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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Ariel Toaff - BLOOD PASSOVER (D)

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CHAPTER EIGHT 

DISTANT PRECEDENTS AND THE SAGA OF PURIM 

Ritual murder accusations have been made against the Jews for thousands of years. The murders were sometimes alleged to have been accompanied by ritual cannibalism, but not always. In every case, it is rather improbable that the testimonies which have come down to us from antiquity were known and disseminated in the Middle Ages and could constitute a significant point of reference for later accusations of crucifixion and ritual cannibalism (1).
As early as the second century before Christ, the almost unknown Greek historian, Damocritus, who probably lived in Alexandria, recorded a violently biased anti-Jewish testimony, at that time referred to under his name in Suida's Greek dictionary. According to Damocritus, the Jews were accustomed to render worship to a golden head of an ass; every seven years, they abducted a foreigner to sacrifice him, tearing the body to pieces (2).
This horrible rite is said to have taken place probably every seven years in the Temple of Jerusalem, sanctuary of the Jewish religion.
Damocritus’s report is evidently intended to stress the barbarism of the Jews, the "haters of mankind", who practiced superstitious and cruel cults. It should nevertheless be noted that the Greek historian made no reference either to any need to collect the victim's blood or other forms of ritual cannibalism.
A report only partly similar to that reported by Damocritus is found in the polemical, Contra Apione, by Flavius Josephus, quoting the tendentiously anti-Jewish rhetorician, Apione, who lived at Alexandria during the 1st century of the Christian era. According to Apione, Antiocchus Epiphane, entering the Temple of Jerusalem, is said to have been surprised to find a Greek, stretched on a bed and surrounded by exquisite foods and rich dishes. The prisoner's report was extraordinary and horrifying. The Greek said that he had been captured
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by the Jews and taken to the Temple and concealed from everyone, while they force-fed him on all sorts of foods. At first, it the unusual circumstances in which he found himself did not greatly displease him until the sanctuary attendants revealed the fate waiting in store for him: he was fated to die, the predestined victim of homicidal Jewish sacrificial practices.
"(The Jews) carry out this (rite) every year, on a pre-established date. They catch a Greek merchant and feed him for a whole year. They later take him into a forest, kill him and sacrifice him according to their religion. They then savor the viscera, and in the moment of sacrificing the Greek, they swear their hatred of all Greeks. They then dump the remains of the carcass into a ditch” (3).

Flavius Josephus reports that the history recounted by Apione was not invented by him, but was, rather, derived from other Greek writers, an indication that its dissemination must have been much more widespread than we are led to imagine based on the two only surviving accounts, i.e., of Damocritus and Apion(4).
Compared to the first, the second describes a number of variants which are undoubtedly important. The sacrificial ceremony is now annual, and held on a fixed date, even if the account does not specify the Jewish holiday on which it allegedly took place. Furthermore, ritual cannibalism is now stressed in an explicit and brutal manner, even if there is still no mention of any need for human blood, which, as we have seen, is said to have become the preponderant element starting with the Middle Ages. On the other hand, that both Greeks and Romans are alleged to have ended up as a meal for ravenous Jews is shown by the fact that Dio Cassius, writing of their rebellion at Cyrene (115 of the Christian era), hastened to mention, in disgust, that the Jews were accustomed to feasting upon the bodies of Greek and Roman enemies slain in battle. Not contenting themselves with the satisfaction of this alimentary predilection, they painted their bodies with the blood of their enemies and used their intestines as belts (5).
A more delicate matter than the above seems to relate to a passage in the Talmud (Ketubot 102b) which might be interpreted as an indirect confirmation of the phenomenon of ritual murder during an ancient epoch, although we don’t know how widespread or how widely approved it may have been. The passage concerns a so-called “outside” baraita, or mishnah, i.e., one not incorporated into the codified and canonical text of the mishnah (dating back

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approximately to the third century A.D.) -- which seems to be one of the oldest -- and may therefore be traced back to Palestine at the time of the second Temple.
"A man is killed, leaving a son of a tender age in the care of his mother. When the father's heirs approach up and say, 'Let him grow up with us', and the mother say 'Let him grow up with me', he (the boy) should be left with the mother, and should not be entrusted to the care of anyone entitled to inherit from him. A case of this kind happened in the past and (the heirs) killed him on Passover Eve (Hebrew: weshachatuhu ' erev ha-Pesach)" (6).
We know that the Hebrew verb shachet has the meaning of "butcher", "kill", as well as to "immolate", as, for example, as a sacrifice (as for example, Exodus 12:21 "Thou shalt sacrifice the Passover lamb", we-shachatu ha-pesach). If in the case in question were merely a question of a simple murder committed by heirs for profit, the statement that the murder was committed "on Passover Eve" would be quite superfluous. In fact, in support of the law providing that the child should be entrusted to the mother instead of persons entitled to inherit his property, it would have been sufficient merely to state that, in the past, a child had been killed by his heirs. When and how the murder occurred is in fact superfluous. Unless we recall to mind a circumstance, presumably well known, in which the child murder, which deserved to be condemned, actually occurred, but only for material and egotistical motives.
At this point, it might be noted that the most ancient Christian authors appeared to make no use of this Talmudic passage in their anti-Jewish polemics, although the passage shows a relationship between the cruel killing of a child and the Jewish Passover, which might have been used by them in support of the ritual murder accusation. But perhaps their failure to do so was due to poor knowledge of Talmudic literature and rabbinical literature in general on the part of Christian polemicists, who were often ignorant of Talmudic and rabbinical language and interpretive categories (7).
Be that as it may, it is advisable to stress that the reading "They killed (or immolated) him on Passover eve" (we-shachatuhu 'erev ha- Pesach ), appears in all the manuscript and ancient versions of the Ketubot treatise in question, as well as in the first edition of the Talmud, printed at Venice in 1521 by Daniel Bomberg. Later, no doubt
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for the purpose of defending themselves against the ritual murder accusation brought by those who had, in the meantime, discovered the potential value of the embarrassing passage, the Jewish editors of the Talmud replaced the passage with a more anaemic, less embarrassing reading: "they killed him on New Year's Eve ('erev Rosh Ha-Shanah), or "they killed him the first evening" ('erev ha-rishon) (8). The latter version might suggest that the child's heirs got rid of him in a violent way as early as the evening of the day upon he was entrusted to them, with the obvious intention of getting their hands on the estate as soon as possible.
The editors of the famous Vilna edition of the Talmud (1835) justified their decision to adopt the reading "they killed him the first evening" in a glossa to Ketubot 102b, in which they rejected the preceding version – but without explicitly mentioning it – containing the reference to “Passover Eve”, as the circumstance under which the unhappy child is said to have been cruelly killed. "Whoever preceded us in the Talmud", they stressed, "fell into error and preferred a reading completely torn out of context" (9).
That Christian Europe of the Middle Ages feared the Jews is an established fact. Perhaps the widespread fear that Jews were scheming to abduct children, subjecting them to cruel rituals, even antedates the appearance of stereotypical ritual murder which seems to have originated in the 12th century. As for myself, I believe that serious consideration should be given to the possibility that this fear was largely related to the slave trade, particularly in the 9th and 10th centuries, when the Jewish role in the slave trade appears to have been preponderant (10).
During this period, Jewish merchants, from the cities in the valley of the Rhône, Verdun, Lione, Arles and Narbonne, in addition to Aquisgrana, the capital of the empire in the times of Louis the Pious [Louis I]; and in Germany from the centres of the valley of the Rhine, from Worms, Magonza and Magdeburg; in Bavaria and Bohemia, from Regensburg and Prague - were active in the principal markets in which slaves (women, men, eunuchs) were offered for sale, by Jews, sometimes after abducting them from their houses. From Christian Europe the human merchandise was exported to the Islamic lands of Spain, in which there was a lively market. The castration of these slaves, particularly children, raised their prices, and was no doubt a lucrative and profitable practice (11).
The first testimony relating to the abduction of children by Jewish merchants active in the trade flowing into Arab Spain,

