The Gates of Heaven Will Never be Closed: The World of the 1538 Sanhedrin

How did Tav become t instead of th? Latin speakers had trouble with th?
cross linguistically with Hebrew Arabic English and Spanish as notable exceptions \theta\ and \eth\ are rare and repairs is common but Tav was already t under the rules of begadkefat and it was Sav that historically was the eth not Tav
 
@Jonathan Edelstein are there Jewish communities in the Jezreel Valley/Lower Galilee? Or are they currently restricted to the Eastern Galilee, Wadi Ara and Acre? What about south of it? Are there Jewish communities in the Sharon/Coastal Plain/Samarian hills?
My assumption is that there's been a core-periphery dynamic happening since the 1560s. The core is the eastern Galilee, where there's safety in numbers and where Jewish institutions have partial control of the civil government, and the great majority of Jewish immigrants have gone there. The periphery is for the immigrants who want something that the Galilee can't or won't provide - for instance, freedom of inquiry (the Acre community) or freehold land and Ashkenazi culture (Wadi Ara). Up to now, the peripheral areas haven't been geographically adjacent to the eastern Galilee, so we have the Polish Jews bypassing Jezreel to settle where Zahir al-Umar is sponsoring them, or the Spinozist-Hasidic maskilim setting in Acre precisely because it's outside Talmudic Israel. But by 1765 that might be starting to change - as the eastern Galilee gets crowded, there could be more movement to the geographic periphery of the Jezreel valley, possibly from the area around Tiberias - but the key word is "starting."

On the coastal plain, there are small communities at Zahir's new port of Haifa (which he constructed ITTL much as IOTL), Jaffa, and the traditional community at Gaza, and there are also the existing inland communities at Jerusalem and Hebron. Other than that, there isn't much south of Wadi Ara, given that those territories aren't controlled by the Banu Zaydan as of 1765. This can be a bone of contention in itself - the Jerusalem rabbis have at times been resentful of being demoted to sidekick, and they have their own faction in the Sanhedrin.
Also, on the subject of Hebrew and accents, I see TTL's Hebrew having a much greater diversity of accents than OTL without centralising authorities and figures and with an added 150 years of development. The Wadi Ara polish community would probably keep the Ashkenazi pronunciation (maybe even the ת as "s" part), Acre will have a greater Sefardic and Yemenite influence, and in general there would be more variety of pronunciation. I wonder if they'll adopt the multiple pronunciations of the letter ق/ק from Palestinians Arabic.
That sounds about right. The Hebrew spoken by the mixed community at Tzfat will probably become the default, but Acre Hebrew could become the literary standard, and there will definitely be outliers among the Ashkenazim and probably among the more scattered parts of the Yemenite and Maghrebi communities as well. Damn, this is going to work out like Italian, isn't it?

Anyway, I'd like to say thank you to everyone for the engagement, which is much appreciated. Those of you who remember me from Malê Rising know that I love to talk about my stories, and conversations like the one we're now having are inspiration to expand the story and move it forward. And since I've got your attention on premodern Judaism, I'll take the opportunity to point you to some of my published fantasies: Of Letters They Are Made, The City of Kindness (a sequel to this will appear in first quarter 2024 in the same magazine), It Is Not from Heaven, and The Purim of the Philosophers. Some of the themes in those stories aren't completely different from the ones I'm playing with here.
 
My assumption is that there's been a core-periphery dynamic happening since the 1560s. The core is the eastern Galilee, where there's safety in numbers and where Jewish institutions have partial control of the civil government, and the great majority of Jewish immigrants have gone there. The periphery is for the immigrants who want something that the Galilee can't or won't provide - for instance, freedom of inquiry (the Acre community) or freehold land and Ashkenazi culture (Wadi Ara). Up to now, the peripheral areas haven't been geographically adjacent to the eastern Galilee, so we have the Polish Jews bypassing Jezreel to settle where Zahir al-Umar is sponsoring them, or the Spinozist-Hasidic maskilim setting in Acre precisely because it's outside Talmudic Israel. But by 1765 that might be starting to change - as the eastern Galilee gets crowded, there could be more movement to the geographic periphery of the Jezreel valley, possibly from the area around Tiberias - but the key word is "starting."

On the coastal plain, there are small communities at Zahir's new port of Haifa (which he constructed ITTL much as IOTL), Jaffa, and the traditional community at Gaza, and there are also the existing inland communities at Jerusalem and Hebron. Other than that, there isn't much south of Wadi Ara, given that those territories aren't controlled by the Banu Zaydan as of 1765. This can be a bone of contention in itself - the Jerusalem rabbis have at times been resentful of being demoted to sidekick, and they have their own faction in the Sanhedrin.

That sounds about right. The Hebrew spoken by the mixed community at Tzfat will probably become the default, but Acre Hebrew could become the literary standard, and there will definitely be outliers among the Ashkenazim and probably among the more scattered parts of the Yemenite and Maghrebi communities as well. Damn, this is going to work out like Italian, isn't it?

