline was most marked in the department
of Talmudic study. After the emigration of Isaac ben Sheshet and the
death of Chasdaï Crescas, no Spanish rabbi obtained more than local
authority and reputation. The only upholder of the traditions of
the rabbinate was Isaac ben Jacob Campanton, who lived to be more
than a hundred years old (born 1360, died at Peñafiel 1463); but he
produced only one work (Darke ha-Talmud), which exhibited neither
genius nor learning. Still, in his day, Campanton passed for the Gaon
of Castile. Neo-Hebraic poetry, which had blossomed so profusely on
Spanish soil, faded and drooped. Of those who cultivated it during
this period only a few are remembered--Solomon Dafiera, Don Vidal
Benveniste, the leading speaker on the Jewish side at the disputation
of Tortosa, and Solomon Bonfed. The most gifted was the last. He was
ambitious to emulate Ibn-Gebirol; but he possessed little more than the
sensitiveness and moroseness of his great exemplar, like him imagining
himself to be the sport of fortune, with a prescriptive right to

The Jews of Italy failed to distinguish themselves in poetry even
during the Medici period, in spite of the high culture which, with
the Hussite movement, was eating away the foundations of mediæval
Catholicism. Since Immanuel Romi, the Jews of Italy had produced but
one poet; even he was not a poet in the noblest sense of the word.
Moses ben Isaac (Gajo) da Rieti, of Perugia (born 1388, died after 1451
), a physician by profession, a dabbler in philosophy, and a graceful
writer in both Hebrew and Italian, might have passed for an artist if
poetry were a thing of meter and rhyme, for in his sublimely conceived
poem both were faultless. His desire was to glorify in poetry Judaism
and Jewish antiquity, the sciences, and the illustrious men of all
ages. He employed an ingenious form of verse, in which the stanzas
were connected by threes by means of cross-rhymes. But Da Rieti's
language is often rough, many of his allusions show want of taste, and
where he should rise to lofty thought he sinks into puerilities. Only
in one respect does his work mark an advance in neo-Hebrew poetry. He
breaks entirely with the traditional Judæo-Arabic method of a single
rhyme. There is variety in his versification; the ear is not wearied
by monotonous repetition of the same or similar sounds, and the lines
fall naturally into stanzas. He also avoids playing on Biblical verses,
the objectionable habit of Judæo-Spanish poets. In a word, Da Rieti
supplied the correct form for neo-Hebrew poetry, but he was unable to
vivify it with an attractive spirit. Yet the Italian Jews adopted a
part of his poem into their liturgy, and recited extracts daily.

From the Apennine Peninsula let us turn back to the Pyrenean, where
the pulsation of historic life among the Jews, though gradually
becoming weaker, still was stronger than in the other countries in
which they were dispersed. The two branches of intellectual activity
which formerly, in their palmy days, had exercised every mind--the
severe study of the Talmud and the airy pursuit of the poetic muse--
had lost their predominance in the Spanish Jewries. The systematic
study of the Scriptures also was no longer properly cultivated. The
literary activity of this period was almost exclusively directed
towards combating the intrusiveness of the church, repelling its
attacks on Judaism, and withstanding its proselytizing zeal. Faithful
and strong-minded Jewish thinkers held it a duty to proclaim their
convictions aloud, and to admonish waverers and strengthen them. The
more the preaching monks, especially apostates of the stamp of Paul de
Santa Maria, Geronimo de Santa Fé, and Pedro de la Caballeria, exerted
themselves to prove that the Christian Trinity was the true God of
Israel, taught and typified in the Bible and the Talmud, and the more
the church stretched forth its tentacles towards the Jews, straining
every nerve to fold them in its fatal embrace, the more necessary was
it for the synagogue to watch over its sacred trust, and guard its holy
of holies from idolatrous desecration. It was especially necessary
that the weaker-minded should be spared confusion in religious and
doctrinal matters. Hence Jewish preachers devoted themselves more than
ever to expounding the doctrine of the unity of God in their pulpits.
They pointed out the essential and irreconcilable difference between
the Jewish and the Christian conception of the Deity, and characterized
their identification as false and impious. The time resembled that
other epoch in Jewish history when Hellenized Jews tried to induce
their brethren to deny God, and were supported by the secular arm.
Some preachers, in their zeal, went to extremes. Instead of relying
exclusively on the convincing demonstrations in the Bible text, or on
the attractive illustrations of the Agada, they resorted to the armory
of scholasticism, employing the formulæ of philosophy and, in the
presence of the Torah, and by the side of the Hebrew prophets and the
Talmudical sages, quoted Plato, Aristotle, and Averroes.

This controversial literature, cultivated on a large scale, was
designed to defend Judaism against calumny and abuse, rather than
to convert a single Christian soul. Its aim was to open the eyes of
Jews, so that ignorance or credulity might not lead them into the
snares prepared for them. Doubtless it also desired to stir up the
new-Christians, and to re-animate their Jewish spirit beneath the
disguise they had assumed to save their lives. Hence the majority of
the polemical writings of the day were merely vindications of Judaism
from the old charges fulminated by Nicholas de Lyra a century before,
or more recently by Geronimo de Santa Fé and others, and widely
circulated by the Christian clergy. Solomon-Paul of Burgos, who had
been appointed bishop of his native town, wrote, in his eighty-second
year (1434, a year before his death), a venomous tract against Judaism
--"Searching the Scriptures" (Scrutinium Scriptuarum)--in the form
of a dialogue between a teacher and his pupil, the unbelieving Saul and
the converted Paul. Solomon-Paul does not seem to have retained much
of the wit which, according to Jewish and Christian panegyrists, had
at one time distinguished him--it had probably become blunted amid
the luxurious ease of the episcopal palace--for his tract, devoutly
Christian and Catholic in tone, is pointless and dull. Another ex-rabbi
who devoted himself to attacking Judaism was Juan de España, also
called Juan the Old (at Toledo), a convert who in old age had embraced
Christianity under the influence of Vincent Ferrer's proselytizing
efforts. He wrote a treatise on his own conversion and a Christian
commentary on the seventy-second Psalm, in both of which he asserted
the genuineness of his change of creed, and urged the Jews to abjure
their errors. How many weak-minded Jews must have been influenced by
the zeal, earnest or hypocritical, of such men as these, belonging to
their own race, and learned in their literature!

It is impossible to exaggerate the services of the men who, deeply
impressed with the gravity of the crisis, threw themselves into
the breach, with exhortations to their co-religionists to remain
faithful to their creed. In defiance of the dangers which menaced
them, they scattered their inspiriting discourses far and wide.
Foremost among them were the men who had distinguished themselves
at the Tortosa disputation by their unyielding attitude and their
courage in withstanding the unjustifiable attacks upon the Talmud--
Don Vidal (Ferrer) Ibn-Labi and Joseph Albo. The former drew up in
Hebrew a refutation of Geronimo's impeachment of the Talmud (Kodesh
ha-Kodashim), and the latter circulated, in Spanish, an account of
a religious controversy he had sustained with an eminent church
dignitary. Isaac ben Kalonymos, of a learned Provençal family named
Nathan, who associated a great deal with learned Christians, and
frequently had to defend his religious convictions, wrote two polemical
works, one entitled "Correction of the False Teacher," directed against
Geronimo's libelous essay, and the other, called "The Fortress,"
of unknown purpose. He also compiled a laborious work of reference
intended to assist others in defending Judaism from attack. Isaac
Nathan, in his intercourse with Christians, often had to listen to
criticisms of Judaism, or evidences drawn from the Hebrew Bible, in
favor of Christian dogmas, which he found were always based on false
renderings of Hebrew words. To put an end to these illusory outgrowths
of prevailing ignorance of the original text of the Scriptures, or,
at least, to lighten the labors of his brethren in refuting them, he
resolved to compile a comprehensive digest of the linguistic materials
of the Bible, by which the actual meaning of each word should be made
clear. According to the plan adopted, any one can ascertain, at a
glance, both how often a certain word occurs in the Bible, and its
varying meanings according to the contexts. The work thus undertaken
by Isaac Nathan was of colossal scope, and occupied a long series of
years (September, 1437-1445). It was a Bible concordance, that is, the
verses were grouped alphabetically under the reference words according
to roots and derivations. The existing Latin concordances served in a
measure as models, although their purpose was the less ambitious one of
assisting preachers to find texts. Isaac Nathan, who produced various
other works, by this concordance rendered inestimable and lasting
service to the study of the Bible, although his labor was of a purely
mechanical kind. Originating from the temporary needs of the polemical
situation, it has been, and will ever remain, a powerful weapon for
ensuring the triumph of Judaism in its struggles with other religious

The philosopher, Joseph Ibn-Shem Tob (born 1400, died a martyr 1460),
who was a voluminous writer, a popular preacher, and a frequenter of
the Castilian court, also entered the lists against Christianity to
expose the fallacy and unreasonableness of its dogmas. In his frequent
intercourse with Christians of distinction, both clerical and lay, he
found it necessary to make himself thoroughly acquainted with Christian
theology that he might adduce cogent arguments in reply to those who
wished to convert him, or in his presence made the oft-reiterated
statement of the falsity of Judaism. Occasionally a regular controversy
in defense of his creed was forced upon him. The fruits of his studies
and thought he committed to writing in the shape of a small treatise,
entitled "Doubts of the Religion of Jesus," in which he criticised
with unsparing logic the dogmas of Original Sin, Salvation, and
Incarnation. Besides, he wrote, for the instruction of his brethren, a
detailed commentary on Profiat Duran's satire on Christianity, and made
available for them, by means of a Hebrew translation, Chasdaï Crescas'
polemical work against the Christian religion, originally written in
Spanish. Strange to say, the Spanish Jews preferred, as a rule, Hebrew
books to those in the language of their adopted country.

Among the authors of polemical works against Christianity a
contemporary of Joseph Ibn-Shem Tob deserves special mention. History
has hitherto forgotten Chayim Ibn-Musa, from Bejar, in the neighborhood
of Salamanca (born about 1390, died about 1460), a physician,
versifier and writer, who had access to the Spanish court and the
grandees through his medical skill, and so, frequent opportunities
of discussing questions of doctrine with ecclesiastics and learned
laymen. A colloquy preserved by Chayim Ibn-Musa illustrates the spirit
which prevailed in Spain before the hateful Inquisition silenced all
freedom of speech. A learned ecclesiastic once asked Ibn-Musa why,
if Judaism, as he maintained, was the true faith, the Jews could not
possess themselves of the Holy Land and Jerusalem? Ibn Musa replied
that they had lost their country through the sins of their fathers, and
could regain it only by perfect atonement and purgation. He, in turn,
propounded a question: Why are the Christians no longer in possession
of the Holy Sepulcher? and why does it, together with all the sites
associated with the Passion, continue in the hands of Mahometan
infidels, notwithstanding that Christians, by means of confession and
absolution, and through the medium of the nearest available priest,
can free themselves at any moment from sin? Before the ecclesiastic
could bethink himself of a suitable reply, a knight, who had formerly
been in Palestine, interposed: The Mahometans are the only people
who deserve to possess the site of the Temple and the Holy Land, for
neither Christians nor Jews hold houses of prayer in so much honor
as they. The Christians, during the night before Easter (Vigils),
perpetrate shameful abominations in the churches at Jerusalem, abandon
themselves to debauchery, harbor thieves and murderers, and carry on
bloody feuds within their precincts. They dishonor their character in
the same way as the Jews profaned their Temple. Therefore, God, in His
wisdom, has deprived the Jews and the Christians of the Holy City, and
has intrusted it to the Mahometans, because, in their hands, it is
safe from desecration. To his observation the Christian priest and the
Jewish physician could oppose only abashed silence.

Chayim Ibn-Musa devoted himself to the task of discrediting the chief
sources of the materials of Christian attacks on Judaism, the writings
of the Franciscan Nicholas de Lyra. He not only refuted the assertions
put forward in those works, but deprived them of the soil upon which
they fed. The ever-recurring controversies between Jews and Christians
led to no conclusions, and left each party in the belief that it had
gained a victory, because they generally turned on secondary questions,
the disputants never discussing fundamental premises, but wrangling,
each from his undemonstrated basis. Chayim Ibn-Musa wished to introduce
method into these controversies, and to lay down clear principles for
the defense of Judaism. Accordingly, he drew up rules which, strictly
observed, were bound to lead to a definite result. In the first
place, he advised Jews invariably to hold fast in a disputation to
the simple meaning of the Scriptures, always to take the context into
account, and especially to avoid allegorical or symbolical methods
of interpretation, which left Christian polemics free to introduce
arbitrary theories. Further, Jewish disputants were to announce that
they ascribed no authority in matters of belief either to the Chaldaic
translation of the Bible (Targum) or to the Greek (Septuagint), these
being the sources of the false proofs adduced by Christians. He
counseled them to abandon even Agadic exegesis, and not to hesitate to
declare that it had no weight in determining the doctrines of Judaism.
These and similar rules Chayim Ibn-Musa applied to the writings of
Nicholas de Lyra, successfully refuting them from beginning to end in a
comprehensive work, justly entitled "Shield and Sword."

The anti-Christian polemical literature of this period was further
enriched by two writers, father and son, living in Algiers, far
removed from the scenes of the Christian propaganda. But Simon ben
Zemach Duran and his son, Solomon Duran, were Spaniards by birth and
education. In his philosophic exposition of Judaism, the former devoted
a chapter to Christianity, maintaining, in answer to Christian and
Mahometan objections, the inviolability of the Torah. This chapter,
entitled "Bow and Buckler," and described as being "for defense and
attack," proves the contention of older writers, and more recently of
Profiat Duran, that Jesus' intention was not to abolish Judaism. The
rabbi of Algiers exhibits extraordinarily wide acquaintance with the
literature of the New Testament and thorough familiarity with church
doctrine, combats each with weapons taken from its own arsenal, and
criticises unsparingly.

Solomon Duran I (born about 1400, died 1467), who succeeded his father
in the Algerian rabbinate, combined with profound Talmudic knowledge
a decided leaning towards a rationalistic apprehension of Judaism.
Unlike his father and his ancestor, Nachmani, he was a sworn enemy of
the Kabbala. During his father's lifetime and at his request, he wrote
a refutation of the shameless, lying accusations brought against the
Talmud by Geronimo de Santa Fé. In an exhaustive treatise ("Letter on
the Conflict of Duties") he deals sharply with Geronimo's sallies. He
repels the accusation that the Talmud teaches lewdness, and proves
that it really inculcates extreme continence. Jews who regulate their
lives according to Talmudical prescriptions scrupulously abstain from
carnal sins, holding them in great abhorrence, and pointing with scorn
at persons guilty of them. How, asks Solomon Duran, can Christians
reproach Jews with unchastity--they, whose holiest men daily commit
sins which dare not be mentioned to modest ears, and which have become
proverbial as "Monk's sin" (peccato dei frati).

Religious philosophy, which had been raised to the perfection of a
science only by Jewish-Spanish thinkers, had its last cultivators in
Spain during this period. The same men who protected Judaism against
the onslaughts of Christianity defended it against benighted Jews who
wished to banish light, and, like the Dominicans, desired to establish
blind faith in the place of reason and judgment. Zealots like Shem Tob
Ibn-Shem Tob and others, biased by their narrow Talmudical education,
and misled by the Kabbala, saw in scientific inquiry a byroad to
heresy. Perceiving that for the most part cultivated Jews succumbed to
the proselytizing efforts of Vincent Ferrer and Pope Benedict, men of
the stamp of Shem Tob were confirmed in their belief that philosophic
culture, nay, reflection on a religious topic, irretrievably lead
to apostasy. The logical result of religious impeachment of science
was the condemnation of Maimuni and all the Jewish thinkers who
had allowed reason to have weight in religious questions. Against
this form of bigotry Joseph Albo entered the lists with a complete
religio-philosophical work (Ikkarim, "fundamental teachings"), in which
he attempted to separate the essential doctrines of Judaism from the
non-essential, and to fix the boundary line between belief and heresy.

Joseph Albo (born about 1380, died about 1444), of Monreal, one of
the principal representatives of Judaism at the Tortosa disputation,
who, probably through the intolerance of Pope Benedict, had emigrated
to Soria, was a physician and a pupil of Chasdaï Crescas, hence well
acquainted with the physical sciences and the philosophic thought of
his time. Although a strict adherent of Talmudical Judaism, he was,
like his teacher, not averse to philosophic ideas. Indeed, he tried to
reconcile them, without, of course, permitting Judaism to yield a jot
to philosophy. Albo had not, however, the profundity of his teacher; as
a thinker he was superficial, commonplace, and incapable of writing
with logical sequence. On the advice of his friends, he undertook to
investigate in how far freedom of inquiry in religious matters was
possible within the limits of Judaism. At the same time he wished to
fix the number of articles of faith and to decide the question whether
the number thirteen adopted by Maimuni was correct, or whether it could
be increased or lessened without justly bringing a charge of heresy
on him who made the change. Thus originated his religio-philosophical
system, the last on Spanish soil. Albo's style differs widely from
that of his predecessors. He was a preacher--one of the cleverest
and most graceful--and this circumstance exercised marked influence
on his method of exposition. It is easy, comprehensible, popular and
captivating. Albo has the knack of explaining every philosophic idea by
a striking illustration, and of developing it by skillful employment
of Bible verses and Agadic aphorisms. What his style thus gained, on
the one hand, in intelligibility and popularity, it lost, on the other,
through a certain redundancy and shallowness.

It is a remarkable fact that Albo, who thought that he was developing
his religio-philosophical system exclusively in the native spirit
of Judaism, placed at its head a principle of indubitably Christian
origin; so powerfully do surroundings affect even those who exert
themselves to throw off such influence. The religious philosopher
of Soria propounded as his fundamental idea that salvation was the
whole aim of man in this life, and that Judaism strongly emphasized
this aspect of religion. His teacher, Chasdaï Crescas, and others,
had considered man's aim the bliss of the future life, to be found
in proximity to the Deity and in the union of the soul with the
all-pervading spirit of God. According to Albo highest happiness
consists not so much in the exaltation of the soul as in its salvation.
That is the nucleus of Albo's religio-philosophical system. Man
attains only after death the perfection for which he is destined by
God; for this higher life his mundane existence is but a preparation.
How can he best utilize his term of preparation? There are three
kinds of institutions for the reclamation of man from barbarism and
his advancement to civilization. The first is Natural Law, a sort of
social compact to abstain from theft, rapine and homicide; the second
is State Legislation, which cares for order and morals; and the third
is Philosophical Law, which aims at promoting the enduring happiness of
man, or, at least, at removing obstacles in the way of its realization.
All these institutions, even when highly developed, are powerless
to assist the real welfare of man, the redemption of his soul, his
beatitude; for they concern themselves only with actions, with proper
conduct, but do nothing to inculcate the views or supply the principles
which are to be the mainsprings of action. If the highest aim of man
be eternal life or beatitude after death, then there must be a Divine
Legislation, without which man in this world must always be groping
in darkness and missing his highest destiny. This Divine Legislation
must supply all the perfections lacking in its mundane counterpart. It
must have for its postulate a perfect God, who both wishes and is able
to promote the redemption of man; it must further bear witness to the
certainty that this God has revealed an unalterable Law calculated to
secure the happiness of man; and finally it must appoint a suitable
requital for actions and intentions. Hence this Divine Legislation has
three fundamental principles: the Existence of God, the Revelation of
His Will, and just Retribution after Death. These are the three pillars
on which it rests, and it requires none other.

Judaism, then, according to Albo, is a discipline for eternal
salvation. It is "the Divine Legislation" (Dath Elohith), and, as
such, comprises many religious laws--613 according to the customary
calculation--to enable each individual to promote his own salvation.
For even a single religious precept fulfilled with intelligence
and devotion, and without mental reservation or ulterior motive,
entitles man to salvation. Consequently, the Torah, with its numerous
prescriptions, is not intended as a burden for its disciples, nor are
the Jews threatened, as Christian teachers maintain, with a curse in
the event of their not observing the entire number of commandments.
On the contrary, the object is to render easy the path to higher
perfection. Therefore, the Agada says that every Israelite has a share
in Eternal Life (Olam ha-ba), for each one can obtain this end by the
fulfillment of a single religious duty.

Arrived at this point, the religious philosopher of Soria propounds
the question whether Judaism can ever be altered as previous
dispensations were by the Sinaitic Revelation. This question required
specially careful consideration, as Christians always maintained that
Christianity was a new revelation, as Judaism had been in its time;
that the "New Covenant" took the place of the "Old," and that by the
Gospel, the Torah had been fulfilled, _i. e._, abrogated. Albo had
acknowledged the existence of rudimentary revelations previous to that
of Sinai, and to avoid being entrapped by the consequences of his
own system he put forward a peculiar distinction. That which God had
once revealed by His own mouth direct to man was, by virtue of that
fact, unalterable and binding for all time; but that which had been
communicated only by a prophetic intermediary might suffer change or
even annulment. The Ten Commandments which the Israelites had received
direct from God, amid the flames of Sinai, were unalterable; in them
the three cardinal principles of a divine legislation are laid down.
On the other hand, the remaining prescriptions of Judaism, imposed on
the people solely through the mediation of Moses, were open to change
or even revocation. But this instability of a portion, perhaps a large
portion, of the Jewish religious law was only a theory, propounded
simply as a possibility. In practice the obligations of the Torah were
to be regarded as binding and unalterable, until it should please God
to reveal other laws through the medium of a prophet as great as Moses,
and in as open and convincing a manner as on Sinai. Hitherto no prophet
had made good his claim so far as to render necessary the rescinding of
any portion of Judaism.

Albo's religious system is far from satisfactory. Based upon the
Christian doctrine of salvation, it was compelled to regard faith, in
a Christian sense, as the chief condition of the soul's redemption,
and the ordinances of Judaism as sacraments, similar to baptism or
communion, upon which salvation was dependent. Nor is the development
of his theory strictly logical. Too often the arts of the preacher take
the place of severe reasoning, and for the illustration of his ideas he
indulges in prolix sermons in exposition of Biblical and Agadic texts.

A bolder thinker than Albo, but, like him, a preacher, was his junior
contemporary, Joseph Ibn-Shem Tob. At one time, when in disgrace with
the king of Castile, and leading a wandering life, he held forth every
Sabbath to large audiences. He had been well schooled in philosophy.
His Kabbalistical, gloomy and fanatical father, who denounced
philosophy as a primary source of evil, damned Aristotle to hell, and
even accused Maimuni of heterodoxy, must have been scandalized when
his son Joseph plunged deep, and with all his heart, into the study
of Aristotle and Maimuni. But Joseph did not hesitate to stigmatize
the error of his father and of those who thought the employment of
philosophic methods opposed to the interests of religion. He, on the
contrary, held that they were essential for the attainment of the
higher destiny to which all men, especially Israelites, are called.
The cultured, philosophical Jew who intelligently discharges all the
religious duties of Judaism obviously realizes his high aim much sooner
than the Israelite who practices his ceremonial blindly, without wisdom
or understanding. Science is also of great value in enabling human
intelligence to discriminate error. It is the nature of man's imperfect
intellect to foster truth and error side by side; but knowledge teaches
how to distinguish between the true and the false. On the other hand,
gaps in philosophical teaching are bridged over by the Sinaitic Law.
In so far as the latter conceives the happiness of man in the survival
of the spirit after the destruction of the body, it is immeasurably
the superior of philosophy. Judaism also names the means of attaining
eternal happiness--the conscientious fulfillment of religious
obligations. On this point, Joseph Shem Tob's view approximates that
of Joseph Albo. In his eyes, also, the commandments of Judaism have a
sacramental character, but he does not emphasize salvation so much as
Albo. Joseph Ibn-Shem Tob went so far, however, as to deny that the
objects of the religious laws were knowable, and, to a certain extent,
ascribed to them a mystical influence.

None of these writings of the first half of the fifteenth century,
philosophical or polemical, was the fruit of leisure and an unfettered
spirit. All were stimulated into existence by the urgent necessities
of the times, and were put forth to protect the religious and moral
treasure-house from pressing danger. In order not to succumb, Judaism
was forced simultaneously to strengthen itself from within and ward off
attacks from without.

It was, indeed, more than ever necessary for Judaism to arm itself,
doubly and trebly; its darkest days were approaching. Again the grim
church fiend arose, and the gruesome shadow of its extended wings swept
anxiously across Europe. As in the time of Innocent III, so again at
this period the church decreed the degradation and proscription of
the Jews. The old enactments were solemnly renewed by the official
representatives of Christendom, assembled in Œcumenical Council at
Basle, where they had declared their infallibility, and even sat in
judgment on the papacy. Curious, indeed! The council could not arrange
its own concerns, was powerless to bring the mocking Hussites back
to the bosom of Mother Church, despaired of putting an end to the
dissoluteness and vice of the clergy and monks, yet gave its attention
to the Jews to lead them to salvation. Leprous sheep themselves, they
sought to save unblemished lambs! The Basle church council, which sat
for thirteen years (June, 1431-May, 1443), examining all the great
European questions, gave no small share of its attention to the Jews.
Their humiliation was necessary for the strengthening of Christian
faith--such was the ground on which the council proceeded at its
nineteenth sitting (September 7th, 1434), when it resolved to revise
the old and devise new restrictions. The canonical decrees prohibiting
Christians from holding intercourse with Jews, from rendering them
services, and from employing them as physicians, excluding them from
offices and dignities, imposing on them a distinctive garb, and
ordering them to live in special Jew-quarters, were renewed. A few
fresh measures were adopted, new in so far as they had not previously
been put forward by the highest ecclesiastical authorities. These
provided that Jews should not be admitted to university degrees, that
they should be made, if necessary, by force, to attend the delivery
of conversionist sermons, and that at the colleges means should be
provided for combating Jewish heresy by instruction in Hebrew, Chaldee,
and Arabic. Thus the Œcumenical Council, which gave itself out as
inspired by the Holy Ghost, designed the conversion of all Jews. It
adopted the program of Penyaforte, Pablo Christiani, and Vincent
Ferrer, who had counseled systematic application of pressure to induce
the Jews to abandon "their infidelity." On the baptized Jews, too,
the Basle church council bestowed special attention. They were to be
favored, but also carefully watched, lest they marry Jews, keep the
Sabbath and Jewish feasts, bury their dead according to Jewish rites,
or, in fact, follow any Jewish observances.

A fanatical paroxysm broke out afresh in various towns of Europe,
commencing in the island of Majorca. The remnant of the congregation
of Palma was hated alike by the priests and the mob, and both gave
a willing ear to the rumor that the Jews, during Holy Week, had
crucified the Moorish servant of a Jew, and put him to the torture. The
reputed martyr was still living, but, nevertheless, Bishop Gil-Nunjoz
caused two Jews to be imprisoned as ringleaders. Thereupon arose a
contest between the bishop and the governor, Juan Desfar, the latter
maintaining that as the Jews were the property of the king, he alone
could condemn them. The bishop was obliged to hand over the Jews, who
were locked up in the governor's jail. The priests, however, incited
the mob against the governor and the Jews, and before Juan Desfar
could arrange for a hearing, the people were prepossessed against
him. A court composed chiefly of Dominicans and Franciscans was
called together, and employed the rack as the most effectual means of
obtaining the truth from the witnesses. One of the accused put to the
torture acknowledged all that was desired, and pointed out any Jews who
happened to be mentioned as his accomplices. An unprincipled Jew named
Astruc Sibili, who lived in strife with many members of the community,
and feared to be involved in the blood accusation, came forward as the
denouncer of his co-religionists. Apparently of his own accord Astruc
Sibili acknowledged that the servant had been crucified, and pointed
out several Jews as the murderers. Although he kept himself clear from
all complicity in the matter, Astruc Sibili was soon punished for his
denunciations--he was thrown into prison as an accomplice. The fate
of the informer and the flight of several Jewish families, justly
fearing a repetition of massacres, from Palma to a mountain in the
vicinity, excited the Christian inhabitants yet more. The fugitives
were pursued, placed in fetters, and brought back to the city, their
flight being considered a proof of the guilt of the entire community.
Astruc Sibili and three others were condemned to be burnt at the stake,
but their punishment was commuted to death by hanging, on condition
that they be baptized. To this they agreed, considering baptism the
last straw by which their lives might be saved. The whole community,
men, women and children, two hundred in all, went over to Christianity
to escape a horrible death. The priests had ample employment in
baptizing the converts. How little they believed in the imputed crime
of the condemned was shown when, the gallows being reached, the
priests, encouraging the mob to do the same, demanded the pardon of
the condemned. The governor yielded to the voice of the people, and
by a procession and amid singing they were escorted to the church,
where a _Te Deum_ was chanted. Thus ended the community of Majorca,
which had lasted over a thousand years, and had greatly contributed to
the well-being of the island. With it disappeared the prosperity of
this fruitful and favored island. Simon Duran, deeply grieved at the
secession of the community of Palma, which he had lovingly cherished,
silenced his conscience with the thought that he had not been remiss in



    Pope Eugenius IV, under the Influence of Alfonso de Cartagena,
    changes his Attitude towards the Jews--His Bull against the
    Spanish and Italian Jews in 1442--Don Juan II defends the
    Jews--Pope Nicholas V's Hostility--Louis of Bavaria--The
    Philosopher Nicholas of Cusa and his Relation to Judaism--John
    of Capistrano--His Influence with the People is turned against
    the Jews--Capistrano in Bavaria and Würzburg--Expulsion
    of the Breslau Community--Expulsion of the Jews from Brünn
    and Olmütz--The Jews of Poland under Casimir IV--Capture
    of Constantinople by Mahomet II--The Jews find an Asylum in
    Turkey--The Karaites--Moses Kapsali--Isaac Zarfati--Position
    of the Jews of Spain--Persecutions directed by Alfonso de
    Spina--The Condition of the Marranos.

1442-1474 C.E.

About the middle of the fifteenth century, venomous hatred of Jews,
become characteristic of Spain and Germany, began to increase, and at
the end of that century reached its highest development. In Spain it
was stimulated principally by envy of the influential positions still
enjoyed by Jews in spite of misfortune and humiliation; in Germany,
on the contrary, where the Jews moved like shadows, it arose from
vague race-antipathy, of which religious differences formed only one
aspect. An unfortunate event for the German communities was the death
of Emperor Sigismund (towards the end of 1437) at the moment when the
council of Basle was casting a threatening glance in their direction.
This prince was not a reliable protector of the Jews. Often enough he
bled them to relieve his ever-recurring pecuniary embarrassments, and
he even charged them with the expenses of the council of Constance.
But so far as lay in his power he set his face against the bloody
persecutions of his Hebrew subjects. He was succeeded as German
king and emperor by the Austrian Archduke Albert, who had already
distinguished himself by inhumanity towards Jews. Albert II was a
deadly enemy of Jews and heretics. He could not exterminate either, for
the Hussites had courage and arms, and the Jews were an indispensable
source of money; but whenever it was sought to injure them he gladly
assisted. When the town council of Augsburg decided to expel the Jewish
community (1439), the emperor joyfully gave his consent. Two years
were granted them to dispose of their houses and immovables; at the
end of that time they were one and all exiled, and the grave-stones in
the Jewish cemetery used to repair the city walls. Fortunately for the
Jews, Albert reigned only two years, and the rule of the Holy Roman
Empire, or rather the anarchy by which it was convulsed, devolved on
the good-natured, weak, indolent, and tractable Frederick III. As a set
off, two fanatical Jew-haters now arose--Pope Eugenius IV and the
Franciscan, John of Capistrano, a cut-throat in the guise of a lowly
servant of God.

Eugenius, whom the council of Basle had degraded step by step,
depriving him of his dignities and electing another pope in his place,
ultimately triumphed through the treachery of some of the principal
members of the council and the helplessness of the German princes, and
was again enabled to befool the Christian nations. Eugenius, though of
narrow, monkish views, was at first not unfavorably disposed towards
the Jews. At the beginning of his pontificate, he confirmed the
privileges granted Jews by his predecessor, Martin V, promised them
his protection, and forbade their forcible baptism. But he was soon
influenced in an opposite direction, and developed extraordinary zeal
in degrading the Jews and withdrawing all protection from them. The
prime mover in this conversion seems to have been Alfonso de Cartagena,
a son of the apostate Paul de Santa Maria. Appointed bishop of Burgos
on the death of his father, Alfonso warmly espoused the cause of Pope
Eugenius at the council of Basle, and hence rose high in the favor of
the pontiff. He alone could have been the author of the complaints
against the pride and arrogance of the Castilian Jews which induced
the pope to issue the bull of 1442. This document was addressed to
the bishops of Castile and Leon (10th August, 1442), and was to the
effect that it had come to the knowledge of his Holiness that the
Jews abuse the privileges granted them by former popes, blaspheming
and transgressing to the vexation of the faithful and the dishonor of
the true faith. He felt himself compelled, therefore, to withdraw the
indulgences granted by his predecessors--Martin and other popes--
and to declare them null and void. At the same time Eugenius repeated
the canonical restrictions in a severer form. Thus, he decreed that
Christians should not eat, drink, bathe, or live with Jews (or
Mahometans), nor use medicines of any kind purveyed by them. Jews (and
Mahometans) should not be eligible for any office or dignity, and
should be incompetent to inherit property from Christians. They were
to build no more synagogues, and, in repairing the old, were to avoid
all ornamentation. They were to seclude themselves from the public
eye during Passion Week, to the extent even of keeping their doors
and windows closed. The testimony of Jews (and Mahometans) against
Christians was declared invalid. Eugenius' bull emphatically enjoined
that no Christian should stand in any relation of servitude to a Jew,
and should not even kindle a fire for him on the Sabbath; that Jews
should be distinguished from Christians by a peculiar costume, and
reside in special quarters. Furthermore, every blasphemous utterance
by a Jew about Jesus, the "Mother of God," or the saints, was to be
severely punished by the civil tribunals. This bull was ordered to
be made known throughout the land, and put in force thirty days
later. Heavy penalties were to be exacted for offenses under it. If
the culprit was a Christian, he was to be placed under the ban of the
church, and neither king nor queen was to be exempt; if a Jew, then
the whole of his fortune, personal and real, was to be confiscated
by the bishop of the diocese, and applied to the purposes of the
church. By means of circular letters, Eugenius exhorted the Castilian
ecclesiastics to enforce the restrictions without mercy. He dared not
be outdone in Jew-hatred by the council of Basle. At about the same
time, or perhaps earlier, Eugenius issued a bull of forty-two articles
against the Italian Jewish communities, in which, among other things,
he ordered that, under pain of confiscation of property, Jews should
not read Talmudic literature.

The papal bull for Castile was proclaimed in many of the towns, as it
would appear, without the consent of the king, Juan II. The fanatics
had won the day; all their wishes were fulfilled. The misguided people
at once considered Jews and Mahometans outlawed, and proceeded to
make violent attacks on their persons and property. Pious Christians
interpreted the papal ordinances to mean that they were not to continue
commercial relations of any kind with the Jews. Christian shepherds
forthwith abandoned the flocks and herds committed to their charge by
Jews and Mahometans, and plowmen turned their backs upon the fields.
The union of towns (Hermandad) framed new statutes for the more
complete oppression of the proscribed of the church. In consternation
the Jews appealed to the king of Castile. Their complaints had all
the more effect upon him as their damage meant damage to the royal
exchequer. Accordingly, Juan II, or rather his favorite, Alvaro de
Luna, issued a counter decree (April 6th, 1443). He expressed his
indignation at the shamelessness which made the papal bull an excuse
for assaults on the Jews and Mahometans. Canonical, royal and imperial
law agreed in permitting them to live undisturbed and unmolested among
Christians. The bull of Pope Eugenius placed Jews and Mahometans under
certain specific restrictions; but it did not follow that they might
be robbed, injured or maltreated, that they might not engage in trade
or industry, nor work as weavers, goldsmiths, carpenters, barbers,
shoe-makers, tailors, millers, coppersmiths, saddlers, rope-makers,
potters, cartwrights or basket-makers, or that Christians might not
serve them in these pursuits. Such service involved neither relaxation
of Christian authority nor dangerous intimacy with Jews. Nor did it
appear that the avocations mentioned conferred any of that prestige
which solely the bull was designed to deny to Jews.

Christians should certainly abstain from the medicines of Jewish or
Moorish physicians, unless compounded by Christian hands; but this did
not mean that skillful doctors of the Jewish or the Mahometan faith
should not be consulted, or their medicines not used, when no Christian
physician was available. Juan II imposed upon the magistracy the duty
of safeguarding the Jews and Mahometans, as objects of his special
protection, and instructed them to punish Christian offenders with
imprisonment and confiscation of goods. He furthermore ordered that his
pleasure be made known throughout the land by public criers, in the
presence of a notary.

Whether this sophistical decree was of any real use to the Jews is
doubtful. Don Juan II had not much authority in his kingdom, and
was obliged to make frequent concessions to hostile parties, with
whom his own son occasionally made common cause. The Castilian Jews
were consequently abandoned to the arbitrary authority of the local
magistrates during the remainder of the reign of this well-meaning but
weak monarch, and were obliged to come to terms with them whenever
protection was required against violence or false accusations. Did any
misfortune threaten a Jew, then the tailor would fly to his princely
patron, or the goldsmith to a grandee of high position, and seek to
avert it by supplications or gold. It was truly no enviable situation
in which the Jews found themselves.

Eugenius' successor, Pope Nicholas V (March, 1447-March, 1455),
continued the system of degrading and oppressing the Jews. As
soon as he ascended the throne of St. Peter he devoted himself to
abolishing the privileges of the Italian Jews, which Martin V had
confirmed and Eugenius had not formally revoked, and subjecting them
to exceptional laws. In a bull, dated June 23d, 1447, he repeated
for Italy the restrictions which his predecessor had formulated for
Castile, re-enacting them in the fullest detail, not even omitting the
prohibition against the lighting of fires for Jews on the Sabbath. But
though Nicholas' bull was only a copy, it had much more real force than
the original; for its execution was confided to the pitiless Jew-hater
and heretic-hunter, John of Capistrano. On him devolved the duty of
seeing, either in person or through his brother Franciscans, that the
provisions of the bull were literally obeyed, and infractions strictly
punished. If, for example, a Jewish physician provided a suffering
Christian with the means of regaining health, Capistrano was authorized
to confiscate the whole of the offender's fortune and property. And the
saintly monk, with heart of stone, was just the man to visit such a
transgression with unrelenting severity.

The Jew-hatred of the council of Basle and the popes spread like a
contagion over a wide area. The fierce and bigoted Bavarian Duke of
Landshut, Louis the Rich--"a hunter of game and Jews"--had all
the Jews of his country arrested on one day (Monday, October 5th,
1450), shortly after his accession to power. The men were thrown into
prison, the women shut up in the synagogues, and their property and
jewelry confiscated. Christian debtors were directed not to pay their
Jewish creditors more than the capital they had originally borrowed,
and to deduct from that the interest already paid. After four weeks of
incarceration the unhappy Jews were obliged to purchase their lives
from the turbulent duke for 30,000 gulden, and then, penniless and
almost naked, they were turned out of the country. Gladly would Louis
have meted out the same treatment to the large and rich community
of Ratisbon, which was within his jurisdiction. As, however, his
authority was recognized only to a limited extent, and as the Jews of
the city were under the protection of the council and its privileges,
he was obliged to content himself with levying contributions. Many
Jews are said to have been driven by anxiety and want into embracing

As the rest of the European Jews regarded their Spanish brethren as an
exalted and favored class, so the papacy directed special attention to
them in order to put an end to their favorable position in the state.
Either on the proposition of the king to modify the severe canonical
restrictions against Jews, or on the petition of their enemies to
confirm them, Pope Nicholas V issued a new bull (March 1st, 1451). He
confirmed the old exclusions from Christian society and all honorable
walks of life, and entirely abolished the privileges of the Spanish and
the Italian Jews.

The unpitying harshness of canonical legislation against the children
of Israel was unconsciously based on fear. All-powerful Christianity
dreaded the influence which the Jewish mind might exert on the
Christian population in too familiar intercourse. What the papacy
concealed in the incense-clouds of its official decrees was disclosed
by a philosophical writer and cardinal standing in close relation
with the papal court. Nicholas de Cusa (from Cues on the Moselle),
the last devotee of scholasticism, into which he tried to introduce
mystic elements, enthusiastically advocated, in the face of the
dissensions of Christendom, a union of all religions in one creed.
The church ceremonies he was prepared to sacrifice, nay, he was ready
to accept circumcision, if, by such means, non-Christians could be
won over to the belief in the Trinity. He feared, as he distinctly
said, the stiffneckedness of the Jews, who cling so stubbornly to
their monotheism; but he consoled himself with the reflection that
an unarmed handful could not disturb the peace of the world. It is
true, the Jews were unarmed; but, mentally, they were still powerful,
and Nicholas resolved to devote himself to the task of depriving
them of intellectual strength. The pope had appointed him legate for
Germany, where he was to reform church and cloister (1450-1451). But
the cardinal also occupied himself with the Jewish question. At the
provincial council of Bamberg he put into force the canonical statute
concerning Jew badges, which provided that men should wear round
pieces of red cloth on their breasts, and women blue stripes on their
head-dresses--as if the branding of Jews could heal the dissolute
clergy and their demoralized flocks of their uncleanness. The only
result of the isolation of the Jews was their protection from the taint
of prevailing immorality. The cardinal was not successful in purifying
the clergy, or in putting an end to the fraud of bleeding hosts and
miracle-working images, against which he had exclaimed so loudly. The
church remained corrupt to the core. There would have been abundant
cause to fear the Jews, if they had been permitted to probe the
suppurating wounds.

Especially troublesome to the church were the thousands of baptized
Jews in Spain, who had been driven into its fold by the massacres,
pulpit denunciations, and legal restrictions to which their race
was exposed. Not only the lay new-Christians, but also those who had
taken orders or had assumed the monk's garb, continued to observe,
more or less openly, the Jewish religious laws. The sophistry of the
converts, Paul de Santa Maria and Geronimo de Santa Fé, regarding
the testimony in the Old Testament and the Talmudic Agada to the
Messiahship of Jesus, the Incarnation of God, the Trinity and other
church dogmas, impressed the Marranos but little. In spite of baptism,
they remained stiff-necked and blind, _i. e._, true to the faith of
their fathers. Don Juan of Castile, at the instigation of his favorite,
Alvaro de Luna, who was anxious to strike at his arch-enemies, the
new-Christians, complained to Pope Nicholas V of the relapses of the
Marranos, and the pontiff knew of no remedy but force. He addressed
rescripts to the bishop of Osma and the vicar of Salamanca (November
20th, 1451), empowering them to appoint inquisitors to inquire
judicially into cases of new-Christians suspected of Judaizing. The
inquisitors were authorized to punish the convicted, imprison them,
confiscate their goods and disgrace them, to degrade even priests, and
hand them over to the secular arm--a church euphemism for condemning
them to the heretic's stake. This was the first spark of the hell-fire
of the Inquisition, which perpetrated more inhumanity than all the
tyrants and malefactors branded by history. At first this bull seems
to have been ineffectual. The times were not ripe for the bloody
institution. Besides, the Christians themselves helped to keep up the
connection of the baptized Jews with their brethren in race. They
denied equal rights to new-Christians of Jewish or Mahometan origin,
and wished to exclude them from all posts of honor. Against this
antipathy, inherent in the diversity of national elements, the pope was
compelled to issue a bull (November 29th, 1451), but it was powerless
to uproot the prejudice. It could be removed only by higher culture,
not at the dictation of a church chief, even though he boasted of

How absurd, then, to continue driving such proselytes into the church!
Yet this was done by the Franciscan monk, John of Capistrano (of
Neapolitan origin), who is responsible for immense injury to the Jews
of many lands. This mendicant friar, of gaunt figure and ill-favored
appearance, possessed a winning voice and an iron will, which enabled
him to obtain unbounded influence, not only over the stupid populace,
but also over the cultivated classes. With a word he could fascinate,
inspire, or terrify, persuade to piety or incite to cruelty. Like the
Spanish Dominican, Vincent Ferrer, the secret of Capistrano's power
lay not so much in his captivating eloquence as in the sympathetic
modulations of his voice and the unshakable enthusiasm with which he
clung to his mistaken convictions. He himself firmly believed that,
with the blood he had gathered from the nose of his master, Bernard
of Siena, and his _capuche_, he could cure the sick, awake the dead
and perform all kinds of miracles, and the misguided people not
only believed but exaggerated his professions. His strictly ascetic
life, his hatred of good living, luxury and debauchery, made an
impression the deeper from its striking contrast to the sensuality
and dissoluteness of the great bulk of the clergy and monks. Wherever
Capistrano appeared, the people thronged by thousands to hear him, to
be edified and agitated, even though they did not understand a syllable
of his Latin addresses. The astute popes, Eugenius IV and Nicholas
V, recognized in him a serviceable instrument for the restoration of
the tottering authority of St. Peter. They rejoiced in his homilies
on the infallibility of the papacy and his fiery harangues on the
extermination of heretics, and the necessity of withstanding the
victoriously advancing Turks. They offered no objection if, at the
same time, he thought proper to vent his monkish gall upon harmless
amusements, pastimes and the elegancies of life, seeing that they
themselves were not disturbed in their enjoyments and pleasures. Among
the standing themes of Capistrano's exciting discourses--second only
to his rancor against heretics and Turks, and his tirades against
luxury and sports--were his denunciations of the impieties and the
usury of Jews. This procured his appointment by Pope Nicholas to the
post of inquisitor of the Jews, his duty being to superintend the
enforcement of the canonical restrictions against them. He had in
Naples occupied the position of inquisitorial judge for the Jews, on
the nomination of Queen Joanna, who had empowered him to punish with
the severest penalties any failure to observe the ecclesiastical law or
wear the Jew badge.

When this infuriate Capuchin visited Germany, he spread terror and
dismay among the Jews. They trembled at the mention of his name. In
Bavaria, Silesia, Moravia, and Austria, the bigotry of the Catholics,
already at a high pitch on account of the Hussite schism, was further
stirred by Capistrano, and, the Bohemian heretics being beyond its
reach, it vented itself upon Jews. The Bavarian dukes, Louis and
Albert, who had on one occasion before driven the Jews out of their
territories, were made still more fanatical by Capistrano. The former
demanded of certain counts, and of the city of Ratisbon, that they
expel the Jews. The burgomaster and town council, however, refused, and
would not withdraw the protection and the rights of citizenship which
the Jews had enjoyed from an early period. But they could not shield
them from the hostility of the clergy. Eventually even the Ratisbon
burghers, despite their good will for their Jewish fellow-citizens,
fell under the influence of Capistrano's fanaticism, and allowed
themselves to be incited to acts of unfriendliness. In the midwife
regulations, promulgated during the same year, occurs a clause
prohibiting Christian midwives from attending Jewish women, even in
cases where the lives of the patients were at stake.

The change of public feeling in respect to the Jews, brought about by
Capistrano, is strikingly illustrated by the conduct of one eminent
ecclesiastic before and after the appearance of the Capuchin in
Germany. Bishop Godfrey, of Würzburg, reigning duke of Franconia,
shortly after his accession to the government of the duchy, had granted
the fullest privileges to the Jews. More favorable treatment they
could not have desired. For himself and his successors he promised
special protection to all within his dominions, both to those settled
and those who might settle there later. They were to be freed from
the authority of the ordinary tribunals, lay and ecclesiastical, and
to have their disputes inquired into and adjudicated by their own
courts. Their rabbi (Hochmeister) was to be exempt from taxes, and
to be allowed to receive pupils in his _Yeshiba_ at his discretion.
Their movements were to be unrestricted, and those who might desire to
change their place of residence were to be assisted to collect their
debts, and provided with safe-conduct on their journeys. It was further
promised that these privileges should never be modified or revoked,
and the dean and chapter unanimously recognized and guaranteed them
"for themselves and their successors in the chapter." Every Jew who
took up his abode within Bishop Godfrey's jurisdiction was provided
with special letters of protection. But after Capistrano had begun his
agitation, how different the attitude towards Jews! We soon find the
same bishop and duke of Franconia issuing, "on account of the grievous
complaints against the Jews in his diocese," a statute and ordinance
(1453) decreeing their banishment. They were allowed until the 18th
January of the following year to sell their immovables, and within
fourteen days after that date, they were to leave, for "he (the bishop)
would no longer tolerate Jews in his diocese." The towns, barons,
lords, and justices were enjoined to expel the Jews from their several
jurisdictions, and Jewish creditors were deprived of a portion of the
debts owing to them. When Jews were concerned, inhuman fanaticism could
beguile a noble-hearted prince of the church and an entire chapter of
ecclesiastics into a flagrant breach of faith.

Capistrano's influence was most mischievous for the Jews of Silesia.
Here he showed himself in truth to be the "Scourge of the Jews," as
his admirers called him. The two chief communities in this province,
which belonged half to Poland and half to Bohemia, were at Breslau
and Schweidnitz, and the Jews composing them, not being permitted to
possess real property, and being, besides, largely engaged in the
money traffic, had considerable amounts of money at their command. The
majority of the nobles were among their debtors, and several towns were
either themselves debtors or had become security for their princes.
Hence it is not unlikely that some debtors of rank secretly planned
to evade their liabilities by ridding themselves of the Jews. At any
rate the advent of the fanatical Franciscan afforded an opportunity for
carrying out such a design.

Capistrano came to the Silesian capital on the invitation of the
bishop of Breslau, Peter Novak, who found himself unable to control
his subordinate ecclesiastics. Summoning the clergy to his presence,
the Franciscan preacher upbraided them for their sinful, immoral, and
sensual lives. The doors of the church in which the interview took
place were securely bolted, so that no lay ear might learn the full
extent of the depravity of the ministers of the Gospel. But nearer to
his heart than the reclamation of the clergy was the extermination of
the Hussites, of whom there were many in Silesia, and the persecution
of the Jews. The frenzied fanaticism with which Capistrano's harangues
inspired the people of Breslau directed itself principally against the
Jews. A report was spread that a Jew named Meyer, one of the wealthiest
of the Breslau Israelites, in whose safe-keeping were many of the bonds
of the burghers and nobles, had purchased a host from a peasant, had
stabbed and blasphemed it, and then distributed its fragments among
the communities of Schweidnitz, Liegnitz, and others for further
desecration. It need hardly be said that the wounded host was alleged
to have shed blood. This imbecile fiction soon reached the ears of the
municipal authorities, with whom it found ready credence. Forthwith
all the Jews of Breslau, men, women and children, were thrown into
prison, their entire property in the "Judengasse" seized, and, what
was most important to the authors of the catastrophe, the bonds of
their debtors, worth about 25,000 Hungarian gold florins, confiscated
(2d May, 1453). The guilt of the Jews was rendered more credible by
the flight of a few of them, who were, however, soon taken. Capistrano
assumed the direction of the inquiry into this important affair. As
inquisitor, the leading voice in the prosecution of blasphemers of the
consecrated wafer by right belonged to him. He ordered a few Jews to
be stretched on the rack, and personally instructed the torturers in
their task--he had experience in such work. The tortured Israelites
confessed. Meantime another infamous lie was circulated. A wicked
baptized Jewess declared that the Breslau Jews had once before burnt
a host, and that, on another occasion, they had kidnaped a Christian
boy, fattened him, and put him into a cask studded with sharp nails,
which they rolled about until their victim gave up the ghost. His
blood had been distributed among the Silesian communities. Even the
bones of the murdered child were alleged to have been found. The guilt
of the Jews appeared established in these various cases, and a large
number, in all 318 persons, were arrested in different localities,
and brought to Breslau. Capistrano sat in judgment upon them, and
hurried them to execution. At the Salzring--now Blücherplatz--where
Capistrano resided, forty-one convicted Jews were burnt on one day (2d
June, 1453). The rabbi (Phineas?) hanged himself; he had also counseled
others to take their own lives. The remainder were banished from
Breslau, all their children under seven years of age having previously
been taken from them by force, baptized, and given to Christians to
be brought up. This was Capistrano's wish, and in a learned treatise
he explained to King Ladislaus that it was in consonance with the
Christian religion and orthodoxy. The honest town clerk, Eschenloer,
who did not venture to protest aloud against these barbarities, wrote
in his diary, "Whether this is godly or not, I leave to the judgment of
the ministers of religion." The ministers of religion had transformed
themselves into savages. The goods of the burnt and banished Jews were,
of course, seized, and with their proceeds the Bernardine church was
built. It was not the only church erected with bloody money. In the
remaining Silesian towns the Jews fared no better. Some were burnt, and
the rest chased away, stripped almost to the skin.

When the young king, Ladislaus, was petitioned by the Breslau town
council to decree that from that time forward no Jew would be allowed
to settle in Breslau, not only did he assent "for the glory of God
and the honor of the Christian faith," but he added, in approval of
the outrages committed, "that they (the Silesian Jews) had suffered
according to their deserts," a remark worthy of the son of Albert II,
who had burnt the Austrian Jews. The same monarch also sanctioned--
doubtless at the instigation of Capistrano, who passed several months
at Olmütz--the expulsion of the Jews from the latter place and from

The echoes of Capistrano's venomous eloquence reached even Poland,
disturbing the Jewish communities there from the tranquillity they
had enjoyed for centuries. Poland had long been a refuge for hunted
and persecuted Jews. Exiles from Germany, Austria and Hungary found a
ready welcome on the Vistula. The privileges generously granted them
by Duke Boleslav, and renewed and confirmed by King Casimir the Great,
were still in force. The Jews were, in fact, even more indispensable
in that country than in other parts of Christian Europe; for in Poland
there were only two classes, nobles and serfs, and the Jews supplied
the place of the middle class, providing merchandise and money, and
bringing the dead capital of the country into circulation. During a
visit which Casimir IV paid to Posen shortly after his accession,
a fire broke out in this already important city, and, with the
exception of its few brick houses, it was totally destroyed. In this
conflagration, the original document of the privileges granted the Jews
a century before by Casimir the Great perished. Jewish deputations from
a number of Polish communities waited upon the king, lamenting the
loss of these records, so important to them, and praying that new ones
might be prepared according to existing copies, and that all their old
rights might be renewed and confirmed. Casimir did not require much
persuasion. In order that they might live in security and contentment
under his happy reign, he granted them privileges such as they had
never before enjoyed in any European state (14th August, 1447). This
king was in no respect a slave of the church. So strictly did he keep
the clergy within bounds that they charged him with persecuting and
robbing them. He forbade their meddling in affairs of state, saying
that in such matters he preferred to rely on his own powers.

Either the king was misled by a false copy of the original charters,
or he desired to avail himself of the opportunity of enlarging their
scope without appearing to make fresh concessions; at all events, the
privileges accorded under the new statute were, in many respects, more
considerable than those formerly enjoyed by the Jews. Not alone did
it permit unrestricted trading and residence all over the then very
extensive kingdom of Poland, but it annulled canonical laws often laid
down by the popes, and only recently re-enacted by the general church
council of Basle. Casimir's charter mentioned that Jews and Christians
might bathe together, and in all respects enjoy free intercourse with
each other. It emphatically decreed that no Christian could summon
a Jew before an ecclesiastical tribunal, and that if a Jew was so
summoned, he need not appear. The palatines in their several provinces
were enjoined to see that the Jews were not molested by the clergy, and
generally to extend to them powerful protection. Furthermore, no Jew
might be accused of using Christian blood in the Passover ceremonies,
or of desecrating hosts, "Jews being innocent of such offenses, which
are repudiated by their religion." If a Christian charged an individual
Jew with using Christian blood, his accusation had to be supported
by native, trustworthy Jewish witnesses and four similarly qualified
Christian witnesses, and then the accused was to suffer for his
crime, and his co-religionists were not to be dragged into it. In the
event, however, of the Christian accuser not being in a position to
substantiate his charge by credible testimony, he was to be punished
with death. This was a check on ever-recurring calumny with its train
of massacres of Jews. Casimir also recognized the judicial autonomy of
the Jewish community. In criminal cases between Jews, or between Jews
and Christians, the ordinary tribunals were not to interfere, but the
palatine, or his representative, assisted by Jews, was to adjudicate.
In minor law-suits the decision was to rest with the Jewish elders
(rabbis), who were permitted to inflict a fine of six marks in cases
where their summonses were not obeyed. To keep the authority of the
Jewish courts within reasonable bounds, Casimir's charter enacted that
the ban should be pronounced on a Jew only with the concurrence of the
entire community. Truly, in no part of Christian Europe were the Jews
possessed of such important privileges. They were renewed and issued
by the king with the assent of the Polish magnates. Also the Karaite
communities of Troki, Luzk, etc., received from Casimir a renewal and
confirmation of the privileges granted them by the Lithuanian Duke
Witold in the thirteenth century.