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comes down to us in a letter from Agobard, archbishop of Lyon in the years 816-840. The French prelate describes the appearance at Lyons of a Christian slave, having escaped from Cordoba, who had been abducted from Leonese Jewish merchant twenty four years before, when he was a child, to be sold to the Moslems of Spain. His companion in flight was another Christian slave having suffered a similar fate after being abducted six years before by Jewish merchants at Arles. The inhabitants of Lyons confirmed these claims, adding that yet another Christian boy had been abducted by Jews to be sold into slavery that same year. Agobard concludes his report with a comment of a general nature; that these were not considered isolated cases, because, in every day practice, the Jews continued to procure Christian slaves for themselves and furthermore subjecting them to "infamies such that it would be vile in itself to describe them" (12).
Precisely what kind of abominable “infamies” Agobard is referring to is not clear; but it is possible that he was referring to castration more than to circumcision (13). Liutprando, bishop of Cremona, in his Antapodosis, said to have been written in approximately 958-962, referred to the city of Verdun as the principal market in which Jews castrated young slaves intended for sale to the Moslems of Spain (14). During this same period, two Arab sources, Ibn Haukal and Ibrahim al Qarawi, also stressed that the majority of their eunuchs originated from France and were sold to the Iberian peninsula by Jewish merchants. Other Arabic writers mentioned Lucerna, a city with a Jewish majority, halfway between Córdoba and Málaga in southern Spain, as another major market, in which the castration of Christian children after reducing them to slavery was practiced on a large scale by the very same people (15).
Contemporary rabbinical responses provide further confirmation of the role played by Jews in the trade in children and young people as well as in the profitable transformation of boys into eunuchs. These texts reveal that anyone who engaged in such trade was aware of the risks involved, because any person caught and arrested in possession of castrated slaves in Christian territories was decapitated by order of the local authorities (16).
Even the famous Natronai, Gaon of the rabbinical college of Sura in the mid-9th century was aware of the problems linked to the dangerous trade in young eunuchs.
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"Jewish (merchants) entered (into a port or a city), bringing with them slaves and castrated children [Hebrew: serisim ketannim]. When the local authorities confiscated them, the Jews corrupted them with money, reducing them to more harmless advisors, and the merchandise was returned, at least in part" (17).
But if one wishes to interpret the significance and scope of the Jewish presence in the slave trade and practice of castration, it is a fact that the fear that Christian children might be abducted and sold was rather widespread and deeply rooted in all Western European countries, particularly, France and Germany, from which these Jews originated and where the greater part of the slave merchants operated. Personalities in the clergy nourished that fear, conferring religious connotations upon it with an anti-Jewish slant, failing to account for the fact that slavery as a trade had not yet gone out of fashion morally and, as such, was broadly tolerated in the economic reality of the period. On the other hand, the abduction and castration of children, often inevitably confused with circumcision, which was no less feared and abhorred, could not fail to insinuate themselves in the collective unconscious mind of Christian Europe, especially the French and German territories, inciting anxiety and fear, which probably solidified over time, and, as a result, are believed to have concretized themselves in a variety of ways and in more or less in the same places, as the ritual murder.
In the Hebrew calendar, Pesach, Passover, comes one month after the feast of Purim, which commemorates the miraculous salvation of the Jewish people in Persia during the reign of King Ahasuerus I (519-465) from the threat of extermination linked to the plotting of the King’s perfidious minister, Haman. The Book of Esther, which examines all these explosive matters and exalts the saving function of the Biblical heroine as well as that of Mordechai, Esther’s uncle and mentor, concludes with the hanging of Haman and his ten sons, as well as with the beneficial massacre of the enemies of Israel. Leon of Modena in his Riti, describes Purim in precisely this manner, stressing a carnival-like atmosphere of celebrations and convivial opulence in which restraint and inhibition were dangerously weakened.
"On the 14th of Adar, which is March, is the festival of Purim, in memory of everything we read in the Book of Esther, which saved the people of Israel from being exterminated through the machinations of Haman, and he and his sons were hanged [...]. After the ordinary orations, with remembrance only of the escape which occurred at the hour of death, we read the entire History or Book of Esther, which were written on parchment in volume as the Panteuch, and we call meghillah, i.e., volume. And some hearing Haman's mentioned,
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beat as a sign to curse him [...] They make much rejoicing festivities and banquets [...] an effort is made to serve the most sumptuous meal possible and eat and drink more than usual, after which friends go out to visit each other, with receptions, festivities and revelry" (18).
For a number of reasons, not least that of its not infrequent proximity to Holy Week, Purim, also called the "festival of the lots", came, in time, to acquire openly anti-Christian connotations and the related celebrations became openly suggestive in this sense, both in form and substance, sometimes audaciously and openly. Haman, equated with that other Biblical arch-enemy of the Jews, Amalek (Deut. 25: 17-19), whose memory was to be blotted out from the face of the earth, was transformed, over time, into Jesus, the False Messiah, whose impious followers were once threatening the Chosen People with extermination (19).
Moreover, Haman was killed, hanged, as Jesus was said to have been, and there was no shortage of exegetic material reinforcing this paragon. In the Greek translation of the Septuagint as well as in Flavius Josephus (Ant. Jud. Xi, 267, 280), Haman’s gallows was interpreted as a cross, and the execution of King Ahasuerus’s belligerent minister was described, in effect, as a true and proper crucifixion. The equation between Amalek, Haman and Christ was self-evidently obvious. Haman, who, in the Biblical text is referred to as talui, "the hanged one", was confused with He who, in all anti-Christian Hebraic texts, was the Talui by antonomasia [the replacement of a proper name by an epithet], i.e., the crucified Christ (20).
The sensational trial of the most prominent members of the Ashkenazi communities of northern Italy, accused of vilifying the Christian religion was held in Milan in the spring of 1488. In reply to inquisitors demanding the name used by Jews with reference to Jesus of Nazareth, Salomone da Como, one of the accused, answered unhesitatingly: "Among ourselves we call him "Ossoays" ("that man", from the Hebrew oto' ha-ish, according to the German pronunciation), or Talui ("the hanged one", "the crucified one"), while, when speaking to Christians, we always refer to him as ‘Christ’" (21). It is not surprising that a text by 4th century writer Evagrius describes the Jew Simone, in an argument with a Christian, Theophilus, should have equated “the cursed and despised Passion of Christ" with Haman’s ‘crucifixion’ (22) .
According to the great English anthropologist James George Frazer, Christ died while playing the role of Haman (the dying god) in a drama of Purim in which (Jesus) Barabbas, the double of Jesus
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of Nazareth, played the part of Mordechai (the god that resurges). In the model of the god that dies and is reborn -- which is common in the Near East -- Haman is said to have played the part of death and Mordechai that of life, while the celebration of Purim is said to constitute the Hebraic ritual of death and resurrection. Based on this consideration, one might hypothesize that, in the past, the Jews, at the culmination of the festival, might have been accustomed to putting a man to death in flesh and blood reality, and that Jesus was crucified in this context, playing the role of Ahasuerus’s tragic minister, the arch-enemy of Israel (23).
There is no shortage of testimonies of the celebration of rituals, within the framework of the carnival of Purim, intended to vilify and outrage the image of Haman, reconstituted in the semblance of Christ hanging from the cross. First, the emperor Honorius (384-423) and, in his footsteps, Theodosius (401-450), prohibited the Jews from the provinces of the Empire from setting fire to effigies of Haman crucified in contempt of the Christian religion. Probably to be associated with the preceding prohibitions is the report, mentioned by the late chronicler Agapius [10th century] and dating back to 404-407 A.D., during the reign of Theodosius II [Flavius Theodosius, Roman Emperor of the East, 401-450 A.D.], that certain Jews of Alexandria, forced to submit to baptism, are said to have rebelled, giving rise to a sensational protest, stating that, in their eyes, such a ceremony possessed the fascination of a certain originality. They are said to have taken an image of the crucified Christ, heaping insults upon the Christians, mocking them with the words: "This is our Messiah?" (24). It is not impossible that the episode formed part of the framework of the Hebraic Purim celebrations.
Before 1027, at Byzantium [Constantinople, now Istanbul], baptized Jews were required to curse their ex-fellow-Jews "who celebrated the festival of Mordechai, crucifying Haman on a beam of wood, in the form of a cross, and then setting fire to it, accompanying the vile rite with a torrent of imprecations directed at those faithful to Christ". Again, in the very early 13th century, Arnol, prior of the monastery at Lübeck, censured the wickedness of the Jews in bitter terms "in crucifying the figure of the Redeemer every year, making him the object of shameless ridicule" (25).
Even the Hebrew texts do not seem to be sparing on information in this regard. The Talmudic dictionary Arukh, consisting of the rabbi Natan b. Yehiel of Rome in the second half of the 11th century, contains reports that the Jews of Babylon were accustomed to celebrate the festival of Purim in a particular way.
"It is the custom among the Jews of Babylon and the rest of the entire world for the boys to make effigies shaped like Haman and hang them
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on the roofs of their houses for four or five days (before the festival). In the days of Purim, they prepare a phallus and throw it among these images, while they stand around singing songs" (26).
The above mentioned rites were culinary, even symbolically cannibalistic in nature. The effigies of Haman-Christ were of sweet pastry, to be destroyed, avidly consumed by youngsters and children during the days of carnival (27).
During the Middle Ages, the sweet delicacy enjoying absolute primacy in the sumptuous banquets of Purim was a typical biscuit, once again bearing the pathetic figure of Haman as a gastronomic butt of ridicule. The so-called "Haman's ears" (onze' Aman), presented in a variety of versions according to the various traditions of the Jewish community, gained a position of great importance in the feast of Purim. In Italy, they were strips of puff pastry shaped like ass's ears, fried in olive oil and powdered sugar, which quite resembled the Tuscan cenci and Roman frappe prepared during carnival time. Among Oriental and north African Jews, the puff pastry was roasted and covered with honey and sesame seeds (28).
The Italian Ashkenazim did not much care for the overly-Mediterranean taste of these [latter] biscuits, which they called "galahim frit" in contempt, "fried priests" (literally "people with the tonsure"), confirming the detestable relationship between Haman, Israel’s bitter enemy, and the arrogance of Christianity, with its priests. Their version of the "ears" were called Hamantaschen or "Haman's pockets", and was more elaborate. These consisted of a large triangle-shaped cake of egg pasta filled with a sweet brownish mixture based on poppy seeds (29). Nor should we be surprised to find that, even in the relatively recent past, there was no shortage of people in Germany who shared the belief, curious even if not very original, that the Ashkenazi stuffed their Hamantaschen with the coagulated blood of Christian boys martyred by them (30). Modern anti-Semites gather and disseminate this cannibalistic fable today from their university chairs, particularly in the Arab countries, making it the subject of ridiculous pseudo-historical research (31).
Turning back centuries, however, we must note, following Frazer, that the ritual of Purim did not always conclude with the bloodless hanging of a mere effigy of Haman. Sometimes, the “effigy” was a flesh-and-blood Christian,
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crucified for real, during the wild revelry of the Jewish carnival. One of these sources of which we can attain with regards it Socrates Scolasticus, history of the Church in the 5th century, which, from its Historia Ecclestiastica (VII, 16) refers to a case occurring in 415 at Inmestar, near Antioch, in Syria (32). The local Hebrews, in their debaucheries and intemperate revelry to celebrate Purim, after getting suitably drunk, according to the prescriptions of the ritual, which provided that they must drink so much wine that they can no longer distinguish Haman from Mordechai:
”…took to deriding the Christians and Christ Himself in their boasting; they ridiculed the cross and anyone trusting in the crucifix, putting the following joke in practice.
“They took a Christian child, tied it to a cross and hanged him. Initially they made him the object of jokes and drollery; then, after a while, they lost control of themselves and mistreated him to such a degree that they killed him."
The report, which makes no mention of miracles occurring at the site of the relics of the martyred child, seems to possess all the indications of truthfulness. Moreover, as we have seen above, there are people who have viewed the immoderate celebrations of Purim, accompanied by anti-Christian insults and violence, as the core from which the belief in Jewish ritual homicide of Christian children is thought to have developed during the Middle Ages, as an integral part of a ritual centered around on the festival of Pesach, considered the ideal culmination of Purim (33).
The case of Inmestar is not an isolated one. A Jewish source, the memoires of rabbi Efraim of Bonn, takes us to France, to Brie-Compte Robert, in 1191 or 1192 (34). A servant of the Duchess of Champagne was found guilty of the murder of a Jew and was held in prison for that offense. The other Jews of the village decided to rescue the prisoner in exchange for money and executed him during the festival of Purim , hanging him (35).
“A perfidious Christian killed a Jew in the city of Brie, which is in France. Then the other Jews, his relatives, went to the lord of the region (the Duchess of Champagne), and implored her (to hand over) the murderer, who was a servant of the King of France. They therefore bribed her with their money in order to be able to crucify the killer (36). And they crucified him on the eve of Purim" (37).

