How America’s Jews Learned to Be Liberal

Today that idea has spread well beyond Reform Judaism. Arnold Eisen, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, the leading Conservative institution in the United States, has noted that the idea of Jews as a “chosen people” appears throughout the Bible and that Jews have embraced the message of later prophets that Jews are “the servant of mankind” and “a light unto the nations.”

For many American Jews, the prophetic and messianic role of the Jewish people themselves has become central to their faith. A Pew Research Center survey of American Jews found in 2013 that among the five million American Jews, most regarded “working for justice and equality” as a pillar of their Jewish identity.

It happens to be true that the phrase “tikkun olam” is a kind of modern neologism, derived from Jewish mysticism. But the idea of Judaism with a social conscience is rooted in a rich history of American Jews struggling to Americanize their faith while seeing their “chosen” status as an opportunity to “repair the world.”

Steven R. Weisman, the vice president for publications and communications at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, is the author of the forthcoming “The Chosen Wars: How Judaism Became an American Religion” and a former correspondent and editor at The Times.

As taken from,


Judge, priest, prophet, and king

Illustration of Moses leading the Children of Israel out of Egypt in the Kaufmann Haggadah, 14th century. (Wikimedia Commons)

Even Moses was replaceable, but it took 4 different models of leadership to cover his job.
Illustration of Moses leading the Children of Israel out of Egypt in the Kaufmann Haggadah, 14th century. (Wikimedia Commons)

Who is the Moses of our generation? Should we look for one? If so, where? This parsha discusses many different kinds of leadership, and suggests a surprising answer: leadership after Moses does not belong to a single person, but rather to different kinds of people, with different backgrounds and roles.

The book of Deuteronomy is the farewell speech by Moses to his people, and in it he needs to get them ready to live and thrive as a people after his death. In this parsha, Moses answers an important question for the people: who will lead them when he is gone? He does not answer it by naming a specific person, rather by describing kinds of leaders: judges, priests (and Levites), prophets and kings. All of these are potential leaders, and all have different functions.

The judge is described in Deuteronomy 16:18, at the beginning of the parasha:

You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements that the LORD your God is giving you, and they shall govern the people with due justice.  You shall not judge unfairly: you shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just.

The judge’s responsibility is to judge the people with just rulings. The judge must be impartial, and must not take bribes and must not recognize distinctions between people. The judge is chosen, it seems, based on virtues rather than lineage, and has the responsibility to not discriminate between people based on their lineages.

Deuteronomy 18:1-9 sets out another category of leaders: Priests and Levites.  The Levites are a designated tribe of Israel that does not recieve any land, which cuts them out of the agriculture-based biblical economic system. The role of the Priests and Levites (the passage discusses them both) is to act as God’s servants and attendants. They will be supported by a system of tithes, first fruits and portions of sacrificies, and they are all to share this support equally.

Some responsibilities are given to both categories jointly. In Deuteronomy 17:8-12, it states that when you have a question you are to ask it to the judge or the priest, so both of them are responsible for settling disputes.

A third kind of leadership is that of the prophet, in Deuteronomy 18:15-22. The prophet is the only kind of leader to be appointed directly by God, as it states in Deuteronomy 18:18:

I will raise up a prophet for them from among their own people, like yourself: I will put My words in his mouth and he will speak to them all that I command him;

Deuteronomy 18:21-22 gives the people a very straightforward test to determine if someone is a true prophet: they are to see whether or not the prophet prophesies things that then come to pass. So the prophet is appointed directly from God, but it is up to our own rationality and powers of observation to determine if the prophet is legitimate. The prophet has a particular kind of responsibility: to relay God’s word to the people.  The prophet must speak this word exactly, and nothing else.

God explicitly compares the leadership of the prophet to that of Moses, in verse 18, with the phrase, “like yourself.” The two other roles of judge and Levite also connect to the life of Moses. Moses is introduced in Exodus 2 as being a Levite, and in Exodus 18 we see Moses exhausting himself trying to be a judge of the entire people and then coming to realize that he needs deputies. Moses also is the resource for people to ask questions, like both the Levite and the judge.

There is a fouth kind of leadership that may or may not be optional, and that is the rulership of a king.  In Deuteronomy 17:14-15 it states:

If, after you have entered the land that the LORD your God has assigned to you, and taken possession of it and settled in it, you decide, ‘I will set a king over me, as do all the nations about me,’ you shall be free to set a king over yourself, one chosen by the LORD your God.

The language of this passage is ambiguous. Does it mean that you should appoint a king, or that you may do so if you choose? In Sanhedrin 20b there is a debate about this, with R. Yehuda and R. Yossi reading the passage as requiring a king and R. Nehorai reading the passage as allowing for the possibility of one. In any case, this is one form of leadership that seems not to have a direct parallel to the leadership of Moses. Nevertheless Deuteronomy 17:16-19 connects the king to Moses by giving the king two particular responsibilities: he is not to return the people to Egypt (and is not to have too many horses, which could lead to sending people to Egypt), and he is to write a Torah scroll. These two particular commandments to the king connect him to Moses, who led the people out of Egypt and was involved in the writing of the Torah.

Kingship, unlike judgeship and prophecy, but like priesthood, passes from the king to his descendants, as we see in Deuteronomy 17:20

to the end that he and his descendants may reign long in the midst of Israel.

In the end, we find that the role of Moses cannot be filled by any one particular kind of leader, but rather different kinds of leaders. These different leaders come from different parts of the population, have diffferent responsibilities, and are evaluated in different ways, and one does not seem to take precedence over the other. Moses leaves to the people a kind of leadership in which there are diverse forms of authority, and those holding each office may often disagree with one or more of the others.

While this parsha deals with different kinds of leaders for the nation of Israel, in Devarim Rabbah, we find an evocative statement about different kinds of leaders in the heavenly realm:

Reish Lakish says, [the angel] Michael is made completely of snow, and [the angel] Gabriel is made completely of fire, and they stand next to each other and do not damage each other.

Normally snow and fire would destroy each other: the fire would melt the snow and the snow would quench the fire. These competing natures of snow and fire may suggest different values,or differemt roles: Michael encourages God’s wrath, while Gabriel cools it. God creates peace between them and allows them to live together and to each have their role in God’s heaven.

We see then, in this parsaha, a model of society in which many kinds of leadership are welcome. No one can be fully like Moses, but no one has to be. There are many ways to be a leader, in this parsha and in Israel.

As taken from,

La mujer que “destruyó” a cientos de bebés para salvar a sus madres de los nazis

Gisella Perl, prisionera en Auschwitz, interrumpió los embarazos de todas sus compañeras que esperaban un hijo al descubrir que eran lanzadas vivas al crematorio.

Cinco mujeres judías posan con sus bebés tras la liberación del campo de Dachau (Alemania), en 1945 / En vídeo, la historia de la prisionera ginecóloga de Auschwitz, Gisella Perl (QUALITY-REUTERS) USHMM
Manuel Ansede

Es una escena casi inconcebible. En los barracones sin agua que servían para defecar en el mayor centro de exterminio nazi, los judíos se citaban para tener sexo, rodeados de excrementos y del olor a carne quemada que salía por las chimeneas de los crematorios. “La letrina funcionaba como un picadero. Allí era donde las prisioneras y los prisioneros se encontraban para tener relaciones sexuales furtivas y sin alegría, en las que el cuerpo se utilizaba como una mercancía con la que pagar los productos que tanto se necesitaban y que los hombres eran capaces de robar de los almacenes”, recordó la ginecóloga rumana Gisella Perl en su libro Yo fui una doctora en Auschwitz, publicado en 1948.

“La letrina de Auschwitz funcionaba como un picadero. Allí era donde las prisioneras y los prisioneros se encontraban para tener relaciones sexuales”, escribió Gisella Perl

No solo era una forma de prostitución desesperada. También existía una lujuria inaplacable en el lugar menos imaginable. “El nitrato de potasio que echaban a nuestra comida no era suficiente como para matar el deseo sexual”, escribió Perl. “No teníamos menstruación, pero esto era más una consecuencia del trauma psicológico provocado por las circunstancias en las que vivíamos que por el nitrato de potasio. El deseo sexual todavía era uno de los instintos más fuertes”, explicaba. Era el peor sitio para hacerlo, pero algunas mujeres se quedaron embarazadas en Auschwitz y otras muchas llegaron ya preñadas de los guetos.

