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Conversos in the Responsa of Sephardic Halakhic Authorities in the 15th Century


This volume presents a systematic and detailed elaboration of the halakhic (legal) decisions written by five of the most important authors who wrote responsa concerning conversos between the years 1391 and 1492. The expulsion was an event that radically changed the perspectives of the Iberian conversos. The halakhic authorities were confronted with an absolutely new situation, in which they had to reformulate their position towards the conversos. This volume presents all the responsa written in connection with conversos by Isaac b. Sheshet Perfet, Simeon b. Ṣemaḥ Duran and his descendants: Solomon b. Simeon Duran, Ṣemaḥ b. Solomon Duran and Simeon b. Solomon Duran.
Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC
Availability: In stock
SKU (ISBN): 978-1-4632-0239-2
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Publication Status: In Print

Publication Date: Jan 24,2014
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 262
Languages: English, Hebrew
ISBN: 978-1-4632-0239-2
$95.00
$57.00

Jews living in the Christian kingdoms of Iberia in the first centuries of the Reconquista encountered favourable conditions but growing social tensions between Jews and Christians erupted in Seville in the summer of 1391, when the kingdom of Castile experienced a period of interregnum. Disorder and riots spread to the rest of Castile, to Andalusia, and to Aragon. Jewish communities were decimated or destroyed, with many of their members killed or forcibly baptized. These events created the social group of converts to Christianity, called “New Christians” or conversos by Iberian “Old Christians,” that is, Christians of non-Semitic origin.

This volume presents a systematic and detailed elaboration of the halakhic (legal) decisions written by five of the most important authors who wrote responsa concerning conversos between the years 1391 and 1492. The expulsion was an event that radically changed the perspectives of the Iberian conversos. The halakhic authorities were confronted with an absolutely new situation, in which they had to reformulate their position towards the conversos. This volume presents all the responsa written in connection with conversos by Isaac b. Sheshet Perfet, Simeon b. Ṣemaḥ Duran and his descendants: Solomon b. Simeon Duran, Ṣemaḥ b. Solomon Duran and Simeon b. Solomon Duran.

Dora Zsom, PhD (2012) is Assistant Professor of Semitic Philology and Arabic at the Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. During her MA and PhD studies she was engaged in research in the Hispania Judaica project at the Hebrew University under the direction of Prof. Yom Tov Assis; and participated in the research of the Friedberg Genizah Project on the Cairo Genizah.

Front cover: Detail of a responsum of R. Isaac b. Sheshet Perfet (MS Kaufmann A 504, p. 171), courtesy of the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Oriental Collection.

Jews living in the Christian kingdoms of Iberia in the first centuries of the Reconquista encountered favourable conditions but growing social tensions between Jews and Christians erupted in Seville in the summer of 1391, when the kingdom of Castile experienced a period of interregnum. Disorder and riots spread to the rest of Castile, to Andalusia, and to Aragon. Jewish communities were decimated or destroyed, with many of their members killed or forcibly baptized. These events created the social group of converts to Christianity, called “New Christians” or conversos by Iberian “Old Christians,” that is, Christians of non-Semitic origin.

This volume presents a systematic and detailed elaboration of the halakhic (legal) decisions written by five of the most important authors who wrote responsa concerning conversos between the years 1391 and 1492. The expulsion was an event that radically changed the perspectives of the Iberian conversos. The halakhic authorities were confronted with an absolutely new situation, in which they had to reformulate their position towards the conversos. This volume presents all the responsa written in connection with conversos by Isaac b. Sheshet Perfet, Simeon b. Ṣemaḥ Duran and his descendants: Solomon b. Simeon Duran, Ṣemaḥ b. Solomon Duran and Simeon b. Solomon Duran.

Dora Zsom, PhD (2012) is Assistant Professor of Semitic Philology and Arabic at the Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. During her MA and PhD studies she was engaged in research in the Hispania Judaica project at the Hebrew University under the direction of Prof. Yom Tov Assis; and participated in the research of the Friedberg Genizah Project on the Cairo Genizah.

Front cover: Detail of a responsum of R. Isaac b. Sheshet Perfet (MS Kaufmann A 504, p. 171), courtesy of the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Oriental Collection.