The vengeance demanded in a loud voice by the Christians of Brie, headed by Philippe II August, King of France (1165-1223), was not long in coming.
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The entire adult Jewish population of the city, totaling about eighty persons, were tried and condemned to be burnt at the stake ("wealthy persons, rich and influential, some of them famous rabbis and people of culture, who refused to sully themselves [in the baptismal waters] and to betray the One God, were burnt alive proclaiming the unity of the Creator"). The children, who were Jews and circumcised, were taken en masse to the baptismal font to be made Christians. No festival of Purim ever concluded in a more tragic manner for the Jews, overturning and thwarting the saving and hope-giving meaning of the Biblical account of Esther and Mordechai.
The blasphemous parody of the Passion of Christ sometimes had the most tragic consequences. But this obvious fact did not always suffice to cool hot heads and restrain fanatical, agitated minds. The Christians were not too subtle about it, since they certainly didn't need excuses or pretexts to perpetrate indiscriminate massacres of Jews or to plunge Jewish children into the beneficial waters of baptism by force. The spiral of violence, having due regard to the discrepancies between the relative power and size of the two conflicting societies, could not be extinguished. The serpent bit its own tail, leaving its imprint of blood on the sand. Each society was, in a sense, its own victim, but neither noticed.
To give a few examples, on 7 February 1323, a few days before the festival of Purim, a Jew in the Duchy of Spoleto was condemned for striking and insulting the cross (38). On 28 February 1504, precisely coinciding with the festival of Purim, a beggar from Bevagna accused the local Jews of the place, transformed into evil spirits, of having cruelly crucified him (39). It was still in the days of Purim, in February 1444, that the Jews of Vigone, in Piedmont, were accused of having pretended to butcher an image of Christ Crucified as a joke (40); again, it was in the month of February, this time in 1471, that a Jew from Gubbio brought a legal action to "scrape" the image of the Virgin Mary from the outside wall of his house (41).
Purim was followed by Pesach, but the story, during that violent month, was no different, even without any strict need to play cruel and lethal cruel tricks on Christian boys, or to stone Jews and their houses en masse during the "holy hailstorm of stones". On 21 March 1456, a Jew of Lodi entered the cathedral of San Lorenzo at nightfall with a drawn sword, directing himself without hesitation, where he walked straight up to the main altar and proceeded to make log wood and splinters out of the image of Christ
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Crucified, with the evident intention of chopping it to bits. His fate was sealed. The culprit was lynched on the spot, amidst the rejoicing of a jubilant crowd, and vengeance was wreaked. 21 March 1456 corresponded to the 15th of the Month of Nissan of the Jewish year 5216 and the first day of Pesach. The matter was thus described by the commander of Lodi to the Duke of Milan:
"In our dear city of Lodi, on the 21st day, 17 hours, of the present month [March], according to the common reports, a Jew entered the cathedral with sword in hand to cut the crucifix of Christ to pieces, for which offense the whole territory rose up against him and they ran to the Jew’s house [...] and killed the above-mentioned Jew and dragged him on the ground" (42).
In the early modern age, the carnival-like festivities of Purim finally lost those qualities of aggressiveness and violence which had been characteristic since the early Middle Ages, but never renounced the clearly anti-Christian meaning it possessed according to tradition. Thus wrote Giulio Morosini, known as Shemuel Nahmias at Venice when he was still a Jew, a shrewd former disciple of Leon da Modena:
"During the reading [of the megillah of Esther], whenever Haman is named, the boys beat the benches of the synagogue with hammers or sticks with all their might as a sign of excommunication, crying in a loud voice 'May his name be blotted out and may the name of the impious rot. And they all cried 'Be cursed, Haman, Be blessed, Mordechai, Be blessed Esther, Be cursed Ahasueruss.' And they continue like that until evening, just as on the morning of the first day, never ceasing to express their justified contempt for Haman and the enemies of Judaism at that time, covertly spreading poison against Christians, under the name of Idolaters [...] they therefore cry out in a loud voice Be Cursed all the Idolaters (43).
But at an even earlier time, the illustrious jurist Marquardo Susanni, protected by Paolo IV Carafa, the fervent and impassioned founder of the Ghetto of Rome, mentioned the wild hostility of the Jews towards Christianity as well as the peculiar carnival-like characteristics of Purim . According to him, "during the feast of Mordechai", the Jews did not hesitate to greet each other by saying, in contemptuous tones:
'May the King of the Christians go down to ruin immediately, the way Haman went down to ruin" (44).
--
NOTES TO CHAPTER EIGHT
1. Cfr. G.L. Langmuir, Thomas of Monmouth. Detector of Ritual Murder, in "Speculum", LIX (1984), p. 824.
2. Cfr. Th. Reinach, Textes d'auteurs grecs et romains relatifs au Judaisme, Paris, 1895, p. 121, no. 60.
3. Josephus, Contra Apion, II, 7-1: "et hoc illos facere singulis annis quodam tempore constituito. Et comprehendere quidem Graecum peregrinum, eumque annali tempore saginare et deductum ad quamdam silvam occidere quidem eum hominem, eiusque corpus sacrificare secundum suas solemnitates, et gustare ex eius visceribus, et iusiurandum facere in immolatione Graeci, ut inimicitas contra Graecos haberent, et tunc in quandam foveam reliqua hominis pereuntis abjicere", Cfr. Rheinach, Textes d'auteurs grecs et romains, cit. pp. 131-132, no. 63.
4. For an examination of the story of Damocritus and Apione on the ritual homicides committed by the Jews in the Temple of Jerusalem, see, among others, J. Parkes, The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue, 1934, p. 16; D. Flusser, The Blood Libel against the Jews According to the Intellectual Perspectives of the Hellenistic Age , in Studies on Hellenistic Judaism in Memory of J. Levy, Jerusalem, 1949, pp. 104-124 (in Hebrew); Id., Moza 'alilot ha-dam ("The Origins of the Blood Accusation") in "Manhanaim", CX (1967), pp. 18-21; J.N. Sevenster, The Roots of Pagan Anti-semitism in the Ancient World , Leyden, 1975, pp. 140-142.
5. Cfr. Reinach, Textes d'auteurs grecs et romains relatifs au Judaisme, Paris, cit., pp. 196-197, no. 112.
6. Thus, the final passage of this haraita is translated by rabbi Dovid Kamenetsky, in the recent edition of the Babylonian Talmud, with a version in English (Talmud Bavli, Schottenstein Edition, Tractae Ketubos, III, New York, 2000, c. 102b and no. 32): "for it once occurred that a boy was entrusted to those fit to inherit him, and they butchered (or: slew) him on Pesach eve".
7. "In the Latin translation of extracts from the Talmud contained in Latin manuscript 16558 B.N., which is the principal source of knowledge of rabbinical literature in the Christian world in the 13th century, the Ketubot treatise is not explicitly mentioned there [...]. It does not contain the passage which interests you (Ketubot 102b). I have never found it used in polemics; nevertheless, the link made between Pessach might very well have encouraged belief in 'ritual murder'; but the authors of the anti-Jewish accounts on this subject obviously know nothing about Jewish literature. [...]. Among the number of accusations made of ritual murder, I do not recall ever having found an argument based upon this Talmudic passage" [written communication dated 2 August 2001 from Professor Gilbert Dehan, to whom I wish to express my deepest thanks).
8. A. Steinzaltz notes, in this regard, that "in some later editions (of the Talmud), the Rosh Ha-Shanah (New Year's) version appears instead of Pesach, in the fear that this expression might constitute evidence to be used by those who accuse the Jews of ritual murder". (Talmud Bavli, Ketubot , Jerusalem, 1988, vol. II, p. 457). And nevertheless, the first writer to use the text of Ketubot in this sense seems to be the famous Augusto Rohling, University professor and one of the more caustic Austrian anti-Semitic polemicists, author of Der Talmudjude (Munster, 1871). The passage of Ketubot 102b was revealed by him and publicized with ill-concealed satisfaction in a brochure entitled Ein Talmud fur rituelle Schächten , which saw the light in 1892. Hermann L. Strack replied to him, arguing passionately but only somewhat convincingly, in the fourth edition (London, 1892), of his classic essay on Jews and human ritual sacrifice (The Jew and Human Sacrifice. Human Blood and Jewish Ritual , pp. 155-168).
9. Talmud Bavli, Vilna, Menachem (Mendele) Man e Simcha Zimel, 1835. It should be noted that this edition preceded by more than half a century the "revelations" of Rohling, in a act of surprising self-censorship. It is not impossible that the editors of the Vilna Talmud intended to respond to doubt and embarrassment within the Jewish world on the interpretation of this text in the original version, rather than reply to the external attacks which were still long yet to come.
10. In this regard, see Ch. Verlinden's now famous classic, L'esclavage dans l'Europe medievale, Brugge, 1955, vol. I, pp. 702-716. For a rather over-simplified interpretation of the role of the Jews in the slave trade, see B. Blumenkranz, Juifs et Chrétiens dans le monde occidental (430-1096), Paris 1960, pp. 18-19, 184-211, to which the same Verlinden replied (A propos de la place des juifs dans l'économie de l'Europe occidentale au IXème siècles. Agobard de Lyon et l'historiographie arabe, in Storia e storiograph. Miscellanea de studi in onore di E. Dupre -Theseider, Rome, 1974, pp. 21-37).
11. Cfr. Verlinden, A propos de la place des juifs, cit., pp. 32-35.
12. "Et cum precedens scedula dictata fuisset, supervenit quidam homo fugiens ab Hispanis de Cordoba, qui se dicebat furatum fuisse a quoda Judeo Lugduno ante annos IIti IIIor, parvum adhuc puerum, et et venditum. Fugisse autem anno presenti cum alio, qi similiter furatus fuerat ab alio Judeo ante annos sex. Cumque huis, qui Lugdunesis fuerat, notos quereremus et invenirem dictum est a quibusdam et alios ab eodem Judeos furatos, alios vero eptos ac venditos; ab alio quoque Judeo anno presenti alium puerum furatum et venditum; qua hora inventum est plures Christianos a Christianis vendi et comparari a Judeis, perpatrarique ab eis multa infanda que turpia sunt ad scribendum" (Epistolae Karolini aevi, in "Monumenta Germaniae Historica", III, Hannover, 1846, p. 185). For an analysis of this text, see, in particular, B. Blumenkrantz, Les auteurs chrétiens latins au Moyen Age sur les Juifs et le Judaisme, Paris, 1963, pp. 152-168; Id., Juifs et Chrétiens dans le monde occidentale , cit., pp. 191-195; Verlinden, A propos de la place des juifs, cit., pp. 21-25.
13. For a useful discussion of this topic, see Blumenkrantz, Juifs et Chrétiens dans le monde occidental, cit., pp. 194-195, no. 142; Id., Les auteurs chrétiens , cit., p. 163, no. 53.
14. "Carzimasium autem greci vocant amputatis virilibus et virga puerum quod Virdunenses mercatores ob immensum lucrum facere et in Hispaniam ducere solent " ["Virgin boys whose genitals have been amputated are referred to by the Greeks as 'eunuchs'. These boys are castrated by merchants at Verdun at an immense profit and are usually taken to Spain "], cit., in Verlinden, A propos de la place des juifs, cit., p. 33).
15. On the Arab sources attesting to the role of Jewish merchants in the eunuch trade, cfr. Verlinden, L'esclavage dans l'Europe médiévale, cit., p. 716; Id., A propos de la place des juifs, cit., pp. 22.
16. On the rabbinical responses relating to the trade in castrated young slaves and on the role of Lucena [outside Córdoba] as a center for the castrations, see A. Assaf, Slavery and the Slave-Trade among the Jews during the Middle Ages (from the Jewish Sources), in "Zion", IV (1939), pp. 91-125 (in Hebrew); E. Ashtor, A History of the Jews in Moslem Spain, Jerusalem, 1977, vol. I, pp. 186-189 (in Hebrew).
17. The text of Natronai Gaon is reported in Assaf, Slavery and the Slave-Trade, cit., pp. 100-101.
18. Leon de Modena, Historia de' riti hebraici, Venice, Gio. Calleoni, 1638, pp. 80-81.
19. The first to have linked the rise of the Christian stereotype of ritual murder to the feast of Purim and to the hanging/crucifixion of Haman/Jesus was Cecil Roth in his now classic study (C. Roth, Feast of Purim and the Origins of the Blood Accusations, in "Speculum", VIII, 1933, pp. 520-526).Recently following in Roth's footsteps have been Elliot Horowitz and Gerd Mentgen, adding further documents attesting to phenomena of anti-Christian violence during the celebration of Purim (cfr. E. Horowitz, And It Was Reversed. Jews and Their Enemies in the Festivities , in "Zion", LIX, 1994, pp. 129-168, in Hebrew; Id., The Rite to Be Reckless. On the Perpetration and Interpretation of Purim Violence , in "Poetics Today", XV, 1994, pp. 9-54; G. Mentgen, The Origins of the Blood Libel, in "Zion", LIX, 1994, pp. 341-349; Id., Über den Ursprung der Ritualmordfabel, in "Aschkenas", IV, 1994, pp. 405-416). On the status quaestionis, see the precise summary of I.J. Yuval, "Two Nations in Your Womb": Perceptions of Jews and Christians, Tel Aviv, 2000, pp. 179-181 (in Hebrew), and the recent stimulating monograph of E. Horowitz, Reckless Rites. Purim and the Legacy of Jewish Violence, Princeton, (N.J., 2006.
20. On this subject, see T.C.G. Thornton, The Crucifixion of Haman and the Scandal of the Cross, in "Journal of Theological Studies", XXXVII (1986), pp. 419-426; A. Damascelli, Croce maledizione e redenzione. Un' eco di Purim in Galati 3, 13, in "Henoch", XXIII (2001), pp. 227-241.
21. "Quomodo (judaei) vocant Iesum de Nazaret quem adorant christiani? [...] Dicit quod (inter se) vocant Ossoays et Talui et quando locunt cum Christianis vocant Christo" [“How do the Jews speak of those who adore Jesus of Nazareth ? […] [Amongst themselves] they call him Ossays and Talui but when they are speaking to Christians, they call him Christ”] (cfr. An. Antoniazzi Villa, Un processo contro gli ebrei nella Milano del 1488 Milan , 1986, p. 111).
22. The expression used in the text is "maledicta et ludibriosa passio" [“cursed and filthy passion”] (cfr. Damascilli, Croce, maledizione e redenzione , cit.).
23. Cfr. J.G. Frazer, The Golden Bough, London, 1913, IX, pp. 359-368, 392-407 (translated as Il ramo d'oro. Studio sulla magia e la religione , Turin, 1991).
24. Cfr. Parkes, The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue, cit., p. 234.
25. Cfr. H. Schreckenberg, Die christlichen "Adversos Judaeos". Texte und ihr literarisches und historisches Umfeld, Frankfurt am Main - Bern, 1982, p. 543; Mentgen, The Origins of the Blood Libel, cit., pp. 341-343. This last essay stresses the link between Purim, known as the "feast of the lots", and the date upon which the annual lottery of the Jewish community to establish the location of which to carry out the annual ritual murder (Norwich, Valreas, etc.).
26. Natan b. Yechiel, Arukh, Pesar, G. Soncino, 1517, cc. 162v-163r (s.v. shwwr). See also Shoshanat ha' amaqim. 'Emeq ha-Purim. Ozar minhagin we-hanhagot le-chag Purim ("Treasure of the Rites and Customs of the Feast of Purim"), Jerusalem, 2000, pp. 111-112.
27. The custom is reported in the ritual scripts of rabbi Chaim Palagi, Mo'ed le-chol chay ("A Time Established for Every Living Thing?"), Smyrna, B.Z. Rodit, 1861, c. 243rv.
28. In this regard, see my Mangiare alla giudia. La cucina ebraica in Italia dal Renascimento all'età moderna , Bologna, 2000, pp. 166-167.
29. Cfr. ibidem, p. 166. On the Haman-taschen in particular, see N.S. Doniach, Purim or the Feast of Esther. An Historical Study. Philadelphia (Pa.), 1933, p. 103.
30. The reference occurs in J. Trachtenberg, The Devil and the Jews, Philadelphia (Pa.), 1961, p. 154, no. 43.
31. To give an example, the 13 March 2002 Saudi daily newspaper "Al-Ryad" carried an article on the Jewish feast of Purim, authored by a zealous professor at the university named after King Faysal. The historian Umaya Ahmed Al-Jalahama, his article, claimed that in the preparation of the Jewish sweets known as "Haman's ears", Jews must provide themselves with the coagulated blood, in the form of lumps or powder, of a Christian boy, or even a Moslem boy. As we have seen, this addition is as bold as it is unhistorical, which nevertheless seems fully understandable, considering the scope of the essay as established by the author, and the public for whom he was writing.
32. For a description and evaluation of Socratesù text on the facts of Inmestar, see, among others, Strack, The Jew and Human Sacrifice, cit., p. 176; J. Juster, Les Juifs dans l'Empire romain; leur condition juridique, economique et sociale; Paris, 1914, vol. II, p. 204; Parkes, The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue , cit., p. 234; Trachtenberg, The Devil and the Jews, cit., pp. 127-128; Blumenkranz, Les auteurs chrétiens , cit., p 58; M. Simon, Verus Israel. Etude sur les relations entre chrétiens et juifs dans l'Empire romain (135-425), Paris, 1964, p. 160.
33. The hypothetical derivation of the stereotype of the blood accusation at Pesach based on Jewish behavior at Purim, maintained by Roth (cfr. Roth, Feast of Purim, cit. p. 521; "It would not have been altogether unnatural had the coarser spirits among the Jews themselves introduced into the proceedings a spirit of mockery of the [Christian] religion", and of the many who follow Roth, among them, recently, Mriri Rubin, with reference to the accusation of the desecration of the Host (cfr. M. Rubin, Gentile Tales. The Narrative Assault on Late Medieval Jews , New Haven, Conn, 1999, p. 87: "That Jews, roused by festivity and fellowship, may have played about, even played a practical joke on their neighbors and their beliefs is all to believable"), is rejected with disdainful presumption by Langmuir. The affair of ritual murder, in both its variants of the crucifixion and the consumption of blood, is said to have been a brilliant, entirely ecclesiastical and medieval Christian invention. Those historians, in particular, those Jewish historians, attempting to link these accusations with real Jewish behavior, even if misinterpreted, are said to have fallen into error intentionally, for fear of facing Christian historiography openly, which is believed to be incapable of understanding the power of the irrational in the human mind, or, worse, because these historians have become befuddled by the fanciful presumption that the Jews play a role of some weight in history (cfr. Langmuir, Toward a Definition of Anti- Semitism, Berkely - Los Angeles - Oxford, 1990, pp. 209-296: "Whether they were insensitive to the powers of irrationality, reluctant to attack Christian historiography too openly, or concerned to attribute an active role in history to Jews, they were predisposed to believe that something Jews had done - however misinterpreted by Christians - must have been a major cause of the change [...] exuberant Jewish conduct at Purim cannot be used to explain the accusation.").
34. The village in question is Brie-Compte-Robert in the Isle-de-France, as shown in the works by William C. Jordan and Shim'on Schwarzfuchs, referred to in the note below, and not Bray-sur-Seine, as claimed by the majority of preceding scholars.
35. The episode is discussed, not only in the works by Roth, Horowitz and Trachtenberg, already cited, but by W.C. Johnson, The French Monarchy and the Jews. From Philip Augustus to the Last Capetians , Philadelphia (Pa.), 1989, pp. 36, 270-271; Id., Jews, Regalian Rights and the Constitution in Medieval France , in "AJS Review", XXIII (1998), pp. 1-16; Sh. Schwarzfuchs, A History of the Jews in Medieval France , Tel Aviv, 2001, pp. 155-156 (in Hebrew).
36. The text uses here the verb talah (li-tlot, wa-yitlu), which, as we have seen, may be indifferently translated as "to hang".

