Sleeping Giant of the Sephardim
HaShem is awakening a giant that has been sleeping and dreaming for over 500 years.
The Captivity of Jerusalem, which is in Sefarad, shall inhabit the cities of the
Negev”. Obadiah 20, will come to pass in these last days.
The sleeping giant of the Sephardim is being awakened by God. The fulfillment of the restoration of Israel cannot be complete without God’s arms gathering all of his hidden ones, “He will gather his lambs…Isaiah 40:11. These “exiles” are the lambs of God that have laid waste in the ashes of a 500 year old inquisition.
When the Catholic Church established the Inquisition in Spain in 1481, and the expulsion of all Jews from Spain in 1492, Judaism in Spain became an offense punishable by torture and/or death. Many Jews fled to Portugal (and other countries round about), only to have the inquisition established in Portugal seven years later. Jews fled to safety in such places as the Mediterranean nations of Greece, Italy, and Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria. During and after Columbus’s voyages, Jews also fled into various Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch colonies in the New World. This latter scattering into the “New World” caused the shadow of the inquisition to be transported by the church into Lima, Peru; Colombia, and Mexico City, Mexico. The “prohibited people”, prohibited from going into this new territory would be hunted for another 200 or more years.
The weeping of the Kol Nidre.
The Kol Nidre, or All Vows, is the prayer that is sung at Yom Kippur. This prayer is traditionally believed to have originated with the Sephardim. It was sung as a secret way of telling God they would “not forget” who there were and all vows were not valid. Because of the Inquisition in Spain, many Jews trying to save their lives and families had to publicly convert to Christianity. Even those who were able to flee to the new world did not escape these dangers. Thousands of faithful Sephardic Jews had no choice but to keep their true Jewish faith hidden. The name “Marranos”, meaning “swine” became the contemptuous name given to these Jews who were forced to convert, but who continued to practice Judaism in secret. They were neither trusted by those who refused conversion, or by the Catholic Church. The officers of the Inquisition made it their priority to routinely investigate Marranos to check if they had circumcised their newborns, if they were gathering to pray on Saturdays, or were gathering on any known Jewish feasts, particularly Passover and Yom Kippur. The Inquisition also required suspected Jews to eat pork in public, or before they went on a trip, to assure they were being good “Conversos”, converted ones to the faith of Catholics.
Marranos are also known as Crypto-Jews, meaning “secret” Jews. They were Catholic by day and Jews by night. Many of these communities still survive today in such places as the Guadalajara area of Mexico, Monterrey, Mexico, State of Nuevo Leon, Santa Fe, and in the USA New Mexico, Texas (from the South Valley to San Antonio Texas), Las Cruces, New Mexico, Colorado and other areas. Other nations like, San Jose, Costa Rica, the nations of El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Medellin, Colombia, Lima, Peru, Rio De Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Belem, Bello Horizonte, Brazil, Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Santiago Chile.
These surviving Crypto-Jews and Marranos today still instinctively fear being open about their Jewishness, and continue to maintain secrecy about their beliefs and practices. Due to many generations of secrecy about their true heritage, many of the Marrano descendants have assimilated into Christianity in Latin America. Some, however, still have maintained residual Jewish practices such as lighting candles on Friday night, and are generally aware of their Jewish family trees.
Some of the most common surnames of the Spanish and Portuguese speaking world are all typically Sephardic. Surnames like Lopez or Perez, etc. in Mexico or Colombia are as common as Smith or Jones in the United States. These names are a first indication of these Sephardic roots and not a confirmation of them.
There are many Spanish Latinos in the Americas, however who are hidden direct descendants of their Marrano or Crypto Jewish ancestors. These are the result of the New World being originally explored and colonized mostly by Marranos who left Spain to escape the persecution of the Inquisition. These millions (some estimate 2 million, some as high as 60 million) of Marranos are a virtual “sleeping giant”, ready to be awakened to their true heritage after 505 years of slumbering.
Many of these Marranos cannot explain why they have such a deep love for Israel and an affection for Jewish things. Despite being outwardly Christian all their lives, these suddenly are finding themselves compelled to search for their Jewish roots and to join with the nation that they feel forcibly separated from.
