Reason for the Spanish Expulsion & Inquisition: Secular Education

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    “The Chasid Yavetz, Rav Yoseph ben Chaim Yavetz (1438-1539), was born in Spain and left there during the Expulsion in 1492. He finally settled in Mantua, Italy, and assumed an honored place in the community.

    He was absorbed with the meaning of the Spanish Expulsion and why it occurred, and wrote an entire treatise, Ohr HaChaim, in which he provided his interpretation. According to the Chasid Yavetz, the catastrophe resulted from Spanish Jewry’s preoccupation with philosophy and secular knowledge which became their central focus, whereas Torah and mitzvos no longer were the primary purpose of their lives.

    The Chasid Yavetz testifies that only one in a hundred philosophers is preoccupied with Torah and mitzvos, and even those few are ambivalent. And in an oft quoted passage points out that the Jewish philosophers were the first to convert, whereas the simple folk, imbued with simple faith, refused to succumb. He quotes approvingly from Rav Hai Goan, “those who say to you that one will attain knowledge of Torah through philosophy, do not listen to them and know that they have falsified the truth, for you will not find fear of sin, alacrity, modesty and holiness except among those who are preoccupied with Mishnah and Talmud”.”


    It should be noted that the spanish jews never questioned chazal or wanted to change the Torah to fit the then-modern era. They were basically baalei taavah for philosophy.

    Al achas kama ve’kama….

    anonymous Jew

    That’s one view. The first mass conversions took place during the brutal pogroms of the 1390’s. Jews were given the choice of conversion or death and as many as 100,00 did convert.
    After the violence died down, the Church had a problem. It had never espoused forced conversion yet had no way to undo the conversions. So, they looked the other way as many of these Jews remained among the Jewish community and lived as Jews. Others, however, were happy to now live as Catholics as it meant that all the laws restricting Jews no longer applied to them.
    The Inquisition was established in 1478 to uncover New Christians still practicing as Jews but without much success. Torquemada, to justify his failures, said it because of the support that the Conversos were receiving from uncoverted Jews. So, he convinced Ferdinand and Isabella to expel the Jews.

    Ultimately, that was the reason for the Expulsion.


    Chasid Yavetz justifiably criticized his teach Abarbanel, other Spanish Jews who dabbled in philosophy, such as Rambam, even known to non-Jews as philosopher “Maimonides”. As a result of his eloquent attacks, nobody ever in Jewish world studied anything in goyishe languages and the words of philosopher Maimonides are not studied much either. Chasid Yavetz left behind a large number of manuscripts, “most of them unpublished”.


    Rav JB Soloveitchik knew shas and Poskim and went to university in Berlin. He survived Europe.


    According to my understanding, the Spanish Inquisition happened because wealthy Jews displayed their wealth a fancy possessions before the eyes of the Gentiles:

    {1} Shevet Mussar, Chapter 17, paragraph 15:
    Those who rise up against us seek false accusations against us when they see Jewish women decorated with gold and silver.

    {2} Kav HaYashar, Chapter 18:
    “Because of our many sins, the Gentiles have their eyes on Jewish wealth.
    It is a very good idea to conceal your wealth from them.”

    {3} Kav HaYashar, Chapter 82:
    Imitating the fashions of the Gentiles… they provoke the jealousy and hatred of the Gentiles. They look at us and notice that Jewish women appear better dressed than the Gentile noble women; and we are in bitter exile, where according to justice we should be wearing black clothes to mourn the length of our exile and the destruction of the Temple.

    {4} “Because flashy clothes and jewels draw so much attention to themselves, they may also draw the ire of your clients who may secretly question why your clothes are so much more costly than their own. Wearing flashy outfits is particularly dicey during a recession or during a down business cycle when company layoffs abound.”
    SOURCE: 301 Smart Answers to Tough Business Etiquette Questions (page 142) by Vicky Oliver, year 2010, Skyhorse Publishing


    sorry, but finding a reason for Jewish tzoros is beyond our comprehension
    all you have to think about are the six million jews and the shoah
    don’t ever talk to me about why this happened or why that happened.
    i still believe in our faith, but don’t push it


    I went to college and took three philosophy courses. I guess I’m toast then.