The clergy looked with jealous eyes on this complaisance to the
Jews, and zealously worked to induce the king to change his friendly
attitude. At the head of the Polish priesthood thus hostile to the
Jews stood the influential bishop and cardinal of Cracow, Zbigniev
Olesnicki. The protection accorded the Jews and Hussites by the king
was to him a source of deep chagrin, and, to give effective vent to
his feelings, he sent in hot haste for the heretic-hunter Capistrano.
Capistrano entered Cracow in triumph, and was received by the king
and the clergy like a divine being. During the whole of his stay in
Cracow (August 28th, 1453, to May, 1454), aided by Bishop Zbigniev, he
stirred up King Casimir against the Hussite heretics and the Jews. He
publicly remonstrated with him on the subject, threatening him with
hell-fire and an unsuccessful issue to his war with the Prussian order
of knights, if he did not abolish the privileges enjoyed by Jews, and
abandon the Hussite heretics to the church. It was easy to predict a
defeat at the hands of the Prussian knights, seeing that the pope and
the whole of the Polish church were secretly assisting them against

Therefore, when the Teutonic knights, in aid of their Prussian allies,
took the field against Poland, and the Polish army, with King Casimir
at its head, was ignominiously put to flight (September, 1454), the
game of the clerical party was won. They spread the rumor that the
disaster to Poland was a consequence of the king's favor to Jews and
heretics. To retrieve his fallen fortunes, and to undertake a vigorous
campaign against the Prussians, Casimir needed the assistance of Bishop
Zbigniev, and the latter was in a position to make his own terms.
The Jews were sacrificed--the king was compelled to give them up.
In November, 1454, Casimir revoked all the privileges he had granted
the Jews, on the ground that "infidels may not enjoy preference over
the worshipers of Christ, and servants may not be better treated than
sons." By public criers the king's resolve was made known throughout
the land. Besides, Casimir ordered that the Jews of Poland wear a
special costume to distinguish them from Christians. Capistrano was
victorious all along the line. Through him the Jews were abased even
in the land where they had been most exalted. The results of this
misfortune were not long in showing themselves. The Jewish communities
mournfully wrote to their brethren in Germany, "that 'the monk' had
brought grievous trouble," even to those who lived under the scepter of
the king of Poland, whose lot had formerly been so happy that they had
been able to offer a refuge to the persecuted of other lands. They had
not believed that an enemy could reach them across the Polish frontier;
and now they had to groan under the oppression of the king and the

Meanwhile, heavy but deserved judgment descended on Christendom. After
an existence of more than a thousand years the sin-laden Byzantine
empire, which had stood its ground for centuries in spite of its
rottenness, had at length collapsed with the fall of Constantinople
(May 29th, 1453). The Turkish conqueror, Mahomet II, had given New Rome
over to slavery, spoliation, massacre, and every horror and outrage,
yet had, by no means, requited the wrongs she had inflicted on others
and herself. From Constantine, the founder of the Byzantine empire,
who placed a blood-stained sword in the hands of the church, to the
last of the emperors, Constantine Dragosses, of the Palæologus family,
everyone in the long series of rulers (with the exception of the
apostate Julian) was more or less inspired by falsehood and treachery,
and an arrogant, hypocritical, persecuting spirit. And the people, as
well as the servants of state and church, were worthy of their rulers.
From them the German, Latin and Slavonic peoples had derived the
principle that the Jews ought to be degraded by exceptional laws, or
even exterminated. Now, however, Byzantium itself lay shattered in the
dust, and wild barbarians were raising the new Turkish empire on its
site. Heavy vengeance had been exacted. Mahomet II, the conqueror of
Constantinople, threw a threatening glance at the remainder of Europe,
the countries of the Latin Church. The whole of Christendom was in
danger; yet the Christian rulers and nations were unable to organize
an effective resistance against the Turkish conquerors. The perfidy
and corruption of the papacy now bore bitter fruit. When the faithless
pope, Nicholas V, called upon Christendom to undertake a crusade
against the Turks, his legates at the diet of Ratisbon were compelled
to listen to unsparing denunciation of his corruption. Neither the pope
nor the emperor, they were told, had any real thought of undertaking a
war against the Turks; their sole idea was to squander upon themselves
the money they might collect. When the Turks made preparations to
invade Hungary, and threatened to carry the victorious crescent from
the right to the left side of the Danube, Capistrano preached himself
hoarse to kindle enthusiasm for a new crusade. His tirades had ceased
to draw. Their only effect was to assemble a ragged mob of students,
peasants, mendicant friars, half-starved adventurers and romantic
fanatics. The ghost of mediævalism vanished before the dawn of a new

It seems almost providential that, at a moment when the persecutions
in Europe were increasing in number and virulence, the new Turkish
empire should have arisen to offer an hospitable asylum to the hunted
Jews. When, three days after the chastisement which he inflicted
on Constantinople, the sultan, Mahomet II, proclaimed that all the
fugitive inhabitants might return to their homes and estates without
fear of molestation, he gave a benevolent thought to the Jews. He
permitted them to settle freely in Constantinople and other towns,
allotted them special dwelling-places, and allowed them to erect
synagogues and schools. Soon after his capture of Constantinople,
he ordered the election of a Greek patriarch, whom he invested
with a certain political authority over all the Greeks in his new
dominions, and also nominated a chief rabbi to preside over the Hebrew
communities. This was a pious, learned, upright Israelite, named Moses
Kapsali. Mahomet even summoned this rabbi to the divan, and singled
him out for special distinction, giving him a seat next to the mufti,
the Chief Ulema of the Mahometans, and precedence over the patriarch.
Moses Kapsali (born about 1420, died about 1495), also received from
the sultan a kind of political suzerainty over the Jewish communities
in Turkey. The taxes imposed upon the Jews he had to apportion among
communities and individuals; he had to superintend their collection
and to pay them into the sultan's exchequer. He was furthermore
empowered to inflict punishment on his co-religionists, and no rabbi
could hold office without his sanction. In short, he was the chief and
the official representative of a completely organized Jewish communal

This favorable situation of the Jews had a stimulating effect on the
degenerate Karaites, who migrated in considerable numbers from Asia,
the Crimea and southern Poland, to take up their abode with their more
happily placed brethren in Constantinople and Adrianople. The Karaites,
whose fundamental principle is the study and reasonable interpretation
of the Bible, were in so lamentable a state of ignorance, that their
entire religious structure had become a system of authorized dogmas
and traditions more rigid even than that of the Rabbanites. The extent
of their intellectual decline may be measured by the fact that in the
course of a century they failed to produce a single moderately original
theological writer. Those with a bent for study were compelled to sit
at the feet of Rabbanite teachers and receive from them instruction
in the Scriptures and the Talmud. The proud masters of Bible exegesis
had become the humble disciples of the once despised Rabbanites. The
petrifaction of Karaism is illustrated by an event in European Turkey.
A Karaite college, consisting of Menachem Bashyasi, his son Moses
Bashyasi, Menachem Maroli, Michael the Old, his son Joseph, and a few
others, had permitted the lights necessary for the Sabbath eve to be
prepared on Friday, so that the holy day need not be spent in darkness.
The college gave adequate reasons for the innovation. According to
a Karaite principle, not only an ecclesiastical authority, but any
individual is justified in abolishing an ancient custom, or annulling
former decisions, if he can cite sufficient exegetical authority.
Nevertheless, stormy opposition arose (about 1460) against this
decision, aimed at a custom derived, perhaps, from Anan, the founder
of Karaism, and hence possessing the sacredness conferred by the rust
of seven centuries. Schism and friction were the result. The section
of the community which ventured to prepare the lights required for the
Sabbath eve was abused, and charged with heresy. Moreover, the schism
relating to the commencement of the festivals was still unhealed.
The Palestinian Karaite communities and their neighbors continued to
distinguish between an ordinary and a leap year by the state of the
barley harvest, and to regulate their festivals by the appearance
of the new moon. On the other hand, the communities in Turkey, the
Crimea, and southern Poland, used the calendar of the Rabbanites. These
hereditary differences were eating more and more into the solidarity of
the sect, for there was no means of composing them, and agreeing upon
uniform principles.

The conspicuous decrepitude of Karaism and the ignorance of its
followers afforded the Rabbanites in the Turkish empire an opportunity
for reconciling them to Talmudic Judaism, or, at least, overcoming
their bitter hostility towards it. Rabbanite teachers, Enoch Saporta,
an immigrant from Catalonia, Eliezer Kapsali, from Greece, and Elias
Halevi, from Germany, stipulated that their Karaite pupils, whom they
instructed in the Talmud, should thenceforward abstain, in writing and
in speech, from reviling Talmudic authorities, and from desecrating
the festivals of the Rabbanite calendar. In the difficult position in
which studiously inclined Karaites found themselves, they could not
do otherwise than give this promise. The Turkish chief rabbi, Moses
Kapsali, was of opinion that, as the Karaites rejected the Talmud, they
might not be taught in it. But he was a disciple of the strict German
school, which, in its gloomy ultra-piety, would allow no concessions,
even though the gradual conversion of a dissenting sect could be

When contrasted with the miserable condition of the Jews in Germany,
the lot of those who had taken up their abode in the newly-risen
Turkish empire must have seemed unalloyed happiness. Jewish immigrants
who had escaped the ceaseless persecutions to which they had been
subjected in Germany expressed themselves in terms of rapture over the
happy condition of the Turkish Jews. Unlike their co-religionists under
Christian rule, they were not compelled to yield up the third part of
their fortunes in royal taxes; nor were they in any way hindered in the
conduct of business. They were permitted to dispose of their property
as they pleased, and had absolute freedom of movement throughout the
length and breadth of the empire. They were subject to no sumptuary
laws, and were thus able to clothe themselves in silk and gold, if they

The fruitful lands taken from the slothful Greek Christians were
occupied by them, and offered rich reward to their industry. Turkey
was, in short, correctly described by an enthusiastic Jew as a land "in
which nothing, absolutely nothing, is wanting." Two young immigrants,
Kalmann and David, thought that if German Jews realized but a tenth
part of the happiness to be found in Turkey, they would brave any
hardships to get there. These two young men persuaded Isaac Zarfati,
who had journeyed in Turkey in earlier times, and whose name was by no
means unknown in Germany, to write a circular letter to the Jews of the
Rhineland, Styria, Moravia and Hungary, to acquaint them with the happy
lot of Jews under the crescent as compared with their hard fate under
the shadow of the cross, and to call upon them to escape from the
German house of bondage and emigrate to Turkey. The lights and shadows
of his subject could not have been more sharply defined than they are
in Zarfati's letter (written in 1456), whose graphic, often somewhat
too artificial language does not readily lend itself to translation:

"I have heard of the afflictions, more bitter than death, that have
befallen our brethren in Germany--of the tyrannical laws, the
compulsory baptisms and the banishments. And when they flee from one
place, a yet harder fate befalls them in another. I hear an insolent
people raising its voice in fury against the faithful; I see its hand
uplifted to smite them. On all sides I learn of anguish of soul and
torment of body; of daily exactions levied by merciless extortioners.
The clergy and the monks, false priests, rise up against the unhappy
people of God and say: 'Let us pursue them even unto destruction; let
the name of Israel be no more known among men.' They imagine that their
faith is in danger because the Jews in Jerusalem might, peradventure,
buy the Church of the Sepulcher. For this reason they have made a
law that every Jew found upon a Christian ship bound for the East
shall be flung into the sea. Alas! how evilly are the people of God
in Germany entreated; how sadly is their strength departed! They are
driven hither and thither, and they are pursued even unto death. The
sword of the oppressor ever hangs over their heads; they are flung into
the devouring flames, into swift flowing rivers and into foul swamps.
Brothers and teachers! friends and acquaintances! I, Isaac Zarfati,
from a French stock, born in Germany, where I sat at the feet of my
teachers, I proclaim to you that Turkey is a land wherein nothing is
lacking. If ye will, all shall yet be well with you. The way to the
Holy Land lies open to you through Turkey. Is it not better for you
to live under Moslems than under Christians? Here every man may dwell
at peace under his own vine and his own fig-tree. In Christendom, on
the contrary, ye dare not clothe your children in red or in blue,
according to your taste, without exposing them to insult and yourselves
to extortion; and, therefore, are ye condemned to go about meanly
clad in sad-colored raiment. All your days are full of sorrow, even
your Sabbaths and the times appointed for feasting. Strangers enjoy
your goods; and, therefore, of what profit is the wealth of your rich
men? They hoard it but to their own sorrow, and in a day it is lost
to them for ever. Ye call your riches your own--alas! they belong
to your oppressors. They bring false accusations against you. They
respect neither age nor wisdom; and, though they gave you a pledge
sealed sixty-fold, yet would they break it. They continually lay double
punishments upon you, a death of torment and confiscation of goods.
They prohibit teaching in your schools; they break in upon you during
your hours of prayer; and they forbid you to work or conduct your
business on Christian feast-days. And now, seeing all these things, O
Israel, wherefore sleepest thou? Arise, and leave this accursed land
for ever!"

Isaac Zarfati's appeal induced many Jews to emigrate forthwith to
Turkey and Palestine. Their grave demeanor, extreme piety, and peculiar
apparel at once distinguished them from the Jews of Greece and the
Orient, and ere long the new-comers exercised considerable influence
upon the other inhabitants of the countries in which they settled.

There were peculiar circumstances connected with the prohibition of the
emigration of Jews to Palestine. The Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem
had obtained permission from a pasha to build a synagogue on one of
the slopes of Mount Zion. The site of this synagogue adjoined a piece
of land owned by Franciscan monks, or rather containing the ruins of
one of their chapels, known as David's chapel. When this permission
was given to the Jews, the monks raised as much clamor as though all
Palestine, including the Holy City, had been their peculiar inheritance
since the beginning of time. They forthwith carried their complaints to
the pope, and represented that, if the Jews were permitted to take such
liberties as this, it would not be long before they took possession of
the Church of the Holy Sepulcher itself. The pope at once issued a bull
directing that no Christian shipowner should convey Jewish emigrants to
the Holy Land. As the Levantine trade was at that time almost entirely
in the hands of the Venetians, the doge was prevailed upon to issue
stringent orders to all the shipmasters of the mainland and the islands
not to give passage to Palestine to any Jews.

It is, indeed, strange that, while the Christian powers were under the
impression that they had hemmed in the children of Israel on all sides
like hunted animals, the Turks of Eastern Europe opened a way of escape
to them. Ere another half century had passed, their Spanish brethren,
savagely hunted from the Peninsula, were destined to seek the same

It must, however, be admitted that under the sway of the Castilian
king, Henry IV, and that of John II, of Aragon, the condition of the
Spanish Jews was one of comparative peace and comfort. But it was the
calm that went before the storm. The doubly impotent Castilian king
was gentle to a degree ill-befitting a ruler of men. Although, as
Infante, Don Henry had allowed himself to be persuaded by his partisans
to replenish his exhausted coffers by plundering the houses, not only
of the Jews, but also of the new-Christians or converts from Judaism,
he had no personal antipathy to the people of Israel. A Jewish
physician was his confidential minister. Not long after his accession
to the throne he had even sent him to the Portuguese court on the most
delicate mission of obtaining the hand of the young, beautiful princess
of Portugal for his sovereign. The Jewish diplomatist brought his
mission to a successful conclusion, but was assassinated in the hour of
his success.

In spite of the papal bull and the repeated ordinances of the cities,
Don Henry employed a Jewish farmer of taxes, one Don Chacon, a native
of Vitoria; and he, too, fell a sacrifice to his office. A rabbi, Jacob
Ibn-Nuñez, his private physician, was appointed by Henry to apportion
and collect the tribute of the Jews of Castile; while Abraham Bibago,
yet another Jew of eminence, stood high in the favor of John II of

The example of the courts naturally affected the greater nobles, who,
when their own interests were not concerned, troubled themselves very
little about ecclesiastical edicts. The practice of medicine was still
entirely in the hands of Jews, and opened to them the cabinets and the
hearts of kings and nobles. It was in vain that papal bulls proclaimed
that Christians should not employ Jewish physicians. There were few
or no Christians who understood the healing art, and the sick had no
recourse save to the skill of the Jews. Even the higher clergy had but
little regard for the bulls of Eugenius, Nicholas, and Calixtus. They
had too much care for the health of the flesh to refuse the medical aid
of the Jews on account of a canonical decree. Most of the tyrannical
restrictions belonging to the minority of John II and the times of the
regent Catalina were completely forgotten. Only on one point did Henry
insist with rigor. He would not permit the Jews to clothe themselves
luxuriously. This was partly on account of his own preference for
simplicity of dress, partly because he was desirous that the envy of
Christians should not be excited against them. Under the mild rule of
Don Henry, the Jews who had been more or less compulsorily baptized
either returned to their faith, or at least observed the Jewish ritual
unmolested. During the Feast of the Passover they lived upon rice
entirely in order, on the one hand, to partake of nothing leavened,
and, on the other, to avoid the suspicion of Judaism.

Hatred of the Jew, which burnt most fiercely in the great towns,
naturally made it impossible for the orthodox to behold without
indignation this favoritism towards the supposed enemies of their
faith, and they made use of a weapon whose efficacy had been proved in
other lands. The cry went forth: The Jews have put Christian children
to death! Then came the report that "a Jew in the neighborhood of
Salamanca had torn a child's heart out;" or, "Jews elsewhere have cut
pieces of flesh out of a living Christian child," and so on. By means
of such rumors, the fanaticism of the mob was speedily inflamed, the
magistrates took up the matter, and the accused Jews were thrown into

The king, well aware of the origin and object of these accusations,
had them thoroughly sifted, with the result that the innocence of the
accused was completely established. Notwithstanding this fact, the
enemies of the Jews maintained their guilt. Some insinuated that the
judges had been bribed; while others asserted that the new-Christians
had exerted themselves in behalf of their kinsmen, and that the king
himself was partial to them.

Among all their enemies the man who raged most bitterly and fiercely
against the Spanish Jews was a preacher in Salamanca, Alfonso de Spina,
a Franciscan monk, of the same order and opinions as Capistrano.
Instead of the venomed tongue, he used the poisoned pen against them.
This man enjoyed a certain amount of fame, because he happened to have
accompanied Alvaro de Luna, the once all-powerful minister of John
II, to the scaffold as his confessor. This bigoted priest thundered
unceasingly from the altar steps against the Jews and their patrons,
and especially against the new-Christians as secret adherents of
their former faith. As his preaching did not appear to him to produce
sufficient effect, De Spina issued, in 1460, a virulent work in
Latin, directed against Jews, Moslems, and other heretics, under the
title "Fortalitium Fidei." In this book he collected everything that
the enemies of the Jews had ever written or said against them. He
reproduced every absurd legend and idle tale that he could procure,
and seasoned the whole collection with every device of rhetoric that
his malice could suggest. In his opinion it was only right and natural
that all Moslems and heretics should be exterminated root and branch.
Against the Jews, however, he proposed to employ apparently lenient
measures. He would simply take their younger children from them, and
bring them up as Christians, an idea for which he was indebted to
the scholastic philosopher, Duns Scotus, and his fellow Franciscan,
Capistrano. De Spina most deeply deplored that the various laws for
the persecution of the Jews, promulgated during the minority of John
II, were no longer in force under his successor. In most trenchant
words he rebuked the king, the nobles and the clergy for the favor that
they showed to Jews; and, in order to inflame the mob, he untiringly
retailed all the old fables of child-murder, theft of the host, and
the like, in the most circumstantial narrative, and insinuated that
the partiality of the king permitted these abominable crimes to go

The fanaticism aroused by Alfonso de Spina was by no means without
effect; indeed, the most lamentable consequences ere long resulted from
it. A monk, crucifix in hand, proposed a general massacre of the Jews
of Medina del Campo, near Valladolid, and his words were favorably
received. The inhabitants of the town fell upon the Jews, and burnt
several of them alive with the sacred books which they happened to
find in their possession. Murder was naturally followed by plunder
of the victims' goods. The king had the ringleaders of this outrage
punished; but this was all that he could do. He was unable to prevent
a recurrence of such scenes. He had been compelled to recognize the
abject position of the Jews officially in the statute book which his
advisers, his secret enemies, Don Pacheco, Marquis of Villena, and
the Count of Valencia, prepared at his request. Don Pacheco, who by
his intrigues brought both king and country to confusion, was himself
of Jewish blood, his mother, who had married a Spanish noble, being
the daughter of a Jew named Ruy Capron. Notwithstanding this fact, he
included the most odious enactments in Don Henry's revised statute
book. All the earlier disabilities were revived: the exclusion of Jews
from all offices, even from practice as apothecaries, the wearing of
distinctive badges, restriction to the Jewries of towns, and even
confinement to their houses during Holy Week.

The civil war kindled by the intrigues of Don Pacheco and other
courtiers through the burlesque deposition of Don Henry in Avila, and
the coronation of his younger brother, Alfonso, bore more heavily on
the Jews than even on the general population of Castile.

In 1467 Alfonso's party had by treason become master of Segovia, and
immediately a riot against the Jews began here. The enemies of this
unhappy people spread the report that, on the suggestion of their
rabbi, Solomon Picho, the Jews of the little community of Sepulveda,
not far from Segovia, had during Holy Week so cruelly tortured a
Christian child that it died upon the cross (April, 1468). On the
motion of Bishop Juan Arias, of Avila, of Jewish race, several Jews
(eight or sixteen, according to different accounts), whom the popular
voice had accused, were hauled from Sepulveda to Segovia, and there
condemned to the stake, the gallows and the bowstring, whereupon
the Christians of Sepulveda fell upon the few remaining Jews of the
community, massacred some, and hunted the rest from the neighborhood.
Is it not strange that in Castile and in Silesia, in Italy and in
Poland, the selfsame accusations were raised, and followed by the same

Scarcely was Alfonso's party dissolved by the death of its puppet king
before another sprang up, which professed to defend the rights of the
Infanta Isabella, sister of Don Henry. The utter weakness which Henry
betrayed encouraged the rebels to make the most outrageous assaults
upon his prerogatives. The cortes convened at Ocaña in 1469, wishing
to humiliate him, took up the Jewish question. They reminded him
of the laws of his ancestors, and told him to his face that he had
violated these laws by endowing Jews with the chief offices in the
collection of the royal revenues. They further asserted that, owing
to this distinguished example, even princes of the church had farmed
out the revenues of their dioceses to Jews and Moslems, and that the
tax-farmers actually levied their contributions in the churches. In
conclusion, they insisted that the edicts be once more stringently
enforced, and that heavy penalties be imposed for their transgression.

The finances of this monarch, who, in consequence of his liberality
and the expense of putting down the ever-recurring revolts against
his authority, was in constant need of money, would have been in a
sorry condition had he intrusted them to Christian tax-farmers. The
latter bid only a small amount for the privilege; moreover, they might
have made use of the rebellious factions to rid themselves of their
obligations. A king who said to his treasurer: "Give to these that they
may serve me, and to those that they may not rob me; to this end I am
king, and have treasures and revenues for all purposes"--such a king
could not dispense with Jewish financiers.

Thus there existed, in Castile, an antagonism between the edicts
against the Jews and the interests of the state; and this antagonism
roused the mob, inspired alike by ecclesiastical fanaticism and envious
greed against their Jewish fellow-townsmen, to the perpetration of
bloody outrages. The fury of the orthodox was also excited against
the new-Christians, or Marranos, because, happier than their former
fellow-believers, they were promoted to the highest offices in the
state by reason of their superior talents.

The marriage of the Infanta Isabella with Don Ferdinand, Infante of
Aragon, on the 19th of October, 1469, marked a tragical crisis in
the history of the Spanish Jews. Without the knowledge of her royal
brother, and in open breach of faith--since she had solemnly promised
to marry only with his consent--she had followed the advice of her
intriguing friends, and had given her hand to the Prince of Aragon,
who, both in Jewish and in Spanish history, under the title of "The
Catholic," has left an accursed memory behind him. Don Abraham Senior
had promoted this marriage, hoping by it to increase the welfare of his
brethren. Many new complications arose in Castile out of this union.
Isabella's partisans, anticipating that under her rule and that of her
husband the persecution of the Jews would be made legal, took up arms
in Valladolid, Isabella's capital, and fell upon the new-Christians
(September, 1470). The victims assumed the defensive, but were soon
compelled to surrender. Thereupon they sent a deputation to Henry,
begging him to protect them. The king did, indeed, collect troops,
and march against the rebellious city, but he had to be grateful that
he himself was well received by the citizens, and could not think of
punishing even the ringleaders.

Two years later the new-Christians underwent a persecution, which
surely must have caused them to repent having taken shelter at the
foot of the cross. The religious populace blamed the Marranos, not
altogether without reason, for confessing Christianity with their lips
while in their souls they despised it. It was said that they either
did not bring their children to be baptized, or if they were baptized,
took them back to their houses and washed the stain of baptism off
their foreheads. They used no lard at their tables, only oil; they
abstained from pork, celebrated the Jewish Passover, and contributed
oil for the use of the synagogues. They were further said to have but
small respect for cloisters, and were supposed to have profaned sacred
relics and debauched nuns. The new-Christians, were, in fact, looked
upon as a cunning and ambitious set of people, who sought eagerly for
the most profitable offices, thought only of accumulating riches, and
avoided hard work. They were believed to consider themselves as living
in Spain as Israel did in Egypt, and to hold it to be quite permissible
to plunder and outwit the orthodox. These accusations were not by any
means merited by the new-Christians as a body, but they served to
inflame the mob, and caused it to hate the converts even more bitterly
than the Jews themselves.

The outbreak above referred to arose as follows: A certain princess
was going through the streets of Cordova with the picture of the
Virgin under a canopy, and a girl, a new-Christian, either by accident
or design, poured some water out of a window on the canopy. The
consequence was a frenzied rising against the converted Jews. An
excited smith incited the Christian mob to avenge the insult offered
to the holy picture--for it was said that the girl had poured
something unclean upon it--and in an instant her father's house
was in flames. The nobles sought to defend the Marranos, and in the
skirmish, the smith was killed. This so enraged the already furious
mob that the men-at-arms were forced to retire. The houses of the
new-Christians were now broken into, plundered, and then reduced to
ashes; while those who had not been able to save themselves by flight
were massacred in the most barbarous manner (March 14th-15th, 1472).
The fugitives were hunted like wild beasts in the chase. Wherever
they were seen, the most horrible death inevitably awaited them. Even
the peasant at work in the field struck them down without ado. The
slaughter which thus began at Cordova spread rapidly from town to town.
Those of the Cordovan fugitives who had found a temporary refuge in
Palma lost no time in seeking a stronghold to afford them protection
from the tempest of persecution. One of their company, Pedro de
Herrera, held in the highest respect both by his fellow-sufferers and
the governor, De Aguilar, went to Seville to seek an interview with
the duke of Medina-Sidonia, lieutenant-governor of the province. He
asked for the fortress of Gibraltar as a city of refuge for himself
and his brethren, under their own command. In return, he promised to
pay a considerable yearly tribute. The duke had signified his consent
to this proposition, and the new-Christians had betaken themselves to
Seville to sign the contract, when the friends of the duke took alarm.
They believed that the Marranos were not to be trusted, and expressed
the fear that they might enter into an alliance with the Moors, and
deliver the key of the Spanish coast into their hands. The duke,
however, insisted upon completing the contract, whereupon the opponents
of the scheme gave the signal to the mob of Seville, which instantly
rose against the new-Christians in an outburst of fanatical frenzy. It
was with difficulty that the governor protected them. They were forced
to return hastily to Palma, were waylaid by the country people, and
ill-treated and plundered (1473).

Thus the plan of Pedro de Herrera and his friends served only to bring
greater misery upon them, endangering the whole body of new-Christians
as well as the Jews themselves. As early as this, the idea took shape
among both the converted and the unbaptized Jews to leave the now
inhospitable Peninsula and emigrate to Flanders or Italy.

Attacks upon the new-Christians were now so frequent that they
suggested to the cunning and ambitious minister, Pacheco, the means
of carrying out a _coup d'état_. This unscrupulous intriguer, who for
two decades had kept Castile in constant confusion, saw with secret
chagrin that the reconciliation of Don Henry with his sister and
successor bade fair to completely annul his influence. To bring about
new complications he determined to gain possession of the citadel
(Alcazar) of Segovia, at that time occupied by the king. With this end
in view, he instigated, through his dependents, another assault upon
the baptized Jews, during the confusion of which his accomplices were
to seize Cabrera, the governor of the castle, and, if possible, the
king himself. The conspiracy was betrayed only a few hours before it
was to be carried into action; but the attack upon the new-Christians
was perpetrated. Armed bands perambulated the streets of Segovia, broke
into the houses of the Marranos, and slew every man, woman and child
that fell into their hands (May 16th, 1474).

The crowning misfortune of the Jewish race in Spain came in the death
of Don Henry in the following December. The rulers of the united
kingdoms of Aragon and Castile now were his sister, the bigoted
Isabella, who was led by advisers hostile to the Jews, and Ferdinand,
her unscrupulous husband, who pretended to be excessively pious.
Sad and terrible was the fate that impended over the sons of Jacob
throughout the length and breadth of the Pyrenean Peninsula.



    Position of the Jews of Italy--The Jewish Bankers--Yechiel
    of Pisa--His Relations with Don Isaac Abrabanel--Jewish
    Physicians, Guglielmo di Portaleone--Revival of Learning among
    Italian Jews--Messer Leon and Elias del Medigo--Pico di
    Mirandola, the Disciple of Medigo--Predilection of Christians
    for the Kabbala--Jochanan Aleman--Religious Views of Del
    Medigo--German Rabbis immigrate into Italy--Joseph Kolon,
    his Character and his Feud with Messer Leon--Judah Menz an
    Antagonist of Del Medigo--Bernardinus of Feltre--Jews banished
    from Trent on a False Charge of Child-Murder--The Doge of
    Venice and Pope Sixtus IV befriend the Jews--Sufferings of the
    Jews of Ratisbon--Israel Bruna--Synod at Nuremberg--Emperor
    Frederick III.

1474-1492 C.E.

The Spanish Jews would have belied their native penetration and the
wisdom born of bitter experience had they not foreseen that their
position would ere long become unbearable.

Because they did foresee it, they turned their gaze towards those
countries whose inhabitants were most favorably disposed towards Jews.
Italy and the Byzantine Empire, just wrested from the cross, were
now the countries of greatest toleration. In Italy, where men saw
most clearly the infamy of the papacy and the priesthood, and where
they had most to suffer from their selfishness, the church and her
servants were utterly without influence over the people. The world-wide
commerce of the wealthy and flourishing republics of Venice, Florence,
Genoa and Pisa, had in a measure broken through the narrow bounds
of superstition, and enlarged men's range of vision. The interests
of the market-place had driven the interests of the church into the
background. Wealth and ability were valued even in those who did
not repeat the Catholic confession of faith. Not only the merchants,
but also the most exalted princes were in need of gold to support
the mercenary legions of their Condottieri in their daily feuds. The
Jews, as capitalists and skillful diplomatists, were, therefore, well
received in Italy. This is proved by the fact that when the city of
Ravenna was desirous of uniting itself to Venice, it included among the
conditions of union the demand that wealthy Jews be sent to it to open
credit-banks and thus relieve the poverty of the populace.

Jewish capitalists received, either from the reigning princes or the
senates, in many Italian cities, extensive privileges, permitting
them to open banks, establish themselves as brokers, and even charge
a high rate of interest (20 per cent). The archbishop of Mantua in
1476 declared in the name of the pope that the Jews were permitted to
lend money upon interest. The canonical prohibition of usury could
not withstand the pressure of public convenience. The Jewish communal
regulations also tended to guard the bankers from illegal competition,
for the rabbis threatened with the ban all those members of the
community who lent money on interest without proper authorization.

A Jew of Pisa, named Yechiel, controlled the money market of Tuscany.
He was, by no means, a mere heartless money-maker, as the Christians
were wont to call him, but rather a man of noble mind and tender
heart, ever ready to assist the poor with his gold, and to comfort the
unfortunate by word and deed. Yechiel of Pisa was also familiar with
and deeply interested in Hebrew literature, and maintained friendly
relations with Isaac Abrabanel, the last of the Jewish statesmen of
the Peninsula. When Alfonso V of Portugal took the African seaboard
towns of Arzilla and Tangier, and carried off Jews of both sexes and
every age captive, the Portuguese community became inspired with the
pious desire to ransom them. Abrabanel placed himself at the head of
a committee to collect money for this purpose. As the Portuguese Jews
were not able to support the ransomed prisoners until they found means
of subsistence, Abrabanel, in a letter to Yechiel of Pisa, begged him
to make a collection in Italy. His petition was heeded.

The Jews of Italy were found to be desirable citizens, not only for
their financial ability, but also for their skill as physicians. In his
letter to Yechiel, Abrabanel asked whether there were Jewish physicians
in the Italian states, and whether the princes of the church employed
them. "Physicians," he said, "possess the key to the hearts of the
great, upon whom the fate of the Jews depends."

A celebrated Jewish doctor, Guglielmo (Benjamin?) di Portaleone, of
Mantua, first was physician in ordinary to Ferdinand of Naples, who
ennobled him; he next entered the service of Duke Galeazzo Sforza, of
Milan, and in 1479 became body physician to Duke Ludovico Gonzaga.
He was the founder of a noble house and of a long line of skillful
Italian physicians. There even arose an intimate relation between
Jews and Christians in Italy. When a wealthy Jew--Leo, of Crema--
on the marriage of his son, arranged magnificent festivities which
lasted eight days, a great number of Christians took part, dancing and
enjoying themselves to the intense displeasure of the clergy. Totally
forgotten seemed the bull in which Nicholas V had quite recently
forbidden under heavy penalties all intercourse of Christians with
Jews, as well as the employment of Jewish physicians. In place of
the canonically prescribed livery of degradation, the Jewish doctors
wore robes of honor like Christians of similar standing; while the
Jews connected with the courts wore golden chains and other honorable
insignia. The contrast between the condition of Jews in Italy and that
of their brethren in other lands is well illustrated by two similar
incidents, occurring simultaneously in Italy and Germany, but differing
greatly in their issues.

The mother of a family in Pavia, in consequence of differences with
her husband, had given notice of her desire to be received into
the Catholic Church. She was put into a convent where she was to
be prepared for baptism. The bishop's vicar, with other spiritual
advisers, was earnestly occupied with the salvation of her soul, when
she was suddenly seized with remorse. The bishop of Pavia, far from
punishing her for this relapse, or seeking to oppose her desire,
interceded for her with her husband. He advised him to take her out of
the convent forthwith, and testified most favorably as to her behavior,
so that her husband, a descendant of the family of Aaron, might not be
obliged, under the Jewish law, to put her away.

In the same year a spiteful fellow in Ratisbon, Kalmann, a precentor
(Chazan), took the fancy to turn Christian. He frequented the convent,
attended church, and at length the bishop received him in his house,
and instructed him in the Christian religion. To curry favor with the
Christians he calumniated his fellow-believers by asserting that they
possessed blasphemous writings against Christianity. Kalmann also came
to rue the step he had taken. He secretly attended the synagogue,
and at length, during the absence of the bishop, left his house, and
returned to the Jews. The clergy of Ratisbon were infuriated against
him, arraigned him before the Inquisition, and charged him with having
sought to blaspheme the church, God, and the blessed Virgin. He was
specially charged with having said that, if baptized, he would remain
a Christian only till he found himself at liberty. On the strength of
this, he was condemned, and put to death by drowning.

Wherever even a little indulgence was granted the Jews, their dormant
energy revived; and the Italian Jews were able to display it all the
sooner from the fact that they had gained a certain degree of culture
in the days of Immanuel and Leone Romano. They took an active part in
the intellectual revival and scientific renascence which distinguished
the times of the Medici. Jewish youths attended the Italian
universities, and acquired a liberal education. The Italian Jews were
the first to make use of the newly-discovered art of Gutenberg, and
printing-houses soon rose in many parts of Italy--in Reggio, Ferrara,
Pieva di Sacco, Bologna, Soncino, Iscion, and Naples. In the artistic
creations of the time, however, in painting and sculpture, the Jews had
no share. These lay outside their sphere. But several educated Jews did
not a little for the advancement and spread of science in Italy. Two
deserve especial mention: Messer Leon and Elias del Medigo, the latter
of whom not only received the light of science, but also shed it abroad.

Messer Leon, or, by his Hebrew name, Judah ben Yechiel, of Naples,
flourished between 1450 and 1490, and was both rabbi and physician in
Mantua. In addition to being thoroughly versed in Hebrew literature,
he was a finished Latin scholar, and had a keen appreciation of the
subtleties of Cicero's and Quintilian's style. Belonging to the
Aristotelian school, he expounded several of the writings of the
philosopher so highly esteemed in synagogue and church, and wrote
a grammar and a book on logic, in the Hebrew language, for Jewish
students. More important than these writings is his Hebrew rhetoric
(Nófeth Zufim), in which he lays down the laws upon which the grace,
force and eloquence of the higher style depend, and proves that the
same laws underlie sacred literature. He was the first Jew to compare
the language of the Prophets and Psalmists with Cicero's--certainly
a hardy undertaking in those days when the majority of Jews and
Christians held the Scriptures in such infinite reverence that a
comparison with profane pagan literature must have seemed a species
of blasphemy. Of course, this was possible only in the times of the
Medici, when love for Greek and Latin antiquities rose to positive
enthusiasm. Messer Leon, the learned rabbi of Mantua, was liberal in
all respects. He was never weary of rebuking the formal pietists for
striving to withhold foreign influences from Judaism, as though it
could be profaned by them. He was rather of opinion that Judaism could
only gain by comparisons with the culture of the ancient classical
literatures, since thereby its beauty and sublimity would be brought to

Elias del Medigo, or Elias Cretensis (1463-1498), the scion of a
German family that had emigrated to Crete, is a striking figure in
later Jewish history. He was the first great man produced by Italian
Judaism. His was a mind that shone clearly and brilliantly out of
the clouds which obscured his age; the mind of a man of varied and
profound knowledge, and of both classical and philosophical culture.
So completely had he assimilated the Latin literary style that he was
able, not only to issue works in that language, but also to present
Hebrew syntax under Latin analogies.

Medigo kept aloof from the vacuity of Italian sciolists, who were
under the spell of the newly-discovered neo-Platonic philosophy
introduced by Ficinus. He gave allegiance to those sound thinkers,
Aristotle, Maimuni, and Averroes, whose systems he made known to
Christian inquirers in Italy, by tongue and pen, through the medium
of translations and in independent works. That youthful prodigy of
his time, Count Giovanni Pico di Mirandola, made the acquaintance of
Medigo, and became his disciple, friend and protector. Mirandola,
who was a marvel by reason of his wonderful memory, wide erudition,
and dialectic skill, and was, moreover, on friendly terms with the
ruling house of the Medicis in Tuscany, learnt from his Jewish friend
the Hebrew language, and the Arabic development of the Aristotelian
philosophy, but he might also have learnt clearness of thought from him.

On one occasion a quarrel on a learned subject broke out in the
University of Padua. The professors and students were divided into
two parties, and, according to Christian custom, were on the point of
settling the question with rapier and poniard. The University, acting
with the Venetian senate, which was desirous of ending the dispute,
called upon Elias del Medigo to act as umpire. Everyone confidently
expected a final settlement from his erudition and impartiality. Del
Medigo argued out the theme, and by the weight of his decision brought
the matter to a satisfactory conclusion. The result was that he became
a public lecturer on philosophy, and discoursed to large audiences in
Padua and Florence. The spectacle was, indeed, notable. Under the very
eyes of the papacy, ever striving for the humiliation and enslavement
of the Jews, Christian youths were imbibing wisdom from the lips of a
Jewish teacher. Against the protectors of Jews in Spain it hurled the
thunders of excommunication, while in Italy it was forced passively to
behold favors constantly showered upon the Jews by Christians.

Pico di Mirandola, a scholar rather than a thinker, took a fancy to
plunge into the abysses of the Kabbala. He was initiated into the
Kabbalistic labyrinth by a Jew, Jochanan Aleman, who had emigrated from
Constantinople to Italy. Aleman, himself a confused thinker, made him
believe that the secret doctrine was of ancient origin, and contained
the wisdom of the ages. Mirandola, who had a marvelous faculty of
assimilation, soon familiarized himself with the Kabbalistic formulæ,
and discovered confirmations of Christian dogma in them; in fact, he
found far more of Christianity than of Judaism. The extravagances of
the Kabbala demonstrated in his eyes the doctrines of the Trinity,
the Incarnation, Original Sin, the Fall of the Angels, Purgatory, and
Eternal Punishment. He lost no time in translating several Kabbalistic
writings from Hebrew into Latin in order to bring this occult lore to
the knowledge of Christian readers. Among the nine hundred points which
Pico, at the age of twenty-four, pledged himself to defend--to which
end he invited all the learned of the world to Rome, and undertook to
pay the cost of their journeys--was this: No science affords more
certainty as to the Godhead of Christ than Kabbala and magic! Even Pope
Sixtus IV (1471-1484) was by this means so strongly attracted to the
Kabbala that he was eager to procure Latin translations of Kabbalistic
writings for the benefit of the Catholic faith.

It is a striking proof of his sober mind and healthy judgment that
Elias del Medigo kept himself aloof from all this mental effeminacy
and childish enthusiasm for the pseudo-doctrine of the Kabbala. He had
profound contempt for the Kabbalistic phantom, and did not hesitate
to expose its worthlessness. He had the courage openly to express his
opinion that the Kabbala is rooted in an intellectual swamp, that
no trace of this doctrine is to be found in the Talmud, that the
recognized authorities of ancient Judaism knew nothing of it, and that
its supposed sacred and ancient groundwork, the Zohar, was by no means
the work of the celebrated Simon bar Yochaï, but the production of a
forger. In short, he considered the Kabbala to be made up of the rags
and tatters of the neo-Platonic school.

Del Medigo had, in fact, very sound and healthy views on religion.
Although a warm adherent of Judaism, entertaining respect also for its
Talmudic element, he was yet far from indorsing and accepting as truth
all that appears in the Talmud. When requested by one of his Jewish
disciples, Saul Cohen Ashkenasi, of Candia, to give his confession of
Jewish faith, especially his views on the signs which distinguish a
true religion, Elias Cretensis issued a small but pregnant work, "The
Investigation of Religion" (Bechinath ha-Dath), which gives a deep
insight into his methods of thought.

It cannot be maintained that Del Medigo suggested novel trains of
thought in his work. In general, the Italians were not destined to
endow Judaism with new ideas. Moreover, he occupied the standpoint
of belief rather than of inquiry, and his aim was to defend, not
to cut new paths. Standing alone in the mental barrenness of his
age, Del Medigo's sound views are like an oasis in the desert. He
must be credited, too, with having recognized as deformities, and
with desiring to remove, the additions to Judaism by Kabbalists and

Unfortunately, the rabbis who emigrated from Germany to Italy assumed
an attitude distinctly hostile to philosophical investigation and its
promoters, Elias del Medigo and Messer Leon. With their honest, but
one-sided, exaggerated piety, they cast a gloomy shadow wherever their
hard fate had scattered them. Fresh storms breaking over the German
communities had driven many German Jews, the most unhappy of their
race, into transalpine lands. Under Emperor Frederick III, who for half
a century had with astounding equanimity beheld most shameless insults
to his authority on the part of an ambitious nobility, a plundering
squire-archy, a demoralized clergy, and the self-seeking patricians of
the smaller towns, the Jewish communities but too often saw their cup
of bitterness overflow. Frederick himself was by no means hostile to
them. On the contrary, he frequently issued decrees in their favor.
Unhappily, his commands remained for the most part a dead letter, and
his laxity of rule encouraged the evil-minded to the commission of
the most shameful misdeeds. It was dangerous for the German Jews to go
beyond the walls of their cities. Every man was their foe, and waylaid
them to satisfy either his fanaticism or his cupidity. Every feud that
broke out in the decaying German empire brought misery to them.

Among exiles from Mayence were two profound Talmudic scholars. They
were cousins, by name Judah and Moses Menz. The former emigrated to
Padua, and there received the office of rabbi, while the latter at
first remained in Germany, and then passed over to Posen. As the result
of expulsion or oppression, many rabbis were emigrating from all parts
of Germany, and on account of their superior Talmudic knowledge these
German emigrants were elected to the most distinguished rabbinical
positions in Italy. They re-indoctrinated with their prejudice and
narrowness of vision the Italian Jews, who were making determined
efforts to free themselves from the bonds of the Middle Ages.

The most distinguished rabbis of Italy were at that time Judah Menz
and Joseph Kolon, and precisely these two were most inimical to any
liberal manifestation within Judaism, and most strenuously opposed the
advocates of freedom. Joseph ben Solomon Kolon (flourished 1460-1490)
was of French extraction, his ancestors having been expelled from
France; but he passed his youth in Germany, and belonged to the German
school. He subsequently lived with his relatives in Chambéry until
the Jews were hunted out of Savoy. With many companions in misfortune
he went to Lombardy, where he gained his living by teaching; finally
he became rabbi of Mantua. Endowed with extraordinary penetration,
and fully the equal of the German rabbis in the depth of his Talmudic
learning, Joseph Kolon was celebrated in his day as a Rabbinical
authority of the first magnitude, and his academy rivaled the German
school itself. He was consulted by both German and Italian communities.
On scientific subjects and all matters outside the Talmud he was as
ignorant as his German fellow-dignitaries. A resolute, decided nature,
Joseph Kolon was a man of rigid views on all religious matters. His
ruggedness involved him in unpleasant relations with Moses Kapsali in
Constantinople, and in a heated controversy with the cultured Messer
Leon in his own community. However well they might agree for a time,
Joseph Kolon, the strict Talmudist, and Messer Leon, the cultured man
of letters, could not long tolerate each other. When the conflict
between them broke out, the whole community of Mantua took sides in
their feud, and split into two parties as supporters of the one or
the other. The strife at length became so keen that in 1476-1477 Duke
Joseph of Mantua banished them both from the city; after which Kolon
became rabbi of Pavia.

Still more strained were the relations between the rabbi Judah Menz and
the philosopher Elias del Medigo. The former (born 1408, died 1509), a
man of the old school, of comprehensive knowledge of Talmudic subjects,
and of remarkable sagacity, was most resolutely opposed to scientific
progress and freedom in religious matters, and after his expulsion from
Mayence transplanted the narrow spirit of the German rabbis to Padua
and Italy in general.

The relatively secure and honorable position of the Jews in Italy did
not fail to rouse the displeasure of fanatical monks, who sought to
cover with the cloak of religious zeal either their dissolute conduct
or their ambitious share in worldly affairs. The colder the Christian
world grew towards the end of the fifteenth century with regard to
clerical institutions, the more bitterly did the monastic orders rage
against the Jews. Preaching friars made the chancels ring with tirades
against them, and openly advocated their utter extermination. Their
most desperate enemy at this time was the Franciscan Bernardinus of
Feltre, a worthy disciple of the bloodthirsty Capistrano. The standing
text of his sermons was: Let Christian parents keep a watchful eye on
their children lest the Jews steal, ill-treat, or crucify them.

He held up Capistrano, the Jew-slayer, as the type and model of a
true Christian. In his eyes friendly and neighborly intercourse with
Jews was an abomination, a most grievous sin against canonical law.
Christian charity, he admitted, directs that Jews, being human, be
treated with justice and humanity; but at the same time the canonical
law forbids Christians to have any dealings with them, to sit at their
tables, or to allow themselves to be treated by Jewish physicians. As
the aristocracy everywhere, in obedience to their own interests, took
the part of the Jews, Bernardinus inflamed the lower classes against
the Jews and their patrons. Because certain Jewish capitalists had been
successful, he depicted all Jews as vampires and extortioners, and
roused the ill will of the populace against them. "I, who live on alms
and eat the bread of the poor, shall I be a dumb dog and not howl when
I see the Jews wringing their wealth from Christian poverty? Yea! shall
I not cry aloud for Christ's sake?" Such is a fair specimen of his

Had the Italian people not been actuated by strong good sense,
Bernardinus would have become for the Jews of Italy what, in the
beginning of the same century, the Dominican, Vincent Ferrer, had been
to the Jews of Spain, and Capistrano, to the communities of Germany and
the Slav countries. The authorities sorely hindered Bernardinus in his
business of Jew-baiting, and his bloodthirsty sermons mostly failed
of effect. When he was conducting his crusade in Bergamo and Ticini,
Duke Galeazzo, of Milan, forbade him to proceed. In Florence, in fact
everywhere in Tuscany, the enlightened prince and the senate took the
part of the Jews with vigor. The venomous monk spread the report that
they had allowed themselves to be bribed with large sums by Yechiel
of Pisa and other wealthy Jews. As Bernardinus was inciting the youth
of the city against the Jews, and a popular rising was imminent, the
authorities ordered him to quit Florence and the country forthwith,
and he was compelled to submit (1487). Little by little, however, by
dint of untiring repetition of the same charges, he managed so far to
inflame public opinion against the Jews that even the Venetian senate
was not always able to protect them. Finally, he succeeded in bringing
about a bloody persecution of the Jews, not, indeed, in Italy, but in
the Tyrol, whence it spread to Germany.

While Bernardinus was preaching in the city of Trent, he remarked with
no little chagrin the friendly relation between Jews and Christians.
Tobias, a skillful Jewish physician, and an intelligent Jewess, named
Brunetta, were on most friendly terms with the upper classes, enjoying
their complete confidence. This roused his ire not a little, and he
made the chancels of Trent ring with savage tirades against the Jews.
Some Christians called him to account for his hatred of Jews, remarking
that though they were without the true faith, those of Trent were
worthy folk. The monk replied: "Ye know not what misfortune these good
people will bring upon you. Before Easter Sunday is past they will
give you a proof of their extraordinary goodness." It was easy for him
to prophesy, for he and a few other priests had arranged a cunning
plan, which not only brought about the ruin of the community of Trent,
but also caused the greatest injury to the Jews of various countries.
Chance aided him by creating a favorable opportunity.

In Holy Week of 1475 a three-year-old child, named Simon, the son of
poor Christian parents, was drowned in the Adige, and the corpse was
caught in a grating close to the house of a Jew. In order to anticipate
misrepresentation of the event, he hurried to Bishop Hinderbach to give
him notice of the occurrence. The bishop took two men of high position
with him, went to the place, and had the body carried into the church.
As soon as the news spread, Bernardinus and other hostile priests
raised a fierce outcry against the Jews, saying that they had tortured
and slain the child, and then flung it into the water. The body of
the supposititiously ill-treated child was exhibited, in order to
inflame the fury of the populace against them. The bishop had all the
Jews of Trent, high and low, cast into prison, commenced proceedings
against them, and called a physician, Matthias Tiberinus, to testify
to the violent death of the child. A baptized Jew, one Wolfkan, from
Ratisbon, an engrosser, came forward with the most fearful accusations
against his former co-religionists. His charges the more readily found
credence as the imprisoned Jews confessed under torture that they had
slain Simon, and drunk his blood on the night of the Passover. Brunetta
was said to have supplied the weapons for the purpose. A letter also
was said to have been found in the possession of a rabbi, Moses,
which had been sent from Saxony, asking for Christian blood for the
next Passover. Only one of the tortured victims, a man named Moses,
endured every torment without confirming the lying accusations of his
enemies. The result was that all the Jews of Trent were burnt, and it
was resolved that no Jew should thenceforth settle in the city. Four
persons only became converts to Christianity, and were pardoned.

The bishop of Trent, Bernardinus, and the monks of all orders made
every effort to utilize this occurrence for the general ruin of the
Jews. The corpse of the child was embalmed, and commended to the
populace as a holy relic. Thousands made pilgrimages to its remains,
and ere long it was believed by the faith-drunken pilgrims that they
had seen a halo about the remains of the child Simon. So much was said
about it that even its inventors came to believe in the martyrdom. From
every chancel the Dominicans proclaimed the new miracle, and thundered
against the infamy of the Jews. Two lawyers from Padua who visited
Trent in order to convince themselves of the truth of the occurrence
were almost torn to pieces by the fanatical mob. It was imperative that
the marvel be believed in, and so the Jews of all Christian countries
were jeopardized anew. Even in Italy they dared not go outside the
towns lest they be slain as child-murderers.

The doge, Pietro Mocenigo, and the Venetian senate, on the complaint
of the Jews about the insecurity of their lives and property, issued
orders to the podesta of Padua energetically to defend them against
fanatical outbreaks, and to forbid the preaching friars to inflame
the mob against them. The doge accompanied the orders with the remark
that the rumor that Jews had slain a Christian child in Trent was a
fabrication, a device invented by their enemies to serve some purpose.
When Pope Sixtus IV was urged to canonize little Simon he steadfastly
refused, and sent a letter to all the towns of Italy, on October 10th,
1475, forbidding Simon of Trent to be honored as a saint until he could
investigate the matter, and thus he allayed the popular excitement
against the Jews. The clergy, nevertheless, permitted the bones of
Simon to be held sacred, and instituted pilgrimages to the church built
for his remains.

Through this circumstance Jew hatred in Germany gained fresh vigor.
The citizens of Frankfort-on-the-Main exhibited, on the bridge leading
to Sachsenhausen, a picture representing in hideous detail a tortured
child, and the Jews leagued with the devil in their bloody work.
The news of the child-murder in Trent spread like wildfire through
the Christian countries, and became the source of new sufferings to
Jews. Nowhere were these sufferings so severe as in the free city of
Ratisbon, containing one of the oldest Jewish communities in South
Germany. It was held to be not only very pious but of distinguished
morality, and it was considered a high honor to intermarry with the
Jews of Ratisbon. Within the memory of man no native Jew had been
brought before the tribunal for any moral lapse. The community was
regarded as the most learned in the land, and the parent of all German
communities. It possessed chartered liberties, which the emperors,
in consideration of a crown-tax, were accustomed to renew on their
accession. The Jews of Ratisbon were half recognized as burghers, and
mounted guard with the Christians as militia. One might almost say that
the Bavarian princes and corporations vied with each other in favoring
them--of course, merely to share their purses. In the latter half of
this century they had become a veritable bone of contention between the
Duke of Bavaria-Landsberg and Frederick III, who, hard pressed on all
sides, not only in the empire, but even in his own possessions, hoped
to fill his empty coffers with the wealth of the Jews.

In addition to these the Kamerau family made claims upon the Jews of
Ratisbon, as well as the town council, and, of course, the bishop.
These contradictory and mutually hostile demands made the position of
the Jews anything but a bed of roses. First from one side and then from
another came orders to the council to imprison the Jews, their chiefs,
or their rabbi, at that time the sorely-tried Israel Bruna, until,
worn out by confinement, they decided to pay what was claimed. The
council did indeed seek to shield them, but only so long as no danger
threatened the citizens, or the Jews did not compete with the Christian

To escape these cruel and arbitrary extortions, prudence directed that
they place themselves under the protection of one of the Hussite nobles
or captains. They would thus enjoy more security than was possible
under the so-called protection of the emperor, since the fiery Hussites
were not a little feared by the more sluggish Germans. Although they
had to some extent abandoned their heretical fanaticism, and had taken
service under the Catholic sovereigns, their desperate valor was still
a source of terror to the orthodox clergy. The event proved that the
Jews had acted wisely in appealing to their protection.

A bishop named Henry was elected in Ratisbon, a man of gloomy nature,
to whom the sentiment of mercy was unknown, and he naturally insisted
on the enforcement of the canonical restrictions against the Jews. As
examples to others, for instance, he mercilessly punished a Christian
girl who had entered the service of a Jew, and a Christian barber who
had let blood for a Jewish customer. His animosity was contagious. On
one occasion, when the Jewish midwife was sick, and a Christian was
about to attend some Jewish women, the council actually dared not give
her the required permission without the episcopal sanction.

Bishop Henry and Duke Louis, one in their hatred of Jews, now pursued
what seemed to be a preconcerted plan for the ruin or conversion of
the Jews of Ratisbon. On the one hand, they obtained the acquiescence
of the pope, and on the other, the assistance of influential persons
on the city council. Their campaign began with attempts at conversions
and false accusations, for which they availed themselves of the
assistance of a couple of worthless converted Jews. One of these, Peter
Schwarz by name, wrote slanderous and abusive pamphlets against his
former co-religionists. The other, one Hans Vayol, heaped the vilest
calumnies upon the aged rabbi, Israel Bruna, amongst other things
charging him with purchasing from him a seven-year-old Christian child
and slaughtering it, and the rabbi of Ratisbon, already bowed down by
sorrow and suffering, was charged with the death of the child.

Israel Bruna (of Brünn, born 1400, died 1480) was one of those sons of
sorrow who seem to fall from one misfortune into another. He appears to
have been exiled from Brünn, where he was recognized as a Rabbinical
authority, and after many wanderings, to have traveled by way of Prague
to Ratisbon. He settled there, and wished to perform the functions
of rabbi for those who might place confidence in him. But a Talmudic
scholar who resided in the city, one Amshel, a layman, not an elected
rabbi, raised objections to his competitor, and forbade Israel Bruna
to hold discourses before disciples, to deal with matters of divorce,
to exercise any Rabbinical functions, or to divide the honors of the
office with himself. As each had his followers, a schism arose in the
community of Ratisbon. His two teachers, Jacob Weil and Isserlein,
upholders of the freedom of the Rabbinical office and pronounced
opponents of spiritual officialism, took the part of the persecuted
Israel Bruna, with whom David Sprinz, a rabbi of Nuremberg, also
took sides. These men proved in the clearest manner that any Jew is
competent to assume Rabbinical functions, provided he possesses the
requisite knowledge, is authorized by a recognized teacher, and leads
a pious and moral life. They further adduced in favor of Israel Bruna
the fact that he contributed his quota to the communal treasury, and
was therefore a worthy member of the community. The breach nevertheless
remained open, and Israel Bruna was often exposed to insults from the
opposite party. Once when he was about to hold a discourse, several
of the ringleaders left the lecture-room, and were followed by many
others. Disciples of his opponent secretly painted crosses on his seat
in the synagogue, wrote the hateful word "heretic" (Epicuros) beside
them, and offered other insults to him. As time went on, after the
death of the great rabbis, Jacob Weil and Israel Isserlein, Bruna was
recognized as a Rabbinical authority, and from far and near questions
were sent to him. His misfortunes, however, did not cease. When Emperor
Frederick demanded the crown-tax from the community of Ratisbon, Duke
Louis opposed the payment, and the council was unable to decide which
side to assist. The emperor thereupon threw Israel Bruna into prison
to force him to threaten his people with the ban if they did not pay
over the third part of their possessions. He was released only on
bail of his entire property; and, in addition, the fearful charges of
child-murder and other capital crimes were raised against the decrepit
old man by the converted Jew, Hans Vayol. Bishop Henry and the clergy
were only too ready to gratify their hatred of Jews by means of this
accusation, and the besotted populace gave all the more credence to the
falsehood, as rumors of the death of Christian children at the hands of
Jews daily increased. No one in Ratisbon doubted that gray old Israel
Bruna had foully murdered a Christian child, and he was on the point of
being put to death on the demand of the clergy. To withdraw him from
the fury of the mob, the council, which feared to be made answerable,
imprisoned him.

In the meantime the anxious community appealed, not only to the
emperor, but also to the Bohemian king, Ladislaus, more feared than the
emperor; and ere long stringent directions came from both to release
the rabbi instantly without ransom. The council, however, excused
itself on the plea of fear of the bishop and the mob. Thereupon
followed a mandate from the emperor to defer the execution of Israel
Bruna until he came to the diet at Augsburg. The council was still
less satisfied with this order, for it feared to lose its jurisdiction
over the Jews. It accordingly prepared to take decisive action in the
matter. The accuser, Hans Vayol, was led on the stone bridge, where
the executioner stood in readiness. He was informed that he must die,
and admonished not to go into eternity with a lie on his lips. The
hardened sinner maintained his accusations against the Jews in general,
but confessed that the rabbi, Israel Bruna, was innocent of the charge
of child-murder, and on receipt of another rescript from the emperor,
Vayol was banished, and the rabbi released from prison. He was,
however, compelled to take an oath that he would not revenge himself
for his long sufferings. This poor, feeble graybeard--how could he
have avenged himself?

At this juncture the news of the martyrdom of Simon of Trent reached
Ratisbon, and added fuel to the fire. Bishop Henry was delighted to
have an opportunity of persecuting the Jews with impunity in the
interest of the faith. He had heard something of this child-murder on
his journey to Rome. On his return, he urged the council to institute
a rigid inquiry respecting the Jews accused by Wolfkan. The result of
the extorted confessions was the imprisonment of the whole community.
Sentinels stood on guard day and night at the four gates of the Jewry
of Ratisbon, and permitted no one to enter or go out. The possessions
of the whole community were confiscated by the commissioners and judges
who took an inventory of everything. A horrible fate threatened the
unhappy children of Israel.

This trial, which caused considerable attention in its day, proved
quite as prejudicial to the citizens as to the Jews themselves.
Immediately after the inquiry began, several Jews of Ratisbon had
betaken themselves to Bohemia and to the emperor, and tried by every
means to save their unhappy brethren. They knew that to explain their
righteous cause gold, and plenty of it, would be above all things
necessary. For this reason several Bavarian rabbis assembled in a synod
at Nuremberg, and decided that the Bavarian communities and every
individual not absolutely impoverished should contribute a quota to
make up the amount necessary to free the accused Jews of Ratisbon. When
the safety of their brethren was in question, the Jews, however fond
they might be of money, were by no means parsimonious. The intercession
of the Bohemian nobles under whose protection several of the Ratisbon
community had placed themselves led to no result. Far more efficacious
were the golden arguments which the ambassadors of the community laid
before Emperor Frederick and his advisers. It is only just to say
that this usually feeble sovereign displayed considerable ability
and firmness in this inquiry. He was so strongly convinced of the
falsehood of the blood accusation against the Jews that he would not
allow himself to be deceived by any trickery. He dispatched rescript
after rescript to the council of Ratisbon, ordering the immediate
release of the imprisoned Jews, the cessation of the durance of the
community, and the restoration of their property. The council, through
fear of the bishop and the duke, delayed the execution of the order,
and the emperor became furious at the obstinacy of the citizens when
news was brought to him that, in spite of the imperial command, they
had already executed some of the Jews. He thereupon declared the city
to have fallen under the ban of the empire on account of its obstinate
disobedience, and summoned it to answer for its contumacy. At the same
time he sent the imperial chancellor to deprive the city of penal
jurisdiction and to threaten it with other severe penalties.

