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JewishWikipedia.info

THE

INCREDIBLE

STORY OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE



WE CAN ONLY UNDERSTAND THE DARK AND MIDDLE AGES
BY UNDERSTANDING HOW IT WAS SEEN BY PEOPLE THEN ALIVE.




















(EDITORS NOTE:  The Middle Ages refers to the Christian environment of Europe.  
Jews living in North Africa were ruled by the Muslims    Pressures such as
Dhimmis, the Muslim Approach to Superiority can  be found here.


Jack Whyte, Author's note to 'Knights of the Black & White'
Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, May 2006

I also made a note to myself, back when I first started writing these stories (about the Knight's Templar), to be sure to explain a few of the things that were normal eight or nine hundred years ago but would seem utterly alien and incomprehensible to modern readers. For example, no one— neither the clergymen who planned the Crusades nor the warriors who fought in them—ever heard the words Crusades or Crusaders. Those words came along hundreds of years later, when historians began talking about the exploits of the Christian armies in the Middle East. And the Crusaders’ word for the Holy Land was Outremer—the land beyond the sea. In addition to that, medieval Europe was not called Europe. It was called Christendom, because all the countries in it were Christian. The name Europe would not come along for a few more centuries.

Even more difficult for modern people to grasp is the idea that there was no middle class in medieval Europe, and only one, all-powerful Church. There was no capacity for religious protest and no Protestants. Martin Luther would not be born for hundreds of years. There were only two kinds of people in Christendom: the haves and the have-nots (some things never change), otherwise known as aristocrats and commoners, and both were male, because women had no rights and no identity in the world of medieval Christianity. The commoners, depending on which country they lived in, were known as peasants, serfs, slaves, and mesnes, and they were uneducated and largely valueless. The aristocrats, on the other hand, were the men who owned and ruled the lands, and they were divided into two halves—knights and clerics. There were no other options. If you were firstborn, you inherited. If you were not first born, you either became a knight or a cleric. From clerics, we get the modern word clergyman, because all clerics were priests and monks, but we also get the modern word clerk, because all clerics were expected to be both literate and numerate. Knights had no need to be literate. Their job was fighting, and they could hire clerics to keep their records straight. Knights represented the worldly order, whereas clerics represented God and the Church, and there was no love lost between the two orders. On the most basic level, knights existed solely to fight, and clerics existed to stop them from killing. That entailed the most fundamental kind of conflict and led to anarchy and chaos.

The Knights Templar, for a multiplicity of reasons, became the first religious order ever entitled to kill in the name of God. They were the first and the greatest of their kind, and this is their story.





Jewish experience can be divided into two periods, before and after
the Council of Clermont in 1095 by Pope Urban II which led to the First Crusade and the occupation of Jerusalem in 1099.)  


Jewish historical experience with literacy should be a valuable lesson about the importance of education, especially in uncertain times. Even to this day Jews invest more in education than the rest of the world, as well as they are engaged in more demanding work. As a result, the number of Nobel prizes per capita is the highest among Jews.

The second destruction of the Temple convinced the Jewish people that stone can not be a reliable foundation of religion. Only a thought held in a believer’s heart and written in a holy book can do that. But the first condition for such foundation of religion is general literacy. The synagogues were determinate to this purpose, teachers have been raised and an educational system with Babylonian summit has been established. That functioned as a global network on the basis of correspondence. The educational plan was »Kol Torah« (voice of the Torah) which, a lot later, Russian Jews interpreted as “kul’tura” (tran. cul’ture). This important turn in Judaism happened when almost all believers were farmers and literacy had no meaning for their everyday survival. It was the other way around actually, literacy represented burden, since Jewish school was very expensive and kept the youth, which could help working on fields, busy. On the other hand, at that time cities began to develop and with that new professions that required literacy. The prophecy of the Babylon Talmud is: “The city, whose children are not going to school, will be ruined.” The investment in literacy was at first motivated with only religious motives, but later it has proofed to be a very useful and promising basis for existence.
(sinagoga  The importance of literacy for survival of Judaism   Mag. Franci Pivec)


CHANGES FROM THE DARK TO THE MIDDLE AGES
‘The Source - The Saintly Men of Safed (Tsfat)’ pp637-639, James Michener, 1965

It was an age of expansion. Constantinople, under Ottoman rule since 1453 was offering Europe such riches drawn from India and China as to make the dreams of Marco Polo seem unimaginative. Columbus had presented the world with a new hemisphere to balance the old, and daring Portuguese navigators were proving that cargo ships could reach the wealth of Asia by doubling the tip of Africa. Spain was amazing Europe with the wealth of Aztec and Inca, and all the world’s horizons were being expanded so that the center of power was no longer the Mediterranean; for on the Atlantic hitherto unimportant nations suddenly found themselves possessed of empires so enormous as to be indescribable. Even a trivial kingdom like England, beset on three borders by hostile Scots, Welsh and Irish, could visualize acquiring territory a thousand times larger than itself, while the Dutch were about to prove that they could establish commercial stations wherever their daring captains rated safe anchorage and fresh water.

It was an age of intellectual discovery. From the cellars of forgotten monasteries, from the long-unused libraries of princes, and most often from Arabic scholars who had preserved the wisdom of the west, the books of Aristotle and Thales, of Plato and Euclid were rescued from the past to astonish men and enlarge their concepts. Dante and Boccacio reminded a forgetful world of Virgil and Ovid, while the glories of Sophocles and Seneca awakened new appreciations of the drama. And not only was the intelligence of the past being discovered; each ship returning from Java or Peru brought with it, packed among the spice and silver, fresh discoveries of the mind, and thus the way was prepared for Hint succession of world-changers who followed Gutenberg, Copernicus and Galileo.

It was an age of religious explosion. For centuries Christian Europe had been united into one all-embracing Church, devout, competent and far seeing. Recently Christians had been inspired by two victories: the expulsion of Islam from Spain and the first conversions of the Aztecs; now there was reason to hope that millions in Asia and Africa would join the church, since missionaries of great dedication were on their way to these areas. For a brief moment it was logical to believe that the known world might soon unite under the leadership of Rome. And then Martin Luther strode with rude and giant steps across the boundaries of Europe, awakening men like Calvin and Knox who would destroy old associations and establish new.

It was an age of political invention. City states gave way to national units and barons surrendered to kings who found their support in the new middle class. Secular governments displaced religious as leaders began to study Machiavelli instead of Thomas Aquinas. The barbarians from the north were finally brought under control and Europe, having expelled the Muslim Arabs from Spain, now girded to fight back the Muslim Turks as they threatened the approaches to Vienna.

It was an age of growing freedom. Men who rebelled against the confinement of Europe were now free to try America and Asia. Any who had chafed under papal rule were welcome to adopt Lutheranism, and peasants who had silently borne the tyranny of landlords were now free to attempt a revolt. Law courts were strengthened and in the realm of writing and art men could break away from medieval restriction to follow Petrarch or Michelangelo. Each year brought new horizons, for this was the age of freedom.

But not for Jews. In 1492, after more than seven hundred years of faithful service to Spain, the Jews were expelled from that state. They fled to Portugal, where they were scourged, forcibly baptized and later exiled. In Italy and Germany they were forced into inhuman quarters where they wore inhuman costumes. At almost rhythmic intervals they were charged with murdering Gentile children for blood to be used at Passover. They were accused of poisoning wells, of spreading cholera, of knowing how to infect rats with the plague to decimate Christian communities; and they were particularly accused of posing as Catholics, accepting the holy wafer of communion and hiding it slyly under their tongues until they could produce it for blasphemous black masses. In an age of growing freedom they were constantly restricted as to where they could move, what they could wear and especially what occupations they could engage in.

In this golden age of discovery the Jews discovered only the rope and the fagot. Each time a Jew was accused of having murdered a Christian child—and never once was the charge substantiated—some Jewish community would be wiped out in one ghastly slaughter. Each time a crime occurred near a Jewish quarter, that district would be stormed by indignant Christians and its inhabitants burned alive. And throughout the Christian world, come Holy Week, the friars would preach such sermons against the Jews that the enraged churchgoers would storm from their cathedrals to kill and maim any Jews they met, thus hoping to honor Him who had been crucified on Good Friday and risen in resurrection on Easter.

Why did not the Christians, since they held supreme power, simply annihilate the Jews once and for all? They were restrained because Christian theologians had deduced from passages in the New Testament the ambivalent theory that Jesus Christ would not return to earth bringing with Him the heavenly kingdom until all Jews were converted to Christianity, but at the same time 144,000 unconverted Jews were needed to be on hand to recognize Him and bear witness to His arrival. On this ambivalent theory two courses of action had been built: Jews must be converted; and those necessary few who refused must be kept in in such obvious misery that all who looked could see what happened to people who denied Jesus Christ. So the Jewish districts multiplied, the harsh laws increased, and each needed to be on hand to recognize Him and bear witness to His arrival. On this ambivalent theory two courses of action had been built: Jews must be converted; and those necessary few who refused must be kept in such obvious misery that all who looked could see what happened to people who denied Jesus Christ. So the Jewish districts multiplied, the harsh laws increased, and each year the Jews suffered unbelievable repressions. It was as if the Church kept them alive to remember the coming of the Messiah, the way a man keeps an aching tooth in his head to remind him of mortality.

In only two ways did Jews share in the expanding spirit of the age: they were still encouraged to serve as moneylenders, which enabled them to keep alive; and in 1520 in Venice a printer struck off a complete printed copy of the Talmud. So bitter had been the Christian hatred of this Jewish masterwork, so often had it been burned by the authorities in Italy, Spain, France and Germany, that when it was finally put into type only one manuscript copy was known to exist. It was by a miracle that this summary of Jewish knowledge was saved . . . and the Venetian printer who thus rescued the law of Judaism was a Christian.

But in those dark days, when the Jews of Europe sighed at the stake and smothered in their districts without any moral protest from the Christian world, one gleam of hope began to shine from a most unlikely quarter: the inconspicuous hillside town of Safed in Galilee.


(From pp 687-689)  In the early years of the 1500s Safed was an undistinguished village of one thousand people who lived in a collection of mud-walled houses perched along narrow alleys that climbed up and down the southwestern flank of a hill in the Galilee. At the crest of this hill, wasting in sunlight and inhabited only by eagles and crawling things, stood the gaunt re­mains of a Crusader fort, its once-soaring turrets fallen and its walls collapsed.

Winds from the north had deposited upon the humbled fortress a freight of blowing silt in which trees had taken root, so that the once-proud castle was now merely a mound of earth with only here and there a rock projecting, sometimes with a bit of carving, to indicate how majestic that hilltop had once been. Of the thousand residents some two hundred were Jews, a few were Christians and the rest were Muslim, with only one or two men who remembered hearing from their grandfathers that their hill had once been a bastion of the Crusaders.

The town, which nestled on the hillside well below the ruins, con­tained two mosques, a synagogue, a small church, some dark covered souks and a nest of small Jewish shops. The Turkish governor, ruling on edict from Constantinople, maintained peace among the various commu­nities and allowed qadis to judge the Muslims, rabbis to rule the Jews imd priests to govern the Christians. Once each year a small caravan straggled in from Damascus, bringing a few bales of shoddy goods in sad memory of the silks and spices of former times, and Turkey collected few taxes, for there was no substantial trade. In fact, if one had looked dispassionately at Safed in those early years he would surely have pre­dicted, “This little village will continue sleeping forever. The only good thing here is the mountain air.”

Then in 1525 several events, apparently unrelated, conspired to change the history of Safed, transforming it for some ninety years into one of the most significant communities in the world: a manufacturing city of sixty thousand, a trading center known through Europe and the spiritual capital of the Jewish people. The drowsy little town was about to enter an age of gold so luminous that its memory would be cherished by nations then not even in existence. The revolution was achieved by three unlikely conspirators: the camel, the spinning wheel and the book.

The miracle of Safed began with the camel. As the wealth and power of the Turkish empire grew, with Constantinople replacing Genoa and Venice in control of merchandise passing from Asia to Europe, the new prosperity affected centers like the manufacturing city of Damascus and the ruined port of Akka. Since the highway between these two commu­nities had always passed through Safed, the latter town became a post from which to protect caravans and a stopping point for merchants. Each body of travelers left behind in Safed some of its wealth and occa­sionally a few of its personnel, for the enchanting location of the town, perpetually cool with snow in winter, appealed to men tired of the desert. Most who reached Safed by this means were Arabs, and they occupied the southern and eastern sections of town, building new mosques and additional lines of covered souks.