Dos historiadores del Holocausto rescatan ahora la “dramática” historia de Gisella Perl en un artículo publicado en la revista médica israelí Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal. Perl, que había nacido en 1907 en Sighetu Marmatiei, en Transilvania, trabajaba como ginecóloga cuando las tropas de Adolf Hitler invadieron el norte de Rumanía en 1944. En apenas cinco días de mayo, los nazis deportaron a Auschwitz, en la actual Polonia, a los 14.000 judíos que vivían en el pueblo y sus alrededores. La mayoría de ellos fueron gaseados al llegar. La propia Perl, capturada junto a su marido y su hijo, no volvió a ver a su familia.

Gisella Perl, tras la Segunda Guerra Mundial.
Gisella Perl, tras la Segunda Guerra Mundial.

La ginecóloga superó esa primera criba letal. En el campo, su profesión le ayudaría a salvar su vida, al recibir el encargo del médico nazi Josef Mengele de reanimar a las mujeres judías a las que se extraía sangre a la fuerza para los soldados heridos en el frente. “La rassenschande, la contaminación con sangre judía inferior, fue olvidada. Éramos demasiado inferiores como para vivir, pero sí servíamos para mantener al Ejército alemán vivo con nuestra sangre”, anotó en 1948. Perl salvó su vida y, posiblemente, la de cientos de mujeres, como recuerdan los dos historiadores, el israelí George M. Weisz, de la Universidad de Nueva Inglaterra, y el alemán Konrad Kwiet, del Museo Judío de Sídney, ambos en Australia.

El 6 de octubre de 1943, el dirigente nazi Heinrich Himmler había informado del exterminio judío en marcha a una selecta audiencia de potentados y altos mandos militares en el Ayuntamiento de la ciudad polaca de Poznan. “No me parece justificable exterminar a los hombres […] y dejar que sus niños crezcan y se venguen de nuestros hijos y nietos”, proclamó Himmler. Los nazis asesinaron a seis millones de judíos. Un millón y medio de ellos eran niños.

“Incluso si eran capaces de trabajar, las mujeres embarazadas eran llevadas a las cámaras de gas nada más llegar [a los campos de concentración]. Si conseguían ocultar sus embarazos, sus bebés recién nacidos eran asesinados con una inyección letal o ahogándolos”, explican Weisz y Kwiet.

Mujeres y niños judíos seleccionados para morir caminan hacia la cámara de gas en Auschwitz, en 1944.
Mujeres y niños judíos seleccionados para morir caminan hacia la cámara de gas en Auschwitz, en 1944. USHMM

Al llegar a Auschwitz, sin embargo, los jefes de las SS se dirigían a las mujeres judías y pedían que las embarazadas diesen un paso al frente, bajo la promesa de una doble ración de pan y leche en un lugar reservado para las futuras madres. En Yo fui una doctora en Auschwitz, Perl recuerda el día de 1944 en que, mientras cumplía un encargo cerca del crematorio, descubrió que aquello era una horrenda farsa. Con sus propios ojos vio que las mujeres embarazadas “eran apaleadas con porras y fustas, destrozadas por perros, arrastradas por los pelos y golpeadas en el estómago con las pesadas botas alemanas. Entonces, cuando se desplomaban, eran arrojadas al crematorio. Vivas”.

Perl llegó a estrangular a un bebé de tres días tras darle un beso de despedida

Perl se quedó paralizada, incapaz de gritar o huir. “Pero, poco a poco, el horror se convirtió en un sentimiento de rebelión que me sacó de mi letargo y me dio un nuevo incentivo para vivir. Yo debía permanecer con vida. Dependía de mí salvar a todas las mujeres embarazadas […] de su destino infernal. Dependía de mí salvar la vida de las madres, si no había otra manera, destruyendo la vida de sus niños no nacidos”, relató.

La ginecóloga se puso enseguida manos a la obra. En las noches sin Luna, mientras todo el mundo dormía, ayudaba a las embarazadas a parir o a abortar, sin una gota de agua y de rodillas sobre el suelo sucio y lleno de excrementos de los barracones. “Ayudé a dar a luz a mujeres en su octavo, séptimo, sexto o quinto mes de embarazo, siempre de manera apresurada, siempre con mis cinco dedos, en la oscuridad, en condiciones terribles. Nadie entenderá jamás lo que significó para mí destruir a esos niños”, narraba en su autobiografía. Perl, según contó ella misma, llegó a estrangular a un bebé de tres días tras darle un beso de despedida.

Mujeres en un barracón de Auschwitz, el 27 de enero de 1945, día de la liberación.
Mujeres en un barracón de Auschwitz, el 27 de enero de 1945, día de la liberación. USHMM

La prisionera ginecóloga ayudó a cientos de mujeres a interrumpir sus embarazos. “El mayor crimen que se podía cometer en Auschwitz era estar embarazada”, afirmó en 1982 en una entrevista para The New York Times. Mengele, el llamado Ángel de la Muerte, había encargado a Perl que le informara de cualquier mujer embarazada que hubiera en el campo. “Me enteré de que todas eran enviadas al edificio de investigación para ser usadas como cobayas. Y, después, dos vidas eran lanzadas al crematorio. Decidí que nunca más habría una mujer embarazada en Auschwitz”, rememoró.

Tras sobrevivir a Auschwitz, la ginecóloga ayudó a nacer, de verdad, a más de 3.000 bebés

En enero de 1945, cuando el Ejército soviético se aproximaba, las SS comenzaron a evacuar el campo de concentración. Unos 60.000 prisioneros fueron obligados a emprender una marcha de la muerte hacia el oeste, en medio del invierno. Más de 15.000 murieron, de frío o a tiros, pero Perl no estaba entre ellos. La ginecóloga había sido llevada a otro campo cerca de Hamburgo y, poco después, a Bergen-Belsen, también en Alemania. Allí, en marzo de 1945, la hoy célebre niña Ana Frank murió de tifus, apenas un mes antes de la liberación del campo. Gisella Perl sí vivió para ver entrar a las triunfantes tropas británicas. Según contó, en ese momento estaba ayudando a dar a luz a una mujer. Fue el primer niño judío nacido en libertad en Bergen-Belsen, el lugar que representó “la suprema culminación del sadismo y la bestialidad alemanes”, en palabras de Perl.

En 1947, tras enterarse de que toda su familia había sido asesinada, excepto una hija que pudo quedarse en Rumanía, la ginecóloga intentó suicidarse, sin éxito. Finalmente, emigró a Nueva York. Allí, en EE UU, Perl no fue recibida como una heroína, sino como una sospechosa de crímenes de guerra. “Gisella fue acusada de colaborar con Mengele, lo que, en mi opinión, es una tontería, porque cualquiera que trabajara en el hospital para los presos podría ser acusado”, opina Weisz desde Sídney. El testimonio de Perl, sin embargo, coincidía con los de otros supervivientes. La voz de la ginecóloga fue crucial para condenar a un médico nazi en los juicios de Auschwitz, según subrayan los historiadores.

Ya con su reputación limpia, la doctora se convirtió en una experta en infertilidad en el Hospital Monte Sinaí de Nueva York. El 16 de diciembre de 1988, Perl murió a los 81 años en la ciudad israelí de Herzliya, adonde se había mudado para vivir con su hija. Tras sobrevivir a Auschwitz, la ginecóloga ayudó a nacer, de verdad, a más de 3.000 bebés.

Según tomado de,

The Sanhedrin: The Jewish Court System

“Appoint judges and enforcement officers in all your gates.”—Deuteronomy 16:18

The Torah enjoins us to appoint judges, as well as officers who enforce their rulings. But how are these judges appointed and what is their jurisdiction? Let’s explore the Jewish court system, from the ancient Sanhedrin to modern-day rabbinical courts.

Supreme Court: The Great Sanhedrin of 71 Members

The Jewish supreme court was called the Sanhedrin (“Council”) or Sanhedrin ha-Gadol (“the Great Council”) and consisted of 71 rabbis.

