Key Legal Responsa on Iberian Anusím (14th to 20th c.

) Compiled and Arranged by David Ramírez

In memory of all the children in captivity who died unable to see the Light of the Toráh



To my grandparents

Through whose actions, I learned the fear of God, mutual respect, good manners, humbleness, modesty and charity



Yet, even then, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject or spurn them so as to destroy them, annulling My covenant with them: for I the Lord am their God. (Lev. 26:44) If a man and his wife went beyond the sea and he and his wife and his children returned and he said, ‘Lo, this is the wife that went with me beyond the sea and these are her children’, he need not bring proof about either the woman or the children. (Mishná, Kiddushin 4:10) An Israelite, although he sinned, is still an Israelite (TB, Sanhedrin 44a) Whosoever comes forth and declares that he is a priest is not to be believed, and may not be elevated to the status of a priest on the strength of his own statement . . . if, however, he speaks in all innocence, he is to be believed. How so? It happened that a man said in all innocence, “I remember when I was a child and was borne on my father’s shoulder, that they took me out of school and removed my shirt and immersed me, so that I could eat of the heave offering that evening; and my companions kept their distance from me and called me “Johnathan, the eater of dough offering.” Thereupon the saintly Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi elevated him to the status of a priest on the sole basis of his own statement. (‘Isure Bi‘ah, xx, 17; Sekirut v, 8.)




Agradecimientos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .p. 9 Jewish Law. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .p. 10 Preface. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 13 Treatment of Anusím upon Returning to Judaism . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 18 Key Rabbinical Responsa on Iberian Anusím per Categories . . . . . p. 24 Name of Rabbis and Dayanim [14th to 20th c.] who dealt with the Iberian-Anusím question . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 32 Addenda . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 36 Halakhic Contraditions with Rabbi Soloveitchik´s and Rabbi Eliahu´s letters. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . p. 38



A G R A D E C I M I E N TO S I need to thank the following for sponsoring my trip, and for kindly providing scholarly material for this presentation. • • • • Hugo Rekhi Simoes, from Congregation Sha’aré Tiqvah – The Spanish and Portuguese Jews of London Shemu’el Fuentes, from Bend (OR), Canopy Beds Jaime Cohen, from Congregation Bet Ramban, Houston A Florida family who wishes to remain anonymous

Scholarly contributions • Rabbi Jacob de Oliveira and Rabbi Mordekhai Lopes from Bet Yahdut Sefarad, Israel • Rabbi José Faur and Rabbi Zvi Zohar from Bar Ilan University, Israel • Professor David Shasha, from the Center for Sephardic Heritage, New York Thanks to Dr. Kunin and Dr. Hordes for kindly extending their invitation. Special thanks to Congregation Ess Ĥayím, the Spanish and Portuguese Jews of Houston; Ma‘azya Villanueva, Uri‘el Abarbanel and Eliezer Ocampo and their families who for the past two years have looked after my sustenance and well-being, and with whom my work has been able to continue. Muchas bendiciones de la Toráh para todos ellos. And to God Almighty, for allowing me to reach this day.


JEWISH LAW Before I begin this exposition, I though it necessary to mention a few notes on Jewish Law, which is the background from which this presentation takes place. In the words of Rabbi and Professor José Faur: Jewish jurisprudence is the oldest evolving legal system in history. It has existed since prebiblical times, and continues in our own day both in the modern State of Israel and throughout the diaspora. Rabbinic tradition stands at the center of this system. This tradition perceives itself as the authoritative foundation and the historical bond linking the Jewish people from the dawn of time to the present. The rabbinic tradition functions as an apparatus that processes and catalogues data and opinions facilitating juridical interpretations and decisions. Due to the peculiar circumstances in which rabbinic jurisprudence developed, it is structurally unique. To understand the substance and procedures of rabbinic jurisprudence, one need not draw parallels with similar laws and institutions found in other legal systems, which ignore the specific character and function of the rabbinic method. "Law" in Jewish tradition is a radical concept with no parallel in legal thought. In contradistinction with other democratic systems, where the demos or "people," as an absolute empirical object, are the ultimate source of authority, the people of Israel recognized the absolute authority of the law. The people acted as the depository of that law. n14 Thus, Judaism may be properly described as a "nomocratic" system. [in other words, Government of Laws]. Jewish law is the result of a bilateral covenant contracted between God and the Jewish people at the foot of Mount Sinai. According to rabbinic tradition, the covenant contains six hundred and thirteen misvot or "articles" regulating all of Jewish life. n16 The covenant is both "divine" and "eternal." Since it is "divine," it requires no promulgation. It binds the contracting parties at all times and in all societies. This principle is known as torah min hashamayyim expressing the tenet that the "Law is divine." Rather than a theological doctrine, this is a fundamental legal principle postulating that the law requires no promulgation or earthly authority to sanction it. From this perspective, God is the consequence, not the cause, of the law. This radical idea is implied in a rabbinic doctrine, widely held throughout the Jewish world, whereby the first verse to be taught to a child is "Moses has commanded the Law to us, it is the legacy of the congregation of Jacob." n17 Only afterwards is the child to be taught "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One." n18 As it were, belief in God is subsequent to, and a result of, belief in the Torah. Orobio de Castro n20 pointed out that since belief in God is a consequence of the law, disbelief in the law implies disbelief in God. n21 From this perspective, there is no distinction between rejecting the law and atheism. n22 Within this specific context, the ultimate grounds [*1662] for belief in God are legal, not theological or metaphysical. Since the ultimate recognition of God is the law, and not some metaphysical notion, were God to contravene any of the elements of the law, He would not be obeyed. Accordingly, the Talmud identifies the eternity of the law with the biblical principle "lo bashamayim hi" ("The Law is not in heaven") by explaining that the divine lawgiver may no longer promulgate new laws or


reinterpret the laws of the covenant. n26 Indeed, the law cannot be abrogated even by a divine agency. Since the covenant was not imposed but negotiated by the two parties - God and Israel neither may abrogate any of its terms. The notion that God is subject to the law, and that He cannot abrogate it, leads to two of the most significant aspects of rabbinic jurisprudence: the exclusion of "violence" and, its ensuing consequence, equality before the law.1 Rabbinic Tradition, the Judaism of history for the past 2000 years, is the sole surviving tradition after the destruction of the Temple in the year 70 CE. It is Rabbinic Tradition that gathers, compiles and formulates Jewish Law as passed down from the Revelation at Mt. Sinai to their days, resulting in the authoritative texts of Jewish jurisprudence of the Mishnáh and the Talmud, in the 3rd and 5th centuries respectively. Also Rabbinic Tradition is responsible for giving us the final version of the Bible, and the official vocalization of the Pentateuch, what we Jews call the Toráh, and this is the document that works as the Constitution for the Jewish Nation, from which all laws are derived. In essence, Rabbinic Tradition is a self-enclosed system, with its own logical procedures for interpretation, one that has remained unchanged since the closing of the Talmud. As Rabbi Moses Maimonides, the preminent Spanish rabbinic scholar of the 12th century, explained: 29 Raviná and Rav Ashé {the final editors of the Talmud) and their colleagues are the end of the Sages copying the Oral Toráh, and the end of those who decreed "gezerôt" (negative decrees), "taqanôt" (positive decrees) and "minhagót" (customs), having their decrees extrended through all the People of Israel in every place where they lived. 32 Every Bet Din (Jewish court) that came to be after (the closing of) the Talmud in each region, and which decreed "gezerôt", "taqanôt" or "minhagôt, these decrees do not extend over all of the People of Israel, because of the distance and the difficulty of roads. Alsoe because these Bet Din are of "yeĥidim" because the Great Bet Din of seventy and one [judges] was annulled some years prior to the compilation of the Talmud.





Indeed, when it comes to lineage, all the people of Israel are brethren. We are all the sons of one father, the rebels and criminals, the apostates and forced converts, and the proselytes who are attached to the house of Jacob. All these are Israelites. Even if they left God or denied Him, or violated His Law, the yoke of that Law is still upon their shoulders and will never be removed from them. [R. She‘adyá ben Maimon ibn Danan, Khemdáh Genuzáh, 15b]

In the following pages, one will become acquainted with the legal subject of the Anusím, that is Jews coerced to reject Jewish Law against their will, and those who were born in that state of coercion. The legal Responsa here enclosed mainly covers a span of 600 years after 1391, as it deals with the treatment of Iberian Anusím before and after the expulsion of Jews from the peninsula. The Responsa (sin. responsum) are a series of legal opinions, taken place within the fulcrum of Jewish Law. The hermeneutical procedures to arrive at a legal decision are implicit within the responsa. Sometimes, the Responsa represent particular cases coming before the local Bet Din, that is a court of Law, which historically has regulated civil and criminal cases for the Jewish community. Its decisions reflect the times and circumstances of the case at hand, but also reflect a normative use of legal practice. The end-result of each Responsum is therefore that normalcy we call Judaism, both in historical and practical terms. Although the present essay does not represent an expert exposition of the Anusím legal issue, at least it will give the reader a sense of the importance of the practice. I have classified samples of the responsa according to the end-result. Mishnaic and Talmudic sources are not fully disclosed, as this would the work of erudites, of whom – we are disspointed to say – there is hardly anyone left able to explain these halakhot in our days. [A]nd the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the prudence of their prudent men shall be hid.2