Sadly, after being hunted and persecuted for centuries by the Catholic Church, the Marranos are generally not welcomed by mainstream Judaism as most cannot currently obtain recognition as Jews without undergoing formal conversion. The result of the fear that began with the Inquisition, has left many of these generations unable to prove through any documentation that they are of Jewish heritage. Inquisition records may be one hope, for these records were meticulously kept. Documents of heritage were taken from the accused or possibly burned along with them. The handed down customs and oral family histories however, cannot be completely erased. This is the true Sephardic legacy to the children’s children—to remember who you are, even in secret. Many of the memories of having heard a grandmother, grandfather, uncle or aunt who said to them, at one time in the strictest confidence: “Somos Judios” or “We are Jews” has been repeated many times over. The customs of “lighting of candles, never eating pork, fasting at certain times, praying on a certain day, not working on Saturday, even sweeping the floor a certain way, traces of the ladino (Hebrew Spanish of the Sephardim) language in the family, etc, are etched in the memories of this writer.
There is, therefore, always hope for God’s plans. It is with the hope of the Word of God, that this writer is intently working within Sephardim for the re-educating of the loss of centuries of fear and ignorance perpetuated against this forgotten people. It is a holocaust of 505 years of persecution and torture that has, up to this time, gone seemingly unrecognized by much of the world.
There is a stir in Eretz Israel to bring back these forgotten ones. The prophetic word of God “will not return void”. There is hope in some (see footnotes) Rabbinic circles that a Jewish affirmation can be reached without full conversion to bring healing and a return of these forgotten brothers. We must continue to pray, educate and strive for the fulfillment of God’s word in these end times.
When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream
2 then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them.
3 The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.
4 Turn again our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the south (NEGEV)
5 They that sow in tears shall reap in joy
6 He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again, with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.
Only in Israel, will the Sephardim again be free to observe the feasts of the Lord as our forefathers desired who paid a great price for trying to keep Torah. Many of “the secrets” when with them to their graves. If our forefathers, in time of danger had not somehow remembered and tried to practice their Judaism, would there now be Jews and a State of Israel? The tenacity of faith of the Sephardim will not be forgotten.
Footnotes: David Kunin was Rabbi of Temple Ohr Shalom in San Diego, a congregation with many crypto Jewish members. He was their local chair of the 2002 conference on this subject. He writes and quotes:
“…Karo does not require that the proselyte undergo a detailed education in the law, rather he or she is to be educated merely in the basics of Jewish observance and belief.
“The sources on Anusim present an interesting variety of approaches concerning the requirement of education and *kabbalat mitzvah. The Ashkenazic sources are silent as to the requirement for education, but universally require kabbalat mitzvah. But the Sephardic sources explicitly state that neither education or kabbalat mitzvah is necessary. In the words of Solomon ben Simon Duran:
“Since it is clear that these (Anusim) are not to be considered proselytes, we do not need therefore to enumerate to them all the commandments and their punishments (as must be done to a gentile who wished to become a proselyte). This is obvious, since, if you were to say to him that (as you might with a gentile) for he stands as we do under the oath taken at Sinai.” Danan indeed captures modern feelings of Anusim when he states, “If the Marranos, his word, are to be considered gentiles and those who wish to return as proselytes, their desire to return to the fold will weaken…the Marranos must be received not as strangers but as brethren. They should have the feeling that they are returning home…indeed when it comes to lineage all the people Israel are brethren. We are all sons of one father. The yoke of the law is still on their shoulders and can never be removed from them.” Joseph Karo, in the Bet Yosef states that Anusim “must not be discouraged in any way from returning to Judaism.”
* a male convert is required to undergo milah, tevilah and kabalat mitzvah, that is to say, to be circumcised, to be immersed in a mikvah, and to accept the yoke of the commandments in the presence of a Bet Din ( a court of at least three rabbis – technically a Bet Din is required to witness all aspects of the conversion….A woman is required to undergo tevilah (immersion) and Kabbbalat Mitzvah (acceptance of the Mitzvot)…all necessary or the conversion is not valid…
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