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Dora Zsom

  • Table of Contents (page 5)
  • Acknowledgments (page 11)
  • Notes on transliteration and translations (page 13)
  • Chapter 1: Introduction (page 15)
    • Historical Background (page 15)
    • Mumarim, anusim, and meshummadim (page 19)
    • Aims of the present research (page 20)
    • The Sources (page 22)
    • The History of the Research: a Critical Survey (page 23)
      • H. J. Zimmels: Die Marranen in der Rabbinischen Literatur.Berlin, 1932 (page 23)
      • Simcha Assaf: Anusei Sefarad u-Portugal be-sifrut hateshuvotŽ [The forced converts of Spain and Portugal in the responsa literatureŽ] Zion 1932, pp. 19…60 (page 24)
      • Benzion Netanyahu: The Marranos of Spain from the Late XIVth to the Early XVIth century according to Hebrew Sources. New York, 1966 (page 25)
      • Moisés Orfali Levi: Los conversos españoles en la literatur arabínica. Problemas jurídicos y opiniones legales durantelos siglos XII…XVI. Salamanca, 1982 (page 29)
    • The Authors (page 30)
      • Isaac ben Sheshet Perfet (Ribash) (page 30)
      • Simeon ben ?ema? Duran (author of the Tashbe?) (page 32)
      • Solomon ben Simeon Duran (Rashbash) (page 33)
      • ?ema? ben Solomon Duran (author of Yakhin u-Voaz 1) (page 33)
      • Simeon ben Solomon Duran (author of Yakhin u-Voaz 2) (page 34)
  • Chapter 2: Marriage (page 37)
    • Marriage customs in the Middle Ages (page 37)
    • Polygamy (page 40)
    • Marriage of conversos in the responsa literature (page 44)
    • Isaac B. Sheshet Perfet: Responsum no. 5: on a Christian betrothal in Majorca (page 50)
      • The legal value of acts accomplished during Christian betrothal (page 52)
        • Bridal gifts (page 52)
        • Yi?ud (page 54)
        • Publicity of the betrothal (page 54)
      • Stipulations involving payment for breaking the engagement (page 55)
      • Conclusion (page 56)
    • Isaac B. Sheshet Perfet: Responsum no. 6: on a Christian marriage in Majorca (page 57)
      • Legal value of acts accomplished during Christian betrothal (page 58)
      • Yi?ud (page 59)
      • Licentiousness of the conversos (page 60)
      • Ritual purity of marital life (page 61)
      • Conclusion (page 62)
    • Isaac B. Sheshet Perfet: Responsum no. 14: on reconsidering the terms of marriage under the pressure of riots in Majorca (page 62)
    • Simeon B. Semah Duran: Tashbes 3:47: on the marriage of conversos returning to Judaism (page 67)
      • The marital status of conversos (page 70)
      • Witnesses of the betrothal (page 75)
      • Conclusion (page 80)
    • Solomon B. Simeon Duran: Responsum no. 89: excursus on the marital status of conversos returning to Judaism (page 80)
    • Semah B. Solomon Duran: Yakhin u-Voaz 1:75: on the marital status of a converso proceeding from an adulterous relationship (page 81)
    • Semah B. Solomon Duran: Yakhin u-Voaz 1:107: on the validity of a marriage contracted by a convert woman without a divorce from her former Jewish husband (page 84)
      • Marital status of conversos (page 86)
      • Circumcision (page 86)
    • Simeon B. Solomon Duran: Yakhin u-Voaz 2:3: on kohanim returning to Judaism (page 87)
      • Returning conversos are presumed to have Jewish mothers (page 88)
      • Ritual purity of marital life; circumcision (page 89)
    • Simeon B. Solomon Duran: Yakhin u-Voaz 2:19: on double (Jewish and Christian) marriage (page 91)
    • Simeon B. Solomon Duran: Yakhin u-Voaz 2:31: excursus on the marital status of conversos (page 93)
      • The martial status of a converso is equal to that of a Jew (page 93)
      • Returning conversos are presumed to have Jewish mothers (page 94)
    • Conclusion (page 94)
  • Chapter 3: Levirate marriage (page 97)
    • Isaac B. Sheshet Perfet: Responsum no. 1: on the priority of the Jewish brother-in-law over the converso (page 100)
    • Simeon B. Semah Duran: Tashbes 3:47: on converso levirs (page 102)
      • If the marriage of a converso is valid, he is suitable for levirate marriage as well in theory, and for giving ?ali?ah in practice (page 102)
      • Kinship between a Jew and his convert brother (page 103)
      • Kinship between convert brothers (page 106)
      • If the woman had known that she would be bound to a convert levir, she wouldnt have married at all (page 107)
      • Conclusion (page 108)
    • Simeon B. Solomon Duran: Yakhin u-Voaz 2:31: on a converso levir living in a Christian land (page 109)
      • A brother who converts does not cease to be a brother (page 112)
      • Even those conversos who were born as Gentiles were born in holiness (page 113)
    • Conclusion (page 114)
  • Chapter 4: Divorce (page 115)
    • Divorce according to Jewish Law (page 117)
    • Isaac B. Sheshet Perfet: Responsum no. 11: on converso witnesses (page 119)
      • Whether those who commit transgressions under compulsion pertain to the category of the wicked ones of IsraelŽ (page 121)
      • Conversos remaining in Iberia became accustomed to transgressing Jewish law (page 126)