Why 71? G‑d told Moses, “Gather for Me 70 men from the elders of Israel.” Moses presided over them, as the verse continues, “And they shall stand there with you.”1 Thus, the 70 judges plus Moses equals 71.

Once Moses passed away, the judge with the greatest knowledge was appointed in his stead. Called the nasi, he would sit at the head of the court. To his right sat the av bet din (patron of the court), the second greatest judge, who was appointed as the nasi’s assistant. The remaining 69 would sit before them, arranged according to age and stature. The wiser the judge, the closer he would be seated to the nasi.2

The Sanhedrin was always located close to the Tabernacle or the Temple. In Moses’ time it was near the entrance to the Tabernacle; in later times it was seated in a special chamber in the Temple compound. Toward the end of the Second Temple era, it convened in other locations in the Holy Land and continued to function in an ever-decreasing capacity until approximately the 5th century.

The Sanhedrin’s Function

Any laws and takanot (decrees) issued by the Sanhedrin were binding on the entire Jewish nation. Although lower courts consisting of 23 judges could try capital cases, only the Sanhedrin had authority over cases involving the king, capital crimes committed by the high priest, or crimes committed by an entire tribe or city.

Powers exclusive to the high court also included:3

  • Crowning a king.
  • Authorizing “voluntary” wars (milchemet hareshut), such as wars for the sake of expanding the country’s borders.
  • Expanding holy sites, such as Jerusalem and the courtyard of the Holy Temple.
  • Appointing lesser courts of 23 judges.

Additionally, since the Sanhedrin was required to hear all testimony directly, rather than through an interpreter, it was preferable that its members be familiar with every language spoken by Jews around the world. When a foreign language was used in testimony, the Sanhedrin had to have at least two members who spoke that language to examine the witnesses, and a third member who at least understood the language.4

Unlike modern-day supreme courts, the Sanhedrin was not an “appeals court” in the sense that a litigant could appeal a verdict. However, if a lower court was unsure of how to rule, it could refer the case to a higher court.

Lesser Sanhedrin: 23 Members

There were also lesser sanhedrins that consisted of 23 judges, the minimum amount of judges required to try capital cases.5 (Interestingly, even the case of an animal that was liable to be put to death had to be judged by such a court, unless of course there was immediate danger.6)

In addition to the two lesser sanhedrins located at the entrances to the Temple courtyard and the Temple Mount respectively, every sizeable city, as well as every tribe, had its own lesser sanhedrin.7

Standard Rabbinical Court: Three Judges

An ordinary tribunal consisted of three judges8 and had the power to adjudicate monetary issues as well as cases involving corporal punishments. They could not, however, judge any case that could even potentially evolve into a case of capital punishment.9

Qualifications for Judges

Every judge was required to have the following seven attributes: wisdom, humility, awe of heaven, a loathing for money (even his own), a love for truth, the love of the people at large, and a good reputation.

In addition, to be appointed to the greater or lesser sanhedrin, one had to have achieved distinction in Torah knowledge and possess some knowledge of intellectual disciplines such as medicine, mathematics, calendar, astronomy, astrology and the teachings of idolatry, so that he would know how to judge cases concerning those fields. He could not be too old or childless when appointed, since someone with a family is more likely to be sympathetic and merciful. Members of the sanhedrin could be kohanim, Levites, or Israelites of fine pedigree.

In order for any court to be able to rule on capital or corporal cases, or even just punitive damages, its judges had to have semichah (rabbinic ordination passed down from Moses, not the ordination used today. For more on that, see A Brief History of Rabbinic Ordination).10 A non-ordained court, which is what contemporary rabbinical courts are, can adjudicate monetary disputes by ruling that one must compensate another for financial loss, but it cannot hold one liable for Torah-mandated fines (such as having a thief pay double).11

Appointments to the Great Sanhedrin

According to Don Yitzchak Abarbanel, in the times of the Jewish kings, members of the Sanhedrin were chosen by the king. In later times, the nasi, in consultation with the rest of the court, would fill vacancies as they arose. When a nasi would die, the members of the court would choose someone from among themselves to replace him.12

Appointments to the Lesser Courts

Maimonides quotes the Talmudic teaching that the high court would send emissaries throughout the entire land of Israel to seek out judges.13 Whenever they found a person who possessed the seven attributes outlined above, they would install him as a judge in his own city. From there, they would promote him as needed to the court that held sessions at the entrance to the Temple Mount. Then he would be promoted to the court that held sessions at the entrance to the Temple courtyard, and then to the Great Sanhedrin.14

According to Abarbanel, the people of each tribe and city would choose judges from among themselves who would sit on their lower courts, including the courts of 23 judges. Interestingly, he says that the real reason there were two courts in the Temple area was that Jerusalem was divided between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and each tribe would get its own court.15

The commonly accepted view follows Maimonides.

Contemporary Rabbinical Courts

Contemporary communities have different mechanisms for appointing rabbinical judges. Some cities have a board, which may include rabbis of various synagogues, that elects the members of their rabbinical court. Other communities have community-wide elections.

Additionally, many times an ad hoc court can be formed to arbitrate a specific dispute. Each party chooses one rabbi whom he or she believes to be trustworthy, and then the two rabbis together choose a third rabbi to join them. This is known as a zabla, which is an acronym for the Hebrew words zeh borer lo echad, “this one chooses one for himself [and this one chooses one for himself].” Before the arbitration begins, each party agrees to abide by the ruling of the court, which is fully binding on both parties.

Today, without the Sanhedrin, we don’t have the same uniformity in Jewish law as we had in ancient times, and there is more room for disputes. Thus, we include in our prayers three times a day, “Restore our judges as in former times . . .” May it be speedily in our days!

1. Numbers 11:16.
2. Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Sanhedrin 1:3.
3. Talmud, Sanhedrin 2a.
4. These three members then constituted a minor court (beit din) of three, who could report the testimony to the entire body. Once testimony was accepted by a minor court, it was no longer considered secondhand testimony. See Talmud, Sanhedrin 17b, and commentaries ad loc.
5. Although the number 23 is based on the Oral Tradition, there is an allusion to it in the Torah. Numbers 35:24–25 states: “The congregation shall judge . . . and the congregation shall save . . .” Implied is that there must be the possibility of a congregation “judging”—condemning one to death—and a congregation “saving”—seeking his acquittal. Now, a congregation is no less than ten. Thus, there are at least 20 judges. We add three judges so that there not be an equally balanced court, and to allow the possibility of “following after the inclination of the majority.” See Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Sanhedrin 5:3.
6. See Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Sanhedrin 5:2.
7. Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Sanhedrin 5:2.
8. For certain purposes, such as declaring a new month or establishing a leap year, specially formed courts of other sizes would meet.
9. See Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Sanhedrin 5:3.
10. See Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Sanhedrin 4:1. Although some editions read that only one member of the court needs to be ordained, it would seem that the correct reading, as is found in older manuscripts, is that all members need to be ordained. In fact, Maimonides himself states this in his commentary to the Mishnah, Sanhedrin 1:3.
11. See Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Sanhedrin 5:9.
12. See Abarbanel, Deuteronomy 16:18.
13. Sanhedrin 88b.
14. Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Sanhedrin 2:8.
15. See Abarbanel, Deuteronomy 16:18.

Distinguiendo tu derecha de tu izquierda

Pirkei Avot comienza resumiendo la filosofía educacional del judaísmo con la declaración: “Erige muchos alumnos”. La mishná no dice ‘enseña’, tampoco ‘inspira’; dice ‘erige’, enfatizando que nuestro objetivo principal al educar a nuestros estudiantes y nuestros hijos es hacerlos independientes. Nuestro rol como padres y maestros es educar jóvenes que puedan pensar por sí mismos.

Nuestros sabios nos dicen que Raba, cuando ponía a prueba a Abaye, enseñaba a propósito algo incorrecto o ilógico para asegurarse de que él no aceptara todo lo que le enseñaba sin antes examinarlo críticamente (Brajot 33b).

Si no pensamos por nosotros mismos, seremos siempre una mente en blanco condicionada por la sociedad, y nuestros valores y condiciones serán un mero accidente de nacimiento. Usar la mente para evaluar y pensar críticamente es una parte esencial del desarrollo del individuo; es el motor para crear nuestro ser único y verdadero.