But without the spinning wheel the camels could have accomplished little, and it reached Safed in an ironic way. When Jews were expelled from Spain and later from Portugal, many of the best and most coura­geous were drawn not to new refuges like Amsterdam but back to Eretz Israel, the land of their longing. Disembarking at Akka they were told by sailors in the one inn still existing along the waterfront, “Jerusalem is a hovel and Tubariyeh is no more. The real Holy Land exists only in Safed.” By foot and by donkey these strong-minded Jews made the over land trip to Safed, where they began to swell the western quarter of thr town, building small stone houses on the beautiful slopes which over looked both a wadi and a mountain. Seldom have the victims of a religious persecution found a refuge so gentle as did those Jews of Avaro and other Spanish cities who escaped to Safed.

They brought with them the spinning wheel, which they had used in Spain to spin merino wool, and with it they initiated in their new home what was to become the foremost weaving center in Asia. Huge caravans. began to assemble in the ruins of Akka, waiting for ships bringing in raw wool of Spain and France, and in Safed the Jews produced from thin wool an excellent cloth, dyeing it by ancient processes and shipping it back through Akka to the markets of Europe. Unexpectedly the income of Safed rose from ten thousand florins a year to two hundred thousand and then to six hundred thousand, and its Jewish population from two hundred Jews to well over twenty thousand. It had become what the sailors of Akka had said, “The leading town in Palestine.”

But caravans of camels have come to many towns, and riches have multiplied for a while, leaving no world-memories. And the same would have happened in Safed had not the Jews who carried the spinning wheel also brought a book, one of the most extraordinary in history, and it was the impact of this book that spread the name of Safed to the remotest Jewish community in the world, luring to the hillside center scholars from a dozen nations as different as Egypt and Poland, England and Persia.

But again, many towns have received books and done little with them. It was the glory of Safed that it received in addition to its book rabbis prepared to give that book significance.


EUROPEAN JEWS, BEFORE AND AFTER THE CRUSADES
The Amazing Adventures of the Jewish People, Max I. Dimont pp94-101

Two general misconceptions are held by many about the Jews during the Middle Ages—that they lived in ghettos and that they were nothing but peddlers and grubby moneylenders. Neither was the case.

Until the fourteenth century, the Jews were generally free to live wherever they chose, and were far from being pitiful creatures. They had it better, in fact, than the majority of the Christian population.

As these assertions run counter to generally held beliefs, let us examine the facts.

By the eighth century c.e., a political system known as feudalism had settled over Europe. It consisted of three social classes, or estates—the nobles who did the fighting, the priests who did the praying, and the serfs who comprised ninety-five percent of the population and did the work Their lot was not a happy one.

The serf was a slave in all but name. Though the plot of land he tilled belonged to him technically, it nevertheless was controlled by the lord of the manor. A serf could not travel further than one day from his lord’s estate, and he could be sold with the land. He could own only wooden dishes, and was permitted but one wooden spoon for the entire family. Everything he wore, ate, or used was regulated by his lord to whom he paid a crippling percentage of everything he produced. Lord and serf usually had but two things in common—they were equally illiterate and equally superstitious.

But the devisers of the feudal system had left out something. They had forgotten to provide for a middle class of tradesmen, businessmen, bankers, and professionals. The Christians needed them to fuel their economy, to keep the three estates in working order. So as not to upset the system and cause the collapse of the feudal order, the nobles decided to import Jews to serve as such a middle class.

And so it came about that while the Christian lords were busy push­ing each other out of saddles in tournaments, while priests were busy praying for everyone’s soul, while serfs were busy tilling the soil from sunup to sundown, the Jews became the scholars, physicians, bankers, and merchants of feudal Europe. They established vast networks of interna­tional enterprise with headquarters in Baghdad, Alexandria, Tangiers, Aachen, Marseilles, joining the Radanites in extending their business activ- ilies to India and China.

The crowned heads of Europe followed the pattern set by Theodoric the Great. Emperor Charlemagne, for instance, offered the Jews every inducement to entice them into his kingdom. He needed literate Jews as bankers, physicians, and diplomats. He granted the Jews land for settle­ment and charters for special privileges.

Thus, before accepting these invitations, the Jews were able to demand, and receive, land grants to establish their own Jewish quarters so they could live close to synagogue and cemetery. Often, too, they were granted city charters and the right to elect their own officials. In no sense of the word did these Jewish quarters constitute ghettos. They were volun­tary Jewish neighborhoods into which, or out of which, the Jews could move at will.

It has been pointed out that these freedoms of the Jews were only paper freedoms, that actually the Jews were nothing but servi camera, that is, “servants of the king.” This is absolutely true. The Jews were indeed the servants of the king, but it was this very fact that gave them the freedoms they had.

To keep his realm intact, the feudal king or lord demanded an oath of loyalty in the name of Jesus from all his subjects. As the Jews refused to take such an oath for religious reasons, they were exempted from doing so. Instead they swore loyalty in the name of the king, and thus they became servants of the king instead of subjects of Jesus.

But this did not enslave the Jews to the king. Instead it freed them from the feudal restrictions binding on the serfs. Along with nobles and high-ranking clergy, the Jews had the right to move about freely on horse or in carriage, to be able to carry out their business transactions.

As these were dangerous times to travel, the Jews were also given the same right as the nobles to carry arms to defend themselves. Few dared to rob a Jewish travelling merchant, for doing so would be like robbing the king.

There were of course exceptions, as we shall note later. But we must remember that we are dealing with an entire continent over a period of five centuries. Many injustices can be found in so vast a space over such a long span of time. By and large, however, Jews during the High Middle Ages had it better than ninety-five percent of the population, enjoying privileges the serfs did not have.

But there was to be a day of reckoning. The serfs would rebel against their condition, overthrow the feudal state, displace their feudal lords, swarm the cities, expel the Jews, and go into business for themselves.

But that was not until later. Meanwhile, let us explore the challenges and responses of the Jews in their first adventure in Christian lands.

No one has ever tried so persistently to convert a people from one faith to another as did the Christians in their efforts to convert the Jews. As it turned out, this was a blessing, for otherwise the Jews might have been annihilated along with all other non-Christian people in Europe.

It had taken the church one thousand years—from about 300 to 1300 c.e.—to establish Christianity in Europe with Bible and sword, mostly with sword. The church gave everyone two choices—conversion or death. The resulting slaughter in the name of Jesus was monumental. By 1300, everyone in Christian Europe was either Christian or dead, except one people—the Jews. They were the only people still alive on the continent who were not Christian.

Why had the Jews not been exterminated in the same way all other non-Christian people on the continent had been when they refused to accept Christianity? The Jews were, after all, the most vulnerable people in Europe. They had no armies and no country of their own.

The paradoxical answer is the church did not want to kill the Jews. In fact, the Church protected them from being killed by overzealous lords and priests. Again, the question is why?

The answer does not make much sense today, but it did then. Europe’s feudal society was a religious one. It was important to the church to convert the Jews to Christianity because this would give the church greater credibility. Otherwise, how could the church claim that Christianity was the fulfilment of the Old Testament if the Jews did not acknowledge it?

Thus in the first ten centuries of Christianity, every conciliation was held out to the Jews to induce them to convert. When they steadfastly refused, it placed the church in a dilemma. What should it do—have the Jews killed, or continue to wait patiently for the Jews to come around?

The church chose to wait. However, to hasten the day of conversion, the church began to pass a series of laws against the Jews that made it uncomfortable to be Jewish. It began applying the same laws against the Jews that the Arab Pact of Omar had applied against the Christians long before. These laws enacted by the Christians cannot be judged by today’s standards of democracy since democracy did not exist at that time.

None of the laws was aimed at exterminating the Jews, only to nudge them into Christianity by making it progressively more uncomfortable to remain Jewish. Century after century the discrimination continued. The Jews, nevertheless adjusted their lives to each successive law, and remained Jewish.

Until the twelfth century c.e., Jews and Christians lived side by side without too much hostility, because these laws functioned more in the breach than in the observance. From the decree of Pope Gregory the Great (591 c.e.) forbidding the forcible conversion of Jews, to the Fourth Lateran Council (1215 c.e.) enacting special distinctive dress for Jews to single them out as non-Christians, the Jews lived for these centuries in comparative freedom and prosperity. True enough, anti-Jewish incidents did occur, but these were usually not sponsored by pope or emperor. By und large, few Jews during these five centuries would have willingly traded their standard of living and way of life for that of a Christian serf.

In the twelfth century this general tranquility was shattered by the Crusades. With them began an era of active hostility toward the Jews.

The persecution of the Jews underwent three distinct chronological phases; each more sinister than the one before it. The first was the reli­gious, spanning the two centuries of the Crusades (1100-1330 c.e.). The second was the economic, beginning with the fourteenth century c.e. and persisting up until 1800. The third and last phase was the psychological, heralding the introduction of political anti-Semitism, a product of the modem age.

The religious phase of persecution was the least dangerous of the three, but the most intriguing. The two most interesting examples are the ritual murder charges and the host-desecration accusations.

England has the honor of originating the ritual murder myth, but Germany holds the record for the largest number of such charges. This myth is based on the belief that during Passover the Jews killed a Christian child to use its blood to sprinkle over the Passover matzah. The fact that the Torah forbids Jews to eat or drink blood in any shape or form was not allowed to interfere with this cherished belief.

After two centuries, and after this superstition had reached epidemic proportions and hundreds of Jews had lost their lives, even popes and emperors became embarrassed. With a few judicious excommunications and hangings, this vogue was stopped.

The host-desecration charge was even more fascinating. “Host” comes from a Latin word meaning victim. It is the name for the round wafer of unleavened bread used in the Christian ceremony of Mass. The doctrine of transubstantiation holds that the wine drunk and the wafer eaten at Mass becomes the blood and flesh of Jesus. The host-desecration charge was based on the belief that the Jews stole these wafers (the host) from churches and pierced them with a sharp instrument to make them bleed in a reenactment of the suffering of Jesus on the cross.

The most popular remedy for the crime of desecrating the host was burning a synagogue, preferably with some Jews in it. This fashion, too came to an end with a few bans and hangings ordered by pope and emperor. They, too, thought it absurd that a wafer could be made to bleed

There was another persecution of note during this period. This time it is not an individual but a book. This persecution centered around the burning of the Talmud. Such burning took place first in France in 1241 c.e., and thereafter sporadically in scattered European countries. The most interesting aspect of this phenomenon was that the Old Testament, the Torah, though occasionally burned by mobs during riots against the Jew. was never burned officially on orders by the church. The church viewed the Torah itself with respect, as the word of God. With the lone exception of Poland, where the Talmud was burned as late as the sixteenth century that fashion had ended in Western Europe two centuries earlier.

Though the centuries from 100 to 1300 c.e. were agonizing ones for the Jews, this agony was not reserved for Jews only. Though the exotic titles of “ritual murder” and “host-desecration” were reserved for Jew. there were equally fanciful and equally illogical charges such as “witchcraft” and “heresy” applied to Christians. Though the labels wen different, the result—painful death by burning, quartering, or flaying—was the same. Even as Jews were burned or hanged for host-desecration and ritual murder in one marketplace, Christians were burned or hanged in adjacent marketplaces for witchcraft and heresy.

These were some of the challenges facing the Jews in their First Adventure in Christian Europe. How could they respond to them?

With the dawn of the tenth century c.e., history was about to place the scepter of Jewish destiny into the hands of the obscure Jews of Europe, who so far had achieved nothing of any significance. What would they do with this three-thousand-year-old Jewish cultural heritage? Would it disintegrate in their inept hands and undistinguished minds, or would these European Jews acquire the ability to carry on the Jewish heritage?

The Jews of Christian Europe were vaguely aware of Mishna and Gemara; they had in fact carried on some Responsa with the Geonim in the Islamic empire. The Mishna, written in beautiful Hebrew, they could understand. But the Gemara was written in Aramaic, incomprehensible to them.

However, some of the problems facing the Jews in Europe could not be solved by Talmud. Polygamy, for instance. Though Christian law for­bade it, the Torah permitted it. That, and other problems, had to be met head on, the sooner the better. The question was, could the Talmud be made to yield a few more survival miles, or had the time come to abandon It?

The decision was made to have it both ways—first to solve the most immediate problem without the aid of the Talmud, and then to catch up later with the longer-range problems after taking a further look into the Talmud.

We have seen how in the past the Jews when confronted with new challenges sought new experts to help them. So, for instance, they had exchanged the Tannaim for the Amoraim, whom in turn they had exchanged for the Geonim. Now the Jews of Christian Europe did the same. They exchanged the Geonim back there in the Babylonian hinterland for a new team of experts, the Poskim, the decision-makers.