Anyway, I'd like to say thank you to everyone for the engagement, which is much appreciated. Those of you who remember me from Malê Rising know that I love to talk about my stories, and conversations like the one we're now having are inspiration to expand the story and move it forward. And since I've got your attention on premodern Judaism, I'll take the opportunity to point you to some of my published fantasies: Of Letters They Are Made, The City of Kindness (a sequel to this will appear in first quarter 2024 in the same magazine), It Is Not from Heaven, and The Purim of the Philosophers. Some of the themes in those stories aren't completely different from the ones I'm playing with here.
or French
 
My assumption is that there's been a core-periphery dynamic happening since the 1560s. The core is the eastern Galilee, where there's safety in numbers and where Jewish institutions have partial control of the civil government, and the great majority of Jewish immigrants have gone there. The periphery is for the immigrants who want something that the Galilee can't or won't provide - for instance, freedom of inquiry (the Acre community) or freehold land and Ashkenazi culture (Wadi Ara). Up to now, the peripheral areas haven't been geographically adjacent to the eastern Galilee, so we have the Polish Jews bypassing Jezreel to settle where Zahir al-Umar is sponsoring them, or the Spinozist-Hasidic maskilim setting in Acre precisely because it's outside Talmudic Israel. But by 1765 that might be starting to change - as the eastern Galilee gets crowded, there could be more movement to the geographic periphery of the Jezreel valley, possibly from the area around Tiberias - but the key word is "starting."

On the coastal plain, there are small communities at Zahir's new port of Haifa (which he constructed ITTL much as IOTL), Jaffa, and the traditional community at Gaza, and there are also the existing inland communities at Jerusalem and Hebron. Other than that, there isn't much south of Wadi Ara, given that those territories aren't controlled by the Banu Zaydan as of 1765. This can be a bone of contention in itself - the Jerusalem rabbis have at times been resentful of being demoted to sidekick, and they have their own faction in the Sanhedrin.

That sounds about right. The Hebrew spoken by the mixed community at Tzfat will probably become the default, but Acre Hebrew could become the literary standard, and there will definitely be outliers among the Ashkenazim and probably among the more scattered parts of the Yemenite and Maghrebi communities as well. Damn, this is going to work out like Italian, isn't it?

Anyway, I'd like to say thank you to everyone for the engagement, which is much appreciated. Those of you who remember me from Malê Rising know that I love to talk about my stories, and conversations like the one we're now having are inspiration to expand the story and move it forward. And since I've got your attention on premodern Judaism, I'll take the opportunity to point you to some of my published fantasies: Of Letters They Are Made, The City of Kindness (a sequel to this will appear in first quarter 2024 in the same magazine), It Is Not from Heaven, and The Purim of the Philosophers. Some of the themes in those stories aren't completely different from the ones I'm playing with here.
Thank you for developing my query better than I could.
 
FOUR HOLY CITIES II: TZFAT, SUMMER 1765
FOUR HOLY CITIES
II: TZFAT, SUMMER 1765

Not in Chelm – maybe not even in Lublin – had Anshel ever seen so many Jews in one place as in Tzfat. The city rose in layers up the mountainside, and every layer was full of Jews and the things that went with them: synagogues, schools, ritual baths, the buildings where the law-courts sat and the house where the Sanhedrin’s records were kept.

And not even in Warsaw had Anshel ever seen so many kinds of Jews. In Poland, he’d known how Jews should look, speak, dress. And there were a few, even in Tzfat, who looked like that. But more of them resembled gentlemen of Portugal or townspeople of Marrakesh, and others couldn’t be told from their Muslim neighbors. Who were also there, layer on layer.

That, in the end, was what doomed Anshel’s hopes of setting up as a tailor. There wasn’t a guild in Tzfat as there had been in Acre, but the clothes, the clothes – he knew how to make a suit of clothes such as Polish Jews wore, but he’d never made a djellaba or a thobe or a caftan.

He took in sewing – he could repair clothes whether he knew how to make them or not, and doing so was a chance to study their shape and materials with a tailor’s eye. He even found a Polish under-clerk in the house of records who was grateful for a countryman who knew how to fit him. But even there, it was hard to compete with others who had cousins at the textile-works and who could get cotton and woolens at a discount. It was only a week or two before he realized he’d need a steady job as well as the sewing if he wanted to keep body and soul together.

At least the work wasn’t hard to come by, if one wasn’t particular. Parts of the city were still in ruins from the earthquake six years past – buildings that had stood empty all this time because no one needed them. But now, with more newcomers arriving daily to replace those lost in the quake, those houses were needed again, and there was work in plenty for anyone who didn’t mind clearing rubble.