37. The quotation is taken from the Sefer Zechirah di Efraim of Bonn. Cfr. A.M. Haberman, Sefer ghezerot Ashkenaz we-Zarfat ("Book of Perscutions" in Germany and France"), Jerusalem, 1971, p. 128.
38. Manuele da Visso was accused and condemned "super eo quod dicebatur dixisse et fecisse aliqua illicita de Cruce" (cfr. A. Toaff, The Jews in Umbria, I: 1245-1435 , Leyden, 1993, p. 76-77).
39. "Quod omnia eius brachia et etiam genua sibi dicti spiritus asperuissent et devasstassent cum quibusdam stecchis" (cfr. Toaff, The Jews in Umbria. III: 1484-1736, Leyden, 1994, pp. 1116-1118; Id., Il vino e la carne, Bologna, 1989, p. 171-172).
40. The Jewish defendants were held guilty “de jugulatione Christi in formam crucifixi” (cfr. R. Segre, Jews in Piedmont, Jerusalem, 1986, vol. I, pp. 171-172).
41. Cfr. M. Luzzati, Ebrei, chiesa locale, principe e popolo. Due episodi di destruzione di immagini sacre alla fine del Quattrocento, in "Quaderni Storici", XXII (1983), no. 54, pp. 847-877; Toaff, Il vino e la carne, cit., pp. 156-158.
42. Simonsohn, The Jews in the Duchy of Milan, Jerusalem, 1982, vol. I, pp. 199-200.
43. Cfr. Giulio Morosini, Derekh Emunah, Via della fede mostrata agli ebrei, Rome, Propaganda Fede, 1683, p. 836.
42. "Et in festo Mardochai quod adhuc (Judaei) celebrant XV Kalendas martii, ubi conterunt ollas in Synagogis, dicentes: sicut contritus est Aman, sic contetatur velociter regnum Christianorum" [“And during the feast of Mordechai, which the Jews still celebrate on the 15th of March, they smash jars in the synagogue, saying: thus Haman was destroyed, thus may the kingdom of the Christians rapidly be destroyed”] (Marquardo Susanni, Tractatus de Judaeis et aliis infidelibus, Venice, Comin da Trino, 1558, cc. 25v-26r).
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CHAPTER NINE

SACRIFICE AND CIRCUMCISION: THE SIGNIFICANCE OF PESCHACH 

The celebration of the festivals of the Jewish calendar marking the life of the people of Israel from ancient times has assumed primarily the character of historical-ritual repetition and “renewal of memory” (zikkaron) of the divine interventions in the history of the nation. In this sense, Pesach, the Jewish Passover, is celebrated as a “memorial”, zikkaron, in the sense of being a ritual representation of the past (1). More precisely, at Pesach, the events linked to slavery in Egypt, the persecutions suffered on the banks of the Nile, the miraculous exodus from the land of oppression, the divine vengeance on the enemies of Israel, and the laborious pathway towards the Promised Land and Redemption, are reviewed and projected into the present day. This is a pathway which has not yet been completed and perfected, pregnant with unknown factors and hazards, the happy outcome of which may be brought nearer by the actions of Man and the miraculous interventions of God in the history of Israel. What is more, the Jewish community, wherever it is located, is able to request the active involvement of the Divinity, intended to hasten the coming of Redemption, moving God through the sight of the sufferings of His Chosen People and impelling Him to act, defend, protect and wreak vengeance.
Blood is a fundamental and indispensable element in all the memorial celebrations of Pesach: the blood of the Passover Lamb and the blood of circumcision. In the Midrash, this relationship is continually stressed and demonstrated. God, having seen the door-posts of the doors of the children of Israel in Egypt, bathed with the blood of the Passover lamb, is said to have recalled his Pact with Abraham, signed and sealed with the blood of circumcision. "Thanks to the blood of the Passover lamb and that of circumcision, the children of Israel were saved from Egypt". In fact, the Jews are said to have circumcised themselves for the first time precisely in concomitance with their exodus from the lands of the Pharaoh. And in this regard, adds the
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Midrash , "the blood of the lamb is mixed with that of circumcision" (2).
The German rabbis, for their part, placed particular importance upon the importance of that magnificent and fateful event, stating that the Jews transfused the blood of their circumcision into the same glass into which the blood of the Passover Lamb to be utilized in painting the door-posts of their doorways had been poured, according to God's orders, so that, together, they might, together, become the distinctive symbols of their salvation and redemption. This is why the prophet Ezekiel is said to have twice repeated the wish, "And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee, when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live." (Ezekiel 16:6), intending to refer both to the blood of the Passover lamb and that of circumcision. In the Midrash, the German rabbis found the references necessary to establish beyond any doubt the close relationship between blood (of the Passover lamb and that of circumcision) and the final redemption of the people of Israel. "God has said: I have given them two precepts so that, fulfilling them, they may be redeemed, and these are the blood of the Passover lamb and that of circumcision" (3).
In the Sefer Nizzachon Yashan, a harsh anonymous anti-Christian polemical publication compiled in Germany at the end of the 13th century, the themes of which are repeated in the liturgical invocations of Rabbi Shelomoh of Worms, the exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt is taken as a pretext to outline a dispute intended to contrast the saving blood of the Passover blood and of circumcision to the powers of the cross.
"It is written: 'And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood (of the Passover lamb) that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the basin’ (Ex. 12:22).
"The Christians distance themselves even further from this passage and claim to find a reference to the Cross in it, since it recalls three places (the lintel and the two door-posts). This therefore tells us: It is thanks to the Cross that (your fathers in the exodus from Egypt) gained their salvation (4).
"One must reply to them by rejecting an interpretation of this kind. In fact, the truth is in these words of God: 'Through the merit of the blood, poured into different occasions, I shall remember you, when I see your houses tinted with blood. This is the blood of circumcision of Abraham, of the blood of the sacrifice of Isaac, when Abraham was about to immolate his son, and of the blood of the Passover lamb". It is for this reason that the blood returns three times in the verse of the prophet Ezekeiel (16:6). 'And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto that when thou wast in thine own blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live.'" (5).
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The reference to the sacrifice of Isaac would appear out of place, considering that, in the Biblical account, Abraham did not really immolate his son, as he was prepared to do, but was stopped by the miraculous Divine intervention which stayed his hand, holding the sacrificial knife.
But this conclusion should certainly be revised. The Midrash even advances the hypothesis that Abraham really shed Isaac's blood, sacrificing him on the precise spot upon which the Altar of the Temple of Jerusalem was later to be built. The pious patriarch is then believed to have proceeded to reduce the body to ashes, burning it on the pyre which he is said to have previously prepared for that purpose. Only later is God supposed to have rectified Abraham’s action, returning Isaac to life (6). Elsewhere, the analogy between Isaac, who bears the burden of the bundles of wood intended for his own holocaust on Mount Moriyah, and Christ, bent under double the weight of the Cross, is clearly shown (7). Explaining the verse of Ex. 12:13 ("And I when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you, and the plague shall be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt"), the Midrash asks us which blood God is to see on the doors of the Children of Israel, and unhesitatingly responds: "God will see the spilt blood of the sacrifice of Isaac". On the other hand, the Jewish month of Nissan, during which the festivity of Pesach falls, in the tradition of Midrash, is considered the month of the Isaac’s birth, as well as that of his immolation (8).
Isaac was sacrificed for the love of God and his blood gushes onto the altar, coloring it red. This is the historical-ritual memory, transfigured and updated, which the Judaism of the German lands, reduced in numbers by the suicides and mass child murders committed during the Crusades "for the sanctification of the Lord's name" wished to preserve, situating it at Passover and in relation to the exodus from Egypt. In one of his elegies, Ephraim of Bonn described not only the ardor and the zeal of Abraham in immolating his son, butchering him on the altar, but also the abnegation of Isaac, happy to serve as the holocaust (9). After which the saintly boy was carried back to life by God himself, Abraham is said to have sought to sacrifice him a second time in an overflowing backwash of fervent faith. It was precisely these the elements which, according to the Jews of the Franco-German communities, placed in relationship with the prayer for the dead (zidduk hadin) with the sacrifice of Isaac.
"The verse ‘When He seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you’ (Ex. 12:23), recalls the sacrifice of Isaac, while the verse 'I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live!' (Ez . 16:6) possesses the same numerical value
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(ghematryah ) as the name Isaac, Izchak. For this reason was introduced into the text of the prayer for the dead, ziddu, ha-din, the following wish: 'Through the merit of He who was sacrificed like a lamb (Isaac), Thou, oh God, lend an ear and act accordingly'. In fact, Isaac, was killed and appears at the sight of the divined presence (schechinah). Only after he was already dead did the angel cure him, restoring him to life" (10).
In conclusion, the German Jews, who, during the first crusade in 1096, sacrificed their sons to avoid forced baptism, intending to imitate the sacrifice of Isaac by the hand of Abraham, his father. Deliberately ignoring the Biblical conclusion of the episode, which stressed God’s aversion to human sacrifice, they preferred to refer to those texts of the Midrash in which Isaac actually met a cruel death on the altar. The German Jews thus conferred new life upon these new texts in search of moral support for the their actions, which appeared unjustifiable and might easily be condemned under the terms of ritual law (halakhah) (11).
The Biblical account of Jeptha was generally interpreted in this sense as well. The exegetic tradition of the Midrash has no hesitation of any kind in stating that the brave judge of Israel who solemnly promised to sacrifice the first creature he met upon victorious return from the battle against the Ammonites (Judges 11:31), actually kept his vow, sacrificing on the altar his only daughter, who ran out to celebrate the happy outcome of the epic battle with him (Judges 11:35) (12). Nor did the Medieval exegetics of the German territories show any kind of embarrassment in dealing with this problematical tale, since they were all intent on minimizing the seriousness of the action of this Jewish leader from Galahad (13). It is, however, a fact that, while reference to the sacrifice of Isaac is frequently made, heavily charged with significance in the historical-ritual memory of Ashkenazi Judaism, that of the Jeptha’s daughter never rose to the rank of moral precedent of reference.
As we have said, the memorial celebration of Pesach was indissolubly linked with the sacrifice of the lamb and the blood of circumcision.
The latter arose as a symbol of the pact between God and the people of Israel, signed in the flesh of Abraham, while the blood of the Passover lamb was the emblem of salvation and redemption. As Yerushalmi notes, the Passover dinner or Seder has always constituted the exercise of memory par excellence of the Jewish community, wherever it existed.
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"Here, during the meal around the family dining table, ritual, liturgical and culinary elements were orchestrated in such a way as to transmit the most vital sense of the past from one generation to another. The entire Seder is the symbolic staging of an historically founded scenario, divided into three main sections, corresponding to the structure of the Haggadah (the account of the stories of Pesach and about Pesach), which are to be read aloud: slavery, liberation, final Redemption. [...] words and gestures which are intended to awaken, not simply memory, but a harmonious merging of the past and present. Memory is no longer something to be contemplated from afar, but represents a true and proper representation and updating" (14)
The wine drunk during the Seder symbolizes the blood of the Passover lamb and the circumcision, and it is not therefore surprising that the Palestinian Talmud associates the four glasses of wine, which absolutely must be drunk during the Seder, with the four phases of Redemption. What is more, the text presents the charoset, the fruit preserve kneaded with the wine, intended to bring to mind the past, as "blood memorials" of the clay and mortar used by the Jews when engaged in slave labor during their long captivity in the land of the Pharaohs (15).
If the blood of the Passover lamb was distilled from a sacrifice, so, in a certain sense, is the blood of circumcision. The Midrash states that "a drop of the blood (of circumcision) is as pleasing to the Holy One -- may His name be blessed -- as that of sacrifices" (16). But it was the rabbis and the medieval exegetics, particularly, those of the Franco-German territories, who developed and broadened this concept. The Provençal Aharon di Lunel (13th century) did not hesitate to affirm that "He who offers his own son for circumcision is similar to the priest who presents the farinaceous offering and sacrifices a libation on the altar". His contemporary, Bechayah b. Asher of Saragoza, a famous moralist, also stressed the close relationship between sacrifice and circumcision: "The precept of circumcision is equivalent to a sacrifice, because a man offers the fruit of his loins to blessed God for the purpose of fulfilling His command (to circumcise the son); and, just as sacrificial blood is used for expiation, thus the blood of circumcision heals wounds [...] It is, in fact, thanks to this obligation, that God promised Israel salvation from Gehenna" (17).
Even more explicit is Yaakov Ha-Gozer ("the Cutter") who lived in the 13th century in Germany, in his essay on the rite of circumcision.
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"Come and consider how pleasing is the precept of circumcision before the Holy One, may His name be blessed. In fact, every Jew who sacrifices by means of circumcision in the morning is considered as if he had presented the daily holocaust of the morning. Before God, the blood of circumcision is as valuable as the sacrifice of the lamb on the altar every day: one in the morning and the other in the evening, and his son is perfect and immaculate like the lamb of one year" (18).
Circumcision is therefore considered equal to the sacrifice and the blood poured out during this holy act of surgery thus came to assume the same value as the uncorrupted blood of the perfect and innocent lamb, butchered on the altar and offered to god. This sacrifice was at the same time individual and collective, because, as Bechayeh b. Asher observed, it was considered capable of providing automatic and infallible salvation from the torments of gehenna [inferno], regardless of the conduct of the individual and the community. It was a kind of sacramental mystery of certain efficacy and proven power (19).
In this sense, circumcision came, with time, to assume the character of an apotropaic [warding off evil] and exorcistic rite. The blood of the circumcised child and the providential cutting of the foreskin provided protection and salvation, as taught in the Biblical account -- which is otherwise short on detail -- of Moses, mortally assailed by God and miraculously saved by virtue of his own circumcision and that of his son.
This was said to have been performed immediately, although a bit crudely, by Moses’ wife Zipporah. "And it came to pass by the in the inn, that the Lord met him and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me. So He let him go; then she said, A bloody husband thou art, because of thy circumcision" (Ex. 4: 24-26).
Circumcision defended and liberated from danger, and the blood shed on that occasion possessed infallible exorcistic significance. The Gheonim , heads of the rabbinical academies of Babylon, "circumcised in the water", i.e., they taught that the bloody foreskin was to be thrown into a recipient containing water perfumed with spices and myrtil [a red flower]. The young males present at the ceremony hastened to wash the hands and face in the sweet-smelling fluid as a counter-spell intended to bring good luck and serve as a propitiatory sign of stupendous success in love and numerous and healthy descendants (20).
In the Middle Ages, particularly, in the German-speaking territories, circumcision came to assume, with particular clarity, the value