    anonymous Jew

    Avira, unlike their counterparts in England and Germany, they were the first large Jewish community where many thousands chose conversion over death in the 1391 massacres ( at set up the eventual Expulsion )



    Your interpetation is definetely the pshat that meets the eye “al pe derech hatevah” but Chassid Yaavetz was referring to the underlying cause what brought so many Yidden to convert r”l an more why did HKB”H bring the gzeira in the first place.
    Similarly to the Neis Purim which is a natural chain of events but Chazal tell us it was because they partook in Achashveirosh’s seudah and/or they bowed to Nevuchanetzar’s tzelem.
    After all we know “lev melachim ve’sarim beyad Hashem”


    The expulsion of Jews (and Muslims) from Spain was based on a desire to purge non-Catholics, for political and economic reasons. They would not have cared if the Yidden there were non-observant or Hasidim. Note that unlike the Germans, they were not racially motivated and would allow anyone to stay if they converted and did a good job of seeming to be Catholic. It should be noted that most Spaniards today regard the expulsion as one of the dumbest things they ever did. — One can argue that the mass persecution of Jews in the western countries in the 19th century was related to secular Jews integrating themselves into Christian societies and playing an increasing role in cultural, social and economic areas (the backlash was mild in the English speaking countries, severe in the German speaking ones), but there was no equivalent in Spain (at least prior to the expulsion, there was some “racial” persecution of those Jews who chose to go OTD rather than leave Spain in 1492).


    > They were basically baalei taavah for philosophy.

    Maybe they had to engage in philosophy given the environment. They first wanted to show that Judaism is not inferior to the dominant religions, and then to delineate differences between us and them, including participating in forced debates, like Ramban did.

    Chasid Yavetz was, of course, affected by the tragedy of his time. But, recall, Jews lived in Iberia for multiple centuries, surrounded by two very aggressive religions. Pining for purity of simple people here is understandable, but not realistic.

    Thought experiment – none of the Spanish Rabbis engage with modernity; some of the Jews become rich and hear goyishe lectures (don’t have to go to medrasa or university, just from their neighbors or business partners), so the higher classes convert quickly, and they are also talking to their simpler relatives also… And this is repeated for tens of generations .. There would be Jewish philosophers left by the time of Chasid Yavetz, and he himself would have been a frum galach.

    And future generations would have been less prepared for other challenges. No Rambam – No Shulchan Oruch – No Shimshon Hirsh. We would be paskening by Gemora w/ Rashi.
    And no CR discussions about dead Moschiachs.


    provaxx, 3 is a chazoka. You are doomed to a place in olam habo with R Hutner, R Soloveichik, R Schwab, Abarbanel, Rambam, and Rabban Gamliel. I suggest you brush up on your Greek or you’ll be stuck for eternity not understanding their discussions. Be careful next time and don’t go to makom sakonah (presuming you believe in gilgulim)

    Ari Knobler

    Rationalizing Jewish persecutions and massacres ex post facto is tantamount to saying they got what they deserved. It is the fetid, smegma-ridden underbelly of theodicy and should always be rejected.

    For your own edification, try reading “Anti-Maimonidean Demons” by the late Sephardic Hakham José Faur a”h.


    Or maybe, maybe, we should read Chassid Yavetz in full and not just on popular lines.

    Here is a different quote from R Frand’s book: one of the Spanish Jews sold everything and hired a boat to take his family. The captain dumped them on some island, his whole family died, and he davened – Hashem, maybe you are trying to push me away, but I will not go. I am not saying that this quote contradicts the OP, but I presume that a person who can sell possessions on a cheap and still rent a boat would not be a peasant. And more generally, do not rely on short excerpts, the author wrote long books for a reason.


    > most Spaniards today regard the expulsion as one of the dumbest things they ever did

    is it indeed so? from a naive tourist perspective: if you go on a “general” tour, the guides will pass Jewish places without mentioning them. When they notice Jews or do “Jewish” tours, they’ll show you remnants of Jewish places, including pictures how they truck tombstones from an ancient cemetery to the museum you are visiting. They seem to see Jews akin Romans who were here before and left some artifacts for the museums of special interest.

