Page 162 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
such as the ascendancy of the Turks especially after their con­
quest of Constantinople in 1453, the rift in Christendom caused
by the Reformation and the resulting wars in Europe, the discov­
ery of the New World, and the hope of finding the ten lost tribes.
For instance, Solomon Molcho was able to convince the Pope that
David Reuveni and his legions from the Jewish tribes were at the
disposal of his brother, the Jewish King Joseph; Isaac Caro,
Joseph’s uncle, also wrote about the tribes in his abovementioned
Toledot Yitzhak.
A major source of messianic inspiration was Isaac
Abravanel (1447-1508), who wrote three works on the subject
soon after the expulsion from Spain. Nevertheless, the process
set in motion by the expulsion took several generations to have its
full impact on kabbalistic thinking.13
One of the aspirations of the Jews who left Spain and Portugal
during the sixteenth century was to seek atonement for having
committed apostasy, a sin which some felt was punishable by
divine judgment. Many former marranos sought expiation from
the sin of apostasy. Typical of this are the last words of Solomon
Molcho: “My heart is bitter and vexed for the days that I spent in
the Christian religion. Do now what is pleasing in your eyes, but
let my soul return to the house of its Father as it was in my child­
hood, for then I was better off than now.”14Some felt that this sin
could be expiated only by lashes administered by the no longer
existing Sanhedrin, the high court of the Jewish people when
they were sovereign in their own land. According to Maimonides
{Mishneh Torah,
Sanhedrin 1:3; 4:11), the establishment of a
“great court”would precede the coming of the Messiah. In prep­
aration for this court there was need for a clarification of Jewish
laws and customs which were greatly confused by the resettle­
ment of Spanish Jews as well as Ashkenazic Jews in the Ottoman
Empire. Displaced during the fifteenth century, Jews from many
different communities had been brought into close proximity
there during the sixteenth century. In Turkey, not only were sep­
arate Ashkenazic and Sephardic communities maintained, but
inner divisions along more specifically local lines existed in the
13 Abba Hillel Silver,
A History o fMessianic Speculation in Israel
(New York, 1927),
pp. 110-150; Gershom Scholem,
Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism
(New York,
1941), pp. 244-258.
14 Joseph ha-Kohen,
Emek ha-Bakha,
cited in Jacob Marcus,
The Jew in the Medi­
eval World
(Cincinnati, 1938), p. 254.