The Iberian Anusím (plural for anús) had been victims of long carried out conversion policies, which began after the Orthodoxy3 displaced the Eastern Christian rite and Aryanism in 12th c. Spain.4 These policies were designed primarily by the Mendicant Orders (Dominicans, Franciscans) with the help of Jewish apostates. Many of these apostates had been rabbis (e.g. Abner of Burgos) with anti-Maimonidean training,5 a training then en vogue within Northern
Is. 29:14. As properly and historically understood, the term and ideologies of Orthodox / Orthodoxy (gr. “correct opinion”) was first coined by the Patristic tradition, the genesis of the Catholic Church in the 4th c., and inspiration to subsequent orthodoxies. See Encyclopedia Britannica. 4 To look into how this change took place, please refer to Leon Poliakov’s De Mahoma a los Marranos (p. 155-156); Sánchez Albornoz España, un enigma histórico (op. cit. t. I, p. 328); and John Tolan’s Saracens (Chp. 7). 5 For background literatures regarding this controversy, please read Maimonidean Criticism and the Maimonidean Controversy, pp. 175-182; E.E. Ubrach’s “The Participation of German and French Scholars in
2 3


Spanish Yeshivot with close ties to the Franco-German school. As reconquista [Christian conquest of Muslim-ruled Spain] swept across Iberia, Jews began to loose protections before guaranteed by the dh‘imma. This process of socio-political deterioration lasted approximately 300 years. By 1391, Spanish Jewry began to collapse after the first major riots, culminating with the Edict of Expulsion of 1492, thereby making Jewish presence illegal in the peninsula. The main reason behind the Expulsion was to avoid the contact of Anusím with the Jewish population, who was still reminding them of Jewish practice.6 The installment of the Spanish Inquisition in 1478 was to monitor the Anusím’s Christian practice, and persecute them if they did not comply with the orthodoxy. The Inquisition never persecuted unconverted Jews – as it is generally assumed –, unless these helped Anusím to become observant Jews again. In our times, there has been some confusion as to what to call their modern descendants. English-speaking readers have been familiarized with the term marrano, according to some a Spanish word of uncertain origin. La Real Academia de la Lengua Española – the languagegoverning body for Spanish-speaking people – lists the word marrano as coming from the Hispanoarabic word muharrám, which means “anathema.” However, popular use links it with the animal forbidden for consumption both in Jewish and Islamic law: the pig, swine. Particularly, its use refers to a recently born swine (marranillo). Spanish Inquisition historian Henry Kamen cites the words of an anús, published in Carrete Parrondo’s Fontes (II, p. 53), saying: Bien me llaman a mí marrano, pues marré en volverme de la bien ley a la mala.7 It is certain they call me marrano, because I marré in turning from the good law (i.e. Christian law) to the bad law (i.e Jewish Law) The verb marré is the past tense of the word marrar, again listed by La Real Academia, as coming from a word of Germanic origin marrhan, which in turn is from of the Latin errare; this means “to deviate”, “to err.” In diametrical opposition to the Greek term óρθóδοξος (“correct opinion”), it does not require a lot of imagination of what marrar meant in this context. Linguistic nuances aside, any well informed and historically-conscious Jew knows that the word marrano, as with the word xueta assigned to Balearic Anusím, was meant as a pejorative, derogatory, term formulated by anti-Jewish anti-Semites to publicly insult Iberian Anusím suspect of practicing Jewish Law and/or because of being of Jewish ancestry. The forced conversions of Jewish and Muslim populations to Christianity created the phenomena of the cristiano nuevo, the New Christian. This was in distinction to the cristiano viejo (Old Christian), or as they liked to be referred to, cristiano lindo (Cute Christian), that is people who did not have any genealogical links with either the newly-turned-Christian Jewish or Muslim populations of
the Controversy about Maimonides and his Works,” Zion 12 (1947), pp. 149-159; “Anti-Maimonidean Demons,” The Review of Rabbinic Judaism Vol 6.1, pp. 3-52. 6 For an assessment of the Anús problem for both Christian and Jewish societies in Spain, and the reason behind the expulsion, consult Julio Valdeón Baruque’s “Los Conversos en Castilla,” Los Conversos y la Inquisición (El Monte, 2000), pp. 35-95. Please compare with the Edict of Expulsion, 7 The Spanish Inquisition (Yale Univ. Press, 1998), p. 323-324, footnote #11.


Spain and Portugal. The Old Christian nobility, boasting “pure” Visigoth (Germanic) lineage, was particular about this distinction. What began merely as a status peculiarity of New vs. Old Christians, eventually developed into a “racial” division, thus becoming official at the promulgation of limpieza de sangre (Purity of Blood) statues at the beginning of the 16th c. (1501). In this manner, Anusím became victims of (1) political8 persecution, then of (2) genealogical discrimination.9 The first phase is construed on an anti-Jewish animus to destroy Judaism vis-àvis the Torah; the second phase is construed on anti-Semitic animus to prevent the people of Israel from participating in society. All embodied in the orthodox design of the Spanish Inquisition, Anusím were subject to the longest, most officially organized, and expensive persecution in the history of Israel – indeed of any persecuting society in human history – (14781834), totaling 356 years. Limpieza de sangre statues were not formally abolished until 1865, by then Queen Isabel II. The parent of the Spanish Inquisition, the episcopal Inquisition, still exists today as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (new name given in 1965). The Spanish Inquisition was autonomous from this one, so the modern version does not necessarily hold the premises against unorthodox Anusím, as the Spanish Inquisition had done until the 19th c.10 As far as nomenclatures, Inquisition Officials refer to the Anusím as cristianos nuevos, hebreos, judios observantes de la ley de Mosen, conversos, confessos; Old-Christian anti-Semites refer to the Anusím as marranos.11 Jewish competent halakhic authorities refer to the forcibly converted Jews AND their descendants just as Anusím. Serious Spanish scholars stick with the terms converso, or judeoconverso, and even Anusím. Despite this unheard and uncalled horror, Anusím as crypto-Jews, Christians or Skeptics, then and now, became active and positive contributors to their societies and Human civilization,

To truly understand the nature of discrimination towards Anusím vis-à-vis Christianity, one needs to understand a fundamental key aspect that differentiates Christianity from Judaism. In a nutshell, Christianity calls for the dissolution of the ‘old’ Law, the Torah. When the Jew accepts baptism, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, he / she is no longer a “Jew”, according to Christian legal thought. When the Anús dared to practice Jewish Law, no matter what it was, he / she in fact was denying a cardinal premise of Christianity, thus making him / her a first-rate heretic. In essence, this discrimination is political in nature, in no way religous. See Paul’s doctrine on baptism 1st Cor., Chap. 1, ver. 9,10,13; Augustine’s doctine on heretics, Sermon CCLXVIII, n. 2, in *Patrologia Latina*, vol. 38, col. 1232; on the political nature of baptism, Ullman; The Individual and Society in the Middle Ages; pp. 8-9; and Faur’s In the Shadow of History, pp. 28 and 32. 9 Limpieza de sangre / Purity of Blood statues stipulated to prove pure Old-Christian lineage, both in the maternal and paternal sides, no matter the generation. 10 11 Ironically, the term marrano has been revived by scholars of Jewish origin who hail from FrancoGermany (e.g. Graetz, Baer, Netanyahu, Poliakov, among many), and unwarily adopted by Sephardim in the 20th c. Serious Spanish scholars have never use such term. Rabbinic scholars have never used the term either.


following in the Scientific and Humanistic endeavors of Sefarad. As returning Jews, formerAnusím have given the brightest luminaries to Judaism. Among them, in both cases, we have: • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Sevillian Humanist, Historian, Astronomer, Poet and Philologist, father of the Spanish Grammar, Antonio de Nebrija (1444 – 1522). Toledan Writer, author of one of the most influential Comedies in the Modern Age (La Celestina), Fernando de Rojas (1473 – 1541). Sevillian Dominican friar, Social Activist and Humanist, Barolomé de las Casas (1484 – 1566). Valencian Philosopher and father of Modern Psychology, Juan Luis Vives (1494 – 1540). Sevillian Rabbi, Physician and Historian, Salomón ibn Verga (15th – 16th c.). Spanish Scientist and Philosopher, teacher to the celebrated Ottoman Rabbi Moisés Almosnino, Aharon Afiya (16th c.) Portuguese Merchant and Philantropist, economic founder and supporter of R. Yosef Caro’s Yeshiva, doña Gracia Nasi (1510 – 1568). Extremeño Philosopher, Poet and Hebraist, Benito (Baruk) Arias Montano (1528 – 1598). Granadene Augustine friar, Poet, Social Activist, Hebraist and Historian, Luis de León (1528 – 1591). French essayist and thinker, perhaps the most influential philosopher for the Modern Age, seigneur de Michel Eyquem Montaigne (1533 – 1592). Canario Theologian, Poet, and Grammarian, founder of the city of São Paulo, José de Anchieta (c. 1534 – 1597). Andalusian (some say alleged Anús) Writer, Poet and creator of the Modern Novel, Miguel de Cervantes (1547 – 1616). Portuguese Skeptic and Philosopher, inspiration to French philosopher Rene Descartes, Francisco Sánchez (1551 – 1623). Portuguese Philosopher and Writer, author of Puerta del cielo, Rabbi Abraham Cohen de Herrera (1570 – 1635). Portuguese Grammarian, Writer and Community leader, first documented Rabbi in the American Hemisphere, Isaac Aboab da Fonseca (b. 1605 – 1693) Cordoban Poet and Social Commentator, author of the foremost Poem of the Baroque Letters (Primera Soledad), Luis de Góngora (1561 – 1627). Portuguese Poet and Playwright, author of El Macabeo, Miguel de Silveira (1580? – 1638). Portuguese Synagogal Cantor, the first in the American Hemisphere, Moisés Rafael Aguiar (1641 - ). Mexican Jesuit, Astronomer, Mathematician and Historian, Carlos Sigüenza y Góngora (1645 – 1700). Portuguese Hebraist, Lexicographer and Legalist, author of perhaps the most methodological system for Talmud study, Darke No'am, Rabbi Salomão de David de Oliveira (d. 1708) Mexican Poetess, Feminist and Playwright, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651 – 1695). Brazilian Playwright, Antonio José da Silva (1703 – 1739). Mexican Revolutionary, Fray Servando Teresa de Mier de Noriega y Guerra (1765 – 1827).