“You’ll need to know some Arabic,” said the man who hired Anshel; by now, he did know some, and when he showed up the next morning, he understood why. At least six in ten of the men on the crew were immigrants lately arrived from Yemen, Morocco or Oran, and the others – Anshel had never seen such men, but guessed that they were from deep in the Sudan, or even Ethiopia or Zanj. He’d heard of slaves captured in these countries and brought from Egypt by Bedouin traders, but the men on the crew didn’t seem to be slaves; they went home at the end of the day’s work, and brought loaves of fermented flatbread from their own hearths for the midday meal. And some of them wore sidelocks.

After a few days, Anshel learned the story. He was at the baths one evening after work – one of the baths meant for physical, not ritual, cleanliness – and one of the foremen of the African laborers was there. They’d spoken a few times while loading rubble into carts and he’d seemed friendly enough, and here, with the steam rising and the hot water turning Anshel’s sore arms and back to rubber, he couldn’t contain himself. “Are you a Jew?” he asked, hoping that the question wouldn’t offend. “How did you become one?”

To Anshel’s relief, the foreman was amused rather than angered. “I became a Jew when I was born of a Jewish mother,” he said – in Hebrew, not in Arabic. “She became a Jew the same way. Her mother did so when Rav Zemach’s decree freed her.”

Maimoun – for so that was the foreman’s name – seemed to assume that Anshel would know what that decree was, but he’d never heard of it. He did know that the Sanhedrin had banned Jews from working in the slave trade and had twice enforced that prohibition with sentence of death; word of those executions had spread even to Poland. But to his knowledge, no one had ever ruled that Jews couldn’t own slaves.

And in fact Jacob Zemach hadn’t done so – not quite. Later, at Maimoun’s home, over a loaf of sour flatbread and a stew of fish brought by his cousin who had a boat on the Sea of Galilee, his wife Sarah showed Anshel the stained, ancient document that had been given to his grandmother. Because it is known that there have been Jews in Ethiopia from immemorial times, and because the passage of ages and the lack of records make it impossible to know if any African taken as a slave might be of Jewish descent in the female line, all African slaves must be treated according to the law of the ‘eved ivri rather than the ‘eved nokhri, lest we transgress… and let a copy of this decree be given to every slave so that they know when they are to be set free.

An ’eved ivri – a Hebrew slave – must be freed at the sabbatical year, so Rav Zemach hadn’t forbidden Jews from owning slaves, only from keeping them more than six years. Maimoun nodded his head at Anshel’s sudden understanding. “She was freed, yes.” He pointed to a signature and date at the bottom, in a different hand and ink from the rest of the document. “This is also her certificate of manumission. And like many of those who weren’t Muslim or Christian before they were captured…” He put a hand on his sidelock and the other hand on that of Sarah, who knew little Hebrew and whose redemption was obviously much more recent. “Now, when we have the money, we do as the Rambam taught.”

Anshel followed Maimoun’s eyes to a wall-hanging, the greatest treasure of the small house, into which was woven Maimonides’ teaching about the redemption of captives being the greatest of the commandments. He turned back to his meal and realized that he knew where he would next give charity.

The next morning it was the Yemenites who were in a stir. “They say the ruling on the Maharitz will be today!” cried one of them, and within moments, work had ceased as everyone stopped to gossip and argue. Somewhat to Anshel’s surprise, it was Maimoun, who followed the talk of the city as keenly as anyone, who filled him in. The Maharitz was Yihya Saleh, a great Yemenite sage who had come to Tzfat along with many of the other refugees from persecution, and the controversy was the Sanhedrin’s refusal to seat him among its number.

“The hahamim took a vote – they hardly ever do that,” Maimoun said. “Any haham in the Holy Land should be a member of the Sanhedrin, no? And the ones who are lenient in matters of custom welcomed him. But he rejects the Shulhan Arukh, and that was too much for the others, especially the ones who think there are too many new people. He was going to win, they say, and then a letter from the Yerushalmi rabbis came in, and he lost by three votes.”

That had happened a few weeks before Anshel’s arrival in Tzfat, and it was shocking enough in itself. The Sanhedrin always preferred to give the appearance of consensus; it was rare for its members to disagree in public or let matters be put to a vote, and still more so for the rabbis of one city to publicly rebuke the others. But what had happened after that was more shocking yet. Saleh’s partisans had appealed to the civil governor – the Zemach who now held the titles that had belonged to his father and grandfather – and both factions of the Sanhedrin had made their arguments and submitted long Talmudic briefs to his court. The anger on all sides had multiplied – anger at Saleh’s exclusion, anger that the rabbis had been forced to air their disunity, anger that the Sanhedrin’s business had been brought before the civil authorities. And now, it seemed, it was all about to come to a head.