Frederick, as a rule weak, showed surprising firmness on this
occasion. New and shameless charges were nevertheless brought by the
clergy against the Jews. In Passau they were accused of having bought
consecrated wafers from a Christian, and profaned them; whereupon
certain marvels were said to have occurred. For this the bishop of
Passau had a great number of Jews put to death, some "mercifully" by
the sword, others at the stake, and others by means of red-hot pincers.
In memory of this inhumanity and "to the glory of God," a new church
was built near the scene of the atrocities. A Jew and a Jewess of
Ratisbon were accused of complicity in this crime, and thrown into
prison with the others. All the details were brought to the notice of
the emperor in order to rouse his anger. He, however, maintained his
conviction that the Jews of Ratisbon were innocent, and issued a new
order to the effect that those in prison on the charge of profaning the
host were neither to be tortured nor put to death, but to be treated
like other prisoners. In vain the council sent deputy after deputy to
the imperial court. Frederick roundly declared, "In justice and honor
I neither can nor will permit these Jews to be slain, and the men of
Ratisbon who have so long hardened themselves in their disobedience
shall certainly not sit in judgment upon them."

Thus, after long resistance, the council was compelled to kiss the rod,
and give a written promise to release the imprisoned Jews, and not to
drive any out of the city on account of this trial. Further, the city
was sentenced to pay a fine of 8,000 gulden into the imperial exchequer
and to find bail in 10,000 gulden--which latter burden, strangely
enough, the Jews had to bear. An appeal to the pope was out of the
question, since experience had taught that "the papal court was even
more greedy of gold than the imperial."

When the community of Ratisbon was informed of this conclusion of the
affair, and of the conditions under which it could gain its freedom--
by paying not only the sum imposed upon itself, but also the fine of
the city and the costs of the proceedings--it refused. The delegates
said that the total exceeded the possessions of the Jews, as they had
been deprived, for three long years, of freedom and all opportunity
of earning money. They preferred their present miserable state to
becoming beggars. So they remained two years longer in durance, partly
on account of lack of money, and partly by reason of the excessive bail
demanded. They were finally set at liberty on taking an oath that they
would not take revenge, nor convey their persons or their goods out of
the city of Ratisbon.

All the Jews living in Suabia were expelled, doubtless in consequence
of false accusations in connection with the child-murder of Trent.
As late as in the eighteenth century, the shameless falsehood was
repeated, and in many parts entailed upon the Jews the sacrifice of
life and property.



    Jewish Blood in the Veins of the Spanish Nobility--The Marranos
    cling to Judaism and manifest Unconquerable Antipathy to
    Christianity--Ferdinand and Isabella--The Dominicans, Alfonso
    de Ojeda, Diego de Merlo, and Pedro de Solis--The Catechism
    of the Marranos--A Polemical Work against the Catholic Church
    and Despotism gives a Powerful Impulse to the Inquisition--The
    Tribunal is established in 1480--Miguel Morillo and Juan
    de San Martin are the first Inquisitors--The Inquisition
    in Seville--The "Edict of Grace"--The Procession and the
    Auto-da-fé--The Numbers of the Accused and Condemned--Pope
    Sixtus IV and his Vacillating Policy with Regard to the
    Inquisition--The Inquisition under the first Inquisitor
    General, Thomas de Torquemada; its Constitutions--The Marranos
    of Aragon--They are charged with the Death of the Inquisitor
    Arbues--Persecutions and Victims--Proceedings against two
    Bishops Favorable to the Jews, De Avila and De Aranda.

1474-1483 C.E.

A Jewish poet called Spain the "hell of the Jews;" and, in very
deed, those foul fiends in monks' cowls, the inventors of the Holy
Inquisition, made that lovely land an Inferno. Every misery, every
mortal pang, conceived only by the most extravagant imagination of
poet; every horror that can thrill the heart of man to its lowest
depths, these monsters in the garb of humility brought upon the Jews of
the Hesperian Peninsula.

These Calibans also said, "'Burn but their books;' for therein lies
their power." The Dominicans wished to destroy not only the bodies,
but the very soul and spirit of the Jews. Yet they were not able to
quench the life of Judaism. They only succeeded in transforming the
Spanish paradise into one vast dungeon, in which the king himself was
not free. The Inquisition, created by the begging friars, wounded the
Jew deeply, yet not mortally. His wounds are now almost healed; but
Spain suffers still, perhaps beyond hope of cure, from the wounds dealt
by the Inquisition. Ferdinand the Catholic and Isabella the Bigot,
who, through the union of Aragon and Castile, laid the foundation for
the greatness of Spain, prepared the way, at the same time, by the
establishment of the Inquisition, for her decay and final ruin.

The new-Christians, who dwelt by hundreds and thousands throughout
the kingdoms of Aragon and Castile, were so many thorns in monkish
flesh. Many of them held high offices of state, and by means of their
wealth wielded great and far-reaching influence. They were also
related to many of the old nobility; indeed, there were few families
of consequence who had not Jewish blood in their veins. They formed a
third part of the townspeople, and were intelligent, industrious, and
peaceful citizens. These Marranos, for the most part, had preserved
their love for Judaism and their race in the depths of their hearts.
As far as they could, they observed Jewish rites and customs, either
from piety or from habit. Even those who, upon philosophical grounds,
were indifferent to Judaism, were not less irreconcilably hostile to
Christianity, which they were compelled to confess with their lips.
Although they did not have their children circumcised, they washed the
heads of the infants immediately after baptism. They were, therefore,
rightly looked upon by the orthodox clergy either as Judaizing
Christians, or as apostate heretics. They took no count of the origin
of their conversion, which had been accomplished with fire and sword.
They had received the sacrament of baptism, and this condemned them and
their descendants to remain in the Christian faith, however hateful it
might be to them. Rational legislation would have given them liberty
to return to Judaism, and, in any case, to emigrate, in order to avoid
scandal. But the spiritual powers were full of perversity. That which
demands the freest exercise of the powers of the soul was to be brought
about by brute force, to the greater glory of God!

During the lifetime of Don Henry IV the clerical members of the cortes
of Medina del Campo had persistently advanced the proposal that a court
of Inquisition be instituted to bring recusant or suspected Christians
to trial, and inflict severe punishment with confiscation of goods.
Unfortunately for the clericals, the king was by no means zealous for
the faith or fond of persecution; and so this decision of the cortes,
like many others, remained a dead letter. The Dominicans, however,
promised themselves greater results under the new sovereigns--Queen
Isabella, whose confessors had reduced her to spiritual slavery, and
Don Ferdinand, who, by no means so superstitiously inclined, was
quite ready to use religion as the cloak of his avarice. It is said
that the confessor, Thomas de Torquemada, the incarnation of the
hell-begotten Holy Inquisition, had extorted from the Infanta Isabella
a vow that, when she came to the throne, she would devote herself to
the extirpation of heresy, to the glory of God and the exaltation of
the Catholic faith. She was now queen; "her throne was established; and
her soul was sufficiently beclouded to believe that God had raised her
solely to cleanse Spanish Christianity from the taint of Judaism."

The prior of a Dominican monastery, Alfonso de Ojeda, who had the ear
of the royal consorts, made fearful representations to them as to the
offenses of the new-Christians against the faith. Aided by two others
of like mind, he strained every nerve to set the Inquisition in motion
against the Marranos; and the papal nuncio in Spain, Nicolo Franco,
supported the proposition of the monk for a tribunal to call them to
account for their transgressions.

Without further consideration Don Ferdinand, seeing that his coffers
would be filled with the plunder of the accused, gave his assent to
the scheme. The more scrupulous queen hesitated, and the royal pair
decided to appeal to the pope for advice. The two Spanish ambassadors
at the court of Rome, the brothers Francisco and Diego de Santillana,
earnestly pressed the pope and the college of cardinals to grant the
request of their sovereigns. Sixtus IV, from whom anything, good or
bad, could be obtained for gold, immediately grasped the money-making
aspect of the Holy Inquisition. In November, 1478, he issued a bull
empowering the sovereigns to appoint inquisitors from among the clergy,
with full authority to sit in judgment on all heretics, apostates,
and their patrons, according to the laws and customs of the ancient
Inquisition, sentence them, and--most important point of all--
confiscate their goods.

Isabella, who had been somewhat favorably influenced in behalf of
the new-Christians, was not inclined to adopt rigorous measures to
begin with. At her direction, the archbishop of Seville, Cardinal
Mendoza, prepared a catechism in 1478 for the use of new-Christians,
and issued it to the clergy of his diocese, in order that they might
instruct the Marranos in the articles, the sacraments, and the usages
of the Christian religion. The authors of this measure displayed
strange simplicity in believing that the baptized Jews would allow an
antipathy, which every day found new incitement, to be appeased by the
dry statements of a catechism. The Marranos naturally remained in what
the church considered their blindness; that is to say, in the purity of
their monotheism and their adherence to their ancestral religion.

It happened that a Jew or a new-Christian grievously offended the
sovereigns by the publication of a small work in which he exposed at
once the idolatrous cult of the church and the despotic character of
the government. Hereupon the queen became more and more inclined
to assent to the proposals for the establishment of the bloody
tribunal. The work made so strong an impression that the queen's
father-confessor, in 1480, published a refutation by royal command. The
attitude of the court became more and more hostile to new-Christians,
and when the commission appointed by the sovereigns to inquire into
the improvement or obstinacy of the Marranos reported that they were
irreclaimable, it was authorized to frame the statute for the new
tribunal. The commission was composed of the fanatical Dominican,
Alfonso de Ojeda, and the two monks--one in mind and order--Pedro
de Solis and Diego de Merlo.

Had demons of nethermost hell conspired to torment innocent men to
the last verge of endurance and to make their lives one ceaseless
martyrdom, they could not have devised more perfect means than those
which the three monks employed against their victims.

The statute was ratified by the sovereigns, and the tribunal of the
Holy Inquisition was appointed on September 17th, 1480. It was composed
of men well fitted to carry out the bloody decree: the Dominican Miguel
Morillo, inquisitor in the province of Roussillon, and renowned as
a converter of heretics by means of torture; Juan de San Martin; an
assessor, the abbot Juan Ruez, and a procurator fiscal, Juan Lopez
del Barco. These men were formally confirmed by Sixtus IV as judges
in matters of faith, and of heretics and apostates. The tribunal was
first organized for the city of Seville and its neighborhood, as this
district stood immediately under royal jurisdiction, and, therefore,
possessed no cortes, and because it contained a great many Marranos.
Three weeks later the sovereigns issued a decree calling upon all
officials to render the inquisitors every assistance in their power.

It is noteworthy that as soon as the creation of the tribunal became
known, the populace everywhere looked upon it with displeasure, as
though suspicious that it might be caught in the net spread for
the Marranos. While the cortes of Medina del Campo proposed the
establishment of a court for new-Christians, the great popular assembly
at Toledo in the same year--the first after the accession of
Ferdinand and Isabella--maintained absolute silence on the question,
as though it desired to have no share in the unholy work. The mayor
and other officials of Seville proved so disinclined to assist the
inquisitors that it was necessary to issue a second royal decree on
December 27th, 1480, directing them to do so. The nobles, allied with
the converted Jews either through blood or friendship, stood stoutly
by them, and sought by every means to protect them against the new

As soon as the new-Christians of Seville and the neighborhood received
news of the establishment of the Inquisition, they held a meeting to
consider means of turning aside the blow aimed at them. Several wealthy
and respected men of Seville, Carmona and Utrera, among them Abulafia,
the financial agent of the royal couple, prepared to do battle with
their persecutors. They distributed money and weapons among the people,
to enable them to defend themselves. An old man urged the conspirators
to armed resistance; but the conspiracy was betrayed by the daughter
of one of its members, and all fell into the hands of the tribunal.
Others, who had collected their possessions, and fled to the province
of Medina-Sidonia and Cadiz, under whose governors they hoped to
receive protection against the threatened persecution, were deceived,
for the Inquisition went to work with remorseless severity. As soon as
it had taken up its quarters in the convent of St. Paul at Seville,
on January 2d, 1481, it issued an edict to the governor of Cadiz and
other officials to deliver up the Marranos and distrain their goods.
Those who disobeyed were threatened not only with excommunication,
but also with the punishment assigned, as sharers of their guilt,
to all who showed sympathy to heretics--confiscation of goods and
deprivation of office.

The Inquisition inspired so much terror that the nobility lost no time
in imprisoning those to whom they had lately promised protection, and
in sending them in custody to Seville. The number of these prisoners
was so great that the tribunal was soon obliged to seek another
building for its functions. It selected a castle in Triana, a suburb of
Seville. On the gate of this house of blood were inscribed, in mockery
of the Jews, certain verses selected from their Scriptures:--"Arise,
God, judge Thy cause;" "Catch ye foxes for us," which plainly showed
the utter heartlessness of their judges. Fugitives when caught were
treated as convicted heretics. So early as the fourth day after the
installation of the tribunal, it held its first sitting. Six Marranos
who had either avowed their old religion before their judges, or made
horrible confessions on the rack, were condemned and burnt alive. The
tale of victims grew to such proportions that the city authorities
set apart a special place as a permanent execution ground, which
subsequently became infamous as the Quemadero, or place of burning.
Four huge caricatures of prophets distinguished this spot, existing
to the present day to the shame of Spain and Christianity. For three
hundred years the smoke of the burnt-offering of innocence ascended to
heaven from this infernal spot.

With that mildness of mien which skillfully covers the wisdom and
the venom of the serpent, Miguel Morillo and his coadjutors gave to
the new-Christians guilty of relapse into Judaism a certain time in
which to declare their remorse. Upon doing this they would receive
absolution, and be permitted to retain their property. This was the
Edict of Grace; but it was not wanting in threats for those who should
permit the time of respite to elapse, and be denounced by others as
backsliders. The full vigor of the canonical laws against heresy and
apostasy would then be exercised against them. The credulous in crowds
obeyed the summons. Contritely they appeared before the tribunal,
lamented the awful guilt of their lapse into Judaism, and awaited
absolution and permission to live in peace. But now the inquisitors
imposed the condition that they declare by name, position, residence
and other particulars all persons of their acquaintance whom they knew
to be apostates. This declaration they were to substantiate on oath. In
the name of God they were asked to become accusers and betrayers--the
friend of his friend, the brother of his brother, and the son of his
father. Terror, and the assurance that the betrayed should never know
the names of their betrayers, loosed the tongues of the weak-hearted,
and the tribunal soon had a long list of heretics upon whom to carry
out its bloody work.

Not only the hunted Marranos, every Spaniard was called upon by an
edict of the inquisitors to become an informer. Under threat of
excommunication every one was bound to give, within three days, a list
of acquaintances guilty of Jewish heresy. It was a summons to the most
hateful vices of mankind to become allies of the court: to malice,
hatred and revenge, to sate themselves by treachery; to greed, to
enrich itself; and to superstition, to gain salvation by betrayal.

And what were the signs of this heresy and apostasy? The Inquisition
had published a very complete, practical guide on the subject, so
that each informer might find good grounds for his denunciation. The
following signs of heresy were set forth: if baptized Jews cherished
hopes of a Messiah; if they held Moses to be as efficacious for
salvation as Jesus; if they kept the Sabbath or a Jewish feast; if
they had their children circumcised; if they observed the Jewish
dietary laws; if they wore clean linen or better garments on the
Sabbath, laid tablecloths, or lit no fire on this day, or if they went
barefoot on the Day of Atonement, or asked pardon of each other. If
a father laid his hands in blessing on his children without making
the sign of the cross; if one said his prayers with face turned to
the wall, or with motions of the head; or if he uttered a benediction
(Baraha, Beracha) over the wine-cup, and passed it to those seated at
the table with him, he was to be deemed recalcitrant. As a matter of
course, neglect of the usages of the church was the strongest ground
for suspicion and accusation. Again, if a new-Christian repeated a
psalm without adding the Gloria; or if he ate meat on fast-days; or if
a Jewish woman did not go to church forty days after her lying-in; or
if parents gave their children Jewish names, the charge of heresy was
held proved.

Even the most innocent actions, if they happened to coincide with
Jewish usages, were regarded as signs of aggravated heresy. If anyone,
for instance, on the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles accepted gifts from
the table of Jews, or sent them; or if a new-born child was bathed in
water in which gold coins and grains of corn had been placed; or if a
dying man in his last moments turned his face to the wall--all such
actions were held to be signs of heresy.

By such means unscrupulous people were given ample opportunity for
denunciation, and the tribunal was enabled to accuse of heresy the
most orthodox proselytes when it desired to destroy their influence or
confiscate their property. Naturally the dungeons of the Inquisition
were soon filled with Jewish heretics. Fully 15,000 were thrown into
prison at the outset. The Christian priests of Moloch inaugurated
the first auto-da-fé, on January 6th, 1481, with a solemn procession,
repeated innumerable times during the following three hundred years.
The clergy in their gorgeous vestments and with crucifixes; the
grandees in black robes with their banners and pennons; the unhappy
victims in the hideous San Benito, short and clinging, painted with a
red cross, and flames and figures of devils; the accompanying choir
of a vast concourse--so the executioners with proud bearing and
the victims in most miserable guise marched to the place of torment.
Arrived there the inquisitors recited their sentence on the victims.
To the horror of the scene was added the ghastly mockery that the
tribunal did not execute the sentence of death, but left it to the
secular judge; for the church, though steeped to the lips in blood, was
supposed not to desire the death of the sinner. The Jewish heretics
were given to the flames forthwith, or, if penitent, they were first
strangled. In the first auto-da-fé, at which the bishop, Alfonso de
Ojeda, preached the inauguration sermon, only six Judaizing Christians
were burnt. A few days later the conspirators of Carmona, Seville,
and other towns, and three of the most wealthy and respected of the
Marranos, among whom was Diego de Suson, the possessor of ten millions,
and Abulafia, formerly a Talmudic scholar and a rabbi, were burnt
to death. On the 26th of March seventeen victims suffered death by
fire on the Quemadero. In the following month a yet greater number
were burnt; and up to November of the same year 298 burnt-offerings
to Christ gasped out their lives in flame and smoke in the single
district of Seville. In the archbishopric of Cadiz no less than 2,000
Jewish heretics were burnt alive in the course of that year, most of
them being wealthy or well-to-do, their possessions, of course, going
to the royal exchequer. Not even death afforded a safeguard against
the fury of the Holy Office. These ghouls of religion tore from
their graves the corpses of proselytes who had died in heresy, burnt
them, confiscated their possessions in the hands of their heirs, and
condemned the latter to obscurity and poverty that they might never
aspire to any honorable office. Here was a splendid field for the
avarice of the king. When it was impossible to convict a wealthy heir,
it was only necessary to establish proofs of a relapse to Judaism
against his dead father, and then the property fell partly to the king,
partly to the Holy Inquisition!

Many Marranos saved themselves by flight from the clutches of the
merciless persecutors, and took refuge in the neighboring Moslem
kingdom of Granada, in Portugal, Africa, Provence, or Italy. Those
who reached Rome approached the papal court with bitter complaints
about the savage and arbitrary proceedings of the Inquisition against
themselves and their companions in misery. As the complainants did not
come with empty hands, their cause usually obtained a ready hearing.
On the 29th of January, 1482, the pope addressed a severe letter to
Ferdinand and Isabella, censuring the conduct of the Inquisition in no
measured terms. He stated that he had been assured that the proceedings
of the tribunal were contrary to all forms of justice, that many were
unjustly imprisoned, and subjected to fearful tortures. Innocent people
had been denounced as heretics, and their property taken from their
heirs. In this letter the pope admitted that he had issued the bull for
the institution of the Inquisition without due consideration!

Sixtus further stated that, in strict justice, he ought to depose the
inquisitors, De Morillo and San Martin; but out of consideration for
their majesties he would allow them to remain in possession of their
offices, only so long, however, as no further complaints were made
against them. Should protests again be raised he would restore the
inquisitorial office to the bishops, to whom it properly belonged. The
pope refused the request of Don Ferdinand to institute in the other
provinces of the united kingdom extraordinary tribunals for the trial
of heretics.

But Don Ferdinand also knew how to apply the golden key to the
papal cabinet, and obtained a bull sanctioning the establishment
of the Inquisition in the provinces of Aragon. In this bull, dated
February 11th, 1482, Sixtus appointed six monks and clerics as chief
inquisitors, among them Thomas de Torquemada, general of the Dominicans
of Avilo, a monk already infamous for his bloodthirsty fanaticism.
In another letter, of the 17th of April, he invested these men with
discretionary powers, in virtue of which they were able to dispense
with certain forms of common law, the hearing of witnesses and the
admission of pleaders for the defense. Thus were fresh victims brought
to the stake.

In the kingdom of Aragon, however, where the nobility and the middle
class had a weighty voice in public matters, the condemnation of Jewish
heretics without formal trial raised such formidable opposition that
Cardinal Borgia, afterwards the infamous Alexander VI, and the king
himself, petitioned the pope for a modification of the conditions
governing the practice of the tribunal. In a letter of the 10th of
October, Sixtus excused himself from making any radical changes in
consequence of the absence of the cardinals, who had fled from Rome
in mortal fear of the plague. But he abrogated the conditions which
too flagrantly violated the principles of common law; that is to say,
he ordered that accuser and witnesses should be confronted with the
accused, and that the process should be conducted in public.

The Inquisition also met with great opposition in Sicily, an appanage
of the kingdom of Aragon. The people and even the authorities took the
part of the new-Christians, and shielded them from the persecution
of their bloodthirsty judges. Christians themselves openly charged
that the victims were not executed out of zeal for the faith, but from
insatiable greed which sought ceaseless confiscations. The bigoted
Isabella was sorely troubled at having her pious desire to devote the
proselytes to death thus evilly represented, and even the pope behaved
as though it wounded him to the heart. (February, 1483.)

Sixtus IV had the greatest interest in maintaining friendly relations
with the Spanish court, and, therefore, made every concession with
regard to the Inquisition. As it often happened that Christian
proselytes condemned by the tribunal, who had succeeded in escaping to
Rome, purchased absolution from the papal throne, with the infliction
of only a light, private penance, the sovereigns saw that their
efforts to purge the Christian faith by the extermination of Jewish
proselytes, especially by the confiscation of their goods, were most
unpleasantly thwarted. The court, therefore, insisted that the pope
appoint a judge of appeals in Spain itself, so that the rulings of the
Inquisition might not be reversed in foreign countries, where all kinds
of unfavorable influences might be brought to bear. The pope agreed to
this proposition, and appointed Inigo Manrique chief judge of appeals
in cases in which the condemned moved for a revision of their trial.
This measure was, however, of very doubtful benefit to the unfortunate
culprits, for upon what ground could they base their appeal when the
trial had been conducted in secret, and neither accuser nor witnesses
were known to them? It is altogether likely, too, that the tribunal did
not leave them very much time to institute proceedings for the revision
of the verdict. Between the passing of the sentence and the last act of
the auto-da-fé only a very short interval elapsed.

Another measure of the Spanish court, calculated to deprive the accused
of the last hope of acquittal, was approved by the pope. Baptized Jews,
or new-Christians descended from them, frequently held bishoprics, and
were naturally favorably inclined to their unfortunate and persecuted
brethren in race. At the request of the Spanish court, the pope issued
a bull decreeing that no bishop, vicar, or member of the upper clergy
descended from a Jewish family, whether paternally or maternally,
should sit as a judge in any court for the trial of heretics. From
this prohibition there was only a step to the condemnation of clergy
of Jewish blood to the stake. Both his own frame of mind and his
political position now inclined the pope to encourage the sovereigns in
the prosecution of their bloody work. He reminded them that Jesus had
established his kingdom on earth solely by the extirpation of idolatry
and the extermination of idolators, and he pointed to the recent
victories which the Spaniards had gained over the Moslems in Granada
as the reward of heaven for their efforts towards the purification of
the faith--that is to say, for the burning of new-Christians and the
confiscation of their goods.

Had his Holiness, Sixtus IV, not been infamous as a monster of
depravity, sensuality and unscrupulousness, who appointed boys that
he had himself abused to bishoprics and the cardinal dignity, and who
bestowed no clerical office without payment--as his contemporary,
Infessura, the chancellor of Rome, has recorded--his conduct with
regard to the Holy Inquisition would have been sufficient to brand
him with immortal infamy. Within a short period he published the most
contradictory decisions, and did not take the trouble to veil his
inconsistency with the most flimsy pretense. Scarcely had he proclaimed
the utmost rigors against Judaizing heretics, and appointed a tribunal
of appeals, than he partly abrogated these bulls, and issued another
prescribing milder proceedings to the Inquisition, only to alter this
policy in its turn.

The hated Marranos, among them the high-spirited Juan de Seville, had
exerted themselves to procure from the papal court a decree to the
effect that those who had undergone private penance in Rome should not
be submitted to the oppression and persecution of the avaricious king
and his bloodthirsty inquisitors, but should be regarded and treated
as orthodox Christians. At first the pope consented, and issued a
bull on August 2d, 1483, "to be held in eternal remembrance and as
guide for the future," in which he especially directed that rigor be
tempered with mercy in dealing with the new-Christians, seeing that the
severity of the Inquisition had overstepped the bounds of justice. The
bull enacted that all new-Christians who had confessed their remorse
to the confessor-general in Rome, and had been assigned a penance,
should not be pursued by the Inquisition, and should have their trials
suppressed. It exhorted the king and queen, "by the bowels of Jesus
Christ," to remember that in mercy and kindness alone may man resemble
God, and that, therefore, they might in this follow in the steps of
Jesus, whose peculiar attribute it was to show mercy and to pardon.
The pope permitted this bull to be copied indefinitely, each copy to
have the authority of the original, in order that the papal attitude
with regard to new-Christians might be made universally known. Sixtus
concluded with the statement that he issued this bull entirely of his
own motion, not in obedience to external influence, although it was
well known in high circles that it had been bought with new-Christian
gold. The sovereigns, however, would have nothing to do with mercy or
forbearance; they desired the death of the culprits and the possession
of their property. Nor was the pope really inclined to mild measures.
A few days later, on August 13th, he recalled this bull, excusing
himself to the king for its tenor, and said that it had been issued
in too great haste. Such was the consistency and infallibility of his
Holiness, Pope Sixtus IV!

In vain Don Juan de Seville, who had procured the promulgation of the
favorable bull, endeavored to circulate it. He failed to find any
clerical official in Spain to copy and confirm it. He, therefore,
applied to the Portuguese archbishop of Evora, who caused it to be
copied by his notary and recognized as authentic. The Inquisition,
however, was extremely suspicious of those who had sought and obtained
indulgences at Rome, and Don Juan de Seville and his companions fell at
length into its hands, and were severely punished.

Terrible though the tribunal had hitherto been; though many thousands
of compulsory proselytes and their descendants, during its three short
years of existence, had been cast into the flames, left to rot in its
dungeons, driven from their country, or reduced to beggary, it was
child's play compared with what it became when placed under the control
of a priest whose heart was closed to every sentiment of mercy, whose
lips breathed only death and destruction, and who united the savagery
of the hyena with the venom of the snake. Until now the Inquisition had
been confined to southern Spain, to the districts of Seville and Cadiz,
and the Christian province of Andalusia. In the remaining provinces
of Spain it had hitherto been unable to get a footing, in consequence
of the resistance offered to its introduction by the cortes. Through
the opposition of the people, the wicked will of the inquisitors
Morillo and Juan de San Martin had remained inoperative; their uplifted
arm was paralyzed by innumerable difficulties. If here and there a
few courts were held in the remaining districts of Spain, they were
isolated and without organization, and were thus unable to furnish
each other with victims. King Ferdinand thus had not yet collected
treasure enough, nor had the pious Isabella beheld a sufficient number
of new-Christians writhing in the flames. For their joint satisfaction
they now persuaded the pope to appoint an inquisitor-general who
should constitute, direct, and supervise the several courts, that
none of the suspected Marranos might avoid their fate, and that the
opposition of the populace might be broken down by every species
of terrorism. In cold blood, and with little interest even for the
faith itself, the pope assented; and in May, 1483, appointed the
Dominican, Thomas de Torquemada, hitherto prior of a monastery in
Segovia, inquisitor-general of Spain. There are certain men who are
the embodiment of good or evil sentiments, opinions and principles,
and fully illustrate their extremest consequences. Torquemada was the
incarnation of the Holy Inquisition with all its devilish malice, its
heartless severity, its bloodthirsty ferocity.

"Out of Rome hath arisen a savage monster of such wondrous shape and
hideous appearance that at the sound of its name all Europe trembles.
Its carcass is of iron, tempered in deadly poison, and covered with
scales of impenetrable steel. A thousand venom-dropping wings support
it when it hovers over the terrified earth. Its nature is that of the
ravening lion and the snake of the African desert. Its bite is more
terrible than that of the hugest monster. The sound of its voice slays
more speedily than the deadly glance of the basilisk. From its eyes and
mouth stream fire and ceaseless lightnings. It feeds on human bodies,
and its drink is human tears and blood. It excels the eagle in the
speed of its flight, and where it broods its black shadow spreads the
gloom of night. Though the sun shine never so clearly, the darkness of
Egypt follows in its track. Wheresoever it flies, every green meadow
that it touches, every fruitful tree on which it sets foot, withers and
dies. With its destroying fangs it roots up every herb that grows, and
with the poison of its breath it blasts the circle in which it moves to
a desert like that of Syria, where no green thing grows, no grass-blade

Thus did a Jewish poet, Samuel Usque, himself singed by its flames,
depict the Inquisition.

The inscription which the poet Dante placed upon the portal of Hell--

    "All hope abandon, ye who enter here!"

would have been even more suitable to the dungeons of the Holy
Inquisition, which the cruel energy of Torquemada now established in
nearly all the great towns of Spain. He at once instituted three new
tribunals in Cordova, Jaen and Villareal (Ciudad-Real), and, later
on, one in Toledo, the capital of southern Spain. The offices of the
Inquisition were entirely filled by him with hypocritical and fanatical
Dominicans, whom he made the tools of his will, so that they worked
like an organism with a single head, ready at his word to perpetrate
the most hideous barbarities with a composure that cannibals might
have envied. In those days Spain was filled with the putrefaction of
the dungeon, the stench of corpses, and the crackling of the flames in
which were burning innocent Jews, forced into a faith the falsity of
which was demonstrated by every action of the servants of the church. A
wail of misery piercing bone and marrow went through that lovely land;
but their Catholic majesties paralyzed the arm of every man prompted
by mercy to put a stop to the butchery. At the court itself there
sat a commission on the affairs of Jewish Christians, of which the
inquisitor-general held the presidency.

Don Ferdinand wished to perpetuate the jurisdiction of the Inquisition
in his hereditary lands, in order to fill his purse with the spoils
of the new-Christians settled there. During the assembly of the
cortes at Tarazona, in April, 1484, he laid his plans before his privy
council, and canceled the ancient privileges of the country, which had
existed from the earliest times, and which provided that no native of
Aragon, whatever his crime, should suffer confiscation of his property.
The inquisitor-general accordingly appointed for the archbishopric
of Saragossa two inquisitors who rivaled himself in bloodthirsty
fanaticism, the canon, Pedro Arbues de Epila, and the Dominican,
Gaspard Juglar. A royal ordinance was now issued to all officials and
nobles, directing them to give every assistance to the inquisitors.
The grand justiciary of Aragon, though of Jewish origin, and other
dignitaries, were obliged to take an oath that they would spare no
efforts to exterminate the culprits condemned by the tribunal.

Torquemada, the very soul of the Inquisition, now decided to publish
a code for the guidance of the judges, so that the net might be
drawn as closely as possible round his victims. The whole body of
inquisitors was assembled to consider this design, and, under the
title of "Constitutions," issued, on October 29th, 1484, a code of
laws, calculated to inspire the utmost horror had no more been done
than commit them to paper. It has been asserted that the monkish
inquisitors merely copied the anti-Jewish enactments of the councils
under the Visigothic kings. It is true that the decrees of Receswinth
threatened with death, by fire or stoning, all new-Christians convicted
of adherence to Jewish customs. The comparison is, nevertheless,
incorrect. For not the enactments against heresy, but their
enforcement, distinguishes the "Constitutions" of the Inquisition as
the most hideous ever fashioned by human wickedness. It was as though
the most malicious demons had taken counsel to discover how they might
bring innocent human beings to destruction.

One decree ordained a respite of thirty days for those who of their
own free will would tender confession of their relapse to Judaism.
These were to be spared all punishment and confiscation of goods with
the exception of a moderate fine. They were, however, compelled to put
their confession into writing, to give exact answers to all questions
put to them, and especially to betray their fellow-offenders, and even
those whom they only suspected of Judaizing tendencies. Those who
confessed after the expiration of the time of respite were to lose
all their property, even that which they had possessed at the time of
their falling away from Christianity, and though it had passed into
other hands. Only new-Christians under twenty years old were exempted
from loss of property in the event of later confessions; but they were
compelled to bear a mark of infamy composed of flaming crosses, the
San Benito, upon their clothing, and to take part in the processions
and attend high mass in this guise. Those whose remorse awakened after
the appointed day were indeed to receive indulgence, but they were to
remain branded for life. Neither they nor their descendants were ever
to hold any public office, nor to wear any garment embroidered with
gold, silver or pearls, or made of silk or fine wool, and they were
condemned to bear the "fiery cross" for ever. Should the inquisitors
discover that the confession of a penitent was insincere, it was their
duty to deny him absolution, to treat him as a recalcitrant, and to
consign him to the flames. If a penitent made only a partial confession
of his sins, he, too, was condemned to death. The evidence against a
Judaizing Christian might, when not otherwise convenient, be taken
through other persons. It was not necessary to place this testimony
before the accused in full detail, but merely as an abstract. If, in
spite of the evidence laid before him, he maintained that he had never
relapsed into Judaism, he was condemned to the flames as impenitent.
Inconclusive proofs of relapse brought against a Marrano stretched him
upon the rack; in case he confessed under torture, he was submitted
to a second trial. If he then adhered to what he had confessed under
torture he was condemned; if he denied it, he underwent the torture
again. In those cases in which an accused person failed to answer to
the summons issued against him, he was condemned as a contumacious
heretic, _i. e._, his property was confiscated.

In the face of such proceedings--the parody of a trial--and the
pre-determination on the part of the judge to consider the accused
guilty, how was it possible for any Marrano to prove his innocence?
The dungeon and the rack frequently made the accused so indifferent
to their fate and so weary of life that they made confessions as to
themselves, their friends and even their nearest relatives which
appeared to vindicate the necessity for the Inquisition. The trial of
every new-Christian involved others in apparent guilt, and brought
new examinations and new accusations in its train, thus furnishing an
ever-increasing number of victims to the Holy Office.

The towns of the kingdoms of Aragon and Valencia had from the
first manifested the greatest displeasure at the introduction of
the Inquisition. Up to this period they had been less despotically
governed than Castile, and were exceedingly jealous of their freedom.
Above everything the Aragonese valued, as the apple of their eye, the
privilege which forbade the confiscation of goods even on account
of the gravest offenses. Now the officers of the Inquisition were
to be invested with unlimited power over life and property. The
new-Christians, who held high offices and influential positions in
Aragon, were naturally eager to foment and increase the discontent.
In Teruel and Valencia, in 1485, disastrous popular risings broke out
against the Inquisition, and were quelled only after great bloodshed.
The Marranos and those of Jewish descent did not, however, surrender
their project of paralyzing the Inquisition in Aragon. Some of the
highest dignitaries of state were numbered among them; as, for example,
Luis Gonzalez, royal secretary of state for Aragon; Alfonso de
Caballeria, the vice-chancellor; his brother, the king's major-domo;
Philip Clemente, chief notary; and such high hidalgos as the Counts of
Aranda, together with many knights, among whom were the valiant Juan
de Abadia, whose sister was burnt for heresy, and Juan Perez Sanchez,
whose brothers were at court.

As soon as the first victims fell under the Inquisition in Saragossa,
influential new-Christians brought pressure to bear upon the cortes
to induce them to protest, both to the king and to the pope, against
the introduction of the tribunal into Aragon. Commissioners were
sent to the royal and papal courts to effect in person the repeal of
the ordinances. They expected but little trouble in Rome, for there
everything was to be had for money. With the king it seemed to be a
matter of much greater difficulty. Ferdinand remained obstinately fixed
in the resolution to exterminate the Jewish Christians by means of the
Inquisition, and to acquire their property. When the commissioners
sent news to their friends in Aragon of the failure of their efforts,
Perez Sanchez conceived a plot to remove Pedro Arbues, chief inquisitor
for Aragon, in order to cripple the activity of the Inquisition by
terrorism, and to force the king to give way. He imparted his project
to his friends, and many bound themselves to stand by him. In order
to win over the entire body of new-Christians, and to induce them to
stand firmly together, the leaders of the conspiracy laid them under
contribution for the expenses of carrying out the project. A hidalgo,
Blasco de Alagon, collected the money, and Juan de Abadia undertook to
hire the assassins, and to see that the death of Arbues was achieved.
This conspiracy was joined by many distinguished persons of Jewish
descent in Saragossa, Tarazona, Calatayud, Huesca and Barbastro.

Juan de Abadia procured two trustworthy men, Juan de Esperaindo and
Vidal de Uranso, with four assistants, to accomplish the death of the
inquisitor Arbues. The intended victim appears to have suspected the
plot, for he protected his body with a shirt of mail and his head with
a species of steel cap. Before daybreak on the 15th of September,
1485, as he was entering the church with a lantern to hear early mass,
the conspirators followed him. As soon as he had fallen on his knees,
Esperaindo struck him on the arm with his sword, while Vidal wounded
him in the neck. He was borne out of the church bathed in blood, and
died two days later. The conspirators took instant flight. As soon as
the news of the attack on the chief inquisitor spread in Saragossa
it produced a violent reaction. The orthodox Christians assembled in
crowds crying in tones of fury: "To the flames with the Jew-Christians!
They have murdered the chief inquisitor!" The Marranos would have
been massacred in a body there and then, had not the royal bastard,
the youthful Archbishop Alfonso of Aragon, mounted his horse, and
restrained the crowd by an armed force, promising them the fullest
satisfaction by the severe punishment of the guilty persons and their

King Ferdinand made good use of the unfortunate conspiracy in the
establishment of the Inquisition in Aragon. The sovereigns carried
public mourning for the murdered Arbues to the verge of idolatry. A
statue was consecrated to his memory, in honor of his services to
religion and the extermination of Jewish heretics. The Dominicans
were by no means displeased at the death of the chief inquisitor.
They were, in fact, in need of a martyr to enable them to surround
their tribunal of blood with a halo of glory. They used every effort
to raise Pedro Arbues to the rank of saint or Christian demi-god. It
was not long before they fabricated a divine communication from the
sainted heretic-slayer, in which he exhorted all the world to support
and carry forward the Holy Inquisition, and soothed the scruples of the
members of the tribunal, on account of the enormous number of men they
had consigned to the flames, by assuring them that the most honorable
places in heaven awaited them as the reward of their pious efforts.

The unsuccessful conspiracy of the Marranos in Saragossa afforded a
vast number of fresh victims to the Christian Moloch. A few of the
conspirators made full confession, and so the inquisitors soon had
a complete list of the culprits. These were pursued with redoubled
vigor as Judaizing heretics and enemies of the Holy Office. Those
who had borne a leading part in the conspiracy, as soon as they fell
into the hands of their judges, were dragged through the streets of
Saragossa, their hands were hewn off, and they were then hanged. Juan
de Abadia escaped this dishonorable fate by killing himself in prison.
More than two hundred Jewish Christians were burnt as accomplices, a
yet greater number were condemned to perpetual imprisonment, among
them a high dignitary of the Metropolitan Church of Saragossa, and
not a few women of gentle birth. Francisco de Santa Fé also died
at the stake. Even those who had given shelter to the conspirators
for a brief period during their flight were compelled to attend an
auto-da-fé as penitents, and lost their civil rights. How far the
inhumanity of the persecutors went is especially shown by one of the
punishments inflicted. A conspirator, Gaspard de Santa Cruz, had been
successful in making his escape to Toulouse, and there died in peace.
The Inquisition, not content with burning him in effigy, laid hands
upon his son as an accomplice in his father's flight, and condemned him
to travel to Toulouse to communicate his sentence to the Dominicans of
that city, and to desire them to exhume the body of his father and burn
it. The weak son performed his disgraceful mission, and brought back
to Saragossa the certificate of the Dominicans to the effect that the
corpse of the father had been dishonored on the prayer of the son.

Certain towns of northern Spain, such as Lerida and Barcelona, still
obstinately resisted the introduction of the Inquisition. Their
resistance proved vain. The iron will of Fernando and the bloodthirsty
fanaticism of Torquemada overcame every obstacle, and the papal
court was obliged to give its assent to every proposal. From that
time forth the number of victims continued to increase. On the 12th
of February, 1486, an auto-da-fé was celebrated in Toledo with 750
human burnt-offerings, while on the 2d of April in the same year, 900
victims were offered up, and on the 7th of May, 750. On the 16th of
August twenty-five Jewish heretics were burnt alive in Toledo; on the
following day two priests suffered; and on the 10th of December 950
persons were condemned to shameful public penance. In the following
year, when the Inquisition was established in Barcelona and on the
island of Majorca, two hundred Marranos suffered death by fire in
these places alone. A Jew of that time, Isaac Arama, writes on this
subject as follows: "In these days the smoke of the martyr's pyre
rises unceasingly to heaven in all the Spanish kingdoms and the isles.
One-third of the Marranos have perished in the flames, another third
wander homeless over the earth seeking where they may hide themselves,
and the remainder live in perpetual terror of a trial." So the tale
of victims grew from year to year under the eleven tribunals which
transformed the fair land of Spain into a blazing Tophet, whose flames
soon reached and devoured the Christians themselves.

The pitiless persecution of the new-Christians had its origin perhaps
even more in the racial hatred of the pure-blooded Spaniards towards
the children of Judah than in religious fanaticism. Persons of Jewish
descent, whom it was impossible justly to accuse of heresy, were
included in the accusations simply because they held high offices. They
were not permitted to enjoy any dignity or to exercise any influence in
the country. The inquisitor-general, Torquemada, even laid hands upon
two bishops of Jewish blood, De Avila and De Aranda, so that, if it
were impossible to consign them to the flames, he might at least expel
them from their sees.



    Friendship of Marranos and Jews--Torquemada demands of
    the Rabbis of Toledo the Denunciation of Marranos--Judah
    Ibn-Verga--Jewish Courtiers under Ferdinand and Isabella
    --Isaac Abrabanel: his History and Writings--The Jews of
    Portugal under Alfonso V--The Ibn-Yachya Brothers--Abrabanel's
    Flight from Portugal to Spain--The Jews of Granada: Isaac
    Hamon--Edict of Banishment promulgated by Ferdinand and
    Isabella--Its Consequences--Departure from Spain--Number of
    the Exiles--Decline in the Prosperity of Spain after the
    Banishment of the Jews--Transformation of Synagogues and
    Schools into Churches and Monasteries--The Inquisition and the
    Marranos--Deza, the Successor of Torquemada.

1483-1492 C.E.

The monster of the Inquisition, having poured out its wrath on the
new-Christians, now stretched its arms over the Jews, and delivered
them to a miserable fate. The connection between the Jews and the
Marranos was too close for the former not to be made to participate in
the misfortunes of the latter. They were in intimate relations with
each other, were bound to each other by close, brotherly ties. The
Jews experienced heartfelt pity for their unfortunate brethren, so
unwillingly wearing the mask of Christianity, and strove to keep them
in touch with the Jewish community. They instructed Christian-born
Marranos in the rites of Judaism, held secret meetings with them
for prayer, furnished them with religious books and writings, kept
them informed of the occurrence of fasts and festivals, supplied
them at Easter with unleavened bread, and throughout the year with
meat prepared according to their own ritual, and circumcised their
new-born sons. In Seville, in fact in the whole of Andalusia, there
were countless new-Christians, baptized at the time of the furious
attack upon the Jews by Ferdinand Martinez, and later during the
persecution of 1391, so that it offered a good field for the activity
of Jews who were endeavoring to bring back turncoat brethren into
the ranks of Judaism. One of the most active in this work was Judah
Ibn-Verga, of Seville, Kabbalist and astronomer, who was held in high
estimation by the governor of Andalusia. The king and queen intended
to call the Inquisition into existence here, and the first step was
to separate the Jews from Christians, especially new-Christians, and
to destroy every connecting link between them. The cortes of Toledo
insisted on the enforcement of the stringent regulations--hitherto
so frequently evaded--for special Jewish (and Moorish) quarters, but
the strictly executed law of separation, made to take effect all over
the kingdom, could not sever the loving relations existing between
Jews and Marranos. In spite of all, the closest intercommunion was
maintained, only more secretly, more circumspectly. The greater the
danger of discovery, the the greater the charm of meeting, despite the
Argus eyes of priestly spies and their myrmidons, for mutual solace and
encouragement. These meetings of the Jews and Moors, from the secrecy
with which they were conducted, and the danger attending them, wore a
romantic aspect. A loving bond of union was thus created, which grew
closer and stronger for every effort to loosen it.

The fiendish Torquemada strove by every possible means to destroy these
ties. As soon as he had become grand inquisitor, he issued a command
that Marranos should present themselves for confession, ordered the
rabbis of Toledo to be convened, and exacted from them an oath that
they would inform against new-Christians who observed Jewish rites
and ceremonies, and would excommunicate Jews who refused to become
witnesses against their own people. They were threatened with heavy
punishment if they refused to take this oath (1485). What a tragical
struggle for the rabbis of Toledo! They themselves were to lend a hand
to wrench their faithful brethren from Judaism, and deliver them over
to Christianity, or, rather, to the stake! Surely, they could not be
brought to this, and preferred to suffer punishment! Judah Ibn-Verga,
ordered by the inquisitors to deliver over pseudo-Christians who
secretly clung to Judaism, chose to leave his native Seville, and
fled to Lisbon, where he eventually died a martyr's death. Since the
inquisitors could not attain their ends through Jews, who, despite all
measures, continued their secret intercourse with new-Christians, they
urged the king and queen to issue a mandate for the partial expulsion
of the Jews from Andalusia, especially from Seville.

The Castilian and Aragonese Jews might have known, from these sad
events, that their sojourn could not be of long duration; but they
loved Spain too dearly to part from her except under compulsion.
Besides, the king and queen often protected them from unfair treatment.
When they removed to special Jewish quarters, Ferdinand and Isabella
were at great pains to shield them from annoyance and chicanery.
Moreover, under the rule of these Catholic sovereigns there were Jewish
tithe and tax collectors, and, finally, the Jews relied upon the fact
that they were indispensable to the Christians. The sick preferred
to seek advice with Jewish physicians, the lower classes consulted
Jews on legal questions, and even asked them to read the letters or
documents which they received from the clergy. In addition to all this,
it happened that, at the time when Torquemada was casting his snares
over the Moors and Jews, the celebrated Abrabanel received an important
post at the court of Castile, and enjoyed unlimited confidence. Under
his protection the Spanish Jews hoped to be able to defy the fury of
the venomous Dominicans. Abrabanel's favored position at court, the
geniality of his character, his affection for the Hebrew race, his love
of learning, and his tried wisdom, brought back the time of Samuel
Nagrela, and lulled the Jews with false hopes.

Don Isaac ben Judah Abrabanel (born in Lisbon 1437, died in Venice
1509) worthily closes the list of Jewish statesmen in Spain who,
beginning with Chasdaï Ibn-Shaprut, used their names and positions
to protect the interests of their race. In his noble-mindedness, his
contemporaries saw proofs of Abrabanel's descent from the royal house
of David, a distinction on which the Abrabanels prided themselves,
and which was generally conceded to them. His grandfather, Samuel
Abrabanel, who, during the persecution of 1391, but probably only for
a short time, lived as a Christian, was a large-hearted, generous man,
who supported Jewish learning and its votaries. His father, Judah,
treasurer to a Portuguese prince, was wealthy and benevolent. Isaac
Abrabanel was precocious, of clear understanding, but sober-minded,
without imagination and without depth. The realities of life, present
conditions and events, he grasped with unerring tact; but what was
distant, less obvious to ordinary perceptions, lay veiled in a mist
which he was unable to penetrate or dispel. The origin of Judaism, its
splendid antiquity, and its conception of God, were favorite themes
with Abrabanel from his youth upward, and when still quite a young man
he published a treatise setting forth the providence of God and its
special relation to Israel. Philosophical conceptions were, however,
acquired, not innate with him; he had no ability to solve metaphysical
questions. On the other hand, he was a solid man of business, who
thoroughly understood finance and affairs of state. The reigning king
of Portugal, Don Alfonso V, an intelligent, genial, amiable ruler,
was able to appreciate Abrabanel's talents; he summoned him to his
court, confided to him the conduct of his financial affairs, and
consulted him on all important state questions. His noble disposition,
his sincerely devout spirit, his modesty, far removed from arrogance,
and his unselfish prudence, secured for him at court, and far outside
its circle, the esteem and affection of Christian grandees. Abrabanel
stood in friendly intimacy with the powerful, but mild and beneficent
Duke Ferdinand of Braganza, lord of fifty towns, boroughs, castles, and
fortresses, and able to bring 10,000 foot-soldiers and 3,000 cavalry
into the field, as also with his brothers, the Marquis of Montemar,
Constable of Portugal, and the Count of Faro, who lived together in
fraternal affection. With the learned John Sezira, who was held in high
consideration at court, and was a warm patron of the Jews, he enjoyed
close friendship. Abrabanel thus describes his happy life at the court
of King Alfonso:

    "Tranquilly I lived in my inherited house in fair Lisbon. God
    had given me blessings, riches and honor. I had built myself
    stately buildings and chambers. My house was the meeting-place
    of the learned and the wise. I was a favorite in the palace of
    Alfonso, a mighty and upright king, under whom the Jews enjoyed
    freedom and prosperity. I was close to him, was his support,
    and while he lived I frequented his palace."

Alfonso's reign was the end of the golden time for the Jews of the
Pyrenean Peninsula. Although in his time the Portuguese code of laws
(Ordenaçoens de Alfonso V), containing Byzantine elements and canonical
restrictions for the Jews, was completed, it must be remembered that,
on the one hand, the king, who was a minor, had had no share in framing
them, and, on the other, the hateful laws were not carried out. In his
time the Jews in Portugal bore no badge, but rode on richly caparisoned
horses and mules, wore the costume of the country, long coats, fine
hoods and silken vests, and carried gilded swords, so that they could
not be distinguished from Christians. The greater number of the
tax-farmers (Rendeiros) in Portugal were Jews. Princes of the church
even appointed Jewish receivers of church taxes, at which the cortes
of Lisbon raised complaint. The independence of the Jewish population
under the chief rabbi and the seven provincial rabbis was protected in
Alfonso's reign, and included in the code. This code conceded to Jews
the right to print their public documents in Hebrew, instead of in
Portuguese as hitherto commanded.

Abrabanel was not the only Jewish favorite at Alfonso's court. Two
brothers Ibn-Yachya Negro also frequented the court of Lisbon. They
were sons of a certain Don David, who had recommended them not
to invest their rich inheritance in real estate, for he saw that
banishment was in store for the Portuguese Jews.

As long as Isaac Abrabanel enjoyed the king's favor, he was as a
"shield and a wall for his race, and delivered the sufferers from
their oppressors, healed differences, and kept fierce lions at bay,"
as described by his poetical son, Judah Leon. He who had a warm heart
for all afflicted, and was father to the orphan and consoler to the
sorrowing, felt yet deeper compassion for the unfortunate of his own
people. When Alfonso conquered the port of Arzilla, in Africa, the
victors brought with them, among many thousand captive Moors, 250
Jews, who were sold as slaves throughout the kingdom. That Jews and
Jewesses should be doomed to the miseries of slavery was unendurable to
Abrabanel's heart. At his summons a committee of twelve representatives
of the Lisbon community was formed, and collected funds; then, with
a colleague, he traveled over the whole country and redeemed the
Jewish slaves, often at a high price. The ransomed Jews and Jewesses,
adults and children, were clothed, lodged, and maintained until they
had learned the language of the country, and were able to support

When King Alfonso sent an embassy to Pope Sixtus IV to congratulate
him upon his accession to the throne, and to send him tidings of his
victory over the Moors in Africa, Doctor John Sezira was one of the
ambassadors. One in heart and soul with Abrabanel, and friendly to
the Jews, he promised to speak to the pope in their favor and behalf.
Abrabanel begged his Italian friend, Yechiel of Pisa, to receive John
Sezira with a friendly welcome, to place himself entirely at his
disposal, and convey to him, and to the chief ambassador, Lopes de
Almeida, how gratified the Italian Jews were to hear of King Alfonso's
favor to the Jews in his country, so that the king and his courtiers
might feel flattered. Thus Abrabanel did everything in his power for
the good of his brethren in faith and race.

In the midst of prosperity, enjoyed with his gracious and cultured wife
and three fine sons, Judah Leon, Isaac and Samuel, he was disturbed by
the turn of affairs in Portugal. His patron, Alfonso V, died, and was
succeeded by Don João II (1481-1495), a man in every way unlike his
father--stronger of will, less kindly, and full of dissimulation. He
had been crowned in his father's lifetime, and was not rejoiced when
Alfonso, believed to be dead, suddenly re-appeared in Portugal. João
II followed the tactics of his unscrupulous contemporary, Louis XI of
France, in the endeavor to rid himself of the Portuguese grandees in
order to create an absolute monarchy. His first victim was to be Duke
Ferdinand of Braganza, of royal blood, almost as powerful and as highly
considered as himself, and better beloved. Don João II was anxious to
clear from his path this duke and his brothers, against whom he had a
personal grudge. While flattering the Duke of Braganza, he had a letter
set up against him, accusing him of a secret, traitorous understanding
with the Spanish sovereigns, the truth of which has not to this day
been satisfactorily ascertained. He arrested him with a Judas kiss,
caused him to be tried as a traitor to his country, sent him to the
block, and took possession of his estates and wealth (June, 1483). His
brothers were forced to fly to avoid a like fate. Inasmuch as Isaac
Abrabanel had lived in friendly relations with the Duke of Braganza and
his brothers, King João chose to suspect him of having been implicated
in the recent conspiracies. Enemies of the Jewish statesman did their
best to strengthen these suspicions. The king sent a command for him
to appear before him. Not suspecting any evil, Abrabanel was about to
obey, when an unknown friend appeared, told him his life was in danger,
and counseled him to hasty flight. Warned by the fate of the Duke of
Braganza, Abrabanel followed the advice, and fled to Spain. The king
sent mounted soldiery after him, but they could not overtake him, and
he reached the Spanish border in safety. In a humble but manly letter
he declared his innocence of the crime, and also the innocence of the
Duke of Braganza. The suspicious tyrant gave no credence to the letter
of defense, but caused Abrabanel's property to be confiscated, as also
that of his son, Judah Leon, who was already following the profession
of a physician. His wife and children, however, he permitted to remove
to Castile.

In the city of Toledo, where he found refuge, Isaac Abrabanel was
honorably received by the Jews, especially by the cultured. A circle
of learned men and disciples gathered round the famous, innocently
persecuted Jewish statesman. With the rabbi, Isaac Aboab, and with the
chief tithe-collector, Abraham Senior, he formed a close friendship.
The latter, it seems, at once took him into partnership in the
collection of taxes. Abrabanel's conscience pricked him for having
neglected the study of the Law in following state affairs and mammon,
and he attributed his misfortunes to the just punishment of heaven. He
at once began to write, at the earnest entreaty of his new friends, an
exposition of the books of the earlier prophets, hitherto, on account
of their apparent simplicity, neglected by commentators. As he had
given thought to them before, he soon completed the work. Certainly, no
one was better qualified than Abrabanel to expound historical biblical
literature. In addition to knowledge of languages, he had experience of
the world, and the insight into political problems and complications
necessary for unraveling the Israelitish records.

He had the advantage over other expositors in using the Christian
exegetical writings of Jerome, Nicholas de Lyra, and the baptized
Paul of Burgos, and taking from them what was most valuable.
Abrabanel, therefore, in these commentaries, shed light upon many
obscure passages. They are conceived in a scholarly style, arranged
systematically, and before each book appear a comprehensible preface
and a table of contents, an arrangement copied from Christian
commentators, and adroitly turned to account by him. Had Abrabanel
not been so diffuse in style, and not had the habit of introducing
each Scriptural chapter with superfluous questions, his dissertations
would have been, or, at all events, would have deserved to be, more
popular. Nor should he have gone beyond his province into philosophical
inquiry. Abrabanel accepted the orthodox point of view of Nachmani
and Chasdaï, merely supplementing them with commonplaces of his own.
He was not tolerant enough to listen to a liberal view of Judaism and
its doctrines, and accused the works of Albalag and Narboni of heresy,
classing these inquirers with the unprincipled apostate, Abner-Alfonso,
of Valladolid. He was no better pleased with Levi ben Gerson, because
he had resorted to philosophical interpretations in many cases, and did
not accept miracles unconditionally. Like the strictly orthodox Jews of
his day, such as Joseph Jaabez, he was persuaded that the humiliations
and persecutions suffered by the Jews of Spain were due to their
heresy. Yet, did German Jews, wholly untouched by heretical philosophy,
suffer less than their brethren in Spain? Only a brief time was granted
to Abrabanel to pursue his favorite study; the author was once more
compelled to become a statesman. When about to delineate Judæan and
Israelite monarchs, he was summoned to the court of Ferdinand and
Isabella to be intrusted with the care of their finances. The revenues
seem to have prospered under his management, and during his eight years
of office (March, 1484-March, 1492) nothing went wrong with them. He
was very useful to the royal pair by reason of his wisdom and prudent
counsel. Abrabanel himself relates that he grew rich in the king's
service, and bought himself land and estates, and that from the court
and the highest grandees he received great consideration and honor.
He must have been indispensable, seeing that the Catholic sovereigns,
under the very eyes of the malignant Torquemada, and in spite of
canonical decrees and all the resolutions repeatedly laid down by the
cortes forbidding Jews to hold office in the government, were compelled
to intrust this Jewish minister of finance with the mainspring of
political life! How many services Abrabanel did for his own people
during his time of office, grateful memory could not preserve by reason
of the storm of misfortunes which broke upon the Jews later; but in
Castile, as he had been in Portugal, he was as a wall of protection
to them. Lying and fearful accusations from their bitter foes, the
Dominicans, were not wanting. At one time it was said that the Jews
had shown disrespect to some cross; at another, that in the town of
La Guardia they had stolen and crucified a Christian child. From this
tissue of lies, Torquemada fabricated a case against the Jews, and
condemned the supposed criminals to the stake. In Valencia they were
declared to have made a similar attempt, but to have been interrupted
in the deed (1488-1490). That the Castilian Jews did not suffer
extinction for the succor they afforded the unfortunate Marranos, was
certainly owing to Abrabanel.