• • •


• • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Brazilian Independence Pionneer, José Jaoquim Maia (1766 – 1787). Livornese and American Community Leader, Hebraist, Writer, Social Activist and Historian, Rabbi Sabato Morais (1823 – 1897). First Brazilian President, Manuel Deodoro da Fonseca (1827 – 1892). U.S. North American Jurisprudent, U.S. Supreme Justice Benjamin N. Cardozo (1870 – 1938) Revolutionary and Mexican President, in the modern Democracy of Mexico, Francisco I. Madero (1873 – 1913) Mexican Painter, Muralist and Social Activist, Diego Rivera (1886 – 1957). Dutch Community Leader and Linguist, Rabbi Salomão de Aharon Rodrigues Pereira (n. 1887 – 1969) Brazilian Composer, Heitor Villa-Lôbos (1887 – 1959). Mexican Poet, Writer and Political Intellectual, inspiration to Jorge Luis Borges, Alfonso Reyes (1889 – 1959). Catalá Surrealist Painter, Joan Miró (1893 - 1983) Argentinian Writer, and one of the most influential thinkers in the 20th c., Jorge Luis Borges (1899 – 1986) Brazilian Writer, Bernardo Elis de Campos Curado (b. 1915 - ). Uruguayan former-President, and political supporter for the State of Israel, Luis Alberto la Calle Herrera (1941 - ). Brazilian cantora, Elis Regina Carvalho Costa (1945 – 1982).

In the words of historian Lewis A. Tambs: The immense human tragedy of the Expulsion of the Jews from Castile and Aragón often overshadows the great cultural contributions by marranos and New Christians both prior to and after 1492. . . [One] distinguished Catholic family was among the many New Christians such as Fernándo Rojas, author of the first Castilian novel La Celestina; Juan Luis Vives, Christian Humanist and Catholic Apologist; Luis de León, theologian and poet; Juan de Polanco, secretary to St. Ignatius Loyola, Vicar General of the Society of Jesus, and assistant to St. Francis Borgia of the Council of Trent; and quite possibly Diego Lainez, second General of the Jesuits, St. John of the Cross, and St. Teresa of Avila, who contributed to the literary and religious Golden Age of Spain. . . Luis de Torres, whose fluency in Hebrew and Arabic would be essential when Columbus made landfall in the empire of the great Khan. Torres would later be granted extensive estates in Cuba and is credited with introducing American tobacco to Europe. . . Antonio de Nebrija published his Gramática de la Lengua Castellana at Salamanca. Written with the Queen's encouragement . . . marked “the transition of Castilian from the status of vernacular language to that of a cultivated one.” This grammar, the first Romance language to be standardized . . ., and would form the basis for imperial linguistic unity in the Peninsula, Africa, the Americas, and the Pacific . . . which would endure for three centuries . . . conversos and New Christians would contribute mightily to the Golden Age of art, literature, empire, and Counter Reformation.12
Tambs, Lewis A., Religion in the Age of Exploration: The Case of Spain and New Spain, Religion in the Age of Exploration, Creighton University Press, 1996, p.50-52.


The Anusím and former-Anusím of Iberia became instrumental for the first system of global trade ever instituted, introducing new produce (tomatoes, chocolate, potatoes, squashes, turkey, etc.) and bullion to the Old World, promoting egalitarian thinking – a threshold for modern Democracy; producing among the most enduring and humane inspirational pieces of literature known to mankind; formulating the first legal philosophies for the protection of subjugated populations; revitalizing Jewish jurisprudence; pioneering religious plurality among Christendom as the first Jews in Dutch and English-America (Recife, Savannah, New Amsterdam); introducing printing in the Middle East and the New World. In sum, the world as we know it today – and the ability for Jews to live in free societies – would not have been possible without their contributions.

To answer a man before hearing him out is foolish and disgraceful [Prov. 18:13] Then He saw it and gauged it; He measured it and probed it . . . then, He said to man. [Job 28:27].


Treatment of Anusím upon Returning to Judaism According to Rabbinic Tradition
One needs to set forth a few pointers regarding the treatment of Anusím, when they return to Judaism. First, we need a few definitions. Formally, an Anús / Anusá is a Jew / Jewess coerced to abandon Judaism against his / her will. Furthermore, an Anús is a Jew who keeps Jewish Law to the best of his / her abilities under the coerced condition, and does whatever in his / her power to abandon the situation of coercion. A Jew by Rabbinical definition is not only the son or daughter of a Jewess, but also – from the behavioral standpoint – one who keeps living within Rabbinic tradition. Rabbis make a difference between a Jew who lives within Judaism, and one who does not. Rabbinic tradition is the interpretative and exegetical mode of transmission formalized since the times of the Mishná (2nd and 3rd c. CE) to our present century. The Mishná is the Oral tradition, as formulated by the post-2nd Temple Rabbis from the 1st to the 3rd centuries, and it has regulated the entire interpretive tradition ever since. Formally, the Jewish-way-of-life is set according to Rabbinic tradition, from birth to death. Hence, the sect of the Qara‘im (i.e. literalist, who date back to the 8th c. CE) created by ‘Anan ben David – who do not follow the Rabbinic mode of hermeneutics, or interpretation – are not called Jews. Likewise, a Jew who willingly and knowingly denies the Law, either in its Written and Oral forms, is called an “apostate” (heb. min13). A first-generation coerced-Jew (heb. anús), or an Israelite who is a rebel, who stays in that condition and starts assimilating to a non-Jewish praxis is called a “renegade of the Law” or “heretic” (heb. meshumad14). The children of any of the aforementioned can be considered an anús / anusá – since he / she was born under that condition of abodá zará (i.e. foreign service) against his / her will, providing the mother is an Israelite.
Five are the ones that are called “minim”: that who a) says who there is no God, and there is no one driving the world; b) those who say there’s someone driving the world, but this is two or more; c) those who say there is one only Lord, but that he has body and image; d) also the one who says that he is not the only first and Creator of all; y d) those who serve another [god] besides him, so to be an intermediary between himself and God. Each one of these five is a “min.” (min=singular; minim=plural). [MT Book of Science, V: Chp. 3, 15]. For a sensible assessment on the Biblical and Talmudic sources regulating this position, see Foot Moore’s Judaism (Hendrickson, 1997), pp. 460 – 473. 14 Two are “mešumadim”: a) the “mešumad” for only one type of transgression; and b) the “mešumad” in relation to the whole Torá. The “mešumad” for one type of transgression – that is whoever is stuck to a [determined] transgression, making it consciously and knowingly, becoming accustomed [to it], same way with lighter [transgressions], for example, to dress with [clothing made of] “ša‘atnez,” or trim [the hair in a round manner, without leaving the sideburns on the head, on each side,] the peá, making it appear as if this precept [was inexistent] void for the whole world – this is a “mešumad” in relation to such thing [i.e. the given precept]. This is, if done with the intention to provoke. [In regards to] the “mešumad” for the whole Torá, this is that who turn to the laws [as creeds] of the gentiles, when these decree religious persecutions, uniting with them, saying: “ – What gain do I have in remaining united to the People of Israel, who are humiliated and persecuted? It is better for me to unite to those whose hand is powerful!” – this is the “mešumad” for the whole Torá. [MT Book of Science, V: Chp. 3, 18]. For a sensible assessment on the Biblical and Talmudic sources regulating this position, see Foot Moore’s Judaism (Hendrickson, 1997), pp. 460 – 473.


