"Be not like unto thy fathers" Profiat Duran's Polemical Letter on the Conversion of his friend David ben Goron
AMONG those who had shirked martyrdom and chosen the path of baptism during the Jewish massacres of 1391 in Spain were Isaac, son of Moses Profiat Duran (also called Efodi from the initial letters of his name), an excellent grammarian and philosopher, and his friend David Bonet ben Goron. The forced conversion weighed heavily on their souls. They decided, therefore, to emigrate to Palestine and there return to Judaism. Profiat Duran went to a port in Southern France expecting to meet his friend there, but instead of David a letter arrived from him saying that he had been persuaded by the apostate Paul of Burgos, originally Solomon ha-Levi, to change his mind. Having become unshakably confirmed in his conviction, he was determined to remain a Christian, and he advised his friend to follow his example. Profiat Duran replied with the following piece of bitter sarcasm and brilliant polemics. By arguing ironically like an advocate of the faith accepted by David, he pleaded with fervour for the truth of Judaism. Thus the letter reflects the tragic contradictions raging in the souls of the Jewish converts who tried to justify their apostasy to themselves. This makes the letter of Profiat Duran one of the most original documents of the perennial controversy between Judaism and Christianity.
'I should like to ask thee one thing, this only thing, please, do for my sake: do not call thyself any longer after the honoured name of thy wise father'
[A port in Southern France, about 1396 ]
To David, when he changed his mind 1, before the Ruler of the world, and sang of the death of the son who suffered for him and carried the burden for him. He said to his father: 'I do not know thee,' and does not ask after the forefathers any more. I called him once my brother. Maestro Bonet buen Giorno, the