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of an apotropaic and exorcistic rite, which, in the synagogue, was free to express itself without hindrance of any kind against the background of community life. As we have seen, during the ceremony, the blood of circumcised foreskin was mixed with the wine and tasted by the mohel himself, by the child and his mother, and the libation was accompanied by the prophetic wish "Thanks to your blood, you live!" The famous German rabbi Jacob Mulin Segal (1360-1427), known as Maharil, who also lived at Treviso for some time, in his weighty handbook of customs in use in the Ashkenazi communities of the valley of the Rhine, reported that it was a widespread custom to pour whatever remained in the cup, together with the wine and the blood of the circumcised child, under the Ark with the rolls of the Law, located in the synagogue. This act was intended to exorcise the exterior dangers hanging over the Jewish world and the tragedies threatening its existence.
In the 17th century, this custom was still in force in the Jewish community of Worms. "Soon after the mohel has completed the operation [...] whatever remains of the content of the glass, together with the wine and blood of the circumcised child, is poured onto the steps before the Ark with the rolls of the Law in the synagogue" (21). Among Ashkenazi Jews therefore, on a popular level, the salvation represented by the blood of circumcision was essentially understood, by both the individual and the collective, in a magical sense. That blood was able to provide protection from the constant threat of the Angel of Death, while functioning as an antidote to the ills of this life and serving as a health-giving potion during the rites of passage, charged with unknown dangers (22).
Another curious testimony in this regard may be found in the writings of the so-called “Cutter, the mohel Yaakov Ha-Gozer. The German rabbi described the custom of his Jewish contemporaries (obviously, in the 13th century) of hanging the cloth used by the mohel to clean his hands from the lintel of the entranceway to the synagogue upon completion of the operation.
"Therefore, the cloth used by the mohel to clean his hands and mouth, which are full of blood, is placed on the door to the synagogue. The meaning of the custom of hanging the cloth in the entrance to the temple was explained to me by my uncle, rabbi Efraim of Bonn. In effect, our elders told us that the children of Israel left the land of Egypt thanks to the blood of the Passover sacrifice and the blood of circumcision.
On that occasion, the sons of Israel colored the lintels of their doorways with blood so that the Lord would prevent the Angel of Death from striking their houses and for the purpose of manifesting the miracle. For this reason, the
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circumcision cloth, stained with blood, is hung in the door of the synagogue to indicate the sign linked to circumcision and to make manifest to all the precept, as is said, 'It shall be a sign between thee and me'" (23).
The custom of hanging the cloth used by the mohel to clean his hands and mouth of blood of the child in the synagogue doorway also appears in the so-called Machazor Vitry, written around the 12th century. This ancient French liturgical text in fact states that, in the Ashkenazi Jewish communities, the cloth used by the mohel to clean off the blood "shall be hung at the entrance to the synagogue" (24).
Jewish mystical texts also stress the relationship between the blood of the Passover lamb and that of circumcision and the meanings of Pesach . The Zohar "the blood of splendor", the classical text of the Cabbalah attributed to rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and set in Palestine of the 2nd century of the Christian era, but, in reality, composed in Spain at the end of the 13th century, stresses, in its peculiar language, the centrality of the motif of blood in the ceremonial commemoration of the exodus of the Jews from Egypt.
"The blood of the circumcision corresponds to the divine quality of absolute piety, because the Holy One, may His name be blessed, upon seeing the blood of the circumcision, feels compassion for the world; the blood of the Passover lamb, on the other hand, indicates the divine quality of judgment, because the sacrifice of the Passover is performed with the lamb, which corresponds to the Zodiacal sign of the ram, the god of Egypt [...] therefore, the blood of the circumcision and that of the Passover lamb, which are to be seen on the door, corresponded to the two sefirot (the divine attributes) of piety and power (or justice), which had awakened to dominance in the heavens at that moment. In fact, the blood of circumcision represents the divine quality of compassion, while the blood of the Passover lamb represents the qualities of justice and power. Therefore, piety was kindled to pity the children of Israel so that they wouldn't die [...] while justice was kindled to wreak vengeance on the first born of the Egyptians (25).
For the Cabballah, the blood of circumcision and that of the Passover lamb therefore possessed opposite meanings. The first indicated the piety of God, ready to show compassion towards the Jews and save them from dangers and death. The second, on the other hand, represented the power and severity of Divine justice, which wreaked vengeance on the peoples of Egypt, killing their children. The motif of the blood of the circumcision, capable of protecting the children of
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Israel, effectively removing the threats to its existence, annulling the instinct of evil and hastening the hour of Redemption, returns, further along in the Zohar, in connection with the memorial of Pesach.
"When the Holy One, may His name be blessed, having come down from Egypt to smite the first born, saw the blood of the Passover sacrifice marking the doors (of Israel), and also sees the blood of the pact (of circumcision) and that both are found on the door [...] To drive away the influx of evil spirits he sprinkled it (in those places) using a hyssop branch. In the future, in the hour of Israel’s redemption, sublime and complete, the Holy One, may His name be blessed, shall take unto himself the instinct of evil and shall butcher it, thus removing the spirit of impiety from the earth (26).
For the Zohar, God, passing by the doors of the children of Israel, dubbed with blood, is not only said to have saved the Jews from the Angel of Death, but He is said to have cured the wounds of their circumcision, collectively performed by the Jews for the first time.
"It is written: 'God smote Israel, he smote it and he cured it' (Is. 19:22), wishing to signify that he smote Egypt and cured the Israelites, i.e., not only that Israel’s salvation only occurred simultaneously with the slaying of the first born (of the Egyptians), but that Israel’s healing occurred at the same time. If one were to wonder what the children of Israel were to recover from, we shall respond that, after being circumcised, they needed to be healed, and were cured through the appearance of the Divine Presence (ghilui schechinah). While the Egyptians were being smitten, at that exact same moment, the children of Israel were being cured of the wound caused by circumcision. In fact, what does the verse: 'And God passed by the door' (Ez. 12:23) mean? [...] the answer is that He passed by the door of the body. But what is the door of the body? And we shall respond: the door of the body is the place of circumcision. We shall conclude by saying that when the Holy One, may His name be blessed, passed by the door (of the children of Israel), in Egypt, they were cured of the wound of circumcision (27).
The symbolic meaning of the Passover lamb offered in sacrifice is stressed by the Zohar, which places it in relationship with a significant, corresponding sacrifice performed in the secret and sublime world of the reality of God. When the children of Israel shall have immolated the Passover lamb, only then shall God in his firmament sacrifice the corresponding Lamb of Evil, responsible for the tragedies of Israel on earth and for the repeated exiles afflicting the Jews throughout history.
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“Sayeth the Holy One, may His name be blessed, to the children of Israel: carry out this action below (on earth) and go and take the lamb and prepare it for sacrifice on the 14th of this month [of Nissan]; then I on high (in my heaven) shall destroy his power [...] Observing the precept of the sacrifice of the Passover lamb below (on earth), the children of Israel have caused to be reduced to impotence the slag of evil (kelippah) of the lamb on high (in the divine firmament), which is responsible for the four exiles suffered by the children of Israel (in Babylon, in Media, in Greece and in Egypt). Thus it is written: 'I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from generation to generation' (Ex. 17:14), has this significance: You, children of Israel, shall blot out the memory of Amalek below (on earth) through the sacrifice of the Passover lamb, as it is written: 'Thou shalt cancel out the memory of Amalek', and thanks to this your action I shall blot out its memory on high (in my firmament)" (28).
The sacrifice of the Passover lamb therefore came to assume a cosmic significance in the texts of Jewish mysticism. Its blood, poured on the altar and applied to the door-posts of the houses, are intended to impel God to sacrifice the Lamb of Evil in His world, responsible for the successive troubles and misfortunes marking the history of Israel.
The link between the blood of the circumcision and that of the Passover lamb came to assume additional meanings during the Middle Ages, particularly in the German-speaking territories, and no longer alluded merely to the blood by virtue of which sin is expiated. The latter blood came to be added to the blood shed by Jewish martyrs, who offered their own lives and those of their dear ones "to sanctify the name of God” ('al kiddush ha-Shem ), rejecting the waters of baptism. Thus, the blood of circumcision, that of the Passover lamb, and that of those killed in defense of their own faith became mixed together and became confounded, hastening the final redemption of Israel and persuading God to wreak His atrocious vengeance on the children of Edom, the Christians, responsible for the tragedies suffered by the Jewish people. The Jews in Germany who, during the first crusade, sacrificed their own children 'as Abraham sacrificed Isaac his son', were perfectly convinced that their own blood, together with that of the two other sacrifices -- circumcision and the Passover lamb -- all offered to God in abnegation, would not be lost, but would constitute the powerful fluid from which the well-deserved and predicted revenge and the much-desired Redemption would ferment (29).
Thus, in a distorted logic borne of suffering and distorted by passion, one might even arrive at aberrant analogies which might nevertheless appear justifiable from the point of view of the persons concerned. In the ceremony
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of the milah, a few drops of blood from the circumcised child, poured into wine, possessed the power to transform the wine into blood; therefore, the wine was drunk by the child, his mother and the mohel himself, with propitiatory, well-auguring and counter-magical meanings (30) .
By the same logic, during the Passover ceremony of the Seder, a few drops of the child’s blood, the symbol of Edom (Christianity) and of Egypt, dissolved in the wine, had the power to transform the wine into blood, intended to be drunk and sprinkled onto the table as a sign of vengeance and as a symbol of the curses directed at the enemies of Israel as well as a pressing call to Redemption.
Again, in connection with Pesach, vengeance on the children of Edom – Christianity – representing Edom renewed, at Rome, the city of impurity -- was also eagerly sought in the Zohar, even if in deliberately convoluted language:
"It is written 'Who is He who comes from Edom, with the garments tinted red from Bozrah?' (Is. 63:6). The prophet predicts that the Holy One, may His name be blessed, shall wreak vengeance against Edom, and that the minister who represents the reign of Edom on high (in the celestial firmament) shall be the first to die. The prophet is in fact speaking with the language of ordinary people, observing that when they kill someone, blood squirts upon their garments. For this reason, he refers to them as if they asked: 'Who is he who comes from Edom, with his garments tinted with blood; that is, from the armed city (Hebrew: bezurah, a pun, recalling the name Bozrah of the verse of Isaiah, which is he great metropolis of Rome? This is, therefore, the meaning of that which is written: in the future, the Holy One, may His name be blessed, shall reveal his powers of judgment and of blood in all their obviousness to wreak his vengeance on Edom" (31).
The fact that this fragment of the Zohar -- which contains not one explicit reference to the memorial of Passover -- is found in the section dealing with the exodus of the Jews from Egypt, clearly indicates that blood -- linked to the vengeance against Edom, the symbol of arrogant and triumphant Christianity -- was a major element in the updated historical-ritual celebration of the Pesach.
As we have seen, the preserve of fresh and dry fruit (apples, pears, nuts and almonds), kneaded with the wine, intended to represent the building materials used by the people of Israel during their captivity in Israel, and which was to be eaten and drunk during the Passover dinner of the Seder, took the name of charoset and was considered a memorial of the blood (32). In other words, the clay and mortar with which the Jews had built the city on the banks of the Nile
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were mixed with the blood flowing from their bodies, covered with sores and suffering. It is not, therefore, surprising that the Jews, in their history (yet again, we are speaking of Ashkenazi-origin Jews) have sometimes been accused of murdering Christian children to eat the body and drink the blood in the charoset during a repulsive cannibalistic repast.
In 1329, in the Duchy of Savoy, a Jew, Acelino da Tresselve, and a Christian, Jacques d'Aiguebelle, were accused of abducting Christian boys in numerous cities of the region, such as Geneva, Rumilly and Annecy. Several other Jews in the Duchy were involved in the inquiry, including a certain Jocetus (Yoseph) and Aquineto (Izchak). The inquiry finally forced them to confess, at least partially under torture, to sacrificing five children to knead their heads and viscera into the charoset (indicated in the confessions under the correct term of aharace), which they are then alleged to have been eaten, presumably during the Seder dinner. According to their statements, this collective ritual constituted a surrogate Easter sacrifice, and was, as such, able to bring closer the hour of Redemption (33). In relation to these facts, it might be noted that some of the Jews expelled from England in 1290 in the times of Edward I emigrated to Savoy, reinforcing the Jewish community of the Duchy from a demographic, cultural and religious point of view. Jews from Norwich, Bristol and Lincoln were now to be found at Chambéry, Bourg-en-Bresse and Annecy, bringing with them traditions and stereotypes charged with implications (34). The accusation of preparing the charoset of Pesach with the blood of Christian children was repeated with regards to the Jews of Arles in 1453 (35) .
Another child murder, that of Savona, the particulars of which were revealed around 1456 to Alfonso de Espina, confessor to the King of Castille, by one of the participants in the cruel ritual, desiring to obtain pardon and baptism, appears to have revolved around the preparation of the charoset for the celebration of the Pesach (36). The victim’s blood, gathered in the cup ordinarily used to collect the blood of Jewish infants following circumcision, was said to have been poured into the kneaded dough of a pastry consisting of honey, pears, nuts, hazelnuts and other fresh and dried fruits, which all persons present at the ceremony were alleged to have gulped down hastily with an appetite born of religious zeal (37).
The charoset, according to these reports --the reliability of which we would not be inclined to swear upon -- was thus transformed into a kind of sacred human black pudding, capable of wonderfully enriching the list of the foods of the Passover dinner and, at the same time, of bringing to the table the exotic savor of Redemption, soon to come. It is therefore
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plausible that, whoever placed the charoset in the forefront of the ritual murder accusations was quite aware of the fact that tradition considered it a memorial of blood. In this sense, it constituted an element perfectly well suited to serve as a basis for arguments alleging that the Jews used the blood of children in their Passover rites.
Circumcision, Passover lamb, sacrifice of Isaac, martyrdom for love of God, memorial of the charoset. A true and proper river of blood flowed towards Pesach, both on the table of Seder and in the pages of the Haggadah, the liturgical-convivial celebration of the stories of the exodus from Egypt. But that was not all. In addition, the first and the most characteristic of the ten plagues smiting the lands of the Pharaoh, guilty of culpably holding the Jews captive against their will, was linked to blood, dam. Moses and Aronne smote the sacred waters of the beneficial Nile with their staff and, by the will of God, the waters were transformed into venomous serpents (Ex. 7:14-25). These waters, now toxic and no longer potable, gave birth to abandonment, desolation and death.