Unlike Christianity, Rabbinic tradition does not recognize a political separation for an act of rebellion,15 in other words for abandoning the Law and all that it implicates. This follows the Talmudic doctrine An Israelite, although he sinned, is still an Israelite [Sanhedrin 44a]. In Talmudic [4th to the 9th c.] and Post-Talmudic times, the children of Qara‘im are considered as “children in captivity,” that is children of Israelites who were raised as non-Jews, i.e. outside Rabbinical tradition. In the event he or she wishes to marry someone from the Jewish community, he / she only needs to make a promise (haverut) to keep Rabbinical tradition. In essence, according to the Andalusian view that ‘aboda zara is any “foreign service” not stipulated by the Torá (Oral and Written), it makes no difference if the Israelite professes Christianity, Islam or any sectarian movement sensibly stemming out of Judaism, Qara‘im and Reform included. In pre and post-Expulsion times, from 2nd generation onward, the children of either first-generation Anusím, Meshumadim, or Minim are ALL considered by the rabbis as Anusím. In essence, the fact that the child grew up outside Judaism, against his / her will, is enough grounds to consider him / her an Anús / Anusá. These responsa can be divided in three phases: a) During the persecution and conversions (1391-1497); b) after the complete expulsion of unconverted Jews until the formation of Spanish-Portuguese Amsterdam community (1497 – 1610’s); after the establishment and expansion of the Spanish-Portuguese tradition until the last written responsum by Hakham Bensión Uzziel, the former Chief Rabbi of Sephardim of the State of Israel (1880-1953). In case of crypto-Jews — non-Jewish academic term for the Anusím who keep Jewish Law to the best of their abilities, or in Rabbinic terms, kasher (proper / complete / true) Jews — their shekhitá (Jewish ritual slaughter of animals permitted for Jewish consumption) was to be trusted, their unions considered valid and binding, their wine considered kasher, etc. In sum, for most practical purposes, Anusím observant of Jewish Law are considered full-fledged Jews. Rabbinical tradition does its best to win the Anusím back, to the point of punishing those Jews who throw demeaning attitudes towards Anusím, and which might drive them away. On which point, it expresses an innate interest and compromise from the rabbanim to protect those who are weak and unprotected, as a Shepherd would care for his flock. In most cases, we find that Rabbinical tradition treats Anusím kindly, especially those after the second generation. On which point, it expresses an innate interest and compromise from the rabbanim to care for those who are sick.

What this means is that the citizenship status of an Israelite does not change, regardless of the act of heresy; however, this does not include the laws relating to the Israelite functioning as a Jew. Every Israelite can perform teshubá (return) and be readmitted into the community. The measure in which this is done can be varied.


In some cases, Rabbinical tradition is very harsh towards them, since some Anusím do not have a desire to return to Judaism. On which point, it expresses an innate interest and compromise from the rabbanim towards the Anusím, as a responsible father would demonstrate for the education and future well-being of his son. In no case whatsoever, Rabbinical tradition seems indifferent and insensible towards the Anusím. On which point, it expresses an innate interest and compromise from the rabbanim as a Shepherd would not abandon his flock, a Doctor his patient, a Father his son. Not even the behavior of beasts would express such attitude for its offspring. God indeed has infinite Mercy.



Key Rabbinical Responsa on Anusím per Categories*
1. Anusím are to be regarded as Jews A) It is known that a “Jew, even a sinner, is still a Jew.” If the Anús takes a wife, the Kiddush is valid, even if he is an Anús who was born [as] a non-Jew and was not circumcised – as long as the mother is an Anusá, even when his father was a non-Jew; the case is even stronger if both of them were Anusím.16 B) They do not require a Mikveh as it is assumed their mother was Jewish. They are not proselytes but regarded as , and as . Their Kiddush is valid.17 A Levire (a widow) whose brother-in-law is an Anús is tied to him even when he is not circumcised. C) R. Jacob ibn Habib (born in ca. 1460, died ca. 1515) declares that the Anusím and their descendants are to be regarded as Jews.18 D) R. Salomon b. Simon Durán (born ca.1400, died 1467), declares that the Anusím are to be regarded as Jews, even their uncircumcised children, as long as their mother was Jewish, i.e an Anusá. They are not to be compared to the common Proselytes. The Mikveh is also not required of them when they revert back to Judaism. The children of the Anusím are regarded as their children in all aspects; nothing refers to them as non-Jews. “Proselytes do not have any relationships with their parents.” (Mishná Yeb.XI 2).19 An Anús who is willing to be circumcised has to say the prayer: ¯ As the Anusím are regarded as Jews, and to entice them back to Judaism, they have to be treated gently as not to frighten them at their return. An Anús should be accepted into Judaism even if he converts out of love for a Jewish girl. E) Kislev 5315 (October 30, 1555), Abraham Sirelao declared that there is no difference between the Anusím who were forced into baptism in 1391 and those of later years (1492, 1497, 1498).20 F) R. Yosef Caro (1488 – 1575) agreed in the Shulkhan Arukh with the decision of R. Isaac b. Sheshet that the Anusím, who practice the Jewish faith in secret and who were unable to flee the country, are to be regarded as Jews.21

All the Responsa was extracted from Zimmel’s Die marranen in der rabbinischen literature (Berlin, 1932). Translation by Margarit Nash. Any other responsa taken from other sources are indicated as “Taken from.” All brackets are mine. 16 Responsa of R. Simon ben Durán (d. 1510 ), N. 223. 17 Responsa of R. Simon ben Durán, N. 19. 18 In the Responsa of R. Yosef ibn Leb I 15. 19 Responsa of R. Simon b. Durán, N. 223. 20 In the Responsa of R. Yosef ibn Leb I 15. 21 Shulkhan Arukh, Yoreh Deah CXIX 12.


G) R. Shelomo b. Isaac ha-Levi (d. 1635)22 regarded those Anusím who secretly adhered to Judaism as Jews. He based his decision on RSbA [R. Shalomo b. Aaron ibn Hason] and RibS [R. ibn Simon b. Durán]. H) The danger of being discovered by the Christians made the Anusím more pious than the ordinary Jews who could observe their faith without danger. At a wedding, which was conducted in secret, the Anusím asked other Anusím as witnesses and not Jews, although they knew that the Jews would not recognize the Anusím as witnesses. The [rabbinic] reason [to consider Anusím as witness] was: In their own eyes they regarded the Anusím as more suited than the Jews as “their hearts were turned toward Heaven.”23 The rabbis took pity on those Anusím who tried so hard to meet some of their Jewish rituals and they regarded them as “complete Jews.”24 These Anusím carry the name or or . J) R. Shalomo b. R. Simon Durán wrote: “I am often asked with regard to those Anusím whose heart are in the right place and who want to live by the rituals: what to do with the food during Pesah. If they abstain form everything and only eat rice or the equivalent, the Christians would accuse them: You are still adhering to the rituals of your ancestors in only eating rice. Rice is cooked in all households. These tormented people live in fear and defy only the less serious offenses.”25 K) Isaak Levi, said: “I asked David who he is, whether his family are descendants from Jews or non-Jews,” and he answered. “My father was the personal physician to the queen and he told me that he is of Jewish descendent and that he has Jewish brothers in Turkey.” When I arrived here, I was informed that I have a cousin in Tiberias, therefore I, David, said: “It seems to be true what I heard of my father and what other people told me who knew my family. The witness said to him,: “If this is so, you should have mercy on him, he is of noble heritage.” David answered: “I shall do whatever I can.” David Oliviera died and R. Moshe Gedilya, son of Yosef Gedalia, appeared as the heir.26 L) Those “who were born into heresy, misled by their parents to believe in it and educated on it from their childhood” must be considered “forced ones” (Anusím) . . . every man, convinced that his father would like him to believe in truth, not in falsehood, believes in the teachings of his father more than in those of a hundred other people. (circa 1444)27 M) “Indeed, when it comes to lineage, all the people of Israel are brethren. We are all the sons of one father, the rebels and criminals, the apostates and forced converts, and the proselytes who are attached to the house to the house of Jacob. All these are Israelites. Even if they left

22 See Conforte’s Kore ha-Doroth p. 46, which is identical to R. Shelomo ha-Levi Jr. N. 4 (p. 64d); edition 1633. 23 R. Simon b. R. Shalomo with R. Elia Misrakhi N. 32 S. 20c f. 24 II 3 (69b). 25 Responsa of RSbS N. 90. 26 R. Moshe Trani (1505 – 1585); III N. 205, (p. 42a f.) 27 R. Salomon ben Durán – a.k.a. RASHBASH – Responsa, No. 89 (17b).


God or denied Him, or violated His Law, the yoke of that Law is still upon their shoulders and will never be removed from them.”28 N) [R. Aaron Soloveichik, 5754] They [the Anusím] must be treated like full Jews in every way (counted for minyan, given aliyot, etc.) 2. According to Talmudic and Gaonic practice, no one is supposed to bring doubt on the Jewish maternal ancestry of the Jew / Anús, unless there is proof to the contrary A) There is a decision in the Talmud (Kiddushin, 76a-b) which says, “ . . . when one is about to marry a woman of priestly lineage, he should research the records of her family up to four maternal generations.” Rabí Judá in the name of Rab maintains that this is only the opinion of Rabbi Meir, while the sages maintain that the opinion to examine family records is not necessary, since we assume that all Jews are of legitimate descent. Rabí Hama in the name of Rab maintains that only when the legitimate status of a woman is disputed, the man has to investigate the records of her family.” Although there have been differences of opinion among the codifiers regarding this issue, all of them agree that the requirements to examine family records of the woman applies only in a case referent to the rights of priestly lineage. In the other cases, however, where the priestly lineage had not been considered, there is no need to examine the woman’s records, since we assume that all Israelites are within the status of legitimate descent . . . Rabbi Yosef Taitazak also says, “ . . . if someone would bring up the question about the possibility that the child is of a non-Jewish woman, my answer would be, that unless there is proof the contrary, we take as fact that the child is from a Jewish woman.”29 3. Anusím are to be encouraged to keep the Commandments A) Should an Anús wish not to follow the commandments we have to let him go. This must be prevented; the Anusím were in earlier years obligated to follow the commandments; we should try to win them back with kindness.30 B) [R. Mordechai Eliahu, 5755] It is appropriate to apply vis-à-vis them (the Anusím) all that is stated in the Shulhan Arukh, Yoreh Deah 268, and as Rabbi Solomon ben Simeon ben