By midday, the foremen could no longer stop the workers from going to the east market where the civil courts were held, and Anshel, despite a nagging sense that he should go home, allowed Mamoun to lead him there. Hundreds of other onlookers, Jew, Muslim and Christian, were already in the square, and the mood was almost festive as they gathered, bought grilled meats and malawach with zhug from the market-stalls, and shouted praise of the Maharitz or condemnation of him. Saleh himself, Anshel noticed, was not there; such would be unseemly, but many black-mantled rabbis were present, and so were a phalanx of troops from the city militia.

The shadows had only lengthened slightly when Moshe Zemach came out, flanked by two heralds and two clerks. He was younger than Anshel had expected, barely over thirty; he was dressed plainly, as was the fashion, in a white cotton shirt and trousers, a red vest and cap of wool, and a roughly-tied silk belt. He didn’t look like an aristocrat to Anshel, but there was no mistaking how all the onlookers fell silent at his appearance; his authority came from Zahir al-Umar and from the generations of governors and rabbis who had preceded him.

“Hear now the judgment of Moshe Bey,” called one of the heralds, and the governor stepped forward. “I have heard the petition, and I have consulted with the learned men of the city. I cannot, within the law, force the Sanhedrin to name someone as a member, and I cannot go beyond what the law permits.” An angry murmur arose from the Yemenites in the square, but the governor held up a hand. “It is also the law that the Sanhedrin must be constituted by all the hahamim in the Land of Israel, and there can be no doubt that Rav Yihya Saleh is a haham. So if the Sanhedrin does not co-opt him, then it is not in fact a Sanhedrin, and shall not act as one…”

Whatever else Zemach said was lost in the jubilance of Saleh’s supporters and the dismay of his opponents – dismay made all the worse because they had held victory in their grasp just seconds before. It took only a moment for rejoicing to turn to taunts and dismay to turn to rage. A punch was thrown, then a rock; the factions charged toward each other and grabbed up bricks and paving-stones to fight with, and the festival became a riot.

The militia waded in with the flats of their swords. Both sides fought back. Panicked merchants rushed to close their stalls, knowing that rioters could become looters in a heartbeat. The thud of stones, the clash of steel, and breaking glass joined with curses and cries of pain.

“We need to get out of here!” said Maimoun, pulling urgently on Anshel’s sleeve. Maimoun had counted himself as one of Saleh’s partisans – those at the bottom needed to stick together – but he didn’t like fighting. He took off at a run toward the closest alleyway, half-dragging Anshel until his own feet started to carry him.

The alley wound between ancient buildings and up a narrow stairway where Anshel and Maimoun had to push their way through others who’d had the same idea. They came out on a side street above the market, but Anshel had only a moment’s relief before he saw that the fighting was already spreading there. A small troop of shomrim – the Sanhedrin’s police – were fighting a knot of men who, from the look of them, were Spanish or Portuguese, and then more shomrim arrived and began fighting the first troop.

Anshel was looking for a safe way onward when someone shouted “get him!” and, to his horror, he realized that the person who’d shouted was looking at him. He had no idea why, but his flight instinct took over; almost before Maimoun could follow, he charged through the knot of rioters, somehow came out the other side, and ran up another alley like all the furies were chasing him.

A left and a right, and suddenly his luck ran out – he was at a dead end facing a garden wall, with his pursuers coming up fast behind. He scrabbled for a handhold, found one, and felt Maimoun pushing him up from underneath; he gained the roof, put out a hand to pull Maimoun up with him, and went prone behind the parapet. There was shouting from below. He reached out blindly and his fingers closed on a heavy slate tile, and almost without thought, cast it down into the alley. More shouts, this time of pain as well as anger, and suddenly a cry of “militia!” and the sound of the pursuers scattering.

It seemed like hours before Anshel could catch his breath, but it must have been only a moment. He rose to his knees and saw that the roof ended at the back wall of another house, and with a supreme effort, he climbed up and over. Most of the fighting seemed below them now; he could hear shouted orders as more militiamen came running from their barracks. Then he heard a musket fire. His heart skipped a beat as he wondered if the riot had turned into a gun battle, but there was only the one shot. “A shopkeeper warning people off,” Maimoun guessed, and there was no more gunfire as the sounds of battle slowly died down.

Eventually, as full darkness fell, he and Maimoun found their way home.

“There’ll be plenty of work for us tomorrow,” Maimoun said at his door, and it proved to be so; many laborers were needed to clear the market streets, and they could command a premium wage. And so close to the courthouse and the halls of records, news traveled fast; the Sanhedrin had met in tumultuous session and appointed the Maharitz as one of them. The rabbis had little real choice – had they refused, they would have lost their collective status as the Jews’ governing body, keeping only their individual judgeships and congregations. A few hotheads had wanted to appeal to the Sultan, but they were shouted down even by most of their own faction; the Galilee had suffered the last time the Porte and Zahir al-Umar were at loggerheads, and neither Zahir nor the majority who were loyal to him would take a new quarrel kindly. In the end, even they accepted, but there was a sullenness about it, a sense that their disunity had forced them to lock horns with the civil authority and lose.