      • Converso informers (page 127)
      • Reasons for remaining in Iberia (page 128)
    • Isaac B. Sheshet Perfet: Responsum no. 43: on a converso husband called by his Christian name (page 130)
    • Simeon B. Semah Duran: Tashbes 2:176: on the husband's obligation to contribute to the expenses of his wife's emigration from Majorca (page 134)
    • Simeon B. Semah Duran: Tashbes 3:40, 3:43: on a converso scribe (page 136)
      • Simeon b. ?ema? Duran: Tashbe? 3:40 (page 137)
      • Simeon b. ?ema? Duran: Tashbe? 3:43 (page 138)
    • Semah B. Solomon Duran: Yakhin u-Voaz 1:125: on a converso writing a get to his wife himself (page 140)
    • Conclusion (page 141)
  • Chapter 5: Dietary laws (page 143)
    • Refraining from eating leaven on Passover (page 145)
      • Solomon b. Simeon Duran: Responsum no. 90: on preparing food during Passover (page 146)
      • ?ema? b. Solomon Duran: Yakhin u-Voaz 1:125: a remark about a converso observing dietary laws (page 148)
    • Cheese (page 148)
    • Conversos and Jews eating together (page 152)
    • Conversos and Gentiles eating together, conversos eating non-kosher food (page 153)
    • Wine (page 153)
      • Isaac b. Sheshet Perfet: Responsa nos. 4, 12 (page 156)
      • Simeon b. ?ema? Duran: Tashbe? 1:63: on wine sent by a converso relative from Majorca (page 162)
      • Simeon b. ?ema? Duran: Tashbe? 1:66: on wine guarded in a Christian’s storehouse by a Majorcan converso (page 170)
      • Simeon b. ?ema? Duran: Responsum no. 2:60: on wine sent by a Majorcan converso (page 176)
      • Simeon b. ?ema? Duran: Tashbe? 3:227: excursus on Majorcan conversos drinking wine sold by an Arab woman (page 178)
      • Simeon b. ?ema? Duran: Tashbe? 3:312: on wine made and sent by Majorcan conversos (page 179)
      • Solomon b. Simeon Duran: Responsum no. 553: on wine made by Jews and guarded by a converso (page 181)
    • Conclusion (page 182)
  • Chapter 6: Death (page 183)
    • Simeon B. Semah Duran: Tashbes 2:139: on the obligation to mourn for a convert (page 184)
      • In the case of a minor (page 184)
      • In the case of an adult (page 185)
      • In the case of a person adhearing to Judaism in secret (page 185)
    • Simeon B. Semah Duran: Tashbes 3:43: remark on a converso refusing to die as a Christian (page 186)
    • Simeon B. Semah Duran: Tashbes 3:323: remark on entering Christian cemeteries where converts were buried (page 186)
  • Chapter 7: Inheritance (page 189)
    • Isaac B. Sheshet Perfet: Responsa, nos. 46-52 and Simeon B. Semah Duran: Tashbes Nos 1:58-62: on the inheritance of a converso claimed by his converso wife and by his alleged Jewish relatives (page 191)
      • Isaac b. Sheshet Perfet: Responsum no. 46 (page 191)
      • Isaac b. Sheshet Perfet: Responsa nos. 47…52 (page 192)
      • Simeon b. ?ema? Duran: Tashbe? 1:58: on alleged kinship (page 194)
      • Simeon b. ?ema? Duran: Tashbe? 1:59: on a deposit taken from a woman (page 197)
      • Simeon b. ?ema? Duran: Tashbe? 1:60: on an oath administered to a convert (page 198)
      • Simeon b. ?ema? Duran: Tashbe? 1:61: on the custom of the Majorcan community of conducting litigations under Christian law (page 198)
      • Simeon b. ?ema? Duran: Tashbe? 1:62: on the trustee seizing part of the inheritance by bribing the Muslim authorities (page 199)
      • Conclusion (page 200)
    • Simeon B. Semah Duran: Tashbes 2:214: on a converso appointed as an agent by Jewish heirs (page 201)
    • Solomon B. Simeon Duran: nos. 287, 418 on disinheriting converts (page 202)
    • Conclusion (page 204)
  • Chapter 8: Returning to Judaism (page 207)
    • Leaving the land of forced conversion (page 207)
    • Formalities of reintegration into the Jewish community (page 212)
      • Solomon b. Simeon Duran: Responsum no. 89 Maamar haanusimŽ(Treatise about the forced convertsŽ) (page 213)
      • Uncircumcised conversos (page 216)
      • Proselytes or returning Jews? Ritual immersion (page 217)
      • Examining personal motives of conversos returning toJudaism (page 218)
    • Kohanim (page 219)
    • Christian authorities confisating the property of conversos who emigrate (page 221)
      • Remark in Isaac b. Sheshet Perfet: Responsum no. 2 (page 221)
      • Remark in Simeon b. ?ema? Duran: Tashbe? 2:176 (page 222)
    • The Jewish community in Algiers tries to impede the immigration of conversos (page 222)
    • Conclution (page 224)
  • Summary and Conclusions (page 227)
  • Glossary (page 231)
  • Bibliography (page 233)
    • A. Primary sources (page 233)
    • B. Secondary sources (page 236)
  • Appendix A: Manuscripts consulted (page 243)
  • Appendix B: Manuscripts relating to conversos (page 251)
  • Index (page 257)
    • People (page 257)
    • Places (page 258)
  • Responsa cited (page 259)
    • Issac B. Sheshet Perfet (page 259)
    • Simeon B. Semah Duran (page 259)
    • Solomon B. Simeon Duran (page 260)
    • Semah B. Solomon Duran (page 261)
    • Simeon B. Solomon Duran (page 261)
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