The Poskim did not create new law. They merely reintroduced old ones. They were so skillful at this that one European Talmudist exclaimed, “From France will come the Torah, and the Word of God from Germany.”

The first and most daring of the decision-makers, Gershom ben Judah (960-1028 c.e.), was born in Metz, but lived in Mainz where he headed a small yeshiva. Rumor had it that his son had been converted, some said forcibly, to Christianity and died before he could repent.

Gershom grandly convoked a synod in Mainz in the year 1000 c.e For this decision, and the brilliant way in which he handled it, Jewish history has bestowed upon him the title of Light of the Exile.

At this synod, Gershom came up with an idea which in a gracious way sidestepped the Torah and Talmud without invalidating either. He suggested that the community pass a series of Takkanot, ordinances, which would not nullify anything in the Torah or Talmud but merely set sonic aspects aside for a specified number of years. So, for instance, it was agreed that polygamy, which is permitted but not demanded by the Torah, should be given up voluntarily for one thousand years. With time this ordinance became binding on all Jews in Europe. But, sometime after the year 2000 c.e., the problem of polygamy would again come up and a new synod would have to be convoked with a new vote taken on that question

Another ordinance declared that no Jew could divorce his wife without her consent, except in cases of insanity and immoral behavior. This was a farsighted decree for those days when men could set aside their wives almost at will—except of course in Catholic Europe, where divorce was practically impossible to get.

Several other remarkable takkanot were also passed. Eight centuries before it became part of the United States Constitution, the synod at Mainz forbade the opening of anyone’s private mail without permission from the person to whom it was addressed.

The synod also changed the Roman idea of caveat emptor, that is, "let the buyer beware,” to caveat vendor, “let the seller beware.” It prohibited a seller from describing goods in a deceptive manner, or packaging goods in deceptive containers. These concepts did not find their way into Western law until our own day, when laws in the United States weir finally passed to curb merchants deceiving the public with false packaging and labelling.

Gershom also wrote the world’s first copyright law. The Torah forbids the removal of a neighbor’s landmark (Deuteronomy 19:14); that is, it is a crime to remove fencing from a neighbor’s property in order to claim it is one’s own. From this passage in the Torah, Gershom deduced that an author’s mind was also his private property, and that no one could steal another person’s ideas. This Jewish concept of ideas as private property was not adopted by Western civilization until 1709 in England. Today many nations still do not have copyright laws.

Since that first synod, Diaspora Jews have convoked synods in other places to solve other thorny problems. So, for instance, a synod convoked in 1250 c.e, forbade rabbis to excommunicate any Jew without the consent of the community.

Nevertheless, in spite of the success of these ordinances, many felt a Europeanized Talmud was greatly needed. History thoughtfully provided the right scholar for the job, Rashi (an acronym for his real name, Rabbi Shlomo Itzhaki, born in Troyes, France (1040-1105 c.e.). His task was so vital that it was said, “If not for Rashi, the Talmud would have been forgotten in all Israel,” meaning among all Jews.

Rashi was an undistinguished yeshiva student. After graduation he joined his father’s vineyard business. He later opened a small yeshiva where he began explaining the Talmud in Hebrew and French. His yeshiva became an instant success as students from all over Europe flocked to Troyes, a town of ten thousand French and one hundred Jews. Rashi found lodgings for his students among the Christians who loved this learned rabbi who taught the local priests Hebrew and translated French lullabies into the language of the Prophets.

In his yeshiva, Rashi put a European head on the shoulders of the Babylonian Talmud by writing a commentary on it. This he did with great literary skill, in beautiful fluent Hebrew, and with elegant French expres­sions which he used whenever Hebrew lacked the precise word. Because he employed over three thousand medieval French words and phrases, his writings have also become a source of study of medieval French. Rashi’s commentary on the Talmud has become a Jewish heritage.

Rashi was not a Talmudist in the original sense; that is, he did not create the law. He was, however, a brilliant interpreter of Talmudic law, deciding what was best for the Jews of Europe. With him the First Adven­ture of the Jews in Christian lands came to an end. After him, the school of Poskim also began to decline in importance.


THE YEAR 1000 WAS A TURNING POINT IN HISTORY FOR BOTH GENTILE AND JEW BUT IN OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS.
Jews, God and History', Max Dimont,  pp218-223   

THE AGE OF SALVATION

The Jews escaped the general devastation of this first phase of their medieval experience with remarkably good fortune. Lest the admittedly large number of Jews killed dur­ing these four centuries seem oppressive to those who make it a business to gather Jewish statistics only, let us comfort them with Montaigne’s epigram, “There is something alto­gether not too displeasing in the misfortunes of our friends", and cite the fact that Rome, a city with a population of 1,000,000 before the barbarian invasions, was reduced to 50,000 after the barbarians had taken turns sacking the city. Until they were Christianized, Goths and Vandals, Franks and Vikings never inquired into the religious affiliations of those they killed (Editors Note: the Christians also did this when they captured Jerusalem in the first crusade saying that any Christians they killed would go to heaven).

In Italy, Theodoric the Great (c.454-526) invited the Jews to settle in every city in his domain—Rome. Naples, Venice, Milan, and his new capital, Ravenna. They were merchants, bankers, judges, farmers, jewellers, artisans. Perhaps as much as a third of the Jews in Italy were not descendants of Abra­ham and Moses but the descendants of Romulus and Remus, inasmuch as their ancestors were former pagans who had converted to Judaism as far back as 100 CE

The story was much the same in France and Germany. Charlemagne encouraged Jews from other parts of the world to come to his empire. Specifically, he wanted the Jews to settle in cities, to foster industries, to extend the frontiers of commerce, and therefore he granted them liberal charters of self-government. Many found high posts in his court, especially in the diplomatic service. The reason for these special grants was simple enough. The feudal system provided for only three social classes, which, in the words of an eleventh century wit, were “the nobles—who did the fighting; the priests—who did the praying; and the serfs—who did the work." There was no burgher or merchant class. This field was left open to the Jews.

In Spain the picture at first was slightly different. King Reccared, with the fearful zeal of a new convert, spread his newly found Christianity with a sword so fierce that not only were the Visigoths baptized, but a large number of Jews as well. When the Mohammedans conquered Spain and granted everyone religious freedom, many of these forcibly converted Jews did not return fully to the Mosaic religion

Many “crypto-Jews” became the cosmopolitan world citi­zens who moved with elegance and aplomb in the courts of viziers and grandees, marrying into the families of both. They were destined to form the nucleus of a most vexing and controversial problem in Spain, which exploded with ca­lamitous results in the late fifteenth century.

We can now see how the forces shaping Jewish history in the early Feudal Age began with two paradoxes. Not only were the Jews the only non-Christians left in the entire Christian world, but, ironically, they lived in freedom out­side the feudal system, while the gentiles were imprisoned within it.

WHY HAD THE JEWS NOT BEEN CONVERTED OR KILLED AS HAD THE OTHER PAGANS AND NONBELIEVERS? WHY HAD THEY RECEIVED SPECIAL EXEMPTION? WHY DID THE CHURCH PROTECT THEM?      

The Church had manoeuvred itself into this paradoxical passe by the force of its own logic. Because the civiliza­tion of the Middle Ages was religiously oriented, it was important that the Jews be converted to Christianity. For how did the Church claim that Jesus was universally divine if his own people disclaimed him?

At first every conciliation was held out to the Jews as an inducement to accept Christianity. The Jews would not convert. The Church was in a dilemma. If the Jews were ignored, it might be equal to an admission that Jesus was not universally divine. On the other hand, if the Church exterminated his people, as it had the heathens, then the Church could never claim that the Jews had acknowledged Christ di­vine. The Jew was an ambivalent figure in the Western world. He could neither be converted nor killed. To prevent his religion from infecting the Christian believer with doubt, the Jew, therefore, was excluded from the feudal system. The Church did not realize that with this act it had jailed its own people and set the Jew free.

Some of the laws enacted against the Jews in these centuries were not new. They were, in fact, patterned after Old Testament and Talmudic laws against non-Jews.

Old Jewish laws forbade a non-Jew being appointed king of Israel, or holding a post from which he could govern Jews. To prevent too great an intermixing between Jews and Greeks, Palestin­ian law forbade a Jew to sell land to a non-Jew. The Chris­tians enacted like laws against the Jews. These cannot be  judged as good or bad in terms of today’s society. They were in expression of society in those days.

THERE IS LITTLE HISTORICAL MATERIAL FOR THOSE WHO MIGHT WANT TO CAST EARLY MEDIEVAL JEWISH HISTORY IN THE MOULD OF MARTYR­DOM.       

As with the laws of Constantine, Constantius, Theodosius, and Justinian, the occasional edicts against Jews were observed mostly in the breach. Impatient eager bea­vers, rushing history, did, here and there, now and then, is­sue laws expelling Jews from this or that city, in this or that year. But the Jews were soon recalled with apologies, since feudal society had not yet developed a merchant class of its own. These exceptions did not constitute official Church policy any more than the lynching of a Negro constituted of­ficial United States policy seventy years ago. From the pro­nouncement of Pope Gregory the Great (591), forbidding the forcible conversion of Jews, to the decree of Pope Innocent III at the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), instituting the yel­low badge for Jews, the Jews lived in comparative freedom and moderate prosperity.

UNTIL THE ELEVENTH CENTURY, THE CHURCH COULD TAKE A LENIENT ATTITUDE TOWARD THE OBSTINATE JEW, HOPING TIME WOULD CON­VINCE HIM OF HIS ERROR.   

 The Church was supreme, the princes obedient, the people docile. Then, dramatically, after the eleventh century, developments with unforeseen conse­quences took place, changing the fabric of medieval Jewish life. Such serious restrictive legislation as the humiliating garb, ritual-murder charges, Host-desecration libels, and confinement to the ghetto were not the heritage of the early Dark Ages but the heritage of the Crusades, the Renaissance, and the Reformation.

THE AGE OF MORE SALVATION

If “salvation” was the key to the first phase of medieval history,
then “more salvation” was the key to the Crusades.
     

For, as with gold, one can never have enough of either. Al­though the origins of the Crusades were deeply rooted in the religious, political and social texture of the age, these origins had no bearing upon Jewish history, but the Crusades them­selves did.

We must be careful how we focus the lens of history on this period. If we keep it focused on Jews exclusively, then this interlude becomes a gory story of pillaging Jewish set­tlements, killing Jewish people, looting Jewish wealth, and, of course, committing the inevitable rape that so alliteratively goes with rapine. But if we enlarge our sector of vi­sion to include Jews and Christians, an entirely different picture emerges.

A great many of the Crusaders were pious Christians fired with the idea of freeing the Holy Land from the infidel and turning Jerusalem into a Christian shrine. Many others were in quest of loot and the opportunity to kill with impunity. The days of chivalry, when only knights and their pages were permitted to lay down their lives on the field of battle, had vanished. The common man was now also extended the privilege of dying for honor, but this knightly prerogative did not fire him with joy. Therefore, to stir up zeal for a Cru­sade in an age where no universal conscription existed, serfs were promised freedom, criminals were offered pardon, sin­ners were granted absolution.

As a result of this propaganda barrage, unruly mobs, full of ardor and energy but low on discipline and supplies, sprang up all over. Long before the Crusaders reached the Holy Land they ran out of provisions. Armed detachments began attacking defenseless villages in the path of their march. At first it was Jewish communities. The Western world protested to the Pope against these outrages, and in many instances other Christian citizens came to the aid of the Jews. The looting now became general, Christians too became victims, and the fighting spread. More Crusaders died en route to the Holy Land than lived to fight for it.

As Crusade after Crusade met with either total defeat or only partial victory, it became more and more difficult to en­list the support of the populace for succeeding Crusades. As the nature of the Crusades shifted from that of freeing the Holy Land from the infidel to that of pillaging the rich Byz­antine Empire, the enemy became the Greek Orthodox Cath­olics instead of the Mohammedan's. What had started out as desultory looting of Jews ended up as a bloodbath for Chris­tians.

Relations between Constantinople and Rome, never cor­dial since the founding of the Byzantine Empire in the fifth century, hardened through the years into hatred, and in 1094 the pontiffs of both cities pronounced anathema upon each other. “Political mistrust made the Latins hate and suspect the Greek schismatic's, while the Greeks despised and loathed the rough Latin heretics.” The history of the Byz­antine Empire was, to quote Gibbon, a “tedious and uniform tale of weakness and misery.” Its military strength was offset by its intellectual weakness. During its eleven hundred years, the Byzantine civilization produced only three art forms—Byzantine churches, Byzantine painting, and cas­trated Byzantine choirboys; it did not produce a single new idea, philosopher, writer, or scientist of note.