Meantime began the war with Granada, so disastrous for the Moors and
Jews, which lasted with intervals for ten years (1481-1491). To this
the Jews had to contribute. A heavy impost was laid upon the community
(Alfarda--Strangers' Tax), on which the royal treasurer, Villaris,
insisted with the utmost strictness. The Jews were, so to say, made
to bring the fagots to their own funeral pyre, and the people, adding
insult to injury, mocked them. In the province of Granada, which by
pride had brought about its own fall, there were many Jews, their
numbers having been increased by the Marranos who had fled thither to
avoid death at the stake. Their position was not enviable, for Spanish
hatred of Jews was strongly implanted there; but their creed was not
attacked, and their lives were not in constant peril. Isaac Hamon was
physician in ordinary to one of the last kings of Granada, and enjoyed
high favor at court. One day a quarrel arose in the streets of Granada,
and the bystanders implored the disputants to leave off in the name of
their prophet, but in vain. But when they were bidden to give over in
the name of the royal physician, they yielded. This occurrence, which
testified that Isaac Hamon was held in more respect by the populace
than the prophet Mahomet, roused certain bigoted Mahometans to fall
upon the Jews of Granada and butcher them. Only those escaped who found
refuge in the royal castle. The Jewish physicians of Granada came to
the resolution henceforth not to clothe themselves in silken garments,
nor ride on horseback, in order to avoid exciting the envy of the

After long and bloody strife the beautiful city of Granada fell
into the hands of the proud Spaniards. Frivolous Muley Abu-Abdallah
(Boabdil), the last king, signed a secret treaty with Ferdinand and
Isabella (25th November, 1491) to give up the town and its territory by
a certain time. The conditions, seeing that independence was lost, were
tolerably favorable. The Moors were to keep their religious freedom,
their civil laws, their right to leave the country, and above all their
manners and customs, and were only required to pay the taxes which
hitherto they had paid the Moorish king. The renegades--that is to
say, Christians who had adopted Islam, or, more properly speaking,
the Moorish pseudo-Christians--who had fled from the Inquisition
to Granada, and returned to Islam, were to remain unmolested. The
Inquisition was not to claim jurisdiction over them. The Jews of
the capital of Granada, of the Albaicin quarter, the suburbs and
the Alpujarras, were included in the provisions of the treaty. They
were to enjoy the same indulgences and the same rights, except that
relapsed Marranos were to leave the city, only the first month after
its surrender being the term allowed for emigration; those who stayed
longer were to be handed over to the Inquisition. One noteworthy
point, stipulated by the last Moorish king of Granada, was that no
Jew should be set over the vanquished Moors as officer of justice,
tax-gatherer, or commissioner. On January 2d, 1492, Ferdinand and
Isabella, with their court, amid ringing of bells, and great pomp and
circumstance, made their entry into Granada. The Mahometan kingdom of
the Peninsula had vanished like a dream in an Arabian Nights' legend.
The last prince, Muley Abu-Abdallah, cast one long sad farewell look,
"with a last sigh," over the glory forever lost, and retired to the
lands assigned to him in the Alpujarras, but, unable to overcome his
dejection, he turned his steps towards Africa. After nearly eight
hundred years the whole Pyrenean Peninsula again became Christian, as
it had been in the time of the Visigoths. But heaven could not rejoice
over this conquest, which delivered fresh human sacrifices to the lords
of hell. The Jews were the first to experience the tragical effect of
this conquest of Granada.

The war against the Mahometans of Granada, originally undertaken
to punish attempts at encroachment and breach of faith, assumed
the character of a crusade against unbelief, of a holy war for the
exaltation of the cross and the spread of the Christian faith. Not only
the bigoted queen and the unctuous king, but also many Spaniards were
dragged by this conquest into raging fanaticism. Are the unbelieving
Mahometans to be vanquished, and the still more unbelieving Jews to
go free in the land? This question was too pertinent not to meet
with an answer unfavorable to the Jews. The insistence of Torquemada
and friends of his own way of thinking, that the Jews, who had long
been a thorn in their flesh, should be expelled, at first met with
indifference, soon began to receive more attention from the victors.
Then came the consideration that owing to increased opulence,
consequent on the booty acquired from the wealthy towns of conquered
Granada, the Jews were no longer indispensable. Before the banner of
the cross waved over Granada, Ferdinand and Isabella had contemplated
the expulsion of the Jews. With this end in view, they had sent an
embassy to Pope Innocent VII, stating that they were willing to banish
the Jews from the country, if he, Christ's representative, the avenger
of his death, set them the example; but even this abandoned pope, who
had seven illegitimate sons and as many daughters, and who, soon after
his accession to the papal chair, had broken a solemn oath, was opposed
to the expulsion of the Jews. Meshullam, of Rome, having heard of the
pope's refusal, with great joy announced to the Italian and Neapolitan
communities that Innocent would not consent to the expulsion. The
Spanish sovereigns decided on the banishment of the Jews without the
pope's consent.

From the enchanted palace of the Alhambra there was suddenly issued by
the "Catholic Sovereigns" a proclamation that, within four months, the
Spanish Jews were to leave every portion of Castile, Aragon, Sicily and
Sardinia under pain of death (March 31, 1492). They were at liberty
to take their goods and chattels with them, but neither gold, silver,
money, nor forbidden articles of export--only such things as it was
permitted to export. This heartless cruelty Ferdinand and Isabella
sought to vindicate before their own subjects and before foreign
countries. The proclamation did not accuse the Jews of extravagant
usury, of unduly enriching themselves, of sucking the marrow from the
bones of the people, of insulting the host, or of crucifying Christian
children--not one syllable was said of these things. But it set forth
that the falling away of the new-Christians into "Jewish unbelief" was
caused by their intercourse with Jews. The proclamation continued that
long since it would have been proper to banish the Jews on account
of their wily ways; but at first the sovereigns had tried clemency
and mild means, banishing only the Jews of Andalusia, and punishing
only the most guilty, in the hope that these steps would suffice. As,
however, these had not prevented the Jews from continuing to pervert
the new-Christians from the Catholic faith, nothing remained but for
their majesties to exile those who had lured back to heresy the people
who had indeed fallen away, but had repented and returned to holy
Mother Church. Therefore had their majesties, in council with the
princes of the church, grandees, and learned men, resolved to banish
the Jews from their kingdom. No Christian, on pain of confiscation of
his possessions, should, after the expiration of a certain term, give
succor or shelter to Jews. The edict of Ferdinand and Isabella is good
testimony for the Jews of Spain in those days, since no accusations
could be brought against them but that they had remained faithful to
their religion, and had sought to maintain their Marrano brethren in
it. A legend relates that their majesties were embittered against the
Jews, because the Infante had found the picture of a crucified Holy
Child in an orange which a Jewish courtier had given him.

The long-dreaded blow had fallen. The Spanish Jews were to leave the
country, round which the fibers of their hearts had grown, where lay
the graves of their forefathers of at least fifteen hundred years,
and towards whose greatness, wealth, and culture they had so largely
contributed. The blow fell upon them like a thunderbolt. Abrabanel
thought that he might be able to avert it by his influence. He
presented himself before the king and queen, and offered enormous
sums in the name of the Jews if the edict were removed. His Christian
friends, eminent grandees, supported his efforts. Ferdinand, who took
more interest in enriching his coffers than in the Catholic faith, was
inclined to yield. Then the fanatical grand inquisitor, Torquemada,
lifted up his voice. It is related that he took upon himself to rush
into the presence of the king and queen, carrying the crucifix aloft,
and uttering these winged words: "Judas Iscariot sold Christ for thirty
pieces of silver; your highnesses are about to sell Him for 300,000
ducats. Here He is, take Him, and sell Him!" Then he left the hall.
These words, or the influence of other ecclesiastics, had a strong
effect upon Isabella. She resolved to abide by the edict, and, of
bolder spirit than the king, contrived to keep alive his enmity against
the Jews. Juan de Lucena, a member of the royal council of Aragon, as
well as minister, was equally active in maintaining the edict. At the
end of April heralds and trumpeters went through the whole country,
proclaiming that the Jews were permitted to remain only till the end
of July to set their affairs in order; whoever of them was found after
that time on Spanish ground would suffer death.

Great as was the consternation of the Spanish Jews at having to tear
themselves from the beloved land of their birth and the ashes of their
forefathers, and go forth to an uncertain future in strange lands,
among people whose speech they did not understand, who, perhaps, might
be more unfriendly towards them than the Spanish Christians, they
had to bestir themselves and make preparation for their exodus. At
every step they realized that a yet more cruel fate awaited them. Had
they been able, like the English Jews at the end of the thirteenth
century, and the French a century later, to take their riches with
them, they might have been able to provide some sort of miserable
existence for themselves; but the Jewish capitalists were not permitted
to take their money with them, they were compelled to accept bills
of exchange for it. But Spain, on account of its dominant knightly
and ecclesiastical element, had no places of exchange like those in
Italy, where commercial notes were of value. Business on a large scale
was in the hands, for the most part, of Jews and new-Christians, and
the latter, from fear, had to keep away from their brethren in race.
The Jews who owned land were forced to part with it at absurd prices,
because no buyers applied, and they were obliged to beg the Christians
for even the meanest thing in exchange. A contemporary, Andreas
Bernaldez, pastor of Los Palacios, relates that the most magnificent
houses and the most beautiful estates of the Jews were sold for a
trifle. A house was bartered for an ass, and a vineyard for a piece
of cloth or linen. Thus the riches of the Spanish Jews melted away,
and could not help them in their day of need. In Aragon, Catalonia
and Valencia, it was even worse with them. Torquemada, who on this
occasion exceeded his former inhumanity, forbade the Christians to have
any intercourse with them. In these provinces Ferdinand sequestrated
their possessions, so that not only their debts, but also the claims
which monasteries pretended to have upon them were paid. This fiendish
plan he devised for the benefit of the church. The Jews would thereby
be driven to despair, and turn to the cross for succor. Torquemada,
therefore, imposed on the Dominicans the task of preaching Christianity
everywhere, and of calling upon the Jews to receive baptism, and thus
remain in the land. On the other side, the rabbis bade the people
remain steadfast, accept their trials as tests of their firmness, and
trust in God, who had been with them in so many days of trouble. The
fiery eloquence of the rabbis was not necessary. Each one encouraged
his neighbor to remain true and steadfast to the Jewish faith. "Let
us be strong," so they said to each other, "for our religion, and
for the Law of our fathers before our enemies and blasphemers. If
they will let us live, we shall live; if they kill us, then shall we
die. We will not desecrate the covenant of our God; our heart shall
not fail us. We will go forth in the name of the Lord." If they had
submitted to baptism, would they not have fallen into the power of the
blood-stained Inquisition? The cross had lost its power of attraction
even for lukewarm Jews, since they had seen upon what trivial pretexts
members of their race were delivered over to the stake. One year before
the proclamation of banishment was made, thirty-two new-Christians in
Seville were bound living to the stake, sixteen were burned in effigy,
and 625 sentenced to do penance. The Jews, moreover, were not ignorant
of the false and deceitful ways in which Torquemada entrapped his
victims. Many pseudo-Christians had fled from Seville, Cordova and
Jaen, to Granada, where they had returned to the Jewish faith. After
the conquest of the town, Torquemada proclaimed that if they came back
to Mother Church, "whose arms are always open to embrace those who
return to her with repentance and contrition," they would be treated
with mildness, and in private, without onlookers, would receive
absolution. A few allowed themselves to be charmed by this sweet voice,
betook themselves to Toledo, and were pardoned--to a death of fire.
Thus it came about that, in spite of the preaching of the Dominicans,
and notwithstanding their indescribably terrible position, few Jews
passed over to Christianity in the year of the expulsion from Spain.
Among persons of note, only the rich tax-collector and chief rabbi,
Abraham Senior, his son, and his son-in-law, Meïr, a rabbi, went over,
with the two sons of the latter. It is said that they received baptism
in desperation, because the queen, who did not want to lose her clever
minister of finance, threatened heavier persecution of the departing
Jews, if these did not submit. Great was the rejoicing at court over
the baptism of Senior and his family. Their majesties themselves and
the cardinal stood as sponsors. The newly-baptized all took the family
name of Coronel, and their descendants filled some of the highest
offices in the state.

Their common misfortune and suffering developed among the Spanish Jews
in those last days before their exile deep brotherly affection and
exalted sentiments, which, could they have lasted, would surely have
borne good fruit. The rich, although their wealth had dwindled, divided
it fraternally with the poor, allowing them to want for nothing, so
that they should not fall into the hands of the church, and also paid
the charges of their exodus. The aged rabbi, Isaac Aboab, the friend
of Abrabanel, went with thirty Jews of rank to Portugal, to negotiate
with King João II, for the settlement of the Jews in that country, or
for their safe passage through it. They succeeded in making tolerably
favorable conditions. The pain of leaving their passionately loved
country could not be overcome. The nearer the day of departure came,
the more were the hearts of the unhappy people wrung. The graves of
their forefathers were dearer to them than all besides, and from these
they found parting hardest. The Jews of the town of Vitoria gave to
the community the Jewish cemetery and its appertaining grounds in
perpetuity, on condition that it should never be encroached upon, nor
planted over, and a deed to this effect was drawn up. The Jews of
Segovia assembled three days before their exodus around the graves of
their forefathers, mingling their tears with the dust, and melting the
hearts of the Catholics with their grief. They tore up many of the
tombstones to bear them away as memorial relics, or gave them to the

At last the day arrived on which the Spanish Jews had to take staff in
hand. They had been accorded two days respite, that is, were allowed
two days later than July 31st for setting forth. This date fell
exactly upon the anniversary of the ninth of Ab, which was fraught
with memories of the splendor of the old days, and had so often found
the children of Israel wrapped in grief and misery. About 300,000 left
the land which they so deeply loved, but which now became a hateful
memory to them. They wandered partly northwards, to the neighboring
kingdom of Navarre, partly southwards, with the idea of settling in
Africa, Italy or Turkey. The majority, however, made for Portugal.
In order to stifle sad thoughts and avoid the melancholy impression
which might have moved some to waver and embrace the cross in order
to remain in the land, some rabbis caused pipers and drummers to
go before, making lively music, so that for a while the wanderers
should forget their gnawing grief. Spain lost in them the twentieth
part of her most industrious, painstaking, intelligent inhabitants,
its middle class, which created trade, and maintained it in brisk
circulation, like the blood of a living organism. For there were
among the Spanish Jews not merely capitalists, merchants, farmers,
physicians and men of learning, but also artisans, armor and metal
workers of all kinds, at all events no idlers who slept away their
time. With the discovery of America, the Jews might have lifted Spain
to the rank of the wealthiest, the most prosperous and enduring of
states, which by reason of its unity of government might certainly
have competed with Italy. But Torquemada would not have it so; he
preferred to train Spaniards for a blood-stained idolatry, under which,
in the sunlight of the Lutheran Reformation, pious men were condemned
to chains, dungeons, or the galleys, if they dared read the Bible.
The departure of the Jews from Spain soon made itself felt in a very
marked manner by the Christians. Talent, activity, and prosperous
civilization passed with them from the country. The smaller towns,
which had derived some vitality from the presence of the Jews, were
quickly depopulated, sank into insignificance, lost their spirit of
freedom and independence, and became tools for the increasing despotism
of the Spanish kings and the imbecile superstition of the priests. The
Spanish nobility soon complained that their towns and villages had
fallen into insignificance, had become deserted, and they declared
that, could they have foreseen the consequences, they would have
opposed the royal commands. Dearth of physicians was sternly felt,
too. The town of Vitoria and its neighborhood was compelled, through
the withdrawal of the Jews, to secure a physician from a distance,
and give him a high salary. In many places the people fell victims
to quacks, boastful bunglers, or to the superstition of deceiving
or self-deceived dealers in magic. In one word, Spain fell into a
condition of barbarism through the banishment of the Jews, and all the
wealth which the settlement of American colonies brought to the mother
country only helped to render its inhabitants more idle, stupid, and
servile. The name of the Jews died out of the country in which they had
played so important a part, and the literature of which was so filled
with Jewish elements that men of intelligence were constantly reminded
of them. Schools, hospitals, and everything which the Jews could not
or dared not take away with them, the king confiscated. He changed
synagogues into churches, monasteries or schools, where the people
were systematically kept ignorant, and trained for meanest servility.
The beautiful synagogue of Toledo, which Don Pedro's Jewish statesman,
Samuel Abulafia, had erected about a century and a half before, was
transformed into a church (de neustra Señora de San Benito), and,
with its Moorish architecture, its exquisite columns, and splendid
proportions, is to this day a magnificent ornament to the city. In the
other cities and towns of Spain, which live in the chronicles of Jewish
history, in Seville, Granada, Cordova, in densely-populated Lucena,
Saragossa and Barcelona, every trace was lost of the sons of Jacob, or
of the Jewish nobility, as the proud Jews of Spain styled themselves.
Jews, it is true, remained behind, Jews under the mask of Christianity,
Jewish Christians, or new-Christians, who had afforded their departing
brethren active help. Many of them had taken charge of their gold and
silver, and kept it till they were able to send it on by the hands of
trusted persons, or had given them bills of exchange on foreign places.
These negotiations were often of no avail, for when the fanatical king
and queen heard of them, they sent for the treasure left behind, or
sought to prevent the payment of the checks.

Great as were the obstacles, the Marranos did not cool in their zeal
for their exiled brethren. They pursued those guilty of inhuman
brutality to the wanderers with bitter hatred, and delivered them
over to the Inquisition--turning the tool against its makers. At
the instigation of the Marranos, the brother of Don Juan de Lucena,
the powerful minister of Ferdinand, was thrown into the prison of the
Inquisition, kept there under a strong guard, and none of his relatives
allowed to see him, the minister, whose position exempted him from the
power of the Inquisition, having counseled the banishment of the Jews,
and practically assisted in it, and his brother having relentlessly
confiscated the property they had left behind. Torquemada complained
that Don Juan was persecuted by the new-Christians on account of his
faith. The Marranos, now more than ever on their guard, lest they give
the slightest offense, had to cross themselves assiduously, count their
beads, and mumble paternosters, while inwardly they were attached more
than ever to Judaism. Frequently their feelings outran their will,
they broke the bonds of silence, and this was productive of heavy
consequences. Thus a Marrano in Seville, on seeing an effigy of Christ
set up in church for adoration, cried out, "Woe to him who sees, and
must believe such a thing!" Such expressions in unguarded moments
naturally afforded the best opportunity for inquiry, imprisonment,
the rack and autos-da-fé, not merely for the individual caught in the
act, but for his relatives, friends, and everybody connected with him
who had any property. It had, moreover, grown to be a necessity to
the people, hardened by the frequent sight of the death agonies of
sacrificial victims, to witness a solemn tragedy of human sacrifice now
and again. It is, therefore, not astonishing, that under the first
inquisitor-general, Thomas de Torquemada, in the course of fourteen
years (1485-1498) at least two thousand Jews were burned as impenitent
sinners. He was so hated that he lived in constant fear of death. Upon
his table he kept the horn of a unicorn, to which the superstition of
the time ascribed the power of nullifying the effect of poison. When
Torquemada went out, he was attended by a body-guard (Familares) of
fifty, and two hundred foot-soldiers, to protect him from assault. His
successor, the second inquisitor-general, Deza, erected still more
scaffolds; but it soon came to pass that the men of blood butchered
each other. Deza before his death was accused of being secretly a Jew.
When the persecutions against the remaining Moors and Moriscos, and
against the followers of the German reformer Luther, were added to
those of the Marranos, Spain, under the wrath of the Holy Inquisition,
became literally a scene of human slaughter. With justice nearly all
the European princes, and even the parliament of Paris, bitterly blamed
the perverseness of Ferdinand and Isabella in having driven out so
useful a class of citizens. The sultan Bajasid (Bajazet) exclaimed:
"You call Ferdinand a wise king, he who has made his country poor and
enriched ours!"



    The Exiles from Navarre--Migration to Naples--King Ferdinand
    I of Naples and Abrabanel--Leon Abrabanel--Misfortunes of
    the Jews in Fez, Genoa, Rome, and the Islands of Greece--The
    Sultan Bajazet--Moses Kapsali--Spanish Jews in Portugal--The
    Jewish Astronomers, Abraham Zacuto and José Vecinho--The Jewish
    Travelers, Abraham de Beya and Joseph Zapateiro--Outbreak of
    the Plague among the Spanish Jews in Portugal--Sufferings
    of the Portuguese Exiles--Judah Chayyat and his
    Fellow-Sufferers--Cruelty of João II--Kindly Treatment by
    Manoel changed into Cruelty on his Marriage--Forcible Baptism
    of Jewish Children--Levi ben Chabib and Isaac Caro--Pope
    Alexander VI--Manoel's Efforts on Behalf of the Portuguese
    Marranos--Death of Simon Maimi and Abraham Saba.

1492-1498 C.E.

The Jews of northern Spain, in Catalonia and Aragon, who turned
their steps to neighboring Navarre, with the idea of seeking shelter
there, were comparatively fortunate. Here at least was a prospect of
a livelihood, and a possibility of looking round for other places of
refuge. The Inquisition had met with courageous resistance from the
rulers and the people of Navarre. When some Marranos, concerned in
the murder of Arbues, the inquisitor, fled to this kingdom, and the
bloodthirsty heresy-mongers demanded that they be given up to the
executioners, the town of Tudela declared that it would not suffer
such unrighteous violence to people who had sought its protection, and
closed the gates against their emissaries. In vain did king Ferdinand,
who had an eye upon Navarre, threaten it with his anger. The citizens
of Tudela remained firm. A Navarrese prince, Jacob of Navarre, suffered
for the shelter he gave to a hunted Marrano. The inquisitors suddenly
arrested, imprisoned and sentenced him, as an enemy of the Holy
Office, to shameful exposure in a church, where his list of offenses
was publicly read out, and absolution promised him only if he submitted
to flagellation from priestly hands. Several other towns of Navarre
gave protection to the fugitives, and about 12,000 Castilian wanderers
took up their quarters in Navarre. Count of Lerin probably received
the greater number of these. But the Jews enjoyed only a few years
of peace in Navarre; for upon the vehement urging of King Ferdinand,
who followed the fugitives with bitterest enmity and persecution, the
king of Navarre gave them the choice between wandering forth again
and baptism. The greater number adopted Christianity, because there
was only a short time for preparation, and no time for thinking. In
the community of Tudela, so famous for steadfast piety, 180 families
submitted to baptism.

Also those Castilian Jews were fortunate who, instead of indulging
themselves in the vain hope that the edict would be recalled, did not
stay until the last day, but made their way, before the end of the
respite, to Italy, Africa, or Turkey. They did not lack the means of
getting away. The Spanish Jews had such widespread repute, and their
expulsion had made so much stir in Europe, that crowds of ships were
ready in Spanish seaports to take up the wanderers and convey them to
all parts, not only the ships of the country, but also Italian vessels
from Genoa and Venice. The ship-owners saw a prospect of lucrative
business. Many Jews from Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia desired to
settle in Naples, and sent ambassadors to the king, Ferdinand I,
to ask him to receive them. This prince was not merely free from
prejudice against the Jews, but was kindly inclined towards them, out
of compassion for their misfortunes, and he may have promised himself
industrial and intellectual advantage from this immigration of the
Spanish Jews. Whether it was calculation or generosity, it is enough
that he bade them welcome, and made his realm free to them. Many
thousands of them landed in the Bay of Naples (24th August, 1492), and
were kindly received. The native Jewish community treated them with
true brotherly generosity, defrayed the passage of the poor not able to
pay, and provided for their immediate necessities.

Isaac Abrabanel, also, and his whole household, went to Naples. Here
he lived at first as a private individual, and continued the work of
writing a commentary upon the book of Kings, which had been interrupted
by his state duties. When the king of Naples was informed of his
presence in the city, he invited him to an interview, and intrusted him
with a post, in all likelihood in the financial department. Probably
he hoped to make use of Abrabanel's experience in the war with which
he was threatened by the king of France. Whether from his own noble
impulses, or from esteem for Abrabanel, the king of Naples showed the
Jews a gentle humanity which startlingly contrasted with the cruelty of
the Spanish king. The unhappy people had to struggle with many woes;
when they thought themselves free of one, another yet more merciless
fell upon them. A devastating pestilence, arising out of the sad
condition to which they had been reduced, or from the overcrowding of
the ships, followed in the track of the wanderers. They brought death
with them. Scarcely six months had they been settled on Neapolitan soil
when the pestilence carried numbers of them off, and King Ferdinand,
who dreaded a rising of the populace against the Jews, hinted to
them that they must bury their corpses by night, and in silence.
When the pest could no longer be concealed, and every day increased
in virulence, people and courtiers alike entreated him to drive them
forth. But Ferdinand would not assent to this inhuman proceeding; he
is said to have threatened to abdicate if the Jews were ill-treated.
He had hospitals erected for them outside the town, sent physicians
to their aid, and gave them means of support. For a whole year he
strove, with unexampled nobility, to succor the unfortunate people,
whom banishment and disease had transformed into living corpses.
Those, also, who were fortunate enough to reach Pisa found a brotherly
reception. The sons of Yechiel of Pisa fairly took up their abode on
the quay, so as to be ready to receive the wanderers, provide for their
wants, shelter them, or help them on their way to some other place.
After Ferdinand's death, his son, Alfonso II, who little resembled
him, retained the Jewish statesman, Abrabanel, in his service, and,
after his resignation in favor of his son, took him with him to
Sicily. Abrabanel to the last remained faithful to this prince in his
misfortunes (January, 1494, to June, 1495).

After the conquest of Naples by the weak-headed knight-errant king
of France, Charles VIII, the members of the Abrabanel family were
torn apart and scattered. None of them, however, met with such signal
misfortune as the eldest son, Judah Leon Medigo (born 1470, died 1530).
He had been so well beloved at the Spanish court that they were loath
to part with him, and would gladly have kept him there--of course,
as a Christian. To attain this end, a command was issued that he be
not permitted to leave Toledo, or that his one-year-old son be taken
from him, baptized immediately, and that in this manner the father
be chained to Spain. Judah Abrabanel, however, got wind of this plot
against his liberty, sent his son, with his nurse, "like stolen goods,"
secretly to the Portuguese coast; but as he himself did not care to
seek shelter in the country where his father had been threatened with
death, he turned his face towards Naples. His suspicions of the king
of Portugal were only too speedily justified. No sooner did João hear
that a relative of Abrabanel was within his borders than he ordered the
child to be kept as hostage, and not to be permitted to go forth with
the other Jews. Little Isaac never saw his parents and grandparents
again. He was baptized, and brought up as a Christian. The agony of the
father at the living death of his lost child was boundless. It gave him
no rest or peace to his latest hour, and it found vent in a lamentation
sad in the extreme. Yet what was the grief for one child, compared with
the woes which overtook the thousands of Jews hunted out of Spain?

Many of them found their way to the nearest African seaport towns,
Oran, Algiers and Bugia. The inhabitants, who feared that their towns
would be overcrowded from such a vast influx, shot at the Jews as
they landed, and killed many of them. An eminent Jew at the court
of Barbary, however, addressed the sultan in behalf of his unhappy
brethren, and obtained leave for them to land. They were not allowed to
enter the towns, probably because the pestilence had broken out among
them, too. They could only build themselves wooden huts outside the
walls. The children collected wood, and their elders nailed the boards
together for temporary dwellings. But they did not long enjoy even this
miserable shelter, as one day a fire broke out in one of the huts, and
soon laid the whole camp in ashes.

Those who settled in Fez suffered a still more terrible lot. Here also
the inhabitants would not admit them, fearing that such an influx of
human beings would raise the price of the necessaries of life. They had
to encamp in the fields, and live on roots and herbs like cattle. On
the Sabbath they stripped the plants with their teeth, in order not to
desecrate the holy day by gathering them. Starvation, pestilence, and
the unfriendliness of the Mahometan people vied with each other in
inflicting misery upon the Jews. In their awful despair, fathers were
driven to sell their children as slaves to obtain bread. Mothers killed
their little ones that they might not see them perish from the pangs
of hunger. Avaricious captains took advantage of the distress of the
parents to entice starving children on board their vessels with offers
of bread, and, deaf to the cries and entreaties of the parents, carried
them off to distant lands, where they sold them for a good price.
Later, the ruler of Fez, probably at the representation of the original
Jewish inhabitants, proclaimed that Jewish children who had been sold
for bread, and other necessaries of life, should be set at liberty.

The descriptions by their contemporaries of the sufferings of the
Jews make one's hair stand on end. They were dogged whithersoever
they went. Those whom plague and starvation had spared, fell into the
hands of brutalized men. The report got about that the Spanish Jews
had swallowed the gold and silver which they had been forbidden to
carry away, intending to use it later on. Cannibals, therefore, ripped
open their bodies to seek for coin in their entrails. The Genoese
ship-folk behaved most inhumanly to the wanderers who had trusted their
lives to them. From avarice, or sheer delight in the death agonies of
the Jews, they flung many of them into the sea. One captain offered
insult to the beautiful daughter of a Jewish wanderer. Her name was
Paloma (Dove), and to escape shame, the mother threw her and her other
daughters and then herself into the waves. The wretched father composed
a heartbreaking lamentation for his lost dear ones.

Those who reached the port of Genoa had to contend with new miseries.
In this thriving town there was a law that Jews might not remain there
for longer than three days. As the ships which were to convey the Jews
thence required repairing, the authorities conceded the permission for
them to remain, not in the town, but upon the Mole, until the vessels
were ready for sea. Like ghosts, pale, shrunken, hollow-eyed, gaunt,
they went on shore, and if they had not moved, impelled by instinct to
get out of their floating prison, they might have been taken for so
many corpses. The starving children went into the churches, and allowed
themselves to be baptized for a morsel of bread; and Christians were
merciless enough not merely to accept such sacrifices, but with the
cross in one hand, and bread in the other, to go among the Jews and
tempt them to become converted. Only a short time had been granted them
on the Mole, but a great part of the winter passed before the repairs
were completed. The longer they remained, the more their numbers
diminished, through the passing over to Christianity of the younger
members, and many fell victims to plagues of all kinds. Other Italian
towns would not allow them to land even for a short time, partly
because it was a year of famine, partly because the Jews brought the
plague with them.

The survivors from Genoa who reached Rome underwent still more bitter
experiences; their own people leagued against them, refusing to
allow them to enter, from fear that the influx of new settlers would
damage their trade. They got together 1,000 ducats, to present to the
notorious monster, Pope Alexander VI, as a bribe to refuse to allow the
Jews to enter. This prince, himself unfeeling enough, was so enraged
at the heartlessness of these men against their own people, that he
ordered every Roman Jew out of the city. It cost the Roman congregation
2,000 ducats to obtain the revocation of this edict, and they had to
take in the refugees besides.

The Greek islands of Corfu, Candia, and others became filled with
Spanish Jews; some had dragged themselves thither, others had been
sold as slaves there. The majority of the Jewish communities had great
compassion for them, and strove to care for them, or at all events
to ransom them. They made great efforts to collect funds, and sold
the ornaments of the synagogues, so that their brethren might not
starve, or be subjected to slavery. Persians, who happened to be on
the island of Corfu, bought Spanish refugees, in order to obtain from
Jews of their own country a high ransom for them. Elkanah Kapsali,
a representative of the Candian community, was indefatigable in his
endeavors to collect money for the Spanish Jews. The most fortunate
were those who reached the shores of Turkey; for the Turkish Sultan,
Bajazet II, showed himself to be not only a most humane monarch, but
also the wisest and most far-seeing. He understood better than the
Christian princes what hidden riches the impoverished Spanish Jews
brought with them, not in their bowels, but in their brains, and he
wanted to turn these to use for the good of his country. Bajazet caused
a command to go forth through the European provinces of his dominions
that the harassed and hunted Jews should not be rejected, but should be
received in the kindest and most friendly manner. He threatened with
death anyone who should ill-treat or oppress them. The chief rabbi,
Moses Kapsali, was untiringly active in protecting the unfortunate
Jewish Spaniards who had come as beggars or slaves to Turkey. He
traveled about, and levied a tax from the rich native Jews "for the
liberation of the Spanish captives." He did not need to use much
pressure; for the Turkish Jews willingly contributed to the assistance
of the victims of Christian fanaticism. Thus thousands of Spanish Jews
settled in Turkey, and before a generation had passed they had taken
the lead among the Turkish Jews, and made Turkey a kind of Eastern

At first the Spanish Jews who went to Portugal seemed to have some
chance of a happy lot. The venerable rabbi, Isaac Aboab, who had gone
with a deputation of thirty to seek permission from King João either to
settle in or pass through Portugal, succeeded in obtaining tolerably
fair terms. Many of the wanderers chose to remain in the neighboring
kingdom for a while, because they flattered themselves with the hope
that their indispensableness would make itself evident after their
departure, that the eyes of the now blinded king and queen of Spain
would be opened, and they would then receive the banished people with
open arms. At the worst, so thought the refugees, they would have
time in Portugal to look round, decide which way to go, and readily
find ships to convey them in safety to Africa or to Italy. When the
Spanish deputies placed the proposition before King João II to receive
the Jews permanently or temporarily in Portugal, the king consulted
his grandees at Cintra. In presenting the matter, he permitted it to
be seen that he himself was desirous of admitting the exiles for a
pecuniary consideration. Some of the advisers, either from pity for the
unhappy Jews, or from respect for the king, were in favor of granting
permission; others, and these the majority, either out of hatred for
the Jews, or a feeling of honor, were against it. The king, however,
overruled all objections, because he hoped to carry on the contemplated
war with Africa by means of the money acquired from the immigrants. It
was at first said that the Spanish refugees were to be permitted to
settle permanently in Portugal. This favor, however, the Portuguese
Jews themselves looked upon with suspicion, because the little state
would thus hold a disproportionate number of Jews, and the wanderers,
most of them penniless, would fall a heavy burden upon them, so
that the king, not of an amiable disposition, would end by becoming
hostile to all the Jews in Portugal. The chief men, therefore, of the
Jewish-Portuguese community met in debate, and many gave utterance to
the cruel view that they themselves would have to take steps to prevent
the reception of the Spanish exiles. A noble old man, Joseph, of the
family of Ibn-Yachya, spoke warmly for his unfortunate brethren; but
his voice was silenced. There was no more talk of their settling in
Portugal, but only of the permission to make a short stay, in order to
arrange for their journey. The conditions laid down for the Spanish
Jews were: Each one, rich or poor, with the exception of babes, was
to pay a stipulated sum (eight gold-cruzados, nearly one pound) in
four instalments; artisans, however, such as metal-workers and smiths,
who desired to settle in the country, only half of this amount. The
rest were permitted to stay only eight months, but the king undertook
to furnish ships at a reasonable rate for transporting them to other
lands. Those found in Portugal after the expiration of this period, or
not able to show a receipt for the stipulated payment, were condemned
to servitude. On the promulgation of these conditions, a large number
of Spanish Jews (estimated at 20,000 families, or 200,000 souls) passed
over the Portuguese borders. The king assigned to the wanderers certain
towns, where they had to pay a tax to the inhabitants. Oporto was
assigned to the families of the thirty deputies, and a synagogue was
built for them. Isaac Aboab, the renowned teacher of many disciples,
who later took positions as rabbis in Africa, Egypt and Palestine, died
peacefully in Oporto; his pupil, famous as a geographer and astronomer,
Abraham Zacuto, pronounced his funeral oration (end of 1492). Only a
few of his fellow-sufferers were destined to die a peaceful death.

The feverish eagerness for discovering unknown lands and entering
into trading relations with them, which had seized on Portugal, gave
practical value to two sciences which hitherto had been regarded as the
hobby or amusement of idlers and dilettanti--namely, astronomy and
mathematics, the favorite pursuits of cultured Jews of the Pyrenean
Peninsula. If India, the land of gold and spices, upon which the minds
of the Portuguese were set with burning desire, was to be discovered,
then coasting journeys, so slow and so dangerous, would have to be
given up, and voyages made thither upon the high seas. But the ships
ran the risk of losing their way on the trackless wastes of the ocean.
Venturesome mariners, therefore, sought astronomical tables to direct
their way by the courses of the sun and the stars. In this science
Spanish Jews had the mastery. A Chazan of Toledo, Isaac (Zag) Ibn-Said,
had published astronomical tables in the thirteenth century, known
under the name of Alfonsine Tables, which were used with only slight
alterations by the scientific men of Germany, France, England and
Italy. As João II of Portugal now wished to send ships to the Atlantic
for the discovery of India by way of the African sea-coast, he summoned
a sort of astronomical congress for the working out of practical
astronomical tables. At this congress, together with the famous
German astronomer, Martin Behaim, and the Christian physician of King
Rodrigo, there sat a Jew, the royal physician, Joseph (José) Vecinho,
or de Viseu. He used as a basis the perpetual astronomical calendar,
or Tables of the Seven Planets, which Abraham Zacuto, known later as
a chronicler, had drawn up for a bishop of Salamanca, to whom he had
dedicated it. Joseph Vecinho, together with Christian scientists, also
improved upon the instrument for the measurement of the altitude of
the stars, the nautical astrolabe, indispensable to mariners. By its
aid Vasco da Gama first found it possible to follow the seaway to the
Cape of Good Hope and India, and thus, perhaps, Columbus was enabled
to discover a new continent. The geographical knowledge and skill of
two Jews, Rabbi Abraham de Beya and Joseph Zapateiro de Lamego, were
also turned to account by King João II, who sent them to Asia to obtain
tidings of his emissaries to the mythical land of Prester John.

Although King João thus employed learned and skillful Jews for his own
ends, he had no liking for the Jewish race: he was indifferent, or
rather inimical, to them directly they came in the way of his bigotry.
In the year in which he dispatched Joseph Zapateiro and Abraham de
Beya to Asia, at the instigation of Pope Innocent VIII he appointed a
commission of the Inquisition for the Marranos who had fled from Spain
to Portugal, and, like Ferdinand and Isabella in Spain, delivered over
those who had Jewish leanings, either to death by fire or to endless
imprisonment. Some Marranos having taken ship to Africa, and there
openly adopted Judaism, he prohibited, under penalty of death and
confiscation, baptized Jews or new-Christians from leaving the country
by sea. On the breath of this heartless monarch hung the life or death
of hundreds of thousands of Jewish exiles.

Against those unfortunates in Portugal, not only evil-minded men,
but nature itself, fought. Soon after their arrival in Portugal, a
cruel pestilence began to rage among them, destroying thousands. The
Portuguese, who also suffered from the plague, believed that the
Jews had brought it into the country; and, indeed, all that they had
suffered, the oppressive heat at the time of their going forth, want,
misery, and all kinds of devastating diseases, may have developed
it. A considerable number of the Spanish refugees died of the plague
in Portugal. The population on this account murmured against the
king, complaining that the pestilence had followed in the track of
the accursed Jews, and established itself in the country. Don João,
therefore, had to insist more strenuously than he otherwise would have
done upon the condition that all who had settled in Portugal should
leave at the expiration of the eight months. At first he put ships at
their disposal, at moderate rates of transportation, according to his
agreement, and bade the captains treat their passengers with humanity,
and convey them whither they wished to go. But these men, inspired
by Jew hatred and avarice, once upon the seas, troubled themselves
but little about the king's orders, since they had no need to fear
complaints about their inhumanity. They demanded more money than had
originally been bargained for, and extorted it from the helpless
creatures. Or, they carried them about upon the waste of waters till
their stock of provisions was exhausted, and then demanded large sums
for a fresh supply of food, so that at last the unfortunates were
driven to give their clothes for bread, and were landed anywhere in a
nearly naked state. Women and young girls were insulted and violated in
the presence of their parents and relatives, and disgrace was brought
upon the name of Christian. Frequently these inhuman mariners landed
them in some desolate spot of the African coasts, and left them to
perish from hunger and despair, or to fall a prey to the Moors, who
took them prisoners.

The sufferings of the exiled Jews who left Portugal in ships are
related by an eye-witness, the Kabbalist, Judah ben Jacob Chayyat, of
a noble and wealthy family. The vessel on which he, his wife, and two
hundred and fifty other Jews, of both sexes and all ages, had embarked,
left the harbor of Lisbon in winter (beginning of 1493), and lingered
four months upon the waves, because no seaport would take them in for
fear of the plague. Provisions on board naturally ran short. The ship
was captured by Biscayan pirates, plundered and taken to the Spanish
port of Malaga. The Jews were not permitted to land, nor to set sail
again, nor were provisions given them. The priests and magistrates of
the town desired to incline them to the teaching of Christ by the pangs
of hunger. They succeeded in converting one hundred persons with gaunt
bodies and hollow eyes. The rest remained steadfast to their own faith,
and fifty of them, old men, youths, maidens, children, among them
Chayyat's wife, died of starvation. Then, at last, compassion awoke
in the hearts of the Malagese, and they gave them bread and water.
When, after two months, the remainder of them received permission to
sail to the coasts of Africa, they encountered bitter sufferings in
another form. On account of the plague they were not permitted to land
at any town, and had to depend upon the herbs of the field. Chayyat
himself was seized, and flung by a malicious Mahometan into a horrible
dungeon full of snakes and salamanders, in order to force him to adopt
Islamism; in case of refusal, he was threatened with death by stoning.
These continuous, grinding cruelties did not make him waver one instant
in his religious convictions. At last he was liberated by the Jews of
a little town, and carried to Fez. There so severe a famine raged that
Chayyat was compelled to turn a mill with his hands for a piece of
bread, not fit for a dog. At night he and his companions in misery who
had strayed to Fez slept upon the ash-heaps of the town.

Carefully as the Portuguese mariners strove to conceal their
barbarities to the Jews, their deeds soon came to light, and frightened
off those who remained behind from emigrating by sea. The poor
creatures, moreover, were unable to raise the necessary money for
their passage and provisions. They, therefore, put off going from day
to day, comforting themselves with the hope that the king would be
merciful, and allow them to remain in Portugal. Don João, however,
was not a monarch whose heart was warmed by kindness and compassion.
He maintained that more Jews had come into Portugal than had been
stipulated for, and insisted, therefore, that the agreement be strictly
carried out. Those who remained after the expiration of eight months
were made slaves, and sold or given to those of the Portuguese nobility
who cared to take their pick from them (1493).

King João went still further in his cruel dealings with the unhappy
Spanish Jews. The children of from three to ten years of age whose
parents had become slaves, he ordered to be transported by sea to the
newly-discovered San Thomas or Lost Islands (Ilhas perdidas), there to
be reared in the tenets of Christianity. The weeping of the mothers,
the sobbing of the children, the rage of the fathers, who tore their
hair in agony, did not move the heartless despot to recall his command.
Mothers entreated to be allowed to go with their children, threw
themselves at the king's feet as he came out of church, and implored
him to leave them at least the youngest. Don João had them dragged from
his path "like bitches who had their whelps torn from them." Is it to
be wondered at that mothers, with their children in their arms, sprang
into the sea to rest united in its depths? The Islands of San Thomas,
whither the little ones were taken, were full of lizards and venomous
snakes, and inhabited by criminals transported thither from Portugal.
Most of the children perished on the journey, or became the prey of
wild beasts. Among the survivors it happened that brothers and sisters,
in ignorance of their relationship, married each other. Perhaps the
king's barbarity to the Jews must be accounted for by the bitter gloom
which mastered him at the death of his only legitimate son.

After the death of João II, who sank in wretchedness into his grave
(end of October, 1495), he was succeeded by his cousin Manoel, a
great contrast in disposition to himself--an intelligent, amiable,
gentle-minded man, and a lover of learning. There seemed some prospect
of a better star's rising upon the remnant of the banished Jews in
Portugal. King Manoel, finding that the Jews had remained in his
kingdom beyond the allotted time only from fear of many forms of death
upon the ocean, gave all the slaves their freedom. The money which,
beside themselves with joy, they offered him for this, he refused. It
is true that his ulterior motive, as Bishop Osorius tells us, was to
win them over to Christianity by clemency. The Jewish mathematician
and astronomer, Abraham Zacuto, who had remained in Lisbon, having
come thither from northern Spain, where he had taught his favorite
science even to Christians, was made chief astrologer. Zacuto served
the king not merely in the latter capacity. Although a man of limited
understanding, unable to rise above the superstition of his day, he had
sound knowledge of astronomy, and published a work upon that science,
besides preparing his astronomical tables. He also invented a correct
metal instrument for measuring the altitude of the stars, to replace
the clumsy and inaccurate wooden one used hitherto by mariners.

Under King Manoel, in whose reign Portugal's domains were enlarged
by acquisitions in India and America, the Jews were able to breathe
awhile. It appears that soon after ascending the throne he issued a
command that the accusations against them for murdering children should
not be recognized by courts of justice, since they were malicious,
lying inventions. Nor would he allow the fanatical preaching friars to
utter denunciations against them.

Very short, however, was the gleam of happiness for the Jews under
Manoel: the somber bigotry of the Spanish court changed it into
terrible gloom. No sooner had the young king of Portugal mounted the
throne than their majesties of Spain began to entertain the idea of
marriage relations with him in order to turn an inimical neighbor
into a friend and ally. They proposed marriage with their younger
daughter, Joanna, who afterwards became notorious on account of her
jealous disposition and her madness. Manoel lent a willing ear to the
proposal of an alliance with the Spanish court, but preferred the elder
sister, Isabella II, who had been married to the Infante of Portugal,
and had soon after become a widow. Isabella had strong repugnance to a
second marriage; but her confessor knew how to overrule her objections,
and made her believe that if she consented she would have opportunity
to glorify the Christian faith. The Spanish court had marked with
chagrin and vexation that the Portuguese king had received the Jewish
and Mahometan refugees, and King Manoel's friendly treatment of them
was a thorn in their flesh. Ferdinand and Isabella thought that by
falling in with the Portuguese king's wishes, they would attain their
end. They, therefore, promised him the hand of their eldest daughter
upon condition that he join with Spain against Charles VII, and send
the Jews out of Portugal, both the native and the refugee Jews. The
conditions were very disagreeable to King Manoel, who was on good
terms with France, and reaped great advantage from the wealth, energy,
intelligence, and knowledge of the Jews.

He consulted with his lords and council upon this question, fraught
with such importance for the Jews. Opinions upon it were divided.
Manoel hesitated for some time, because his noble nature shrank from
such cruelty and faithlessness. The Infanta Isabella spoke the deciding
word. She entertained fanatical, almost personal hatred against the
Jews. She believed or was persuaded by the priests that the misfortunes
and unhappiness which had befallen King João in his last days were
occasioned by his having allowed Jews to enter his kingdom; and,
nourished as she had been at the breast of superstition, she was
afraid of ill-luck in her union with Manoel if Jews were permitted to
remain in Portugal. What dreary lovelessness in the heart of a young
woman! Irreconcilable strife of feelings and thoughts was thus raised
in the soul of King Manoel. Honor, the interest of the state, humanity,
forebade his proscribing and expelling the Jews; but the hand of the
Spanish Infanta, and the Spanish crown were to be secured only by the
misery of the Jews. Love turned the balance in favor of hate. When
the king was expecting his bride to cross the borders of his kingdom,
he received a letter from her saying that she would not set foot in
Portugal until the land was cleansed of the "curse-laden" Jews.

The marriage contract between Don Manoel and the Spanish Infanta,
Isabella, then, was sealed with the misery of the Jews. It was
signed on the 30th of November, 1496, and so early as the 24th of
the following month, the king caused an order to go forth that all
the Jews and Moors of his kingdom must receive baptism, or leave the
country within a given time, on pain of death. In order to relieve his
conscience, he showed clemency in carrying his edict into effect. He
lengthened the term of their stay until the October of the following
year, so that they had time for preparation. He further appointed three
ports, Lisbon, Oporto, and Setubal, for their free egress. That he
sought to allure the Jews to Christianity, by the prospect of honor
and advancement, was so entirely due to the distorted views of the
times, that he cannot be held responsible for it; as it was, only a few
submitted to baptism.

Precisely Manoel's clement behavior tended to the greater misery of the
Jews. Having ample time to prepare for their departure, and not being
forbidden to take gold and silver with them, they thought that there
was no need to hurry. Perhaps the king would change his mind. They
had friends at court who were agitating in their favor. Besides, the
winter months were not a good time to be upon the ocean. The majority,
therefore, waited until spring. In the meantime King Manoel certainly
did change his mind, but only to increase their fearful misery. He was
much vexed at finding that so few Jews had embraced Christianity. Very
unwillingly he saw them depart with their wealth and their possessions,
and sought ways and means to retain them, as Christians, of course, in
his own kingdom. The first step had cost him a struggle, the second was

He raised the question in council whether the Jews could be brought
to baptism by force. To the honor of the Portuguese clergy it must be
said that they expressed themselves as opposed to this. The bishop
of Algarve, Ferdinand Coutinho, cited ecclesiastical authorities and
papal bulls to the effect that Jews might not be compelled to adopt
Christianity, because a free, not a forced, confession was required.
Manoel, however, was so bent upon keeping the industrious Jews with
him, that he openly declared that he did not trouble himself about
laws and authorities, but would act upon his own judgment. From Evora
he issued (beginning of April, 1497) a secret command that all Jewish
children, boys and girls, up to the age of fourteen, should be taken
from their parents by force on Easter Sunday, and carried to the
church fonts to be baptized. He was advised by a reprobate convert,
Levi ben Shem Tob, to take this step. In spite of the secrecy of the
preparations, several Jews found it out, and were about to flee with
their children from the "stain of baptism." When Manoel heard it, he
ordered the forced baptism of children to be carried out at once.
Heartrending scenes ensued in the towns where Jews lived when the
sheriffs strove to carry away the children. Parents strained their dear
ones to their breasts, the children clung convulsively to them, and
they could be separated only by lashes and blows. In their despair over
the possibility of being thus for ever sundered, many of them strangled
the children in their embraces, or threw them into wells and rivers,
and then laid hands upon themselves. "I have seen," relates Bishop
Coutinho, "many dragged to the font by the hair, and the fathers clad
in mourning, with veiled heads and cries of agony, accompanying their
children to the altar, to protest against the inhuman baptism. I have
seen still more horrible, indescribable violence done them." In the
memory of his contemporaries lingered the frightful manner in which a
noble and cultured Jew, Isaac Ibn-Zachin, destroyed himself and his
children, to avoid their becoming a prey to Christianity. Christians
were moved to pity by the cries and tears of Jewish fathers, mothers
and children, and despite the king's commands not to assist the Jews,
they concealed many of the unfortunates in their houses, so that at
least for the moment they might be safe; but the stony hearts of King
Manoel and his young wife, the Spanish Isabella II, remained unmoved
by these sights of woe. The baptized children, who received Christian
names, were placed in various towns, and reared as Christians. Either
in obedience to a secret order, or from excessive zeal, the creatures
of the king not only seized children, but also youths and maidens up to
the age of twenty, for baptism.

Many Jews of Portugal probably embraced Christianity in order to remain
with their children; but this did not satisfy the king, who, not from
religious zeal, but from political motives, had hardened his heart.
All the Jews of Portugal, it mattered not whether with or without
conviction, were to become Christians and remain in the country. To
attain this end, he violated a solemn promise more flagrantly than his
predecessor. When the time of their departure came closer, he ordered
the Jews to embark from one seaport only, that of Lisbon, although,
at first, he had allowed them three places. Therefore, all who wished
to go, had to meet in Lisbon--20,000 souls, it is said, with burning
grief in their hearts, but prepared to suffer anything to remain true
to their convictions. The inhuman monarch allowed them lodgings in the
city, but he placed so many hindrances in the way of their embarkation,
that time passed by, and the day arrived when they were to forfeit
life, or at least liberty, if found upon Portuguese soil. He had all
who remained behind locked in an enclosed space (os Estaõs) like oxen
in stalls, and informed them that they were now his slaves, and that
he could do with them as he thought fit. He urged them voluntarily
to confess the Christian faith, in which case they should have honor
and riches; otherwise they would be forced to baptism without mercy.
When, notwithstanding this, many remained firm, he forbade bread or
water to be given them for three days, in order to render them more
pliable. This means did not succeed any better with the greater number
of them: they chose to faint with starvation rather than belong to a
religion which owned such followers as their persecutors. Upon this,
Manoel proceeded to extreme measures. By cords, by their hair and
beard, they were dragged from their pen to the churches. To escape this
some sprang from the windows, and their limbs were crushed. Others
broke loose and jumped into wells. Some killed themselves in the
churches. One father spread his _tallith_ over his sons, and killed
them and himself. Manoel's terrible treatment comes into more glaring
prominence when compared with his behavior to the Moors. They, too,
had to leave Portugal, but no hindrances were placed in their way,
because he feared that the Mahometan princes in Africa and Turkey
might retaliate upon the Christians living in their domains. The Jews
had no earthly protector, were weak and helpless, therefore, Manoel,
whom historians call the Great, permitted himself to perpetrate
such atrocities. In this fashion many native Portuguese and refugee
Spanish Jews were led to embrace Christianity, which they--as their
Christian contemporaries relate with shame--had openly scorned.
Some, at a later period, became distinguished Rabbinical authorities,
like Levi ben Chabib, afterwards rabbi in Jerusalem. Those who escaped
with their lives and their faith attributed it to the gracious and
wondrous interposition of God. Isaac ben Joseph Caro, who had come from
Toledo to Portugal, there lost his adult and his minor sons ("who were
beautiful as princes"), yet thanked his Creator for the mercy that in
spite of peril on the sea he reached Turkey. Abraham Zacuto, with his
son Samuel, also was in danger of death, although (or because) he was
King Manoel's favorite, astrologer and chronicler. Both, however, were
fortunate enough to pass through the bitter ordeal, and escape from
Portugal, but they were twice imprisoned. They finally settled in Tunis.

The stir which the enforced conversion of the Jews caused in Portugal
did not immediately subside. Those who had submitted to baptism through
fear of death, or out of love for their children, did not give up the
hope that by appealing to the papal court they might be able to return
to their own faith, seeing that, as all Europe knew, Pope Alexander VI
and his college of cardinals, as base as himself, would do anything for
money. A witticism was then going the rounds of every Christian country:

    Vendit Alexander Claves, Altaria, Christum;
    Emerat ista prius, vendere jure potest.

Rome was a market of shame--a hill of Astarte--a mart of
unwholesomeness--but there the innocent, also, could buy their
rights. The Portuguese new-Christians now sent a deputation of seven
of their companions in misery to Pope Alexander, and they did not
forget to take a purse of gold with them. The pope and the so-called
holy college showed themselves favorably inclined towards them,
especially Cardinal de Sancta Anastasia took them under his patronage.
The Spanish ambassador, Garcilaso, however, was instructed by their
Spanish majesties to oppose them. Despite his influence the affairs
of the Portuguese Jews must have taken a favorable turn, for King
Manoel decided to make concessions. He issued a mild decree (May 30th,
1497), in which he granted amnesty to all forcibly baptized Jews, and
a respite of twenty years, during which they were not to be brought
before the tribunal of the Inquisition for their adherence to Judaism.
It was said that it was necessary for them first to lay aside their
Jewish habits, and accustom themselves to the ways of the Catholic
faith, for which they needed time. Further, the decree ordered that,
on the expiration of this term, a regular examination should be made
of those accused of Judaizing practices, and if the case was decided
against them, their goods should not be confiscated, as in Spain, but
given over to their heirs. Finally, the decree ordained that those
baptized physicians and surgeons who did not understand Latin might
make use of Hebrew books of reference. Practically this allowed the
enforced Christians to live in secret, without fear of punishment,
as Jews, and to retain all their books. For, who, in Portugal, in
those days, could distinguish a book of medicine from any other work
in the Hebrew language? The students of the Talmud could thus follow
their favorite researches and studies under the mask of Catholicism.
This amnesty benefited the Portuguese Marranos, but not those who had
immigrated into Portugal, by a clause which Manoel had inserted out of
deference to the Spanish court, or, more particularly, to the Spanish
Infanta Isabella. For she insisted that the Marranos who had fled out
of Spain into Portugal should be delivered over to the Moloch of the
Inquisition. In the marriage contract between the king of Portugal
and the fanatical Isabella (August, 1497), it was expressly set down
that all persons of the Hebrew race coming under condemnation of the
Inquisition, who sought refuge in Portugal, must leave within a month's

Thus many thousand Portuguese Jews became pseudo-Christians, but with
the firm resolve to seize the first opportunity to get away, so that in
a free country they might openly practice a religion only the dearer to
them for all they had suffered for it. Their souls, as the poet Samuel
Usque writes, had not been stained by the baptism imposed on them.
There were some Jews, however, who had refused baptism with all their
might. Among them was Simon Maimi, apparently the last chief rabbi
(Arrabi mor) in Portugal, a scrupulously pious man; also his wife, his
sons-in-law, and some others. They were closely imprisoned, because
they would not forswear Judaism, nor observe the rites of the church.
To bring them to conversion, Simon Maimi and his fellow sufferers,
official rabbis, were most inhumanly tortured. They were immured up
to the neck in their prison, and left for three days in this fearful
position. When they nevertheless remained firm, the walls were torn
down; three had died, among them Simon Maimi, whose conversion was
most important, because his example would have influenced the others.
Two Marranos imperiled their lives to secure the corpse of the pious
martyr, that they might inter it in the Jewish burial-ground, although
it was strictly forbidden to bury the Jewish victims of Christian
sacrifice otherwise than by the executioner's hands. A few Marranos
secretly attended their deeply-lamented saint to his last rest, and
celebrated a mourning service over his grave. Manoel permitted the few
remaining Jews to depart not long after, probably on the death of
Isabella, the instigator of all his barbarities to the Jews. She died
at the birth of the heir to the thrones of Portugal and Spain, August
24th, 1498, and the Infante died two years later. One of the remnant
dismissed was Abraham Saba, a preacher and Kabbalist author, whose two
children were baptized by force and taken from him. The companions of
Simon Maimi and his sons-in-law remained in prison a long time, were
afterwards sent to Arzilla, in Africa, there condemned to work at the
trenches on the Sabbath, and died at last a martyr's death.

Eighty years later, Manoel's great-grandson, the adventurous king,
Sebastian, led the flower of the Portuguese people to fresh conquests
in Africa. In a single battle the power of Portugal was broken, her
nobility slain, or cast into prison. The captives were carried to Fez,
and there, in the slave-market, offered for sale to the descendants of
the barbarously treated Portuguese Jews. The unhappy Portuguese nobles
and knights were, however, glad to be bought by Jews, as they well knew
the mild and humane nature of the followers of the "God of vengeance."



    Widespread Consequences of the Expulsion--The Exiles--Fate
    of the Abrabanel Family--Leon Medigo--Isaac Akrish--The
    Pre-eminence of Jews of Spanish Origin--The North-African
    States: Samuel Alvalensi, Jacob Berab, Simon Duran II--The
    Jews of Algiers, Tripoli and Tunis--Abraham Zacuto, and Moses
    Alashkar--Egypt: Isaac Shalal, David Ibn-Abi Zimra--The
    Jews of Cairo--Selim I--Cessation of the Office of Nagid--
    Jerusalem--Obadyah di Bertinoro--Safet and Joseph Saragossi
    --The Jews of Turkey--Constantinople--Elias Mizrachi: the
    Karaites--The Communities of Salonica and Adrianople--The Jews
    of Greece--Elias Kapsali--The Jews of Italy and the Popes:
    Bonet de Lates--The Ghetto in Venice--Samuel Abrabanel and
    Benvenida Abrabanela--Abraham Farissol--The Jews of Germany and
    their Sorrows--Expulsion of the Jews from Various Towns--The
    Jews of Bohemia--Jacob Polak and his School--The Jews of Poland.

1496-1525 C.E.