The day after that was the Ninth of Av.

The ninth day of Av was a fast day, a day of lamentation; it was the day when the First and Second Temples had been destroyed, the day of the crushing of Bar-Kokhba’s revolt and the expulsion from England. But it was also the day when the younger Fakhr-al-Din’s siege had been lifted, so in the Galilee if nowhere else, the mourning was tempered by meditation on how all things pass.

The Sanhedrin, Anshel thought, had much to lament this year, but were they too telling themselves that this would pass? And if it did pass, what would happen then?

“It’s unfinished business,” said Maimoun. The Sudanese Jews had gathered in his home to pray, as they did on holy days, and lacking another synagogue, Anshel had joined them. “The catastrophes come, the redemption is unfinished; one day we will rebuild the Temple, one day we will all be together again in this land, one day we will free all the slaves.” Anshel looked around to Sarah and the others at the table, those born slaves and those born free, and again to the wall-hanging with the Rambam’s injunction, and understood.

“On Tisha b’Av, we lament, but we dream of a world that is finished,” he said. The people at the table, the Sanhedrin, the Jews of the Galilee, all had unfinished business. And so, Anshel realized, did he. He had still not seen Jerusalem, and it was time to be moving on.
 
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Notes to part 2:

1. The Jewish population of the Galilee has grown from about 25,000 to 32,000 during the thirty-odd years that it has been part of Zahir al-Umar’s domain. As before, natural increase and immigration have been offset by losses from the 1759 earthquakes (which killed more people ITTL because there were more people in the Galilee to kill, and which prompted a flurry of rabbinic legislation on building codes) and from the battles between Zahir and the wali of Damascus in the 1740s. The increased rate of immigration under Zahir, however, means that even with these losses, there has still been a net gain in population rather than the steady state that existed before.

2. The rationale for the Sanhedrin’s ruling on the slave trade ITTL was that, although there are no commandments forbidding such trade, the practical realities of trafficking in slaves during the 16th century made it impossible to do so without breaking many other commandments, and as such, forbidding Jews from being slave traders was a necessary fence around the Torah. The Sanhedrin did not forbid individual purchase and ownership of slaves, however, on the ground that individual slave-owners can ensure that their conduct toward their slaves is within the law.

Jacob Zemach’s subsequent TTL jurisprudence, which expanded the fence much farther, is similar in basis to the rabbinic prohibition against eating milk and meat together, which is designed to eliminate any possibility of unknowingly cooking a calf in its mother’s milk and thus violating a Torah commandment. Zemach also did not actually forbid slave ownership but ensured that all African slaves (which were the kind most common in Palestine; the Slavic captives more usually seen in Anatolia remained in a gray area) would be manumitted within six years.

Zemach would have heard of Ethiopian Jews from accounts such as that of the ninth-century traveler Eldad ha-Dani. Ironically, ha-Dani’s story had nothing to do with the actual Ethiopian Jews and is now considered a fantasy, but his claim that a Jewish community existed in East Africa has proven true.

3. Maimonides’ commentary about the redemption of captives is found at Matnot Aniyim 8:10.
 
2. The rationale for the Sanhedrin’s ruling on the slave trade ITTL was that, although there are no commandments forbidding such trade, the practical realities of trafficking in slaves during the 16th century made it impossible to do so without breaking many other commandments, and as such, forbidding Jews from being slave traders was a necessary fence around the Torah. The Sanhedrin did not forbid individual purchase and ownership of slaves, however, on the ground that individual slave-owners can ensure that their conduct toward their slaves is within the law.

Jacob Zemach’s subsequent TTL jurisprudence, which expanded the fence much farther, is similar in basis to the rabbinic prohibition against eating milk and meat together, which is designed to eliminate any possibility of unknowingly cooking a calf in its mother’s milk and thus violating a Torah commandment. Zemach also did not actually forbid slave ownership but ensured that all African slaves (which were the kind most common in Palestine; the Slavic captives more usually seen in Anatolia remained in a gray area) would be manumitted within six years.
Good to see, although if any of my Krymchak ancestors show up, they might take offense, given their involvement in the Crimean slave trade.
 
Good to see, although if any of my Krymchak ancestors show up, they might take offense, given their involvement in the Crimean slave trade.
FOUR HOLY CITIES
II: TZFAT, SUMMER 1765

Not in Chelm – maybe not even in Lublin – had Anshel ever seen so many Jews in one place as in Tzfat. The city rose in layers up the mountainside, and every layer was full of Jews and the things that went with them: synagogues, schools, ritual baths, the buildings where the law-courts sat and the house where the Sanhedrin’s records were kept.

And not even in Warsaw had Anshel ever seen so many kinds of Jews. In Poland, he’d known how Jews should look, speak, dress. And there were a few, even in Tzfat, who looked like that. But more of them resembled gentlemen of Portugal or townspeople of Marrakesh, and others couldn’t be told from their Muslim neighbors. Who were also there, layer on layer.

