Dreaming of Moshiach

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Lost Tribe - MARRANOS

In the late fifteenth century King Manuel of Portugal ordered all resident Jews to convert to Christianity or leave the country. When the deadline arrived, he had men, women and children dragged to churches for a forced mass baptism. Most Jews maintained their religion secretly, [+/-] show/hide text
but tried to show an image of being good Christians.

Although the marranos/anussim/Crypto Jews/Conversos were granted a twenty year period in which their beliefs and practices would not be investigated, soon afterwards, in 1536, the Inquisition was established in Portugal. Fear of the Inquisition has marked some secret Jewish communities up to present times. Isolated, they have maintained a sketchy Judaism under the pretense of being Catholics. Deprived of rabbis, temples, yeshivas or religious books, they lost much of the previous orthodoxy.

When a group of anussim in Belmonte were discovered by a Polish mining engineer, Samuel Schwarz, over seventy years ago, they believed they were the only Jews in the whole world and did not know that the Hebrew language existed. At first they refused to believe that Schwarz was Jewish, as a Jew would never admit openly to his religion. His final acceptance only came when he recited Shema Israel for them and they were able to recognize the word Adonai.

The anussim had been forced to abandon the practice of circumcision and the celebration of any public festivities. In order to mislead the inquisitors they celebrated Passover and Yom Kippur a few days before or after official dates, hid the Shabbat lamp inside a clay pot and had women lead their services. Catholicism made some unavoidable inroads in their lives: they worship Saint Moses and Saint Queen Esther, celebrate an occasion they call Little Christmas (roughly coinciding with Hannukah) and use a Judaized form of the Lord's Prayer.

They reluctantly attend some Church services, but do so under mental reservations. A formula still murmured to this day upon entering a Catholic Church goes approximately like this: "I enter this house, but I do not adore sticks or stones, only the G-d of Israel."

Other practices that may be indicative of Jewish origin among anusim in the New World today ... Told one is Jewish explicitly by parents, grandparents, or other relatives.
Secret synagogues; secret prayer groups;
Clean house and clothes for Shabbat; Lighting candles on Friday night;
Not allowed to do anything Friday night (not even wash hair);
Celebrating a spring holiday (Pesach);
Fast 3 days in March (Taanit Esther);
Eight candles for Christmas;
Burial within one day; covering mirrors; Seven days, then one year, of mourning.
Ritual slaughter (special knives, tested on hair or nails); covering blood; removing sinew.
Purging, soaking, salting meat;
Avoiding pork (called "unclean" "marrano") and shellfish;
Avoiding blood; throwing out eggs with bloodspots;
Waiting between meat and milk;
Ate only food prepared by mother of maternal grandmother;
Saying a prayer eight days after birth in which the baby's name is included;
After the birth, the mother must not uncover herself or change clothes for 30 days;
To kiss any piece of bread that falls on the floor.

A 34 year old Nuerology specialist from the Caribbean, now living in the USA, suddenly realised that all the strange customs , which had become more apparent to her and her sisters since she came to live in the USA.
"...My paternal grandfather, ....... told me in a dream that I was Jewish and why I was Jewish... my mother. And I prayed. I started to ask questions at home but not really knowing what to look for or what to ask. I have never told them about the dream, because after all it was a dream and they would think of it as such. After noticing that I was not going anywhere, I prayed.
I read the Casa Shalom Journals* and the section about Puerto Rico. And something clicked in me. All of a sudden all of the pieces of a big puzzle started to fall in place and I was able to see the whole picture.
And I cried. I wept. I sobbed like I haven't in a long time. (And while I'm writing this, tears are still rolling on my cheeks.) I cried because of anger. I cried because of pain. I cried because of joy. I cried because of anger towards human intolerance against other humans and promised to myself that as long as I live I would not condemn or judge another human just because they believe differently from me. I cried because of the pain of my ancestors that were forced to convert to something they didn't believe in order to maybe ensure that their children would be able to live.
The pain that generations after went through when being signaled as odd. The pain of not knowing why they were odd, but despite of it passing their oddness to their children. The pain that I went through while growing feeling that I didn't belong.
I cried because of the joy that God, in His great mercy, decided that we had had enough. He decided that it was time to know that when Abraham looked into the skies and saw the stars, one of them was me -.that I had crossed the Red Sea with Moses -that I was there when the walls of Jericho fell down-..that as Caleb it was time for me to claim my mountain. And yet my heart and soul always knew the truth that my brain refused to see".

Pascual takes Jewish classes and also writes in the margins of his Shulkhan Arukh (The Code of Jewish Law). “We had Jewish traditions in my family,” he says, his blond hair tucked into a large multicolored kippa, “but I’m the only one in my family who wants to return. When I was a boy I knew I was Spanish and Jewish, but I didn’t understand how I could be both at the same time.”

Rufina Bernardetti Silva Mausenbaum**: "It is with pride that I remember my grandmother Rufina, and others like her, who in spite of the danger to their lives managed to keep their faith alive. How pleased she would have been had she known her humiliation had not been in vain. That today, many years later her granddaughter observes the "antepura" (Yom Kippur - Day of Atonement) openly as Jewess with Portuguese heritage. Although I too was baptised in the Catholic Church, I converted back to the religion of my forefathers, Orthodox Judaism".

Most descendants of the Jews forcibly converted in Spain and Portugal—and now scattered throughout the world—have preserved only bits and pieces of Jewish observance and identity. They also tend to live in places remote from Jewish resources, or near small mainstream Jewish communities in which a sympathetic figure is often hard to find. There are countries in Latin America in which Orthodox rabbis do not perform conversions, yet some Crypto-Jews fear a non-Orthodox conversion is tantamount to trading one form of rejection for another.

Of the many descended from converted Jews, only a remnant have any knowledge, and only a fraction of that remnant is trying to make its way back. After 500 years of hiding, the Marronos/Anusim survived and just knowing that they are Jewish is a miracle.

500 years ago the chain that linked their Jewishness had almost been broken. After 500 years of oppressive attempts on our faith, the enemies failed. The Jewish link of the past to the future will be stronger and more vibrant than ever. All the combined efforts of destruction that may come down and pound on the chain that connects us to our forefathers faith and ultimately to G-d will fail.

May the B'nai Anussim, descendants of the Conversos, continue to honour the memory of their ancestors - long live the Jews!

*More details about the activities of Casa Shalom, the Institute For Marrano-Anusim Studies , can be obtained at www.casa-shalom.com

**It was thru (Rufina) Rut Bracha, whom helped and encouraged me to find Rav Pash, that I became involved with the Anusim. Please daven to HaShem to quickly send Malach Rafael to heal Rut Bracha bat Sara and all Klal Yisrael - Amen.





והיה השם למלך על כל הארץ, ביום ההוא יהיה השם אחד - ושמו אחד ישתבח שמו לעד לנצח נצחים בכל העולמות Blessed is His name for eternity in all worlds אין עוד מלבדו