Rav Kalónimus Kalman Shapira, el Rebe de Piaseczna, que murió en el Holocausto, describió este punto en Para curar el alma, su diario personal:

Debe haber una persona que pueda pararse por sí misma, que pueda decidir lo que quiere para sí. Si no hay tal persona, si sólo hay una multitud, no puede haber libre albedrío ni voluntad personal. ¿Porque quién decidirá si, más allá de la multitud, no hay absolutamente nadie?

¿Eres alguien que puede erguirse por sí mismo, o eres sólo un miembro más de la especie humana? El hombre no puede permanecer preso de las reglas sociales, de las costumbres culturales ni del pensamiento aceptado, sin la capacidad de ver más allá de ellos; debe tener una mente independiente. Sin esto, no sólo no es un judío; ni siquiera es una persona.

Sin embargo, la parashá de esta semana pareciera contradecir el valor de ser un pensador independiente. El pasuk dice: “De acuerdo a la enseñanza que te enseñen y de acuerdo al juicio que te digan harás, no te desviarás de la palabra que te digan, ni a la derecha ni a la izquierda” (Devarim 17:11).

Rashi (Devarim 17:24), citando al Sifrí, explica: “[Debes escucharlos] incluso si los jueces te dicen que la izquierda es la derecha y que la derecha es la izquierda. ¡Cuánto más aún si te dicen que la derecha es la derecha y la izquierda es la izquierda!”. Nuestros sabios parecieran instruirnos a ignorar nuestra propia opinión y aceptar la perspectiva del rabino, incluso si nos pareciera absolutamente ilógica. ¿Qué pasó con la importancia del pensamiento independiente?

Para complicar las cosas aún más, el Talmud (Horaiot 2b) habla sobre un caso en que se espera que un sabio se oponga a lo que considera una legislación equivocada del Sanhedrín HaGadol, y que siga firme en su posición. El caso es sobre un pedazo de jélev, ‘grasa prohibida’, que el Sanhedrín HaGadol confunde con shumán, ‘grasa permitida’. Si un miembro del Sanhedrín comiera la grasa, sabiendo que sus colegas dieron la legislación equivocada, estaría obligado a traer un korbán ‘ofrenda’ por transgredir inadvertidamente al comer la grasa no kósher.

La pregunta es: ¿por qué se considera que esta acción es inadvertida, siendo que este juez sabe que, según su opinión, está comiendo grasa no kósher?

La Guemará responde que es porque pensó equivocadamente que la obligación de ‘conforme a la enseñanza que te enseñen…’ aplica incluso en ese caso. Pero no aplica. El sabio que reconoce que el Sanhedrín HaGadol se equivocó, tiene que apegarse a su posición y no seguir su legislación.

Esta Guemará pareciera contradecir la declaración de nuestros sabios en nuestra parashá, respecto a la obligación de obedecer a nuestros líderes incluso si nos dicen que “la derecha es izquierda y la izquierda es derecha”. ¿Cómo conciliamos estas dos fuentes?

Hecho vs. juicio

La resolución yace en la naturaleza diferente de los fallos en cuestión.

Nuestra parashá se refiere a las decisiones basadas en un juicio o en sebará. En casos que requieren deliberación lógica y razonamiento, debemos someternos a nuestros sabios, que saben mucho más que nosotros sobre estos temas y su razonamiento es mucho más cercano a la Torá que el nuestro. Una alusión a esto es que nuestros sabios ilustran la necesidad de aceptar su fallo con el ejemplo de llamarle a tu mano derecha tu mano izquierda y viceversa, porque si algo está a la derecha o a la izquierda depende de la perspectiva.

En contraste, en el caso de la Guemará sobre la grasa kósher y la no kósher hay que determinar un hecho objetivo. En una situación tal, podemos conocer los hechos a pesar de tener menos instrucción que nuestros sabios. Por lo tanto, estamos obligados a apegarnos a lo que sabemos, incluso si esto contradijera la opinión de nuestro rabino (1).

Rav Itzjak Hutner, Rosh Ieshivá de Rav Weinberg en Ieshivat Jaim Berlín, se negaba a responderle a un estudiante a menos que éste ofreciera primero una opinión. Rav Hutner estaba imbuyendo una enseñanza fundamental sobre la importancia de desarrollar independencia intelectual. Entrenó a sus talmidim para que primero se esforzaran, analizaran el tema y arribaran a sus propias conclusiones. Sólo después ofrecía sus preciadas palabras de Torá. Rav Weinberg adoptó este mismo enfoque con sus propios alumnos.

Tienes la obligación de tener deá, una ‘opinión educada’, y, al mismo tiempo, de tener la humildad para subyugarte a quienes poseen un entendimiento muy superior al tuyo. Sin embargo, subyugar tu dáat no significa no tener una opinión, sino elegir abandonarla porque reconoces que no eres un experto en el área y que tu perspectiva no tiene, ni cerca, la pureza y la base de Torá que tiene la opinión detallada de un talmid jajam.

Llegar a este balance asegura que haya liderazgo, que exista el respeto adecuado por los talmidei jajamim y que todo individuo sea alentado a desarrollar su independencia y singularidad.


(1) Ver Ketubot 57a. Rashi s.v. Ha Kamashmalán, donde explica que, en disputas que involucran razonamiento, podemos aplicar la expresión: “Esas y esas son las palabras del Dios viviente”, implicando que ambas perspectivas expresan la verdad, a pesar de estar en conflicto, dado que argumentos lógicos diferentes pueden ser apropiados en momentos diferentes. Pero, respecto a hechos, en una disputa un lado debe estar equivocado. Ver también el Béer Sheva en Horaiot 2b, quien da una respuesta similar.

Según tomado de,

Crypto-Judaism (Secret Jews)

Image result for crypto judaism

By Rabbi J.Bejarano-Gutierrez

The Religion of Spanish and Portuguese Crypto Jews

 The history of the Jews of Spain spans more than a thousand years. It ended tragically in 1492 with the edict of expulsion issued by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Castile and Aragon shortly after their conquest of the Kingdom of Granada. The Jews of Portugal encountered a similar fate in 1497 with King Manuel I’s expulsion order. The edicts occurred after a tumultuous century of radical changes in Jewish life in the Iberian Peninsula. Beginning in 1391 and culminating with the expulsion decrees, large numbers of Jews converted to Christianity, many under physical coercion or duress. [1] Converted Jews were referred to by a number of terms including Conversos, New Christians, Hebrew Christians as well as derogatory terms such as Marranos, meaning swine.

 The term Crypto Jews in this context refers to Spanish and Portuguese Jews who converted to Christianity, but continued to observe Jewish practices and maintain Jewish beliefs secretly. Such observances were labeled as Judaizing and subject to severe penalty including execution by Inquisitional authorities. The following article reviews beliefs and customs of Crypto Jews and their attempt to maintain Jewish identity in increasingly difficult and dangerous surroundings. The descendants of Crypto Jews exist to this day.

Defining Communal Identity

A community’s identity is comprised of a variety of components. Among these are a shared sense of common origins, a claim to a distinctive history, and a sense of unique cultural solidarity.[1] These elements are often placed under the rubric of ethnicity. However, while the former are certainly applicable to openly practicing Jewish communities as well as Crypto-Jewish communities, most important for the subject of Jewish identity are those religious and theological elements that are markedly Jewish in nature. On a daily basis, Jewish identity is expressed via two concepts derived from classical Jewish religious texts. The first is embodied in the Hebrew word halakhah; the second is the concept of minhag. A third component, that of belief is reflected in practical fashion in the observance of the two previous concepts.

The word halakhah (or halakhot in the plural) is often translated as “Jewish Law,” but a more appropriate rendering of this term might be “the way or manner that one walks in.” Halakhah refers to the practical implementation and observance of the commandments as enumerated and explicated in the Written and Oral Law. Examples of halakhot are the laws of kashrut (i.e. the dietary laws permitting and prohibiting certain types of food, the manner in which acceptable animals are slaughtered, etc.).