The expulsion of the Jews from the Pyrenean Peninsula, unwise as it
was inhuman, forms in various ways a well-marked turning-point in the
general history of the Jewish race. It involved not only the exiles,
but the whole Jewish people, in far-reaching and mostly disastrous
consequences. The glory of the Jews was extinguished, their pride
humbled, their center displaced, the strong pillar against which
they had hitherto leant broken. The grief caused by this sad event
was shared by the Jews in every country which had news of it. They
all felt as if the Temple had been destroyed a third time, as if the
sons of Zion had a third time been condemned to exile and misery.
Whether from fancy or pride, it was supposed that the Spanish (or,
more correctly, the Sephardic) Jews were the posterity of the noblest
tribe, and included among them descendants in a direct line from King
David; hence the Jews looked upon them as a kind of Jewish nobility.
And now these exalted ones had been visited by the severest affliction!
Exile, compulsory baptism, death in every hideous form, by despair,
hunger, pestilence, fire, shipwreck, all torments united, had reduced
their hundreds of thousands to barely the tenth part of that number.
The remnant wandered about like specters, hunted from one country
to another, and princes among Jews, they were compelled to knock as
beggars at the doors of their brethren. The thirty millions of ducats
which, at the lowest computation, the Spanish Jews possessed on their
expulsion, had melted away in their hands, and they were thus left
denuded of everything in a hostile world, which valued the Jews at
their money's worth only. At the same period many German Jews were
driven from cities in the East and in the West, but their misery
did not equal that of the Spanish Jews. They had known neither the
sweetness of a country that they could call their own, nor the comforts
of life; they were more hardy, or, at least, accustomed to contempt and
harsh treatment.

Half a century after the banishment of the Jews from Spain and
Portugal, we everywhere meet with fugitives: here a group, there a
family, or solitary stragglers. It was a kind of exodus on a small
scale, moving eastwards, chiefly to Turkey, as if the Jews were to
approach their original home. But their very wanderings, until they
again reached secure dwelling-places, and in a measure were settled,
were heartrending through the calamities of every description, the
humiliations, the contumely, sufferings worse than death, that they

The ancient family of Abrabanel did not escape heavy disasters and
constant migrations. The father, Isaac Abrabanel, who had occupied a
high position at the court of the accomplished king, Ferdinand I, and
of his son Alfonso, at Naples, was forced, on the approach of the
French, to leave the city, and, with his royal patron, to seek refuge
in Sicily. The French hordes plundered his house of all its valuables,
and destroyed a choice library, his greatest treasure. On the death of
King Alfonso, Isaac Abrabanel, for safety, went to the island of Corfu.
He remained there only till the French had evacuated the Neapolitan
territory; then he settled at Monopoli (Apulia), where he completed or
revised many of his writings. The wealth acquired in the service of
the Portuguese and Spanish courts had vanished, his wife and children
were separated from him and scattered, and he passed his days in sad
musings, out of which only his study of the Scriptures and the annals
of the Jewish people could lift him. His eldest son, Judah Leon Medigo
Abrabanel, resided at Genoa, where, in spite of his unsettled existence
and consuming grief for the loss of his young son, who had been taken
from him, and was being brought up in Portugal as a Christian, he still
cherished ideals. For Leon Abrabanel was much more highly accomplished,
richer in thought, in every way more gifted than his father, and
deserves consideration not merely for his father's, but for his own
sake. Leon Abrabanel practiced medicine to gain a livelihood (whence
his cognomen _Medigo_); but his favorite pursuits were astronomy,
mathematics, and metaphysics. Shortly before the death of the gifted
and eccentric Pico de Mirandola, Leon Medigo became acquainted with
him, won his friendship, and at his instigation undertook the writing
of a philosophical work.

Leon Medigo, in a remarkable manner, entered into close connection with
acquaintances of his youth, with Spanish grandees, and even with King
Ferdinand, who had driven his family and so many hundred thousands
into banishment and death. For he became the private physician of the
general, Gonsalvo de Cordova, the conqueror and viceroy of Naples.
The heroic, amiable, and lavish De Cordova did not share his master's
hatred against the Jews. In one of his descendants Jewish literature
found a devotee. When King Ferdinand, after the conquest of the kingdom
of Naples (1504), commanded that the Jews be banished thence, as from
Spain, the general thwarted the execution of the order, observing that,
on the whole, there were but few Jews on Neapolitan territory, since
most of the immigrants had either again left it, or had become converts
to Christianity. The banishment of these few could only be injurious
to the country, since they would settle at Venice, which would benefit
by their industry and riches. Consequently the Jews were allowed to
remain a while longer on Neapolitan territory. But to exterminate
the Spanish and Portuguese Marranos who had settled there, Ferdinand
established the terrible Inquisition at Benevento. Leon Medigo for over
two years was De Cordova's physician (1505-1507), and King Ferdinand
saw him when he visited Naples. After the king's departure and the
ungracious dismissal of the viceroy (June, 1507), Leon Abrabanel,
having nowhere found suitable employment, returned to his father,
then living at Venice, whither he had been invited by his second son,
Isaac II, who practiced medicine first at Reggio (Calabria), then at
Venice. The youngest son, Samuel, afterwards a generous protector of
his co-religionists, was the most fortunate of the family. He dwelt
amidst the cool shades of the academy of Salonica, to which his father
had sent him to finish his education in Jewish learning. The elder
Abrabanel once more entered the political arena. At Venice he had the
opportunity of settling a dispute between the court of Lisbon and the
Venetian Republic concerning the East-Indian colonies established
by the Portuguese, especially concerning the trade in spices. Some
influential senators discerned Isaac Abrabanel's correct political and
financial judgment, and thenceforth consulted him in all important
questions of state policy. But suffering and travel had broken his
strength; before he reached seventy years, he felt the infirmities
of old age creeping over him. In a letter of reply to Saul Cohen
Ashkenasi, an inhabitant of Candia, a man thirsting for knowledge, the
disciple and intellectual heir of Elias del Medigo, Abrabanel complains
of increasing debility and senility. Had he been silent, his literary
productions of that time would have betrayed his infirmity. The baited
victims of Spanish fanaticism would have needed bodies of steel and the
resisting strength of stone not to succumb to the sufferings with which
they were overwhelmed.

We have a striking instance of the restless wanderings of the Jewish
exiles in the life of one of the sufferers, who, though insignificant,
became known to fame by his zeal to raise the courage of the
unfortunate. To Isaac ben Abraham Akrish, a Spaniard, a great traveler
and a bookworm (born about 1489, died after 1575), Jewish literature
owes the preservation of many a valuable document. Akrish said, half
in joke, half in earnest, that he must have been born in the hour when
the planet Jupiter was passing through the zodiacal sign of the Fishes,
a nativity which indicates a wandering life. For, though lame in both
feet, he spent his whole life in traveling from city to city, on land
and on sea. When a boy, Akrish was banished from Spain, and at Naples
he underwent all the sufferings which seem to have conspired against
the exiles. Thus he limped from nation to nation, "whose languages he
did not understand, and who spared neither old men nor children," until
in Egypt, in the house of an exile, he found a few years' rest. Who
can follow all the wandering exiles, with sore feet, and still sorer
hearts, until they somewhere found rest, or the peace of the grave?

But the very enormity of the misery they endured raised the dignity of
the Sephardic Jews to a height bordering on pride. That they whom God's
hand had smitten so heavily, so persistently, and who had undergone
such unspeakable sorrow, must occupy a peculiar position, and belong
to the specially elect, was the thought or the feeling existing more
or less clearly in the breasts of the survivors. They looked upon
their banishment from Spain as a third exile, and upon themselves
as favorites of God, whom, because of His greater love for them, He
had chastised the more severely. Contrary to expectation, a certain
exaltation took possession of them, which did not, indeed, cause them
to forget, but transfigured, their sufferings. As soon as they felt
even slightly relieved from the burden of their boundless calamity, and
were able to breathe, they rose with elastic force, and carried their
heads high like princes. They had lost everything except their Spanish
pride, their distinguished manner. However humbled they might be, their
pride did not forsake them; they asserted it wherever their wandering
feet found a resting-place. And to some extent they were justified.
They had, indeed, since the growth of the tendency among Jews towards
strict orthodoxy and hostility to science, and since their exclusion
from social circles, receded from the high scientific position they
had held, and forfeited the supremacy they had maintained during many
centuries; yet they far surpassed the Jews of all other countries in
culture, manners, and also in worth, as was shown by their external
bearing and their language. Their love for their country was too great
to allow them to hate the unnatural mother who had cast them out.
Hence, wherever they went, they founded Spanish or Portuguese colonies.
They carried the Spanish tongue, Spanish dignity and distinction
to Africa, Syria, and Palestine, Italy and Flanders; wherever fate
cast their lot they cherished and cultivated this Spanish manner so
lovingly, that it has maintained itself to this day in full vigor
among their descendants. Far from being absorbed by the rest of the
Jewish population in countries which had hospitably received them, they
considered themselves a privileged race, the flower and nobility of
the Jewish nation, kept aloof from others, looked down upon them with
contempt, and not unfrequently dictated laws to them. This arose from
the fact that the Spanish and Portuguese Jews spoke the languages of
their native countries (which by the discoveries and conquests of the
sixteenth century had become the languages of the world) with purity,
took part in literature, and associated with Christians on equal
terms, with manliness, and without fear or servility. On this point
they contrasted with the German Jews, who despised pure and beautiful
speech, the very thing which constitutes a true man, and considered
a corrupt jargon and isolation from the Christian world as proofs of
religious zeal. The Sephardic Jews attached importance to forms of all
kinds, to taste in dress, to elegance in their synagogues, as well as
to the medium for the exchange of thought. The Spanish and Portuguese
rabbis preached in their native tongues, and laid great stress on pure
pronunciation and euphony. Hence their language did not degenerate,
at least not in the first centuries after their expulsion. "In the
cities of Salonica, Constantinople, Alexandria, Cairo, Venice, and
other resorts of commerce, the Jews transact their business only in
the Spanish language. I have known Jews of Salonica who, though still
young, pronounced Castilian as well as myself, and even better." This
is the judgment of a Christian writer about half a century after their

The contempt which even Isaac Abrabanel, mild and broken though he
was, entertained for the barbarous jargon spoken by German Jews is
characteristic. He was surprised to discover in a letter, sent to
him by Saul Cohen of Candia, a native of Germany, a finished Hebrew
style and close reasoning, and freely expressed his astonishment: "I
am surprised to find so excellent a style among the Germans (Jews),
which is rare even among their leaders and rabbis, however gifted
they may be in other respects. Their language is full of awkwardness
and clumsiness, a stammering without judgment." This superiority of
the Jews of Spanish descent in culture, bearing, social manners, and
knowledge of the world, was appreciated and admired by other Jews,
especially by German Jews, with whom they everywhere came into contact.
Hence Spanish Jews could presume to play the rôle of masters, and
frequently, in spite of their paucity of numbers, they dominated a
majority speaking other tongues. In the century after their expulsion
they are almost exclusively the leaders; the names of their spokesmen
are heard everywhere; they furnished rabbis, authors, thinkers and
visionaries, whilst German and Italian Jews occupied a humble place.
In all countries, except Germany and Poland, into which they had not
penetrated, or only as solitary individuals, the Sephardic Jews were
the leaders.

The northern coast of Africa, and the inhabitable regions inland,
were full of Jews of Spanish descent. They had congregated there in
great numbers during the century from the persecution of 1391 to their
total expulsion. From Safi (Assafi), the most southwestern town of
Morocco, to Tripoli in the northeast, there were many communities, of
varying numbers, speaking the Spanish language. Though mostly hated,
arbitrarily treated, and often compelled by petty barbarian tyrants and
the uncivilized, degenerate Moorish population to wear a disgraceful
costume, yet prominent Jews found opportunities to distinguish
themselves, to rise to high honors and acquire widespread influence.
In Morocco a rich Jew, learned in history, who had rendered important
services to the ruler of that country, was held in high esteem. At Fez,
where there existed a community of five thousand Jewish families, who
monopolized most trades, Samuel Alvalensi, a Jew of Spanish descent,
was greatly beloved by the king, on account of his ability and his
courage, and so trusted by the populace that it accepted him as its
leader. In the struggle between the two reigning families, the Merinos
and the Xerifs, he sided with the former, led one thousand four hundred
Jews and Moors against the followers of the latter, and defeated them
at Ceuta. A very numerous Jewish community of Spanish descent occupied
the greater portion of Tlemçen, or Tremçen, an important town, where
the court resided. Here Jacob Berab (born 1474, died 1541), fleeing
from Spain, found a refuge. He was one of the most active men among the
Spanish emigrants, and the most acute rabbi of his age. At the same
time, he was a crusty, dogmatical and quarrelsome man, who had many
enemies, but also many admirers. Born at Maqueda, near Toledo, Jacob
Berab, after passing through many dangers, suffering want, hunger and
thirst, reached Tlemçen, whence he went to Fez, the Jewish community
of which chose him, a needy youth, for their rabbi, on account of his
learning and sagacity. There he conducted a college until the fanatic
Spaniards made conquests in northern Africa, and disturbed the quiet
asylum that the Jews had found there.

The reduced community of Algiers was under the direction of Simon
Duran II, a descendant of the Spanish fugitives of 1391 (born 1439,
died after 1510), a son of Solomon Duran, the rabbi with philosophic
culture. Like his brother, he was considered in his day a high
rabbinical authority, and the advice of both was sought by many
persons. Of as noble a disposition as his father, Simon Duran was the
protector of his co-religionists and the sheet-anchor of the Spanish
exiles who came within his reach, for he shunned neither cost nor
danger when the religion, morals and safety of his compatriots were
in question. Fifty fugitive Jews, who had suffered shipwreck, had
been cast on the coast of Seville, where the fanatical Spaniards, in
accordance with the edict, put them into prison, and kept them there
for two years. They were in daily expectation of death, but finally
they were pardoned--that is to say, sold for slaves. As such they
reached Algiers in a deplorable condition; but by the exertions of
Simon Duran they were redeemed for the sum of seven hundred ducats,
which the small community managed to collect.

Two eminent Spanish Jews, the aged historian and astronomer, Abraham
Zacuto, and a younger man, Moses Alashkar, found a refuge at Tunis.
Zacuto, who had taught mathematics and astronomy to Christian and
Mahometan pupils in Spain, and whose published writings were widely
read and made use of, was nevertheless compelled to wander about like
an outlaw, and had only with difficulty escaped death. He seems to have
spent some quiet years at Tunis, where he completed his more celebrated
than useful chronicle ("Sefer Yochasin," 1504), history it cannot be
called. It is an epitome of Jewish history, with especial reference
to the literature of the Jews. It has the merit of having promoted
historical research among Jews, but lacks artistic arrangement and
completeness. It is a mere compilation from works accessible to the
writer, who has even failed to give a complete sketch of the history
of his own times, the sufferings of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews.
Zacuto's chronicle was a child of his old age and misery; he wrote
it with a trembling hand, in fear of impending events, and without
sufficient literary materials. On this account it must be judged

A contemporary of Zacuto at Tunis was Moses ben Isaac Alashkar, as
deeply learned a Talmudist as his teacher, Samuel Alvalensi. He was
a correct thinker, and devoid of narrow one-sidedness. He plunged
into the dark labyrinths of the Kabbala, yet, at the same time,
raised his eyes to the bright heights of philosophy--a mental
_mésalliance_ possible in those days. Alashkar even defended Maimuni
and his philosophical system against the charge of heresy brought by

Terrified by the perils which the Spanish arms foreboded to the Jews of
northern Africa, Zacuto and Alashkar, with many others, appear to have
quitted Tunis. They were but too well acquainted with the cruelties
practiced against Jews by the ultra-Catholic Spaniards. The former
went to Turkey, where he died shortly after his arrival (before 1515).
Alashkar fled to Egypt, where his extensive learning and wealth secured
for him an honorable position.

Egypt, especially its capital, Cairo, had become the home of many
Jewish-Spanish fugitives, who had in a short time acquired an influence
surpassing that of the original Jewish inhabitants. On their arrival,
all the Jewish communities were, as of old, ruled by a Jewish chief
justice or prince (Nagid, Reis). The office was then held by the noble
and rich Isaac Cohen Shalal, a man of upright character, learned in
the Talmud, who employed his wealth and the high esteem in which he
was held by all, even including the Egyptian Mameluke sultan, for the
benefit of his community and the fugitives who settled in their midst.
He impartially promoted deserving men of the Spanish immigration to
offices, whereby they gradually obtained paramount influence. The
Spanish scholar, Samuel Sidillo (or Sid, Ibn-Sid), a disciple of the
last Toledan rabbi, Isaac de Leon, highly venerated in his day on
account of his piety and his profound rabbinical knowledge, found
a refuge at Cairo. A Spanish fugitive who acquired still higher
distinction was David Ibn-Abi Zimra (born 1470, died about 1573). A
disciple of the mystic Joseph Saragossi, he was rich in knowledge and
virtues, as well as in property and distinguished descendants, and
he soon outshone the natives, acquiring the reputation of being the
highest rabbinical authority in Egypt. Many other Spanish rabbinical
scholars found rest in Egypt; to those already named, including
Jacob Berab and Moses Alashkar, we may add Abraham Ibn-Shoshan, all
eventually becoming official rabbis.

Political changes in Egypt placed the Spaniards at the head of the
Jewish communities in that country. The land of the Nile, together
with Syria and Palestine, whose conquest was so difficult a task for
the sultans of Constantinople, finally became the well-secured prey
of Selim I, who won a splendid victory over the Mameluke sultan in a
decisive battle not far from Aleppo (1517). His march from Syria to
Egypt was a triumphal progress. Selim spent the summer of that year
in remodeling the order of things in Egypt, reducing it to a real
dependency of Turkey, turning it, in fact, into a province, ruled by
a viceroy, a pasha entirely devoted to him. Abraham de Castro, a Jew
of Spanish descent, was appointed by Selim master of the mint for the
new Turkish coinage, and, by his wealth and influence, he acquired
great weight among Turkish officials and the Egyptian Jews. De Castro
was very benevolent; he annually spent three thousand gold florins
in alms, and in every way took lively interest in the affairs of his

Selim, or his viceroy, appears to have introduced an entirely new order
into the management of the Egyptian Jews. For ages a chief rabbi and
judge had ruled all the communities; the person holding the office
had possessed a kind of princely power, similar to that formerly
exercised by the princes of the exile in Babylon. The chief rabbi
or prince (Nagid) nominated the rabbis of the communities, had the
supreme decision of disputes among Jews, confirmed or rejected every
new regulation, was even authorized to decree corporal punishment for
offenses and crimes committed by Jews under his jurisdiction. From
these functions he derived a considerable revenue, but all this ceased
with the Turkish conquest. Every community was thenceforth declared
independent in the election of its head, and allowed to manage its own
affairs. The last Jewish-Egyptian prince or chief rabbi was deposed
from his dignity, and betook himself with his riches to Jerusalem,
where he became a benefactor of its growing community. The office of
rabbi of Cairo was bestowed on the Spanish immigrant David Ibn-Abi
Zimra, on account of his upright character, learning, benevolent
disposition, and chiefly, probably, on account of his wealth. His
authority rose to such a degree that he could venture to abolish a very
ancient custom, which excessive conservatism had dragged along from
century to century, like a dead limb. The Babylonian Jews had more
than eighteen hundred years before adopted the Syrian or Seleucidan
chronology (_Minyan Yavanim_, _Minyan Shetaroth_), in memory of
the victory of the Syrian king Seleucus over the other generals of
Alexander the Great. The Syrian empire and the Seleucidæ had perished
long ago, Syria had by turns become the prey of Romans, Byzantines,
Mahometans, Mongols and Turks; nevertheless, the Babylonian and
Egyptian Jews had retained that chronology, employing it not only
in historical records and secular papers, but also in the dating of
documents of divorce and similar deeds. Whilst the Jews of Palestine
and of Europe had gradually adopted other chronologies, as "After the
Destruction of the Temple," or "Since the Creation" (_æra mundi_),
the Babylonian and Egyptian Jews so pertinaciously adhered to the
Seleucidan era as to declare invalid every letter of divorce not so
dated. Ibn-Abi Zimra abolished this antiquated chronology, as far as
Egypt was concerned, introducing in its stead the already accepted
mode of reckoning from the Creation, and his innovation met with no
opposition. The ascendency of the immigrant Sephardic Jews over the
majority of the original community (the Mostarabi) was so great and
so well established, that the former, in spite of the objections of
the latter, succeeded in the bold attempt to abolish an ancient and
beautiful custom, introduced by Maimuni himself. The Mostarabian Jews
for more than three centuries had been accustomed to have the chief
prayer said aloud in the synagogue, by the reader (Chazan), without
themselves participating in it. But to the pious immigrants from the
Peninsula this custom, though promoting decorum and devotion, appeared
illegal, anti-Talmudic, if not heretical, and they zealously set to
work to abolish it. Terrible sufferings had hardened the hearts of the
Sephardic Jews, and they were but too ready to exercise the utmost
severity in religious matters, and slavishly to follow the letter. The
rabbi, David Ibn-Abi Zimra, was their leader.

During his term of office a great danger hovered over the Cairo
community. The fourth viceroy of Egypt, Achmed Shaitan (Satan),
harbored the design of severing Egypt from Turkey, and making himself
its independent master. Having succeeded in his first measures, he
proposed to the Jewish superintendent of the mint, Abraham de Castro,
to have his name placed on the coins. De Castro pretended compliance,
but asked for a written order. Having obtained it he secretly left
Egypt, and hastened to the court of Solyman I, at Constantinople, to
inform the sultan of the treacherous design of the pasha, which was
thus frustrated. Achmed vented his rage on the Jews, threw some of
them, probably De Castro's friends and relatives, into prison, and
permitted the Mamelukes to plunder the Jewish quarter of Cairo. He
then sent for twelve of the most eminent Jews, and commanded them
within a short time to find an exorbitant sum of money, threatening
them, in case of non-compliance, with a cruel death for themselves and
their families. For greater security he retained them as hostages. To
the supplications of the Jewish community for mercy and delay, the
tyrant replied by more terrible threats. In their hopelessness the Jews
of Cairo turned in fervent prayer to God. Meanwhile the collectors
had got together a considerable sum, which they offered as a payment
on account. But as it scarcely amounted to the tenth part of Achmed's
demand, his private secretary had the collectors put in irons, and
threatened them, and all the members of the community, with certain
death on that very day, as soon as his master left his bath. At the
very moment when the secretary uttered these words, the pasha was
attacked in his bath by Mahomet Bey, one of his vizirs, and some other
conspirators, and severely wounded. Achmed Shaitan made good his escape
from the palace, but was betrayed, overtaken, cast into fetters and
then beheaded. The imprisoned Jews were set free, and their community
escaped a great peril. The Egyptian Jews for a long period afterwards
commemorated the day of their deliverance (Adar 27th or 28th, 1524--a
Cairoan Purim, Furin al-Mizrayim).

By the immigration of Spaniards and Portuguese, Jerusalem and other
Palestinian cities also obtained a great increase of members to their
congregations, and considerable importance. Here, too, the immigrants
in a short time became the social and religious leaders. In the very
brief period of seven years the number of Jewish families in the Holy
City grew from scarcely seventy to two hundred, and again within
the space of two decades (1495-1521), it rose from two hundred to
fifteen hundred. The influx of new settlers had largely augmented the
prosperity of the Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem. Whilst formerly
nearly all the members of the community were in a state of destitution,
three decades afterwards there were only two hundred receiving alms.
And what is of greater importance, morality was greatly benefited by
the immigrants. Jerusalem was no longer the den of robbers found by
Obadyah (Obadiah) di Bertinoro (1470-1520), who had immigrated from
Italy. The members of the community were no longer harassed to death,
and driven to despair or voluntary exile by a rapacious, tyrannical
and treacherous faction; harmony, union, a sense of justice, and peace
had found an abode with them. There was indeed a show of excessive
piety, but it no longer flagrantly contrasted with a revoltingly
immoral mode of life. Obadyah di Bertinoro, the gentle and amiable
Italian preacher, had greatly contributed to this improvement of the
moral tone of Jerusalem; for more than two decades he taught the
growing community, by precept and example, genuine piety, nobility
of sentiment and relinquishment of barbarian coarseness. After his
arrival at Jerusalem, he wrote to his friends: "If there were in this
country one sagacious Jew, who knew how to lead a community gently
and justly, not Jews only, but also Mahometans would willingly submit
to him, for the latter are not at all hostile to the Jews, but full
of consideration for strangers. But there is not one Jew in this
country possessing either sense or social virtues; all are coarse,
misanthropical and avaricious." Bertinoro did not anticipate that he
himself would soften that coarseness, improve the morals, mitigate
that immorality, ennoble that baseness. But his genial, amiable manner
disarmed evil and healed the sores he had discovered, lamented, and
pitilessly exposed. Obadyah was the guardian angel of the Holy City,
he cleansed it from pollution, and clothed it with a pure festival
garment. "Were I to attempt proclaiming his praise," writes an Italian
pilgrim to Jerusalem, "I should never cease. He is the man who is held
in the highest esteem in the country; everything is done according to
his orders, and no one dares gainsay his words. From all parts he is
sought after and consulted; his merits are acknowledged by Egyptians
and Babylonians, and even Mahometans honor him. Withal, he is modest
and humble; his speech is gentle; he is accessible to every one. All
praise him and say: He is not like an earthly being. When he preaches
every ear listens intently; not the least sound is heard, his hearers
are so silently devout." Exiles from the Pyrenean Peninsula supported
him in his humane work.

To the intervention of Obadyah di Bertinoro, and of those who shared
his opinions, probably were due the excellent ordinances which the
community voluntarily imposed on itself, and for remembrance graved on
a tablet in the synagogue. They were directed against the abuses which
had crept in by degrees. These ordinances included amongst others the
following decrees: In disputes between Jews, the Mahometan authorities
are to be applied to only in the utmost necessity. The Jewish judge or
rabbi is not to be allowed to compel wealthy members of the community
to make advances for communal wants. Students of the Talmud and widows
shall not contribute to the communal funds. Jews are not to purchase
bad coin, and, if they acquire any accidentally, are not to pass it.
The pilgrims to the grave of the prophet Samuel are not to drink wine,
for men and women traveled together, the latter unveiled, and if the
men had been excited by wine, great mischief might have ensued.

The Holy City acquired still higher importance by the immigration of
Isaac Shalal, with his riches, experience, and authority.

Safet in Galilee, the youngest town of Palestine, next to Jerusalem
acquired the largest Jewish population and considerable importance,
which increased to such a degree that Safet not only rivaled, but
excelled the mother-city. At the end of the fifteenth and the beginning
of the next century it sheltered only some three hundred Jewish
families, original inhabitants (Moriscos), Berbers, and Sephardim. It
did not at first possess any eminent native expounder of the Talmud,
who might have become a leader. It owed its importance and far-reaching
influence to the arrival of a Spanish fugitive, under whose direction
the community was strengthened. Joseph Saragossi became for Safet what
Obadyah di Bertinoro had been for Jerusalem. Driven from Saragossa,
he passed through Sicily, Beyrout and Sidon, in which latter place he
resided for some time, and finally reached Safet, where he settled.
Joseph Saragossi possessed a mild, fascinating character, and
considered it the task of his life to preach peace and restore harmony
in private and communal life. Even among Mahometans he worked in a
conciliating and appeasing spirit, and on this account he was loved and
revered as an angel of peace. At one time he wished to leave Safet. The
inhabitants fairly clung to him, and promised him an annual salary of
fifty ducats, two thirds of which the Mahometan governor of the town
offered to furnish. Joseph Saragossi transplanted the study of the
Talmud to Safet, and also that of the Kabbala, as he was an ultra-pious
mystic. Through him the hitherto untainted community became a nest of

In Damascus, the half-Palestinian capital of Syria, there also arose,
by the side of the very ancient Mostarabian community, a Sephardic
congregation, composed of fugitives, and numbering five hundred Jewish
families. Within a short time after their arrival, the Spaniards built
a splendid synagogue at Damascus, called Khataib. They speedily
increased to such a degree as to separate into several congregations,
according to the states from which they had originally come.

The main stream of the Jewish-Spanish emigration flowed towards Turkey
in Europe; the greater part of the remnant of the three hundred
thousand exiles found an asylum in that country, where the inhabitants
did not take love as their watchword. The sultans Bajazet, Selim I
and Solyman I, not only tolerated the fugitive Jews, but gave them a
hearty welcome, and granted them the liberties enjoyed by Armenians and
Greeks. A Jewish poet enthusiastically described the freedom of his
co-religionists in Turkey. "Great Turkey, a wide and spreading sea,
which our Lord opened with the wand of His mercy (as at the exodus from
Egypt), that the tide of thy present disaster, Jacob, as happened with
the multitude of the Egyptians, should therein lose and exhaust itself.
There the gates of freedom and equal position for the unhindered
practice of Jewish worship are ever open, they are never closed against
thee. There thou canst renew thy inner life, change thy condition,
strip off, and cast away false and erroneous doctrines, recover thy
ancient truths, and abandon the practices which, by the violence of the
nations among whom thou wast a pilgrim, thou wert compelled to imitate.
In this realm thou art highly favored by the Lord, since therein He
granteth thee boundless liberty to commence thy late repentance."

The immigrant Jews at first enjoyed very happy days in Turkey, because
they were a godsend to this comparatively new state. The Turks were
good soldiers, but bad citizens. The sultans, frequently on bad terms
with Christian states, could place but indifferent trust in the Greeks,
Armenians, and Christians of other national creeds; they looked upon
them as born spies and traitors. But they could depend on the fidelity
and usefulness of the Jews. Hence they were, on the one hand, the
business people, and on the other, the citizen class of Turkey. They
not only carried on the wholesale and retail commerce by land and sea,
but were the handicraftsmen and the artists. The Marranos especially
who had fled from Spain and Portugal manufactured for the warlike Turks
new armor and firearms, cannons and gunpowder, and taught the Turks how
to use them. Thus persecuting Christianity itself furnished its chief
enemies, the Turks, with weapons which enabled them to overwhelm the
former with defeat after defeat, humiliation on humiliation. Jewish
physicians especially were held in high esteem in Turkey; they were
for the most part clever disciples of the school of Salamanca, and, on
account of their skill, higher education, secrecy and discretion, were
preferred to Christian, and even to Mahometan doctors. These Jewish
physicians, mostly of Spanish descent, acquired great influence with
grand sultans, vizirs and pashas.

Sultan Selim had for his physician in ordinary Joseph Hamon, an
immigrant probably from Granada. Hamon's son and nephew successively
held the same office. The son, Moses Hamon (born 1490, died about
1565), physician to the wise sultan Solyman, on account of his skill
and manly, determined character, enjoyed even higher reputation and
influence than his father. He accompanied the sultan in his warlike
expeditions, and brought back from Persia, whither he had followed
Solyman on a triumphal progress, a learned man, Jacob Tus or Tavs
(about 1535), who translated the Pentateuch into Persian. This version,
accompanied by Chaldean and Arabic translations, was afterwards printed
at the expense of Hamon, who was justly considered a protector of his
brethren and a promoter of Judaism.

The Jews were also in great request in Turkey as linguists and
interpreters, they having acquired knowledge of many languages through
their wanderings among foreign nations.

The capital, Constantinople, held within its walls a very numerous
Jewish community, which was daily increased by new fugitives from the
Peninsula, so that it became the largest in Europe, numbering probably
thirty thousand souls. It had forty-four synagogues, consequently as
many separate congregations. For the Jewish community in the Turkish
capital and other towns did not form a close corporation, but was
divided into groups and sections, according to their native places,
each of which was anxious to retain its own customs, rites and liturgy,
and to possess its own synagogue and rabbinical college. Hence there
were not only Castilian, Aragonese and Portuguese congregations, but
still more restricted associations, Cordovan, Toledan, Barcelonian,
Lisbon groups (Kahals), besides German, Apulian, Messinian and
Greek. Every petty congregation apportioned among its members the
contributions, not only for its worship, officials, the maintenance of
the poor, its hospitals and schools, but also for the taxes payable to
the state. These latter at first were trifling: a poll-tax on every one
subject to taxation (charaj), and a kind of rabbinical tax levied on
the congregation, according to the three different classes of property,
of 200, 100 and 20 aspers. The family of the physician Hamon alone was
exempt from taxes.

At first the native Jews, who formed the majority, had complete
preponderance over the immigrants. The office of chief rabbi, after the
death of the meritorious but unappreciated Moses Kapsali, was held by
Elias Mizrachi, probably descended from an immigrant Greek family, who
under the sultans Bajazet, Selim I, and perhaps also under Solyman,
had a seat in the divan like his predecessor, and was the official
representative of the whole body of Turkish Jews. He deservedly held
this post on account of his rabbinical and secular knowledge, and
upright, impartially just character. Elias Mizrachi (born about 1455,
died between 1525 and 1527), a disciple of the German school, and a
profound Talmudist and strictly pious man, was no enemy to science. He
not only understood, but taught mathematics and astronomy, gave public
lectures thereon, as also on the Talmud, and compiled handbooks on
these subjects, some of which became such favorites as to be translated
into Latin. In his youth he was a Hotspur, and had a feud with the
Karaites in Turkey. But in his old age he felt more kindly towards
them, and employed his weighty influence to avert a wrong which the
ultra-pious were about to inflict on them. A few obscurantists, chiefly
members of the Apulian congregation at Constantinople, attempted to
interrupt, in a violent manner, the neighborly intercourse which for
half a century had existed between Rabbanites and Karaites. They
assembled the members of the congregation, and, with the Sefer Torah
in their hand, excommunicated all who should henceforth instruct
Karaites, whether children or adults, in the Bible or the Talmud, or
even in secular sciences, such as mathematics, natural history, logic,
music, or even the alphabet. Nor were Rabbanite servants any longer to
take service with Karaite families. These fanatics intended to raise
an insuperable barrier between the followers of the Talmud and those
of the Bible. But the majority of the Constantinople community were
dissatisfied with this bigoted measure. The tolerant Rabbanites of
the capital held a meeting to frustrate the plan of the zealots. But
the latter behaved so outrageously and with such violence, bringing
a fierce rabble provided with cudgels into the synagogue where the
consultation was to be held, that the conveners of the meeting had no
chance of being heard, and the act of excommunication was carried by
an insolent minority, in defiance of the sound arguments and opposition
of the majority. Then Rabbi Elias Mizrachi openly and vigorously
opposed this unreasonable, illegal and violent proceeding, showing
in a learned discourse how unjust and opposed to the Talmud was the
rejection of the Karaites. He impressed on the zealots the fact that
by their intolerant severity they would bring about the decay of the
instruction of the young, since hitherto emulation to surpass their
Karaite companions had been a great incentive to Rabbanite scholars.

The Turkish Jews in those days had a kind of political representative,
an advocate (Kahiya), or chamberlain, who had access to the
sultan and his great dignitaries, and was appointed by the court.
Shaltiel, otherwise an unknown personage, but said to have been of
noble character, held the office under Solyman. With a population
looking contemptuously on unbelievers, with provincial pashas ruling
arbitrarily, and with fanatical Greek and Bulgarian Christians,
instances of injustice and violent proceedings against the Jews in the
Turkish empire were not of rare occurrence; on all such occasions the
Kahiya Shaltiel interposed on behalf of his co-religionists, and, by
means of money liberally spent at court, obtained redress.

The community next in importance in Turkey was that of Salonica (the
ancient Thessalonica), which, though an unhealthy town, possessed
attractions for the immigrants of Spain and Provence; for this once
Greek settlement offered more leisure for peaceful occupation than
the noisy capital of Turkey. Ten congregations at least were soon
formed here, the most of Sephardic origin. Eventually they increased
to thirty-six. Salonica, in fact, became a Jewish town, with more Jews
than Gentiles. A Jewish poet, Samuel Usque, calls the town "a mother
of Judaism, built on the deep foundation of the Lord, full of excellent
plants and fruitful trees, such as are found nowhere else on earth.
Their fruit is glorious, because it is watered by an abundance of
benevolence. The greatest portion of the persecuted and banished sons
from Europe and other parts of the earth have met therein, and been
received with loving welcomes, as if it were our venerable mother,
Jerusalem." Within a short period the Sephardic immigrants acquired
complete supremacy over their co-religionists, even over the original
community, so that the leading language of Salonica became Spanish,
which German and Italian Jews had to learn, if they wished to maintain
intercourse with the Spanish immigrants. The son of one of the last
Jewish-Spanish ministers of finance, Judah Benveniste, had settled
here. From his paternal inheritance he had saved enough to possess
a noble library; he was the standard around which his heavily-tried
brethren could rally. Representatives of Talmudic learning were
naturally found among the sons of the Pyrenean Peninsula only, such as
the Taytasaks, a family of scholars, and Jacob Ibn-Chabib, though even
they were not men of the first eminence. Spanish immigrants, such as
the physicians Perachyah Cohen, his son Daniel, Aaron Afia (Affius),
and Moses Almosnino, also cultivated philosophy and astronomy to some
extent. But the chief study was that of the Kabbala, in which the
Spaniards, Joseph Taytasak, Samuel Franco, and others, distinguished
themselves. Salonica in Turkey and Safet in Palestine in time became
the chief seats of Kabbalistic extravagance. Of less importance was
Adrianople, the former residence of the Turkish sultans, though there
also, as at Nicopolis, communities in which the Sephardic element
predominated were formed.

To the towns of Amasia, Broussa, Tria and Tokat in Asia Minor, the
Spanish fugitives furnished inhabitants. Smyrna, which later on had
a large Jewish population, was then of little importance. Greece,
however, could show some large communities. Calabrese, Apulian, Spanish
and Portuguese fugitives settled at Arta or Larta, by the side of the
original inhabitants, Rumelians and Corfuites. They seem to have done
well here, for we read that the Jewish youth were much given to gayety
and dancing, thereby greatly offending the ultra-pious. Not unimportant
communities existed at Patras, Negropont and Thebes. The Thebans were
considered very learned in Talmudic lore. The rites of the community of
Corfu were followed by the other Jews of Greece. There was an important
community at Canea, on the island of Candia, belonging to Venice. At
their head were two famous families, the Delmedigos, sons and relatives
of the philosopher Elias del Medigo, and the Kapsalis, connections
of the former chief rabbi of Turkey. Judah Delmedigo (the son of the
teacher of Pico di Mirandola), and Elias ben Elkanah Kapsali, finished
their studies under the same rabbi, Judah Menz, of Padua; nevertheless,
they were not at one in their views. As both held the office of rabbi
at Canea, there was constant friction between them. If the one declared
anything to be permissible, the other exerted all his learning and
ingenuity to prove the contrary; yet both were worthy men of high
principle, and both were well versed in general literature.

Elias Kapsali (born about 1490, died about 1555) was a good historian.
When the plague devastated Candia, and plunged the inhabitants into
mourning, he composed (in 1523) a history of the Turkish dynasty in a
very agreeable Hebrew style, in lucid and elevated language, free from
pompous and barbarous diction. Kapsali merely aimed at relating the
truth. Interwoven with the Turkish narrative was the history of the
Jews, showing in gloomy colors the tragic fate of the Spanish exiles,
as he had heard it from their own lips. Though in this composition
he had the subsidiary intention of cheering the people during the
continuance of the plague, his work may serve as a sample of a fine
Hebrew historical style. It has, indeed, found imitators. Kapsali
forsook the dry diction of the chroniclers, and as an historian was far
superior to his predecessor, Abraham Zacuto. Considering that Kapsali
was a rabbi by profession, and that in consultations and the giving
of opinions he was bound to make use of a corrupt jargon, his work
displays much versatility and talent.

Italy at this period swarmed with fugitive Jews. Most of those driven
from Spain, Portugal and Germany first touched Italian soil, either to
settle there under the protection of some tolerant ruler, or to travel
on to Greece, Turkey, or Palestine. Strangely enough, among the masters
of Italy the popes were most friendly to the Jews: Alexander VI, Julius
II, Leo X, and Clement VII, were pursuing interests, or devoting
themselves to hobbies, which left them no time to think of torturing
Jews. The popes and their cardinals considered the canonical laws only
in so far as they needed them for the extension of their power or to
fill their money-bags. Totally oblivious of the decree of the council
of Basle, which enacted that Christians were not to consult Jewish
physicians, the popes and cardinals themselves chose Jews as their
physicians in ordinary. It appears that, owing to the secret warfare,
the intrigues and the frequent use of poison, which, since Alexander
VI, had been rife in the curia, where every one looked on his companion
as an enemy, Jewish physicians were in favor, because there was no
danger of their offering a pope or cardinal a poisoned cup instead of a
salutary remedy. Alexander VI had a Jewish physician, Bonet de Lates, a
native of Provence, who practiced astrology, prepared an astronomical
circle, and sent the pope the Latin description thereof with a fulsome
dedication. Bonet de Lates afterwards became the favorite physician in
ordinary to Leo X, and influenced his conduct. Julius II had for his
physician Simon Zarfati, who in other respects also enjoyed his masters
confidence. Cardinals and other high princes of the church followed
their examples, and generally intrusted their sacred bodies to Jewish
doctors, who consequently were much sought after in Italy. Following
the example of the popes, the northern Italian cities received fugitive
Jews, even pseudo-Christians re-converted to Judaism, from Spain and
Germany, and admitted them to all the privileges of free intercourse.
Even the popes permitted Marranos to settle at Ancona, notwithstanding
their having been baptized. The most important communities in Italy
were formed, after the annihilation of the Jews of Naples, by an influx
from other countries into Roman and Venetian territory; in the latter,
Venice and the flourishing city of Padua, in the former, Rome and the
port of Ancona, receiving most of them. Two opposite views with regard
to Jews swayed the council of the egotistical Venetian republic. On the
one hand, this commercial state did not wish to lose the advantages
that Jewish connections might bring, though at the same time it was
loath to foster them, for fear of offending the Levantine Jews, their
co-religionists in Turkey; on the other hand, the Venetian merchants
were full of trade envy against Jews. Hence the latter were caressed or
oppressed as the one or the other party predominated in the Signoria.
Venice was the first Italian city wherein Jews resided which set apart
a special quarter as a Ghetto (March, 1516).

As a rule the immigrant Jews, Spaniards or Germans, obtained supremacy
in Italy over native Jews, both in rabbinical learning and communal
relations. The Abrabanels played an important part in Italy. The
head of the family, Isaac Abrabanel, indeed, was too much bowed down
by age and suffering to exercise much influence in any direction. He
died before Jewish affairs had assumed a settled condition. His eldest
son, Leon Medigo, likewise made no impression on his surroundings; he
was too much of a philosophical dreamer and idealist, a poetic soul
averse to dealing with the things of this world. Only the youngest of
the three brothers, Samuel Abrabanel (born 1473, died about 1550) left
his mark on his contemporaries. He was considered the most eminent
Jew in Italy, and his community venerated him like a prince. He alone
inherited his father's financial genius, and, after his return from
the Talmudic college at Salonica, appears to have availed himself
of it, and to have been employed in the department of finance by
the viceroy of Naples, Don Pedro de Toledo. At Naples he acquired a
considerable fortune, valued at more than 200,000 zechins. He employed
his wealth to gratify the disposition hereditary in his family to
practice noble beneficence. The Jewish poet, Samuel Usque, gives an
enthusiastic description of his heart and mind: "Samuel Abrabanel
deserves to be called Trismegistus (thrice great); he is great and wise
in the Law, great in nobility, and great in riches. With his wealth
he is always magnanimous, a help in the sorrows of his brethren. He
joins innumerable orphans in wedlock, supports the needy, and redeems
captives, so that he possesses all the great qualities which make the

To increase his happiness heaven had given him a companion in life, the
complement of his high virtues, whose name, Benvenida Abrabanela, was
uttered by her contemporaries with devout veneration. Tender-hearted,
deeply religious, wise and courageous, she was a pattern of refinement
and high breeding, qualities more highly esteemed in Italy than in any
other European country. Don Pedro, the powerful Spanish viceroy of
Naples, allowed his second daughter, Leonora, to be on intimate terms
with Benvenida, that she might learn by her example. When this daughter
afterwards became Duchess of Tuscany, she kept up her acquaintance
with the Jewish lady, and called her by the honored name of mother.
This noble pair, Samuel Abrabanel and Benvenida, in whom tenderness
and worldly wisdom, warm attachment to Judaism and social intercourse
with non-Jewish circles were combined, were at once the pride and the
sheet-anchor of the Italian Jews, and of all who came under their
beneficent influence. Samuel Abrabanel, though not so well versed in
the Talmud as his poetic worshiper represents him to have been, was a
friend and promoter of Jewish knowledge. To fill the office of rabbi at
Naples, he sent for David Ibn-Yachya and his young, courageous wife,
who had fled from Portugal (1518); and, as the congregation was too
small to pay his salary, Abrabanel paid it himself. In his house the
learned Yachya lectured on the Talmud, and probably also on Hebrew
grammar. He thus formed a center for Jewish science in southern Italy.
Christian men of science also resorted to Abrabanel's house.

The chief seat of Talmudic or rabbinical studies was at that time
at Padua, where presided not Italians but immigrant Germans. Judah
Menz, of Mayence, even at his great age of more than a hundred years,
exercised attractive power over studious disciples from Italy, Germany,
and Turkey, as though from his lips they would learn the wisdom of
a time about to pass away. To be a pupil of Menz, was considered a
great honor and distinction. After he died, his son, Abraham Menz,
undertook the direction of the college (1504-1526); but his authority
was not undisputed. The native Jews have in no direction left names of
note. The chronicles mention some famous Jewish-Italian physicians,
who also distinguished themselves in other branches, such as Abraham
de Balmes (1521), of Lecce, physician and friend of Cardinal Grimani.
De Balmes possessed philosophical knowledge, and wrote a work on
the Hebrew language, which was published with a Latin translation
by a Christian. Other Jewish physicians of the same age were Judah,
or Laudadeus de Blanis, at Perugia, a worshiper of the Kabbala, and
Obadyah, or Servadeus de Sforno (Sfurno, born about 1470, died 1550), a
physician of Rome and Bologna, who, besides medicine, studied biblical
and philosophical subjects, and dedicated some of his Hebrew writings
with a Latin translation to King Henry II, of France. But, as far as we
are now able to judge of these highly praised compositions, they are
mediocre, and the authors, even in their own times, enjoyed but local
reputation. It is certain that De Balmes and Sforno are far beneath
Jacob Mantin, who, driven from Tortosa to Italy, there distinguished
himself as a physician and philosopher, leaving a famous name behind
him. Mantin (born about 1490, died about 1549) was a great linguist;
beside his native language and Hebrew, he understood Latin, Italian
and Arabic. He was a deeply learned physician and philosopher, and
translated medical and metaphysical works from Hebrew or Arabic into
Latin. He was held in high esteem as physician by a pope and the
ambassador of Charles V at Venice. But his learning was marred by his
iniquitous character; envy and ambition led him to commit wicked deeds,
to accuse and persecute innocent persons, even his own co-religionists.

In those days there lived in Italy a man, who, though not distinguished
by any brilliant achievement, was superior to nearly all his
co-religionists by a qualification better and rarer than literary
ability. He was gifted with common sense and a fine understanding,
which led him not to judge of things by appearances, or from a limited
point of view. Abraham Farissol (born 1451, died about 1525), a native
of Avignon, for reasons unknown, perhaps from want, had emigrated to
Ferrara. He supported himself by copying books, and also, it would
appear, by officiating as chorister at the synagogue. Though he was
in needy circumstances, and confined within narrow surroundings, his
perception was acute, his horizon wide, and his judgment matured. Like
most of his learned contemporaries in Italy, he commented on the Bible,
and his independence of thought in the midst of the dense credulity of
his time constitutes his claim upon pre-eminence. He said of himself,
"As regards miracles, I belong to those of little faith." Farissol was
the first Jewish author who, instead of studying the starry firmament,
astronomy and astrology (to which Jewish authors of the Middle Ages
were but too much inclined), turned his attention to investigate
the configuration and phenomena of our globe. He was influenced to
undertake these studies by the marvelous discoveries of the southern
coasts of Africa and India by the Portuguese, and of America by the
Spaniards. Penetrating mediæval mist and the deceptive illusions
of fancy, Farissol saw things as they actually are, and deeming it
necessary to point them out, he scoffed at ignorant men who, in their
pseudo-learned conceit, considered geography of no account. He had to
show conclusively that the Book of books, the holy record of the Torah,
attached importance to geographical data, in doing which he indicated a
new point of view for the comprehension of the Bible: it was not to be
explained by allegories and metaphysical or Kabbalistic reveries, but
by actual facts and the plain meaning of the words.

Farissol had access to the court of the duke of Ferrara, Hercules
d'Este I, one of the best princes of Italy, who vied with the
Medici in the promotion of science. The duke took delight in his
conversation, and often invited him to discuss religious questions
with learned monks. It seemed as if frequent religious disputations and
intellectual encounters were to be renewed on Italian soil. Farissol
displayed philosophical calm, besides caution, and forbearance for
the sensibilities of his opponents, when touching upon their weak
points. At the request of the duke of Ferrara, Farissol wrote down in
Hebrew the substance of his discourses with the monks, and reproduced
it in Italian, to give his opponents an opportunity for refutation.
But his polemical and apologetic work is of much less value than his
geographical writings, which he completed in his old age, with one foot
in the grave. They display Farissol's clear mind, common sense and
extensive learning.

The Italian Jews had at least the right of free discussion with
Christians. But as soon as they crossed the Alps into Germany they
breathed raw air, politically as well as atmospherically. Few Sephardic
fugitives visited this inhospitable land. The German population was as
hostile to Jews as the Spanish. True, the Germans had no occasion to
envy Jews on account of the position and influence of Jewish magnates
at royal courts, but they grudged them even their miserable existence
in the Jews' lanes in which they were penned up. They had been banished
from some German districts, from Cologne, Mayence and Augsburg, and
not a Jew was to be found in all Suabia. From other parts they were
expelled at about the same time as from Spain. Emperor Frederick III
to his last hour protected those outlawed by all the world. He even
had a Jewish physician, a rarity in Germany, the learned Jacob ben
Yechiel Loans, whom he greatly favored, and made a knight. Frederick
is said on his death-bed to have strongly recommended the Jews to his
son, enjoining on him to protect them, and not to listen to calumnious
accusations, whose falsity he had fathomed. It appears that Jacob Loans
also enjoyed the favor of Emperor Maximilian, whose lot it was to rule
over Germany in very troublous times. He transferred this favor to
Loans' relatives, for he appointed a certain Joseph ben Gershon Loans,
of Rosheim, in Alsace, as official representative of all German Jews at
the diet. This Joseph (Josselman, Joselin) was distinguished neither
by his rabbinical knowledge, nor his position, nor riches; yet, to a
certain extent, he was the official representative of German Judaism.
His most striking qualities were untiring activity, when it was
necessary to defend his unfortunate co-religionists, his love of truth,
and fervent clinging to his faith and people. Born 1480, died 1555, for
half a century he vigorously protected his co-religionists in Germany,
and became security for them when the ruling powers insisted on special
bail. The Jews, therefore, praised and blessed him as their "Great

But the very fact that the German Jews needed a defender proves that
their condition was not easy. For Emperor Maximilian was not a man
of decided character, but was swayed by all kinds of influences and
insinuations; nor did he always follow his father's advice. His conduct
towards the Jews, therefore, was always wavering; now he granted, or
at least promised, them his protection; now he offered his help, if
not for their sanguinary persecution, at least for their expulsion or
humiliation. At times he lent ear to the lying accusations that the
Jews reviled the host, and murdered infants, falsehoods diligently
promulgated by Dominican friars, and, since the alleged martyrdom of
young Simon of Trent, readily believed. Hence, during Maximilian's
reign, Jews were not only expelled from Germany and the adjoining
states, but were hunted down and tortured; they were in daily
expectation of the rack, and of the martyr's death, so that a special
confession of sins was drawn up for such cases, and the innocently
accused, summoned to apostatize, sealed their confession with death,
and joyfully sacrificed themselves for the One God. When, either with
the sanction or by the passive permission of the emperor, Jews were
banished, he felt no compunction in confiscating their property and
turning it into money.

The emperor did not, indeed, expel the Nuremberg community, but for
a pecuniary consideration gave the citizens leave to do so. Yet
Christians presumed to reproach Jews with making money unjustly,
whereas only the rich did so, and then only on a small scale.
Immediately after the emperor's accession, the townsmen of Nuremberg
appealed to him to permit the expulsion of the Jews on account of
"loose conduct." This "loose conduct" was explained in the indictment
to be the reception of foreign co-religionists, whereby the normal
number of Jews had been excessively increased in the town; the practice
of inordinate usury; fraud in recovery of debts, whereby honest
tradesmen had been impoverished, and finally the harboring of rogues
and vagabonds. To stir up hatred against them, and to confirm the Latin
reading (_i. e._, the educated) classes, in the illusion that Jews were
blasphemers, revilers of the host and infanticides, the rich citizen,
Antonius Koberger, had the venomous anti-Jewish _Fortalitium fidei_
of the Spanish Franciscan, Alfonso de Spina, reprinted at his own
expense. After long petitioning, Emperor Maximilian at last granted the
prayer of Nuremberg, "on account of the fidelity with which the town
had ever served the imperial house," abrogated the privileges enjoyed
by the Jews, and allowed the town council to fix a time for their
expulsion, stipulating, however, that the houses, lands, synagogues,
and even the Jewish cemetery should fall to the imperial treasury. He,
moreover, granted to Nuremberg the privilege of being forever exempt
from receiving Jews within its walls (July 5th, 1498). The town council
at first allowed four months only for the exodus--and the cultured,
virtuous and humanity-preaching patrician, Willibald Pirkheimer,
afterwards so strong a pillar of the Humanists, was then a member of
the council! Upon the supplications of the unfortunate people, the
short reprieve was prolonged by three months. But the Jews, summoned to
the synagogue by the sheriffs, had to swear to leave the town by that
time. At last, on March 10th, 1499, the much reduced community left
Nuremberg, to which it had returned after the Black Death.

At about the same time the Jews of other German towns, Ulm, Nordlingen,
Colmar, and Magdeburg, were sent into banishment.

The community of Ratisbon, then the oldest in Germany, was to fare
still worse; even then it heard the warning voice to prepare for
expulsion. Since the inhabitants of that imperial city, through the
disputes with the Jews growing out of the false blood-accusation,
had suffered humiliation and pecuniary loss at the hands of Emperor
Frederick, the former friendly feeling between Jews and Christians had
given way to bitterness and hatred. Instead of attributing to the right
cause the troubles and misfortunes which had come upon the town by its
attempted secession from the empire, the citizens charged the Jews
with being the authors of their misfortunes, and vented their anger on
them. The priests, exasperated by the failure of their plot against
the Jews, daily stirred up the fanaticism of the populace, openly
preaching that the Jews must be expelled. The millers refused to sell
them flour, the bakers, bread (1499), for the clergy had threatened
the tradespeople with excommunication if they supplied them with food.
On certain days Jews were not admitted into the market place, on
others they were allowed to make their purchases only after stated
hours, when the Christians had satisfied their wants. "Under severe
penalties," imposed by the senate, Christians were prohibited from
making purchases for Jews; the former were to "secure the glory of God
and their own salvation" by being cruel to the latter. The town council
seriously discussed applying to Emperor Maximilian to give his consent
to the expulsion of the Jews, allowing about twenty-four families to
remain. For a few years more they were permitted to drag on a miserable
existence. Besides Ratisbon, only two large communities remained in
Germany, viz., at Frankfort-on-the-Main and Worms, and even these were
often threatened with expulsion.

There were many Jews in Prague, but this town was not in Germany
proper; Bohemia was counted a private possession of the crown, under
the rule of Ladislaus, king of Hungary. The Bohemian Jews were not too
well off under him; the Jewish quarter in Prague was often plundered
by the populace. The citizens were sincerely anxious to expel the Jews
from Bohemia. But the latter had their patrons, especially among the
nobility. When, at a diet, the question of the expulsion or retention
of the Jews arose, the decree was passed (August 7th, 1501) that the
crown of Bohemia was for all time to tolerate them. If any one of them
offended against the law, he only was to be punished; his crime was not
to be visited on the whole Jewish community. King Ladislaus confirmed
this decision of the diet, only to break it very shortly after, for the
citizens of Prague were opposed to it, and spared no pains to frustrate
its fulfillment. They so strongly prejudiced the king against the
Jews as to induce him to decree their expulsion, and to threaten with
banishment such Christians as should venture to intercede for them. By
what favorable dispensation they remained in the country is not known.
Though in daily expectation of expatriation, they grew reconciled to
having their habitation on the verge of a volcano. A descendant of the
Italian family of printers, Soncinus, named Gershon Cohen, established
a Hebrew printing office at Prague (about 1503), the first in Germany,
nearly four decades after the foundation of Hebrew printing offices in

The Prague community does not seem to have excelled in learning; for
some time not a single scientific work, not even one on a Talmudic
or rabbinical subject, issued from the press of Gershon; it merely
supplied the needs of the synagogue, whilst Italian and Turkish offices
spread important ancient and contemporary works. We find but one
rabbinical authority mentioned in those days: Jacob Polak (born about
1460, died about 1530), the originator of a new method of Talmud study,
a foreigner, and, with the exception of his namesake Jacob Berab,
in the East, the most profound and sagacious Talmudist of his time.
Curiously enough, the astonishing facility of ingenious disquisition on
the basis of the Talmud (Pilpul), attributed to Polak, which attained
its highest perfection in Poland, proceeded from a native of Poland.

After Italy and Turkey, Poland was in those days a refuge for hunted
and exiled wanderers, chiefly for those from Germany. Here, as well as
in Lithuania, united with Poland under one sovereign, Jews enjoyed a
better position than in the neighboring lands beyond the Vistula and
the Carpathians, though the monk Capistrano had for a while interrupted
the good understanding between the government and the Jews.

Kings and the nobility were, to a certain extent, dependent on them,
and, when other interests did not conflict, generally granted them
privileges, because with their capital and commerce they were able
to turn the territorial wealth of the country into money, and to
supply its inhabitants, poor in coin, with the necessary funds. The
farming of the tolls and the distilleries were mostly in the hands
of Jews. It goes without saying that they also possessed land, and
carried on trades. Against 500 Christian there were 3,200 Jewish
wholesale dealers in Poland, and three times as many artificers,
including workers in gold and silver, smiths and weavers. The statute
of Casimir IV, so favorable to Jews, was still in force. For though,
constrained by the fanatical monk Capistrano, he had abrogated it, yet
in view of the advantages that the crown of Poland derived from the
Jews, he re-enacted the same laws a few years after. The Jews were
generally treated as citizens of the state, and were not compelled to
wear ignominious badges; they were also allowed to carry arms. After
the death of this politic king, two opponents arose against them:
on the one hand, the clergy, who saw in the favored position of the
Polish Jews an offense to Christianity, and on the other, the German
merchants, who, long settled in Polish towns, had brought with them
their guilds and old-fashioned prejudices, and hated the Jewish traders
and artificers from sheer envy. United they succeeded in prejudicing
the successors of Casimir, his sons John Albert and Alexander, against
the Jews, so that their privileges were abolished, and the Jews
themselves confined to particular quarters, or even banished altogether
from certain towns (1496-1505). But the next sovereign, Sigismund
I (1506-1548), was favorably disposed towards them, and repeatedly
protected them against persecution and expulsion. The strongest
supporters, however, of the Polish Jews were the Polish nobility, who
hated the Germans from national and political antipathy, and therefore,
both from policy and inclination, favored the Jews, and used them as
their tools against the arrogant Germans. And since the nobles held
the high official posts, the laws against Jews, to the vexation of the
clergy and the guilds, remained a dead letter. Poland, therefore, was
an asylum much sought after by persecuted Jews. If a Jew who had turned
Christian, or a Christian, wished to become a Jew, he could do so as
freely in Poland as in Turkey.

