Category Archives: Inquisition

the ”CHOFAR” of the King of Spain

The Choffar

The Choffar


This text was sent to me a while ago and I treasured it. I am pleased today to put it on my blog so that everyone can enjoy this amazing story.

A few years ago, King Juan Carlos of Spain invited the Chief Rabbi of Israel Yonah Metzger to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the death of Maimonides, Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon (Rambam). A Doctor, Philosopher, Talmudist and above all a man with great abilities of decision-making,  the Rambam was born in Cordoba, Spain.

                        During the ceremony, Rabbi Metzger gave the King a beautiful long, curved                            shofar in silver with the royal crown engraved on the silver trim.

                        King Juan Carlos examined it at length and asked  :  ”Is this from Africa ?”                               ”No, Your Majesty, it comes from the land of Israel”

Increasingly perplexed the King asked if this item was used in bullfights but RabbI Metzger politely explained that Judaism forbade making animals suffer unnecessarily.

                       ” So what is the use of the animal horn ?” continued the king.

The Rabbi then reminded the king of a painful chapter in the history of the Spanish Jews.

After more than five hundred years, the Golden Age of Spanish Jewry ended abruptly when your ancestor, King Ferdinand and his wife Isabella, expelled my ancestors following the incentive Inquisitor, Torquemada.

The Jews who had so contributed to the development of their countries had to flee, abandoning their properties and moved to more hospitable countries. However, some Jews remained in Spain keeping secretly their laws and customs. They behaved like devout Catholics but respected the laws of the Torah, lighting the Shabbat candles in cupboards, so that no one would notice.

On Holidays, the Marranos secretly gathered in basements to pray.

They prayed fervently with a very low voice so as not to be discovered by the Inquisition, which would have burnt these heretics at stake.

For Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) they were faced with a dilemma, prayer could be whispered but how to use the shofar without attracting the attention of neighbors ?

A Jewish-born-conductor found an original solution :

He proposed to the king to hold a free concert and to present various wind instruments from all countries and all periods.

The King who loved music was delighted. The Conductor offered a certain date, which in fact of course  was the date of Rosh Hashanah.

The King, the Queen, ministers and courtiers sat in the front row, the remaining listeners took to the rear, amongst whom were many Marranos.

The musicians presented different instruments, like a flute and a trumpet shepherd. At some point the conductor himself proposed to blow in a ram’s horn, which he presented as the oldest known wind instrument. The King and Queen were interested in this curiosity and observed the instrument. Then the Master brought it to his mouth while in the back of the room Marranos  whispered the two blessings:

                  ”Blessed are You, Lord our Gd, King of the Universe who sanctified us with His                       commandments and commanded us to listen to the sound of the shofar’ ‘      

                     as well as:

                  ”Blessed are You, Lord our Gd, King of the Universe, who gives us life,                                         sustained us and has sent us to that period’

The Conductor sounded the shofar as required by the Halacha and the spectators were silent. At the end of the service, they applauded …….

”Today Majesty”, continued Rabbi Metzger,”we meet five hundred years later in much more friendly circumstances. As Chief Rabbi of Israel I am happy to return to Spain.

Thank you on behalf of our people, now the Jews can live freely in your country, they enjoy complete freedom of worship and on Rosh Hashanah they can blow the shofar in the restored synagogues.

I am honored to give you this shofar publicly without hiding it because you are concerned about a sovereign democracy”.

When accepting the shofar, the King declared :

”Chief Rabbi, I received many gifts and trophies from many personalities from around the globe, but this gift carries historical significance and I am extremely grateful for this and for that Shofar story” !

Rabbi Metzger then told the King that he wanted to bless him, as recommended by the Sages.

When he finished his blessing Rabbi Metzger opened his eyes and saw that the king was much moved.  He wept without trying to hide …..


Le Roi Juan Carlos et le Rabbin Metzger

King Juan Carlos and Rabbi Metzger

In fact, historically, the mother of King Ferdinand I, who signed in 1492 the expulsion of Jews from Spain and  let the Inquisition settled… was Jewish. She was called Juana Enriquez, and her mother Paloma bat Gedaliah  (Paloma daughter of Gedaliah)

The paternal grandfather of Juana Enríquez is Alonso Enríquez, Lord Medina de Rioseco (1354-1429), whose father is Fadrique of Castile and mother, Paloma bat Gedaliah (born Jewish), granddaughter of Shlomo ben David Ha-Zaken traditionally from a branch of the descendants of King David by exilarchs of Babylon.

Thus his great-grandson son Charles V descended from the Jews of Babylon [1]

Document: Publications genealogists HRMoser and Vajay, INRIA 2005


Marranos burnt on the woodshed

Marranos burnt on the woodshed



Doña Gracia – A Noble Dame

d gracia
Doña Gracia was a jewish noble Lady who played a particularly important role in the middle ages. Her exceptional destiny intrigues and fascinates us till today …

Born, in Portugal in the early 16th century, in the noble and very wealthy  Benveniste family, which fled Spain at the beginning of the Inquisition.

She married Francisco Mendez-Nassi, a banker, whose fortune was even greater than hers.


Doña Gracia or ” Beatriz Luna, ” according to the name adopted as alleged Catholic, was of a great beauty, rich and cultivated.

On the death of her husband, she decided to leave Portugal and took her only child with her, along with some other family members. Life was becoming unbearable for the ”Marranos” as the Inquisition began to dwell beyond Spain and Portugal.

The Marranos were Jews who, like Doña Gracia, secretly remained loyal to the faith of their fathers, while claiming an apparent adherence to the Catholic Church. They suffered deep oppression.

She went to Antwerp, where her brother in law ran the Bank for the Mendez-Nassi family and settled there.

But even there the Inquisition was soon to join them.

After the death of her brother in law in 1549, she left Antwerp with her daughter,  sister and widowed niece to Venice, She took away as many goods as she could and was hoping to find a far away land which would allow her to  live her Judaism in peace.

She decided to join her nephew in Constantinople, the famous Don Joseph Nasi who became Minister of the Sultan in Turkey, one of the most influential man in Europe.

But the King of France, persuaded the government of Venice to prevent them from embarking and put that Noble Dame and her family in prison and confiscate all their properties.

Don Joseph Nasi using his influence with the Sultan managed a Master coup : for some time the Sultan policy was disturbed by the competing merchants of Venice.

Therefore the Sultan sent an emissary with a query asking firmly the release of Dona Gracia and to restore her fortune.

It took two years for the Sultan to get satisfaction.

Doña Gracia eventually settled in Constantinople in 1552 and became the center of world aid to persecuted Jews and Marranos. She spent her fortune to this cause.

Unfortunately, due to political changes, the situation of the Jews in Turkey deteriorated and became as dramatic as in Europe. Much of the wealth of Mendez-Nassi was confiscated.

                              The dream of Doña Gracia was to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine!

                          That any persecuted Marrano Jews would have a peace of land where they                                         could finally live and transmit their ancestors traditions to                                  their children          

                     Many remnants in Safed and Tiberias remind us, nowadays, of the generosity                           of this benefactor and her image remains forever etched in our memories.                                                           
                                                             A Great and Noble Lady                                                                                                                         
                                                                        Doña Gracia