IT WAS A TRIPLE BLESSING FOR THE JEWS THAT THEY WERE EX­PELLED FROM THE BYZANTINE EMPIRE BEFORE THE START OF THE CRUSADES.        

They escaped the massacre, they escaped the blame, and they escaped those chroniclers who would have chalked up the fracas as another manifestation of Jewish per­secution. In 1183, Byzantine Greeks killed all Italians in the realm, and in 1204 Italians in the fourth Crusade took their revenge with a carnage almost unparalleled in history. The bestiality of the Crusaders shocked Pope, prince, and people, but their horror in no way stopped the slaughter. Byzantium was carved up by the Crusaders like a cadaver, and its towns were tossed as loot to the Italian city-states which had fi nanced this Crusade. Though the Greeks recaptured Con stantinople fifty years later, the empire had been weakened In 1453 she fell before the onslaught of the Turks, and (he Christian stronghold in the East was lost.

The fifth Crusade met with indifferent success. After the-sixth and seventh the zeal was gone. After the eighth Crusade, the fire was extinguished. Christian and Jew alike rejoiced that it was all over. But the Crusades, ironically, had the opposite effect from the one intended. It had been hoped that the capture of Jerusalem would rally the faithful into a more closely knit Christian community. Instead, the faith of the Christians in their own superiority was badly shaken Thousands had been exposed to the superior culture of the Mohammedan's. Serfs, freed during the Crusades, did not want to go back to the farm after they had seen Constantino­ple and the splendor of the Saracen (the Roman name for the Arab). They settled in the towns, swelling them into cities. A spirit of restlessness pervaded Europe. This spirit found its expression in two ways: through the creative outlet of the Renaissance, and in the religious protest of the Reformation. In the former the Jews participated fully, and succeeded bril­liantly. In the latter they tried hard to stay out of the family quarrel and failed miserably.

THOUGH EUROPE WAS READY FOR THE RENAISSANCE, IT WAS THE ITALIANS WHO FIRST SAW HER, GRABBED HER, AND HAD THE MEN OF GENIUS ON TAP.

to shape the inchoate yearnings of the age into an intellectual force which illuminated the European scene for over two hundred years, from about 1320 to 1520. All of Italy was not involved in this humanistic resurgence. It was boxed in a rectangle bounded by Naples in the south, Milan the north, Venice in the east, and Genoa in the west. It as ushered in by humanists (Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio) and died with artists (Cellini, Titian, Michelangelo). To make the grade in between, one had to have such names as Leonardo da Vinci, Fra Filippo Lippi, Bellini. The melan­choly task of the Jewish historian is to record the fact that no Jew qualified.

IN ITALY, THE RENAISSANCE TOOK ESSENTIALLY A NONRELIGIOUS COURSE, WITH THE ACCENT ON THE INDIVIDUAL.    

In Northern Europe, the Renaissance, running a hundred years behind, took essentially a religiously oriented course, as exemplified by Johann Reuchlin in Germany. Reuchlin (1455-1522) had a profound influence on the history of Europe, because, more in any other, he helped to lay the foundations for Protestantism through the influence of his writings on the development of Luther’s theological thinking. Reuchlin’s humanistic philosophy was undisguisedly Hebraic. Though a Christian, brought up on Latin, he spoke Hebrew fluently, was familiar with Hebrew literature, and was a student of the Kabala, a Jewish mystic and metaphysical philosophy which seeped into the writings of Jewish and Christian scholars and scientists during the Renaissance. At the risk of his own life, when a deviation from dogma meant death, Reuchlin protected the Jews against slander, defended the Talmud against calumny, and popularized Jewish thought among Christian intellectuals.  


TYPICAL MEDIEVAL SUPERSTITIONS ABOUT THE JEWS
From Zionism and Israel - Encyclopedic Dictionary


Jews poison the wells - This libel was supposed to be the origin of plagues and particularly the black plague.

Jews desecrate the host - Spoilage of communion wafers, which turned red from a fungus, was attributed to Jews who had dipped the wafers in the blood of slaughtered Christians.

Jews kill Christians in secret - For example, explaining the reasons for expulsion of the Jews from France, the French monk Rigord (d. 1205) related that [Philip Augustus had often heard] that the Jews who dwelt in Paris were wont every year on Easter day, or during the sacred week of our Lord's Passion, to go down secretly into underground vaults and kill a Christian as a sort of sacrifice in contempt of the Christian religion. For a long time they had persisted in this wickedness, inspired by the devil, and in Philip's father's time, many of them had been seized and burned with fire.

The blood libel - A variation of the secret killings theme, the blood libel insists that Jews kill pre-pubertal Christian boys in order to prepare the unleavened bread (Matzoth) of the Passover. It was possibly born in 1144 in England, when a Christian mob accused Jews of murdering a boy called William of Norwich during Easter.

This story was related in The Life and Miracles of St William of Norwich, by Thomas of Monmouth, a Norwich monk. This story, did not claim that the Jews used the blood to bake unleavened bread, but rather claimed the boy had been crucified. Nonetheless, it is often considered to be the first "blood libel." Others soon followed, including Simon of Trent and Andreas of Rinn. In one variant, the child was not killed but rather bled to death.

In Spain in 1490 or 1491 Spanish inquisitors forced Jews to confess that they had killed a Christian child, one Christopher of Toledo or Christopher of La Guardia, later made a saint of the Roman Catholic church and venerated as Santo Nino de La Guardia. No missing child was ever reported that would correspond to this child and corroborate the tale. The tale was elicited from the victims by the holy inquisitors under torture, by suggestion (for example, "Confess that on this date you did do X") it is likely that the blood libel was well known by this time.

The Talmud - The Talmud supposedly contained conspiratorial formulae, imprecations against Jesus and Mary and injunctions to cheat and discriminate against non-Jews. Therefore it would often be banned or censored.

Physiognomy - In addition to characteristic large noses and stooped postures, Jews in the Middle Ages may be shown with tails and horns, similar to the devil.


THE BLACK DEATH AND THE JEWS 1348-1349
Jewish History Sourcebook:
Go to site to read the confessions


In 1348 there appeared in Europe a devastating plague which is reported to have killed off ultimately twenty-five million people. By the fall of that year the rumor was current that these deaths were due to an international conspiracy of Jewry to poison Christendom. It was reported that the leaders in the Jewish metropolis of Toledo had initiated the plot and that one of the chief conspirators was a Rabbi Peyret who had his headquarters in Chambéry, Savoy, whence he dispatched his poisoners to France, Switzerland, and Italy.

By authority of Amadeus VI, Count of Savoy, a number of the Jews who lived on the shores of Lake Geneva, having been arrested and put to the torture, naturally confessed anything their inquisitors suggested. These Jews, under torture, incriminated others. Records of their confessions were sent from one town to another in Switzerland and down the Rhine River into Germany, and as a result, thousands of Jews, in at least two hundred towns and hamlets, were butchered and burnt. The sheer loss of numbers, the disappearance of their wealth, and the growing hatred of the Christians brought German Jewry to a catastrophic downfall. It now began to decline and did not again play an important part in German life till the seventeenth century.

The first account that follows is a translation from the Latin of a confession made under torture by Agimet, a Jew, who was arrested at Chatel, on Lake Geneva. It is typical of the confessions extorted and forwarded to other towns.

The second account describes the Black Death in general and treats specifically of the destruction of the Jewish community in Strasbourg. In this city the authorities, who attempted to save the Jews, were overthrown by a fear-stricken mob led by the butchers' and tanners' guilds and by the nobles who were determined to do away with the Jews who were their economic competitors and to whom they were indebted for loans. Thus in this city, at least, it was not merely religious bigotry and fear of the plague, but economic resentment that fired the craftsmen and the nobles to their work of extermination. Those people of Strasbourg, who had thus far escaped the plague and who thought that by killing off the Jews they would insure themselves against it in the future, were doomed to disappointment, for the pest soon struck the city and, it is said, took a toll of sixteen thousand lives.

The confession of Agimet is found in the Appendix to Johann S. Schilter's 1698 edition of the Middle High German chronicle of the Strasbourg historian, Jacob von Königshofen (1346-1420). The second selection is taken from the body of Königshofen's history. This account merits credence, not only because K6nigshofen was an archivist and lived close to the events of which he writes, but also because he incorporated considerable material from his Strasbourg predecessor, the historian F. Closener, who was probably an eyewitness of the tragedy. The third selection is an epitaph of an otherwise unknown Jew who died a victim of the plague in 1349. Obviously, Jews, too, were not spared by this dread disease. The epitaph in the original Hebrew is in poetical form.

THE JEWS RETURN TO STRASBOURG

It was decided in Strasbourg that no Jew should enter the city for a hundred years, but before twenty years had passed, the council and magistrates agreed that they ought to admit the Jews again into the city for twenty years. And so the Jews came back again to Strasbourg iii the year 1368 after the birth of our Lord.


III. The Epitaph of Asher aben Turiel, Toledo, Spain, 1349

This stone is a memorial

That a later generation may know

That 'neath it lies hidden a pleasant bud,

A cherished child.

Perfect in knowledge,

A reader of the Bible,

A student of the Mishnah and Gemara.

Had learned from his father

What his father learned from his teachers:

The statutes of God and his laws.

Though only fifteen years in age,

He was like a man of eighty in knowledge.

More blessed than all sons: Asher-may he rest in Paradise -

The son of Joseph ben Turiel-may God comfort him,

He died of the plague, in the month of Tammuz, in the year 109 [June or July, 1349].

But a few days before his death

He established his home;

But yesternight the joyous voice of the bride and groom

Was turned to the voice of wailing.

[Apparently he had just been married.]

And the father is left, sad and aching.

May the God of heaven

Grant him comfort.

And send another child

To restore his soul.


THE BURNING OF THE TALMUD IN PARIS: 1242

TO THE MIDDLE AGE NO SUBJECT OF CONVERSATION WAS MORE FASCINATING THAN THE LORD.

From:  Commentary,  Allan Temko, May 1, 1954
(see also Disputations, France)

The statuary on the outside of many a Gothic cathedral includes two female figures representing respectively the “Church Triumphant” and the “Synagogue,” with blindfolded eyes, “Defeated.” A tremendous, if inadvertent, piece of irony is contained in this tableau, for if ever an institution preserved itself by the exercise of clear vision, and by seeking the light, it was the medieval synagogue. Allan Temko turns to a little-known page of her past to show us the synagogue valiantly defending herself against a world of foes, and suffering defeat only in the face of sheer secular force, not at all at the hands of a superior intellectual adversary.


To the Middle Age no subject of conversation was more fascinating than the Lord. Wherever men gathered—in the castle hall, the wine shop, the market place—they would forget all else, and talk vividly of God. If they disagreed, they argued; and since the times were violent, disagreements sometimes ended in blows and sword thrusts. Religion was a lively matter. Amateur theologians were as numerous as amateur politicians today, and took their ideas at least as seriously. For the world, in the 12th and 13th centuries, was a giant cathedral. The supernatural entered every part of human life, every day of the year, and from the ribald comedy of the Fête des Fous to the intense drama of Easter, served every human emotion. Daily activity was suffused by the moods of Heaven to an extent that we now find quite impossible to grasp. All we can do is stand in the portal of a medieval church, while the stone population of Paradise mounts overhead, and try to imagine that these Prophets and Martyrs, these celestial Queens and Kings, were once as real as any earthly creature, and indeed did sometimes walk upon the earth and speak.

And so men debated about the Lord wherever paths met. The Church, for very good reasons, did not find this enthusiasm altogether commendable. Public discussion has a tendency to break down dogma, and while the Gothic moment was an age of extreme faith, it was not an age of strict orthodoxy. The whole of Languedoc—almost one-fourth of France—lay in the passionate error of Catharism. The Rhône Valley, Champagne, and Flanders swarmed with itinerant preachers whose wild outcries compelled no less a figure than Saint Bernard to answer them in the name of the Church Universal. In the Schools of Paris, soon to become a University, independent thinkers like Abélard battered down conventional thought in disputations that shook Christendom.

In this atmosphere of sharp theological disagreement, of popular error and heresy, the Jew had a special place. He was the most dangerous deviant of all. As Christianity rose to its most triumphant instant, hurling armies against the East, and conquering the sky with cathedrals, the Jew stubbornly refused to capitulate. This took courage. The Church had begun to abandon its age-old policy of gentle persuasion, and was now resorting to severe political pressure against him. Moreover, the Crusades had loosed anti-Semitic lynch mobs throughout Western Europe. When men adore their Lord as fervently as did the medieval Christians, they are inclined to make him absolute.