The rabbis were important agents for the crown. They had the privilege
of collecting the poll-tax from the communities and paying it over
to the state. Therefore, the rabbis of large towns, appointed or
confirmed by the king, became chiefs in the administration of communal
affairs, represented the Jews before the crown, and bore the title
of chief rabbi. The rabbis retained the civil jurisdiction, and
were authorized to banish unworthy members, and even to inflict the
punishment of death. But in Poland, the country which for several
centuries was to become the chief home of the Talmud and the nursery
of Talmudic students and rabbis, which was long enveloped, as it were,
in a Talmudic atmosphere, there were no prominent Talmudists at the
beginning of the sixteenth century; it became the home of the Talmud
only after the immigration of numerous German scholars. Coming from
the districts of the Rhine and Main, from Bavaria, Suabia, Bohemia,
and Austria, swarms of Jewish families settled on the banks of the
Vistula and the Dnieper, having lost their fortunes, but bringing with
them their most precious possessions, which they defended with their
lives, and which they could not be robbed of, namely, their religious
convictions, the customs of their fathers, and their Talmudic learning.
The German rabbinical school, which at home had no breathing-space,
established itself in Poland and Lithuania, in Ruthenia and Volhynia,
spread in all directions, and, impregnated with Slavonic elements,
transformed itself into a peculiar, a Polish school.

But the Jewish-German fugitives transplanted to Poland not only the
knowledge of the Talmud, but also that of the German language, as
then spoken; this they imparted to the native Jews, and it gradually
superseded the Polish or Ruthenian tongue. As the Spanish Jews turned
portions of European and Asiatic Turkey into a new Spain, the German
Jews transformed Poland, Lithuania, and the territories belonging
thereto, into a new Germany. For several centuries, therefore, the
Jews were divided into Spanish and German speaking Jews, the Italian
speaking members being too small in number to count, especially as in
Italy the Jews were compelled to understand either Spanish or German.
The Jews settled in Poland gradually cast off their German awkwardness
and simplicity, but not the language. They honored it as a palladium,
as a holy remembrance; and though in their intercourse with Poles they
made use of the language of the country, in the family circle, and in
their schools and prayers, they adhered to German. They valued it, next
to Hebrew, as a holy language. It was a fortunate thing for the Jews
that at the time when new storms gathered over their heads in Germany,
they found on her borders a country which offered them a hospitable
welcome and protection. For a tempest burst in Germany, which had its
first beginnings in the narrow Jewish circle, but eventually drew on
the Jews the attention of all Christendom. An eventful, historical
birth, which was to change the face of European affairs, lay, so to
speak, in a Jewish manger.



    Antecedents of the Convert John Pfefferkorn--Pfefferkorn and
    the Dominicans of Cologne--Hoogstraten, Ortuinus Gratius
    and Arnold of Tongern--Victor von Karben--Attacks on the
    Talmud and Confiscation of Copies in Frankfort--Reuchlin's
    Hebrew and Kabbalistic Studies--The Controversy concerning
    the Talmud--Activity on both Sides--Public Excitement--
    Complete Victory of Reuchlin's Efforts in Defense of Jewish
    Literature--Ulrich von Hutten--Luther--Revival of Hebrew

1500-1520 C.E.

Who could have anticipated that from the German nation, everywhere
considered heavy and stupid, from the land of lawless knights, of daily
feuds about trifles, of confused political conditions, where everyone
was both despot and slave, mercilessly oppressing his inferiors, and
pitifully cringing to his superiors--who could have anticipated that
from this people and this country would proceed a movement destined
to shake European affairs to their center, create new political
conditions, give the Middle Ages their death-blow, and set its seal
on the dawn of a new historical era? A reformation of church and
politics, such as enlightened minds then dreamt of, was least expected
from Germany. Yet there slumbered latent powers in that country, which
only needed awaking to develop into regenerating forces. The Germans
still adhered to ancient simplicity of life and severity of morals,
pedantic, it is true, and ludicrous in manifestation; whilst the
leading Romance countries, Italy, France and Spain, were suffering from
over-refinement, surfeit and moral corruption. Because the Germans
had retained their original Teutonic dullness, the clergy could not
altogether succeed in infecting them with the poison of their vicious
teaching. Their lower clergy, compared with that of other European
countries, was more chaste and modest. The innate love of family life
and genial association, which the Germans have in common with Jews,
preserved them from that moral depravity to which the Romance nations
had already succumbed. In the educated circles of Italy, especially
at the papal court, Christianity and its doctrines were sneered at;
the political power they conferred alone being valued. But in Germany,
where there was little laughter, except in taverns, Christianity was
treated as a more serious matter; it was looked upon as an ideal, which
had once been alive, and would live again.

But these moral germs in the German race were so deeply buried that
it needed favorable circumstances to bring them to light, and cause
them to stand forth as historical potencies. However much the Germans
themselves may ignore it, the Talmud had a great share in the awakening
of these slumbering forces. We can boldly assert that the war for and
against the Talmud aroused German consciousness, and created a public
opinion, without which the Reformation, like many other efforts, would
have died in the hour of birth, or, perhaps, would never have been
born at all. A paltry grain of sand caused the fall of an avalanche,
which shook the earth around. The instrument of this mighty change
was an ignorant, thoroughly vile creature, the scum of the Jewish
people, who does not deserve to be mentioned in history or literature,
but whom Providence seems to have appointed like some noisome insect
involuntarily to accomplish a useful work.

Joseph Pfefferkorn, a native of Moravia, was by trade a butcher, and,
as may easily be surmised, illiterate. His moral turpitude was even
greater than his ignorance. He committed a burglary, was caught,
condemned to imprisonment by Count de Guttenstein, and released only
at the urgent prayers of his relatives, and on payment of a fine. It
appears that he hoped to wash away this disgrace with baptismal water;
the church was not scrupulous, and received even this despicable
wretch, when at the age of thirty-six he presented himself with wife
and children, to be received into Christianity (about 1505?). He
seems to have been baptized at Cologne; at any rate, he was kept and
made much of by the ignorant, proud and fanatical Dominicans of that
city. Cologne was an owls' nest of light-shunning swaggerers, who
endeavored to obscure the dawn of a bright day with the dark clouds
of superstition, hostile to knowledge. At their head was Hochstraten
(Hoogstraten), an inquisitor or heretic-hunter, a violent, reckless
man, who literally longed for the smell of burning heretics, and in
Spain would have been a useful Torquemada. His counterpart was Arnold
of Tongern (Tungern), a Dominican professor of theology. The third
in the coalition was Ortuin de Graes, of Deventer (who Latinized his
name to Ortuinus Gratius), the son of a clergyman. Ortuin de Graes
entertained so violent a hatred against Jews that it could not have
been due solely to religious zeal. He made it his special business
to stir up the wrath of the Christians by anti-Jewish writings. But
as he was too ignorant to concoct a book or even a pamphlet, he
surrounded himself with baptized Jews, who had to supply him with
materials. A Jew, who, during a persecution or for some reason, had
become a convert to Christianity in his fiftieth year, and assumed
the name of Victor von Karben, though he had but little Hebrew and
rabbinical learning, was dubbed rabbi, in order to give more weight to
his attacks on Judaism and to his confession of Christianity. It is
not precisely known whether Victor von Karben, who sorrowfully stated
that on his conversion he left his wife, three children, brothers and
dear friends, voluntarily or by compulsion reproached the Jews with
hating Christians and reviling Christianity. He supplied Ortuinus
Gratius with materials for accusations against them, their Talmud,
their errors and abominations, which Ortuinus worked up into a book.
But Victor von Karben appears, after all, not to have been of much
service, or he was too old (born 1442, died 1515) to assist in the
execution of a deep scheme, destined to bring profitable business to
the Dominicans, the heresy-judges of men and writings. But they needed
a Jew for this purpose; their own order had not long before got into
rather bad odor. Pfefferkorn was the very man for them. He lent his
name to a new anti-Jewish publication, written in Latin by Ortuinus
Gratius. It was entitled "A Mirror for Admonition," inviting the Jews
to be converted to Christianity. This first anti-Jewish book with
Pfefferkorn's name dealt gently with the Jews, even sought to show the
groundlessness of the frequent accusations with regard to stealing and
murdering Christian children. It entreats Christians not to banish the
Jews, nor to oppress them too heavily, since to a certain extent they
are human beings. But this friendliness was only a mask, a feeler put
forth to gain firm ground. For the Cologne Dominicans aimed at the
confiscation of the Talmudic writings, as in the days of Saint Louis of
France. This was distantly pointed to in Pfefferkorn's first pamphlet,
which endeavored to throw suspicion on the Talmud, and adduced three
reasons to explain the stiff-necked unbelief of Jews: their practice
of usury, the fact that they were not compelled to go to church, and
their attachment to the Talmud. These obstacles once removed, Jews
would throng to church in crowds. The pamphlet, therefore, admonished
princes and people to check the usury of the Jews, to compel them
to attend church and listen to sermons, and to burn the Talmud. It
admitted that it is not just to infringe upon the Jews' claim to
their writings, but Christians did not hesitate, in certain cases, to
do violence to Jews, and compared with that the confiscation of the
Talmudic books was a venial offense. This was the sole object of the
pamphlet under Pfefferkorn's name. It was generally believed in Germany
that the Cologne owls expected to do a good stroke of business; if
they could induce the ruling powers to sequestrate all copies of the
Talmud, Dominicans, as inquisitors, would have the disposal of them,
and the Jews, who could not do without the Talmud, would pour their
wealth into Dominican coffers to have the confiscation annulled. Hence,
in the succeeding two years, still putting Pfefferkorn forward as the
author, they published several pamphlets, wherein it was asserted to
be a Christian duty to expel all Jews, like so many mangy dogs. If the
princes would not do so, the people were to take the matter into their
own hands, solicit their rulers to deprive the Jews of all their books
except the Bible, forcibly take from them all pledges, above all, see
that their children be brought up as Christians, and expel the adults
as incorrigible rogues. It was no sin to do the worst to Jews, as they
were not freemen, but body and soul the property of the princes. If
they refused to listen to the prayer of their subjects, the people were
to assemble in masses, even create a riot, and impetuously demand the
fulfillment of the Christian duty of degrading the Jews. The masses
were to declare themselves champions of Christ, and carry out his will.
Whoso did an injury to Jews was a follower of Christ; whoso favored
them was worse than they, and would hereafter be punished with eternal
suffering and hell fire.

But Pfefferkorn, Ortuinus Gratius and the Cologne Dominicans had come
too late in the day. Riots for the killing of Jews, though they were no
less hated and despised than in the times of the crusades and of the
Black Death, were no longer the fashion. Princes were little disposed
to expel the Jews, since with them a regular revenue would disappear.
Zeal for the conversion of Jews had considerably cooled down; in fact,
many Christians pointed scornfully at baptized Jews, saying that they
resembled clean linen: as long as it is fresh the eye delights in it,
after a few days' wear it is cast aside as soiled. Thus a converted
Jew, immediately after his baptism, is cherished by the Christians;
when some days have passed he is neglected, avoided, and finally made
sport of.

The German Jews, dreading new dangers from Pfefferkorn's zeal,
endeavored to thwart him. Jewish physicians, usually held in high
favor at the courts of princes, appear to have exerted their influence
with their patrons to show the falsity of Pfefferkorn's accusations,
and to render them ineffectual. Even Christians manifested their
dissatisfaction with the machinations of the baptized Jew, and loudly
proclaimed Pfefferkorn to be a worthless fellow and a hypocrite, who
was not to be believed, his object being simply to delude the foolish,
and fill his own purse. He, therefore, published a new pamphlet
(March, 1509), which he impudently entitled "The Enemy of the Jews."
This venomous libel reiterated all his former accusations, and showed
how the Jews, by charging interest on interest, impoverished the
Christians. He blackened the character of Jewish physicians, saying
that they were quacks, who endangered the lives of their Christian
patients. It was, therefore, necessary to expel the Jews from
Germany, as Emperor Maximilian had driven them from Austria, Styria
and Carinthia; or if allowed to remain, they were to be employed in
cleansing the streets, sweeping chimneys, removing filth and carrion,
and in similar occupations. But, above all, every copy of the Talmud,
and all books relating to their religion, the Bible excepted, were to
be taken from them. In order effectually to carry out this step, house
to house visitation was to be made, and the Jews were to be compelled,
if necessary by torture, to surrender their books. Ortuinus Gratius had
a hand in the drawing up of this pamphlet, too.

These venomous writings in German and Latin were but means and
preliminaries to a plan which was to realize the hopes of the
Dominicans of Cologne, the public burning of the theological books
of the Jews, or their conversion into a source of profit. They urged
Emperor Maximilian, who did not easily lend himself to the commission
of a deed of violence, to deliver the Jews, together with their books
and purses, to their tender mercies. For this purpose they called in
the aid of the bigotry of an unfortunate princess.

Kunigunde, the beautiful sister of Maximilian and favorite daughter of
Emperor Frederick, in her youth had been the cause of much affliction
to her aged sire. Without her father's knowledge she had married his
declared enemy, the Bavarian duke, Albert of Munich. For a long time
her deeply offended father would not allow her name to be mentioned.
When her husband died in the prime of manhood (1508), his widow,
perhaps repenting her youthful error, entered a Franciscan convent at
Munich. She became abbess of the nuns of Sancta Clara, and castigated
her body. The Dominicans hoped to turn to good purpose the gloomy
character of this princess. They furnished Pfefferkorn with letters
of introduction to her. With poisoned words he was to detail to her
the shameful doings of the Jews, their blasphemies against Jesus,
Mary, the apostles and the church in general, and to demonstrate to
her that the Jewish books which contained all these abominations
deserved to be destroyed. A woman, moreover a superstitious one, whose
mind has been dulled in convent walls, is easily persuaded. Kunigunde
readily believed the calumnies against the Jews and their religious
literature, especially as they were uttered by a former Jew, who could
not but be acquainted with their habits and wickedness, and who assured
her that after the destruction of the Jewish books all Hebrews would
gradually be converted to Christianity. Pfefferkorn easily obtained
from the bigoted nun what he wanted. She gave him a pressing letter to
her imperial brother, conjuring him to put a stop to Jewish blasphemies
against Christianity, and to issue a decree that all their writings,
except the Bible, be taken from the Jews and burnt, lest the sins of
blasphemy daily committed by them fall on his crowned head. Furnished
with this missive, Pfefferkorn straightway went to Italy, to the camp
of the emperor.

The fanatical letter of Kunigunde and the calumnies of Pfefferkorn
succeeded in extorting from Maximilian a mandate, dated August 19th,
1509, giving the baptized miscreant full power over Jews. He was
authorized to examine Hebrew writings anywhere in the German empire,
and to destroy all whose contents were hostile to the Bible and the
Christian faith. The Jews were enjoined, under heavy penalties to
person and property, to offer no resistance, but to submit their
books to Pfefferkorn's examination. Pfefferkorn, with the emperor's
authority, returned triumphantly to Germany, to open his campaign
against Jewish books or Jewish purses. He began his business, which
promised profit, with the community at Frankfort, then the most
important of Germany, where many Talmud scholars, consequently many
copies of that work, besides many rich Jews, were to be found. On
Pfefferkorn's demand, the senate assembled all the Jews in the
synagogue, and communicated to them the emperor's order to surrender
their books.

In the presence of clergymen and members of the senate, all
prayer-books found in the synagogue were confiscated. It happened to
be the eve of the Feast of Tabernacles (Friday, September 28th).
By his own authority, or pretending to hold it from the emperor,
Pfefferkorn forbade the Jews to attend the synagogue on the day of
the feast; he intended to hold a house to house visitation on that
day, for he was very anxious to get hold of copies of the Talmud. The
clergymen present, however, were not so inconsiderate as to turn the
feast of the Jews into mourning, but deferred the search for books
till the following Monday. How did the Jews act? That they dared
protest against this arbitrary proceeding proves that a new order of
things had arisen. No longer as formerly in Germany did they submit,
with the dumb submission of lambs, to spoliation and death. They
appealed to the charters of various popes and emperors, granting them
religious liberty, which included possession of their prayer-books
and text-books. They demanded a delay of the confiscation in order
to appeal to the emperor and the supreme court of judicature. The
directors of the community of Frankfort immediately sent a deputy to
the elector and archbishop of Mayence, Uriel von Gemmingen, in whose
diocese Frankfort was situate, to induce him to forbid the clergy to
co-operate in this injustice. When Pfefferkorn began his house to
house visitation, the Jews protested so energetically that it had to
be deferred until the senate decided whether or not their objection
was to be allowed. The decision of the sapient senate was unfavorable;
but when the confiscation was about to be commenced, a letter from the
archbishop arrived, prohibiting the clergy from lending Pfefferkorn
any assistance. This frustrated the scheme; for the senators also
withdrew from the transaction as soon as they knew that the highest
ecclesiastical dignitary in Germany sided with the Jews. The latter
were not idle. For, though they did not know that the powerful
Dominicans stood behind Pfefferkorn, they suspected that persons,
hostile to the Jews, used this spiteful wretch to stir up persecution
against them. They at once dispatched a defender of their cause to
the emperor, and another to the German communities, far and near, to
appoint a general synod, to be summoned for the succeeding month, to
consider what steps should be taken, and to raise funds.

Temporarily this unpleasant business seemed to take a turn favorable to
the Jews. The senate of Frankfort remained passive, except in laying
an embargo on the packets of books belonging to Jewish booksellers,
and forbidding their sale. The conduct of the archbishop was what
benefited them most. Either from a sense of justice--he was generally
fair in his dealings--from a kindly feeling for the Jews, from a
dislike of Dominican heretic-hunting, or, finally, from jealousy of
the emperor's interference with his functions, in giving so miserable
a wretch as Pfefferkorn spiritual jurisdiction in his diocese, Uriel
von Gemmingen took the part of the Jews. He addressed a letter to the
emperor (October 5th), wherein he gently insinuated that he was to
blame for having given full powers to so ignorant a man as Pfefferkorn,
and asserted that to his knowledge no blasphemous or anti-Christian
writings were in the possession of the Jews of his diocese, and
hinted that if the emperor absolutely insisted on the examination and
confiscation of Hebrew literature, he must employ an expert. He was so
zealous on behalf of the Jews as to write to Von Hutten, his agent at
the imperial court, to assist the Jews in laying their case before the
emperor. In the meantime, not to betray his partisanship, he invited
Pfefferkorn to Aschaffenburg, and informed him that his mandate from
the emperor was faulty in form, whereby it became ineffectual, for the
Jews would dispute its validity.

At this interview the name of Reuchlin was mentioned for the first
time, whether by the archbishop or by Pfefferkorn is uncertain. It was
suggested to request the emperor to appoint Reuchlin and Victor von
Karben Pfefferkorn's coadjutors in the examination of Jewish books.
Pfefferkorn, or the Dominican friars themselves, thought it necessary
to secure the co-operation of a man whose learning, character and high
position would render their proceedings more effective. Reuchlin, the
pride of Germany, was to be made their associate, so as to disarm
possible opponents. It was part of their scheme, too, to throw
discredit, in one way or another, on the man whom obscurantists looked
upon with disfavor, and who, to their vexation, first stimulated German
and then European Christians in general to study the Hebrew language.
But by these very artifices Pfefferkorn and his patrons not only spoilt
their game, but raised a storm, which in less than a decade shook the
whole edifice of the Catholic Church. It was justly said afterwards
that the semi-Jewish Christian had done more injury to Christianity
than all the blasphemous writings of the Jews could have done. John
Reuchlin assisted in making the transition from the Middle Ages to
modern times, and, therefore, his name is famous in the annals of the
sixteenth century; but in Jewish history also he deserves honorable

John Reuchlin, of Pforzheim (born 1455, died 1522), or Capnion, as
his admirers, the students of the _humaniora_, called him, with his
younger contemporary, Erasmus of Rotterdam, delivered Germany from
the reproach of barbarism. By their example and incitement they
proved that, with regard to knowledge of ancient Greek and Latin, a
pure style and humanistic culture in general, Germans could not only
rival, but surpass Italians. Besides his astonishing learning in
classical literature and his elegant diction, Reuchlin had a pure,
upright character, nobility of mind, integrity which was proof against
temptation, admirable love of truth, and a soft heart. More versatile
than Erasmus, his younger colleague, in preparing for and spreading
humanistic and esthetic culture in Germany, Reuchlin also devoted
himself to the study of Hebrew to acquire mastery of the language
blessed by God, and thus emulate his pattern, the Church Father Jerome.
His love for Hebrew grew into enthusiasm, when on his second journey to
Rome he became acquainted at Florence with the learned youth, Pico di
Mirandola, Italy's prodigy, and learned from him what deep, marvelous
secrets lay hidden in the Hebrew sources of the Kabbala. After that
Reuchlin thirsted for Hebrew literature, but could not quench his
thirst. He could not even obtain a printed copy of the Hebrew Bible.
Only in his mature age he found opportunities of acquiring a more
profound knowledge of Hebrew. During his stay at Linz, at the court
of the aged emperor, Frederick III, he made the acquaintance of the
imperial physician and Jewish knight, Jacob Loans; and this Jewish
scholar became his teacher of Hebrew language and literature.

Reuchlin devoted every hour that he could snatch from his avocations
at court to this study, and mastered it so thoroughly that he was soon
able to do without a teacher. His genius for languages stood him in
good stead, and enabled him to overcome difficulties. He endeavored to
turn to speedy account the Hebrew learning acquired with such zeal.
He wrote a small work, "The Wonderful Word," a spirited panegyric
of the Hebrew language, its simplicity, depth and divine character.
"The language of the Hebrews is simple, uncorrupted, holy, terse and
vigorous; God confers in it direct with men, and men with angels,
without interpreters, face to face, ... as one friend converses with
another." A Jew devoted to the antiquities of his race could not
have spoken more enthusiastically. The work consists of a series
of discussions between an Epicurean philosopher, a Jewish sage
(Baruchias), and a Christian (Capnion), and its object is to prove that
the wisdom of all nations, the symbols of pagan religions and the forms
of their worship are but misconceptions and travesties of Hebrew truth,
mysteriously concealed in the words, in the very shapes of the letters
of the Hebrew tongue.

Reuchlin may have felt that his knowledge of Hebrew still left much
to be desired; he, therefore, as ambassador of the elector palatine,
whom he represented at the court of Pope Alexander VI (1498-1500),
continued his study of Hebrew literature. Obadiah Sforno, of Cesena,
then residing at Rome, became Reuchlin's second teacher of Hebrew. Thus
the German humanist, already a famous man, whose Latin discourses were
the admiration of Italians, sat at the feet of a Jew to perfect himself
in Hebrew, nor did he disdain to accept instruction from a Jew whenever
the opportunity offered, so highly did he esteem the Hebrew language.

Being the only Christian in Germany, or we may say in all Europe,
sufficiently familiar with the sacred language, Reuchlin's numerous
friends urged him to compile a Hebrew grammar, to enable the studiously
inclined to instruct themselves. The first Hebrew grammar by a
Christian, which Reuchlin designated as "a memorial more lasting than
brass" (finished in March, 1506), was a somewhat poor affair. It gave
only the essentials of pronunciation and etymology, together with a
vocabulary, the imperfections of which need not surprise us, as it is
the work of a beginner. But the grammar produced important results:
it aroused a taste for Hebrew studies in a large circle of scholars,
who thenceforth zealously devoted themselves to it; and these studies
supplied a new factor towards the Lutheran Reformation. A number of
disciples of Reuchlin, such as Sebastian Münster and Widmannstadt,
followed in his footsteps, and raised the Hebrew language to the level
of Greek.

But though Reuchlin went down into the Jews' lane to carry off a hidden
treasure, he was at first no less intensely prejudiced against the
Jewish race than his contemporaries. Forgetful of its former glory,
and blind to the solid kernel, because enveloped in a repulsive shell,
Reuchlin looked on the Jewish people as utterly barbarous, devoid of
all artistic taste, superstitious, mean and depraved. He solemnly
declared that he was far from favoring the Jews. Like his pattern,
Jerome, he testified to his thorough-going hatred of them. At the same
time as his Hebrew grammar he wrote an epistle, in which he traced all
the misery of the Jews to their blind unbelief, instead of looking for
its source in Christians' want of charity towards them. Reuchlin, no
less than Pfefferkorn, charged the Jews with blasphemy against Jesus,
Mary, the apostles and Christians in general; but a time came when he
regretted this indiscreet lucubration of his youth. For his heart did
not share the prejudices of his head. Whenever he met individual Jews,
he gave them his affection, or at least his esteem; he probably found
that they were better than Christians represented them to be. His sense
of justice did not allow him to let wrong be done to them, much less to
help in doing it.

When Pfefferkorn and the Cologne Dominicans approached Reuchlin, he
was at the zenith of his life and fame. High and low honored him for
his rectitude; Emperor Frederick had ennobled him; Emperor Maximilian
appointed him counselor and judge of the Suabian League; the circle
of humanists, the order of free spirits within and without Germany,
loved, worshiped, almost deified him. Though hitherto no shadow of
heresy had fallen on Reuchlin, who was on the best of terms with the
Dominicans, yet the friends of darkness instinctively saw in him their
secret enemy. His cultivation of science and classical literature, his
anxiety for an elegant Latin style, his enthusiasm for Greek, by which
all Germany had been infected, and worse than all, his introduction of
Hebrew, his preference for "Hebrew truth," for the Hebrew text over
the corrupt Latin Vulgate, which the church held as canonical and
unassailable, were considered by the obscurantists as crimes, for which
the Inquisition could not, indeed, directly prosecute him, but which
secured him a place in their black book.

The order given to Pfefferkorn, the secret agent of the Dominicans
of Cologne, to implicate Reuchlin in the examination of blasphemous
Jewish writings, as said above, was a cunningly devised trap. On his
second journey to the imperial camp, Pfefferkorn waited on Reuchlin at
his own house, endeavored to make him a confederate in his venomous
schemes against the Jews, and showed him the imperial mandate. Reuchlin
declined the proposal somewhat hesitatingly, though he approved of
destroying Jewish libels on Christianity; but he pointed out that
the emperor's mandate was faulty in form, and that, therefore, the
authorities would not willingly enforce it. Reuchlin is said to have
hinted that, if invited to do so, he would interest himself in the
matter. Pfefferkorn, in consequence, applied to the emperor for a
second mandate, correct in form and unassailable. But the Jews had not
been idle in endeavors to induce the emperor to revoke the mandate and
restore their books.

The community of Frankfort had appointed Jonathan Levi Zion, a zealous
member, to advocate their case with the emperor. The community of
Ratisbon also had sent an agent to the imperial court. Isaac Triest,
a man greatly beloved by the persons surrounding the emperor, took
great pains to frustrate Pfefferkorn's plans. The Jewish advocates
were supported by influential Christians, including the representative
of the archbishop and the Margrave of Baden. They first adduced the
charters guaranteeing religious liberty, granted to the Jews by
emperors and popes, in accordance with which even the emperor had no
right to interfere with the management of their private affairs, or to
attack their property in the shape of religious books. They did not
fail to inform the emperor that their accuser was a worthless person, a
thief and burglar. The Jewish advocates thought that they had attained
their end. The emperor had listened to their petition in an audience,
and promised them a speedy reply. Their friendly reception led them
to look for an immediate settlement of this painful affair; moreover,
it was a good omen that Uriel von Gemmingen, their protector, was
appointed commissary.

But they did not understand Maximilian's vacillating character. As soon
as Pfefferkorn appeared before him, armed with another autograph letter
from his sister, wherein the ultra-pious nun conjured him not to injure
Christianity by the revocation of his mandate, the scales were turned
against the Jews. The emperor was in reality secretly piqued that the
despised Jews of Frankfort, in contempt of his mandate, had refused to
give up the books found in their houses.

He thereupon issued a second mandate (November 10th, 1509), wherein he
reproached the Jews with having offered resistance, and ordered the
confiscation to be continued. But he appointed Archbishop Uriel as
commissioner, and advised him to obtain counsel from the universities
of Cologne, Mayence, Erfurt and Heidelberg, and to associate with
himself learned men, such as Reuchlin, Victor von Karben, and the
inquisitor, Hoogstraten, who was wholly ignorant of Hebrew. With this
mandate in his pocket, Pfefferkorn hastened back to the scene of his
activity, the Rhenish provinces. Archbishop Uriel appointed Hermann
Hess, chancellor of the University of Mayence, his delegate, to direct
the confiscation of Jewish books. Accompanied by him, Pfefferkorn
again repaired to Frankfort, and the book-hunt began afresh. Fifteen
hundred manuscripts, including those already seized, were taken from
the Frankfort Jews, and deposited in the town hall.

Worse than the emperor's vacillating conduct was the apathy shown by
the large communities of Germany in the appointment of delegates to a
conference to discuss and frustrate the malicious plans of Pfefferkorn,
or rather, of the Dominicans. Smaller communities had contributed
their share towards the expenses occasioned by this serious matter,
but the larger and richer communities of Rothenburg on the Tauber,
Weissenburg and Fürth, on which the Jews of Frankfort had counted most,
displayed deplorable indifference. But when, in consequence of the
second mandate, Jewish books were confiscated not only at Frankfort
but also in other communities, more active interest was manifested.
First the Frankfort senate was influenced in their favor. The Jewish
booksellers were accustomed to bring their bales of books for sale to
the spring Fair at Frankfort. Pfefferkorn threatened to confiscate
these also, but the senate of Frankfort refused to assist in the
measure, being unwilling to break the laws regulating the Fair. The
Jewish booksellers, moreover, had safe-conducts each from the prince
of his own country, protecting not only their persons, but also their
property. The archbishop maintained sullen silence, but was inclined
to favor the Jews. He did not call together the learned men whom the
emperor had mentioned to examine the Jewish books, and did no more
than he could help. Many princes, also, whose eyes had been opened
to the ultimate results of this strange confiscation, seem to have
made representations to the emperor. Public opinion was particularly
severe on Pfefferkorn. But he and the Dominicans were not idle; they
endeavored to win over the emperor and public opinion, and it is
remarkable that the enemies of publicity should have opened the mouth
of that hitherto silent arbitress, and rendered her powerful.

For this purpose there appeared another anti-Jewish pamphlet, with
Pfefferkorn's name on the title-page, entitled, "In Praise and Honor of
Emperor Maximilian." It blew clouds of incense into the emperor's face,
and regretted that the charges against the Jews, from indifference and
ignorance, were so little noticed in Christian circles. It reasserted
that the Talmud, the usury of the Jews, and their facilities for
making money, were the causes of their obstinately refusing to become
Christians. Thus the Cologne Dominicans--always standing behind
Pfefferkorn--by means of public opinion again attempted to put moral
pressure on Maximilian.

But this public opinion must have spoken so strongly in favor of
the Jews, that Maximilian was induced to take a step unusual for an
emperor, namely, in a measure revoke his former commands, by directing
the senate of Frankfort to restore to the Jews their books (May 23d,
1510), "till the completion of our purpose and the inspection of
the books." Great was the joy of the Jews. They had escaped a great
danger: not their religious books only, so dear to their hearts, but
their position in the Holy Roman Empire had been at stake, since
the Dominicans, in case of success, would not have stopped at the
confiscation of books, but would have inflicted new humiliations and

But the Jews triumphed too soon; the Dominicans and their confederate
and tool, Pfefferkorn, would not so readily surrender the advantages
already secured. A regrettable occurrence in the Mark of Brandenburg
supplied fresh energy to their machinations, and a pretext for
formulating an accusation. A thief had stolen some sacred emblems from
a church, and when questioned as to the holy wafer, he confessed having
sold it to Jews in the Brandenburg district. Of course, the thief
was believed, and the bishop of Brandenburg entered on the persecution
of the Jews with fiery fanaticism. The elector of Brandenburg, Joachim
I, an ardent heretic-hunter, had the accused brought to Berlin. The
accusation of reviling the host was soon supplemented by the charge of
infanticide. Joachim had the Jews tortured, and then ordered thirty to
be burnt. With firmness, songs of praise on their lips, these martyrs
of Brandenburg met their fiery deaths (July 19th, 1510), except two,
who, with the fear of the stake upon them, submitted to baptism, and
suffered the seemingly more honorable fate of being beheaded. This is
the first mention of Jews in Berlin and Brandenburg. The occurrence
made a great stir in Germany, and the Cologne Dominicans employed it
to induce the emperor to issue a new mandate for the confiscation of
Jewish books, seeing that to the Talmud alone could be attributed
the alleged hostility of the Jews to Christianity. They sheltered
themselves behind the same go-between; the bigoted nun, the ducal
abbess Kunigunde, to whom the diabolical wickedness of the Jews, as
revealed by the above occurrence, was presented in most glaring colors,
was again to influence the emperor. The Dominicans suggested to her how
detrimental to Christianity must be the fact that the host-reviling and
child-murdering Jews could boast of having had their books restored
to them by order of the emperor, who thus, to a certain extent,
approved of the abuse of Christianity which they contained. The abbess
thereupon fairly assailed her brother, and at their interview at Munich
besought him on her knees to reconsider the matter of the Jewish books.
Maximilian was perplexed. He was loath to refuse his dearly beloved
sister what she had so much at heart; on the other hand, he was not
highly edified by Pfefferkorn's tissue of lies about the Jews. He found
an expedient to appear just to both parties. He issued a new mandate,
the fourth in this affair (July 6th, 1510), addressed to Archbishop
Uriel, directing him to resume the inquiry, but in another form. The
indictment was not to be considered as proved, but was to be thoroughly
investigated. The archbishop of Mayence was to take the opinions of the
German universities named, and also of Reuchlin, Victor von Karben and
Hoogstraten, to whom the emperor sent a special summons in official
form. The final decision as to the character of the Jewish writings
was to be communicated to him by Pfefferkorn, the originator of the
inquiry. The Jews had reason to look forward with anxiety to the issue;
their weal and woe depended on it.

It was fortunate for the Jews that the honest, truthful Reuchlin, so
enthusiastically prepossessed for Hebrew and Kabbalistic literature,
was asked to give his opinion of Jewish literature. The Cologne
Dominicans, who had proposed him, thereby frustrated their own design,
and as a further effect made him the enemy of their hostile endeavors.
As soon as Reuchlin received the emperor's command, he set to work to
answer the question, "Whether it was godly, laudable, and advantageous
to Christianity to burn the Jewish writings," whereby the Talmud
especially was meant. His judgment was extremely favorable to the
writings in question, nor did he miss the chance of bestowing sundry
side blows on the vile instigator Pfefferkorn. Jewish literature, the
mistress of his heart, was to be charged as a culprit, and should he
fail to defend her with all the powers of his mind? Reuchlin's opinion
is conceived in the pedantic, heavy, juridical style then prevailing,
but does not lack ability. He started from the correct point of
view, that, in answering the question, the Jewish writings were not
to be treated in the aggregate as a homogeneous literature, but
that, excluding the Bible, they were to be divided into six classes.
The class of exegetic works, such as those by R. Solomon (Rashi),
Ibn-Ezra, the Kimchis, Moses Gerundensis and Levi ben Gershon, far from
being detrimental to Christianity, he declared to be indispensable to
Christian theology, the most learned Christian commentators of the Old
Testament having taken the best of their work from the Jews, as from
fountains whence flow the real truth and understanding of the Holy
Scriptures. If from the voluminous writings of Nicholas de Lyra, the
best Christian exegetist, all borrowed from Rashi were to be excised,
the part left, which he himself had composed, might be comprised in
a few pages. He, indeed, considered it a disgrace that many doctors
of divinity, from ignorance of Hebrew and Greek, interpreted the
Scriptures wrongly. The class of Hebrew writings on philosophy, natural
sciences and the liberal arts were in no way distinguished from what
might be found in Greek, Latin, or German works. With regard to the
Talmud, against which the chief accusation was laid, Reuchlin confessed
his inability to understand it; but other learned Christians understood
no more of it than they might learn from its accusers, including
Pfefferkorn. He was acquainted with many who condemned the Talmud
without understanding it. But could one write against mathematics
without having knowledge thereof? He was, therefore, of opinion that
the Talmud was not to be burnt, even if it were true that it contained
libels on the founders of Christianity. "If the Talmud were deserving
of such condemnation, our ancestors of many hundred years ago, whose
zeal for Christianity was much greater than ours, would have burnt it.
The baptized Jews, Peter Schwarz and Pfefferkorn, the only persons who
insist on its being burnt, probably wish it for private reasons."

To defend Kabbalistic writings, and save them from being burnt, was
easy enough. Reuchlin had but to point to occurrences at the papal
court, scarcely two decades ago. The learned and eccentric Count Pico
di Mirandola had aroused enthusiastic admiration for the Kabbala,
maintaining that it contained the most solid foundation of the chief
doctrines of Christianity. Sixtus IV had caused some of the Kabbalistic
writings to be translated into Latin. Reuchlin concluded his opinion
by advising that their books should not be taken from the Jews, nor
burnt, but that at every German university two professors of Hebrew be
appointed for ten years, who might also be asked to teach modern, or
rabbinical Hebrew; and thus the Jews might be led by gentle means and
by conviction to embrace Christianity.

Unquestionably, since Jews had been ill-used and persecuted by
Christians, they had not found so friendly an advocate as Reuchlin,
who declared himself in their favor in an official document, intended
for the chancellor of the empire, and the emperor himself. Two points
on which Reuchlin laid stress were especially important to Jews. The
first was, that the Jews were citizens of the Holy Roman Empire, and
were entitled to its full privileges and protection. This was the first
stammering utterance of that liberating word of perfect equality,
which required more than three centuries for its perfect enunciation
and acknowledgment. The mediæval delusion, that the Jews, by Vespasian
and Titus' conquest of Jerusalem, had become the bondmen of their
successors, the Roman and German emperors, was hereby partly dispelled.
The recognition that Jews also had rights, which the emperor and the
state, the clergy and the laity must respect, was the first faint,
trembling ray of light after a long, dark night. The second point,
which Reuchlin emphasized more positively, was of equal importance:
that the Jews must not be considered or treated as heretics. Since they
stood without the church, and were not bound to hold the Christian
faith, the ideas of heresy and unbelief--those terrifying and lethal
anathemas of the Middle Ages--did not apply to them.

Of what use this judgment of Reuchlin was to the Jews, we discover
by the decision of the faculties consulted--faculties to whom the
Talmud, of course, was a book with seven seals. The Cologne Dominicans
in a body, the theological faculty, the inquisitor Hoogstraten, and
the gray-haired convert Victor von Karben, all mouthpieces of one
mind, did not trouble themselves to prove that the Talmud was hostile
to Christianity; they assumed it, and, therefore, quickly arrived at
their decision, that the Talmudic writings, and all others, probably
of the same stamp, were to be seized and burnt. But they went further;
Hoogstraten, in particular, had the assurance to say that the Jews
should be indicted. Experts were to extract and arrange heretical
passages from the Talmud and other Jewish books; then the Jews were to
be questioned whether or not they admitted the perniciousness of books
containing such doctrines. If they admitted it, they could raise no
objection to have them committed to the flames. If they obstinately
persevered in treating such passages as portions of their creed, the
emperor was to surrender them as convicted heretics for punishment to
the Inquisition.

The faculty of the university of Mayence delivered a similar sentence,
but went much further. They pronounced not only all Talmudic and
rabbinical writings to be full of errors and heresy, but that even
the Scriptures must have been contaminated and corrupted by them,
especially in articles of faith, wherefore these were to be taken
from the Jews, examined, and if their expectation was realized, the
Jewish Bibles were to be thrown into the flames. This was a cunning
device, because the Hebrew text of the Bible does not agree with the
Latin Vulgate, the work of bunglers, used by the church. It was like
arraigning an immaculate mother before her degenerate daughter, and
telling her that if she did not adopt the vices of the latter, she did
not deserve to exist. And it was a clever trick on the part of the
Dominicans to get rid of the inconvenient Hebrew text, the "Hebrew
truth," majestically shaking its head at the childish trifling of
clerical interpretations. Had the theologians of Mayence and Cologne
succeeded in enforcing their views, the Book received on Sinai, the
words of the Prophets, the Psalms, monuments of a time of grace, would
have been cast upon a blazing pyre, and a bastard, the corrupt Latin
Vulgate, substituted for it. The Dominicans appear to have suspected
that the plain sense of the words of the Bible would bring ruin upon
them. Fortunately, the Cologne Dominicans themselves defeated their
cunningly laid plan by an act of villainy.

Reuchlin had sent his opinion on Jewish literature in a sealed packet,
and by a sworn messenger, to Archbishop Uriel, assuming that, being an
official secret, it would be opened and read only by the archbishop and
the emperor. But Pfefferkorn, who believed himself to be on the eve
of avenging himself on the Jews, had it open in his hand even before
the emperor had read it. How this occurred has never been cleared up.
Reuchlin in plain words denounced the Cologne priests as unscrupulous
seal-breakers. We ought almost to be grateful to them for having
dragged an affair, originally enveloped in official secrecy, into
publicity, thereby calling in another tribunal, and turning the peril
of the Jews into a peril to the church. They had grown desperate over
Reuchlin's opinion, because his voice had great weight with the emperor
and his advisers. Therefore, the Dominicans, armed at all points, set
to work to publish a refutation of Reuchlin's defense of the Jews and
their books. It was written in German to render the cause popular, and
incense the multitude so as to render it impossible for the emperor to
listen to Reuchlin.

This libel, entitled "Handspiegel," spread abroad in thousands of
copies, on a man so highly placed and honored, a judge of the Suabian
League, a scholar of eminence, naturally caused a great sensation.
Since the invention of printing it was the first furious attack on a
dignitary, and being written in German, every one could understand
it. Reuchlin's numerous friends were indignant at the insolence of
a baptized Jew, who pretended to be more sound in faith than a born
Christian in good standing. The Cologne Dominicans had permitted
themselves to be guided by their envenomed hatred rather than by
prudence. Reuchlin was compelled to take steps against such attacks,
by which his honor was too deeply wounded for silence. He hastened to
the emperor, and complained of Pfefferkorn, the rancorous calumniator,
the ostensible author of the "Handspiegel." The emperor, by words and
gestures, betrayed his indignation, and quieted the excited Reuchlin
by the promise that the matter should be inquired into by the bishop
of Augsburg. But amidst the press of business, in the confusion of
Italian quarrels, the emperor forgot Reuchlin, the mortification he
had suffered, and the redress promised him. The Frankfort autumn Fair
was approaching, at which Pfefferkorn intended to offer for sale the
remainder of the copies, and nothing had been done for or by Reuchlin.

Thus Reuchlin was compelled to make the Talmud a personal question, to
appeal to public opinion, and thereby render the matter one of almost
universal interest. He prepared a defensive and offensive reply to
the "Handspiegel" for the Frankfort Fair. At the end of August, or
beginning of September, 1511, his controversial pamphlet, entitled
"Augenspiegel" (or Spectacles, a pair of spectacles being represented
on the title-page), which has acquired historical celebrity, made its
appearance. He designed to reveal to the German public the villainy
of Pfefferkorn and his coadjutors, but unconsciously he revealed the
defects of the Christianity of his time. It was a pamphlet which, we
may say without exaggeration, was equivalent to a great action. It was
directed against Pfefferkorn, and by implication against the Cologne
Dominicans, the patrons and instigators of his calumnies. It relates
in plain, honest language the progress of the whole affair: how the
baptized "Jew" had made every effort to prove the Talmud dangerous,
desiring to have it burnt, and had meant to turn Reuchlin to account
in the matter. He publishes the missives of the emperor and of the
archbishop addressed to him, and also his "Opinion." He reports how
Pfefferkorn by dishonest means obtained possession of the "Opinion,"
and misused it to concoct a libel, containing no less than thirty-four
untruths about him (Reuchlin). The tone of the "Augenspiegel" expresses
the just indignation of a man of honor against a villain who has set a
trap for him.

What roused the indignation of Reuchlin most was the charge that he had
been bribed to write his defense of the Talmud. With honest anger he
protested that at no time during his whole existence had he received
from Jews, or on their behalf, a single penny, or any other reward.
No less hurt was Reuchlin at the contempt expressed for his Hebrew
scholarship, especially at the accusation that he had not himself
composed his Hebrew grammar. His defense of the Jews is dignified. The
scoundrel Pfefferkorn had reproached him with having learnt Hebrew from
Jews, with whom, then, he must have had intercourse in defiance of
the canon law. Thereupon Reuchlin says: "The baptized Jew writes that
Divine law forbids our holding communion with Jews; this is not true.
Every Christian may go to law with them, buy of or make presents to
them. Cases may occur where Christians inherit legacies together with
Jews. It is allowed to converse with and learn from them, as Saint
Jerome and Nicholas de Lyra did. And lastly, a Christian should love a
Jew as his neighbor; all this is founded on the law."

It may be imagined what excitement was created by Reuchlin's
"Augenspiegel," written in German, when it appeared at the Frankfort
Fair, the meeting-place of hundreds of thousands, at a time when
there was no public press, and everyone readily lent his ear to a
scandalous tale. To find that so distinguished a man as Reuchlin would
set an accuser of the Jews in the pillory as a calumniator and liar,
was something so new and surprising as to make readers rub their
eyes, and ask themselves whether they had not hitherto been dozing.
The Jews greedily bought a book in which for the first time a man
of honor entered the lists on their behalf, and with powerful voice
stigmatized the charges against them as calumnies. They rejoiced at
having found a champion, and thanked God that He had not forsaken them
in their tribulation. Who would find fault with them for laboring in
the promulgation of Reuchlin's pamphlet? But by preaching against it
in their pulpits, and by prohibiting its sale as far as they could,
bigoted priests of the stamp of the Cologne Dominicans did most to
disseminate it. From all directions, in learned and unlearned circles,
congratulations were sent to Reuchlin, with expressions of satisfaction
that he had so boldly and firmly settled the impudent Pfefferkorn and
his abettors.

With the publication and circulation of Reuchlin's treatise, and his
defense of the Talmud, commenced a struggle which every day became more
serious, and at last assumed far greater proportions than the subject
justified. For the bigots, still in the full power of their terrorizing
might, did not hesitate to take up the challenge. Pfefferkorn's cause
was also theirs. Yet a man had dared step forward boldly, not only to
disapprove of the condemnation of the Talmud, but also to declare that
the persecution of the Jews was unchristianlike; and that they ought,
on the contrary, to be treated with sympathy and love. What audacity!
It aroused in them such virtuous indignation that they shot beyond
the mark, and committed such blunders that they damaged their cause

Pastor Peter Meyer, of Frankfort-on-the-Main, who had not been able
to obtain the prohibition of the sale of the "Augenspiegel," made
the second mistake. He announced from the pulpit during service that
Pfefferkorn would preach on the eve of the next "Feast of our Lady"
against Reuchlin's Jewish writings, and he exhorted the faithful
to attend in great numbers. Nothing could be more fatal than this
error. Pfefferkorn with his disagreeable, repulsive face, distinctly
Jewish features and coarse, vulgar look, preach before a Christian
congregation in his Jewish-German jargon! Each word and each movement
would provoke his hearers to laughter, and drive away even sincere
devotion. Moreover, was it in accordance with Catholic law that a
layman, above all a married layman, should officiate in the church?
Not long before this a simple shepherd had been sentenced to be burned
on account of unsanctioned preaching. To keep the letter of the law
Pfefferkorn preached on the appointed day (September 7th, 1511), not
in the church, but before the entrance, to a great crowd of people.
It must have been very droll to see how this ill-favored Jew made the
sign of the cross over believers, and spoke of the Christian faith in
the Jewish jargon. Pfefferkorn's chief desire was to make the Jews and
their well-wishers detestable, and to excite the hatred of his hearers
against them.

Until now the chief mover of the whole scandal, the venomous and
malicious master heretic-hunter, Jacob Hoogstraten, had kept behind
the scenes, but had sent his followers to the front one by one: first
Pfefferkorn, then Ortuinus Gratius and Arnold von Tongern. Henceforth
he stood in the foreground himself, his insolent demeanor seeming to
assume that priests and laymen must all bow before him, and sink under
his frown in the dust, and that he had the right to tread statutes and
customs under his feet. To save, by violent measures, the weakened
authority of the order, all Dominicans had to make common cause, and
apply their energy to carry through the condemnation of Reuchlin and
the Talmud. The conflict spread over a wider area, and became an affair
of the whole order.

Authorized by the provincial of his order, Hoogstraten, in his capacity
as inquisitor, suddenly issued (September 15th, 1513) a summons to
Reuchlin to appear at Mayence within six days, at eight o'clock in the
morning, to be examined on the charge of heresy and of favoring the
Jews. On the appointed day Hoogstraten, with a host of Dominicans,
appeared in Mayence; they were confederates, chosen to sit as judges in
the commission. Hoogstraten opened the session, acting at once as judge
and accuser. He had prepared an unassailable bill of indictment against
Reuchlin and the Talmud, and taken the precaution to seek allies, so
that he might not stand alone in this weighty contest. Shortly before,
he had addressed letters to four universities, begging them to express
their opinion on Reuchlin's book, "Augenspiegel," in accordance with
his own views, and all had fulfilled his expectations.

The accusation which he brought forward was, of course, that which
Pfefferkorn and Arnold von Tongern had already made. It had for its
basis: Reuchlin favors the Jews too much, treats "the insolent people"
almost as members of the church, and as men on an equality with
others, while his writings savor too much of heresy. Hoogstraten,
therefore, instructed the court to pronounce sentence upon Reuchlin's
"Augenspiegel": that it was full of heresy and error, too favorable
to the unbelieving Jews, and insulting to the church, and therefore
ought to be condemned, suppressed, and destroyed by fire. One must
not overlook the great difference between a German and a Spanish
inquisition court. Torquemada or Ximenes would have made short work
of it, and condemned the book together with the author to the stake.
Hoogstraten was not too kind-hearted for such a sentence; but he
dared not venture so far, because he would have had all Germany, the
ecclesiastical as well as the temporal rulers against him.

General indignation was aroused at the injustice of a trial carried
on in violation of all rules. The students of the Mayence University,
not yet tainted by the corruption of theology, their judgment not
warped by casuistry, and not influenced by foreign considerations,
loudly proclaimed their displeasure at this shameless proceeding of the
Inquisition. They carried the doctors of jurisprudence with them, and
this induced other earnest men to interfere.

To the surprise of the Dominicans, the aged, venerable Reuchlin
appeared in Mayence, accompanied by two respected counselors of the
Duke of Wurtemberg. The chapter now took great trouble to effect a
reconciliation. But Hoogstraten, who wished to see smoke rise from
the fagots, would agree to nothing, and delayed the negotiations
till the 12th of October, the time when the final sentence would be
pronounced. The inquisitor commanded all the ecclesiastics in Mayence
to announce from the pulpit that everyone, Christian or Jew, if he
would escape punishment, must give up all copies of the "Augenspiegel"
to the flames. The people were promised thirty days' indulgence, if
they assembled on the appointed day at the church square to celebrate
the auto-da-fé and increase its splendor. On the 12th of October
the place before the church in Mayence was thronged with spectators
--the curious, the sympathetic, and the seekers after indulgence!
Decked out like peacocks, the Fathers and Brothers of the Dominican
order, and the theologians of the universities of Cologne, Louvain,
and Erfurt, strutted along to the tribunal erected for them, and "the
earth trembled under their feet." Hoogstraten, till now the accuser,
again took his place among the judges. They were about to pronounce
the formula of the curse, and have the fire kindled, when a messenger
hastily arrived, bringing a letter from Archbishop Uriel, which turned
them speechless.

Uriel von Gemmingen, like most bishops of his time, was more
worldly-minded than spiritual, and had no canonical fanaticism against
Jews. The presumptuousness of the Dominicans of Cologne and their
unjust proceedings against Reuchlin angered him, too. Therefore, he
issued a proclamation to the commissioners selected from his chapter,
ordering that judgment be delayed for one month until a new agreement
might be arrived at. If they did not consent, this letter deprived
them of their privileges as judges of the inquisitorial court, and
every thing hitherto decreed was null and void. Utterly dumbfounded,
the Dominicans listened to the notary's reading of the document, which
entirely frustrated their schemes and machinations. Hoogstraten alone
boldly dared express his anger at the denial of their rights. The other
confederates slunk away ashamed, followed by the jeers of the street
boys, and the cry of the men, "O that these Brothers, who wished to
outrage a just man, might be burnt at the stake."

If it is true, as the Dominicans relate, that the rabbis of Germany
met in a synod in Worms, and found in the defeat of the Dominicans who
raged against Reuchlin a sign of the downfall of the Roman (papist)
hierarchy, they were certainly endowed with prophetic vision. It was
also said that Reuchlin had secret intercourse with rabbis.

Reuchlin was by no means so situated as to be able to triumph over his
enemies and those of the Jews. Though subdued for the moment, they were
certainly not vanquished. He knew their cunning and malignity too well
to give himself up to inactive enjoyment of his victory. He knew that
their persecutions would only be redoubled in the future. Therefore,
he hastened to announce his appeal to the pope, so that silence might
be imposed from that quarter on his embittered enemies. But Reuchlin
justly feared that with the vacillation and venality of the Vatican his
cause would go badly, if the investigation were conducted beyond the
jurisdiction of the pope by the Dominicans of Cologne. Therefore, he
sent a Hebrew letter to Bonet de Lates, the Jewish physician of Pope
Leo X, begging him to plead for the pope's favor in his cause.

Leo, of the celebrated family of the Medici, about whom his father
had said that he was the wisest of his sons, had succeeded to the
papal chair only a few months before. He was an aristocrat, more
interested in politics than in religion, a Roman pagan rather than a
Catholic priest, looking down with contempt from his Olympian heights
on theological controversy as child's play. He only considered how
best to steer between the two warring states or houses of Hapsburg and
Valois, without endangering the temporal interest of the Roman Catholic
hierarchy. With candor that would surprise us today, the pope ventured
to say, "It is well known how useful this fable of Christ has been to
us and ours!" With him now rested the decision, whether Reuchlin's
"Augenspiegel" savored of heresy, and whether he duly or unduly favored
the Jews. Leo, whose pontificate fell in a time when theological
questions threatened to embroil all Europe, perhaps knew less of
them than his cook. Much, therefore, depended on the light in which
the conflict between Reuchlin and the Dominicans was placed before
him. For this reason Reuchlin begged the physician Bonet de Lates,
who had access to the pope and care of "the person of his Holiness,"
to win over Leo X, so that the trial might not take place in Cologne
or its vicinity, where his cause would be lost. Reuchlin laid all the
circumstances before him: how Pfefferkorn and the Cologne Dominicans
had conspired against the Jews and the Talmud, and how only his
extraordinary efforts had saved the Talmud from destruction. Had the
Dominicans been able to get hold of and read this letter, they could
have brought forward incontestable proof of Reuchlin's friendliness
towards the Jews, for in it he wrote much that he had publicly denied.

It is natural that Bonet de Lates brought all his influence to bear in
favor of Reuchlin. And it was probably owing to his zeal that Leo so
soon (November 21st, 1513) issued instructions to the bishops of Speyer
and Worms on the controversy between Reuchlin and Hoogstraten. Leo
ordered that they be examined separately or together, by the bishops or
by judges appointed by them, who, without the intervention of any other
tribunal, were to pronounce judgment, to be accepted without appeal.
The bishop of Worms, a Dalburg, with whom Reuchlin was on friendly
terms, did not care to accept the commission. So the young bishop of
Speyer, George, elector palatine and duke of Bavaria, appointed two
judges, who summoned both parties to appear within a month before
the tribunal in Speyer. Reuchlin came punctually, accompanied by a
procurator and friends. Hoogstraten, on the other hand, trusting to the
power of the Dominicans, did not present himself, nor send a competent
representative. The judges commenced the suit, not with becoming
energy, but with a certain half-heartedness, perhaps from fear of the
revenge of the Dominicans. The trial was spun out over three months
(January to April, 1514).

Only after Reuchlin had written two German papers on the matter in
dispute and the progress of the proceedings, did the bishop deign to
notice the evidence and pass judgment, which was wholly in favor of
Reuchlin. He stated that the "Augenspiegel" contained not an iota
of heresy or error, that it did not unduly favor the Jews, that,
therefore, Hoogstraten had slandered the author, and silence should
be imposed on him in this matter; that the writings might be read and
printed by everyone, and that Hoogstraten be charged with the costs
(111 Rhenish gold florins).

The Dominicans of Cologne gnashed their teeth, stormed and raged at
the issue of the suit, and used every effort to overthrow the judgment
of the apostolic court. At that time, on account of the disunion in
Germany, it was very difficult to put into execution a judicial decree,
and the Dominicans were not inclined to lessen the difficulty when
the sentence was given against themselves. They laughed at the bishop
of Speyer, calling him a stupid fellow. The notice of the verdict
in Cologne was torn down by the bold Pfefferkorn. Hoogstraten had
unofficially--that is to say, without giving notice to the bishop
of Speyer, then acting as apostolic judge--appealed to the pope,
although he had scouted the idea of such an appeal before. His hope of
winning the suit against Reuchlin and securing the condemnation of the
"Augenspiegel" was founded on the venality of the Vatican. "Rome will
do anything for money," he frankly said; "Reuchlin is poor, and the
Dominicans are rich; justice can be suppressed by money." Hoogstraten
could also count on the good will of the cardinals, who inveighed
against free inquiry. At all events, they could be depended upon to
drag out the suit so long that Reuchlin's means would not suffice
to meet the costs. Besides this, the Dominicans relied on obtaining
from the universities, in particular the leading one of Paris, the
condemnation of the "Augenspiegel," and using it to exert pressure
upon the pope. All Dominicans, Thomists and obscurantists, both in and
outside Germany, made common cause to work the downfall of Reuchlin.

This union of the Dominican party had the effect of binding together
the friends of learning, the enemies of scholasticism, bigotry and
church doctrine--in one word, the Humanists--and inducing them to
take concerted action. Virtually a society of Humanists, a Reuchlinist
party, was formed in western Europe, the members of which silently
worked for one another and for Reuchlin: "One supported the other, and
said to his comrade, Be brave." "All we who belong to the ranks of
learning are devoted to Reuchlin no less than soldiers to the emperor."
It was a formal alliance, which the supporters of Reuchlin loyally
adhered to. So, in consequence of Pfefferkorn's bitter hostility to
the Jews and the Talmud, two parties were formed in Christendom, the
Reuchlinists and the Arnoldists, who waged fierce conflict with each
other. It was a struggle of the dark Middle Ages with the dawn of a
better time.