R. She’adyá ben Maimon ibn Danan, Khemdah Genuzah, 15b Taken from R. Samuel de Medina, Responsa III, 112; Samuel, son of Moses ha-Levi de Medina, was born in Salonika in 1505 or 1506. Heir to a prominent Castilian family, Samuel became at a young age a halakhic authority in the Ottoman Empire and beyond, and sought after by the eminences of his day. His direct teachers were Rabbi Joseph Taitazak, Levi ibn Habib, Joseph Caro and Joseph ibn Leb, thus expressing the transmission of the highest authorities in Spanish Jewry. He was appointed the head of Salonika’s House of Study (Bet Hamidrash), academy founded by Doña Gracia Mendes, a former-Anusá. His collection of responsa was published in 1589, the year of his passing, under the title Piske ha-Rashdam; Goodblatt, Morris S.; Jewish Life in Turkey in the XVIth Century: As Reflected in the Legal Writings of Samuel de Medina; New York (1952); p. 26. 30 Responsa of RSbS N. 89 (p. 17b).
28 29


Duran wrote, “He is to be drawn with kindness.” That is, they must be praised for coming today to openly observe all the commandments of the Torah. 4. Jews who molest or insult Anusím must be punished, even with banishment from the community A) A widow, who entered a new marriage, was chastised because her Levire lived as an Anús under non-Jews. R. Moshe b. Elia Kapsali accused those men who chastised her as “Apostates of idolatry” ( ). “Their intention is to prevent the Anusím from returning to Judaism. Upon hearing that they may not remarry they will not accept Judaism.”31 Every insult to the Anusím was condemned. A man in Arta, who referred to the returning Anusím as “Apostates” and harassed them, should be banished, according to R. Benjamin Seeb32 [. . .]. B) R. Salomo ibn Hasson wrote: “Ruben and his son Simon came as Anusím from Portugal to Turkey and returned to Judaism. Both were Kohanim. Ruben died. One day Simon got into an argument with a Jew and heated words were exchanged. A Jew called Simon: ‘Christ, son of Christ! All Portuguese are Christians!’” The scholar whose opinion was asked declared with regard to the accusers. There were three sins: 1. He called him a “non-Jew.” 2. He damaged Ruben's reputation who was of the Kohanim. 3. He offended all Anusím who do penitence. The offence of calling all Portuguese “Christians” is the most serious one. There are scholars and pious men among them. . . . Each of the accusers is asked to apologize, to be chastised, to fast and to submit to punishment under the order of banishment.33 C) “Through our sins the Jews who lived peacefully in Spain, Portugal, Sicily, Kalabrien and Apulien were forced into baptism by those kings, the villains. The Jews remained true believers. The king ordered some murdered, some were drowned, many of them were forced into baptism. They fled those countries and came here to return to Judaism. If we do not punish those who accuse them of sins, they will no longer come.”34 D) “If the Anusím are to be considered as gentiles and those who return to Judaism as proselytes, their desire to return to the fold will weaken, so that finally they will assimilate among the gentiles, add crime to their sin, and even their name will be forgotten from Israel.”35 F) It is well known from the account of our rabbis that before the Israelites left Egypt, they corrupted their ways and violated the covenant of circumcision, so that none of them save the tribe of Levi was circumcised . . . Nevertheless, although they were corrupt as all this, God rebuked Moses for saying: What if they do not believe me? [Exod. 4:1]. And he retorted: They are believers, children of believers; believers, as Scripture reports: and the people . . . believed [Exod. 14:31]; sons of believers: because he believed, He reckoned it to his merit [Gen. 15:6].
In the Responsa of R. Benjamin Seeb N. 75 (p. 141b). In the Responsa of R. Benjamin Seeb N. 287 (p. 405). 33 Beth Shelomo N. 14. 34 R Benjamin . Seeb b. Mathithyahu (b. 1470, d. ca. 1540); N. 284 (p. 405). 35 R. She’adyá ben Maimon ibn Danan, Khemdah Genuzah, 16b
31 32


But you will end up not believing; it is told in Scripture: Because you did not believe Me enough to affirm My sanctity [Num. 20:12]. In fact, he was punished at once, as the rabbis understood: “He who suspects the innocent suffers physically. What is the proof? Moses.”36 5. Anusím descendants of Kohanim are to be considered Kohanim A) R. Simon decided that the descendants of Anusím ( or those ) in case they insist on their Kohanim heritage, and a witness can verify this claim, are to be regarded as Kohanim.37 B) R. lsaak b. Eleasar testified: his father told him, that R. lsaak Pomar's (Fumar?) father was married to the niece of his wife. The niece was an Anusá and came from the family Benveniste. Furthermore he was a Kohen from the family Ardut. R. Isaak b. Eleasar and another man also mentioned that R. Josef Pomar, who lived in Constantinople, was regarded as a Kohen and a member of the family Ardut. He was overheard saying that the father of R. lsaak Pomar was his uncle, namely the brother of his father. Should he (R. Isaak Pomar), be regarded as a Kohen now be the first to recite the Torá and to say the blessings? R. Moshe Trani decided that he is to be regarded as an Kohen.38 6. If the Anusá is a Levire, she is not tied to his brother-in-law Anús A) She also does not require a Haliza (divorce letter). She may enter a new marriage. These are the words of R. Moshe Almosnino.39 Also signed by six other scholars R. Yosef ibn Habib,40 R. Shelomo Teytazak,41 R. Meir Arama,42 R. Yosef Fasi,43 R. Moshe ¯ ,44 and R. Elieser haShimeoni.45 B) R. Yosef Caro decided that the woman is free, not tied to a Levire, as the Kiddush which were performed in Portugal are not legal. R. Shalom, R. Yosef and R. Moshe Trani agree.46 C) For women whose husband’s death cannot be determined: “We learn in the Mishná (Yeb. XV, 1) that, if a woman has been overseas (or in foreign parts) and there is peace between her and her husband, but there is war in the world, and she comes back and says, ‘My husband died,’ she is not believed (see the more correct text in IV, no. 219). Maimonides, of blessed memory,
Maimonides, Iggeret ha-Shemad. Appears in Halkin’s translation of Maimonides’ letters, Epistles of Maimonides (JPS, Philadelphia 1993); p. 18. 37 Responsa of R. Simon ben Durán, II 3. 38 Responsa of Moshe Trani (d. 1585); II 40 (p. 10b f.). 39 About R. Mose Almosnino see Conforte, Kore ha-Doroth ed. Cassel p. 38a, 39; and Rosanes, History of the Jews in Turkey, II 20. 40 Conforte p. 32a, 33. 41 Conforte p. 22; in the Responsa of RSdM, read the signatures: Yosef b. Shelomo Teytazak and Elieser ha-Shimeoni. 42 Conforte, p. 30, 32. 43 Rosanes, p. 36. 44 Sera Anaishim N. 44 (p. 83 ff.) 45 Sera Anaishim N. 53 ( (p. 89f.); Also see the Responsa of R. Yosef ibn Leb I 15. 46 Eben ha-Eser n. 5 (p. 4c f.)


says (she is not believed) even if she says, ‘I have buried him,’ because she is making that statement by guesswork (since so many people were killed in the war, she assumes that he husband, who has disappeared, has likewise been killed). They ask the question in the Talmud (Yeb. 114b): ‘Should we not believe her when she says that there was a war? For what would she gain by telling a lie on that score? She could easily have said there was peace in the world and he died on his deathbed, and she would be believed (and therefore believing her, we should declare her free to remarry). Or should we say that she was guessing (about his death, and therefore not free her)?’ This question is not clearly settled (i.e. whether to free her or not). Maimonides says about her, she should not marry; but that, if she does, she may remain married, and any child of hers from the new marriage is casher (i.e. he is not illegitimate and may marry a Jew).47 7. The Kiddush of the Anusím is not valid A) R. Yosef Caro (1488 – 1575) declared in a responsa that the Kiddush of the Anusím are not valid.48 B) The pious Rachel, daughter of R. Jakob got engaged to the rabbi lsaak ibn Atar in Saloniki. A rumor circulated that she was once married to an Anús in Ferrara. The council of the rabbis separated Rachel from R. Isaak She maintained that she was never married to an Anús, furthermore she knows that the person, who is circulating this rumor and who wanted to marry her, is a non-Jew. At the engagement only five people were present, four of them were her relatives: her father, a cousin and two brother-in-laws. What is going to happen to Rachel? Is she allowed to marry her fiancé? The answer: Witnesses testify he was a non-Jew, his father was a non-Jew. If his mother was an Anusá or a non-Jew, they were not certain. R. Salomo Kohen [b. ca 1535, d. ca. 1602] decided that the supposed wedding in Ferraro was not valid. The validity of the Kiddush of a man, whose father is a non-Jew and whose mother is a Jew, only applies when the mother is a true [observant] Jew. For the women in Portugal, however, who lived for many years among non-Jews, we should make it easier for them even when their descendants are Anusím.49 8. If the Anusá is a Levire, she is tied to his brother-in-law Anús A) R. Yosef ibn Leb (born ca. 1505, died ca. 1580) decided that a female Levire is tied to her Anús brother-in-law. This applies even if he is a descendant of the “old Anusím” who were forced into baptism 200 years ago. She is not allowed to enter a new marriage without Haliza. It has happened in earlier times in Salonika that the scholars allowed a Levire, whose brother-inlaw was from the “old Anusím,” to remarry without Halizah. R. Yosef ibn Leb agreed to this decision, not because these Anusím were “less holy” ( ), but because it happened sometimes that some of them married non-Jews. In the Talmud, Ketuboth 15a, the principle is applied ¯ ¯. Therefore, it is possible that the Levire is a descendant of those
R. David ibn Zimri (1479 – 1589) Head of the Egyptian Community, this responsa is found TWICE in his collection of rulings Vol. IV, no. 219 and Vol. VIII, no. 9. Taken from Salomon F. Freehoff’s A Treasury of Responsa (JPSA, Philadelphia 1963). P. 124, but with a self-counter-response in p. 125, thus stating why the Agunah cannot marry. 48 Eben ha-Ezer N. 5; also Abkath Roshel N. 90. 49 R. Salomón Kohen; Responsa II 202 (p. 143c ff.)