To the Christian intellectual of the Middle Age, the Jew needed only a firm push toward the light, and his conversion would be assured. This conviction was not as far-fetched as it might seem. Today, when differences between faiths receive more attention than their similarities, we occasionally forget that Christianity and Judaism share an enormous common ground. During the Middle Age, the one regarded itself as the child of the other, a natural growth that had sprung from Jewish monotheism like Jesse’s Tree. The relationship was dramatized in thousands of works of art, but nowhere does it emerge more brilliantly than in the great transept rose windows of Notre-Dame of Paris. Through the northern rose flows the austere blue light of the Old Law; through the southern pours the sun-filled reds of the New. The two streams of color blend at the exact center of the cathedral, in the most mystical alliance that Western civilization has devised.

Coaxing, this wonderful light—and yet the Jew did not surrender to it. In his tiny synagogues he prepared his replies to Paris, Chartres, and Rheims; and when he ventured on the talkative streets, walking the tightrope of medieval tolerance, he would courageously answer Christian challengers. He argued as Jews have since Abraham (according to the Midrash) debated theology with Nimrod. In the face of continual proselytism, he responded with a proselytism of his own.

In general, these religious discussions were friendly. They occurred far too often to be otherwise. We know, too, that they had their share of good humor. Once a monk asked Joseph Kara why synagogues did not have bells. “Go to a fish market,” replied the Jew, “and you will see that the high-quality stalls are silent. Only the sellers of herring shout their merchandise.”

Jewish wit and learning grew famous, and the debates soon became a form of entertainment, as diverting as the songs of minstrels, before aristocratic audiences. Sometimes keenly intelligent women, like the Lady of Vitry, in Champagne, took part. But if the nobility found clever argument amusing, the Church did not. By the end of the 12th century France was hot with heresy, and Jewish criticism, for all its charm, was becoming too effective. About the year 1200 the Bishop of Paris threatened with excommunication anyone but qualified clerks who entered into theological argument. A Church writer, Peter of Blois, declared with some heat in his Contra Perfidiam Judaeorum (and ferfidiam should here be translated simply as “disbelief”) that it is “absurd to discuss the Trinity at street intersections.” Finally, in a Bull of 1233, Gregory IX condemned all public controversy.

The Pope’s edict was not obeyed. The debates went on, as passionately as before. Men could not keep silent. The Jews continued to give a good account of themselves, and provoked Saint Louis’s celebrated remark to Joinville: “I tell you that no one, unless he be a very learned clerk, should dispute with them; that the layman, when he hears the Christian Law mis-said, should not defend it, unless it be with his sword, with which he should pierce the mis-sayer in the midriff, as far as the sword will enter.”

If the foremost Christian spokesmen were trained in the young University of Paris, their leading adversaries were educated on the opposite bank of the Seine in the Talmudic School of the Paris Synagogue. There, with modest resources, the Jews had set up a center of learning that was renowned throughout the West. Its students, like the scholars in the Christian schools on the Left Bank, came from as far away as England and Italy. Occasionally even, Christian philologists would cross the river to receive special instruction from the rabbis in Hebrew.

Exactly where on the Right Bank the Talmudic School was located in the 13th century is a matter of doubt. It was situated in a newly acquired building, for the Jews had lost all of their ancient holdings in Paris when they were sent into a sixteen-year exile in 1182. The Crown had then seized not only their homes and lands, but also their seat of religious and intellectual life: the temple on the Ile-de-la-Cité, which was transformed into a church. After their return in 1198, the Jews did not come back to the Island and the Left Bank, where they had lived since Merovingian and even Roman times, but settled in the expanding commercial quarter near the Halles. There they consecrated a new synagogue, which almost certainly housed the School. One might note that they have never since left the vicinity of these great markets, except under periodic compulsion. They live by choice in the neighborhood today, in the twisting streets behind the Rue de Rivoli, as merchants and artisans and scholars.

With the exiled community had returned its leader and champion, Rabbi Judah ben Isaac—Judah Sir Leon1 of Paris, one of the most accomplished Jews of the Middle Age. Sir Leon may have been a descendant of the superb teacher Rashi of Troyes (1040-1105), the father of Jewish medieval Scholasticism; at any rate, he carried on Rashi’s cultivated principles of Tosafist education. A corps of brilliant rabbis developed under Sir Leon’s supervision. Like their master, they had a perfect familiarity with the Talmud and the Old Testament, were widely read in other religious and philosophical literature, had a precocious knowledge of science, and above all loved theology for its own sake. They were also gifted poets, convincing preachers, and skilled controversialists. The most famous of Sir Leon’s pupils were Moses of Coucy, Sir Morel of Falaise, and Yechiel of Paris, all three of whom would later defend their beloved Talmud at the risk of their lives, and see it condemned and publicly burned in Paris.

When Sir Leon died in 1224 at the age of fifty-eight, young Yechiel succeeded him as Chief Rabbi of Paris and head of the School. Young, and alive! Yechiel’s name was translated literally into French as Sir Vives—or Vivo, as he is called in Latin documents. He was also called Yechiel the Holy, Yechiel the Pious, and when he in turn grew venerable, Yechiel the Elder. At the time he took charge of the School, however, he could scarcely have been more than twenty-five. He was born at Meaux, near Paris, sometime after the return of the Jews to France in 1198.

Under Yechiel the School flourished as it had under Sir Leon. More than three hundred students listened to his lectures; and when he was called upon to defend Jewish doctrine in open debates as official spokesman for his community, all Paris thronged to hear. He won admiration from Jews and Gentiles alike when he refuted charges that Jews are compelled by ritualistic demand to use Christian blood. Another time he successfully denied the allegation that Jews cannot, consistently, with their belief, bear witness in courts of law.

But Yechiel’s oratory alone did not move the imaginative 13th century. It was his reputation as a Cabalist that gripped medieval Paris. A story circulated that he possessed a magical lamp which, after being lit Friday evening, burned an entire week without oil. Saint Louis was intrigued by the rumor, and according to one version of the episode, asked Yechiel if it were true. The Rabbi’s reply was vague (it would have been fatal to confess to sorcery), and the King decided to surprise him in person late one Wednesday night, to see if the lamp were still burning.

An apocryphal bit of comedy resulted which is worth telling one more time—it has been repeated for ages in European ghettos.

In those days, says the legend, beggars and ruffians often chose the dead of night to beat on Jewish doors and disturb the sleeping households. Yechiel, of course, was never in bed at that hour, but wide awake in his study, poring over Cabalistic symbols. In order not to be interrupted, he had a sort of projecting peg or nail on his desk, which he pressed downward whenever he heard a knock. As far as the peg entered the wood, the intruder sank into the earth outside.

When the King knocked, Yechiel pressed the peg immediately, and Louis sank to his waist. The King, a tall man, managed to reach up and strike the door again. Yechiel pushed the peg a second time. The device hopped backward beneath his finger! With a terrified cry he rushed to the door and prostrated himself before his monarch.

He found that Louis had been as frightened as himself. The King and his barons, as they felt the earth swallow them, had in one voice cried out: “Save us!”

Yechiel led them into his home, placed them near the fire, and entertained them with cakes and jam—the authentic medieval touch that is as impossible to duplicate as the pure blue glass at Chartres.

Louis then asked the Rabbi if he was really a sorcerer and if it was true that he possessed the marvelous lamp. Yechiel lifted his eyes towards the omnipotent 13th-century Heaven, and answered: “Let the Lord be pleased, I am not a sorcerer! But I am versed in physics, and know several properties of Nature.”

Then he showed the King his lamp, which was burning brightly, and revealed that it was neither a miracle nor a work of enchantment, but that he had filled it with another combustible material rather than oil. This part of the tale rings true. Phosphorous had recently been brought to Paris from the East, and was a tremendous source of local excitement at the time. With reservations certain other details of the story may also be accepted, such as the proud Jewish claim that Louis afterwards made Yechiel a trusted counselor at Court. It is altogether possible that in the first years of Louis’s reign, Yechiel was received at the palace on a friendly, if not official, basis. Only one fact is sure: in the year 1254 the King for some reason categorically prohibited the practice of magic to the Jews of his realm.

By night, in his study, Yechiel may have enjoyed tranquility; as head of the School by day he led the stormiest of intellectual careers. Jewish theologians could disagree as violently among themselves as the Christian doctors, and Saint Bernard and Peter Abélard contended with no more bitterness than Yechiel and one of his students, Donin of La Rochelle. Donin, who in spite of his name seems to have spent most of his life in Paris, expressed sharp disapproval of the oral tradition of Talmudic teaching—the very foundation of Jewish Scholasticism. This was heresy. Yechiel of course denounced it as such, and for a full year after he assumed direction of the School, his conflict with Donin raged within its walls. Finally, when Donin’s criticisms became irreconcilable with orthodoxy, Yechiel excommunicated him in the presence of the entire Congregation, with the usual humiliating ceremonies, in 1225.

The severity of this sentence cannot be overemphasized. The medieval man bereft of his Lord, Jew or Christian, was driven—quite literally—out of his community. After his scourging in the temple, he wandered as an outcast: shunned, feared, hated; denied any solace of religion, including burial in sacred ground. No man would dine with him, or receive him in his house, or—if the excommunication were observed to the letter—associate with him in any way, unless it be to urge him to repent. For ten years Donin endured this impossible existence. His only sympathizers seem to have been certain members of the clergy who saw his potential value as a provocateur. With their encouragement, Donin dramatically announced his conversion to Christianity in 1236. He was baptized under the name of Nicholas, and joined the Franciscan order.

There have been few more despicable renegades. Donin’s first Christian action was to circulate through France during the summer of 1236, haranguing troops that were forming for the Sixth Crusade. The volunteers were in an ugly mood, and needed little pretext to renew the pogroms that had accompanied every Crusade for more than a century. Donin gave them their opportunity. He traveled through Anjou, Poitou, and Aquitaine, preaching to mobs in his friar’s habit, and the atrocities followed. Homes and synagogues were burned. Torahs were torn to pieces. Then came a demand for mass conversion. Some five hundred Jews submitted and were baptized. Three thousand others perished, some in indescribable pain. The Crusaders had hit upon the idea of trampling men, women, and children with their war horses.

In desperation the Jews appealed to the Pope, and Gregory ordered Saint Louis and the prelates of France to protect them from further outrages. But as was usual in the Middle Age, the lynching mood had almost spent itself before the responsible officials acted. Through a wide band of central France, Jewish communities lay decimated. Donin, however, had not yet had his full revenge. Two years after the massacres, in 1238, he went to Rome and formally presented the Pope with thirty-five accusations against the Talmud, and recommended its destruction as a mass of blasphemies. He added that the Talmud alone kept the Jews in error, that the rabbis valued it more highly than the Bible, and that without it the Jews would have been converted long in the past.

This last point in itself was enough to convince Gregory that an investigation, at least, was necessary. Nevertheless, the Pope was taken totally by surprise. In countless previous attacks on the Jews the Talmud had never before been called into question. Until Donin’s denunciation they had been considered only as defenders of the Old Testament, not as blasphemers of the New. What then, after centuries of Christian indifference to the Talmud, had given Donin’s charges their special effectiveness

At the center of the situation lay the classic source of bigotry: ignorance. Not one Gentile in ten thousand had the faintest idea of the contents of the Talmud; not one in a million had an understanding of its ambiguities. An unprincipled apostate like Donin could easily take passages from context, and twist their meanings. But beyond ignorance of the Talmud, Christians had a distorted conception of the Jews themselves. Rabble-rousers everywhere, like Foulque de Neuilly, the organizer of the Fourth Crusade, had created a popular image of a monster. The Jew was vilified ingeniously. He was charged with ritual murder, with subterranean orgies of blood-drinking, with desecration of sacred objects that the clergy had left in his pawn. He was simultaneously reproached for poverty and for the practice of usury, both of which Christians had forced upon him. He was accused of being ugly, of being small in stature. Politically, feudalism adopted a notable decision of Saint Thomas Aquinas, and declared him a serf. Above all, the miracle plays that were staged before the cathedrals depicted him as a magician and agent of Satan.

To some extent, although it should not be exaggerated, the secrecies of Tosafism made these slanders more credible to the uninformed. This was the age of the Cabalists, strange creatures in peaked hats who were shrouded in mystery even to their own congregations. It is easy to see how their primitive science, like Yechiel’s experiment with phosphorous, could instil fear and hate as well as wonder.

Underlying all these emotional sources of Christian resentment was a hard new code of Church law. The Lateran Council of 1215 had gone further than the oppressive Council of 1179, and formulated a complete pariah status for the Jew. It initiated the marked costume and other crude indignities which were to torment the Jew until the French Revolution. It also established the Inquisition, and the Talmud became one of its first victims.