    Dan The

    Well, the second most popular language in the ENTIRE WORLD is Spanish. The Spanish and Portuguese ruled the world. But then, after a few generations and the wealth that they accumulated with the help of the Jews dissipated. The Spanish and Portuguese lost their power and the English, Dutch, and French (who were more tolerant to the Jews) took their place.


    Some posters here think that while the Torah is full of warnings that bad things will happen, and we will deserve them if they do, they think it’s horrible to apply the Torahs reasoning to Jewish suffering.

    We do indeed get what we deserve. Klal yisroel deserved 40 years of wandering, churbanos, crusades, inquisitions, pogroms, and the Holocaust. Otherwise, how would Hashem have done those things? Hashem is a tzadik and we are guilty. We admit our sins and do teshuva. We don’t t, as the rambam calls it, act cruel and attribute our suffering to anything other than Hashem and divine justice.

    I understand how survivors often are upset at the idea that the Holocaust was a punishment. We can’t judge people who went through that gehinnom. But what excuse to armchair philosophers online have? It’s total kefirah to say that suffering is just mikrah, pointless, random, or just because of racism or not being tolerant enough.

    This is the rage of what i call the chanukah gelt god.

    The chanukah gelt god, is something i share with my students. He’s a god which gives you presents. All he does is give you money and snacks. But what happens when you get a strep throat or fall off of monkey bars and end up wearing a sling for 2 weeks? Well, that’s not chanukah gelt god, that’s yom kippur god. Uou know, the god who makes all the things happen that we don’t like.

    They get the idea.

    Shema yisroel, Hashem elokeinu – Hashem is midas harachamin, elokim is din – Hashem echad, it’s all from Hashem, both good things and things we think are bad. Hashem knows exactly what is best for us, when we have no idea. Much like a child who thinks that chanukah gelt is good and yom kippur is bad. We’re mature enough to see how good yom kippur is, but we are not on the level to see why the Holocaust was good.

    anonymous Jew

    It was the 1390’s conversions that paved the way for the Expulsion. The thousands of New Christians provided all the skills and assets that Ferdinand and Isabella had relied upon,so they
    no longer needed those still Jewish and agreed to Torquemada”s


    it is ok to discuss possible reasons, but maybe not with the recent survivors or their families. It takes time to see the picture. For example, we are now 100 years away from WW1 and can probably start discussing it. But were we to talk about it in 1920 without knowing that WW1 lead to communists, Nazis, WW2, etc – do you think we would come to the right conclusions? A lot of what was talked about in 1920s, whether in goyishe or Jewish worlds, did not foresee the horrors to come. As one examples, Yidden reveled in the democracies, newly established by League of Nations in Eastern Europe, spending their energy on democratic infighting with each other, and pressing the new governments of these countries. In some cases, leading to political weakening of these countries in the face of their aggressive neighbors – Nazis and Commies. I read post-war memoirs of Jewish politicians in Latvia and it is heartbreaking to read their late teshuva about their activities that were helping the aggressors.


    >>>I understand how survivors often are upset at the idea that the Holocaust was a punishment. We can’t judge people who went through that gehinnom. But what excuse to armchair philosophers online have? It’s total kefirah to say that suffering is just mikrah, pointless, random

    You lost me here. How do you get from saying that the holocaust was not (necessarily) a punishment to saying it was just mikrah, pointless, random etc. I’ve never heard anyone express the latter view. The closest I’ve heard anyone come to saying that is saying the Nazis were people with bechira who used it the wrong way with the holocaust as a result. That certainly isn’t kefira.


    Smerel, it definitely is kefirah to think that the fate of the jewish people depends on the bechirah of goyim. Even if their bechira can affect us, it only would be meorer dinim etc… Hashem directly drives the fate of klal yisroel, and according to almost everyone, the individual occurrences of a person’s daily life. To take the pashtus of some of the rishonim who said that not everything that happens is min hashomayim is likewise assur according to most poskim, after that view – if it even ever existed – was completely rejected hundreds of years ago.

    But certainly to think that Hashem lets anything happen to klal yisroel without it being a direct gezerah…

    By Purim, did anyone think that Haman was just a baal bechirah? It’s preposterous to a believing jew.