who married non-Jewish women. A difference of opinion exists among the scholars if an Apostate is obligated to Haliza. It is . However, he changed his opinion and maintains now that even if the Levire is of an “old” descendant, the female Levire cannot marry without Haliza.50 9. Anusím are to participate in the Torá, even if uncircumcised A) [Mid-17th century] An Anús fled into a predominantly Jewish community, converted to Judaism, but did not agree to be circumcised. He may, at a later date, have to go back to his former place because of debt collections. The question is: Is he or is he not allowed to participate in the Torá? Is he or is he not allowed that the Tefilah be bound around him? Decision by R. Jakob b. Mose Senior ( ), rabbi in Pisa, grandfather of R. Refael Meldolá, [says that] he would allow it. The scholars in Livorno also agree: R. Shalomo Azubi, Samuel Usiel, Maleachi b. R. David Montefuscole, David Israel b. R. Eleasar Meldolá . . . Not in favor is R. Rafael Meldolá. He decided that the Anús is not allowed to come before the Torá.51 B) [R. Aaron Soloveichik, 5754] I am taking the liberty to write about the people in the Americas who claim to be descendants of the marranos of Spain and Portugal. They must be treated like full Jews in everyway (counted for minyan, given aliyot, etc.) 10. Anusím require Mikveh A) This opinion is shared by R. Benveniste Mercado b. Abraham Gategno (18th century),52 who addresses the question if the Anusím, upon return to Judaism, require a Mikveh. He quotes RSbS, who decided that the Anusím do not require a Mikveh. The author of is of the opinion that they should be regarded as worse than non-Jews. At the time of the RSbS the situation of the Anusím was different. They did not have the opportunity to flee, it was immediately after the forced baptism and the Anusím were not “godless” (without God) . . . Today, after a many years have passed since the persecution, they cling to the lies “untruth” and they do not return to Judaism out of greed. Their touch to the wine makes it unsuitable for rituals. They do not feel obligated to observe the death rituals . . . They are “Minim” (heretics) or worse than non-Jews -- so writes the author of . They did not flee because they idolize and they are of evil heart. Those who have to listen to all this, should they not say with a heavy heart that the Anusím, who convert to Judaism, require a Mikveh. All non-Jews have to take a Mikveh, the same should be required of an Anús. It is well known that only the water cleanses.53 B) [R. Aaron Soloveichik, 5754] Only when one of these Anusím wishes to marry a Jew, he or she must undergo immersion in a mikve (without the blessing) and full acceptance of mitzvot or commitment to the Torah. 11. Anusím are to be compared to a Jewish child who lived as a prisoner among non-Jews
R. Yosef ibn Leb I 15. Mayim Rabim II 51-53. 52 See Mercado’s legal writings N. 10 and 31; the first is from 1755, and the last from 1760. See also H. Brody in Encyclopedia Judaica VII 110.
50 51 53

¯ 29

A) This is the opinion of R. Samuel b. R. Abraham Aboab (died 1694). When he was asked the question if the descendants of the Anusím were to be regarded as Apostates he replied: (in contrast to many others) this only applies to those who were forced into baptism and had knowledge of Judaism. They were aware that idolizing was forbidden but did it anyway. Their children, who have never seen the light of the Torá, are no different from a Jewish child that lived as a prisoner among non-Jews or with the Karaites ( ) even Maimonides, MT Hilkhot Mamrim III 3, had pity on them, and treated them lightly.54 B) “It seems that (these Israelites, the Falashas – the “black Jews” from Abyssinia) belong to the sect of Zadok and Boethus, the sect who are called Qaracim. . . For they only know a few of the commandments. They do not know the Oral Law at all; and they do not kindle lights on the Shabat . . . Furthermore, there is a general reason for the rule that the Qaracim are to be deemed Israelites. . . I admit that if they [the Falashas] all agreed to enter into our community, making a promise of obedience to it (haverut) and to accept the tradition of our rabbis to be like us, I, with the agreement of the scholars, would permit them to enter our community . . .”55

54 55

N. 45 (p. 18c f.) R. David ibn Zimri (1479 – 1589) Head of the Egyptian Community, this responsa is found TWICE in his collection of rulings Vol. IV, no. 219 and Vol. VIII, no. 9. Taken from Salomon F. Freehoff’s A Treasury of Responsa (JPSA, Philadelphia 1963). P. 125 –126.


in alphabetical order

Name of Rabbis and Dayanim [14th to 20th c.] who dealt with the Iberian-Anusím question
quoting on whom they based their decisions. Abraham ; R. Isaak de Lattes p. 110 f. Abraham ibn Asher, Dayan Abraham Gabriel; Responsa of R. Yom Tob Zahalon N. 148. Abraham b. Josef ha-Levi; IV 45 Abraham Beton; R. Isaak de Lattes p. 110 f. Abraham b. Mose de Boton; N. 5, 44, 220. Abraham Shalom; Responsa of Yosef Caro N. 5 Abraham Seralvo; Responsa of RSdM N. 305. Abraham Usiel; R. Isaak of Lattes p. 110 f. Aaron Sason; N. 20, 90. Aaron ibn ¯ ; Dayan Aaron Soloveitchik Amram Efrathi b. ; RibS N. 11f. Asarja Figo; N. 45: , N. 39; N. 23; XLVI 1 p. 51a. Astruc Kohen; RibS N. 4; . Benjamin Amer; RibS N. 6, Tashbez II 234. Benjamin b. Mathithayahu Seeb; his own Responsa N. 76 S. 142, S. 165b f. 203 S. 298, 204 p. 300 287 f. p. 402 ff. N. 368 S. 490b; N. 73, 74 Benjamin b. Meir ha-Levi Ashkenazi; RSdM N. 305 Benjamin ibn Rosh; Dayan Benjamin b. Shemarya; R. David Kohen ed. Constantinople N. 23, ed. Ostrog N. 19. Benveniste Mercado b. Abraham Gatigno; ¯ N. 3 Bension Uzziel Haim Benveniste; N. 71, ¯ to N. 3 (ed. Smyrna 1731, S. 4d) and N. 157 (p. 202c f.) Haim Katon, Dayan Haim Sabbathai, II 13, 18. Dayanim of Damascus: Mose Baruch, Jacob Aaron ibn ¯ ; Abraham ibn Asher, Benjamin b. Rosh; based on R. Moshe Trani II 83 p. 24 Dayaním of Ferrara: Rafael Yosef Treves Samuel dal Vechio Salomo Kohen de Ardiro Dayaním of Constantinople: Yosef b. Trani Saadia ha-Kohen Jaim Katon Rafael b. Barukh ; Pene Moshe N. 92 p. 160


Dayaním de Üsküb: Elia Moshe León Moshe Bedarshi; Shalomo Kohen II 105 p. 149 Dayaním of Venedig Shemaya di Medina Asrya Figo Simha Luzzato; Pene Moshe p. 161 David b. Israel b. Eleasar Meldola David Kohen; his own Responsa ed. Constantinople 1537 N. 9 (ed. Ostrog, 1834, N. 9) David Kohen ; addressing the question in Tashbez II 176, 278. David b. Nethanel Carcassoni; N. 59. David b. Samuel ha-Kohen; , addressing the question by RSbS N. 553. David ibn Abi Simra; his own Responsa, ed. Warschau 1882 I 48, 434, II 651, 683, VII 31. See also III 558 and N. 69, 1137. Elia Misrahi; N. 3. Eliahu ibn Haim; his own Responsa ed. Constantinople N. 46 Eliahu ha-Levi; N. 17. Elieser ha-Shimeoni Elisha Gallico; Responsa of Mose Trani II/2 205. Isaac Abd al Hakk, son of the doctor Aarón abd al Hakk; Responsa of RIbS N. 14. Isaac Don Don Isaak ibn Feso Isaak b. Samuel Adarbi; N. 83, 198, 273, 278, 283, 365, 370. Isaak de Lattes Isaak b. Shesheth; his own Responsa N. 1, 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 14, 43, 46-52; addressing the question in Tashbez II 201 = III 83. Jacob b. Abraham de Boton; N. 72 f. Jacob Berab; his own Responsa N. 39, where he writes to the scholars in Egypt. See also the Responsa of R. Yom Tob Zahalon N. 13, 201, R. Mose Trani II/ 1 83, R. Yosef Trani N. 18, ¯ to N. 2 (ed. Smyrna p. 4d) Jacob b. Habib; in the Responsa of R. Yosef ibn Leb I 15; see also RSdM to 315 and N. 199. These concur with the decrees in Salonika. Jacob b. Mose Senior de Pisa; of R. Rafael Meldola II 51. Jacob Penso; addressing the question in N. 92. Jacob b. Samuel Teytazak; Dayan. Jacob Sasportas; N. 4 (p. 3ª), 59. Jacob ; Dayan Judá ; see the Responsa of R. Jacob Berab N. 39, R. Moshe Trani II 1 83; also see p. 40 Anm. 2. Judá Zarfathi; see Responsa ¯ to N. 3 S 4d. “Kohen” see other sections p. 113. Levi ibn Abib Meir Arama Meir Lublin; his Responsa N. 61, 118. Mordechai Nagar; addressing the question in RIbS N. 43 Moshe Almosnino