If the investigation of the Talmud held no lesson for the 13th century, it might for the 20th. The methods of inquisitors have seldom been more striking. Pope Gregory considered Donin’s accusations for a full year, and then decided that they were serious enough to invoke the entire judicial apparatus of Church and State. For this he would need the help of the secular arm, particularly the “strong right arm” of the Church’s “eldest son,” King Louis of France. But more than France alone, Gregory hoped for a joint civil and ecclesiastic action throughout the Occident. In an encyclical dated June 9, 1239, he requested the sovereigns of seven western kingdoms—France, England, Aragon, Navarre, Castille, Leon, and Portugal—to act in concert with their prelates, and simultaneously seize every copy of the Talmud in their realms. The date fixed for the coup was the first Saturday in Lent the following year—nine months off.

Strange, this delay. More strange, Gregory did not circulate the encyclical by papal courier. Instead he ordered Donin personally to deliver the text to the Bishop of Paris, William of Auvergne, who—at a time that seemed propitious—would send out the necessary letters to the various kings and bishops concerned. Hence the entire maneuver, as William of Auvergne’s biographer has pointed out, was directed not from Rome, but from the Episcopal Palace of Paris.

The Pope’s plan was more lucid than it seems at first. In William of Auvergne—the Bishop who was rushing Notre-Dame to completion—he had a hard-headed prelate from the tough southern hills near Aurillac, whose people are still among the most orthodox Catholics in France. William could be counted upon to conduct the investigation energetically; if it ended in fiasco, he would absorb any embarrassment rather than the Pope, who was publicly committed to protect Jewish freedom of religion. The Bishop was also in an excellent position to influence King Louis, whose palace stood a few hundred yards from the cathedral, at the opposite end of the Ile-de-la-Cité Many historians have tried to prove that Saint Louis was not the “priest-ridden mystic” whom other scholars have described. In this case we can say only that he alone among the seven monarchs obeyed the Pope’s instructions; all the other kings refused.

The Jewish Sabbath was a favorite medieval moment for a raid. On Saturday morning, March 3, 1240, while the congregations were praying in their synagogues, the officers of Church and Crown struck “a great blow.” Every copy of the Talmud that could be found in France was seized and transported to Paris, where the book was to be judged for blasphemy before the Royal Court.

Whether or not Saint Louis was dominated by priests, we have it on the impeccable authority of Joinville that he was tyrannized by his mother, Blanche of Castille. This remarkable woman, whose courage and imagination had saved the throne for her young son when his barons rebelled, was a Spanish beauty who had been trained in the sophisticated courts of the south. Like her son, she possessed the ecstatic temperament in strong degree. Her artistic taste was faultless, and the northern rose of Chartres, which she endowed, is perhaps its most splendid example. She also gave license to poets and troubadors, and yielded utterly to that curious medieval emotion known as “courtly love.” She adored chivalry and its tournaments of jousting. And now she conceived the trials of the Talmud as a tournament of eloquence in which champions would match dialectical lances for the delight of her courtiers. She named herself chief judge. For reasons never explained, Saint Louis did not attend the debate, and his devout and gifted mother took complete charge of the proceedings.

By June 1240, three months after the mass seizure of the Talmud, the Colloquy was ready to begin. In the great hall of the palace, before a brilliant assemblage of clergy and nobles, Queen Blanche took her place on the dais. A team of clerks and monks, led by Donin, entered as prosecutors, attired for pageantry. Then came the four representatives of French Jewry. According to a contemporary account, their bearing was “royal”; and, indeed, they could not have looked much different from the stately, bearded patriarchs whose images were carved about this time for the western façade of Notre-Dame.

Of the four rabbis, Yechiel was perhaps the most famous, but each had a great reputation in his own right. There was Moses of Coucy, an Italian-born intellectual and author who spoke not only French but Spanish and Arabic fluently; in 1235 and 1236 he had made a speaking tour through southern France and Spain, upbraiding congregations which had neglected the Law, and delivering sermons of such power that he became known as ha-darshan—the Preacher. Judah ben David of Melun, who was head of the School at that thriving city a few miles above Paris on the Seine, was a Tosafist scholar of the same stature as Yechiel and Moses. The fourth spokesman seems to have been Sir Morel of Falaise, whose Hebrew name was Samuel ben Solomon, but it is equally possible that he was Samuel ben Solomon of Château Thierry.

The pageant now took its first step toward tragedy. A burst of excitement swept over the spectators as the evidence was brought in. It was gorgeous. The illuminated parchments, with their bold Hebrew characters, were the treasure of the synagogues of France. Since few of the audience had seen the Talmud before, Nicholas Donin stepped forward and described the book briefly.

In this atmosphere of sharp theological disagreement, of popular error and heresy, the Jew had a special place. He was the most dangerous deviant of all. As Christianity rose to its most triumphant instant, hurling armies against the East, and conquering the sky with cathedrals, the Jew stubbornly refused to capitulate. This took courage. The Church had begun to abandon its age-old policy of gentle persuasion, and was now resorting to severe political pressure against him. Moreover, the Crusades had loosed anti-Semitic lynch mobs throughout Western Europe. When men adore their Lord as fervently as did the medieval Christians, they are inclined to make him absolute.

To the Christian intellectual of the Middle Age, the Jew needed only a firm push toward the light, and his conversion would be assured. This conviction was not as far-fetched as it might seem. Today, when differences between faiths receive more attention than their similarities, we occasionally forget that Christianity and Judaism share an enormous common ground. During the Middle Age, the one regarded itself as the child of the other, a natural growth that had sprung from Jewish monotheism like Jesse’s Tree. The relationship was dramatized in thousands of works of art, but nowhere does it emerge more brilliantly than in the great transept rose windows of Notre-Dame of Paris. Through the northern rose flows the austere blue light of the Old Law; through the southern pours the sun-filled reds of the New. The two streams of color blend at the exact center of the cathedral, in the most mystical alliance that Western civilization has devised.

Coaxing, this wonderful light—and yet the Jew did not surrender to it. In his tiny synagogues he prepared his replies to Paris, Chartres, and Rheims; and when he ventured on the talkative streets, walking the tightrope of medieval tolerance, he would courageously answer Christian challengers. He argued as Jews have since Abraham (according to the Midrash) debated theology with Nimrod. In the face of continual proselytism, he responded with a proselytism of his own.

In general, these religious discussions were friendly. They occurred far too often to be otherwise. We know, too, that they had their share of good humor. Once a monk asked Joseph Kara why synagogues did not have bells. “Go to a fish market,” replied the Jew, “and you will see that the high-quality stalls are silent. Only the sellers of herring shout their merchandise.”

Jewish wit and learning grew famous, and the debates soon became a form of entertainment, as diverting as the songs of minstrels, before aristocratic audiences. Sometimes keenly intelligent women, like the Lady of Vitry, in Champagne, took part. But if the nobility found clever argument amusing, the Church did not. By the end of the 12th century France was hot with heresy, and Jewish criticism, for all its charm, was becoming too effective. About the year 1200 the Bishop of Paris threatened with excommunication anyone but qualified clerks who entered into theological argument. A Church writer, Peter of Blois, declared with some heat in his Contra Perfidiam Judaeorum (and ferfidiam should here be translated simply as “disbelief”) that it is “absurd to discuss the Trinity at street intersections.” Finally, in a Bull of 1233, Gregory IX condemned all public controversy.

The Pope’s edict was not obeyed. The debates went on, as passionately as before. Men could not keep silent. The Jews continued to give a good account of themselves, and provoked Saint Louis’s celebrated remark to Joinville: “I tell you that no one, unless he be a very learned clerk, should dispute with them; that the layman, when he hears the Christian Law mis-said, should not defend it, unless it be with his sword, with which he should pierce the mis-sayer in the midriff, as far as the sword will enter.”

If the foremost Christian spokesmen were trained in the young University of Paris, their leading adversaries were educated on the opposite bank of the Seine in the Talmudic School of the Paris Synagogue. There, with modest resources, the Jews had set up a center of learning that was renowned throughout the West. Its students, like the scholars in the Christian schools on the Left Bank, came from as far away as England and Italy. Occasionally even, Christian philologists would cross the river to receive special instruction from the rabbis in Hebrew.

Exactly where on the Right Bank the Talmudic School was located in the 13th century is a matter of doubt. It was situated in a newly acquired building, for the Jews had lost all of their ancient holdings in Paris when they were sent into a sixteen-year exile in 1182. The Crown had then seized not only their homes and lands, but also their seat of religious and intellectual life: the temple on the Ile-de-la-Cité, which was transformed into a church. After their return in 1198, the Jews did not come back to the Island and the Left Bank, where they had lived since Merovingian and even Roman times, but settled in the expanding commercial quarter near the Halles. There they consecrated a new synagogue, which almost certainly housed the School. One might note that they have never since left the vicinity of these great markets, except under periodic compulsion. They live by choice in the neighborhood today, in the twisting streets behind the Rue de Rivoli, as merchants and artisans and scholars.

With the exiled community had returned its leader and champion, Rabbi Judah ben Isaac—Judah Sir Leon1 of Paris, one of the most accomplished Jews of the Middle Age. Sir Leon may have been a descendant of the superb teacher Rashi of Troyes (1040-1105), the father of Jewish medieval Scholasticism; at any rate, he carried on Rashi’s cultivated principles of Tosafist education. A corps of brilliant rabbis developed under Sir Leon’s supervision. Like their master, they had a perfect familiarity with the Talmud and the Old Testament, were widely read in other religious and philosophical literature, had a precocious knowledge of science, and above all loved theology for its own sake. They were also gifted poets, convincing preachers, and skilled controversialists. The most famous of Sir Leon’s pupils were Moses of Coucy, Sir Morel of Falaise, and Yechiel of Paris, all three of whom would later defend their beloved Talmud at the risk of their lives, and see it condemned and publicly burned in Paris.

When Sir Leon died in 1224 at the age of fifty-eight, young Yechiel succeeded him as Chief Rabbi of Paris and head of the School. Young, and alive! Yechiel’s name was translated literally into French as Sir Vives—or Vivo, as he is called in Latin documents. He was also called Yechiel the Holy, Yechiel the Pious, and when he in turn grew venerable, Yechiel the Elder. At the time he took charge of the School, however, he could scarcely have been more than twenty-five. He was born at Meaux, near Paris, sometime after the return of the Jews to France in 1198.

Under Yechiel the School flourished as it had under Sir Leon. More than three hundred students listened to his lectures; and when he was called upon to defend Jewish doctrine in open debates as official spokesman for his community, all Paris thronged to hear. He won admiration from Jews and Gentiles alike when he refuted charges that Jews are compelled by ritualistic demand to use Christian blood. Another time he successfully denied the allegation that Jews cannot, consistently, with their belief, bear witness in courts of law.

But Yechiel’s oratory alone did not move the imaginative 13th century. It was his reputation as a Cabalist that gripped medieval Paris. A story circulated that he possessed a magical lamp which, after being lit Friday evening, burned an entire week without oil. Saint Louis was intrigued by the rumor, and according to one version of the episode, asked Yechiel if it were true. The Rabbi’s reply was vague (it would have been fatal to confess to sorcery), and the King decided to surprise him in person late one Wednesday night, to see if the lamp were still burning.

An apocryphal bit of comedy resulted which is worth telling one more time—it has been repeated for ages in European ghettos.

In those days, says the legend, beggars and ruffians often chose the dead of night to beat on Jewish doors and disturb the sleeping households. Yechiel, of course, was never in bed at that hour, but wide awake in his study, poring over Cabalistic symbols. In order not to be interrupted, he had a sort of projecting peg or nail on his desk, which he pressed downward whenever he heard a knock. As far as the peg entered the wood, the intruder sank into the earth outside.

When the King knocked, Yechiel pressed the peg immediately, and Louis sank to his waist. The King, a tall man, managed to reach up and strike the door again. Yechiel pushed the peg a second time. The device hopped backward beneath his finger! With a terrified cry he rushed to the door and prostrated himself before his monarch.

He found that Louis had been as frightened as himself. The King and his barons, as they felt the earth swallow them, had in one voice cried out: “Save us!”

Yechiel led them into his home, placed them near the fire, and entertained them with cakes and jam—the authentic medieval touch that is as impossible to duplicate as the pure blue glass at Chartres.

Louis then asked the Rabbi if he was really a sorcerer and if it was true that he possessed the marvelous lamp. Yechiel lifted his eyes towards the omnipotent 13th-century Heaven, and answered: “Let the Lord be pleased, I am not a sorcerer! But I am versed in physics, and know several properties of Nature.”