In popular culture, carried along by a thousand rivulets within the traditions and customs of Jews in the Western word, the troublesome phenomenon of the waters of the rivers and the lakes, basins of water, fountains, and mountain fountains capable of transforming themselves without warning into lethal agents, were an unfortunately recurrent theme. At least four times a year, with every change in the season (tekufah), for four days, blood was said to be have become mixed with the potable water (i.e., this cannot refer to the waters of the sea, but rather, to rivers, wells and fountains), menacingly jeopardizing the health of men. The uncertainty and dismay which accompanied the moments and the phases of passage, such as the approach of the seasons, once again evoked the obsessive menace of blood. Blood at birth, blood at circumcision, blood in matrimony, blood at death, blood at each change of the seasons. Superficial carelessness or inadvertent negligence were fraught with danger. Once again, the classical references to Isaac’s cruel sacrifice (i.e., the sacrifice actually carried out), the transformation of the Nile into blood and Jeptha’s tragic vow, became both customary and mandatory, finding well-considered, welcome acceptance in the texts containing the most ancient traditions of Franco-Germanic medieval Judaism, from the Machazor Vitry to the late 17th century writings of Chaim Chaike Levi Hurwitz, rabbi of Grodno (38).
In the Sefer Abudarham, famous liturgical compendium based on the popular traditions of the Sephardic world, both Sephardic, Provençal and
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Ashkenazim, makes open reference to the dangers threatening man whenever one season replaces another. David Agudarham, rabbi at Seville, who compiled his heavy handbook in 1340, advised, although with some hesitation, against the drinking of water during the days of the change of seasons (tekufah), for fear of its contamination by blood.
"I have found it written that one must be careful during any of the four changes of seasons, so as to avoid harm and danger. In the season of Nissan (spring, the Passover period), the waters of Egypt were actually transformed into wine; in the season of Tamuz (summer), when God commanded Moses and Aaron to speak to the rock, so that waters might flow forth from it, and they disobeyed, striking the rock instead [Num. 20:8-12], they were punished, and blood flowed forth from the rock [...]; in the season of Tishri (autumn), because then Abraham sacrificed his son Isaac and from his knife fell drops of blood, which alone were sufficient to transform all waters; and in the season of Tevet (winter), because it was then that the daughter of Jeptha was sacrificed and all the waters became blood [...]. It is for this reason that the Jews, living in the lands of the Occident, completely abstain from drinking water during any change of the seasons" (39).
Even at the end of the 16th century, the Marranos of Bragança, in northern Portugal, on trial before the Inquisition of Coimbra, proved themselves perfectly well aware of the dangers lurking in the night air upon the approach of any change of season. It was then that, according to the ancient traditions of the Judaizers [Christians who believe in circumcision ], rays and veins of blood (rai e veie de sangue) penetrated the waters of wells and fountains at the setting of the sun. A wonderful and extraordinary phenomenon was observed at this point, because the "waters turned into wine"; and anyone drinking of them would undoubtedly lose his life in the cruelest way. It then became necessary to have recourse to particularly effective and powerful antidotes, identified by tradition in the ceremony of "tempering", which consisted of throwing three glowing-hot coals into the polluted waters; or of "ironing" the same waters by dipping a red-hot horseshoe into them.
Neglecting these precautions was said to cause certain death to anyone drinking those toxic and pestiferous potions. Death was said to fall upon the victim at the first onset of winter, "when his vines lose their last leaf" (40).
Sabato Nacamulli (Naccamù),
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a Jew of Ancona who later converted to Christianity under the name of Franceso Maria Ferretti, provided a critical summary of the rites relating to the change of seasons (tekufah), when the waters were capable of dangerously transforming themselves into deadly blood.
"Four times in the year, they pray that God might, at any moment, [at any] points or minutes [of the compass], turn all the waters into blood; they therefore abstained from drinking water at such times, because they firmly believed that if anyone drank the water at that moment, his abdomen would certainly swell, and he would die a few days afterwards; they, therefore, keep bread, a piece of iron, or something else in those waters at such times, and this, in their vanity, they called tecufà" (41).
Perhaps linked to these popular beliefs was the custom among relatives in mourning to pour out, onto the ground, all water contained in recipients kept in the house of a dead person. In German-ritual Jewish communities, they actually believed that the Angel of Death intended to immerse his deadly sword in those waters, transforming them into blood, and thus threatening the lives of the relatives and all persons known by the deceased (42).
In the German-language territories, rivers, lakes, rivers and torrents possessed an ambiguous and disturbing fascination. Many of the presumed ritual murder victims had emerged from those very same waters, cast forth onto the river banks of Saxony by floods and currents.
The muddy waters of the Severn and the Loire, the Rhine and the Danube, the Main and Lake Constance, with their ebb and flow, revealed that which was intended to remain hidden, becoming the fulcrum of many tales awaiting discovery.
Moreover, even the Christian populations of the regions traversed by these waterways were convinced, from ancient times, as Frazer tells us, that the spirit of the rivers and lakes claimed their victims every year, particularly during precise periods, such as the days around Assumption Day (43). People considered it dangerous to bathe in the waters of the Saale, the Sprea and the Neckar, and even Lake Constance, for fear of becoming involuntary sacrifices to the cruel gods of the river. Thus, on St. Johns’ Day, at Cologne, Schaffhausen, Neuburg in Baden, as well as at Fulda and Regensburg in Swabia, as well as in the Swiss valley of Emmenthal, there was wide-spread fear that new victims of the lethal waters of the rivers and lakes would be added to those of previous years, to satisfy the demands of the imperious spirits hovering over the waves. Jews and Christians observed the ebb and flow, fearful and simultaneously bewitched, possessed by an overwhelming fascination. No ritual homicide ever occurred, nor could it occur, at the seaside.
--
NOTES TO CHAPTER NINE
1. In this regard, see A. di Nola, Antropologia religiosa, Florence, 1971, pp. 91-144; R. Le Deaut, La nuit pascale, Rome, 1963, p. 281.
2. Midrash Shemot Rabbah 17, 3-5, 19, 5; Ruth Rabbah 6; Shir Ha-shirim Rabbah 1, 35; 5; Midrash Tanchumah 55, 4; Pesiktah de-Rav Kahah 63, 27.
3. In this regard, see Haggadat ha-midrash ha-mevor. Haggadah shel Pesach by Z. Steinberger, P. Barzel and A.Z. Brillant, Jerusalem, 1998, pp. 65-69; N. Rubin, The Beginning of Life. Rites of Death, Circumsciscion and Redemption of the First-Born in the Talmud and Midrash , Tel Aviv, 1995, pp. 102, ss (in Hebrew); I.G. Marcus, Circumcision (Jewish), in J.R. Strayer, Dictionary of the Middle Ages. III: Cabala-Crimea , New York, 1983, pp. 401-412; Sh. J.D. Cohen, Why Aren't Jewish Women Circumcised? Gender and Covenant in Judaism, Berkely (Calif.), 2005, pp. 16-18.
4. A useful argument, intended to link the meanings of redemption, implemented through the sign of the blood of the Passover lamb on the doors of the house of the Jewish people of Egypt, with the saving meaning of the Cross, may be found in Justine Martyr (Triphone, 111).
5. Cfr. Sefer Nizzachon Yashan (Nizzahon Vetus). A Book of Jewish-Christian Polemic, by M. Breuer, Ramat Gan, 1978, p. 50 (in Hebrew).
For the same argumentation on the links between the blood of circumcision, that of the sacrifice of Isaac and that of the Passover lamb, see also Shelomoh di Worms, Siddur ("Book of Prayers"), Jerusalem, 1972, p. 288.
6. Cfr. H.E. Adelman, Sacrifices in the History of Israel, http://www.achva.ac.il/maof.2000_9.doc (google), pp. 5-6. See also the chapter dedicated to this argument in the thesis presented by my assistant in the Department of Jewish History at Bar-Ilan University, I. Dreyfus, Blood, Sacrifice and Circumcision among the Jews of the Middle Ages , Ramat Gan, 2005, pp. 11-16.
7. In this regard, see J. Parkes, The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue, London, 1934, pp. 116-117. The paragon between Isaac and Jesus was known, among the Fathers of the Church, by Origin: "and his use of it suggests that he knew it was quoted in the synagogue".
8. Midrash Mechiltah, Pascha 7, 11: Shemot Rabbah 12, 13, 15, 11.
9. Cfr. Sh. Spiegel, Me-haggadot ha-'akedah: piyut 'al shechitat Izchak we-te-chiyato' le-R. Efraim mi-Bonn ("Of the Story of Sacrifice of Isaac: A poetical composition on the immolation of Isaac and this resurrection, written by the rabbi Efraim of Bonn"), in M. Marx, Alexander Marx Jubilee Volume, New York, 1950, pp. 493-497 (in Hebrew). It is significant that Yiddish theater traditionally represents the sacrifice of Isaac as a drama of death and resurrection (cfr. M. Klausner, The Sources of Drama, Ramat Gan, 1971, p. 186 ([in Hebrew]).
10. Tosofot ha-shalaem 22, 14. The term “tossaphists” [rabbinical commentators], the rabbi to whom the establishment of this liturgical custom is attributed, refers to the learned of the Talmudic academies in the Franco-German lands between the 12th and 14th centuries.
11. On this argument, see in particular, S. Spiegel, The Last Trial, New York, 1967; I.G. Marcus, From Politics to Martyrdom. Shifting Paradigms in the Hebrew Narratives of the 1096 Crusade Riots , in "Prooftext", II (1982), pp. 40-52; I.J. Yuval, "Two Nations in Your Womb". Perceptions of Jews and Christians , Tel Aviv, 2000, pp. 173-175 (in Hebrew); H. Soloveitchik, Religious Law and Change. The Medieval Ashkenazic Example , in "AJS Review", XII (1987), pp. 205-221; Id., Halakhah, Ermeneutics and Martyrdom in Medieval Ashkenaz, in "The Jewish Quarterly Review", XCIV (2004), pp. 77-108, 278-299.
12. Midrash Beresit Rabbah 60, 3; Wairah Rabbah 37, 4; Kohelet Rabbah 10, 15; Midrash Tanchumah (Bechukkutai) 7. See also, Josephus, Ant. Jud . 5, 10.
13. In this regard, see J. Berman's recent study, Medieval Monasticism and the Evolution of Jewish Interpretation to the Story of Jepthah's Daughter in "The Jewish Quarterly Review", XCV (2005), pp. 228-256; E. Baumgarten, "Remember that Glorious Girl". Jepthah's Daughter in Medieval Jewish Culture , in "The Jewish Quarterly Review", XCVII (2007).
14. Cfr. Y.H. Yerushalmi, Zakhor. Storia ebraica e memoria ebraica, Parma, 1983, pp. 57-58.
15. In this regard, see L.A. Hoffmann, Covenant of Blood. Circumcision and Gender in Rabbinic Judaism, Chicago (Ill.), pp. 95-135.
16. Midrash Tachumah 57, 6.
17. Aharon b. Yaakov Ha-Cohen, Orchot Chayim ("The Paths of Life"), Berlin, 1902, vol. I, p. 12; Bechayeh b. Asher, Kad ha-kemach ("The Amphora of Flour"), Venice, Marco Antonio Giustinian, 1546, s.v. milah (circumcision); Id., Beur 'al ha-Torah (Comment on the Penteuch"), Naples, Azriel Ashkenazi Gunzenhauser, 1492, on Genesis 17:24.
18. Yaakov Ha-Gozer, Zichron berit ha-rishonim ("On Circumcision"), by Yaakov Glassberg, Berlin-Cracow, 1892, p. 5.
19. Cfr. M. Klein, 'Et la-ledet. Mihagim we-masorot be- 'edot Israel (" A Time to Give Birth. Traditional Customs and Uses of the Community of Israel"), Tel Aviv, 2001, pp. 157 ss.; A. Gross, Taame' mizwat ha-milah. Zeramim we-hashpa' ot historiot biyme' ha'benaym ("The Motives for the Precept of Circumcision. Historical Currents and Influences in the Middle Ages"), in "Da' at", XXI (1989), pp. 93-96; I.G. Marcus, Tikse' yaldut. Chanichah we-limmud ba-chevrah ha-yehudit biyme' ha-benaym ("The Ceremonies of Girlhood. Initiation and Learning in Jewish Society of the Middle Ages"), Jerusalem, 1998, pp. 20-21, 34; Dreyfus, Sacrifice and Circumcision, cit., pp. 11-16; Cohen, Why Aren't Jewish Women Circumcised, cit., pp. 31-32.
20. Anon, Sha'are' Zedeq, cit., c. 22v; Aharon b. Yaakov Ha-Cohen, Orchot chayim, cit., pp. 13-14; Yaakov Ha-Gozer, Zichron berit harishonim, cit., pp. 14-21; Izchak b. Avraham, Sefer ha-eshkol. Hilkot milah, yoledot, chole' we' gherim ("Book of the Precepts of Circumcision, etc"), Halberstadt 1868, p. 131. In this regard, see also H.L. Strack, The Jew and Human Sacrifice. Human Blood and Jewish Ritual, London, 1909, pp. 136-137.
21. Jacob Mulin Segal (Maharil), Sefer ha' ha-minhagim. The Book of Customs , by Sh. Spitzer, Jerusalem, 1989, pp. 482 ss (in Hebrew); Yuspa Shemesh, Mihage' Warmaisa ("The Customs of Worms"), Jerusalem, 1992, vol. II, p. 71. In this regard, see also J. Trachtenberg, Jewish Magic and Superstition. A Study on Folk Religion , Philadelphia (Pa.), 1939, pp. 154; 170; Cohen, Why Aren’t Jewish Women Circumcised ?, cit., pp. 32-40.
22. In this regard see Hoffman, Covenant of Blood, cit., pp. 96-135.
23. Yaakov Ha-Gozer, Zichron berit-ha-rishonim, cit., p. 61. See also in this regard S. Goldin, The Ways of Jewish Martyrdom, Lod, 2002 (in Hebrew).
24. Machazor Vitry, by H. Horovitz, Jerusalem, 1963, p. 626.
25. Zohar (parashat Bo),c. 35b.
26. ibidem, c. 41a.
27. Ibidem., c. 36a.
28. Ibidem, cc. 39b-40a
29. In this regard, see Yuval, "Two Nations in Your Womb", cit., pp. 109-150; Blood and Sacrifice, cit., pp. 28-30.
30. On this point, see in particular Hoffman, Covenant of Blood, cit., pp. 96-135.
31. Zohar (parashat Bo), c. 36a.
32. On the meaning and origins of the charoset, understood as "memorial of blood", see in particular Yuval, "Two Nations in Your Womb", cit., pp. 258-264.
33. On the rather extensive bibliography on ritual murders of 1329 in the Duchy of Savoy, linked to the preparation of the charoset, see, among others, Strack, The Jew and Human Sacrifice, cit., pp. 190; J. Trachtenberg, The Devil and the Jews, Philadelphia (Pa.), 1961, pp. 130
ss; M. Rubin, Gentile Tales. The Narrative Assault on Late Medieval Jews, New Haven (Conn.), 1999, p. 108; M. Esposito, Un procès contre les Juifs de la Savoie en 1329 , in "Revue Historique", XXXIV (1938), pp. 785-801. According to the text of their confessions, the Jews of Savoy had carried out that rite consuming the human charoset "loco sacrificii" [at the sacrifice location] at Pesach, considering that they were approaching Redemption in so doing ("credunt se esse salvatos").
34. The arrival in Savoy of the English Jews expelled in 1290 is documented by R. Segre, Testimonianze documentarie degli ebrei negli Stati Sabaudi (1297-1398), in "Michael", IV (1976), pp. 296-297. In the lists of Jews of the Duke, there appears the name of "Manisseo Menasheh) anglico, Crestecio (Ghershon) anglico, Elioto (Elahu) anglico, etc.". See O. Ramírez's recent study, Les Juifs et le crédit en Savoie au XIVe siècle , in R. Bordone, Credit e società: le fonti, le techniche e gli uomini. Secc. XIV-XVI, Asti, 2003, pp. 55-68.
35. In this regard, see R. Ben Shalom, Un' accusa di sangue ad Arles e la missione francescana ad Avignone nel 1453, in "Zion", XVIII (1998), pp. 397-399 (in Hebrew).
36. Alphonsus de Spina, Fortalitium fidei, Nuremberg, Anton Koberger,10 October 1485, cc. 190-192.
37. Ibidem, c. 192: "Copiosissime vivus sanguis Infantis effundebatur in predicto vase (in quo Judaei consueverunt recipere sanguinem Infantium circumcisorum [...] et deinde fructibus diversis, scilicet pomus, piris, nucibus, avelanis et ceteris, que habere potuerunt, in partes minuitissimas dividentes, sanguinem illius Infantis Christiani in predicto vase miscuerunt et de illa confectione horribili omnes illi Judaei comederunt" [Approximately: “The living blood of the child flowed copiously into the vessel (in which the Jews were accustomed to capture the blood of their circumcised children [...] and then they mixed various fruits, like apples, pears, nuts, hazelnuts, etc., whatever they might have had on hand, cut into extremely fine bits, into the vessel containing the blood of the Christian child and then all the Jews ate of that horrible confection”].
38. On the tradition of the tekefot (literally, "seasons"), rooted among the Jews of the German-speaking lands, above all starting in the years following the First Crusade, see in particular Trachtenberg, Jewish Magic and Superstition, cit., pp. 275-258; E. Baumgarten, Mothers and Children. Jewish Family Life in Medieval Europe , Princeton (N.J.), 2004, p. 238, no. 130; Ead., "Remember that Glorious Girl", cit. (which examines a broad range of Medieval Ahkenazi sources, in large part manuscript, on this topic).
39. Abudarhamha-shalem, b A.J. Wertheiemer, Jerusalem, 1963, pp. 311-312. On the religious texts of Ashzenazi Judaism, which include the tradition of the tekufot, from the Machazor Vitry to the manuscript of the work Kevod ha-chuppah ("The Honour of the Nuptials") by Chaike Hurwitz, see ibidem, p. 413.
40. On the testimonies of the Marranos of Bragança relating to the tekufot, recorded in the protocols of the Inquisition of Coimbra, see in detail the pioneering study by my excellent student C.D. Stuczynski, A "Marrano Religion"? The Religious Behaviour of the New Christians of Bragança Convicted by the Coimbra Inquisition in the Sixteenth Century (1541-1605), Ramat Gan, Bar-Ilan University, 2005, pp. 32-35 (cum laude doctoral thesis).
41. Francesco Maria d'Ancona Ferretti, Le verità della fede christiana svelate alla Sinagoga, Venice, Carlo Pecora, 1741, pp. 342-343.
42. Cfr. Y. Bergman, Ha-foklor ha-yehudi ("Jewish Folklore"), Jerusalem, 1953, p. 38; Ch. B. Goldberg, Mourning in Halachah. The Laws and Customs of the Year of Mourning , New York, 2000, pp. 56-59 ("It is customary that people pour out all the water that is in the house, where the deceased is dying, because the Angel of Death whets his knife on water, and a drop of the blood of death falls in").
43. Cfr. Frazer, The Golden Bough, cit., VII, pp. 26-30.
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CHAPTER TEN 