That, in the end, was what doomed Anshel’s hopes of setting up as a tailor. There wasn’t a guild in Tzfat as there had been in Acre, but the clothes, the clothes – he knew how to make a suit of clothes such as Polish Jews wore, but he’d never made a djellaba or a thobe or a caftan.

He took in sewing – he could repair clothes whether he knew how to make them or not, and doing so was a chance to study their shape and materials with a tailor’s eye. He even found a Polish under-clerk in the house of records who was grateful for a countryman who knew how to fit him. But even there, it was hard to compete with others who had cousins at the textile-works and who could get cotton and woolens at a discount. It was only a week or two before he realized he’d need a steady job as well as the sewing if he wanted to keep body and soul together.

At least the work wasn’t hard to come by, if one wasn’t particular. Parts of the city were still in ruins from the earthquake six years past – buildings that had stood empty all this time because no one needed them. But now, with more newcomers arriving daily to replace those lost in the quake, those houses were needed again, and there was work in plenty for anyone who didn’t mind clearing rubble.

“You’ll need to know some Arabic,” said the man who hired Anshel; by now, he did know some, and when he showed up the next morning, he understood why. At least six in ten of the men on the crew were immigrants lately arrived from Yemen, Morocco or Oran, and the others – Anshel had never seen such men, but guessed that they were from deep in the Sudan, or even Ethiopia or Zanj. He’d heard of slaves captured in these countries and brought from Egypt by Bedouin traders, but the men on the crew didn’t seem to be slaves; they went home at the end of the day’s work, and brought loaves of fermented flatbread from their own hearths for the midday meal. And some of them wore sidelocks.

After a few days, Anshel learned the story. He was at the baths one evening after work – one of the baths meant for physical, not ritual, cleanliness – and one of the foremen of the African laborers was there. They’d spoken a few times while loading rubble into carts and he’d seemed friendly enough, and here, with the steam rising and the hot water turning Anshel’s sore arms and back to rubber, he couldn’t contain himself. “Are you a Jew?” he asked, hoping that the question wouldn’t offend. “How did you become one?”

To Anshel’s relief, the foreman was amused rather than angered. “I became a Jew when I was born of a Jewish mother,” he said – in Hebrew, not in Arabic. “She became a Jew the same way. Her mother did so when Rav Zemach’s decree freed her.”

Maimoun – for so that was the foreman’s name – seemed to assume that Anshel would know what that decree was, but he’d never heard of it. He did know that the Sanhedrin had banned Jews from working in the slave trade and had twice enforced that prohibition with sentence of death; word of those executions had spread even to Poland. But to his knowledge, no one had ever ruled that Jews couldn’t own slaves.

And in fact Jacob Zemach hadn’t done so – not quite. Later, at Maimoun’s home, over a loaf of sour flatbread and a stew of fish brought by his cousin who had a boat on the Sea of Galilee, his wife Sarah showed Anshel the stained, ancient document that had been given to his grandmother. Because it is known that there have been Jews in Ethiopia from immemorial times, and because the passage of ages and the lack of records make it impossible to know if any African taken as a slave might be of Jewish descent in the female line, all African slaves must be treated according to the law of the ‘eved ivri rather than the ‘eved nokhri, lest we transgress… and let a copy of this decree be given to every slave so that they know when they are to be set free.

An ’eved ivri – a Hebrew slave – must be freed at the sabbatical year, so Rav Zemach hadn’t forbidden Jews from owning slaves, only from keeping them more than six years. Maimoun nodded his head at Anshel’s sudden understanding. “She was freed, yes.” He pointed to a signature and date at the bottom, in a different hand and ink from the rest of the document. “This is also her certificate of manumission. And like many of those who weren’t Muslim or Christian before they were captured…” He put a hand on his sidelock and the other hand on that of Sarah, who knew little Hebrew and whose redemption was obviously much more recent. “Now, when we have the money, we do as the Rambam taught.”

Anshel followed Maimoun’s eyes to a wall-hanging, the greatest treasure of the small house, into which was woven Maimonides’ teaching about the redemption of captives being the greatest of the commandments. He turned back to his meal and realized that he knew where he would next give charity.

The next morning it was the Yemenites who were in a stir. “They say the ruling on the Maharitz will be today!” cried one of them, and within moments, work had ceased as everyone stopped to gossip and argue. Somewhat to Anshel’s surprise, it was Maimoun, who followed the talk of the city as keenly as anyone, who filled him in. The Maharitz was Yihya Saleh, a great Yemenite sage who had come to Tzfat along with many of the other refugees from persecution, and the controversy was the Sanhedrin’s refusal to seat him among its number.