Then he showed the King his lamp, which was burning brightly, and revealed that it was neither a miracle nor a work of enchantment, but that he had filled it with another combustible material rather than oil. This part of the tale rings true. Phosphorous had recently been brought to Paris from the East, and was a tremendous source of local excitement at the time. With reservations certain other details of the story may also be accepted, such as the proud Jewish claim that Louis afterwards made Yechiel a trusted counselor at Court. It is altogether possible that in the first years of Louis’s reign, Yechiel was received at the palace on a friendly, if not official, basis. Only one fact is sure: in the year 1254 the King for some reason categorically prohibited the practice of magic to the Jews of his realm.

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By night, in his study, Yechiel may have enjoyed tranquility; as head of the School by day he led the stormiest of intellectual careers. Jewish theologians could disagree as violently among themselves as the Christian doctors, and Saint Bernard and Peter Abélard contended with no more bitterness than Yechiel and one of his students, Donin of La Rochelle. Donin, who in spite of his name seems to have spent most of his life in Paris, expressed sharp disapproval of the oral tradition of Talmudic teaching—the very foundation of Jewish Scholasticism. This was heresy. Yechiel of course denounced it as such, and for a full year after he assumed direction of the School, his conflict with Donin raged within its walls. Finally, when Donin’s criticisms became irreconcilable with orthodoxy, Yechiel excommunicated him in the presence of the entire Congregation, with the usual humiliating ceremonies, in 1225.

The severity of this sentence cannot be overemphasized. The medieval man bereft of his Lord, Jew or Christian, was driven—quite literally—out of his community. After his scourging in the temple, he wandered as an outcast: shunned, feared, hated; denied any solace of religion, including burial in sacred ground. No man would dine with him, or receive him in his house, or—if the excommunication were observed to the letter—associate with him in any way, unless it be to urge him to repent. For ten years Donin endured this impossible existence. His only sympathizers seem to have been certain members of the clergy who saw his potential value as a provocateur. With their encouragement, Donin dramatically announced his conversion to Christianity in 1236. He was baptized under the name of Nicholas, and joined the Franciscan order.

There have been few more despicable renegades. Donin’s first Christian action was to circulate through France during the summer of 1236, haranguing troops that were forming for the Sixth Crusade. The volunteers were in an ugly mood, and needed little pretext to renew the pogroms that had accompanied every Crusade for more than a century. Donin gave them their opportunity. He traveled through Anjou, Poitou, and Aquitaine, preaching to mobs in his friar’s habit, and the atrocities followed. Homes and synagogues were burned. Torahs were torn to pieces. Then came a demand for mass conversion. Some five hundred Jews submitted and were baptized. Three thousand others perished, some in indescribable pain. The Crusaders had hit upon the idea of trampling men, women, and children with their war horses.

In desperation the Jews appealed to the Pope, and Gregory ordered Saint Louis and the prelates of France to protect them from further outrages. But as was usual in the Middle Age, the lynching mood had almost spent itself before the responsible officials acted. Through a wide band of central France, Jewish communities lay decimated. Donin, however, had not yet had his full revenge. Two years after the massacres, in 1238, he went to Rome and formally presented the Pope with thirty-five accusations against the Talmud, and recommended its destruction as a mass of blasphemies. He added that the Talmud alone kept the Jews in error, that the rabbis valued it more highly than the Bible, and that without it the Jews would have been converted long in the past.

This last point in itself was enough to convince Gregory that an investigation, at least, was necessary. Nevertheless, the Pope was taken totally by surprise. In countless previous attacks on the Jews the Talmud had never before been called into question. Until Donin’s denunciation they had been considered only as defenders of the Old Testament, not as blasphemers of the New. What then, after centuries of Christian indifference to the Talmud, had given Donin’s charges their special effectiveness

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 At the center of the situation lay the classic source of bigotry: ignorance. Not one Gentile in ten thousand had the faintest idea of the contents of the Talmud; not one in a million had an understanding of its ambiguities. An unprincipled apostate like Donin could easily take passages from context, and twist their meanings. But beyond ignorance of the Talmud, Christians had a distorted conception of the Jews themselves. Rabble-rousers everywhere, like Foulque de Neuilly, the organizer of the Fourth Crusade, had created a popular image of a monster. The Jew was vilified ingeniously. He was charged with ritual murder, with subterranean orgies of blood-drinking, with desecration of sacred objects that the clergy had left in his pawn. He was simultaneously reproached for poverty and for the practice of usury, both of which Christians had forced upon him. He was accused of being ugly, of being small in stature. Politically, feudalism adopted a notable decision of Saint Thomas Aquinas, and declared him a serf. Above all, the miracle plays that were staged before the cathedrals depicted him as a magician and agent of Satan.

To some extent, although it should not be exaggerated, the secrecies of Tosafism made these slanders more credible to the uninformed. This was the age of the Cabalists, strange creatures in peaked hats who were shrouded in mystery even to their own congregations. It is easy to see how their primitive science, like Yechiel’s experiment with phosphorous, could instil fear and hate as well as wonder.

Underlying all these emotional sources of Christian resentment was a hard new code of Church law. The Lateran Council of 1215 had gone further than the oppressive Council of 1179, and formulated a complete pariah status for the Jew. It initiated the marked costume and other crude indignities which were to torment the Jew until the French Revolution. It also established the Inquisition, and the Talmud became one of its first victims.

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If the investigation of the Talmud held no lesson for the 13th century, it might for the 20th. The methods of inquisitors have seldom been more striking. Pope Gregory considered Donin’s accusations for a full year, and then decided that they were serious enough to invoke the entire judicial apparatus of Church and State. For this he would need the help of the secular arm, particularly the “strong right arm” of the Church’s “eldest son,” King Louis of France. But more than France alone, Gregory hoped for a joint civil and ecclesiastic action throughout the Occident. In an encyclical dated June 9, 1239, he requested the sovereigns of seven western kingdoms—France, England, Aragon, Navarre, Castille, Leon, and Portugal—to act in concert with their prelates, and simultaneously seize every copy of the Talmud in their realms. The date fixed for the coup was the first Saturday in Lent the following year—nine months off.

Strange, this delay. More strange, Gregory did not circulate the encyclical by papal courier. Instead he ordered Donin personally to deliver the text to the Bishop of Paris, William of Auvergne, who—at a time that seemed propitious—would send out the necessary letters to the various kings and bishops concerned. Hence the entire maneuver, as William of Auvergne’s biographer has pointed out, was directed not from Rome, but from the Episcopal Palace of Paris.

The Pope’s plan was more lucid than it seems at first. In William of Auvergne—the Bishop who was rushing Notre-Dame to completion—he had a hard-headed prelate from the tough southern hills near Aurillac, whose people are still among the most orthodox Catholics in France. William could be counted upon to conduct the investigation energetically; if it ended in fiasco, he would absorb any embarrassment rather than the Pope, who was publicly committed to protect Jewish freedom of religion. The Bishop was also in an excellent position to influence King Louis, whose palace stood a few hundred yards from the cathedral, at the opposite end of the Ile-de-la-Cité Many historians have tried to prove that Saint Louis was not the “priest-ridden mystic” whom other scholars have described. In this case we can say only that he alone among the seven monarchs obeyed the Pope’s instructions; all the other kings refused.

The Jewish Sabbath was a favorite medieval moment for a raid. On Saturday morning, March 3, 1240, while the congregations were praying in their synagogues, the officers of Church and Crown struck “a great blow.” Every copy of the Talmud that could be found in France was seized and transported to Paris, where the book was to be judged for blasphemy before the Royal Court.

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Whether or not Saint Louis was dominated by priests, we have it on the impeccable authority of Joinville that he was tyrannized by his mother, Blanche of Castille. This remarkable woman, whose courage and imagination had saved the throne for her young son when his barons rebelled, was a Spanish beauty who had been trained in the sophisticated courts of the south. Like her son, she possessed the ecstatic temperament in strong degree. Her artistic taste was faultless, and the northern rose of Chartres, which she endowed, is perhaps its most splendid example. She also gave license to poets and troubadors, and yielded utterly to that curious medieval emotion known as “courtly love.” She adored chivalry and its tournaments of jousting. And now she conceived the trials of the Talmud as a tournament of eloquence in which champions would match dialectical lances for the delight of her courtiers. She named herself chief judge. For reasons never explained, Saint Louis did not attend the debate, and his devout and gifted mother took complete charge of the proceedings.

By June 1240, three months after the mass seizure of the Talmud, the Colloquy was ready to begin. In the great hall of the palace, before a brilliant assemblage of clergy and nobles, Queen Blanche took her place on the dais. A team of clerks and monks, led by Donin, entered as prosecutors, attired for pageantry. Then came the four representatives of French Jewry. According to a contemporary account, their bearing was “royal”; and, indeed, they could not have looked much different from the stately, bearded patriarchs whose images were carved about this time for the western façade of Notre-Dame.

Of the four rabbis, Yechiel was perhaps the most famous, but each had a great reputation in his own right. There was Moses of Coucy, an Italian-born intellectual and author who spoke not only French but Spanish and Arabic fluently; in 1235 and 1236 he had made a speaking tour through southern France and Spain, upbraiding congregations which had neglected the Law, and delivering sermons of such power that he became known as ha-darshan—the Preacher. Judah ben David of Melun, who was head of the School at that thriving city a few miles above Paris on the Seine, was a Tosafist scholar of the same stature as Yechiel and Moses. The fourth spokesman seems to have been Sir Morel of Falaise, whose Hebrew name was Samuel ben Solomon, but it is equally possible that he was Samuel ben Solomon of Château Thierry.

The pageant now took its first step toward tragedy. A burst of excitement swept over the spectators as the evidence was brought in. It was gorgeous. The illuminated parchments, with their bold Hebrew characters, were the treasure of the synagogues of France. Since few of the audience had seen the Talmud before, Nicholas Donin stepped forward and described the book briefly.

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That day Yechiel alone remained in court, selected expressly by Donim. The three other rabbis were isolated, so that they could not consult with one another.

When Yechiel saw that Donin had been entrusted with the prosecution, he disdainfully asked what points of Jewish doctrine the apostate wished to question. Donin’s reply was unexpected. Although the thirty-five accusations he had made before the Pope were supposedly the basis of the inquiry, he now declared that the discussion would be limited to the Talmud’s treatment of Jesus. He added that he would prove the divinity of Jesus Christ in spite of the heresies of the Talmud, which he said had been composed some four hundred years previously.

“Fifteen hundred years!” thundered Yechiel who, like every pious medieval Jew, was certain that the Lord had dictated the book’s oldest portions to Moses. And the Rabbi turned to Queen Blanche with this appeal: “Lady, I beg of you, do not oblige me to reply. The Talmud is a holy book of venerable antiquity in which no one until the present has been able to discover a fault. Jerome, one of your Saints, was familiar with all of our Law; if he had found the least blemish in it, he scarcely would have allowed it to remain. No prelate, no apostate even, has ever reproached us our belief. Your Doctors, and you have had many more learned than Nicholas these last fifteen hundred years, have never attacked the Talmud. They have recognized it as fitting that we should have a COMMENTARY on the Scriptures. . . .”

Yechiel then faced the entire court with defiance: “Know further that we are prepared to die for the Talmud. . . . our bodies are in your power, but not our souls.”

One of the King’s officers broke in: “Yechiel, who thinks of harming the Jews”

Yechiel, recalling the recent Crusader slaughters, and aware of a rising pogrom sentiment in Paris, must have smiled bitterly: “Surely it isn’t you who will protect us from the enraged people.”

With the meticulous courtesy that she displayed throughout the hearing, Queen Blanche reassured the Rabbi. She declared that she would defend the Jews and their possessions, and would punish as a capital crime any violence against them.

Reassured that the forms of justice were to be observed, Yechiel requested an immediate appeal to the Holy See. This was a frequent and honorable legal technique in the Middle Age, since the papal tribunal—the Supreme Court of medieval Europe—often reversed the decisions of prejudiced or incompetent lower courts. Ordinarily the request would have been granted. This day it was shouted down by the clerks who told Yechiel to answer Donin, if he could.

The Rabbi had to submit. He protested angrily, however, when Donin demanded that he swear an oath before testifying. “Never in my life have I sworn upon the name of the Lord,” he told Queen Blanche, “and I shall not begin today. If, after giving oath, I said merely one word which displeased Donin, he would cite me for perjury.”

This time the clerks gave way, and Yechiel was not forced to swear, although Jews on occasion did take oath voluntarily during the Middle Age, with the right hand resting upon a Torah.