Young Germany was working with all its might on behalf of Reuchlin
and against the bigots: besides Hermann von Busche, and Crotus
Rubianus (Johann Jäger), there was the fiery Ulrich von Hutten, the
most energetic and virile character of the time. In fact, Hutten's
energy first found a worthy aim in the passionate feud between
Reuchlin and the Dominicans. Formerly his fencing had consisted of
passes in the empty air; his knightly courage and fiery genius had
met only phantom adversaries. Now, for the first time, the youth of
six-and-twenty had a clear perception of the relation of things; he
saw a real enemy, to meet whom with his knight's sword and the sharper
weapon of his intellect, in a life and death struggle, would be a
praiseworthy, glorious undertaking. To destroy the Dominicans, priests
and bigots, and establish the kingdom of intellect and free thought,
to deliver Germany from the nightmare of ecclesiastical superstition
and barbarism, raise it from its abjectness, and make it the arbiter
of Europe, seemed to him the aim to toil for. As soon as Hutten was
clearly conscious of this, he worked ceaselessly for his object, the
first step towards its realization being to help Reuchlin, the leader
in the struggle for humanism, to gain the victory over his mortal foes.
A cardinal, Egidio de Viterbo, who delighted in the Hebrew language and
in the Kabbala, openly sided with Reuchlin. He wrote to him, "The Law
(Torah) revealed to man in fire was first saved from fire when Abraham
escaped the burning furnace, and now a second time, when Reuchlin
saved, from the fire, the writings from which the Law received light,
for had they been destroyed eternal darkness would again have set
in. So, exerting ourselves for your cause, we are not defending you,
but the Law, not the Talmud, but the church." It is remarkable that
the whole Franciscan order, from hatred of the Dominicans, took up
Reuchlin's cause.

In almost every town there were Reuchlinists and anti-Reuchlinists,
whose mutual hatred brought them at times to blows. The motto of one
was, "Rescue of the 'Augenspiegel' and preservation of the Talmud," and
of the other, "Damnation and destruction to both." Involuntarily the
Reuchlinists became friends of the Jews, and sought grounds on which to
defend them. The adherents of the Dominicans became fiercer enemies to
the Jews, and sought out obscure books to prove their wickedness.

The report of this contest spread through Europe. At first limited to
Germany, the controversy soon reached both Rome and Paris. Hoogstraten
and the Dominicans worked with energy to have the judgment of Speyer
overthrown, in the latter place by the greatest university, in the
former by the papal see, and to have Reuchlin's writings sentenced to
the flames. In both places they had powerful and influential allies,
who devotedly and zealously worked for their party.

Reuchlin, although his suit had been lawfully won in the apostolic
court in Speyer, was forced to take steps to counteract the appeal
instituted by the intrigues of his enemies. And his friends succeeded
in influencing the pope. Leo X appointed the cardinal and patriarch
Dominico Grimani as judge of the inquiry. It was well known that this
ecclesiastical prince cultivated rabbinical literature, and, as patron
of the Franciscan order, hated the Dominicans, and took Reuchlin's
side. Without doubt prominent Jews were working in Rome for Reuchlin,
but, like the German Jews, they had the good sense to keep in the
background, so as not to imperil the cause by stamping it as Jewish.
Cardinal Grimani issued (June, 1514) a summons to both parties, but
in consideration of Reuchlin's advanced years permitted him to send a
representative, while Hoogstraten had to appear in person. Furnished
with recommendations and a well-filled purse, the inquisitor appeared
in Rome with undiminished confidence of obtaining a victory. What could
not be obtained in Rome for money?

Reuchlin had nothing of the kind to offer; he was poor. He had not the
magic wand which commands the gold of bigoted women, nor the conjurer's
formula over father-confessors, who are apt treasure-diggers. But there
was no lack of recommendations from his friends and well-wishers.
Emperor Maximilian, who, much to his own regret, had originated all
this disturbance, by lending ear to Pfefferkorn's stupidities and his
sister's hysterical piety, often interceded with the pope for Reuchlin.
The emperor wrote that he believed that the Cologne people wished
to prolong the controversy illegally and through intrigue, in order
to crush the excellent, inoffensive, learned and orthodox Reuchlin;
that what he had written (in favor of the Hebrew Scriptures) had been
written at the emperor's command, with a good object, and for the
benefit of Christendom.

But the Dominicans defied public opinion, the commission appointed by
the pope, and the pope. They spoke of the pope as of a schoolboy under
their authority. If he did not give a decision in their favor, they
threatened to withdraw their allegiance, and desert him, even risking
a rupture with the church. They went so far as to threaten that in
case Reuchlin proved victorious, they would ally themselves with the
Hussites in Bohemia against the pope. So blinded was this faction by
revengeful feelings, that from sheer obstinacy they would undermine
Catholicism. Nor did they spare the majesty of the emperor; when they
learned that Maximilian had interceded for Reuchlin with the pope, they
heaped abuse on him.

The Dominicans built their hopes on the verdict of Paris, the head
of all European universities. If this important school of divinity
condemned Reuchlin's writings and the Talmud, then even the pope
would have to submit. Every influence was, therefore, brought to
bear to obtain a favorable opinion from Paris. In particular, the
king of France, Louis XII, was worked on by his confessor, Guillaume
Haquinet Petit, to influence the school of divinity in favor of the
Dominicans. The political events which had set the German emperor
and the French king at variance were also brought into play. Because
the emperor of Germany was for Reuchlin, the king of France decided
for the Dominicans and against the Talmud. But this decision was not
easily obtained, for Reuchlin numbered many warm friends in Paris. The
consultation was prolonged from May to the beginning of August, 1514.

Many of the voters spoke in favor of Reuchlin and at the same time
expressed their indignation at the unlawful proceedings; but they
were cried down by the fanatics. Many French divines were guided by
the example of Saint Louis, who, at the instigation of the baptized
Jew, Nicholas Donin, and by command of Pope Gregory IX, had ordered
the Talmud to be burnt three centuries before. The Parisian doctors,
therefore, gave sentence that Reuchlin's "Augenspiegel," containing
heresy, and defending with great zeal the Talmudic writings, deserved
to be condemned to the flames, and the author to be forced to recant.

Great was the joy of the Dominicans, particularly those of Cologne,
over this judgment. They believed their game to be won, and that the
pope himself would be forced to submit. They did not delay in making
known to the public this concession, so hardly won, by means of another
libelous pamphlet.

The lawsuit, allowed to lag in Rome, was wilfully delayed still more
by the Dominicans. The commission appointed had a close translation of
the "Augenspiegel" prepared by a German in Rome, Martin von Grönigen;
but the opposition found fault with it. Numerous hindrances blocked the
progress of the suit, and at this stage cost Reuchlin 400 gold florins.
The Dominicans had hoped so to impoverish their adversary, the friend
of the Jews, that he would be incapacitated from obtaining justice.
The prospect of seeing Reuchlin's cause triumphant at Rome diminished.
Reuchlin's friends were, therefore, anxious to create another tribunal,
and appeal from the badly advised or intimidated pope to public

During this tension of minds in small and great circles, whilst high
and low ecclesiastics, princes and citizens, anxiously awaited news as
to how the Reuchlin lawsuit had ended, or would end in Rome, a young
Humanist (most likely Crotus Rubianus, in Leipsic), wrote a series of
letters, which, for wit, humor and biting satire, had not been equaled
in all literature. The "Letters of Obscurantists" (_Epistolæ Obscurorum
Virorum_), published in 1515, in a great measure directed against
the rascally Ortuinus Gratius, laid bare, in the language of the
unpolished monks, their own baseness and insolence, their astonishing
ignorance, their lust, their animosity and vileness, their despicable
Latin, and still more contemptible morality, the absurdity of their
logic, their foolish chatter--in short, all their intolerable
vices were made so evident, and described so clearly, that even the
half-educated could comprehend. All Reuchlin's enemies, Hoogstraten,
Arnold von Tongern, Ortuinus Gratius, Pfefferkorn, their accomplices,
and the Paris University, were lashed with whips and scorpions, so
that no spot on them remained sound. This clever satire, containing
more than Aristophanian scorn, made the stronger an impression as the
Dominicans, the Thomists, the Doctors of Divinity, revealed themselves
in their own persons, in their miserable meanness, placing themselves,
metaphorically speaking, in the pillory. But it was inevitable that, in
deriding the bigots and the papacy, the whole tyranny of the hierarchy
and the church should be laid bare. For, were not the Dominicans, with
their insolent ignorance and shameless vices, the product and natural
effect of the Catholic order and institution? So the satire worked like
a corroding acid, entirely destroying the already rotting body of the
Catholic Church.

The Jews and the Talmud were the first cause of the Reuchlinist
quarrel; naturally, they could not be left out of account in the
letters of the Obscurantists. So it happened that the much despised
Jews became one of the topics of the day.

A roar of laughter resounded through western Europe at the reading of
these satirical letters. Everyone in Germany, Italy, France and England
who understood Latin, was struck with the form and tenor of these
confessions of Dominicans and scholastics. Their awkward vulgarity,
dense stupidity, egregious folly, impurity of word and deed, stood so
glaringly in contrast with their presumed learning and propriety, that
the most serious men were moved to mirth. It is related that Erasmus,
who, at the time of reading the letters, suffered from an abscess in
the throat, laughed so heartily that it broke, and he was cured. The
merry Comedy of the Fools put Reuchlin entirely in the right, and the
Dominicans were judged by public opinion, no matter how the pope might
deal with them. All were curious to know who could be the author. Some
thought it was Reuchlin himself, others Erasmus, Hutten, or one of
the Humanist party. Hutten gave the right answer to the question as
to the author: "God himself." It appeared more and more clearly that
so slight a cause as the burning of the Talmud had taken a world-wide
significance, the will of the individual serving only to further
the interests of all. In Rome and Cologne, far-seeing Reuchlinists
discerned in it the work of Providence.

Only the German Jews could not indulge in merriment. The Dominicans
had meantime worked in another way to obtain their object, or at
least to have revenge on the Jews. Of what avail was it to the Jews
that some enlightened Christians, having had their attention drawn to
Judaism, were seized with so great a predilection for it that they
gave expression to their new convictions in writing? Christendom as a
whole was irrevocably prejudiced against Jewish teachings and their
adherents. Erasmus rightly said, "If it is Christian to hate the Jews,
then we are true Christians." Therefore, it was easy for their enemies
to injure them. Pfefferkorn had often pointed out that there were in
Germany only three great Jewish communities, at Ratisbon, Frankfort and
Worms, and that with their extermination, Judaism in the German kingdom
would come to an end.

To bring about the expulsion of the Jews from Frankfort and Worms,
their enemies had discovered effective means. The young Margrave,
Albert von Brandenburg, hitherto bishop of Magdeburg, who later
attained melancholy renown in the history of the Reformation, had been
elected to the archbishopric of Mayence. The enemies of the Jews,
acting probably on a suggestion from Cologne, induced Archbishop Albert
to issue an invitation to religious and secular authorities and to
towns, principally Frankfort and Worms, to attend a diet in Frankfort,
to discuss how the Jews might be banished and never be permitted to
return. Obeying the invitation (January 7th, 1516), many deputies
appeared. The program was to this purport: All the estates were to
unite and take an oath to relinquish the privileges and advantages
derived from the Jews, to banish all Jewish subjects and never, under
any pretext, or for any term, permit them to return. This resolution
was to be laid before the emperor for his confirmation.

The Jews of these places saw certain danger hanging over their heads.
If at other times the German princes and rulers were disunited and
indolent, in the persecution of Jews they were always united and
energetic. Nothing remained for the Jews but to send a deputation to
Emperor Maximilian, and implore him to grant them his favor and support
them against so malevolent a measure. The emperor happily remembered
that the Jews, even when ruled by various great or petty rulers, were
in reality the servants of himself and the empire, and that their
banishment would be an encroachment on his suzerainty. Maximilian
hastened, therefore, to send a very forcible dispatch to Elector Albert
and the chapter of Mayence, to the religious and secular authorities,
and to the towns (January, 1516), expressing his displeasure at their
conference, and forbidding them to meet again at the appointed time. So
the Jews were for the moment saved. But the archbishop of Mayence, or
in his absence the chapter, did not give up the pursuit of the desired
object. The enemies of the Jews, the friends of the Cologne Dominicans,
still hoped to turn the emperor against them. But the hope was vain;
the Jews were not banished for the present.

Reuchlin's lawsuit, although delayed by the struggles of the two
parties, whose time was taken up in plotting against each other's
intrigues, made slow but perceptible progress. Hoogstraten, seeing that
the commission would decide in favor of Reuchlin, vehemently demanded
a decision by council, inasmuch as it was a question, not of law, but
of faith. Pope Leo, who did not care to be on bad terms with either
party, in opposition to his own repeated command had to yield to a
certain extent. On the one side Emperor Maximilian and many German
princes insisted upon having Reuchlin declared blameless and silencing
the Dominicans; on the other side the king of France and young Charles
(at that time duke of Burgundy), the future emperor of Germany, king
of Spain and America, used threatening language towards the pope,
demanding that the matter be taken up seriously, and that Reuchlin's
book be condemned. Leo, therefore, considered it advisable to escape
from this critical position. He submitted the matter for final decision
to a court of inquiry, formed of members of the Lateran Council, then
in session. Thus the dispute about the Talmud became the concern of a
general council, and was raised to the dignity of a European question.

The council committee finally declared in favor of Reuchlin. Before Leo
X could confirm or reject its decision, Hoogstraten and his friends
influenced him to issue a mandate suspending the suit. This temporizing
exactly suited Leo's character and his position between the excited
rival parties. He hated excitement, which he would have brought on
himself, if he had decided in favor of either party. He did not wish to
offend the Humanists, nor yet the bigots, nor the German emperor, nor
the king of France, nor the ruler of Spain. So the suit was suspended,
and at any favorable opportunity could be taken up again by the
Dominicans. Hoogstraten had to leave Rome in disgrace and dishonor, but
he did not give up the hope of winning his cause in the end. He was a
strong-willed man, who could not be discouraged by humiliations, and so
unprincipled that falsehood and misrepresentations came easy to him.

If Pope Leo believed that at his dictation the conflict would cease,
he overestimated the authority of the papacy, and mistook the parties
as well as the real issue involved. Feeling ran too high to be quieted
by a word from those in power. Neither party wished for peace, but for
war, war to the knife. When Hoogstraten returned from Rome, his life
was in danger. Furious Reuchlinists often conspired against him, and
sought by polemical leaflets to exasperate public opinion still more
against the Dominicans. Hutten, since his mature judgment had taken in
the situation at Rome, was most eager to bring about the downfall of
ecclesiastical domination in Germany.

The secret could be no longer kept, it was given out from the
house-tops that there was dissension in the church. Not their foes,
but the provincial of the Dominican order, Eberhard von Cleve, and
the whole chapter, represented in an official letter to the pope that
the controversy had brought them, the Dominicans, into hatred and
contempt; that they were held up to the mockery of all, and that they
--so very undeservedly!--were decried, both in speech and writing,
as the enemies of brotherly love, peace and harmony; that their
preaching was despised, their confessional avoided, and that everything
they undertook was derided, and declared to be only the result of pride
and meanness.

Meanwhile the contention between Reuchlin and the Dominicans,
especially Hoogstraten, developed in another direction, and affected
Judaism at another point. The Kabbala formed the background of this
movement. Out of love for this secret doctrine, supposed to offer the
key to the deepest knowledge of philosophy and Christianity, Reuchlin
had wished to spare the Talmud, because in his opinion it contained
mystical elements. The youthful Kabbala became the patroness of the
old Talmud. Reuchlin understood but little of Kabbalistic doctrines,
but his eagerness for knowledge and his zeal spurred him on to study.
Moreover, the attack by his adversaries upon his orthodoxy, honesty and
erudition, had made it an affair of honor for him to prove convincingly
that the Kabbala agreed with Christianity. But he was unfortunate in
the choice of his Hebrew models. For a long time he sought a guide,
until chance brought him to the most confused source of information:
the foolish writings of the Kabbalist, Joseph Jikatilla, of Castile,
which the convert Paul Riccio had lately translated into Latin. As soon
as Reuchlin heard of this literary treasure of Joseph Jikatilla, he did
not rest till he had obtained it, and again set about proving that the
Kabbala was in agreement with Christianity.

Believing that the Kabbala reveals and confirms the highest truths,
the mysteries of Christianity, Reuchlin composed a work on Kabbalist
science, and dedicated it to Pope Leo X, giving new emphasis to his
contention that the Jewish writings, instead of being burnt, should be

Reuchlin must have counted on the approval of the pope, to whom he
dedicated the work, for having found new support for the tottering
faith. He hoped that Leo X would at length grant him peace and rest by
pronouncing judgment in the suit between himself and the Dominicans,
which, though suppressed, was persistently urged by the latter. The
Christianlike Kabbala was to be his intercessor at the Vatican. He
did not stand alone in his foolish fondness for the secret doctrine.
Not only the cardinals but the pope himself expected to gain much for
Christianity by proper research into the Kabbala.

As the interest in the Reuchlin controversy began to flag, another
movement started in Germany, continuing, as the other had begun, to
shake the firm pillars of the papacy and the Catholic Church, and
prepare the regeneration of Europe. The discussion aroused by the
Talmud created an intellectual medium favorable to the germination and
growth of Luther's reform movement. Destined soon to become a force in
the world's history, even the Reformation arose from small beginnings,
and needed most powerful protection not to be nipped in the bud. Martin
Luther was a strong, straightforward, obstinate and passionately
excitable character, holding with tenacity to his convictions and
errors. By the opposition which he met, Luther finally came to the
conclusion that each individual pope, consequently the papacy, was not
infallible, and that the basis of faith was not the pope's will, but
the Scriptural word.

The death of the old emperor, Maximilian, who had been unequal to
the task of grappling with the theological perplexities called forth
by himself, and the election of a new emperor, spun out for half a
year, drew politics into the arena, and gave rise to a confusion in
which the friends and foes of free religious thought and of gloomy
orthodox faith were not distinguishable. Hutten and the Humanists
favored Charles V, in whose own country, Spain, the Dominicans still
had the upper hand, and where the flames from the stake were still
unextinguished; but he was opposed by the pope. The Reuchlinist and the
Lutheran cause, as it were, the Talmud and the Reformation, were merged
into each other. So great a change had taken place that the electors
assembled to elect an emperor declared against the obscurantists of
Cologne and in favor of Reuchlin.

Instead of condemning the Talmud, Pope Leo X encouraged the printing
of the work. Thus, through a movement incomprehensible to all its
contemporaries, the unexpected took place: Reuchlin was justified, and
the Talmud was justified, and in a measure favored by the pope. Indeed,
Daniel Bomberg, a rich Christian publisher in Antwerp, in the same year
brought out a complete edition of the Babylonian Talmud in twelve folio
volumes, the model of all later editions.

A clever pantomime, which first appeared in Latin or French, and was
soon translated into German, portrays Reuchlin as the originator of the
great and growing movement. It represents a doctor, on whose back may
be read the name of Capnion (Reuchlin), throwing a bundle of straight
and crooked sticks on the stage, and then going away. Another figure
(Erasmus), having in vain endeavored to put the bundle in order, shakes
his head over the chaos, and disappears. Hutten also comes in. Luther
appears in monk's dress, and with a firebrand kindles the crooked
twigs. Another figure, in imperial robes, strikes with its sword the
spreading fire, only giving it wider play. At length comes the pope,
who, wishing to extinguish the fire, seizes a vessel, and pours the oil
in it upon the flames, then clasps his hands on his head, while the
bright flames shoot up never again to be stifled. Pfefferkorn and the
Talmud should not have been missing in this dumb show, for they were
the fuse that started the conflagration.

The situation was such that the slightest breath made the flames
leap up. Luther had gained firmness and courage at the imperial diet
of Worms, and by his speech, revealing fearlessness, completed the
rupture with the papacy. Although urged by his own bigotry, besieged
by obscurantists and exhorted by princes, Emperor Charles was disposed
to condemn the reformer to the stake as a heretic, yet partly from
consideration for Frederick, elector of Saxony, partly from policy,
hoping thereby to hold the pope in check, he only declared him an
exile a month later. Meanwhile Luther was already on his Patmos, the
Wartburg, hidden and protected. Whilst in solitude he worked at a
German translation of the Bible, ultra-reformers overthrew church
regulations, altered the church services, did away with masses and
priestly decoration, abolished the vows of monks, and introduced
the marriage of priests--that is to say, the priests publicly
acknowledged their former secret mistresses as their wives. The time
was ripe for the Reformation, and it took firm hold of North Germany,
Denmark and Sweden, extending to Prussia, Poland, and, on the other
hand, to France and even Spain, the country of darkest and most bigoted
ecclesiasticism and the home of persecution. Zwingli, the reformer of
Switzerland, after much wavering, declared himself against the papacy;
so, in that country, too, where there was more freedom of action than
in submissive Germany, the new church service was introduced, the
marriage of priests permitted, pictures and crucifixes destroyed,
and monasteries done away with. A new order of things had set in;
all-powerful Rome stood impotent before the new spirit. The enthusiasm
of the Anabaptists began to arouse public feeling and transform all
relations of life.

At first, Luther's Reformation affected the Jews but slightly.
Catholics and innovators in every town, especially in Germany, were so
occupied with fighting each other, that they had no leisure for the
persecution of Jews; so there came a pause. Luther, whose voice even
then was more powerful than that of the princes, at first defended them
from numerous accusations. In his plain-spoken and fervent way, he said:

    "This rage (against the Jews) is still defended by some silly
    theologians, and advocated by them; they declare insolently
    that the Jews are the servants of the Christians, and subject
    to the emperor. I beg you to tell me who will join our
    religion, be he the most amiable and patient of men, when he
    sees that they are treated so cruelly and inimically, and not
    only in an unchristian way, but even brutally. Most of the
    Passion preachers (in Holy Week) do nothing but make the sin
    committed by Jews against Christ heavier and greater, and
    embitter the hearts of believers against them."

In one of his works, the title of which, calculated to startle their
antagonists, ran, "Jesus was born a Jew," Luther expressed himself
against the indelible hatred of the Jews still more sharply:

    "Those fools, the papists, bishops, sophists and monks, have
    hitherto so dealt with Jews, that every good Christian would
    rather have been a Jew. And if I had been a Jew, and seen such
    stupidity and such blockheads reign in the Christian Church,
    I would rather have been a pig than a Christian. They have
    treated the Jews as if they were dogs, not men; they have done
    nothing but revile them. They are blood-relations of our Lord;
    therefore, if it were proper to boast of flesh and blood, the
    Jews belong to Christ more than we. I beg, therefore, my dear
    papists, if you become tired of abusing me as a heretic, that
    you begin to revile me as a Jew."

    "Therefore, it is my advice," continued Luther, "that we treat
    them kindly. Now that we drive them by force, treating them
    deceitfully and ignominiously, saying that they must have
    Christian blood to wash away the Jewish stain, and I know not
    what more nonsense,--prohibiting them from working amongst
    us, from living and having social intercourse with us, forcing
    them to be usurers, how can we expect them to come to us? If we
    would help them, so must we exercise, not the law of the pope,
    but that of Christian love--show them a friendly spirit,
    permit them to live and to work, so that they may have cause
    and means to be with us and amongst us."

These were words which the Jews had not heard for a thousand years.
They show unmistakable traces of Reuchlin's mild intercession in their
favor. Many hot-headed Jews saw in Luther's opposition to the papacy
the extinction of Christianity and the triumph of Judaism. Three
learned Jews went to Luther, and tried to convert him. Enthusiastic
feelings were aroused among the Jews at this unexpected revulsion,
especially at the blow dealt the papacy and the idolatrous worship of
images and relics; the boldest hopes were entertained of the speedy
downfall of Rome, and the approaching redemption by the Messiah.

But the Jewish religion gained much more by the Reformation than the
Jewish race. Despised before, it became fashionable, so to say, in the
early days of the Reformation. Reuchlin had expressed the modest wish
that at the few German universities a professor of the Hebrew language
might be appointed. Through his zeal for Hebrew (he had published,
shortly before his death, a work on Hebrew accents and prosody), and
through the increasing conviction that without this knowledge the Bible
must remain a sealed book, princes and universities sought teachers,
and instituted Hebrew professorships not only in Germany and Italy, but
also in France and Poland. The light, graceful, classic muse, which had
withdrawn many hearts from the church, was more and more neglected, and
the serious Hebrew mother was sought out instead. Young and old did not
hesitate to seek Jews from whom to learn Hebrew. A friendly connection
was formed between Jewish masters and Christian pupils, to the intense
vexation of bigots on both sides; and many prejudices died out by these
means. The principal teacher of the Christians was a grammarian of
German descent, Elias Levita (born 1468, died 1549). This poor man,
who had to struggle for his daily bread, laid the foundation of the
knowledge of the Hebrew language. The plundering of Padua--where,
perhaps, he was born--brought him, by way of Venice, to Rome, where
Cardinal Egidio de Viterbo, wishing to advance in his grammatical and
Kabbalistic studies, took him into his house, supporting him and his
family for more than ten years. Not only this church dignitary, but
many other Christians of high position sat at Levita's feet. One was
George de Selve, bishop of Lavour, the French ambassador, as learned
as he was statesmanlike. Against the reproach of some bigoted rabbis,
Levita defended himself by the remark that his Christian pupils all
were friends of the Jews, and tried to promote their welfare. On the
inducement of his patron, Egidio, he worked at a Hebrew grammar in the
Hebrew language, the greater part of which was translated into Latin
by Reuchlin's pupil, Sebastian Münster. Elias Levita had not a mind of
great depth, nor did he propound a new theory on the structure of the
Hebrew language. He rigorously adhered to the grammatical system of the
Kimchis, because he did not know their predecessors. His usefulness
consisted in his command over the whole Scriptural vocabulary, his
pedagogic skill, and his gift of vivid presentation. Beyond the
elements he did not go, but they perfectly satisfied the wants of
the time. Only one deviation did Levita make from the beaten track.
Against the firm belief of the time that the accents and the vowel
signs in the Hebrew Bible were of ancient origin, having been revealed
on Mount Sinai, or, at all events, introduced by Ezra, he maintained
that they had not been known even at the time of the Talmud, because
they had been superfluous when Hebrew was a living language. It can
easily be imagined what a storm this opinion raised. It at once upset
all preconceived notions. The bigots raised a cry against him as though
he had by his assertion disowned Judaism. Elias Levita was, therefore,
little liked by his brother Jews, and associated more with learned
Christians, which brought much blame from the over-pious, and produced
evil consequences for his descendants.

He was not the only teacher of the Hebrew language and literature
to Christians. As before him, Obadiah Sforno had given Reuchlin
instruction in Hebrew, so at the same time as Levita, Jacob Mantino and
Abraham de Balmes were engaged in instructing Christians.

Throughout Christendom there was a desire to know the Hebrew language.
The printers reckoned on such good sales that in several places in
Italy and Germany, even where there were no Jews, new and old Hebrew
grammatical writings were published. Everyone wished to know Hebrew and
to understand the Hebrew language and literature. Some years before the
representatives of the church had considered the knowledge of Hebrew
superfluous, or even a pernicious evil touching on heresy; but through
the Reformation it became a necessary branch of divinity. Luther
himself learnt Hebrew to be able to penetrate the meaning of the Bible.

The change of mind was most evident in France. The Paris university,
the leader of thought, had by a majority condemned Reuchlin's
"Augenspiegel" in favor of the Talmud and Hebrew studies; scarcely six
years later there was a professorship and a printing press for Hebrew,
and the confessor of King Louis, William Haquinet Petit, though a
Dominican, the one whose slander had brought about the condemnation of
Reuchlin's work, appeared as a patron of Hebrew literature.

At his advice King Francis I invited the bishop of Corsica, Augustin
Justiniani, a man well read in Hebrew literature, to come to France.
This young king felt, or at least showed, interest in learning and also
in the study of Hebrew. He invited Elias Levita to come to France, and
fill the professorship of Hebrew there, probably at the instigation
of his admirer, De Selve. One must take into consideration what this
signified at that time. In France proper, for more than a century,
no Jew had been permitted to dwell, nor even to make a passing stay,
and now a Jew was invited, not merely to reside there, but to accept
an honorable post and instruct Christians. What heresy! Elias Levita,
however, declined this flattering proposal; he would not have felt at
ease there as the only Jew, and to urge the admission of Jews into
France was not in conformity with his character. Justiniani undertook
the task of introducing the study of Hebrew into France.

At the University of Rheims the French students made attempts to
speak Hebrew. As there were not sufficient grammars, Justiniani
had the wretched Hebrew grammar of Moses Kimchi printed. Yet more
remarkable is it that in Paris, where three hundred years previously
the Jewish orthodox party, with the help of the Dominicans, had burnt
Maimuni's religious philosophical work, "Guide of the Perplexed," the
Dominican Justiniani now caused a Latin translation of the same to
be published (1520). Naturally, the Christian teachers of the Hebrew
language remained dependent on their Jewish masters; they could not
take a single step without them. Paulus Fagius, a reforming priest
and disciple of Reuchlin, wishing to establish a Hebrew press in
Isny, called upon Elias Levita to go there. This offer was accepted,
for Levita was in difficulties, and could find no publisher for his
Chaldean and Rabbinical dictionaries. Paulus Fagius was particularly
pleased with these works, because they appeared to him to offer the key
to the Kabbala, so much sought for by Christian scholars.

Through the agitation by Reuchlin and Luther the neglected science of
the Bible was to a certain extent cultivated. Judaism and Christianity
are both founded on the Sacred Writings, yet they were quite strange
to the followers of both religions. The glorious memorial of a
much favored time was so shrouded and surrounded with a network of
senseless explanations, so disfigured by these accessories, that its
full value was completely unknown. Because everything was looked for
in, and imported into, the Holy Scriptures, the true meaning was not
discovered. To the Christian laity the Bible had been inaccessible for
a long time, because the papacy, with instinctive fear, had forbidden
its translation into the vernacular. So the faithful knew only
fragments or isolated texts, and, owing to distorted interpretations,
these not always correctly. Even the clergy were not familiar
therewith, for they were acquainted only with the Roman Catholic
Latin version, and in this the fundamental truths of the Bible were
confused by perversions and errors. It was, therefore, a work of great
importance that occupied Luther in his solitude on the Wartburg--the
translation of the Bible, the Old and New Testaments, into German.
For this purpose Luther had to learn Hebrew, and seek information
from Jews. To his contemporaries it seemed as if God's Word had for
the first time been revealed; this clear voice they had never before
heard. A breath of fresh air was wafted on men, when the ramparts were
broken down that had so long held its spirit imprisoned. Classical
antiquity had improved the taste of a small circle. Hebrew antiquity
rejuvenated the whole generation, once more infusing love of simplicity
and naturalness. The Bible was soon translated into all European
languages; the Catholics themselves were obliged to disregard the papal
command, and render it into intelligible language for the people's use.
The Jews also felt the want of the Holy Scripture in the vernacular. A
translation into Spanish was made in Ferrara, by a Marrano, Duarte de
Pinel, who had escaped from Portugal, and called himself Abraham Usque
as a Jew.

The demand for Hebrew Bibles was so great that Daniel Bomberg
undertook the great work of publishing the Old Testament, with the
commentaries of Rashi, Ibn-Ezra, Kimchi, Gersonides, and others. The
sale of this rabbinical Bible was so rapid that new editions were
continually appearing.



    Internal Condition of Judaism--Division in the Communities--
    The Lack of Interest in Poetry--Historical Studies--Leon
    Medigo's "Dialogues of Love"--Supremacy of the Kabbala--
    Messianic Hopes--The Marranos and the Inquisition--Henrique
    Nunes--The Traveler David Reubeni in Rome--Solomon Molcho
    --His Relations with David Reubeni--Joseph Karo and his
    "Maggid"--Clement VII--Molcho in Ancona and Rome--His Favor
    with the Cardinals--Death of Molcho--The Enthusiastic Regard in
    which he was held--Duarte de Paz--Paul III--Charles V and the
    Jews--Emanuel da Costa.

1500-1538 C.E.

It is astonishing, yet not astonishing, that the surging movement,
the convulsive heaving that shook the Christian world from pole to
pole in the first quarter of the sixteenth century scarcely touched
the inner life of the Jews. Whilst among Christians a radical change
took place, in thought, customs, studies, and even in language;
whilst their ancient customs and usages were rejected or put aside in
some places, and in others freshened up; in a word, whilst a new era
started, everything remained unchanged with the Jews. Having had no
"Middle Ages," they needed no new epoch. They needed no regeneration,
they had no immoral course of life to redress, no cankering corruption
to cure, no dam to raise against the insolence and rapacity of their
spiritual guides. They had not so much rubbish to clear away. It must
not be imagined, however, that within the pale of Judaism all was
bright. The refining and civilizing thoughts of Judaism had not yet
gained the upper hand. The people were wanting in spirituality, their
guides in clearness of mind. Reliance on justification by works and
scholastic sophistry were prevalent also among Jews. In the synagogue
service spirituality was missing, and honesty in the world of business.
The ritual retained all received from olden times, and became filled
with unintelligible elements, so that, on the whole, it acquired an
unattractive character. Sermons were unknown in German congregations
and their offshoots; at best, Talmudical discourses, utterly
unintelligible to the people, especially to women, and, therefore,
leaving them cold and uninterested, were delivered. The Spanish and
Portuguese preachers spoke in the beautiful language of their country,
but their sermons were so full of pedantry that they were no more
easily understood by the laity.

The breaking up of Jewish congregations into national groups was also a
misfortune. The persecution of the Jews had thrown into the large towns
of Italy and Turkey fugitives from the Pyrenees and from Germany, who
failed to unite themselves with the existing congregations, yet did
not amalgamate with each other. There were, therefore, in many towns,
not only Italian, Romanic (Greek), Spanish, Portuguese, German, and,
now and again, Moorish (African) congregations, but of each almost as
many as there were provinces and towns in each country. For example,
in Constantinople, Adrianople, Salonica, Arta (Larta) in Greece, and
many other towns, there was a large variety of congregations, each of
which had its own directors, ritual, rabbi, academy, charities, its
own prejudices and jealousies. In the face of such division, nothing
for the public benefit or general good could be accomplished. The
spiritual leaders, although generally moral, and, as a rule, sincerely
and fervently religious, humbled themselves before the rich members of
their congregation, witnessing insolence and misconduct without daring
to reprove them.

Worse than this splitting up into tiny congregations was the
faintness, the narrow-mindedness, the self-abasement, not merely of
German Jews, but of the Sephardic exiles. Only when it was necessary
to die for the faith of their fathers did they show themselves heroic
and full of courage; at other times their activity was expended on
petty concerns. No new course was taken, not even at sight of the daily
changes of the Christian world. The few who maintained themselves on
the heights of science kept to the beaten track, served but to level
it still more. The ruling idea was to elucidate old thoughts and old
thinkers, and to write commentaries, yea, even super-commentaries.
The Talmudists explained the Talmud, and the philosophical inquirers
Maimuni's "Guide." Higher flight of fancy and greater spiritual insight
were not possible. No sound of real poetry came from the lips of those
nourished on it, not even a thrilling song of lamentation, putting
their grief into words. The only circumstance testifying to change of
position and times was interest in historical research, and that was
almost entirely confined to the Jews of Pyrenean descent. The endless
suffering which they had endured, they wished to preserve for future
generations. Present misery brought before them the sorrows of early
ages, and showed them that the history of the Jewish race was one long
course of painful martyrdom.

Otherwise there was nothing new at this period. Freedom of
philosophical inquiry was not favored. Isaac Abrabanel, the transmitter
of the old Spanish Hebrew spirit, found in Maimuni's philosophical
writings many heresies opposed to Judaism, and he condemned the
free-thinking commentators who went beyond tradition. A Portuguese
fugitive, Joseph Jaabez, laid on philosophy the blame for the expulsion
of the Jews from Spain and Portugal. Free-thinking was the sin which
had led Israel astray; thereon must the greatest restriction be laid.

A fresh spirit breathes in the philosophical work of the talented
Leon Abrabanel, or Medigo. Its title, "Dialogues of Love" (Dialoghi
d'amore), tells the reader that it is not tainted with the insipidity
of commonplace philosophy. No one can better show the elasticity of the
Jewish mind than this scion of the ancient noble family of Abrabanel.
Torn from a comfortable home, thrown into a strange land, leading an
unsettled life in Italy, his heart tortured by gnawing pain for the
living death of his first-born, who had been snatched from him, Leon
Medigo had enough intellectual strength to immerse himself in the
Italian language and literature, and reduce his scattered philosophical
ideas to perfect order. Hardly ten years after his flight from Spain
he might have passed for a learned Italian, rivaling in style the
polished writers of the Medici era, and even excelling them in extent
of learning. With the same pen with which he wrote Hebrew verses to
his son, who was being educated in sham Christianity in Portugal,
admonishing him, "Remain continually mindful of Judaism, cherish the
Hebrew language and literature, and keep ever before thee the grief
of thy father, the pain of thy mother," he wrote his "Dialogues of
Love," the outpourings of Philo's deep love for Sophia. This ostensible
romance is the keynote of Leon Medigo's philosophical system, which
sounds more like a philosophical idyll than a logical system. There
is more imagination than reality, and his reflections are suggestive
rather than true. Possibly Leon Medigo put his deeper thoughts into
a work, now lost, entitled the "Harmony of Heaven." His "Dialogues
of Love" throughout was far removed from Judaism. Leon Medigo paid
high honor to "Hebrew truth," and endeavored to uphold the scriptural
doctrine of creation out of chaos, in opposition to the principles
of Greek philosophy, but he did not penetrate to the true spirit of
Judaism. Therefore his work was valued by Christians more than by
Jews. The Italians were proud to see--it was the first time--
philosophical thought laid down in their own enthusiastically beloved
language. The work became the favorite reading of the educated class,
and in the space of twenty years went through five editions.

The Kabbala with its futilities soon took possession of minds no longer
accustomed to strict logical discipline, and in a measure it filled the
void. In the sixteenth century it first began to have sway over men's
minds. Its adversaries were dead, or indisposed to place themselves
in opposition to the ideas of the age, only too strongly inclined to
mysteries, paradoxes and irrational fancies. Sephardic fugitives,
Judah Chayyat, Baruch of Benevento, Abraham Levi, Meïr ben Gabbai,
Ibn-Abi Zimra, had brought the Kabbala to Italy and Turkey, and with
extraordinary energy won zealous adherents for it. Also, the enthusiasm
felt for the Kabbala by Christian scholars, such as Egidio de Viterbo,
Reuchlin, Galatino, and others, reacted upon the Jews. The doctrine,
they reasoned, must have some deep truth in it, if it is so sought for
by noble Christians. Preacher-Kabbalists expounded the doctrine from
the pulpit, which had not been done before. On questions of ritual
the Kabbalist writings were consulted, often as final authorities.
No wonder that typical elements of the Zohar crept into the liturgy,
conferring upon it a mystical character. With bold presumption the
Kabbalists asserted that they alone were in possession of the Mosaic
tradition, and that the Talmud and the rabbis must give place to them.
In this way the secret doctrine with its tricks and fancies, which had
hitherto unsettled only some few adepts, became known amongst all the
Jews, and affected the sober minds of the people. The opposition of
the rabbis to this interference in the ritual and religious life was
rather weak, as they themselves were convinced of the sanctity of the
Kabbala, and objected to the innovations only in a faint-hearted way.

The empty Kabbala could not fail to arouse enthusiasm in empty heads.
With the Zoharist mystics, as with the Essenes, the expectation of the
Messiah was the center of their system. To further the kingdom of the
Messiah, or the kingdom of Heaven, or the kingdom of morality, and to
predict, by means of letters and numbers, the exact time of its advent,
was the labor in which they delighted. Isaac Abrabanel, although he did
not favor the Kabbala, gave this Messianic enthusiasm his countenance.
The accumulated sufferings of the few remaining Spanish and Portuguese
Jews had broken the spirit of many, and robbed them of their hope of
better times. The hopelessness and despair of his people, which, if
they spread, would further the plans of the church, pained the faithful
Isaac Abrabanel, and in order to counteract this dangerous tendency,
he prepared three works, based upon the Bible (principally the Book of
Daniel) and Agadic sayings, which, he believed, proved incontrovertibly
that Israel would have a glorious future, and that a Messiah would
unfailingly come. According to his reckoning, the advent of the Messiah
must of necessity be in the year 1503, 5263 years after the creation
of the world, and the end would come with the fall of Rome, about
twenty-eight years later.

The support given to Messianic calculations by so thoughtful and
respected a man as Isaac Abrabanel, together with Kabbalistic fancies,
seems to have encouraged an enthusiast to predict the immediate
realization of Messianic ideals. A German, Asher Lämmlein (or Lämmlin),
appeared in Istria, near Venice, proclaiming himself a forerunner of
the Messiah (1502). He announced that if the Jews would show great
repentance, mortification, contrition and charity, the Messiah would
not fail to come in six months. The people's minds, prepared by
suffering and the Kabbalist craze, were susceptible to such convulsive
expectations. Asher Lämmlein gained a troop of adherents, who spread
his prophecies. In Italy and Germany he met with sympathy and belief.
There was much fasting, much praying, much distribution of alms. It
was called the "year of penitence." Everyone prepared himself for the
beginning of the miracle. They counted so surely on redemption and
return to Jerusalem that existing institutions were wilfully destroyed.
The sober and thoughtful did not dare check this wild fanaticism. Even
Christians are said to have believed in Asher Lämmlein's Messianic
prophecy. But the prophet died, or suddenly disappeared, and with him
the extravagant hopes came to an end.

But with the termination of the Lämmlein "year of penitence," the Jews
by no means lost their hope in the Messiah; it was necessary to support
them in their misery. The Kabbalists did not cease arousing this hope,
ever and anon promising them its wonderful realization. Thirty years
later a more important Messianic movement commenced, which, by reason
of its extent and the persons implicated in it, was most interesting.
The Marranos in Spain and Portugal played the principal part in it.

These most unfortunate of all unfortunates, who renounced the faith
of their people, who in a measure estranged themselves from their own
hearts, who were compelled to observe church rites most punctiliously,
though they hated them in the depth of their souls, yet despite all
this were repelled by the Inquisition and the hatred of Christians--
these converts suffered, without exaggeration, the tortures of hell.
The greater portion of them, in spite of all their struggles, could not
bring themselves to love Christianity. How could they feel love for a
creed whose followers daily required the sacrifice of human life, and
on the slightest pretext sought victims among new-Christians? Under
Deza, the second Spanish chief inquisitor, almost greater horrors were
perpetrated than under Torquemada. He and his tools, in particular
Diego Rodriguez Lucero, a pious hangman in Cordova, had committed so
many infamies that a good monk, Peter Martyr, pictured the Inquisition
thirty years after its origin in glaring colors: "The archbishop of
Seville (Deza), Lucero, and Juan de la Fuente have dishonored this
province. Their people acknowledge neither God nor justice. They kill,
steal, and violate women and maidens, to the disgrace of religion.
The injury and unhappiness which these servants of the Inquisition
have caused in my land are so great and widespread that everyone must
grieve." Lucero (the luminous), called by his confederates, on account
of his horrible deeds, Tenebrero (the dark one), brought destruction on
thousands: he was insatiable for the blood of Hebrew martyrs. "Give me
Jews to burn," is said to have been his constant cry. His fanaticism
degenerated into cannibalistic fury.

The officers of the Inquisition had their hands full in consequence
of his cruelty, and an ominous disturbance was growing in Cordova.
The principal people of the place complained of the proceedings
of the inquisitor Lucero, and applied to the chief inquisitor to
have him removed from office. But Deza was at one with him, and so
the discontented knights, nobles, donnas, priests and nuns, were
all accused of favoring Jewish heresy. The third chief inquisitor,
Ximenes de Cisneros, was forbearing towards old Christians suspected
of Judaizing, but condemned not a few converts of Jewish and Moorish
descent to be burned. It was he who used threatening language against
Charles V, when he proposed granting the Spanish Marranos freedom of
belief for a fee of 800,000 gold crowns. He forbade his royal pupil
to tolerate the Jews, as Torquemada had forbidden it to Charles'
ancestors. His successors were not less orthodox, that is to say, not
less inhuman. Under them the victims were not Jews alone; Christians
suffered with them. The reform movement in Germany was felt also in
Spain. Luther's and Calvin's onslaught on the papacy, on priestcraft
and ceremonies was brought over the Pyrenees through the connection of
Spain and Germany, and owing to the nationality of Emperor Charles V.
The emperor, so troubled with the Reformation in Germany, empowered
the Holy Office to proceed against Lutheran doctrines in Spain, a most
welcome task to the bloodthirsty monster. Henceforth, Jews, Mahometans
and Lutheran Christians enjoyed equality; at every auto-da-fé martyrs
of the three different religions perished together.

The Marranos in Portugal were differently placed from those in Spain.
King Manoel, who had by force dragged the Jews to the baptismal font,
in order not to drive them to despair had pledged his word that
for twenty (or twenty-nine) years, their faith should not suffer
molestation at the hands of the Inquisition. Relying on this promise
the Portuguese Marranos followed Jewish observances with less secrecy
than those of Spain. In Lisbon, where they mostly resided, they had
a synagogue, in which they assembled, the more regularly as they
outwardly complied with the Roman Catholic rites, and, therefore, in
their own place of worship, with much contrition, implored forgiveness
of God for their idolatry. The old instructed the young in the Bible
and the Talmud, and impressed upon them the truths of Judaism, so
as to guard them against the temptation of unreserved acceptance
of Christianity. The Portuguese Marranos also had more freedom to
emigrate, and left singly or in numbers for Barbary or Italy, and
thence went on to Turkey. To check the emigration of the Marranos
Manoel had issued an order that a Christian could conclude an exchange
or barter with a convert only under pain of forfeiting his possessions,
and could buy real estate from him only by royal permission; moreover,
that no Marrano, with wife, children and servants, should leave the
land without a special license from the king. But orders of this
description were made only to be evaded. Spanish Marranos had every
reason to envy their fellows in Portugal, and spared no trouble to
escape beyond the frontier of the land where the stake was ready, and
the fagots lighted for them. Very naturally the vindictive Spanish
government opposed them, and induced Manoel to pass a law that no
Spaniard could step on Portuguese soil unless he brought a certificate
that he was not guilty of heresy.

The Portuguese Marranos, then, would have had a tolerable existence
if popular hatred of them had not been so fierce. This unfriendliness
after their baptism shows that they were hated less as followers
of Judaism than as a different race, and an active, industrious,
superior class. The Christians' dislike of them increased when the
converts obtained the right of pursuing a trade, of collecting church
tithes, of taking office, or even accepting ecclesiastical dignities
preparatory to entering one of the orders. At first they showed their
hatred by calling them insulting names, "cursed convert of a Jew"
(_Judæo Marrano, converso_), till Manoel stopped this by law. Bad
harvests, which for many years had brought famine into Portugal, now
resulted in a plague, and this added fuel to popular animosity. It was
commonly said, "The baptized Jews are grain speculators; they make the
necessaries of life dear, and export grain to foreign countries." The
person most hated was a Marrano upstart, John Rodrigo Mascarenhas, the
farmer of taxes, and through him all the Marranos incurred hatred.

This feeling was employed by the crafty Dominicans to gain the
expulsion of the favorites of King Manoel. They not only preached about
the godlessness of the converts, but invented a miracle outright
to excite the fanaticism of the people. The moment was opportune.
The plague raged in Portugal, and swept away thousands daily, while
continued drought threatened another bad harvest. Of these troubles,
the Marranos alone were the cause, at least so everybody said. The
Dominicans loudly proclaimed that, in one of their churches, in a
mirror attached to a cross, the Virgin Mary had appeared in a glow of
fire, and other astonishing miracles had been seen in it. They were
practiced in such deceit. Many people flocked to the church to behold
the marvel. On a Sunday after Easter (April 19th, 1506), the church was
filled with devotional gazers, among them Marranos, who were compelled
to attend.

A Dominican, in a passionate sermon, charged the people collected in
the church to murder the accursed converts, because the king favored
them; and two others, John Mocho and Fratre Bernardo, walked through
the street, bearing crosses, and, crying "Heresy, heresy!" The scum of
the populace in the turbulent capital was aroused, and, together with
German, Dutch and French sailors, took this opportunity to plunder.
Thus nearly 10,000 people went through the town, and killed Marranos,
men, women and children, wherever they found them, in the streets, in
the houses, or in hiding.

This, however, by no means ended the massacre; it continued two days
longer. A German, who was in Lisbon, reported: "On Monday I saw things
dreadful to say or write if one has not seen them." Women with child
were flung from the windows and caught on spears by those standing
underneath, and their offspring hurled away. The peasantry followed the
example of the townspeople. Many women and girls were violated in this
fanatical chase. The number of new-Christians slain is estimated at
between 2,000 and 4,000.

By this slaughter the fate of the Portuguese Marranos was decided. The
people were the more embittered against them because they had gained
the favor of the king, and they longed for their extermination. Their
lives hung on the chance of the continuance of the king's favor. Manoel
declared by proclamation (March, 1507) that converts were to be treated
as Christians, and that they should be permitted to emigrate; and by
another order, that for sixteen years more they should not be liable
to be arraigned before a tribunal for their religious conduct. The
Christian population remained hostile to the converts, from racial
antipathy and from envy of their industrial success, and Manoel himself
was compelled to modify his attitude towards them.

The condition of the Portuguese Marranos changed under Manoel's
successor João III (1522-1557), the blockhead who brought about the
ruin of his country. As Infante he had been the declared enemy of the
new-Christians. At first he respected his father's edict to place
converted Jews on a par with Christians, and to allow no trial to
take place regarding their religious belief within the prescribed
time (1522-1524). For this indulgence the Marranos had to thank
the old counselors of Manoel, who remembered the violent mode of
their conversion, and on the other hand appreciated how much they
had increased the prosperity of the little state. For the Marranos
were a most useful class on account of their energy, their wholesale
business, their public banks, and their skill as armorers and cannon
founders. They were the only ones, too, possessed of a knowledge of
medicine and physical science and all pertaining to it. There were in
Portugal hardly any but Jewish, that is to say, Marrano physicians.
When, however, other influences were brought to bear on João, and he
gradually freed himself from these wise counselors, his fanatical
detestation of the converts gained the upper hand. Queen Catherine,
a Spanish Infanta, filled with admiration of the religious tribunal
of her country, and the bloodthirsty Dominicans, envious of the power
of their order in Spain, besieged the king with complaints of the
disgraceful and wicked conduct of the Marranos towards the Christian
faith, and urged him to put a stop to the proceedings of the Marranos
by instituting an Inquisition. João III thereupon commissioned George
Themudo to inquire into the life of the Marranos in Lisbon, their
headquarters, and to report to him upon it. Themudo was probably not
far from the truth when he informed the king (July, 1524) that some
Marranos observed the Sabbath and the Passover, that, on the other
hand, they joined in Christian rites and ceremonies as little as
possible, were not present at mass and divine service, did not go to
confession, did not ask that extreme unction be administered to the
dying, were buried in unconsecrated ground, not in a churchyard, that
they had no masses said for their departed relatives, and committed
other offenses of a similar character.

But João was not satisfied with Themudo's report; the Marranos were
put under an espionage system. A convert, an emigrant from Spain,
named Henrique Nunes, who afterwards received from the church the
honorary title Firme-Fé, was chosen by the king to spy upon them. In
the school of the bloodthirsty Lucero he had acquired a fierce hatred
of the Marranos, and it was his ardent wish to see the fagots kindled
in Portugal. To him the king gave secret instructions to insinuate
himself into the families of the converts, to associate with them as
a brother and companion in adversity, to observe them and report upon
all the information he could gain. Blinded by fanaticism and hatred
of his own race, Nunes did not consider how contemptible a rôle, that
of a common spy, was allotted to him. He undertook the work only too
willingly, learned all the secrets of the unhappy Marranos in Lisbon,
Evora and other places, and communicated all that he saw and heard
in letters to the king. He betrayed with a brother's kiss those who
showed him the hidden corners of their hearts. He informed the king not
only that he found no Catholic prayer-books in their houses, that they
had no holy images among their ornaments or on their plate, that they
did not care for rosaries and other things of that kind, but he gave
the names of the Jewish Marranos, making hateful accusations against
them. As soon as João received the desired intelligence, he resolved
to introduce the Inquisition on the Spanish model into his country,
and secretly sent the trusty Nunes to Charles V in Spain to learn
something more about it. The Marranos had got wind of this, and were
so furious with the treacherous spy, that two of them followed him to
punish his perfidy with death. These were Diego Vaz, of Olivença, and
André Dias, of Vianna, who were Franciscans, or disguised themselves in
monks' dress. They reached him not far from the Spanish frontier, near
Badajoz, and killed him with sword and spear. They found letters on him
about the installation of the Inquisition. The avengers, or murderers,
as the orthodox Christians called them, were discovered, brought to
trial, stretched on the rack to betray their accomplices, and finally
condemned to the gallows. But the traitor Nunes was regarded as a
martyr, almost canonized, and given the honorary title of "Firme-Fé"
(Firm Believer).

One would have expected the fanatical king after this occurrence to
pursue with greater zeal his object of establishing an Inquisition,
so as to proceed against the Jewish Marranos whose names he had
obtained from Nunes. The king did, indeed, institute a strict inquiry
to discover the accomplices of the two Marrano monks. Contrary to
expectation João issued no restrictions against the Marranos. Also
the inquiry about the conspirators for Nunes' death seems to have
been intentionally protracted as much as possible. Documents plainly
say that the king gave up the plan of establishing the Inquisition. A
chance, the boldness of an adventurer, appears in the first instance to
have brought about this favorable alteration in the mind of the weak,
vacillating king.

Coming from the far East, and emerging from obscurity, appeared a man
of whom it is hard to say whether he was an impostor or a foolish
fanatic, and whether he intended to play the role of a Messianic or
of a political adventurer, but he caused a great stir among Jews,
affecting the Marranos in the extreme West. David, an Oriental by
descent, long resident in Arabia and Nubia, suddenly appeared in Europe
in a peculiar character, and by means of both fiction and truth started
the wildest hopes. He declared himself a descendant of the old Hebrew
tribe of Reuben, which, he alleged, still flourished in Arabia in
independence, and he claimed to be a prince, the brother of a reigning
Jewish king. He, therefore, called himself David Reubeni.

Loving travel and adventure, he journeyed much in Arabia, Nubia and
Egypt, and came finally to Italy. The report was that he had been
sent by his brother, who commanded 300,000 chosen warriors, and by
the seventy elders of the land of Chaibar, to the European princes,
especially to the pope, to obtain firearms and cannon with which to
fight the Mahometan people, who hindered the union of the Jewish race
on both sides of the Red Sea, and to assist the brave Jewish army to
drive the Turks out of the Holy Land.

David Reubeni's appearance and manner were such as to inspire
confidence. In both, there was something strange, mysterious and
eccentric. He was of dark complexion and dwarfish in stature, and
so excessively thin that continuous fasts reduced him almost to a
skeleton. Possessed of courage and intrepidity, he had at the same time
a harsh manner that admitted of no familiarity. He only spoke Hebrew,
and that in so corrupt a jargon that neither Asiatic Jews nor those of
southern Europe understood him. He came to Rome (February, 1524), and
accompanied by a servant and an interpreter, rode on a white horse to
the Vatican, and requested an interview with Cardinal Giulio, in the
presence of other cardinals. Pope Clement also gave him audience, and
accepted his credentials.

Clement VII (1523-1534), one of the most excellent popes, an
illegitimate scion of the Florentine Medicis, was sensible and kind,
and earnestly desired to see Italy freed from the barbarians, that is,
the Germans. But he reigned at a time when Europe had lost its balance.
On the one side Luther and his Reformation, which gained ground daily,
threatened to undermine the papacy; and on the other, Charles V's
powerful realm, Spain and Germany with Burgundy and a part of America,
almost crushed Italy into servile dependence. If Clement quarreled
with the emperor, the latter favored the Reformation, and set about
restraining the papal power. If the pope became reconciled to him, the
liberty of Italy was menaced. Thus, notwithstanding his firm character,
he was continually wavering, and like most of his contemporaries had
recourse to astrology, in order to learn from the stars what was beyond
the wisdom of men.

To Pope Clement VII, David Reubeni seems to have handed letters of
introduction from Portuguese captains or business agents, whom he may
have met in Arabia or Nubia. These credentials the pope sent to the
Portuguese court, and when they were there declared trustworthy, David
was treated with the greatest distinction, and received all the honors
due an ambassador. He rode through Rome on a mule, accompanied by
ten Jews and more than two hundred Christians. The plan of a crusade
against Turkey, by which the most dangerous enemy of Christianity would
be driven out of the Holy Land by an Israelitish army, attracted the
pope, because it promised to restore to him the control of military
affairs, but its execution was thwarted by the complexities of his
position. Even the most incredulous of the Jews could not conceal from
themselves the astonishing fact that a Jew was treated with respect
and politeness by the Vatican, and were convinced that there must be
at least a grain of truth in David's report. Roman and foreign Jews
pressed round him who seemed to open a hopeful future to them. Señora
Benvenida Abrabanela, wife of the rich Samuel Abrabanel, sent him great
sums of money from Naples, a costly silk banner embroidered with the
Ten Commandments, and many rich garments. He, however, played his part
in a masterly manner, keeping the Jews at a respectful distance.

At length a formal invitation came from the king of Portugal, summoning
David Reubeni to his court. The latter left Rome, traveling by sea with
a Jewish flag on his ship. In Almeirin, the residence of king João
III near Santarem, where David arrived, like a wealthy prince, with a
numerous retinue bearing beautifully embroidered banners, he was also
treated with the greatest honor, and a scheme was discussed with him
as to how the weapons and cannons could be transported from Portugal
for the Israelite army in Arabia and Nubia. David's appearance in
Portugal seems to have changed the feeling towards the Marranos, and
João was persuaded to give up the intended persecution of them. For so
great an undertaking João would need their support, their money and
their advice. If he wished for an alliance with the Hebrew king and
people, he must not persecute the half-Jews in his own country. So
his zeal for the establishment of the Inquisition in Portugal suddenly
cooled. One can imagine the astonishment and joy of the Marranos in
Portugal, when they understood that not only might a Jew be admitted
into Portugal, but that he was received at court, and treated with
respect. Thus, then, had come the hour of deliverance of which they
had so long dreamed. Unexpected help had come to them, freedom and
deliverance from their anguish; they breathed again. Whether or not
David Reubeni had declared himself the forerunner of the Messiah, did
not matter to the Marranos; they believed it, and counted the days to
the time when he would make them behold the new Jerusalem in all its
splendor. They pressed round him, kissed his hands, and treated him as
if he were their king. From Portugal the supposed message of salvation
passed to Spain to the still more unfortunate Marranos there, who
received it with ecstasies of joy. These poor people had fallen into a
morbid, eccentric, irresponsible state of mind. Daily and hourly they
suffered torments of soul, through having to join in religious customs
which they abhorred with their whole heart. It was no wonder that
many of them lost their mental balance, and became quite mad. In the
vicinity of Herrara, a Marrano maiden proclaimed herself a prophetess;
fell into trances and had visions; declared that she had seen Moses
and the angels, and promised to lead her suffering companions into the
Holy Land. She found many believers among the Marranos, and when this
was discovered, she was burned together with thirty-eight adherents.
Messianic expectation, that is, redemption through a miracle, made the
atmosphere in which the Marranos breathed and lived. At the news of
the arrival of an ambassador from a Jewish kingdom at the Portuguese
court, a crowd of Spanish converts fled to Portugal to be near their
supposed redeemer. David, who enjoyed the privilege of traveling
about in Portugal, appears to have behaved very circumspectly: he gave
them no promises, and did not encourage them openly to acknowledge
Judaism. He knew well that he was walking on the edge of a precipice,
and that one expression, one act of his directed towards bringing
back new-Christians to Judaism might cost him his life. Nevertheless,
all eyes were fastened on him; all were aroused and excited by the
wonderful events which would certainly come to pass.