“The hahamim took a vote – they hardly ever do that,” Maimoun said. “Any haham in the Holy Land should be a member of the Sanhedrin, no? And the ones who are lenient in matters of custom welcomed him. But he rejects the Shulhan Arukh, and that was too much for the others, especially the ones who think there are too many new people. He was going to win, they say, and then a letter from the Yerushalmi rabbis came in, and he lost by three votes.”

That had happened a few weeks before Anshel’s arrival in Tzfat, and it was shocking enough in itself. The Sanhedrin always preferred to give the appearance of consensus; it was rare for its members to disagree in public or let matters be put to a vote, and still more so for the rabbis of one city to publicly rebuke the others. But what had happened after that was more shocking yet. Saleh’s partisans had appealed to the civil governor – the Zemach who now held the titles that had belonged to his father and grandfather – and both factions of the Sanhedrin had made their arguments and submitted long Talmudic briefs to his court. The anger on all sides had multiplied – anger at Saleh’s exclusion, anger that the rabbis had been forced to air their disunity, anger that the Sanhedrin’s business had been brought before the civil authorities. And now, it seemed, it was all about to come to a head.

By midday, the foremen could no longer stop the workers from going to the east market where the civil courts were held, and Anshel, despite a nagging sense that he should go home, allowed Mamoun to lead him there. Hundreds of other onlookers, Jew, Muslim and Christian, were already in the square, and the mood was almost festive as they gathered, bought grilled meats and malawach with zhug from the market-stalls, and shouted praise of the Maharitz or condemnation of him. Saleh himself, Anshel noticed, was not there; such would be unseemly, but many black-mantled rabbis were present, and so were a phalanx of troops from the city militia.

The shadows had only lengthened slightly when Moshe Zemach came out, flanked by two heralds and two clerks. He was younger than Anshel had expected, barely over thirty; he was dressed plainly, as was the fashion, in a white cotton shirt and trousers, a red vest and cap of wool, and a roughly-tied silk belt. He didn’t look like an aristocrat to Anshel, but there was no mistaking how all the onlookers fell silent at his appearance; his authority came from Zahir al-Umar and from the generations of governors and rabbis who had preceded him.

“Hear now the judgment of Moshe Bey,” called one of the heralds, and the governor stepped forward. “I have heard the petition, and I have consulted with the learned men of the city. I cannot, within the law, force the Sanhedrin to name someone as a member, and I cannot go beyond what the law permits.” An angry murmur arose from the Yemenites in the square, but the governor held up a hand. “It is also the law that the Sanhedrin must be constituted by all the hahamim in the Land of Israel, and there can be no doubt that Rav Yihya Saleh is a haham. So if the Sanhedrin does not co-opt him, then it is not in fact a Sanhedrin, and shall not act as one…”

Whatever else Zemach said was lost in the jubilance of Saleh’s supporters and the dismay of his opponents – dismay made all the worse because they had held victory in their grasp just seconds before. It took only a moment for rejoicing to turn to taunts and dismay to turn to rage. A punch was thrown, then a rock; the factions charged toward each other and grabbed up bricks and paving-stones to fight with, and the festival became a riot.

The militia waded in with the flats of their swords. Both sides fought back. Panicked merchants rushed to close their stalls, knowing that rioters could become looters in a heartbeat. The thud of stones, the clash of steel, and breaking glass joined with curses and cries of pain.

“We need to get out of here!” said Maimoun, pulling urgently on Anshel’s sleeve. Maimoun had counted himself as one of Saleh’s partisans – those at the bottom needed to stick together – but he didn’t like fighting. He took off at a run toward the closest alleyway, half-dragging Anshel until his own feet started to carry him.

The alley wound between ancient buildings and up a narrow stairway where Anshel and Maimoun had to push their way through others who’d had the same idea. They came out on a side street above the market, but Anshel had only a moment’s relief before he saw that the fighting was already spreading there. A small troop of shomrim – the Sanhedrin’s police – were fighting a knot of men who, from the look of them, were Spanish or Portuguese, and then more shomrim arrived and began fighting the first troop.

Anshel was looking for a safe way onward when someone shouted “get him!” and, to his horror, he realized that the person who’d shouted was looking at him. He had no idea why, but his flight instinct took over; almost before Maimoun could follow, he charged through the knot of rioters, somehow came out the other side, and ran up another alley like all the furies were chasing him.

A left and a right, and suddenly his luck ran out – he was at a dead end facing a garden wall, with his pursuers coming up fast behind. He scrabbled for a handhold, found one, and felt Maimoun pushing him up from underneath; he gained the roof, put out a hand to pull Maimoun up with him, and went prone behind the parapet. There was shouting from below. He reached out blindly and his fingers closed on a heavy slate tile, and almost without thought, cast it down into the alley. More shouts, this time of pain as well as anger, and suddenly a cry of “militia!” and the sound of the pursuers scattering.