_____________

At last the two champions came to grips. To the delighted astonishment of the assembly, Donin began with a tour de force. He demonstrated, texts in hand, that the Talmud was filled with absurdities. It condemns to death, he pointed out, the man who sacrifices part of his progeny to Moloch, but provides no penalty for him who sacrifices all of it. This stroke put the clergymen in wild laughter.

Yechiel replied coldly. “One day,” he told them, “you shall laugh no longer at these words. You wish to intimidate me, but ought you not at least hear me before vilifying our Law” Then he explained that a total sacrifice was a sin so monstrous that it passed human punishment, and deserved only the wrath of God.

After this exchange, the discussion centered on the various passages in which the name Jesus appears in the Talmud, some twenty in all. Many of these references are without question uncomplimentary or openly insulting. They speak of an illegitimate son of a harlot, who was condemned as a false prophet, and later executed like a common criminal. Donin claimed that they applied to Jesus of Nazareth and his mother the Virgin Mary. The audience was shocked and horrified, and their indignation was skillfully exploited by Donin. As he translated each of the alleged blasphemies from Hebrew into the official court language, Latin, he added in French, the popular tongue which could later be quoted to illiterate mobs: “See how this people insults your God. How do you allow them to live in your midst”

At this unhappy moment, when the Jewish cause must have appeared lost to everyone except the solitary Rabbi, Yechiel defended the Talmud proudly, and with success. He asserted that none of these insults concerned Jesus Christ, but other personages of the same name who had no connection with the Christian Savior. In particular he mentioned Jesus Gereda, the bastard son of Sotada, a soldier, and of Panthera, a whore. This Jesus, the Rabbi maintained, was a villain who fully merited the cruel punishment he received for false prophecy. Yechiel here had an irrefutable point, and he made it convincingly. Although the Talmud is not altogether definite on the method or exact place of execution, it makes it clear that Jesus ben Sotada was not crucified, but either hanged or stoned, and that his condemnation and death took place not at Jerusalem, but in or near Lydda.

This confident denial made a deep impression. It was further supported by Yechiel’s counter-charge that Donin had known all of these facts, but had sedulously distorted them for motives of revenge.

The debate continued bitterly, until at last Donin and the clerks resorted to invective. At this point, according to a contemporary Jewish account of the episode, Queen Blanche brought them up sharply. “Why do you spoil your good odor” she asked. “The Jew, out of respect for you, has succeeded in proving that his ancestors did not insult your God, and yet you persist in trying to make him confess to blasphemies. Aren’t you shamed by such maneuvers”

Yechiel was dismissed, and Judah ben David of Melun, who had been held incommunicado while Yechiel’s testimony was given, was now called before the court. Donin went over the same ground, and saw his accusations exploded utterly. Judah’s refutation was identical with Yechiel’s, al-. though the two Rabbis could not have possibly planned this specific defense together. The details coincided perfectly, and for the moment the Talmud was saved.

At the suggestion of the clerks, however, it was decided that the Royal Court was not the best qualified to judge theological quarrels, and that the dispute should be transferred to a Church tribunal. This would be a very different court of law indeed. Saint Louis personally appointed the new judges: the Archbishop of Sens, the Bishops of Paris and Senlis, the Chancellor of the University of Paris, and a preaching friar named Geoffroy de Blèves. They were joined by an Inquisitor, Henry of Cologne, and a new hearing was held in Paris shortly after the first.

_____________

Any reconstruction of these events is necessarily vague. Neither their dates, nor even the order in which they occurred, have been fixed beyond doubt. It would seem that the encounter between Yechiel and Donin began on June 24 or 25, 1240, and continued for three days while the Jewish community fasted and prayed for deliverance of the Talmud. Judah ben David of Melun apparently testified on the third day. As far as is known, the two other rabbis were not summoned to appear at all. The Church Court, with the same spokesmen participating before a new set of judges, would have convened sometime later during the summer of 1240.

Arsène Darmesteter, in a careful study, disputed these dates. He thought that the early meeting before Queen Blanche lasted a single day, June 12, and that the Church Court met June 25-27.

In any event, two trials were held, and we may be sure that the second was more severe than the first. Only one of the Church judges was impartial in the modern sense. The Archbishop of Sens, Gauthier Cornut, who on previous occasions had displayed sympathy for the Jews, was scrupulously fair. This earned him the slander that he had been purchased: the one explanation the Middle Age could offer when a high personage refused to be biased. The other prelates on the panel were openly hostile, especially Bishop William of Paris and the Chancellor of the University, Eudes of Châteauroux. The Jews feared and hated Eudes, with reason. It was he who had earlier challenged Yechiel on the use of Christian blood in secret Jewish rites. Eudes had lost then; this time he would win. He will stand forever as one of the most notorious anti-Semites the Middle Age produced.

During the second hearing, too, Donin had the assistance of Henry of Cologne, the Inquisitor. Between them they were able to make certain that the Talmud would not escape again.

It was now, before the Church tribunal, that Donin’s thirty-five accusations were finally considered at length. In Isidore Loeb’s masterly analysis of the arguments, the charges fall into five large classifications:

The exaggerated importance the Talmud had taken among the Jews; that it was more highly regarded than the Bible.

Blasphemies against Jesus Christ.

Blasphemies against God the Father and against morality.

Blasphemies against Christians. The Talmud allegedly prescribes that the “best of the goyim” should be put to death.

Errors, Stupidities, Absurdities contained in the Talmud.

None of these charges, Loeb demonstrated, can be sustained. That the Talmud had received an exceptional importance is a question of pure theology into which no court of law should enter. The charge of blasphemy against Jesus we have already seen proven false. The charge of blasphemy against God and morality is equally groundless: the Talmud is a deeply religious work of piety. Any arguments that may be brought against it in this connection—and Yechiel pointed this out—may also be brought against the Bible. As for the “Errors, Stupidities, and Absurdities,” the charm and humor of the Talmud completely escaped its medieval judges. They were infuriated, for example, by the happy anecdote of an argument among rabbis which grew so heated that God intervened. Without hesitation one of the rabbis silenced the Lord with a brilliant mot, and God remarked—with one of the loveliest smiles that Jewish literature has given him: “My children have vanquished me!”

Only one of the five main charges, then, remains to be considered: the blasphemies against Christians. Here a problem of semantics arises. Donin claimed that the word goyim applies exclusively to Christians; the Jews retorted that it is not synonymous with Christians, but with pagans and Gentiles—in short, all non-Jews, Christians included. This distinction, in view of the abbreviated quotations Donin presented as evidence, had great significance. The Talmud is an enormous compilation which belongs to many epochs. It is punctuated repeatedly by outcries in the midst of suffering and disaster. The extravagant language of pain has a narrow meaning. It should never be lifted from context and given a wider sense than intended. This Donin did, crudely. Loeb cites the passionate curse uttered by Simon ben Yohai: “Kill the best of the goyim!” Simon did not intend his words to be taken literally. He had simply observed the Romans of the times of Hadrian, witnessed their cruel persecutions, and cried out specifically against them.

Were these ancient maledictions, the court demanded, still employed against 13th-century Christians The question was not altogether fair, but Yechiel answered eloquently: “It is written that the poor of the goyim must be fed like the poor of Israel . . . that their sick must be tended like the Jewish sick, that their dead must be buried like the Jewish dead.”

_____________

The judges did not reach an immediate decision. Instead, they deliberated in private for some time after the hearings. During these closed sessions, the disputed texts were read at least in part. Two clerks who had learned Hebrew in Yechiel’s School aided the justices in this task, and presumably Donin helped too.

Finally the Talmud was condemned as a “tissue of lies,” and sentenced, like Mai-monides’ Guide nearly a decade earlier in Montpellier, to be destroyed by fire.

The decision had been delayed because it was not unanimous. Gauthier Cornut, the aged Archbishop of Sens, made a strong dissent. He was the highest-ranking churchman present, and as primate of the Ile de France his word carried weight. The Bishop of Paris was his suffragan (Notre-Dame would not become a metropolitan church with an archbishop of its own until four centuries later). The Chancellor of the University of Paris was at a different level of the hierarchy altogether. Only the Inquisitor Henry of Cologne had a status approaching Gauthier’s, and it was ambiguous locally in France.

For two years, from 1240 to 1242, the Archbishop prevented any violent action against the Talmud. The parchments remained under lock and key, while the Jews struggled frantically to save them. In spite of his obvious responsibility in the matter, Pope Gregory refused to assume it, and did not review the case. Nor did Saint Louis interfere. Then, in 1242, Gauthier died, the last great protector of medieval Jewry; and Bishop William and Chancellor Eudes were free to prepare their auto-da-fé

In June 1242—the date has been contested, it may have been as late as 1244—wagon after wagon left the convents of the Preaching Friars, where the Talmud had been impounded, and were driven through Paris with a precious cargo. Manuscripts which would embellish any library in the world today were being carried to destruction. An immense throng had gathered, drawn by the novelty of the spectacle, for books had never before been publicly burned in Paris. The Jews remained hidden, in deepest mourning, terrified to venture on the streets. Slowly the tumbrils made their way through the multitude to the Place de la Grève, approximately where the Hôtel de Ville stands now. There the parchments were piled high, as the carts went back and forth to the convents for two days, until twenty-four heavy loads had been deposited. Then torches were brought, and the fire did its work.

_____________

The Jewish sense of loss was enormous. The blow to Talmudic learning was irreparable. The only outlet for Jewish anger and sorrow, as it has been so often, was literature. Elegies and bitter polemics were composed to commemorate the catastrophe. Both Jews and Christians also prepared their own versions of the trial, in Hebrew and in Latin. A copy of each manuscript is conserved at the Bibliothèque Nationale, and it is very much worth asking the special authorization required to examine them.

The Hebrew account of the trial begins with a sweeping, black Miltonic rhythm: “O dreadful and terrible day, filled with calamity! Anger and cruelty are spread upon the earth . . . and the clouds of horror and destruction have filled the sky. The sun and the moon are darkened, the heavens shattered, the stars driven away. Enormous lions roar. The giants of the past are called to life. The Universe mourns.”

Yet this was not the nadir. The destruction of the Talmud was the beginning of a whole chain of disasters. A new law increased Jewish misery every two or three years until, in 1269, Saint Louis introduced the rouella, “the little wheel,” which the Jew would wear for five hundred years as a mark of humiliation. The Jews of Paris, once so prosperous, found themselves in such poverty that money had to be borrowed from other communities to support the School. Yechiel lived to see his son Joseph unjustly imprisoned; and after his release was secured, the two of them traveled into exile, first to Greece, and then Palestine, where the great Doctor died a broken man of eighty, and was buried in a village near Acre. Thus, while Western Europe was moving toward what we are pleased to call the Renaissance, the Jew was being dragged into a Dark Age. He would have little but tragedy until the French Revolution.

The France that was responsible for these barbarities was passing its medieval prime. Jewish Scholasticism was violently put to death; Christian Scholasticism would gradually consume itself in subtilities. The Gothic, too, was losing scale and vigor. Before the 13th century would end, architecture would dissolve in a thousand forms of cleverness and show.

The smoke of the burning Talmud, however, rose in 1242 against a Gothic in full possession of its grand manner: the western façade of Notre-Dame of Paris. This tremendous sculpted wall—the most famous of postcard images—dates from 1200 to 1250, the classic instant of triumph. Flanking the central door stand two Queens, rivals across the centuries. The radiant figure on the left is the Church Victorious, crowned and imperial, and holding a chalice which is nothing less than the Holy Grail. The Queen on the right is posed in defeat, her staff broken in several places, her eyes covered by a coiling serpent, her signs of royalty removed or shattered. A reversed Tablet of the Law, falling from her hand, shows that she is the Synagogue. The statues at Paris are modern, the work of the 19th-century restorer. But at Strasbourg are two Queens in all their original beauty. The Church is magnificent. The Synagogue is amazing. We may stand before them for many hours, trying to decide which is the more lovely; and the decision will be purely a subjective matter of taste, as it should be; but as we look at the bandaged eyes of the captive Queen, and study the exquisite proportions of her broken staff, we shall not fail to realize the utter grace and majesty of her defeat.


JEWS in the
DARK and MIDDLE AGES


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PAPAL APOLOGY TO THE JEWS FOR THE INQUISITION
From
BBC (March 12, 2006)

WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THE INQUISITION
From ‘The Grand Inquisitor’s Manual’ by Gerald Kirsch pp221 on


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Changes
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Dark to the
Middle Ages

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Before and After
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The Year 1000 was a Turning Point
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Typical Medieval Superstitions
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1348-1349

The Burning
of the
Talmud in Paris: 1242