David Reubeni's appearance and the hopes it awakened took strongest
hold upon one noble, talented, handsome youth; indeed, the whole
course of his existence was changed. Diogo Pires (born about 1501,
died a martyr, 1532), whose glowing, poetic imagination under more
favorable circumstances might have accomplished much in the domain
of the beautiful, became a tool in the hands of the self-proclaimed
envoy from Chaibar. Pires, who was born a new-Christian, had acquired
a good education; he understood and could speak Latin, the universal
language of the time. He had risen to be royal secretary at a high
court of justice, and was a great favorite at court. With Hebrew and
rabbinic literature he must have been familiar from his earliest
youth, and he had been initiated into the Kabbala, probably by one of
the Marrano teachers. At the time when David and his chimerical plans
made so much stir in Portugal, Diogo Pires was completely possessed by
wild dreams and visions, all of which had a Messianic background. He
hastened, therefore, to David, to ascertain whether his mission was
in accordance with these visionary revelations. David Reubeni appears
to have treated him with coldness, and to have told him plainly that
his military embassy had nothing to do with Messianic mysticism. But
Diogo Pires fancied the coldness of the alleged envoy to be owing to
the circumstance that he had not accepted the sign of the covenant,
and he forthwith proceeded to undergo the dangerous operation of
circumcision. The consequent loss of blood laid him on a sick bed.
David was highly incensed when Pires told him of this, as both of them
would be in danger, if it came to the king's ears that a Marrano had
so emphatically and openly declared himself a Jew; for it would be
asserted that David had persuaded him to take this course.

After circumcision Pires (who took the name of Solomon Molcho) had yet
more terrible visions, owing presumably to his bodily weakness. Their
import always had reference to the Marranos and their redemption by
the Messiah. According to his own account a strange being (Maggid),
who communed with him from Heaven in a dream, charged him to leave
Portugal and set out for Turkey. David Reubeni also had advised that
he should leave Portugal with all speed, as the act of circumcision
might involve also David in danger, and frustrate his schemes. Leaving
Portugal cannot, then, have been difficult for Marranos. Diogo Pires
(or Solomon Molcho) reached Turkey, and hoped for a Messianic mission
and a martyr's death.

A great sensation was made there by this enthusiastic, handsome young
Kabbalist, the new Jewish recruit. At first he gave himself out as a
delegate from David Reubeni, of whose good reception at the papal and
Portuguese courts rumors were current even in the East, and had not
failed to inflame people's imagination. In Salonica, Joseph Taytasak's
Kabbalistic circle took possession of him, and greedily listened to
his dreams and visions. At Adrianople Molcho converted to the Kabbala
the sober-minded Joseph Karo, who had left Spain when a boy, and had
hitherto busied himself entirely with Talmudic learning. Enthusiasm is
infectious. Karo fell into the same Kabbalistic enthusiasm as Molcho.
He also had his dream-prompter (Maggid), who taught him inelegant,
mystical interpretations of Scriptural passages, and revealed the
future. He was so faithful an imitator that, like Molcho, he lived
in the most certain expectation of being burnt at the stake as a
"burnt-sacrifice of a sweet savour unto the Lord." Molcho inoculated
his followers with a longing for martyrdom. His captivating person,
pure enthusiasm, romantic disposition, past career, astonishing
knowledge of the Kabbala (though born a Christian), everything
connected with him, raised up a host of adherents, who greedily
listened to his mystic utterances, and believingly accepted them.
He often preached, and words flowed like a torrent from his lips.
Gray-headed men went with questions to the youth, seeking explanations
of obscure verses of Scripture, or revelations of the future. At the
urgent request of his friends in Salonica he published a brief abstract
of his Kabbalistic sermons, the substance of which was: The advent of
the Messiah is at hand; his reign will begin at the end of the year
5300 dating from the creation (1540). The sack and havoc of Rome (May
5th, 1527), confirmed the Messianic hopes of Kabbalistic zealots. Rome,
the iniquitous Catholic Babylon, filled with the spoils of the whole
earth, was taken by storm by German soldiers, mostly Lutherans, and
was treated almost as a hostile city by order of the Catholic emperor,
Charles V. The fall of Rome, according to Messianic and apocalyptic
principles, had been predicted as a sign of the Messiah's advent. Now
Rome had fallen. In Asia, Turkey, Hungary, Poland, and Germany, hopes
of the coming of the Messiah were stirring in Jewish hearts, and were
associated with the name of Solomon Molcho, who was to bring about
their realization.

In Spain and Portugal the Marranos held yet more firmly to their
visions of Messianic redemption, and to David Reubeni, whom, with or
without his consent, they took for a forerunner of the Messiah. Their
illusion was so complete that they boldly inaugurated enterprises which
could only end in death for themselves. Several Spanish Marranos,
condemned to the stake, had curiously enough found a place of refuge
in Portugal (in Campo-Mayor), where they were suffered to remain
unmolested. A company of young people from among them ventured to
attack Badajoz, whence they had fled, for the purpose of rescuing some
Marrano women languishing in the Inquisition dungeons. Their irruption
greatly alarmed the inhabitants, but they succeeded in rescuing the
unfortunate victims. The incident made a great stir in both countries,
and led to most prejudicial results for the pseudo-Christians. This
occurrence, as well as the denunciation of several Marranos for
disrespect to an image of the Virgin Mary, again induced the king to
consider the scheme of establishing a court of Inquisition. David
Reubeni's favor with the king of Portugal was of brief duration. He
was at first received by João III with extraordinary friendliness,
and often admitted to audience (when conversation was carried on
by means of an Arab and Portuguese interpreter), and received the
distinct promise that eight ships and 4,000 firearms should be placed
at his disposal to enable his brother, the alleged king of Chaibar,
to make war upon the Turks and Arabs, but the king gradually cooled
down. Miguel de Silva, Portuguese ambassador at the papal court while
David was at Rome, had held the alleged Jewish prince of Chaibar
to be an adventurer. He was recalled to Portugal, and opposing the
other councilors, who were deluded by David's daring character, made
strenuous efforts to deprive him of the king's favor. Moreover, the
homage so remarkably and openly offered to him by the Marranos had
roused suspicion concerning him. Miguel de Silva, intrusted with the
commission to establish the Inquisition in Portugal, pointed out
that the king himself, by favoring the alleged Jewish prince, plainly
fortified the Marranos in their unbelief, or adherence to the Jewish
cause. Then came the circumcision and flight of the royal secretary,
Diogo Pires (Solomon Molcho). This occurrence gave great offense at the
Portuguese court, and it was insinuated to the king that David had been
his abettor.

Thus it came to pass that David Reubeni suddenly received orders
to quit Portugal after he had tarried there and been treated with
distinction for nearly a twelvemonth. Only two months' grace before
embarkation was granted him. The ship that carried him and his retinue
was cast away on the Spanish coast, and David was taken prisoner in
Spain, where he was forced to appear before the Inquisition. However,
before that could take place, Emperor Charles set him free, and David
Reubeni betook himself to Avignon, under papal jurisdiction. As soon
as King João broke with David Reubeni, every reason for sparing the
Marranos vanished. The vacillating king was hard-pressed by the queen,
the Dominicans, and some of the nobles, to decide on introducing the
Inquisition. The bishop of Ceuta, Henrique, formerly a Franciscan monk
and a fanatical priest, brought about the decision. In his diocese of
Olivença five new-Christians were suspected of Jewish practices. He
made short work of them. Without greatly troubling as to whether the
tribunal of the Inquisition was or was not sanctioned by the pope, and
legally established by the king, he prepared stakes and fagots, and
burnt the victims to death, having condemned them without regular trial
(about 1530). The people jubilantly applauded him, and celebrated the
murder of these Jewish-Christians with bull-fights. Far from wishing to
hide his deed, Henrique boasted of it, and pressed the king to commence
in earnest the chastisement of the heretical and sinful new-Christians.
João decided to address himself to Pope Clement respecting the
organization of commissions of inquiry in Portugal.

But there were still some priests left from the previous reign who
loudly raised their voices against this violent treatment of the
Marranos. Two especially deserve to have their names made known to
posterity--Ferdinand Coutinho, bishop of Algarve, and Diogo Pinheiro,
bishop of Funchal. They had been witnesses of the inhuman cruelties
with which, under Manoel, the Jews were driven to baptism, and in no
way could recognize them as Christians, neither when there was question
of punishing them for relapsing into heresy, nor of intrusting them
with judicial power or spiritual benefice. Coutinho, untiring in
ridicule of the mistaken zeal of the younger priests, reminded the
king that Pope Clement VII himself had not long before allowed several
Marranos to acknowledge Judaism openly in the very city of Rome.
This pope, convinced of the injustice shown to new-Christians, with
the consent of the college of cardinals had given them an asylum at
Ancona, permitting them freely to confess themselves Jews. In Florence
and Venice also they could live without molestation. Nay, the papal
consistory itself had given out that the Portuguese Marranos were to
be regarded as Jews. He considered, so Coutinho expressed himself
in his friendly consideration of the question, that instead of the
new-Christians, accused of outraging what Christians hold sacred,
the witnesses ought to be punished for bearing false testimony. The
new-Christians should be won to the true faith only by gentle means. At
length the king decided to submit the question to the pope, who, should
he sanction the establishment of the Inquisition, would at the same
time absolve him from the promises made to the Marranos. The Portuguese
ambassador at Rome, Bras Neto, received orders to obtain a bull to
that effect from the pope. But what so easily, by a stroke of the pen,
had been conceded to Spain, cost the king of Portugal many efforts and
a struggle, and he was never able fully to enjoy his Inquisition.

Now the weak hand of the amiable Kabbalist Solomon Molcho seized the
spokes of this revolving wheel. From the East he had gone to Italy
to fulfill the Messianic mission with which he was inspired, or with
which he was credited. He wished to speak fearlessly before princes, in
the capital of Christendom, of the approaching redemption. At Ancona,
where he arrived with followers towards the end of 1529, certain
malevolent persons, according to his own story, persecuted him. They
were in fact prudent men, who were informed of his life in the East,
and feared that, as a result of his impetuous striving for martyrdom,
evil consequences would ensue for Jews all over the world, or at least
for the Marranos in Italy, Portugal and Spain. Molcho, when cited,
is understood to have confessed fearlessly that he preferred Judaism
because it taught the truth. The bishop of Ancona discharged him as
one of the Portuguese Marranos to whom freedom of religious confession
had been allowed by the pope and the cardinals, but forbade him to
preach against Christianity. Molcho remained some time at Ancona,
where his preaching became very popular, even priests and Christians
of the higher classes coming to the synagogue. However, he seems to
have compromised himself, and in consequence repaired to Pesaro with
the duke of Urbino, Francesco Maria della Rovere I, who thought a
settlement of Marranos in his little state would be advantageous. But
there was no rest for Molcho; he burnt with impatience to be at Rome
to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah, though without any
clear conception of what to do. He waited for some prompting from on
high, which, he believed, could not fail him. In obedience to a vision
he abandoned his retinue at Pesaro, and set out alone on horseback
for Rome. At the first sight of the Eternal City his feelings overcame
him, for Molcho, like Luther, held Rome to be the seat of anti-Christ;
he sank into fervent prayer, imploring redemption and forgiveness of
sin for Israel. A voice broke in upon his prayer, predicting in verses
of the Bible, "Edom (Rome) shall be the heritage of Israel, his foot
shall be unsteady, but Israel will gain the victory." In this mood he
entered Rome, and took up his abode at an inn kept by Christians. He
put on a tattered suit, blackened his face, wrapped dirty rags around
his feet, and leaving his horse and clothes at the inn, he took his
stand among the tribe of beggars on the bridge over the Tiber, opposite
the pope's palace. This equipment was in accordance with Messianic
tradition, which had it that the Messiah would tarry amongst the lepers
and ragged beggars of Rome, to be summoned thence to triumph. For
thirty consecutive days the Portuguese enthusiast led this miserable
existence, neither eating meat nor drinking wine, but contenting
himself with the scantiest and poorest fare, and waiting for the
prophetic ecstasy.

In this condition of bodily tension and mental exaltation, Molcho fell
into a deep sleep, and had a confused dream, noteworthy because part
of it was afterwards fulfilled to the very letter. It was predicted
in this vision that a devastating flood would break over Rome and
a northern country, and his native land be panic-stricken by an
earthquake, that when he himself reached his thirtieth year he would
be raised to a higher degree, and clad in Byssus, because of his own
free will he had devoted himself to death. He would return to Rome, but
leave it again before the flood took place. Then the Holy Spirit, the
spirit of wisdom and understanding, would rest on the Messianic king,
the dead would rise from the dust, and God give His people glory.

Next morning, enfeebled by his long mortification and his troubled
sleep, Molcho dragged himself back to his inn, and rested. He laid
aside his disguise, and went out to hold converse with Jews (February,
1530). Being still a complete stranger in Rome, and in order to avoid
the denunciation of his opponents, he gave himself out as a messenger
from Solomon Molcho. In spite of this he was recognized, and denounced
to the Inquisition as a seditious Marrano. He had some time previously
entered into intercourse with the pope and some of the cardinals, to
whom he predicted the flood. Clement VII, who for several years had
been drinking of the cup of sorrow, and experiencing humiliations such
as had fallen to the lot of few popes before him, who had been forced
to crown at Bologna his deadly enemy, Charles V, as king of Italy and
emperor of Rome (February 22d-24th, 1530), was but too readily inclined
to listen to dreams and visions. Other unknown relations may have
existed between the pope and Molcho, in consequence of which the latter
was regarded with surprising favor by the pope. Molcho had friends also
among the cardinals. Lorenzo Pucci, for example, grand penitentiary of
the papal see, who had taken Reuchlin's part against the Dominicans,
was attached to him. Hence, while the papal police were lying in wait
for Molcho, at the gates of Rome, he escaped over the walls, and
hastened to the pope, from whom he obtained a pontifical passport that
guaranteed him against harm.

Furnished with this, Molcho came back secretly to Rome, and one
Saturday suddenly appeared in the chief synagogue, where, to the
astonishment of all present, he preached on a text taken from the
prophetical portion. His adherents in Rome increased so largely that he
preached in the synagogue every Sabbath until autumn, without meeting
with opposition. He inspired his hearers, yet seemed powerless to
disarm his opponents. Molcho was the Jewish Savonarola. He spoke with
unshakable certainty of his visions, and even announced to the king
of Portugal (through the ambassador, Bras Neto) the earthquake which
threatened Lisbon, so that precautionary measures might be taken.
Molcho was himself so firmly convinced that the flood would come to
pass that, when the predicted time approached, he went to Venice.
Molcho and David Reubeni, who meanwhile had returned from Avignon to
Italy, again met face to face. They looked at each other coldly and
with amazement; each expected miracles from the other. Each desired the
other to acknowledge his sublime mission. They were both embarrassed.
Molcho's eyes were opened on this occasion to the true character of his
once-admired master. He no longer believed in Reubeni's ignorance, but
felt convinced that, Talmudic and Kabbalistic learning not being in
keeping with his character as an Arabian prince, it was assumed by him
in order to deceive people. Molcho even recanted his declaration that
he was David's emissary. "Before the God of heaven and earth I proclaim
the truth, that my circumcision and the abandonment of my country were
not counseled by flesh and blood (David), but took place at the express
command of God." Molcho was a deluded enthusiast, whereas David was
an adventurer intentionally deceiving others. After his unsuccessful
attempt to win over the king of Portugal and Charles V to his schemes,
David went to Venice with the purpose of influencing the president of
that republic, which had close relations with the East. Remarkably
enough he found sympathy there; the Venetian senate sent a man well
acquainted with the country to question him respecting his plan and
means of conquest in the East (1530).

Both Molcho and David were harassed by the more temperate Jews, who
apprehended danger for themselves and their religion. While at Venice
Molcho was poisoned by Jewish hands, and fell into a dangerous illness.

Meanwhile the inundation of Rome predicted really took place,
transforming the city into a stormy lake, and causing great havoc
(October 8th, 1530). At the same time a brilliant comet appeared,
shooting out rays of light till the heavens seemed about to open. In
Portugal the earth shook thrice, and the earthquake destroyed a number
of houses in Lisbon, many persons being buried beneath the ruins
(January 26th, 1531).

After the inundation of Rome, Molcho again appeared in that city,
where he was honored as a prophet. The pope, to whom he had predicted
the calamity, seems to have lavished his affections upon him, and he
bestowed public marks of honor upon him. The Portuguese ambassador,
Bras Neto, told him that if the king of Portugal had known how favored
a man in God's sight was Molcho, and how well able to read the future,
he would have permitted him to dwell in his dominions. And this was the
moment when the ambassador received the mandate from his sovereign to
work secretly for a bull from the papal see introducing the Inquisition
against the Marranos! A more unfavorable time could not have been
chosen. The affair was laid for decision before the grand penitentiary,
Cardinal Lorenzo Pucci. But the latter, as well as Pope Clement,
influenced by Solomon Molcho, strongly opposed the proposal from the
beginning. Pucci straightforwardly said to the Portuguese ambassador,
"The king of Portugal, like the king of Spain, is more attracted by the
Marranos' wealth than concerned about the orthodoxy of their creed;
let him rather leave them free to live according to their own law, and
punish only those who, after voluntarily embracing Catholicism, relapse
to the Jewish faith." For the moment Bras Neto was powerless. He even
feared Molcho's influence with the pope, and kept his doings secret,
lest anything come to the ears of the Marranos in Portugal, and they
supply Molcho with money wherewith to bribe the pope's retainers to
work against the establishment of the Inquisition.

All this time Molcho was untiringly persecuted by his fellow-believers,
more especially by his enemy, Jacob Mantin, the learned but
unscrupulous physician and philologist. This revengeful man came from
Venice to Rome for no other purpose than to cause the ruin of him whom
he gratuitously hated. He took the Portuguese ambassador fairly to
task for allowing a former Portuguese Christian, who preached against
Christianity, to remain at liberty in Rome. As the ambassador would
not listen to him, Mantin carried his complaint to the Inquisition.
He procured witnesses from Portugal who testified that Solomon Molcho
had lived as a Christian in Portugal, and managed to have him cited
before the congregation. Hereupon Molcho exhibited his passport from
the pope, trusting with such support to remain unmolested; but the
Inquisitors tore it from his hands, and betook themselves to the pope,
to whom they represented how indecent it was that he should protect a
scoffer at Christianity. Clement replied that he needed Molcho for a
secret purpose, and requested that he be left undisturbed. When the
Inquisition showed itself inclined to disregard his denunciation,
Mantin raised new points against Molcho. He contrived to get possession
of the letter which some years before Molcho had written from Monastir
to Joseph Taytasak, respecting his past life and his return to Judaism,
translated it into Latin, and laid it before the tribunal. As the
letter undoubtedly contained abuse against Edom, _i.e._, against
Rome and Christianity, the Inquisition was forced to take notice of
it, and Clement also no longer dared set his face against Mantin's
denunciation. The congregation now proceeded with the case, and
sentenced Molcho to be burnt to death. A funeral pile was built up,
and the fagots kindled. People came in crowds to the place to witness
the attractive sight. A wretched victim brought thither in penitential
shroud was thrown without ceremony into the fire. One of the judges
informed the pope that the act of faith had been completed by the
offender's death. The judge and the witnesses of the execution are
said to have felt no small astonishment when Solomon Molcho alive was
encountered in the pope's apartments.

It seems that Clement, to save his favorite's life, foisted in some one
else, who ascended the scaffold, whilst Solomon Molcho was kept hidden
in the pope's chambers.

The pope himself communicated this fact to the perplexed judge,
enjoining silence in order that Jews and Christians might not have
fresh fuel to feed their excitement. Solomon Molcho was saved, but he
dared no longer remain in Rome; that was plain even to him, and he
begged the pope to let him go. Escorted by a few faithful servants of
the pope, Solomon Molcho rode out of Rome at night (February or March,

After Molcho's departure from Rome, especially after the death of
Cardinal Lorenzo Pucci (August, 1531), a different feeling towards
the Marranos sprang up. A Portuguese agent obtained from the pope,
who was urged thereto by Emperor Charles and the grand penitentiary,
Antonio Pucci, the successor to his uncle, the bull establishing
the Inquisition, so long prayed for (December 17th, 1531), although
Cardinals Egidio de Viterbo, Elias Levita's disciple, and Geronimo
de Ghinucci, had declared against it. As though this mild-tempered
pope were ashamed of allowing his former _protégés_ to be persecuted,
he bracketed the Lutherans with them. He was careful, too, not to
permit the fanatical Dominicans to acquire power over the Marranos.
The king's confessor, a Franciscan, the gentle-minded Diogo de Silva,
was appointed inquisitor general of Portugal. Three tribunals were
established, at Lisbon, Evora, and Coimbra, with the "Constitutions"
of the Spanish courts introduced by Torquemada, and improved, that is,
made severer, by his successors. After the king and the grandees had
withdrawn their protection, the Portuguese Marranos were in a far worse
plight than their Spanish brethren. The populace had long so hated them
that even otherwise upright Christians turned informers, whereas in
Spain spies had to be specially hired for the purpose.

When the Inquisition began its execrable work many of the Marranos
naturally contemplated leaving the country. But flight was not easy;
it was with them as with their forefathers when they came out of Egypt
--the foe behind, the sea, with all its dangers and terrors, in
front. A law was made (June 14th, 1532) strictly forbidding emigration
to Africa, not even excepting the Portuguese colonies. Captains
were warned, under penalty of death, not to carry Marranos, and all
Christians were prohibited from buying real estate of new-Christians;
these were not permitted to send their goods away to foreign countries,
nor effect exchanges at home. Nevertheless, many of them prepared for
emigration, in order "to flee from the land touched by the poisonous
serpent" (the Inquisition); but before they could even set foot on
board ship, they and their wives and children were seized, and hurried
away to gloomy dungeons, whence they were dragged to the stake. Others
perished in the waves of the sea before they could reach the vessel
which was to bring them to a place of safety. Many were drawn forth
from the most hidden retreats, and burnt to death. Those who escaped
from the claws of this bloodthirsty monster found no relief in strange
lands--they were imprisoned in Flanders, arrested in France, unkindly
received in England. In addition to such torments many lost their
fortunes, and, in consequence, their lives. Those who reached Germany
succumbed in extreme misery on the Alps, leaving wives about to become
mothers, who, on cold and deserted roads, brought forth children, and
endured a new form of misfortune.

Nevertheless, the Marranos did not intermit their attempts to escape,
but prosecuted them with increased caution. No other way out of their
troubles was left. Appeals to justice and humanity, and the urging of
their chartered rights and privileges, found none but deaf ears in the

Marranos who escaped to Rome made bitter complaints to Pope Clement
of the inhumanity with which the Inquisition persecuted them and
their brethren, and urged that the king had obtained the bull by
fraud, inasmuch as the facts of the case had not been set before the
papal consistory in a proper light. They especially complained that
emigration was prohibited, in direct opposition to the legal equality
which had been granted. Clement VII, who regretted that he had
issued the bull, to which he had been forced, sympathized with their
grievances. He may have felt, too, that the fires of the Inquisition,
employed against those who were neither Catholics nor willing converts,
branded the Catholic Church, and gave the Lutherans more material to
continue their hostile assaults, to depict it as bloodthirsty and a
just object of hatred. Moreover, he was well aware that the Inquisition
had been introduced into Portugal only because Spain and his arch-foe,
Emperor Charles, desired it, with the object of placing Portugal in an
unequivocally dependent condition. Hence Clement revolved a plan to
revoke the bull. At this time Solomon Molcho and David Reubeni resumed
their mystical activity, and conceived the daring scheme of going to
the emperor at Ratisbon, where the Reichstag was then assembled. With
a floating banner, embroidered with the letters "Machbi" (initials of
the Hebrew words of the verse, "Who is like unto thee among the gods,
O Lord"), they traveled from Bologna, by way of Ferrara and Mantua, to
Ratisbon. Emperor Charles gave them audience, and they probably pleaded
the cause of the Jews earnestly. An unwarranted and improbable report
affirms that they attempted to convert the emperor to the Jewish faith.
But they were not so heedless as to make this attempt. They simply
petitioned the emperor to permit the Marranos to arm themselves, and,
joining the Jewish tribes, attack the Turks. Joslin of Rosheim, who
was also in Ratisbon, vainly warned them not to make this request. The
end was that Charles put them both in chains (June-September, 1532),
and carried them fettered to Mantua. The banner was left at Ratisbon.
An inquisition, at the emperor's wish, was set on foot at Mantua, and
Molcho was condemned to be burnt to death for relapse and heresy. While
the emperor was diverting himself by triumphal processions, festivals,
hunting, plays, and all imaginable merry-makings, the funeral pile
of the Lisbon Marrano was built up, and set on fire. They led him to
the place of execution with a gag in his mouth, for his eloquence
was so powerful and persuasive that emperor and tribunal feared its
effect on the crowd. He was, therefore, forced to keep silence. But
when the executioners were ready to throw him into the blazing fire,
a courier from the emperor arrived, removed the gag, and asked him
in the emperor's name, whether he repented of his transgressions and
was willing to return to the bosom of the church; if so, he should
be pardoned. As might have been expected, Molcho replied that he had
longed to die a martyr, "a burnt-sacrifice, of a sweet savour unto the
Lord," that he repented him of only one thing--that he had been a
Christian in his youth. Come life, come death, he commended his soul
unto God. Then he was thrown into the midst of the flames, and died
with unshaken constancy.

Molcho was the victim of a phantasmagoria, a delusion, into which, at
feud with reality, he allowed himself to fall. The rich gifts bestowed
on him by nature--a handsome person, glowing imagination, quick
perception, ready enthusiasm--which would have been steps on the
ladder of fortune for any character less fantastical, only served to
ruin him, because, swept into the vortex of the Kabbala, he fondly
hoped to accomplish the work of redemption. David Reubeni had not even
the martyr's crown. Charles carried him to Spain, and cast him into a
dungeon of the Inquisition, in which he was still living three years
afterwards. It appears that he was at length put to death by poison. As
a Jew, the Inquisition had no power over him. But many of the Spanish
Marranos who had had intercourse with him, and whose names he probably
betrayed on the rack, were burnt to death.

Enthusiasm for Molcho was so great that a mistaken faith was pinned
to him, and various fictions respecting him were invented. In Italy
and Turkey numbers believed that he had on this occasion, as once
before, escaped death. Some said that they had seen him a week after
his auto-da-fé; others gave out that he had visited his bride at
Safet. Joseph Karo, whose name was soon to be widely known, longed for
martyrdom like Molcho's. Even the circumspect Joseph Cohen of Genoa, a
careful historian, averse to belief in miracles, was dazed, and knew
not what to think of the affair. An Italian Kabbalist, Joseph of Arli,
would not abandon the hope that the time of the Messiah, as announced
and prepared by Molcho, would soon dawn on the Jewish world. Molcho's
death, according to him, would soon find avengers. By a childish
transposing of the letters of two verses in Isaiah (Notaricon), he
predicted the downfall of the religion of Jesus from various causes:
Luther's agitation, the many new sects springing up among Christians,
the recent sack of Rome, and the mutually inimical attitude of the pope
and the emperor.

The Kabbalist of Arli was ill-disposed towards the pope, though
unreasonably so, for he was certainly not guilty of Molcho's death; on
the contrary, the pope had to look on while the emperor, to gain his
own ends, executed one, and imprisoned the other, of his favorites.
However, Clement seems to have made a countermove. He strove to bring
about the revocation of the fatal bull authorizing the institution
of the Inquisition in Portugal, or at least to make it less drastic
in its effects. The Marranos knew this, and made every effort to
win the papal curia to their side. As soon as they understood that
Solomon Molcho, their most successful advocate, was no longer to
be reckoned upon, they sent another envoy to Rome, to bring their
grievances before the pope and defend their cause. This new advocate
of the Marranos, Duarte de Paz, was the very opposite in character
to Molcho: cool-headed, far removed from any extravagance, cunning,
calculating, bold, and eloquent, initiated into all the trickery of
diplomacy, possessing profound knowledge of human nature, and able to
make use of men's foibles for his own ends. Duarte de Paz for nearly
eight years looked after the interests of Portuguese new-Christians.
He was himself of Marrano descent, and as a reward for his services
to the Portuguese court in Africa had obtained an important post and
the confidence of King João III. Chosen by the king to perform a
secret mission, and made a knight of the order of Christ (styled also
Commendatore) on the day of his departure, he set out, not for the
appointed place, but for Rome, to work for the Marranos. Duarte de Paz
entwined the threads of his intrigues so intricately that to this day
it is impossible to ascertain exactly whom he deceived, whether the
king or the Marranos. His clients, the Marranos, kept him well supplied
with money, which, for good or evil, was almighty at the pope's court.
Duarte de Paz obtained substantial successes in return for his pains
and his presents. Clement was convinced anew that most atrocious
injustice was done the new-Christians in demanding Catholic orthodoxy
from those who had been dragged with brutal force to be baptized, and
in denying them liberty to journey beyond the confines of Portugal.
The pope issued an apostolical brief (October 17th, 1532) stopping
the proceedings of the Inquisition until further notice. Duarte de
Paz continued his efforts in order to procure a general pardon for
all Marranos denounced or imprisoned. It appears that intrigues were
set on foot in favor of the Marranos even at the court of João III.
The party in favor of the Inquisition worked for Spanish interests,
and, in view of the probability of the king's remaining without issue,
was eagerly bent on making the Portuguese crown one with the Spanish.
On the other side, the national party, which sought to preserve the
independence of Portugal, seems to have been against the Inquisition.
Hence plotting and counter-plotting continued for several years to
such an extent, that the inquisitor general, Diogo de Silva (appointed
by the pope himself), declared that he would not undertake so great
a responsibility, and resigned his office. Duarte de Paz obtained a
second extraordinarily important brief from Pope Clement. The pope
recognized as fair and legitimate the reasons urged by new-Christians
to justify their lack of attachment to the church.

    "Since they were dragged by force to be baptized, they cannot
    be considered members of the church, and to punish them for
    heresy and relapse were to violate the principles of justice
    and equity. With sons and daughters of the first Marranos the
    case is different, they belong to the church as voluntary
    members. But, as they have been brought up by their relatives
    in the midst of Judaism, and have had their example continually
    before their eyes, it would be cruel to punish them according
    to the canonical law for falling into Jewish ways and beliefs;
    they must be kept in the bosom of the church through gentle

By this brief Clement VII abrogated the power of the Portuguese
Inquisition, ordered that denunciation of Marranos should be carried
before his own tribunal, and granted to all a thorough absolution or
amnesty for past defection from the church. Those languishing in the
dungeons of the Inquisition were to be set free, the banished allowed
to return, and those robbed of their goods to have them restored.
Clement declared, with the peculiar untruthfulness of the papacy,
from which even the best popes were unable to free themselves, that
he had issued this brief of his own accord, without the suggestion of
the Marranos, although the whole world knew the contrary, and counted
up how many scudi the see had received for the letter. Clement also
declared all who should resist this brief, clergy as well as laity, to
be under the ban, and urgently pressed his envoy, Marco della Ruvere,
to make it known throughout Portugal. To do Pope Clement VII justice,
it must be said that he steadfastly defended the cause of humanity
towards the unhappy Marranos against the bloodthirsty spirit of the
Christianity of his time, though it must be admitted that other and not
quite pure motives may have conduced to his action--viz., hatred of
Charles V, who upheld the proposal for a Portuguese Inquisition, and
greed for the sums of money paid him and his retainers. The thought of
delivering the Marranos to the tender mercies of those bloody-minded
wretches in Portugal was not to be lightly endured. Although the
question had been thoroughly discussed, Clement appointed a commission,
consisting of the two neutral cardinals, De Cesis and Campeggio, to
consider the matter once more. The grand penitentiary, Antonio Pucci,
Cardinal de Santiquatro, could not be excluded, although a partisan
of the Portuguese court. Nevertheless, this commission officially
attested the perpetration of devilish atrocities by the Inquisition
against pseudo-Christians. In consequence of their report, Clement VII
(July 26th, 1534), feeling that his end was near, issued a brief to the
nuncio at the Portuguese court to press the release and absolution of
imprisoned Marranos. There were about twelve hundred of them, and it
may be doubted whether this brief effected their deliverance. Clement's
death (September 25th, 1534) brought to naught his good intentions and
the Marranos' hopes.

Intrigues concerning the Inquisition were woven anew under his
successor, Paul III Farnese (1534-1549), at first to the prejudice
of the Marranos, though this pope belonged to the old school of
worldly-minded, diplomatic, by no means bigoted princes of the church.
He was a subtle schemer, and paid more attention to earthly than to
heavenly powers. Paul III was specially well-disposed to Jews. If a
description by a narrow-minded bishop (Sadolet of Carpentras) is true
only to a small extent, it still proves that this friendliness must
have been remarkable. "No pope has ever bestowed on Christians so many
honors, such privileges and concessions as Paul III has given to the
Jews. They are not only assisted, but positively armed with benefits
and prerogatives." Paul III had a Jewish physician in ordinary, Jacob
Mantin, who dedicated some of his works to him.

As soon as Paul III had ascended the papal chair, the king of Portugal
deemed it most important to procure a revocation of Clement's bulls
and briefs in favor of the Marranos, and opposed to the Inquisition.
But Duarte de Paz, the Marranos' advocate, who had been given an aid
in Diogo Rodrigues Pinto, spared no effort to oppose the contemplated
change of policy. Gold also was not wanting. Duarte de Paz, although
apparently engaged in a traitorous correspondence with the king, Don
João, offered Cardinal Santiquatro, the partisan of Portugal, a yearly
pension of 800 crusados, if he would give his support to the Marranos.
The pope, diplomatically cautious as he was, and disinclined to bind
himself, decided at first (November 3d, 1534), that Clement's brief
should not be promulgated. But when he learned that it had already
taken effect, he ordered the case to be again considered, and for
that purpose named two cardinals, Ghinucci and Simoneta, of whom the
first decidedly favored the Marranos, having published a work in
their defense. The result of their investigation was that Paul III
emphatically admonished the Portuguese court to obey Clement VII's
bull of absolution. He was decidedly opposed to the imprisonment of
Marranos in inaccessible dungeons and against the confiscation of
their property. But the Catholic kings of that day showed obedience
to the papal see only as long as it suited them and their interest;
so João III paid but small heed to the pope's admonition. His envoy
even advised him, in order to carry on the Inquisition, to cut himself
adrift from the Romish Church as England had done. A complete web of
intrigues was spun over this affair in Rome and Portugal. In Portugal
the court was on the one side, and the Marrano leaders, Thomé Sarrão
and Manuel Mendes, with the papal legate on the other--at Rome,
Duarte de Paz and Pinto, against or with the Portuguese ambassador and
against Cardinal Santiquatro.

Disgusted and wearied, Paul III, who did not readily give up an
intention once formed, issued a new, decisive bull (October 2d, 1535),
giving absolution to the Marranos, and protecting them against all
clerical and civil penalties for relapse and heresy, provided that they
would not be guilty of similar offenses in future. The Inquisition in
Portugal, which for the sake of appearance could not proceed without
the authorization of the pope, was once again arrested. The nuncio set
to work energetically, made the bull known throughout Portugal, and
carried matters so far, that even the inimically disposed Infante Don
Alfonso opened the prison doors to free those whose release was so
pressingly recommended by Rome. Altogether there were eighteen hundred
Marranos liberated (December, 1535).

At first dazed as by a sudden blow, the Portuguese court later on set
every lever in motion once more to obtain sovereign power over the
Marranos and their property. It did not shrink from assassination to
gain its ends. One day Duarte de Paz was attacked on the high road by
assassins, and left lying there for dead, covered with fourteen wounds
(January, 1536). All Rome believed the murderers to be hirelings of the
Portuguese court. The pope was greatly provoked at this crime, and sent
physicians to pay every attention to the procurator, who eventually
recovered. Nevertheless, with respect to the Inquisition, the pope
had to comply with the wishes of the Portuguese court, which had at
last found out the right way to reach its goal. It had recourse to the
victorious Charles V, urgently requesting him to manage the affair.
Just at that time the emperor had fought a hard battle near Tunis with
the Mahometan Barbarossa, who, supported by Turkey, had disquieted all
Christendom. After many struggles, the numerous host of Christians, led
by Charles himself, gained the day, and Barbarossa was defeated.

When Charles arrived in Rome after a triumphal progress through Italy,
he asked the pope, as a reward of his victory for Christianity, to
authorize the Inquisition in Portugal. Paul III did not yield without
a struggle. He always returned to the contention that the Portuguese
Marranos were originally dragged by force to be baptized, and that,
therefore, the sacrament had no hold upon them.

Unfortunately for the Marranos, their means for satisfying the
greed of the papal court for gold were exhausted. Their advocate,
Duarte de Paz, had promised exorbitant sums for the frustration of
the Inquisition, and had misappropriated to his own use part of the
money intrusted to him. The pseudo-Christians thus found themselves
obliged, when pressed for payment by the papal nuncio, to declare
that they were not in a position to redeem the exaggerated promises
of Duarte de Paz. Moreover, this commerce between the nuncio and
Marranos was betrayed, and the latter had to exercise yet greater
caution. Hence interest in the Marranos gradually cooled down at the
pope's court. As the emperor put increasing pressure on Paul III to
authorize the Inquisition in Portugal, the pope at last sanctioned
the tribunal for the Portuguese dominions (May 23d, 1536). The pope,
friend of the Jews as he was, granted his sanction with a heavy heart,
forced thereto by pressure from the emperor. He added all sorts of
restrictions, that for the first three years the method of procedure
in current civil courts must be adhered to, _i.e._, open confrontment
with witnesses--at least as regarded that class of Marranos which
was not greatly esteemed--and that the confiscation of condemned
Marranos' goods should take place only after the expiration of ten
years. Personally, the pope recommended gentle measures in dealing
with pseudo-Christians. Don João's joy at the ultimate fulfillment of
his heart's desire was so great that he accepted the conditions. But
the concession was only a pretense; in reality, the same rigor was
employed against the Portuguese Marranos as against the Spanish. The
admonition published by the Inquisition, that it was everyone's duty,
under penalty of excommunication or a yet more severe punishment, to
denounce any Jewish observances or expressions of the new-Christians,
differed in no respect from that published by the first bloodthirsty
Spanish inquisitor, Torquemada. In November of the same year, after the
expiration of the thirty so-called days of grace, the bloody tribunal
began its revolting and abominable activity, once again outraging and
dishonoring human nature. The Portuguese Inquisition was conducted
with almost more cruelty than the Spanish, because, on the one hand,
its introduction had cost so much trouble, and the public mind was
thereby embittered; on the other, because the Portuguese Marranos were
more steadfast than their Spanish brethren, and finally, because the
common people supported the Inquisition, and took part against the
new-Christians. João III even made them wear a distinguishing mark to
separate them visibly from other Christians.

They did not, however, accept their defeat inactively, but rather
set to work with all imaginable energy to bring about a revocation
of the bull. The most subtle intrigues were again commenced at the
papal court. Duarte de Paz once more displayed his diplomatic skill.
The Marranos raised complaints of the cruel dealings of the judges,
who neglected to obey the pope's instructions. More especially they
complained that liberty to emigrate and dispose of their real estate
was still denied them.

In a memorial to the pope they ventured on almost threatening language:

    "If your Holiness despises the prayers and tears of the Hebrew
    race, or despite our hopes, refuses to redress our grievances,
    as would beseem the vicar of Christ, then we protest before
    God, and with tears and cries that shall be heard afar off
    will we protest in the face of the universe, that our lives,
    our honor, our children, who are our blood, our very salvation
    made the butt of persecution, we will nevertheless try to hold
    ourselves aloof from the Jewish faith; but if tyranny ceases
    not, we will do what no one of us would else think of, _i. e._,
    return to the religion of Moses, and abjure Christianity, which
    we are made to accept by main force. We solemnly cry aloud that
    we are victims, by the right which that fact gives us--a
    right which your Holiness recognizes. Leaving our native land,
    we will seek protection among less cruel peoples."

The nuncio who had returned from Portugal, knowing by long years of
experience the position of men and affairs, managed to convince the
pope that his sanction of the Inquisition was a mistake, and as Paul
III had only given way to momentary pressure, a change of sentiment
soon followed, and he repented the step he had taken. He went so far
as again to submit his bull to a committee which was to examine its
legality. To this commission the Marranos' friend, Cardinal Ghinucci,
was elected along with another of like mind, Jacobacio. They contrived
to prejudice the third member, the honest but narrow-minded Cardinal
Simoneta, against the Inquisition, so that he begged the pope to
right matters by the revocation of his former bull. Another nuncio
was sent to Portugal, with authority within certain limits to nullify
the proceedings of the Inquisition against the Marranos, to protect
the latter, and particularly to render easier their emigration from
Portugal. The pope sent a brief (dated August, 1537) after the nuncio,
empowering and, to some extent, encouraging all to give protection and
assistance to the accused Marranos--in fact, to do exactly what in
Portugal was held to be conniving at and participating in heresy. The
king must have been considerably puzzled. Here he was at length in
possession of a bull, a tribunal, a grand inquisitor and his colleagues
--the whole apparatus of a slaughter-house for the glory of God--and
he might just as well have had nothing at all.

An incident again turned the chances of the game in favor of the king
and the fanatics. One day (February, 1539) a placard was discovered
fastened on the door of the Lisbon Cathedral: "The Messiah has not yet
appeared--Jesus was not the Messiah, and Christianity is a lie." All
Portugal was indignant at such blasphemy, and a strict investigation
was set on foot to find out the offender. The king offered a reward
of 10,000 crusados (ducats). The nuncio also offered 5,000 crusados,
as he, with many others, was of opinion that this was a blow from
some enemy of the Marranos, designed to excite the king's fanaticism
to a higher degree, and to get the nuncio into trouble. To turn aside
suspicion the new-Christians posted a notice on the same place--"I,
the author, am neither a Spaniard nor a Portuguese, but an Englishman,
and though you raise your reward to 20,000 crusados, you will not find
me out." After all, the writer turned out to be a Marrano, one Emanuel
da Costa. He confessed everything when cited before the Inquisition.
The civil court then took him in hand, and put him on the rack to
make him name his accomplices. Finally, after both hands had been cut
off, he was burnt to death. The Marranos foresaw evil consequences
for themselves, and took to flight. The king made the best of this
opportunity to enforce the rules of the Inquisition with increased
severity and bloodthirstiness, and to thwart the nuncio's efforts.
The maddest fanatics were at once elected inquisitors, to the great
anger of the pope and his nuncio. João Soares, whom the pope himself
once described as "not a learned, but a most daring and ambitious,
monk, with opinions and ideas of the very worst kind, who takes pride
in his enmity to the apostolic see," was now given unbounded power
over the lives of the new-Christians, and his colleague was Mallo, an
arch-foe of the new-Christians. For the Marranos the state of affairs
grew worse every day. On three points the pope showed immovable
firmness: the Infante Don Henrique must not remain grand inquisitor;
Marranos accused of heresy should have the witnesses' (that is, their
accusers') names announced to them; finally, after sentence is passed
they should be allowed recourse to the papal court of appeals. Indeed,
Paul III caused a new bull to be drawn up (October 12th, 1539)--a
supplement of that issued three years before--which throughout was of
a favorable tenor to new-Christians, and would completely have crippled
the Inquisition. But this likewise remained a dead letter. After this,
fires for the obstinate heretics were kindled more frequently than
ever, and more victims were sacrificed (from ten to forty a year)
without permitting them to appeal to the pope. The denounced and
suspected Marranos filled the prisons.

A contemporary poet, Samuel Usque, gives a dreadful picture of
the tortures of the Portuguese Inquisition, which he himself had
experienced in his youth:

    "Its institution deprived the Jews of peace of mind, filled
    their souls with pain and grief, and drew them forth from the
    comforts of home into gloomy dungeons, where they dwelt amid
    torment and sighs of anguish. It (the Inquisition) flings
    the halter round their necks, and drags them to the flames;
    through its decrees they must see their sons murdered, husbands
    burnt to death, and brothers robbed of life; must see their
    children made orphans, the number of widows increased, the rich
    made poor, the mighty brought low, the nobly born transformed
    into highway robbers, chaste, modest women housed in lewd,
    ignominious dwellings, through the poverty and desertion in its
    wake. It has burnt numbers to death, not one by one, but by
    thirties, by fifties at a time. Not content with mere burning
    and destroying, it leads Christians to boast of such deeds, to
    rejoice when their eyes behold the members of my body (the sons
    of Jacob) burning to death in the flames, kindled with fagots
    dragged from afar on men's shoulders. Those baptized against
    their will, steal about overpowered with fear of this savage
    monster (the Inquisition); they turn their eyes on every side
    lest it seize them. With ill-assured hearts they pass to and
    fro, trembling like a leaf, terror strikes them suddenly, and
    they stay their steps lest it take them captive. When they sit
    down together to eat, every morsel is lifted to their mouths in
    anguish. The hour that brings repose to all other beings only
    increases their anxiety and exhaustion. At times of marriage
    and the birth of children, joy and feasting are turned into
    mourning and disquietude of soul. In fine, there is no moment
    not paid for by a thousand deadly fears. For it suffices not
    that they make themselves known as Christians by outward signs.
    Fire rages in their hearts, their tortures are innumerable."

Is this an exaggerated description? Did the poet's imagination
transform petty sufferings into the pains of martyrdom? Every word of
it is corroborated by an assembly of cardinals, officially gathered to
investigate the proceedings of the Portuguese Inquisition against the

    "When a pseudo-Christian is denounced--often by false
    witnesses--the inquisitors drag him away to a dismal retreat
    where he is allowed no sight of heaven or earth, and least
    of all to speak with his friends, who might succor him. They
    accuse him on obscure testimony, and inform him neither of the
    time nor the place where he committed the offense for which he
    is denounced. Later on he is allowed an advocate, who often,
    instead of defending his cause, helps him on the road to the
    stake. Let an unfortunate creature acknowledge himself a true
    believing Christian, and firmly deny the transgressions laid
    to his charge, they condemn him to the flames, and confiscate
    his goods. Let him plead guilty to such and such a deed, though
    unintentionally committed, they treat him in a similar manner
    under the pretense that he obstinately denies his wicked
    intentions. Let him freely and fully admit what he is accused
    of, he is reduced to extremest necessity, and condemned to the
    dungeon's never-lifting gloom. And this they call treating the
    accused with mercy and compassion and Christian charity! Even
    he who succeeds in clearly proving his innocence is condemned
    to pay a fine, so that it may not be said that he was arrested
    without cause. The accused who are held prisoners are racked by
    every instrument of torture to admit the accusations against
    them. Many die in prison, and those who are set free, with all
    their relatives bear a brand of eternal infamy."

As the Inquisition grew more and more severe and bloodthirsty, the
Portuguese new-Christians clung with increasing tenacity to the last
anchor of hope left--to the pope and their other protectors. They
had found a new advocate and mediator, who gave promise of being more
honest and energetically active on their behalf. The battle between
the Portuguese court and the papal see blazed up afresh. It was war to
the death, not for those immediately concerned, but for the miserable
beings who, in spite of self-repression, could not become reconciled
to Christianity, yet were not courageous enough to suffer for Judaism
--who would give up neither convictions, wealth, nor position. To
influence the pope, or at least those about his person against the
Marranos, the Infante and grand inquisitor Henrique had a list of
the delinquencies of the new-Christians made out and sent to Rome
(February, 1542). The Marranos, also, to wrest the weapons from their
opponents' hands, in Rome and elsewhere, and for all times to refute
the lying reports and statements of the Portuguese court, drew up a
bulky memorial (1544), detailing their troubled lot, from the time of
King João II and Manoel, who forced them to accept Christianity, until
the most recent times, and verifying their statements by documentary
evidence--a monument of everlasting disgrace to that age.

Yet these reciprocal indictments led to no settlement. At length,
when they saw that nothing would stop the execrable activity of the
Inquisition now it had once been called into existence, the pope and
the Marranos felt how extremely important it was for them to secure at
least two concessions. First, free right of emigration from Portugal
for new-Christians; second, a general absolution (Perdaõ) for those
already denounced or imprisoned, provided they would promise to give up
their Jewish creed and remain good Christians in the future. But these
were the very points on which the king and the Dominicans would not
yield. As though in defiance of the pope, the king issued an ordinance
(July 15th, 1547), that for three years longer no new-Christian might
leave Portugal without express permission or payment of a large sum of

Paul III felt himself crippled. He might shudder at the cruelties of
the Portuguese Inquisition--the vast sums which the Marranos spent on
him and his sycophants might be ever so much needed to aid in carrying
out his policy in Italy and in prosecuting war against the Protestants,
yet he dared not show too stern a determination to thwart the court at
Lisbon. He, too, was in the power of Catholic fanatics. To fight the
Protestant heretics and reinstate the papal dignity, he had authorized
the institution of the order of Jesuits (1540), who inscribed their
banner with the watchword of the church militant. He had agreed to
the proposition of the fanatical Pietro Caraffa for an Inquisition at
Rome (1542). Loyola and Caraffa now lorded it over Rome, and the pope
was only their tool. Moreover, the council of Trent was to be convened
to settle the standard of faith, whereby the Protestants were to be
humbled, and their influence crushed. Paul III needed ardent fanatical
helpers to keep the lukewarm up to the mark. Such men only Spain
and Portugal could furnish. In Portugal the most friendly reception
had been accorded the Jesuits. Thus the pope could offer only mild
opposition to the Portuguese court, and proffer requests where he
should have given orders.

At the council, Bishop Balthasar Limpo was a worthy representative of
the fanatical king of Portugal, and dared use language against the
pope which should have shown him clearly that he was no longer master
in his own house. The bishop vehemently asked Paul III to sanction the
Inquisition against relapsed new-Christians irrevocably, and censured
his sympathy with them. He justly remarked:

    "As Christians, and under Christian names, they leave Portugal
    by stealth, and take with them their children, whom they
    themselves have carried to be baptized. As soon as they reach
    Italy they give themselves out for Jews, live according to
    Jewish ordinances, and circumcise their children. This takes
    place under the eye of the pope and the papal see, within
    the walls of Rome and Bologna, and it happens because his
    Holiness has granted to heretics the privilege that in Ancona
    no one may molest them on account of their belief. Under these
    circumstances it is impossible for the king to grant them the
    right of free departure from the land. Perhaps his Holiness
    asks it in order that they may settle in his states as Jews,
    and the papal see derive advantage in that way. Instead of
    hindering the establishment of the Inquisition in Portugal, it
    should have been his Holiness' duty to have introduced it long
    since into his own dominions."

The pope could have given answer to such an harangue, had he possessed
a clear conscience, and in very deed and truth preached Christianity as
a religion of gentleness and humanity. But since he had need of blind
fanaticism to keep up obstinate warfare with Protestantism, and on
the outbreak of the war against the latter had issued the murderous
bull ("Of the cross"), wherein Catholics, in the name of the vicar of
Christ, were called upon to "smite the Protestants to death," he could
make no reply when Limpo spoke. He was caught in his own trap. Yet, he
tried to save one thing, the Marranos' free right of emigration from
Portugal; on this condition he would give way to the Portuguese court.
But new-Christians wishing to depart from the land would be required to
give security that they would not emigrate to infidel countries, such
as Turkey or Africa. To this also Bishop Limpo gave a convincing reply:

    "Does it, then, make any difference whether these heretics
    take refuge under infidel governments, or come to Italy? At
    Ancona, Ferrara, or Venice, they are circumcised, and then
    go on to Turkey. They have papal privileges, forsooth, so
    that nobody dare ask them if peradventure they are Jews! They
    wear no distinguishing marks, and can go undisguised and free
    whithersoever they like, can observe their ceremonies, and
    attend their synagogues. Oh, how many attend these who were
    baptized in their youth in Portugal, or were condemned to
    death, or burnt in effigy! Give them free right of emigration,
    let them set foot in the land of the infidel, and they can
    openly confess themselves as Jews. The king will never allow,
    no theologian--do I say theologian?--no simple Christian
    could advise such a thing. Instead of his Holiness' exerting
    himself to insure the safety of the secret Jews, let him
    increase the number of Inquisitions in his own states, and
    punish not alone Lutheran heretics, but Jewish heretics also,
    who seek refuge and protection in Italy."

Yet another circumstance compelled Paul III to show a yielding
disposition. Charles V, inspired thereto by his victory over the
Protestants (April, 1547), sought to set himself above the papacy,
and would have liked to see a new ritual established, agreeable to
Protestants as well as to Catholics. This was tantamount to declaring
war against the pope. The latter was, therefore, forced to break
with the emperor, and that he might not stand unsupported against so
powerful a foe, Portugal and the central Catholic states had to be won
over to his side. To conciliate Portugal he sent thither a special
commissary provided with bulls and briefs, wherein he partially
sanctioned the Inquisition, though requesting that it be used with
mildness. Above all, however, new-Christians accused of heresy and
so-called relapse were not to be sentenced, for the present, but to
be made answerable for their conduct in the future. Even then, for
the first ten years, the property of relapsed heretics was not to be
touched, but to descend to their heirs. He consented to the restriction
of Marrano emigration, so strenuously insisted upon by the Portuguese

Prisons of the Inquisition at Lisbon, Evora, and other cities were
thrown open in obedience to the pope's general absolution for
new-Christians, and eighteen hundred set at liberty (July, 1548).
Soon after this all the Marranos were called together, and forced to
abjure their Judaizing tendencies. From that moment only were they
recognized as complete Christians, and liable to be punished in case
of heretical transgression. The pope, in a brief, desired the king to
see that the tribunals deal mercifully even with the heretics, since
they fulfilled Jewish observances only from habit. Thus, throughout his
life, Pope Paul III took the part of the Marranos. Nevertheless, they
fell victims to their tragic fate. It was cruel injustice to demand an
open confession of Catholicism from them, when they protested against
it with all their hearts, and then to punish them when detected in
the performance of Jewish rites or ceremonies. On the other hand, the
state could never allow a whole class of the population outwardly
belonging to the church to be left in a certain sense free to hold
the church in derision. Justice certainly demanded that the Marranos
should have liberty of choice either to emigrate or confess themselves
genuine members of the church. But, as the court acknowledged, their
loss meant ruin to the state, for the Marranos of Jewish descent formed
the most profitable class of the city population. Their capital and
far-reaching business transactions increased the revenue, caused a
general circulation of money, and made raw materials imported from
the Indian and African colonies available. Without them the wealth
of the whole country would be capital idly and unprofitably stored.
Marranos were also the only artisans, and on them depended industrial
prosperity. Plainly, the state could not afford to lose them, and,
therefore, the king tried to turn them into good Christians by the
terrors of the Inquisition, so as to keep a certain hold on the profit
and utility of their presence. He labored in vain. Every year fresh
victims perished at the stake; yet the survivors did not become more
faithful believers. The Portuguese court, unlike the Spanish, never
derived enjoyment from the Inquisition. Portuguese new-Christians,
in spite of their confession, were not yet true Christians, on whom
the penalty of heresy could legally, according to canonical laws, be
inflicted by the Inquisition. After Paul's death, (November, 1549),
Julius III was petitioned to give absolution to the Marranos. Even the
succeeding popes, who favored reaction and persecution, allowed the
Portuguese Inquisition to continue more as an accomplished fact than
as a legal institution. Half a century later, a pope (Clement VIII)
condemned the judicial murders of the Inquisition, and once more issued
a general amnesty for condemned Marranos.



    Efforts towards Unity--Jacob Berab proposes the Re-introduction
    of Rabbinical Ordination into Palestine--Successful
    Opposition of Levi ben Chabib--Joseph Karo--His Connection
    with Solomon Molcho and his Messianic Visions--Karo's
    Religious Code--Converts to Judaism at the Era of the
    Reformation--Expulsion of the Jews from Naples and Prague--
    Their Return to the latter Town--Dr. Eck--Martin Luther and
    the Jews--Moses Hamon--Jewish Histories by Joseph Cohen,
    the Ibn-Vergas, and Samuel Usque--Elegy of Samuel Usque--
    Reaction in the Catholic Church: Loyola establishes the
    Order of Jesuits--The Censorship of Books--Eliano Romano and
    Vittorio Eliano--Fresh Attacks on the Talmud--Paul IV and
    his anti-Jewish Bulls--Persecution of the Marranos by the
    Inquisition in Ancona--Joseph Nassi--The Levantine Jews--
    Expulsion of the Jews from Austria and Bohemia--Relations of
    Popes Pius IV and V to the Jews.

1538-1566 C.E.

Every fresh column of smoke rising from the fires of the Inquisition
in Spain and Portugal drove Marranos, singly or in groups, far away
to the East, to Turkey, beyond the shadow of the cross. They no
longer felt safe even in Italy, since the popes, against their own
higher convictions, allowed themselves to be overborne concerning
the Inquisition. In Turkey a little Jewish world was thus by degrees
formed, on which even the sultan's despotic rule did not encroach,
however much individuals might be exposed to arbitrary treatment. Here,
as in Palestine, where numbers and prosperity had raised them in their
own estimation, they could indulge in dreams of obtaining some degree
of independence, might strive for national and religious unity, and
hope to realize their wild Messianic fancies. The career of the Mantuan
martyr, Solomon Molcho, did not fail to leave an impression; his words
echoed in the ears of his brethren. At Safet, the largest congregation
in Palestine, where he had made a long stay, forming intimate
relations and awakening hopes, the fulfillment of his Messianic
predictions was looked for even after his death. The completion of
the round number 5300 from the creation of the world (1540) seemed to
be a suitable year for the coming of the Messiah. But the Messianic
period, according to then prevailing ideas, would not come suddenly;
the Israelites had to do their part in preparing the way. Maimuni,
the highest authority, had taught that the Messianic time would or
must be preceded by the establishment of a universally recognized
Jewish court of justice, or Synhedrion. Hence the necessity was felt
of having authorized and duly appointed judges, such as existed at the
time of the Temple and the Talmud in Palestine, of re-introducing, in
fact, the long-disused ordination (Semichah). There was no hindrance
to be feared from the Turkish state. As it was, the rabbis had their
own civil and even criminal jurisdiction; but these rabbis (who were
also judges), being appointed by the community, had not the warrant of
authority required by Talmudic rules. Obedience was given them, but
they also met with opposition. Authority was conventional, not built
on the foundation of Talmudic Judaism. No unity of legislation and
exposition of the Law was possible while every rabbi was absolute in
his own congregation, not subject to some higher authority. It was,
therefore, a need of the times to create a sort of religious supreme
court, and where should that be done but in Palestine? The sacred
memories connected with that country could alone lend the dignity of
a Synhedrion to a college of rabbis. Teaching that was to meet with
universal acceptance could proceed from Zion alone, and the word of God
only from Jerusalem.

How excellent and necessary it was to re-introduce the ordination of
rabbis by a higher authority had been discussed by many, but only
one, the acute-minded but obstinate and daring Jacob Berab, had the
energy to set about doing the thing. After much journeying from Egypt
to Jerusalem, and thence to Damascus, Berab, in his old age, settled
at Safet. He was in good circumstances, and, owing to his wealth and
intellect, enjoyed marked respect and consideration. He determined
to give a definite direction to the aimless ideas floating in men's
minds with reg