Safed Spirituality: Rules of Mystical Piety, the Beginning of Wisdom

Safed Spirituality: Rules of Mystical Piety, the Beginning of Wisdom

Safed Spirituality: Rules of Mystical Piety, the Beginning of Wisdom

Safed Spirituality: Rules of Mystical Piety, the Beginning of Wisdom

Excerpt

Following centuries of flourishing social, cultural, and religious life in Spain, the Jews of that country were expelled in the year 1492. The Expulsion represented the culmination of a century of deteriorating relations between Jews and Christians. From the Iberian Peninsula tens of thousands of Jews seeking refuge migrated to the Muslim countries of North Africa, to Italy and to various parts of the Ottoman Empire. It was the Ottomans who actively welcomed the Jews of Spain. The Sultan Bayazid II is reported to have been pleased to receive the Sefardim (Spanish and Portugese Jews and their descendants) into his midst, and is alleged to have said of the Spanish king Ferdinand: "Can you call such a king wise and intelligent? He is impoverishing his country and enriching my kingdom." The exiles settled in the large cities of Constantinople, Salonika, Adrianople, and Nicopolis, as well as in numerous smaller towns across the empire. Whereas those in each of the large centers founded various synagogue communities named after the town or region from which they had come, Jews in the smaller localities tended to organize around one general congregation.

On the whole, the exiles thrived and enjoyed economic prosperity. The sentiment allegedly expressed by Bayazid concerning the enrichment of his empire by the Sefardim was not without foundation. The exiles brought with them valuable talents and expertise. Some served as courtiers of the sultan, while others became physicians, bankers, and diplomats.

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