Minhag (or Minhagim in the plural) refers to those customs or observances which while generally tied to the commandments,  are often derived from the various ethnic, cultural, and even linguistic influences  found in the diverse communities  and regions in which Jews live or  have lived in.  As Abraham Chill notes:

“Jewish practice is an intricately woven texture of law and custom. While the law tends to be fixed in such way that local variations are minimal, patterns of custom are rich in their diversity.”[2]

For example the minhagim of Jews living in or originating in North Africa are different from those living in or originating in Eastern Europe. Many of these customs have become a binding part of Jewish practice.  In a broader sense, minhag is also used to indicate a community’s or an individual’s customary way of observance.  An example of a minhag common to all Jewish communities is the practice of covering one’s head with a kippah or a skullcap as a sign of piety. While minhag may seem secondary to halakhah, its importance cannot be underestimated as the Talmud notes: “”the minhag of our fathers is [equivalent to] Torah.”[3]  A distinction nevertheless, remains between the two spheres of Jewish practice.

Halakhah and Minhag in Crypto Jewish Communities

In the context of Crypto Jewish communities, both in the Iberian Peninsula and in the Spanish and Portuguese colonies of the New World, the knowledge of and distinction between halakhah and minhag persisted. But as contact with established Jewish communities, with rabbis, and with Jewish texts lessened, the overall knowledge of Jewish practice and beliefs diminished. This is not to say that many individuals and in fact some communities of Crypto Jews did not retain sophisticated levels of Jewish knowledge. But the fact that an open expression of Jewish spirituality was impossible meant that individuals and communities generally practiced less detailed levels of observance as compared to their counterparts living in openly practicing Jewish communities.  Those who were more observant and knowledgeable were often reinforced by contact with openly practicing Jews who were outside of their normal circles. This reflects the fact that a complete isolation on the part of Crypto Jews from the greater Jewish world did not exist as Seymour Leibman notes:

“The concept that the Jews in Spain were isolated from Jews in other nations is not true. The Spanish Jews and those in the New World were in contact with Jews all over Europe. Although there were no books to educate the crypto-Jews, ‘a seventeenth century Marrano…could, while reading non-Jewish books, and without danger to himself, glean much more Jewish information than might be suspected in a Spain devoid of open Jewish life since 1492.’”[4]

Nevertheless, while Leibman’s views might apply to certain individuals, for most Conversos the challenges involved in living a secret Jewish life were substantial and the inability to practice openly without concern certainly affected the process of transmitting Jewish identity to one another or from one generation to the next was difficult. As David Gitlitz notes most recorded “conversations” regarding Judaism among Crypto Jews were not very profound, though exceptions do exist.[5] Generations after the Expulsion, most Conversos were for all practical purposes incapable of viewing Judaism as a completely independent religious system, and most always referenced their Jewish understanding back to Christianity.[6]  The fact that some Crypto Jews were looking to anti-Jewish literature to inform them of Jewish practice, simply highlights the problem they faced in maintaining and transmitting their identity.

It is important to note that whatever practices or beliefs are enumerated whether in a “purely” Jewish fashion or as a synthesis of Jewish-Christian beliefs, the extent and scope of Crypto Jewish practices can only be understood collectively. That is to say that each Crypto Jew was individualistic in his or her personal observance of halakhot or minhagim and this was a product of their individual circumstances, their family background, childhood education, and exposure to other observant Conversos.[7]

A Third Category of Observances and Beliefs

Before reviewing actual observances, it is important to note that a synthesis between Jewish and Christian beliefs and practices occurred and hence in speaking of Crypto Jews we must also understand that a third set of practices and beliefs should be taken into account when describing their identity. The extent of the challenges faced by even those Conversos who had escaped into areas where they could openly practice Judaism is captured by Byron Sherwin in his work, Finding Faith in Meaning:

“Despite their sincere desire to return to the Jewish faith and the Jewish fold, [who had fled the Iberian Peninsula] had many obstacles to overcome. Though they had left Spain and Portugal behind, though many had divested themselves of Christianity, though many had exchanged their Spanish names for Hebrew names, and though some had accepted harsh penances as the price of “return,” most “new Jews” retained the culture and the language of Spain and Portugal. They not only remained influenced by Christian doctrines but also intended to understand the nature of Jewish identity and Judaism through the prism of Spanish-Catholic teachings. As one of them put it, ‘It is truly difficult to desert a religion which one has known from the cradle.’”[8]

Thinking about Judaism in Christian Categories

If this was the case for those who fled Spanish or Portuguese controlled areas, how much more was this the case for those living under the watchful eyes of the Inquisition? Highlighting their dilemma of maintaining Jewish observances under such circumstances, Conversos generally began to fuse Jewish practices and beliefs with Christian thought and practice. This fusion or synthesis often resulted in customs that lay outside the fold of either normative Catholic or Jewish experience. These folkways to borrow a term from Mordecai Kaplan were/are often as critical in identifying Crypto Jews as the observance of established halakhic practice or minhagim or through genealogical research. As David Gitlitz notes, “It is clear that within a generation after the Expulsion most Conversos had become more Christian than Jewish.”[9] Generally speaking, despite Seymour Leibman’s statement, most Crypto Jews did not have access to Jewish works, teachers to instruct their children Hebrew, or rabbis to explicate the nature of Jewish observance.

The Variation of Observance among Crypto Jews

The variation of observances among Crypto Jews is extensive and again reflects a variety of factors which include the locale of those in question and the time in which these individuals or communities lived. This can be understood by a brief review of the events leading to the rise of the first Converso communities. The pogroms of 1391 in Spain were been followed by additional coerced conversions throughout the 15th century finally culminating in the last great conversion in 1492.  Conversos living in Spain before the establishment of the Inquisition and even until the Expulsion lived rather complicated dual lives as did their colonial counterparts. Perhaps the most famous example of this is the case of Gonzalvo Ruiz. David Gitlitz, in his work Secrecy and Deceit notes the following:

“New Christians frequently contributed financially to the maintenance of Jewish institutions. The synagogue and the community of which was most important tangible symbol continued to be a significant magnet for Judaizing new Christians prior to the Expulsion. It was not unusual to find conversos like Gonzalvo Ruiz [Teruel 1487], who ‘had a bench in the synagogue and he defends it and allows his friends and relatives to sit on it and nobody else.”[10]

Crypto Jewish Practices and Beliefs in the New World

On the other side of the spectrum, Crypto Jewish identity would not be so easily divulged to most people, particularly for those who Conversos who had immigrated illegally to the New World. These Crypto Jews retained a number of beliefs and practices.  Some, such as circumcision or as the practice of endogamy were quite common, while others were reflected in certain individuals and communities.[11] Endogamy was a method for maintaining Jewish identity and remains a key characteristic of many descendants of Crypto Jews.[12]

In surveying the records of the Inquisition and the writings of the most famous Crypto Jew in the New World, Luis Carvajal El Mozo, Seymour Leibman provides a review of common observances of many Crypto Jews living in Mexico in the 16th and 17th centuries. The observances and beliefs are simply too many to fully enumerate and the following is only a sketch of the types of rituals observed, many of which are attested to by those claiming Crypto Jewish ancestry. They include belief that the Law of Moses was the true law and was better than the “law of Jesus.”[13] Belief in the Law of Moses often included the idea that the Law was divinely revealed by God to Moses at Sinai.[14] The Ten Commandments prohibition against venerating images was considered very important, though the application of this was much more complicated as we will see.[15] Other practices include making beds neatly and bed coverings straight to prevent the souls of the dead from lying on them and tormenting the owner.[16] A piece of matzah (unleavened bread) was suspended from the neck to serve as a good-luck amulet.[17]   A piece of matzah was also placed atop the head to cure headaches.[18] Fingernails were to be cut in a certain order, placed in paper, and then burned.[19] To insure good luck, only fowl that were either all black or brown without any feathers would be eaten.[20] Other practices include the observance of modified ritual purity laws, forty days after the birth of a male, before returning to a “normalized” state.[21]

Dietary restrictions largely connected to abstaining from pork, fish without scales, draining the blood from fowl, and slaughtering the former by decapitating them. Larger kosher animals are reported to have been ritually slaughtered by men.[22] The meat was often soaked in warm water to draw out remaining blood.[23] Additional practices such as Passover Matzah being baked or the practice of ritually separating dough (challah) is also recorded.[24]