Moshe b. Amer; addressing the question RIbS N. 43. Moshe ¯ Moshe Barukh Moshe Bedarshi Moshe Benveniste; N. 61, 92. Moshe b. Elia Kapsali; Responsa by R. Benjamin Seeb N. 75. Moshe Gabbai; addressing the question by RibS N. 46. Moshe Galante; his own Responsa N. 95 and that of R. Yom Tob Zahalon Moshe ibn Gamil; agrees with N. 39. Moshe León Moshe de Segovia; agrees with N. 39. Moshe Trani; his own Responsa ed. Lemberg 1861 I/2 142 S. 7b f., 170 (14c), 273; 273; II/1 17, 40, 83; II/ 2 24, 63, 205; see II/1 122; ¯ N. 80, Responsa of R. Yosef Caro N. 5. Mordekhai Eliahu Nathan and colleagues in Fez (Morocco); addressing the question in ¯ II 3. Rafael b. Barukh Rafael b. Eleasar Meldola; II 27, 32. 53, IV 47. Rafael Yosef Treves Rafael b. Samuel Corcoss de Florencia; IV 46. Saadya ha-Kohen Saadya b. Maimun ibn Danan; Khemda Genusá ed. Edelmann I 13 ff. Shalomo b. Aaron ibn Hason; N. 14 (s. 32ª ff.) N. 1 (p. 69b ff.), N. 33 (p. 129b ff.); N. 8 (p. 6b ff.) Shalomo Kohen; his own Responsa I 136, 158; II 30, 33, 105, 202, IV 31. Shalomo Kohen de Ardiro Shalomo b. Isaac ha-Levi; his Responsa in Yoreh Deah N. 20, 29. Shalomo de Xativa; addressing the question in ¯ I 125. Shalomo b. Simón Durán; his own Responsa N. 89, 90, 143, 223, 368, 393, 553. Shalomo Teytazak; agrees with opinions in p. 33. Samuel b. Abraham Aboab; N. 45. Samuel de Mercado de Ámsterdam; addressing the question in N. 4 p. 3e f. Samuel Samuel b. Yosef Usiel Samuel dal Vecchio Samuel de Medina; his own Responsa ed. Lemberg 1862 to Yoreh Deah N. 199; Eben ha-Eser N. 10, 110, 112, 115, 199; se also Khosen Mishpat N. 46,54, 55, 128, 305, 306, 315, 327-332. Shemaya de Medina Simha Luzatto Simón b. Zemaj Durán; Tashbez I 58 – 62, 63, 66; II 60, 139, 176, 201, 215, 234, 278; III 40, 43, 47, 83 (= II 201), 312; also see II 42, III 21. Simón b. Shelomo Durán; ¯ II 3, 19, 31, N. 32 Tam ibn Yahya; in N. 55, 91; see also p. 103 add. 1. Yehiel Basan; his own Responsa N. 92. Yehuda Ayyash; Beth Yehuda to Hoshen Mishpat N. 56. Yehuda ibn Benveniste Yom Tob Zahalon; his own Responsa N. 13, 148, 201.


Yona de Maistre; Tashbez 89; ¯ I 107 p. 26d, II 31 S. 78d; N. 32. Yosef Fasi Yosef Gabbai Yosef Caro; Eben ha-Eser N. 5, 1 ¯ N. 81, 90. Shulkhan Arukh: Yoreh Deah CXIX 12, CXXIV 9. Eben ha-Eser III 3, 4. Yosef ha-Levi; agrees with IV 45. Yosef ibn Leb; his own Responsa I 15, 19, 23, 71, S. 63c; II 13, 23, 54; III 25, 27, 75; agrees with RSdM in his N. 305; also see N. 327. Yosef b. Mose Trani; his own Responsa to N. 18. Yosef Teytazak; in the Responsa of RSdM to N. 327, N. 112, also see p. 35. Yosef de Valencia; question in ¯ II 19. Yosef Sagis; see the responsa of Yosef Caro N. 5. Yoshua b. Yosef ; his own Responsa II 18. Yoshua Soncin; Responsa in N. 12, 20, 39, 40. Zemach b. Shalomo Durán; ¯ I 55, 75, 107, 125; also 115.


ADDENDA 1. Mishpeté `Uzziel, Héleq Shení (2nd Tome),56 Hilkhót 'Ében ha`Ézer, Simán nun"tet (paragraph 59), sec. Bet (2), Nisuín Ezrahyym keshe'Anusím lazé me'Yre'áh deMalkhutá Civil Weddings of the Anusím through the Government. [Trans. Hakham Mordekhai Lopes] And we still have to clarify on the (subject of) Anusím, to whom the government forbids them to perform Halakhicly valid marriages, if it's necessary to say that their wives must have a Get (letter of divorce) to permit them (to marry another man), for the reason that, by Hazaqáh (streghth of the Law), a man does not have intercourse for promiscuity (zenút). (this meaning that all Jews, in this case are believed to have intercourse for marriage, even without witnesses). Cont...

Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel or Ouziel (1880-1953) was the Sephardi chief rabbi of the British Mandate of Palestine from 1939 to 1948, and of Israel from 1948 to 1954. Ben-Zion was born in Jerusalem, where his father, Joseph Raphael, was the av bet din of the Sephardi community of Jerusalem, as well as president of the community council. At the age of twenty he became a yeshivah teacher and also founded a yeshivah called Mahazikei Torah for Sephardi young men. In 1911, he was appointed hakham bashi of Jaffa and the district. Immediately upon his arrival in Jaffa he began to work vigorously to raise the status of the Oriental congregations there. In spirit and ideas he was close to the Ashkenazi rabbi of the Jaffa community, A. I. Kook, and their affinity helped to bring about more harmonious relations than previously existed between the two communities. During World War I he was active as a leader and communal worker. His intercession with the Turkish government on behalf of persecuted Jews finally led to his exile to Damascus but he was permitted to return to Eretz Yisrael, arriving in Jerusalem before the entry of the British army. In 1921 he was appointed chief rabbi of Salonika, accepting this office with the consent of the Jaffa-Tel Aviv community for a period of three years. He returned to become chief rabbi of Tel Aviv in 1923, and in 1939 was appointed Chief Rabbi of Palestine. Ben-Zion was a member of the temporary committee of Jews in Israel, a member of the Va'ad Le'ummi, and a representative at the meeting which founded the Jewish Agency. He appeared before the Mandatory government as a representative of the Jewish community and on missions on its behalf, and impressed all with his dignity and bearing. He was also founder of the yeshivah Sha'ar Zion in Jerusalem. He contributed extensively to newspapers and periodicals on religious, communal, and national topics as well as Torah novellae and Jewish philosophy. He was the author of: Mishpetei Ouziel, responsa (1st ed., 3 vols., 1935–60; 2nd ed., 4 vols., 1947–64); Sha'arei Ouziel (1944–46), consisting of halakhah, general topics, and a selection of his addresses, letters, and other writings; Mikhmannei Ouziel (1939); Hegyonei Ouziel (1953–54), and still other works in manuscript. He made "Love, truth, and peace" the motto of his life. This verse (Zechariah 8:19) hung framed above his desk and was inscribed on his note paper. Two days before his death he dictated his testament. It said, inter alia, "I have kept in the forefront of my thoughts the following aims: to disseminate Torah among students, to love the Torah and its precepts, Israel and its sanctity; I have emphasized love for every man and woman of Israel and for the Jewish people as a whole, love for the Lord God of Israel, the bringing of peace between every man and woman of Israel—in body, in spirit, in speech, and in deed, in thought and in meditation, in intent and in act, at home and in the street, in village and in town; to bring genuine peace into the home of the Jew, into the whole assembly of Israel in all its classes and divisions, and between Israel and its Father in Heaven." []


