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Torah and Tradition

Torah and Tradition

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Torah and Tradition

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  1. Torah and Tradition Medieval Sephardic Judaism

  2. Who are the Sephardic Jews? • The otherwise unknown Sepharad (Obadiah 20) were eventually identified midrashically with Spain (owing to the slight similarity in consonants). • Hence, the Sephardim are, technically speaking, Spanish Jews. • Jews expelled from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella (of Columbus fame) in 1492 after the “Reconquista.” • Scattered across Mediterranean world and into Netherlands • Used loosely to refer to Jews under Muslim domination • Currently represent more than half the Jews in Israel

  3. Middle Ages • According to Marcus, 315-1791 CE • Jews lived as second class “citizens” under both Christianity and Islam. • Served as the economic intermediaries between the cultures and as translators. • Also responsible for the transferal of knowledge. “Synagoga” by Conrad Witz

  4. Under Muslim Rule • Conditions generally better than under Christendom. • Nonetheless, second class dhimmis with restricted rights. • “Golden Age” in Spain (10th – 12th centuries CE). • Allowed to be merchants, doctors, poets, scientists, and court officials. • Sephardic “Spanish” Jewry (more open to the world & liberal in interpretation [cf. kitniyot]). • Nonetheless, Judah (Yehudah) Halevi and his “My Heart Is in the East” and “Ode to Zion.” The Israelites Encircling Jericho from a Judeo-Persian Manuscript

  5. Sephardic Torah Scroll • Local Traditions • cf. “Cairo Purim” in Marcus 13

  6. Jewish Man at Prayer in Tunisian Synagogue

  7. Saadiah Gaon • Head of academy at Sura • Saved Rabbanite Judaism from the threat posed by Karaism in the 10th century • Anan ben David the founder of Karaism • Related to Sadducean Judaism? • Cf. Marcus 47 for selections • SepherEmunoth we-De’oth(“The Book of Beliefs and Opinions”): the first attempt to reconcile Jewish thought with philosophy in a systematic manner since Philo

  8. Jewish “Systematics” • Maimonides: Guide for the Perplexed and Mishneh Torah (“Second Torah”) • From the Mishneh Torah (Marcus 75) • Maimonides kvetches (Marcus 62) • Joseph Caro/Karo: Shulkhan Arukh (“The Set Table”) • Cf. Marcus 42 (selections)

  9. The Zohar • Collection of mystical writings from late 13th century CE. • Probable author was Moses de León (died 1305) • Attributed to Simeon bar Yohai (2nd century CE). • God consists of a central mystery (Ein Sof) and ten aspects (Sefirot). • Study of intricate symbolism was to lead the student closer to understanding the ultimate truth  Kabbalah. • Influence waned with Enlightenment. • It has been rediscovered by ultra-orthodox, Hasidic and New Age Jews. Man holding a tree with the ten Sefirot from a Latin translation of a Kabbalistic text, Augsburg, 1561.

  10. Isaac Luria (1534-1572) • Ari “the Lion” = Ashkenazi Rabbi Isaac (Marcus 52) • Lurianic Kabbalah • Breaking of the vessels • Divine sparks • tzimtzum Grave of Isaac Luria in Safed