    Avira- I agree with you that the Torah is teaching us that tragedies happen for a reason, and that we have to do the cheshbon hanefesh to correct ourselves in wake of these tragedies. I just find that more often than not, people use that argument as a way to blame others for the tragedy without looking inward. The anti-Zionists blame the Holocaust on the embrace of other Jews to secular nationalism, while the Zionists blame the Holocaust on those who were blind to the national return to our homeland. Each side conviniently washing away blame from themselves.

    Seems like that’s what’s happening here too…you and UJM subscribe to a more anti-philosophical hashkafa and surprise! it’s those other pro-philosophy Jews who are to blame for the expulsion. Of course a cheshbon hanefesh has to be done in wake of a tragedy… the Torah says so! But that’s for those other Jews who are actually to blame, right?

    anonymous Jew

    Avira, what has always annoyed me are those who claim to know the specific avairas that triggered the Holocaust.
    However, a survivor can never be judged. .My wife had an inlaw who came from a very large chassidish family in Europe. Out of 70+ parents,grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, only he survived. He never set foot in shul again the rest of his life and raised his children with no knowledge of Judaism. The only exception he made was when we visited him in Israel. He kept a set of dishes for us, observed shabbat while in the house and walked me to shul ( he waited outside ).


    There is a difference between knowing that events had a reason – and knowing that reason. And from previous history (BM2), when multiple groups blame each other, there is a fair chance that their whole fight was the cause …


    And there is another way to look at Spain: immediately after the expulsion, Spain started conquest of Americas, committing numerous atrocities along the way. Abraham Heschel writes about it (in 1930s Germany, hint) – if the Jews were not expelled, they would be the leaders among conquistadors. So – what is better – be a victim or the perpetrator?


    Sincha, the chosid yaavetz was not blaming the inquisition on philosophy alone; he was saying that those who are consumed by it – something universally accepted as wrong, by proponents of philosophy – was the cause, or at least a large part of it. He’s describing a breakdown of yiddishkeit among those who were into it, not the study of it that was done by rabbonim.

    And i disagree with your characterization of how gedolim explain tragedies. The satmar rov was quoting an open gemara that says that violation of the shevuos makes us hunted like animals.

    But that’s for the gedolim to say. And most gedolim did not give direct causes, but said that the general abandonment of mitzvos caused it, which was plainly obvious to anyone who learns Chumash.

    Also, people like me(i can only speak for myself though) quote the tosfos yom tov’s taanis chalom to explain tach vetat as being due to talking in shul, even though that’s hardly a political issue.

    Communal tragedies require communal and personal introspection; no one’s questioning that, but it is up to the gedolim to offer daas torah into the causes of calamities, and they do. And sometimes it’s things like tznius that offend some people, but that’s their problem.


    >>> it definitely is kefirah to think that the fate of the jewish people depends on the bechirah of goyim.

    Claiming that believing that goyim have the bechira to kill a large percentage of kllal yisroel is kefira needs solid mekoros for it to have any weight.

    Do you believe that the Nazis did NOT have bechira? Do you believe with 100% certainty that had they done nothing everyone would have been killed and experienced that suffering some other way?

    The Torah very clearly says that Klal Yisroel would be enslaved but the well known Ramban (Breishis 15:14 says they had the bechira to be more benign and that the MURDER of Jews committed by the Egyptians (like throwing the boys into the Nile) was something they had complete bechira over .. Among many other sources that would support the concept of goyim having bechira to decide the fate of a large part of klal yisroel like the case of the holocaust. There are Rishonim who give other reasons for why the Egyptians were punished but no one who argues on the Ramban and those who say like him so strongly.

    What is your source for saying that believing that goyim have bechira to determine the fate of a large part of klall yisroel like the holocaust is kefira?


    Would you go to a Beis Ha’Avel and tell them, “the reason he died was because of this or that Aveirah”?
    Would anyone have the Chutzpah to do that?
    But when it comes to mass catastrophes everyone knows the reasons.
    There was a story in Monsey, about a woman who wore pants and didn’t cover her hair, who saw a Chassidishe woman at Rockland Kosher waiting for a ride. She asked her if she needed a ride and the Chassidishe woman said, “I don’t want to take you out of your way”
    “It’s OK, I’ll take you wherever”
    Once they were in the car, the Chassidishe woman said, “You should know, it’s because of people like you, that 9/11 happened”


    The ramban doesn’t say that the mitzriim did so independently; he aays that they went beyond the gezerah of avdus, but there obviously is a new gezerah, which they submitted to of their own volition.