BLOOD, LEPROSY AND CHILD MURDER IN THE HAGGADAH
 
Over the course of the first two evenings of Pesach, during the ritual dinner of the Seder, all persons at the table read the Haggadah, a liturgical text containing the account of the exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt based on the Biblical narration and rabbinical materials, together with the benedictions concerning the foods symbolic of the Jewish Passover, among them the unleavened bread (mazzot), charoset , bitter herb (maror), and lamb's foot. The text of the Haggadah is often ornamented by miniatures, tables and woodcuts illustrating the salient stages of the history of the Jews in the land of the Pharaohs, as well as to the events linked to their miraculous salvation and the perilous journey undertaken towards the Promised Land. The illustrations were not selected by accident; in addition to reflecting the artistic tastes of the Jews of various epochs and localities, the illustrations were intended to stress and focus upon particular historical or legendary events and underlying messages made indirectly perceptible through these images, while updating their content (1).
Very rarely do the illustrations distance themselves from the text of the Haggadah and refer to legends of the Midrash presenting a few similarities with the Passover. One of these passages, which is anomalous insofar as it concerns the matter under discussion, but was surprisingly widespread despite its difficult and delicate nature, is the passage describing the Pharaoh, stricken with leprosy and cured by the blood of Jewish boys, cruelly killed for that very purpose. The Midrash Rabbah in fact reports that the Pharaoh was punished with leprosy by God, and that his physicians advised him to cure himself by means of health-giving baths in the blood of Jewish children. One hundred and fifty children of the nation of Israel are said to have been killed every day, from morning till night, to supply the Egyptian despot with the precious medicament. Cries of pain and desperation of the children of Israel, as well as of their fathers and mothers, bereaved of their tender offspring, are said to have risen to high heaven, accompanied by prayers for redeeming vengeance (2).
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The anonymous Sefer Ha-Yashar, an ethical text composed in the 13th century, illustrated the tragic legend with a plethora of detail, extending the dimensions of the massacre and transforming it into authentic history.
"When God smote the Pharaoh with the illness, the latter turned to his magicians and wise men so that they might cure him. The latter, so that he might be cured, prescribed that the sores be covered with the blood of children. At this point, the Pharaoh, heeding their counsel, sent his functionaries to the land of Goshen so that they might abduct Jewish children. The order was carried out, and the infants were taken by force from their mother's laps to be presented to the Pharaoh every day, one by one, it was then that his physicians killed them and, with their blood, bathed the sores on his body, repeating the operation for days at a time, so that the number of butchered children reached the number of three hundred seventy five" (3).
The grisly legend of the massacre of the Jewish children sacrificed to restore health to the monarch of Egypt, while it remained almost ignored by Iberian, Italian and Oriental Judaism, met with predictable success and a warm reception among Jews of the Franco-German territories and the Ashkenazi communities of northern Italy. As early as the 11th century, the famous French exegetist Rashi (R. Shelemoh Izchaki) of Troyes reminded his readers that the Pharaoh "contracted leprosy and (to get well) killed the children of Israel to take baths in their blood" (4). This account was followed by later, other well-known rabbis and commentators, such as Yehudah Loeb of Prague and Mordekhai Jaffe of Cracow. The topos [traditional theme or motif] was definitively established and was to enjoy a long life in Hebrew and Yiddish (5).
Finally, and this is hardly surprising, the legend of the Pharaoh bathing in Jewish blood became very closed linked to the ritual of Pesach.
The texts of Medieval Ashkenazi Judaism therefore hastened to place this innocent blood in precise relationship with the tradition of mixing the red wine into the dough of the charoset, the fruit preserve eaten during the Seder dinner as a "memorial of blood" (6). Izchak ben Moshe, 13th century Austrian ritualist, explicitly stated that "The precept to drink wine of a red color (during the Seder dinner) is in remembrance of the leprosy said to have struck the Pharaoh, to cure himself of which he immolated suckling infants (of the Jews) and moreover in remembrance of the blood of the Passover lamb and the blood of circumcision (7).
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After the blood of the circumcision, the Passover lamb, the sacrifice of Isaac, the sacrifice of martyrs for the faith, the pure and innocent blood of Jewish children sacrificed to the therapeutic requirements of the enemies of Israel, an open path, safe and promising, led to the ritual celebrations of the Seder of the Jewish Passover. But to enable the topos to become even more deeply rooted, in all its mysterious and disturbing aspects, in the popular mind, conveying messages which were in fact alternative messages, accompanied by polemics of burning contemporary interest, the legend needed to be cemented in place through the crude force of images, fantastic and unreal in outward appearance only. These were the origins of the woodcuts of the Jewish victims of perverse infanticide in the illustrations of the Haggadah (8) .
The first testimonies to this iconographic topic are handed down to us in five Hebrew manuscripts, all originating in Bavaria and the centers of the Rhineland (Nuremberg in particular) and may be chronologically situated in the second half of the 15th century, i.e., the period of the most widespread dissemination of ritual murder accusations in the German-speaking lands. The miniatures are of crude workmanship, restricted to reproducing, often only suggesting, the essential elements of the tale, which was presumed to be well known to the reader (9).
A rather more detailed and revealing example of the iconography of the leprous Pharaoh appears in the most famous and oldest Haggadot with printed illustrations: that of Prague in 1526 (there is a second edition with important variants, dating back to the end of the century), of Mantua in 1560 (republished in 1568) and Venice in 1609 (10). In the Haggadah of Prague, the image is used to illustrate that section of the text which describes the sufferings and laments of the children of Israel forced to perform forced labor in Egypt. The woodcut depicts a scene of amazing crudity (11). On the right the crowned Pharaoh, curled up in a large tub of wood with staves, is enjoying a bath of fresh blood, poured in by an obliging domestic servant by means of a suitable recipient. On the left and in the center of the panel, some armed thugs, monstrous and cruel, dressed as soldiers and German peasants, are shown massacring innocent children, decapitating them, quartering them, and skewering them like thrushes on pikes and swords. Other children await their tragic fate with resignation. The points of the lances emerge from the open gash of the circumcision wound, while dismembered little bodies litter the ground.
In the so-called " second Haggadah" of Prague, the scene is repeated with some redundant and lachrymose added touches. In the center

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of the picture, a desperate mother, with her breasts exposed, attempts hopelessly to flee, carrying her unhappy infants with her (12). The butchery of the preceding edition is further confirmed with an abundance of detail. I believe there can be little doubt that this image is modeled after the Massacre of the Innocents during King Herod’s reign in Palestine (Matthew 2:16), as depicted in a woodcut of the Ultraquist Passional, published in Prague in 1495. The latter was a Bohemian adaptation of the Passional Sanctorum of Jacopo de Voragine (1230-1298), while the scene in question is very similar, in terms of both crudity of detail and persons depicted (with the natural exception of the Pharaoh engaged in these cruel ablutions), to that in the Haggadah, published in that same Bohemian city decades later (13).



In the Haggadah of Mantua (1560 and 1568), the image of the Pharaoh's bath is not so crude and is better organized; in some ways, it is rather more interesting and instructive (14). The woodcut is divided into three sections; the scene takes place in a sumptuous palace, illuminated by large windows and divided by portals and columns. In the right-hand panel, some soldiers and functionaries are taking babes in arms away from anguished mothers, while, in the left-hand panel, the Pharaoh is seen taking his bath of blood in a wooden tub, assisted by two servants. The central section of the scene, the most detailed, depict the hall of the palace, resembling a place of worship. Here, the children are shown being brought in by solders, and delivered to a personage responsible for butchering the victims. These persons butcher them with a knife, placed on an altar standing at the end of the room, causing the blood to gush forth in streams, collected in a suitably prepared vessel (15). The analogies with the classical iconography relating to ritual murder are surprisingly precise here, and certainly intentional.