The Sabbath was observed from Friday evening until the appearance of three stars Saturday evening.[25] The Sabbath was often honored by special clothing as well as a prohibition of work which at times included not handling money or collecting debts.[26] Candle lighting on the Sabbath was observed in many homes. The detail of observance and understanding of halakhic minutia is impressive at times as in the case of Juana Enriquez who criticized another woman for brushing her teeth on the Sabbath because she considered this work.[27] This issue is particularly interesting since this is connected to the melacha (i.e. work) of a category called memachek, a Sabbath prohibition derived from the Talmud.[28] This shows a sophisticated level of familiarization with halakhic minutia for the Sabbath.[29]

The observances of minor Jewish holidays such as Purim (Festival of Lots), Tisha B’Av (commemorating the destruction of the both Jerusalem Temples), and Chanukah (the Feast of Dedication) as well as major holidays such as Shavuot (the Festival of Weeks), Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), and Succot (the Festival of Booths) are also known.[30] Interestingly another other major holiday Rosh Hashanah (often referred to as the Jewish New Year) is largely unmentioned. Purim, the celebration recorded in the book of Esther involving the attempted extermination of the Jewish people by Haman, a courtier of King Ahaseuras, was particularly significant to many Crypto Jews as the Esther’s hidden Jewish identity resonated with the difficulty they found themselves in.[31]

Mourning practices also appear as another major point of identifying Crypto Jews. Mirrors were turned to the wall at someone’s passing.[32] Family members often observed a seven day period of mourning and sat on the floor or on low stools.[33] Hard boiled eggs were eaten without salt by immediate mourners and jars of water in the house of the deceased were removed out of concern for evil spirits.[34]

In terms of “synagogue protocol” or Jewish prayer, many Crypto Jews authored their own short versions, including references to the God of Israel, the God of Abraham, and to “lord” or “Ado-nai” as well as other Hebrew words. In some cases the extent of Jewish liturgy is rather impressive. Seymour Leibman notes two Crypto Jews, Jorge de Almeyda and Diego Diaz Nieto among others who knew the entire daily prayer referred to as the Amidah or the Shemoneh Esreh – a Hebrew prayer consisting of eighteen benedictions.[35]

Relationship with Christian Beliefs and Practices

A characteristic of many Crypto Jews was their tendency to define their Jewish identity negatively.[36] That is as a repudiation of Christian beliefs.[37] Christian beliefs including the sacrament were privately ridiculed at times.[38] Nevertheless Crypto Jewish beliefs often assimilated Christian theological constructs. The emphasis in Catholicism on Saints was often adopted by Crypto Jews with the substitution of Jewish Biblical figures for Christian personages.[39] Lighting candles to Christian saints was copied by lighting candles to Moses or the Apocryphal figure of Tobit, a Jewish figure found in the Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, and not in the Masoretic texts of the Hebrew Bible. The concept of personal salvation as opposed to communal salvation was adopted from Christianity. Belief that the Law of Moses would save one’s soul as opposed to belief in Jesus was also a common belief and reflects Byron Sherwin’s comments regarding the challenges faced by Conversos.[40]

An Example of Crypto Jewish Faith: The Writings of Luis Carvajal

The writings of Luis Carvajal, El Mozo – the most well known Mexican Crypto Jew and martyr of the 16th century provide us with an amazing portrait of additional beliefs that were maintained by Crypto Jews. In his last will and testament, Carvajal includes a list of religious truths he held to.  The list is interesting in that it not only expresses the principles of Jewish faith he maintained in a manner reminiscent of the Thirteen Principles of Faith penned by Moses Ben Maimon, but also highlights the constant references to and polemic against Christianity which were characteristic of Crypto Jewish belief.

Carvajal begins with an affirmation of his belief in the one and only God.[41] He ends his first declaration by stating that he rejected the “devil and his lies.” His second declaration is the Shema (Deuteronomy 4:4) and the uniqueness of God.[42] His third principle is belief in the Torah, which he describes as the “law that Christians called the dead Law of Moses.”[43] He continues by noting that Christian views that Jewish law was dead violated one of their own gospels. His fourth principle is the prohibition against idolatry.[44] His fifth statement affirms “the sacred sacrament” of circumcision as a binding commandment.[45] His sixth declaration affirms the future coming of the Messiah.[46] His seventh declaration focused on his apocalyptic view of Daniel and the rise of empires which would rule the earth.[47] His last declaration is the view that King Antiochus of the Book of Maccabees fame represented the Spanish monarchs who arose to persecute Jews as Antiochus had done in his days. Carvajal’s writings show an in depth familiarity with the Hebrew Scripture as well as Jewish apocryphal literature maintained only in the canon of the Catholic Bible. Most importantly Carvajal provides us with an example of the complex emotional and theological struggle that existed in the lives and minds of Crypto Jews living in a hostile Christian environment.

Conclusion: An Enduring Legacy

The continued existence of Crypto Jewish practice is well attested to in a variety of locations in Spain and Portugal, in the Southwestern portions of the United States as well as throughout Latin America. Other individuals and families retain knowledge of their past origins or maintain genealogical sources demonstrating their connections to Converso families. While the particulars vary and the individuals claiming such a heritage are often dependent upon oral family traditions, practices of the type previously enumerated are generally maintained in differing levels of depth and understanding.

As Stanley Hordes notes in his work, To the Ends of the Earth, there are essentially three types of descendants of Crypto Jews existent today:

“At one extreme are individuals who are biological descendants of the original fifteenth-century Conversos, but retain neither an awareness of their ancestral faith nor any vestigial Jewish customs. The other extreme, very few in number, encompasses those who profess retention of a consciousness of the family’s Judaism and continue to observe Jewish practices, either openly as Jews or in secret under the cover of Catholicism or Protestantism. The majority, however, fall in a middle category: those Catholics or Protestants whose families display observances suggestive of Judaism, but without any specific knowledge about why they do so.”[48]

The Crypto Jewish experience remains an enduring legacy and phenomenon well into the 21st century.



Michael Alpert, Crypto-Judaism and the Spanish Inquisition, (London: Palgrave, 2001).

Frederik Barth, ed., Ethnic Groups and Boundaries: The Social Organization of Cultural Difference (Bergen: Universitets Forlaget, 1969)

Shaye J. D. Cohen, The Beginnings of Jewishness: Boundaries, Varieties, Uncertainties (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000).

Stanley M. Hordes, To the Ends of the Earth: A History of Crypto-Jews of New Mexico, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005).

David Gitlitz, Secrecy and Deceit: The Religion of Crypto-Jews, (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2009).

Kevin Ingram, Ed., The Conversos and Moriscos in Late Medieval Spain and Beyond: Volume One Departures and Changes, (Boston: Brill, 2009).

Seymour Leibman, New World Jewry 1493 -1825: Requiem for the Forgotten, (New York: Ktav Publishing, 1982).

Seymour Leibman, The Enlightened: The Writings of Luis De Carvajal, El Mozo, (Miami, University of Miami Press, 1967).

Seymour Leibman, The Jews in New Spain: Faith, Flame, and The Inquisition, (Coral Gables: University of Miami Press, 1970), 76.

Byron Sherwin, Finding Faith in Meaning: A Theology of Judaism, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).

Anthony D. Smith, The Ethnic Revival, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981).

Yechiel Michel Stern, The Book of Shabbos, (Jerusalem: Ezrat Torah, 1995).

[1]Anthony D. Smith, The Ethnic Revival, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 66. See also Shaye J. D. Cohen, The Beginnings of Jewishness: Boundaries, Varieties, Uncertainties (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 3, 7. See also Frederik Barth, ed., Ethnic Groups and Boundaries: The Social Organization of Cultural Difference (Bergen: Universitets Forlaget, 1969), 14.

[2] Abraham Chill, The Minhagim: The Customs and Ceremonies of Judaism, Their Origins and Rationale, (New York: Sepher-Hermon Press, 1979), vii.

[3] Tosafot to Menahot 20b

[4] Seymour Leibman, New World Jewry 1493 -1825: Requiem for the Forgotten, (New York: Ktav Publishing, 1982), 42.