However, there is a place to doubt about (what was just said), and say that, even if they did not get together (in a house, bedroom..) before Anusím or valid witnesses, their marriage is valid and has religious value, that the women are liberated to marry another man only after received a Get. This is because such Anous is considered before us as keeping the Torah and Miswóth beSéter (in secrecy), and since we know that he married a woman who is Jewish and valid as he himself, and lives with her as husband and wife, we testify that they isolated themselves (got alone in a bedroom...) and had intercourse for the sake of marriage (Qidushín), as it states in the Gemará Tractate of Ketubbóth 73, the one who engages under a certain specified condition (`al tenái), and has intercourse, she is considered married, because the man does not have intercourse for promiscuity, even if there is no witnesses to the Yihúd (here, being the couple together alone). And clearly wrote haBa"sh, (), that anyone who marries (without any ceremony), and it is known to everybody, it is considered as though having witnesses. and do not answer me about wrote MARAN (Yossef Caro), "a man and a woman who converted due to the harshness of a decree and got married under the laws of the gentiles that, even if they get alone with each other, we do not consider this as a valid Qidushín ('Ében ha`Ézer 149:6), because this is not a (good) answer; because what MARAN referred was to those who converted by force, about whom we have to say that the beginning was by force and the end by will. (In our very case), we deal with those who converted and kept Torah in secrecy and hide their religion because of the gentile surveillance, we say that they do have intercourse for the sake of marriage. The truth is that the words of MARAN really mean to say that a man who has a promiscuous intercourse with a woman once and on, that that woman is a concubine to him, however those who we know for sure that if they would have the opportunity to do a valid wedding, according to the Law of Moises, they would do it. But, because of the harshness of the evil government and due to the fact that is impossible for them to stay without a wife, they do it in the Gentile's courts, since we know through their deeds they do in secrecy, that they behave properly according to the Torah of Israel, thus their wives are married to them for sure and they would need a Get to be allowed to marry another man. Nevertheless, all these things are said only in connection with a couple which stay married to each other their whole lives, and we say about them intended to a real marriage (not concubinage). But, after all, they divorce in a non-Jewish court or that they just leave each other, and one of them get married to someone else, then we conclude that their relationship was only a concubinage... All this i wrote it is the Halakhah. However, in practice, it's evident that all cases like the ones presented here, when one of such come before the Bet Din, it is necessary to investigate to see whether they had not really have also a marriage to which is necessary a Get, in case of divorce. According to the humble perception of my eyes i wrote this. And the Rock of Israel save us from mistakes and may we fear His Torah of wonders.


2. Rabbi Mordekhai Eliahu’s letter to Schulamith Halevi 1 Ellul 5755 [27 August 1995] 1-944.95 Mrs. Schulamith Halevy Jerusalem Shalom and blessings, With regard to your question [how to implement] the return of the anusim to Judaism: First, I wish to praise your work on the matter of returning the hearts of children to their parents, to the paths of Torah and piety. However, since much time has passed from the time of the forced conversions until today and there is a concern of intermarriage with those not of Israel, and it is also difficult to check the ancestry of the anusim, it is appropriate to apply vis-a-vis them all that is stated in the Shulhan Arukh, Yoreh Deah 268, and as Rabbi Solomon ben Simeon ben Durán wrote, "He is to be drawn with kindness." That is, they must be praised for coming today to openly observe all the commandments of the Torah. You will also note there that after the performance of the circumcision, he is blessed and told: "Our God and God of our fathers, bring success to your servant [returnee's Hebrew name supplied] and bestow your grace upon him. Just as you have moved his heart to return in complete repentance before you, so may you plant in his heart love and fear of you. Open his heart to your Torah and guide him in the path of your commandments that he may find grace in your eyes. So may it be, and let us say, Amen." After completion of all the steps of learning Torah, acceptance of the yoke of Torah and its commandments, circumcision (if none was done; if he is circumcised, a drop of blood should be drawn) and immersion as required, he should be given a certificate with the title, "Certificate for he/she who returned to his/her ancestors' ways." May it be that God will instill in us and in them His love and awe to do His will and serve him with a whole heart. Amen, and so may be His will. Mordechai Eliahu Richon Lezion, Former Chief Rabbi of Israel


Halakhic Contradictions with Rabbi Soloveitchik’s and Rabbi Eliahu’s letters In the last couple decades the treatment of Iberian Anusím has drastically changed. Unlike the 600-year pedigree of Responsa here shown, Iberian Anusím have been treated on the same level of Gentiles seeking conversion to Judaism. As I have pointed out elsewhere, this is probably due to the fact that Sephardic tradition is nearly extinct, and because the new generations of rabbis are not educated on the historical and halakhic aspects of the Sepharadím who have been living as Christians for the past 600 years. Below we shall show how different is the position of today´s rabbis, in comparison to what has been exposed in this presentation. The following will show how the mental disposition began to change, beginning in the 1930s during the reconstitution of Oporto’s Jewry, and two letters written in the 1990s coming from the hands of Rav Aaron Solovetchik z”l, head of the Brisk Yeshiva in Chicago and respected halakhic authority in the U.S., and Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu – of Iraqi-Arab Jewish origin, born in Baghdad – at a time when he occupied the seat of the Israeli Chief Sephardic Rabbinate. The first case is from a report by Paul Goodman, English Jew and strong advocate for Sephardim who worked closely with the Marrano Committee of London (Bevis Marks) to help the Anusim of Oporto, Portugal. In his account published in 1938, he relates a visit he paid to an important Polish rabbi: During the course of a visit to Bratislava, I saw Rabbi Akibah Schreiber, the chief of the rabbinic dynasty of the Chatam Sofer, who showed an interest for the anusim (converted by force) of Portugal; he manifested, from a halakhic (Jewish Jurisprudence) point of view a critical attitude regarding the Marranos returning to Judaism. There is no doubt that the genealogical question of the Marranos raised problems that are going to provoke interesting she‘elot-u-teshuboth (questions and answers in matters of Jewish Jurisprudence). If these doubts had been applied rigorously to the refugees from Spain and Portugal in the 17th century, the Sephardic communities of Amsterdam, London and other places, would hardly have become organized. The a priori mental roadblock that rabbi Akibah Scheriber is already putting forward is the question of genealogy. During the same time when he said these golden words, Ashkenazi Jewry had gone through its highest period of voluntary assimilation and intermarriage, something that rabbis to this day – like Schreiber then – do not seem particularly concerned about from a halakhic point of view. Fortunately for the Sephardim of Oporto making their return, Bevis Marks was there to support them at a time when the Spanish & Portuguese Jewry was still a force to be reckoned with. Sixty years later, we find a similar picture alà Scheriber, but without the Sephardic support. At the behest of pro-Anusim advocate Schulamith Haleví, Israeli lady of Sephardic descent who has worked on the issue for nearly twenty years, rabbi Mordekhai Eliahu wrote a letter expressing the following: First, I wish to praise your work on the matter of returning the hearts of children to their parents, to the paths of Torah and piety.


However, since much time has passed from the time of the forced conversions until today and there is a concern of intermarriage with those not of Israel, and it is also difficult to check the ancestry of the anusim, it is appropriate to apply vis-a-vis them all that is stated in the Shulhan Arukh, Yoreh Deah 268, and as Rabbi Solomon ben Simeon ben Duran wrote, “He is to be drawn with kindness.” That is, they must be praised for coming today to openly observe all the commandments of the Torah . . . Most puzzling of the three, we find the one written by rabbi Aaron Soloveitchik, also at the request of Mrs. Haleví: I am taking the liberty to write about the people of the Americas who claim to be descendants of the marranos of Spain and Portugal. They must be treated like full Jews in every way (counted for minyan, given aliyot, etc.). Only when one of these anusim wishes to marry a Jew, must she or he undergo full conversion. That is, he or she must undergo immersion in a mikveh (without the blessing) and full acceptance of the mitzvoth or commitment to the Torah. There are intrinsic contradictions in both letters, both halakhic and cosmetic, without any precedent in the history of rabbinic responsa on the Anusim question. The first obvious one is that Eliahu is putting already the a priori doubt on Jewish lineage (just like Schreiber did in the 1930’s), thus implying Iberian Anusim ought to be treated as gentiles, regardless. He confirms this by recurring to Caro’s Yoreh Deah 268, where he codifies the requirements for a gentile to become a Jew, codification that no rabbi writing the responsa on Iberian Anusim ever touches. Then rabbi Eliahu comes back and says, but “they must be praised for coming today to openly observe the Toráh”. The contradiction in terms, it follows, is how is a gentile supposed to be praised for “coming today” to openly observe Jewish law, if in the first place a gentile, from the get go, is not obligated to the Toráh from a birth stand point? What is even more contradictory is when Eliahu then instructs to give this literal convert to Judaism a certificate called “Certificate for he/she who returned to his/her ancestors' ways”. R. Soloveitchik’s letter, although it adheres to the perception of Anusim as Jews in their a priori treatment, when it comes to marriage he takes a position that does not parallel with the treatment of other Jews who are openly Shabbat desecrators. From the stand point of observance, when one considers there is no difference between a Jew who has being raised as a non-Jew, and a Jew who openly and knowingly desecrates Shabbat (likened to Idolatry), the prohibition of marrying the first over the latter does not make any sense. Both are Toráh desecrators, albeit the first one through ignorance, while the second through open defiance. R. Soloveitchik’s letter clashes head on with 16th century responsa and with Rabbi Bensión Uzziel in the 20th century, where rabbis recognized the Kiddushin (wedding vows) of Anusim within Spain or Portugal as validly kasher, that is, acceptable within Jewish Law; particularly this clash is more poignant when one realizes that many of these Iberian Anusim – from the 16th


to the 20th century – were not circumcised. It does clashes too with the current treatment of openly Shabbat desecrators today, whereby no prohibitions or demands prior to marriage are placed for such Jews. However, and despite their contradictions, there is one single point that both letters parallel to previous responsa on Anusim. This is that in both letters they call the reader to openly receive the Iberian Anusim back into the fold.