The scene of the bath of blood appears with a few major differences in the Haggadah of Venice published in 1609 (16). On the left, armed soldiers take children by force from the Jewish mothers, while on the right, a crowned Pharaoh with his pock-marked body, emerges erect from his wooden bathtub. This time, the butchers cut the throats of the children in such a way that the blood flows directly onto the diseased body of the Egyptian monarch, without bothering to collect it in vases or recipients kept ready for the purpose. The important novelty in this scene consists of the fact that the pitiless
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assassins are shown dressed like Turks, their heads covered with typical turbans. The artist, presumably working at Venice, where the Haggadah was printed, obviously considered it preferable, out of justifiable prudence, to associate the authors of this savage crime with Islam and the Koran of Mahomet, with the soldiers of the Great Turk and the unpopular Ottoman Empire, rather than depict them as good Christians subjects of the Serenissima.
But the message of these images is substantially identical, and provides an answer to the question of why Ashkenazi Judaism should have chosen precisely this legend, out of so many in the Midrash, as its very own, linking it by force to the rites of the Passover. It is certainly true that the account presupposes the same ambiguous attraction to the mysterious and fascinating curative powers of blood, and children’s blood in particular, as did surrounding Christian German society. This attraction and fascination often developed into a true and veritable obsession. Those writers attempting to stress the love-hate relationship (or, more cautiously, a hostility-intimacy relationship) linking Jews and Christians in this context are therefore correct. We refer to those writers who lived side by side in the Alpine valleys and along the river banks furrowing the regions in which German was the mother tongue and the Jews spoke Yiddish (17).
But that is not all. These images were intended to provide a response, of irrefutable historical obviousness and vivid suggestiveness, to the ritual murder accusation linked with the celebration of the rituals of the Pesach. The accusation was therefore turned on its head, or generally subordinated to the crime of child murder for ritual or curative purposes, which was then demoted in the scale of seriousness, as an aberration of which the enemies of the Jews (including the Christians) were also guilty.
Circumcised children of Israel had also been sacrificed by superior order so that their blood might be drained from their bodies in their hour of martyrdom and thus be capable of ensuring Redemption.
One intention of analogous indication emerges in all its obviousness from the illustration accompanying the aggressive invocation against nations refusing to accept the God of Israel (Shefoch, "Pour out your wrath against the peoples who do not recognize you..."), a characteristic liturgical formula, with openly anti-Christian meanings, recited after the Passover meal, which we shall dwell upon further along. In this case, the scene contained in the Haggadah of Venice of 1609 (18) depicts a group of necromancers, dressed as Moors, with their typical oriental turbans,
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surrounded by crowds of demoniacal, dancing Negroes, while magicians and enchanters attempt to raise the dead on the other hand. The caption, written in rhyme, is significant, and revelatory of the underlying message: "Consumed be the ignorant kingdoms/ which serve demons and believe in necromancy" (19).
Now, the accusation made against the Jews of practicing magic and necromancy, often confused with the practical Cabbalah and assimilated to it, was public knowledge, as was the close relationship, often uncritically presupposed, between necromancy, ritual murder and the magical uses of blood. Even Pope Pius V Ghisleri, when he decided to expel the Jews from the Pontifical State by the bull Hebraeorum gens in 1569, making an exception for those of Rome, Ancona and Avignon, accused them of practicing divinatory and magical rites with pernicious and diabolical consequences for Christians (20). The illustration accompanying the invective against the nations who refused to accept the God of Israel, the Goyim, was intended to turn the accusation around: it was not the Jews who were the necromancers and magicians, the spell-weaving charlatans of prodigious potions, the seductive soothsayers and macabre exorcists, but also, and above all, the other nations and peoples who did not accept the God of the Israelites. In any case, Jews were not the only people who practiced vain and dangerous sciences of this kind; on the contrary, the Jews were in authoritatively good company, together with the Moslems and Christians.
Once again, the iconography of the Haggadah implied the emergence, from the narrative and liturgical texts, of every possible debating point useful in analyzing the message of the Pesach, prudently camouflaged within a historical framework. Its readers must have understood this.
Another tragedy inflicted upon the children of Israel emerges from the Biblical text of Exodus. The cruel order of the Pharaoh to drown all new-born Jewish males in the Nile so that their people might not multiply (Ex. 1:22) promptly found easily recognizable equivalents in the iconography of the Haggadah. In the edition of Prague of 1526, the scene is depicted on a bridge with turreted piers and typically German and medieval architecture, like many bridges on the Rhine, the Rhône and the Danube. Here, a few peasants are depicted flinging defenseless infants into a few the waters below, while a mother, also on the bridge, is depicted as seized with desperation (21). The broad panel depicting this episode from the Haggadah of 1560, shows infants being thrown from the bridge into the waters of the river while a few mothers rush down onto the exposed gravel riverbed in a hopeless attempt to reach the bank and save their children from the rapids, while others give way to despair, raising their arms to Heaven (22).
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The Haggadah of Venice of 1609 contained two interesting illustrations of this episode. The first scene depicts the inside of a Jewish home, in which the husband and wife sleep in separate beds to avoid sexual relations, precursor of tragedy: the birth of a son might, in fact, lead to his inevitable killing by the Egyptians. In confirmation of their justifiable concern, the merest glimpse of an exterior scene is depicted, showing a few figures on the river bank, while the waters sweep away the bodies of drowned infants (23). In the second scene, which takes place in the presence of the Pharaoh, seated on the throne, a few servants on the river bank throw poor nursing infants into the river, torn from their mother's bosom, while the heads of the miserable drowned babes are seen protruding from the raging waters (24).
The reminder of the problematical relationship between waterways and human sacrifice and the many victims of mysterious child-killings revealed by the ebb and flow of the rivers, propelling the bodies of the victims onto the banks, and the miracles performed by the holy martyrs of ritual murder, [alleged to be] capable of floating upriver, against the current, in a stupendous manner and returning miraculously to the surface, was certainly present, in this case, in both the minds of the person illustrating the images and the readers looking at them, repeatedly, each succeeding year, during the convivial and liturgical Pesach celebration. The underlying message was dazzlingly obvious, and often of immediate current interest. The Children of Israel, too, had been martyred, torn from their mothers and thrown into the mysterious and deadly waters of the Nile, the river par excellence, the river of paradigmatic significance. The role of the victims and butchers was anything but fixed and established in a clear and definitive manner.
The iconography of the Haggadah obviously could not fail to contain a scene depicting the sacrifice of Isaac, who was thus closely connected to the ritual of Pesach. In fact, in the Haggadah published in Venice of 1609, young Isaac is depicted as down on his knees before the pyre, with his arms folded, as if in silent and resigned prayer, waiting for Abraham, with his knife raised above his body, to carry out the inevitable sacrifice (25). A similar attitude towards death may be found in a miniature taken from a Jewish code, originating in Germany, and dating back to the third decade of the 15th century (26). Here, the scene, located in a forested countryside, shows a Jew (probably a rabbi) with a thick head of hair and flowing beard, in patient submission, waiting to be executed. Behind him, the executioner is preparing to strike off his head with his sword. The victim, like Isaac, in the scene of the
p. 160]
Haggadah , in depicted as down on his knees with his hands joined in prayer, prepared to die "for the sanctification of the name of God" (27).
It is interesting to note that another illustration taken from the same code depicts the same scene, presumably located in the same place, of another young Jew, this time with a thick head of hair but beardless, placed on a wooden table to be tortured by fire. The executioner is at his side and is heating the pincers red-hot (28). The victim’s body is nude and blood gushes forth from the stumps of his legs, which are cut off at the feet, and his arms, which are now without the two hands. More blood flows from the place of circumcision, which the young man hopelessly attempts to hide with the stumps of the hands, indicating that he has been cruelly castrated. Of similar workmanship, certainly cruder than the depiction of the sacrifice of Isaac in the Haggadah of Venice, is a woodcut unexpectedly contained in the first edition of the responses of the medieval German ritualist, Asher b. Yechiel, published in 1517 (29). Here, Abraham, with a grim expression and a dark, stiff-brimmed hat pressed down on his head, like a brigand, and wearing a cloak with long fluttering hems, brandishes a huge butcher's knife and looms over poor Isaac, prepared to slaughter his son for the love of God. The boy, nude on an enormous stack of wood, appears anything but resigned to his sad fate, raising his legs in a terrified one last hopeless effort at self-defense. The iconography in this case is obviously German, crude and pitiless (30).
Nor is there any shortage of representations of poor Simon of Trent, of equal crudity, on the Christian side. One little-known woodcut, contemporary with the Trent crime and probably manufactured in Alpine Italy, the poor child, disheveled and stretched out on his side on a crude table, is being pitilessly butchered as if he were a hog -- which he actually resembles, right down to his features. Around him, a group of Jews, with sinister, gory faces, with the distinctive sign on their clothing, within the folds of which the image of an abominable sow is visible, appear intent upon cruelly vivisecting him. The butchers are wearing eyeglasses to protect their vision during the cruel operation, protecting the eyes from the victim’s spurting blood. The overall image is frankly repulsive, and not at all likely to arouse sentiments of piety and compassion (31).
It should be noted that, in the concept of the Christianity of the German territories during the Middle Ages, the circumcision of Christ, his crucifixion and the ritual murder, were considered symmetrical agonies (32).
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It should not surprise us that sacred art would assimilate this vision, translated into images. Thus, in one painting depicting the circumcision of Jesus, originating in Salzburg or the central Rhineland and dated 1440, the amputation of the Messiah's foreskin is depicted as an odious and almost lethal surgical operation. Around the Christ child, engaged in a helpless effort to escape the mortal incision, press several bearded and coweled Jews. The mohel, his head covered with the ritual mantle (tallit) is depicted as a cruel and menacing. Similarly, in an altar painting in the Liebfrauenkirche in Nuremberg, dating back to the half of the 16th century and depicting the same subject, the godmothers, with caricature-like Jewish faces, crowd around the poor child with the terrorized face. The Jews wear the ritual mantle, bearing Sybillene writings in the holy language, while the mohel, dressed in black, resolute and pitiless, is about to lower the knife on the defenseless body (33).
An iconography of the circumcision of Jesus of this type may be observed to be similar, in both design and execution, to the representation of the martyrdom of Little Simon of Trent in a painting of the Alto Adige school, dating back to the first half of the 16th century. Here as well, a large group of bearded, big-nosed Jews, with a grim appearance and caricature-like features, crowd around the naked, glorious body of the little martyr, the new Christ, intent on performing their cruel Passover rite on his miserable body (34). The themes of blood, circumcision, the crucifixion and ritual murder were closely linked in the collective imagination, are eagerly reflected in the artistic expressions of the Germanic world of the late Middle Ages, among both Jews and Christians (35).
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NOTES TO CHAPTER TEN
1. On the illustrations of the Haggadahin the manuscripts and printed editions, there is an exceptionally extensive bibliography. See, among others, C. Roth, The Illustrated Haggadah, in "Studies in Bibliography and Booklore", VII (1965), pp. 37-56; B. Narkiss, Medieval Illuminated Haggadot , in "Ariel", XIV (1966), pp. 35-40; M. Metzger, La Haggadah enluminée, Leyden, 1973; Y.H. Yerushalmi, Haggadah and History , Philadelphia (Pa.), 1975.
2. Shemot Rabbah, 1, 34. In this regard, see L. Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, Philadelphia (Pa.), 1946, vol. II, pp. 296-304.
3. Anon., Sefer Ha-Yashar, Furth, 1768, c. 94a.
4. Rashi (R. Shelomoh Izchaki di Troyes), Perush la-Torah ("Comment on the Pentateuch"), with reference to Esther 2:23.
5. It should be noted that none of the classical Biblica exegetists of Sephardic Judaism, from Abaham Ibn Izra to Moshe ben Nachman, from Levi ben Gherson to Izchak Arama, to Izachak Abravanel, paid any attention to this legend.
6. See, in particular, the arguments of I.J. Yuval, "Two Nations in Your Womb". Perceptions of Jews and Christians, Tel Aviv, 2000, p. 258- 264 (in Hebrew).
7. Izchak b. Moshe, Or Zarua, Zhitomir, 1862, c. 117b. See also M.M. Kasher, Haggadah Shelemah, New York, 1961, p. 95.
8. See, in particular, the excellent and well-documented argument of D.J. Malkiel, Infanticide in Passover Iconography, in "Journal of the Warburg and Courteauld Institutes", LVI (1993), pp. 85-89.
9. Cfr. ibidem, p. 88-89.
10. Haggadah shel Pesach, Prague, Ghershom Cohen, 1526; Haggadah shel Pesach, Mantua, Giacomo Rufinelli, 1560, Seder Haggadah shel Pesach , Mantua, Ya' akov Shalit Ashkenazi, 1568; Seder Haggadah shel Pesach, Venice, Giovanni De Gara, 1609. On the second Haggadah of Prague, see C. Abramsky, Two Prague Haggadahs, Verona, 1978.
11. See fig. 1
12. See fig. 2. One rare copy of the second Haggadah of Prague is conserved at the Valmadonna Trust Library in London.
13. Utraquist Passional, Prague, Jan Camp, 1495, c. 24a. Cfr. Ch. Wangrow, Haggadah and Woodcut, New York, 1967, pp. 109-110. See
fig. 3.
14. See fig. 4
15. See fig. 6.
16. This is the thesis advanced by Malkiel, Infanticide in Passover Iconography, cit., pp. 96-99.
17. See fig. 7.
18. The caption of the scene is in Italian in Hebrew characters.
19. The caption of the scene is in Italian in Hebrew characters.
20. "Omnium perniciosissimum est, sortilegiis, incantationibus magisque superstitionibus et maleficiis dedititi (sc. Judaei) quamplurimos incautos atque inforos Satanae praestigiis inducunt" [Approximately: “The worst thing of all is that the Jews are dedicated to spells, incantations and great superstitions, leading many incautious persons to be deceived by the wiles of Satan”] The bull Hebraeorum gens was promulgated on 26 February 1526 (Bullarium Romanum, Turin, 1852-1872, vol. VII, pp. 740-742). See in this regard K.R. Stow, Catholic Thought and Papal Jewry Policy (1555-1593), New York, pp. 34-36.
21. See fig. 8
22. See fig. 9
23. See fig. 10
24. See fig. 11. In this regard, see Yerushalmi, Haggadah and History, cit., plates 25, 51-52, B. Narkiss, The Passover Haggadah of Venice 1609, Jerusalem, 1974, p. 12.
25. See fig. 12.
26. Hamburg, Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, Cod. Hebr. 37. The manuscript is dated 1427-1428.
27. See fig. 13.
28. See fig. 14.
29. Ahser b. Yechiel (Rosh), Sheelot w-teshuvot. Responsa, Constantinople, 1517.
30. See figures 15 and 16. This woodcut of the sacrifice of Isaac was reprinted in the second half of the Sixteenth Century in the editions of Isac Prossnitz at Cracow (cfr. A. Yaari, Hebrew Printers' Marks, Jerusalem, 1943, pp. 29, 141.
31. See fig. 17. The image is reproduced by A.M. Hind, Early Italian Engraving II: Florentine Engravings and Anonymous Prints of Other Schools . Figs. 1-171, New York - London, 1938, fig. 74, and subsequently reproduced in Occhiali da vedere. Arte, scienze e costume attraverso gli occhiali, Carl Zeiss Foundation, Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza, Cataloghi di mostre, Firenze, 1985, vol. II, p. 30, no.
G1, in H. Schreckenberg, The Jews in Christian Art, Göttingen, 1996, p. 280, fig. 6j.
32. In this regard, see L. Steinberg, The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion, New York, 1983, pp. 57-65.
33. See figure nos. 19 and 20. The two images are reproduced in Schreckenberg, The Jews in Christian Art, cit., pp. 144-145, figures 1 and 3.
34. See fig. 22. The table is conserved at the Museo provinciale d'Arte di Trento. Cfr. L. Dal Pra, L'immagine di Simonino nell'arte dal XV al XVIII secolo , in L. Rogger and M. Bellabarba, Il principle vescovo Johannes Hinderbach (1465-1486), fra tardo Medievo e Umanesimo, Atti del Convegno promosso dall Biblioteca Communale di Trento, 2-6 October 1989, Bologna, 1992, pp. 445-481, table 19.
35. On the relationship between the circumcision of Christ, blood and ritual homicide in late Medieval Christian iconography in the German-speaking territories, see B.Blumenkranz, Juden und Judentum in der mittelalterlichen Kunst, Stuttgart, 1965, p. 85; W.P. Eckert, Motivi superstiziosi nel processo agli ebrei di Trent , in Rogger and Bellabarba, Il principe vescovo Johannes Hinderbach, cit., pp. 390-391.
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REVISION DATE SEPT. 14, 2007
ROSH HOSHANA, NIGHTFALL (5768)

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