    Want mekoros? Sefer hachinuch on lo sikom; you can’t take revenge because everything that happens to you is min hashomayim. It’s all over shaar habitachon in chovos halevavos. It’s in basically every machshave sefer of the past 500 years.

    See sefer sifsei chaim from rav chaim Friedlander, who famously reconciles the sources which seem to say that a baal bechirah can affect others. It’s a beautiful piece.

    And it’s pashut sevara; why would bechira allow someone to interfere with what Hashem wants to happen?

    And that’s just for yechidim; how much more so for klal yisroel.


    goyim having behira is not problematic – as in deed Mitzrim chose to be more severe towards Yidden,
    but saying that their behira is an exclusive reason for events with Yidden is. That would imply that Hashem does not make Jews the center of the story. So, Spaniards might have chosen to become prosecutors, or be harsher than expected, but there should be a Jewish reason for the events in general.

    As to 20th century, it is probably not controversial that German assimilation caused hatred in a direct way, putting Jews into the center of German politics. And then there is downward spiral in observance in much of Eastern Europe. I would also add to that intra-Jewish relations of the preiod, with bitter infighting between political groups and lack of care for the klak Yisroel in general. this includes even care for German Jews when they were prosecuted… Some responded to an idea of a fast saying that it is impossible to fast for those who are not fasting themselves. [All groups ended up fasting in the camps, of course]. Even more so – abandonment of Russian Jewry after the Soviet revolution. Chofetz Chaim writes several times, calling for people to send packages during the hunger years and generally laments of their fate, and even reconsiders his decision to leave Soviet Russia and leave people behind without any guidance, but overall, there is no sense of Eastern European (or American) Jewry understanding the magnitude of physical and spiritual destruction of several million Yidden. There were individual efforts, such as saving R Moshe Feinstein, clandestine efforts by previous Lubavicher Rebbe, etc, but nothing comparing with 1970s movement for Soviet Jewry that took 50 years to start and that was still opposed by many of the Rabbonim.


    Pro, this is wby we have chazal. So we don’t make up our own religion.

    The gemara says in bava metzia 58b that telling someone that they are suffering or that they lost a child due to their sins is onaas devorim. Does that mean it isn’t true? No! Chazal say to do teshuva when suffering comes. But telling people that is hurtful to them, because they most likely will not accept it as mussar; they’ll just be hurt. So chazal say to stay out of their business in this regard.

    However, when there is no onaas devorim, such as learning a lesson from world events, you are obligated to do so. And gedolim are obligated to share their daas Torah with the public. Does that mean regular individuals know the answer to why gezeros happen? Certainly not. I had a theory about covid, but i would never share it with someone who was sick or cv”s lost someone. Actually, i didn’t share it with anyone! I kept it to myself, because I’m not a gadol byisroel.


    >>>The ramban doesn’t say that the mitzriim did so independently; he aays that they went beyond the gezerah of avdus, but there obviously is a new gezerah,

    Where did you see that in the Ramban? He seems to pretty clearly say otherwise
    וזה טעם דן אנכי שאביא אותם במשפט אם עשו כנגזר
    עליהם או הוסיפו להרע להם

    seems to be clearly saying that they added on the gezera on their own. If there was a new gezara then what does הוסיפו להרע over the gezeira mean?

    I’m not going into the whole question of whether the Ratzon Hashem that (a) should have bechira would allow him to harm (b) even when (b) wouldn’t have otherwise been harmed is a possibility or not. I’m well aware that there are different views on this and the sifrei musser take the view that the answer is no. You however seem to believe that saying the answer is yes is kefira. What are your sources for that?


    The kefirah is believing in another, independent power besides Hashem.

    The ramban is saying just that they can’t be blamed if they enslave the jews, because that was the job given to them. But if they decide to do more, they’ll be punished – but he doesn’t say that they can independently cause it to happen.

    The suffering would have happened anyway, just someone else would have done it; Harbeh shluchim lemakom, etc..


    >>>The kefirah is believing in another, independent power besides Hashem.