[5] David Gitlitz, Secrecy and Deceit: The Religion of Crypto-Jews, (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1996), 99.

[6] Ibid., 99.

[7] Ibid., 123.

[8] Byron Sherwin, Finding Faith in Meaning: A Theology of Judaism, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 6.

[9] David Gitlitz, Secrecy and Deceit: The Religion of Crypto-Jews, (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1996), 99.

[10] David Gitlitz, Secrecy and Deceit: The Religion of Crypto-Jews, (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society), 507.

[11] Michael Alpert, Crypto-Judaism and the Spanish Inquisition, (London: Palgrave, 2001), 170. See also Seymour Leibman, The Jews in New Spain: Faith, Flame, and The Inquisition, (Coral Gables: University of Miami Press, 1970), 76.

[12] Seymour Leibman, New World Jewry 1493 -1825: Requiem for the Forgotten, (New York: Ktav Publishing, 1982), 13, 15, 57.

[13] Ibid., 106.

[14] Ibid., 106.

[15] Ibid., 106.

[16] Seymour Leibman, The Enlightened: The Writings of Luis De Carvajal, El Mozo, (Miami, University of Miami Press, 1967), 44.

[17] Ibid., 44.

[18] Ibid., 44.

[19] Ibid., 44.

[20] Ibid., 44.

[21] Michael Alpert, Crypto-Judaism and the Spanish Inquisition, (London: Palgrave, 2001), 195.

[22] Seymour Leibman, New World Jewry 1493 -1825: Requiem for the Forgotten, (New York: Ktav Publishing, 1982), 119.

[23] Ibid., 119.

[24] Ibid., 121.

[25] Ibid., 106.

[26] Ibid., 106-107.

[27] Ibid., 119.

[28] Mishnah Shabbat 73A.

[29] Yechiel Michel Stern, The Book of Shabbos, (Jerusalem: Ezrat Torah, 1995), 219.

[30] Seymour Leibman, New World Jewry 1493 -1825: Requiem for the Forgotten, (New York: Ktav Publishing, 1982), 106-107.

[31]  Seymour Leibman, New World Jewry 1493 -1825: Requiem for the Forgotten, (New York: Ktav Publishing, 1982), 121-122.

[32] David Gitlitz, Secrecy and Deceit: The Religion of Crypto-Jews, (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1996), 297.

[33] Ibid., 296.

[34] Seymour Leibman, New World Jewry 1493 -1825: Requiem for the Forgotten, (New York: Ktav Publishing, 1982), 124.

[35] Ibid., 111.

[36] David Gitlitz, Secrecy and Deceit: The Religion of Crypto-Jews, (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1996), 135.

[37] Kevin Ingram, Ed., The Conversos and Moriscos in Late Medieval Spain and Beyond: Volume One Departures and Changes, (Boston: Brill, 2009), 162.

[38] David Gitlitz, Secrecy and Deceit: The Religion of Crypto-Jews, (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1996), 137, 138-139, 159.

[39] Ibid., 116-117.

[40] Kevin Ingram, Ed., The Conversos and Moriscos in Late Medieval Spain and Beyond: Volume One Departures and Changes, (Boston: Brill, 2009), 183.

[41]  Seymour Leibman, The Enlightened: The Writings of Luis De Carvajal, El Mozo, (Miami, University of Miami Press, 1967), 126.

[42] Ibid., 126.

[43] Ibid., 126.

[44] Ibid., 127.

[45] Ibid., 127.

[46] Ibid., 128.

[47] Ibid., 128.

[48]  Stanley M. Hordes, To the Ends of the Earth: A History of Crypto-Jews of New Mexico, (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), xvii.

As taken from,

Central America’s Bnei Anousim Get First Rabbi in 500 Years

For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. Malachi 3:6 (The Israel Bible™)

Rabbi Elisha Salas is Shavei Israel’s new emissary to the crypto-Jews of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala

The Bnei Anousim – descendants of Spanish Jews forced to convert to Catholicism more than 500 years ago – who live in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala will get a full-time rabbi to serve their spiritual and educational needs. The appointment was made possible due to the efforts of the Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel organization.

Rabbi Elisha Salas, 61, who served as Shavei Israel’s emissary to Portugal for the past eight years, will shortly take up his new post as the organization’s envoy to Central America. Rabbi Salas will be based in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, where Shavei Israel has been working for many years. The city is home to a thriving community of approximately 300 Bnei Anousim – all of whom practice Orthodox Judaism – and will also work with crypto-Jews in neighboring Guatemala and Honduras.

“We are delighted to be sending Rabbi Elisha Salas to reach out to the Bnei Anousim of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala,” said Michael Freund, founder and chairman of Shavei Israel. “There are thousands of Bnei Anousim throughout those countries who are conscious of their historical connection to the Jewish people. We owe it to them and to their ancestors to reach out to them, embrace them and welcome them back home. Shavei Israel will continue to intensify its efforts to assist the Bnei Anousim wherever they may be.”

Salas will guide the communities and teach Torah, Jewish culture and tradition and will conduct a wide range of educational and social activities. He will also organise social events in addition to Sabbath and holiday prayers. Salas will give lectures on Jewish law and will teach both young and old to correctly read from the Torah and conduct prayers.

As taken from,

Don’t Get Bribed!

“I can’t understand it,” said the coach of the football team. “It was such an important game that I bribed the referee, and yet we still lost.” “Terrible, isn’t it,” the team captain agreed. “It’s getting so you can’t trust anyone any more…”

This week’s Torah reading, Shoftim, warns that “You shall not take a bribe, for bribery blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the just.”

The Talmud relates the story of a person who brought Rabbi Ishmael ben Elisha the “First Sheerings”, one of the gifts which are customarily given to the Kohanim (priests).

Rabbi Ishmael asked the man, “Where are you from?”

The person replied, “From such-and-such a place.”

Rabbi Ishmael continued, “Between there and here, you found no other Kohen to whom you could give it?”

“I had to come here for a matter of litigation. I said to myself, since I’m coming here anyway, why not give it to you.”

Rabbi Ishmael refused to accept the gift, and recused himself from the case. Instead, he appointed two other scholars to judge the case. When he passed by the courthouse and overheard the litigation taking place, Rabbi Ishmael found himself advocating for the person who had offered him the gift — “if he wanted, he could argue such-and-such” and present a better case.

When he realized what was happening, he exclaimed, “Cursed be those who accept bribes! I did not even accept anything from him, and even if I would have accepted it, it was something that is mine by rights. Even so, I am leaning toward his favor. Imagine someone who actually does accept a bribe!”

The Torah also tells us “you shall surely pursue justice.” It is hard to stay neutral, to be totally objective and not swayed by external or inappropriate factors. Yet this is the mark of true justice.

Wherever we are, at work, on a jury, as a judge, in our families, the Torah warns us about the ease with which we are susceptible to bribery, especially when we don’t realize it ourselves. It takes introspection and virtue to remain objective and untainted, yet this is what is demanded of us when we find ourselves in a judgmental position.

As taken from,

Liberal Jews Can Be Committed to Nationalism and Judaism

avatar by Jeremy Rosen

A Torah scroll. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote that the choice between Jewish nationalism and Jewish liberalism is the crucial issue facing American Jewry today. He wondered how we can reconcile universal, humanist values with the nationalism of Jewish identity. He concluded with a question: If these two positions are so divergent, can this be “good for the Jews”? He added, “That’s a question this Gentile columnist leaves to the chosen people to debate.”

To me, as a practicing Jew — yet one who is intellectually and politically liberal — there is no question whatsoever that it is good for Jews to be committed to the Jewish people and Israel. At the same time, I believe in the importance of liberalism to counterbalance fanaticism. Indeed, Judaism has survived precisely because we (or at least some of us) chose to remain loyal to our people while also integrating other ideas.

We had this issue with the Greeks, the Romans, the Christians, and the Muslims. What comes first? Jewish identity or the values of the outside world? It’s a no-brainer, as the Americans like to say. From the time of Shmuel in the Persian Empire, we always accepted “the Law of the Land” in civil matters. But at the same time, we retained our own Jewish value system.

One should not confuse citizenship with identity. After all, that was once the testing point in what I would call primitive, neanderthal nationalism. The sort I detest.

