A SEFARDI EXILE ENGAGES THE JEWISH PAST: SEFER SHEVET YEHUDAH
In various ways, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 brought the medieval world of Western European Jewry to its end. To where could one proceed, how, and on what basis?
This seminar will consider one of the more popular Hebrew books of the 16th century: Shevet Yehudah by Solomon ibn Verga, a Spanish Jew who was exiled in 1492, was forcibly baptized in Portugal, and fled from Portugal early in the new century, perhaps to northern Europe. In some 75 tales of evil decrees and persecution endured by the Jews from the end of Second Temple times until his own day, the author engages the Jewish past in conversation, as it were, seeking to ascertain: What caused the recent catastrophe? Who bears responsibility? Can Jews still flourish in a Christian world?
We shall read and analyze Ibn Verga’s work in depth, focusing on three of its dimensions: Its place in the long-evolving Jewish-Christian dispute; its importance as historical writing; its illumination of the transition from the Middle Ages to early modern times in Jewish history.