    Believing that Hashem gave people bechira to the extent that he does not restrain them even when they are causing an outcome he does not want to happen is not believing in another, independent power besides Hashem. Someone would have to believe that he CAN not stop them to be believing in another, independent power besides Hashem.

    Yabia Omer

    The most important issue for Jews in 2023 is how secular education affected or people 500 years ago?


    Smerel, you’re describing an equal power, something that Hashem can’t do. If one believes that Hashem delegated power to mazalos independently of His will, that’s classic avodah zara according to the rambam. That’s precisely what old ovdei avodah zara believed; that there was a deity who was all powerful but didn’t concern himself with certain things and gave over that power to others.


    People who try to find reasons for tragedies are worse rhan dumb
    Until you can explain to me why my entire family , including baby cousins, were brutally murdered in the Shoah, kindly keep your mouth shut


    Moishe, let’s pretend for a second that we lived in the times of chazal.

    “You rabbis who say that the churban happened because of sinas chinam are worse rhan dumb.
    Until you can explain to me why my entire family , including baby cousins, were brutally murdered in the churban beis hanikdash, kindly keep your mouth shut”


    It is my understanding when R’Akiva (it might have been someone else) was being tortured by the Romans , and people were questioning Hashem, a Bas Kol came out and declared something like ‘if you don’t stop questioning my edict, I will destroy the world.
    Can anyone corroborate the above?
    Anyway AviraD, don’t be so glib when discussing tragedies. Shame on you.


    Yechiel, the meforshim say on that gemara that Hashem was telling the malaachim that to explain even to them why this is happening, He would have to tear apart the world, show them every fiber of creation and how everything fits together.

    The dubno magid gave a moshol; imagine a king who hires a tailor to make a royal garment. He gives him as many bolts of material as he asks for, and when it’s done, the king suspects that the tailor may have pocketed some of the materials, because to him it appeared that the garment couldn’t have taken up that many threads. The tailor says, do you want me to unravel the entire garment to show you how much went into it? The king backs down, not wanting to ruin this beautiful garment.


    Yechiel, this is an online forum.. I’m discussing the issue at hand from a daas Torah perspective; im not addressing individual people. The gedolim were very clear about the Holocaust. Some held back because of the sensitivity of the survivors, who couldn’t handle the idea, and they suffered so much.

    But that has nothing to do with our time, and it certainly doesn’t apply to an anonymous forum.


    Very often, those who despise giving reasons for Tzaros are fine doing so, as long as the reasons are Bein Adam Lachaveiro. (Just sayin)


    I don’t get it. The quited passage from the Chasid Yaavetz does not give a reason for the expulsion. He merely points out how philosophy-based Yiddishkeit doesn’t hold out in trying times while those who worked on Emuna kept their faith.


    Always_Ask_Questions, the Abrabanel is not philosophy, he doesn’t claim to be into it, nor does he base his Pirush on philosophy. Yes, he was learned in classic philosophy and would quote something whenever he chose to, and so does the Maharal a few times.


    HaLeivi > are fine doing so, as long as the reasons are Bein Adam Lachaveiro.

    This is a fair description of the Gemora about BM2 destruction. And many mishnayos about reasons for various destructions … And punishment of Hofni and Pinchas … I think it is also easier for us to connect bein Adam LHavero with events, as they are mida k’neged mida.


    HaLeivi, I am just quoting writings about Chasid Yavetz and his response to Abrabanel’s teachings. I think the quote was about Abrabanel explaining Rambam, and CY saying “this explains Rabbi Moshe [i.e. Ramabam], bot not Moshe Rabeinu” … hope some actually reads the sefer and summarizes it for us. We are arguing in the dark.


    The tochacha in chumash makes absolutely no distinction between aveiros that are bein odom lechavero and bein odom lamakom; the neviim spent more time talking about the YH for avodah zara than other things…

    It’s not “easier,” it’s just more palatable because then all the good MO people with “integrity” and “ethics” can assume that they’re not part of the printing


    Part of the problem*


    Why motzi shem ra saying that only mo people care about integrity.

    I am saying that it is easier for us to weigh on things we can observe. You got to be a gadol to decide that talking in shul caused a tragedy, but it is simpler to observe bein Adam leavers and connect the dots. Furthermore, mida kneged mida is a lower way to understand Hashem’s ways in the absence of nevuah

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