Today, many of us in the West live in a post-nationalist world, where a variety of people of different religions and cultures share equal citizenship. Nationalism, in most cases (not all of course), has become less rigid and dogmatic.

We all have different ideas, literature, and cultures. Within these different loyalties we will disagree as well — sometimes acrimoniously. A free society allows for people to disagree, argue, and even despise each other. But we can all still be part of a whole. The US does not have a state religion. That is one of the reasons why Jews of all shades have found it so comfortable. Britain does. The Queen is the Head of the Church and bishops sit in the House of Lords. France, though secular, recognizes a special relationship with Catholicism, Japan with Taoism, and China with Maoism. Egypt and all the other Islamic states with Islam. To object to Jews or Israelis doing the same makes no sense. But then, prejudice never did.

The blind hatred towards nationalism espoused by the academic world and the idealistic left (except, it seems, when it comes to Palestinians or left-wing dictators and murderers) throws the baby out with the bathwater. It makes no distinction between positive nationalism and negative.

The Torah is my priority, even if I also include other views and cultures in my decision-making process, which I think is crucial to being “good and just” — an oft-repeated theme in the Torah.

I made a decision early on to dedicate myself to Jewish survival. On the other hand, I detest compulsion. This freedom of choice and practice is one reason that I so strongly believe in the separation of state and religion. But here comes the crunch: I believe the laws of a country should serve the whole country civilly, but in terms of one’s own morality and loyalties, one should give priority to one’s own.

The obvious, inescapable fact is that the only way to guarantee cultural survival is by being committed to it. If someone tells me that most American Jews cannot identify with a Jewish religious life anymore, or with the right of Jews to have a homeland of their own, I am sad. But they are usually far removed from Jewish practice and therefore peripheral to Judaism’s survival. That’s their choice, and good luck to them.

Douthat is worried that Jews such as Michael Chabon or Ayelet Waldman are distancing themselves from Jewish practice because they say that they can no longer feel comfortable being associated with such narrow perspectives. Well, good for them. They won’t be the ones keeping Judaism alive. Jewish affiliation is indeed rapidly declining among those who eschew Jewish nationalism to the point of no return. Diaspora Jewry has always been divided between those who were Jews first and citizens second, and those who were citizens first of the Jewish persuasion. 

There is a current fear of asserting a religious, cultural, national identity in polite left-wing society. I regret this, but it is the reality. This is why I am in favor of states asserting a nation’s religious priorities, if that is the will of the majority. I have never been in favor of strong, right-wing nationalism. But a softer one of loyalty is another matter. It is more cultural than political. 

But it is Douthat’s parting shot that contains a hint of prejudice and explains why I feel the need to defend my cultural, nationalist integrity. To refer to us as the “chosen people” — almost tongue-in-cheek — imputes to the user of this phrase a certain disdain. How dare the Jews think they are better than anyone else? Of course, we don’t (or if some do, they are betraying our holy texts). It is the trope of the antisemite who likes to imply that we do. 

We only claim that we have been privileged, or burdened, to have inherited a profound religious way of life, which if adhered to correctly should make us good, God-fearing people. But the same source constantly reminds us that we ourselves, stiff-necked as we are, have deserved nothing. The opportunities we have taken advantage of have been the failures of others. And our failures have been the failures of the rest of the world too. The response should not be to abandon what makes us different, but to reinforce it.

Rabbi Jeremy Rosen received his rabbinic ordination from Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem. He has worked in the rabbinate, Jewish education, and academia for more than 40 years in Europe and the US. He currently lives in the USA, where he writes, teaches, lectures, and serves as rabbi of a small community in New York.

As taken from,

Detenerse Antes de Tiempo: la tragedia de la corredora Israelí

Detenerse demasiado pronto: la tragedia de la corredora Israelí

Un mensaje apropiado para el mes de Elul.

por Rav Benjamín Blech

La semana pasada, la carrera de 5000 metros de mujeres en el campeonato de atletismo europeo en Berlín terminó de forma catastrófica para la competidora israelí. Fue una carrera que se recordará por mucho tiempo, no por la forma en que la ganaron sino por cómo la perdieron. La pasmosa derrota de la campeona mundial israelí nacida en Kenia, Lonah Salpeter, es un poderoso recordatorio de una idea profunda y central en elul, el mes previo a Rosh Hashaná.

Salpeter, quien ya había ganado la medalla de oro en la carrera de 10.000 metros, parecía estar camino a lograr otra notable victoria. Ella iba casi a la par con la holandesa Sifan Hassan y cuando faltaba una vuelta parecía tener asegurada si no la medalla de oro, por lo menos la de plata. Hasta que ocurrió lo inexplicable. Salpeter se detuvo antes de que sonara la campana que anuncia la última vuelta, pensando que la carrera había terminado… Ella cruzó los andariveles para celebrar prematuramente su medalla.

Los espectadores se horrorizaron. Los comentaristas no podían creer lo que veían. Las otras corredoras se sorprendieron. Lonah comprendió su error demasiado tarde y desesperadamente trató de regresar a la carrera, pero ya era demasiado tarde. Llegó cuarta y, remarcablemente, de todos modos quebró el record israelí.

El incidente nos recuerda las inmortales palabras de Yogi Berra: “No terminó hasta que termina”.

Las lágrimas de desesperación, miseria y angustia no pueden cambiar para Lonah Salpeter la realidad de haberse detenido demasiado pronto. Por supuesto que no fue intencional, pero la consecuencia es la misma.

La vida está repleta de momentos que nos presentan desafíos similares.

Napoleón Hill en su inspirador libro: Piense y hágase rico, cuenta la historia del casi multimillonario a quién él llama: El hombre que abandonó demasiado pronto. Es la historia de un tío de R.U. Darby que atrapado por la fiebre del oro se fue al oeste a cavar y volverse rico. Él clavó una estaca y comenzó a trabajar con pico y pala. Después de varias semanas de esfuerzos, fue recompensado con el descubrimiento del brillante mineral. Necesitaba máquinas para poder sacar el oro a la superficie. Sin decir nada, cubrió la mina y regresó a su hogar en Williamsburg, Maryland, donde les contó a sus parientes y a unos pocos vecinos sobre su descubrimiento. Entre todos reunieron el dinero para las máquinas necesarias y lo enviaron a una fundición. Los resultados probaron que tenían una de las minas más ricas en Colorado. A medida que bajaba el taladro subían sus esperanzas.

Pero entonces pasó algo. ¡La veta de oro desapareció! Habían llegado al final del arcoíris y la olla con oro ya no estaba allí. Siguieron taladrando, tratando desesperados de volver a encontrar la veta, pero fue en vano. Finalmente decidieron dejar todo.

Le vendieron los equipos por unos pocos cientos de dólares a un chatarrero y subieron al tren para regresar a casa. El chatarrero llamó a un ingeniero en minas para analizar la mina y efectuar algunos cálculos. El ingeniero consideró que el proyecto había fracasado porque los propietarios desconocían las líneas de falla del terreno. ¡Sus cálculos mostraron que la veta se encontraba a menos de un metro de distancia del lugar donde la familia Darby había dejado de cavar!

No cometas el error de pensar que ya llegaste a donde necesitabas ir. Puedes ir más lejos.

Y exactamente allí la encontraron. El chatarrero se volvió increíblemente rico porque supo no abandonar demasiado pronto.

Este es un mensaje importante para el mes de elul, cuando nos preparamos para las Altas Fiestas. El último mes del calendario antes del año nuevo nos somete a grandes demandas: no cometas el error de pensar que ya llegaste a donde necesitabas ir. Puedes ir más lejos. No abandones la carrera antes de haber logrado todo lo que eres capaz de hacer.

Para muchos, la tragedia es detenerse demasiado pronto, como le ocurrió a Lonah Salpeter. Queda más tiempo en la carrera de nuestras vidas, tiempo para merecer los premios que Dios puede tener para nosotros como eventuales ganadores. Qué triste sería que ignoremos las profundas palabras de Thomas Edison: “Muchos de los fracasos de la vida se deben a que las personas no se dan cuenta qué cerca estaban del éxito cuando se dieron por vencidas”.

Según tomado de,