It seemed like hours before Anshel could catch his breath, but it must have been only a moment. He rose to his knees and saw that the roof ended at the back wall of another house, and with a supreme effort, he climbed up and over. Most of the fighting seemed below them now; he could hear shouted orders as more militiamen came running from their barracks. Then he heard a musket fire. His heart skipped a beat as he wondered if the riot had turned into a gun battle, but there was only the one shot. “A shopkeeper warning people off,” Maimoun guessed, and there was no more gunfire as the sounds of battle slowly died down.

Eventually, as full darkness fell, he and Maimoun found their way home.

“There’ll be plenty of work for us tomorrow,” Maimoun said at his door, and it proved to be so; many laborers were needed to clear the market streets, and they could command a premium wage. And so close to the courthouse and the halls of records, news traveled fast; the Sanhedrin had met in tumultuous session and appointed the Maharitz as one of them. The rabbis had little real choice – had they refused, they would have lost their collective status as the Jews’ governing body, keeping only their individual judgeships and congregations. A few hotheads had wanted to appeal to the Sultan, but they were shouted down even by most of their own faction; the Galilee had suffered the last time the Porte and Zahir al-Umar were at loggerheads, and neither Zahir nor the majority who were loyal to him would take a new quarrel kindly. In the end, even they accepted, but there was a sullenness about it, a sense that their disunity had forced them to lock horns with the civil authority and lose.

The day after that was the Ninth of Av.

The ninth day of Av was a fast day, a day of lamentation; it was the day when the First and Second Temples had been destroyed, the day of the crushing of Bar-Kokhba’s revolt and the expulsion from England. But it was also the day when the younger Fakhr-al-Din’s siege had been lifted, so in the Galilee if nowhere else, the mourning was tempered by meditation on how all things pass.

The Sanhedrin, Anshel thought, had much to lament this year, but were they too telling themselves that this would pass? And if it did pass, what would happen then?

“It’s unfinished business,” said Maimoun. The Sudanese Jews had gathered in his home to pray, as they did on holy days, and lacking another synagogue, Anshel had joined them. “The catastrophes come, the redemption is unfinished; one day we will rebuild the Temple, one day we will all be together again in this land, one day we will free all the slaves.” Anshel looked around to Sarah and the others at the table, those born slaves and those born free, and again to the wall-hanging with the Rambam’s injunction, and understood.

“On Tisha b’Av, we lament, but we dream of a world that is finished,” he said. The people at the table, the Sanhedrin, the Jews of the Galilee, all had unfinished business. And so, Anshel realized, did he. He had still not seen Jerusalem, and it was time to be moving on.
I like how Moshe says its your choice but youd be illegitimate if you didnt seat him a la John Marshall in Marbury and how you have the sinat chinam incident right before Tisha bav. Its kind of like the Maimonidean controversy all over again.
 
Good to see, although if any of my Krymchak ancestors show up, they might take offense, given their involvement in the Crimean slave trade.
The Sanhedrin's jurisdiction extends only to the Talmudic borders of the Land of Israel, so as long as your ancestors find a new line of work after they immigrate, they'll be fine.

I'd imagine that the Sanhedrin's prestige does give its slave trade ban some weight in the diaspora, but as in most matters relating to the slave trade at this time, the ruling is likely to be interpreted or disregarded to suit local interests.
I like how Moshe says its your choice but youd be illegitimate if you didnt seat him a la John Marshall in Marbury and how you have the sinat chinam incident right before Tisha bav. Its kind of like the Maimonidean controversy all over again.
It's even more of a power move to put the Sanhedrin in a position where it has to seat the Maharitz itself than to directly force them to seat him. A number of considerations factored into this ruling, including the governor's wish not to anger a growing immigrant community with valuable skills [1] and the almost irresistible temptation to take the Sanhedrin down a peg. This won't be the only time that the Sanhedrin and the civil authorities test their respective boundaries, although most such cases will happen offstage.

[1] You also don't want to anger the community that has the best food, although greater Syria does give Yemen a run for its money.
 
Well, the last post looks like a milestone in the power struggle between Jewish civilian and spiritual authorities, with the former winning the upper hand.


Regarding demographics, it'd be interesting to know the global figures ITTL Palestine....in your post you mention the numbers in Galilee, but I suppose the Jews from J'lem and Acre (and elsewhere I suppose, like Jaffa) hadn't been counted. Indeed, Jews have a clear advantage over the rest of ethnic groups in the form of a never ending source of human capital from the Diaspora.


OTOH, I'm sorry because of my little knowdledge of Jewish religious practice but.....where are TTL events exactly leading to?. As far I understand, the Sanhedrin has apparently adopted a slightly open-minded stance, trying to turn "True Jewishness" as inclusive as possible.
 
The Sanhedrin's jurisdiction extends only to the Talmudic borders of the Land of Israel, so as long as your ancestors find a new line of work after they immigrate, they'll be fine.
True. I don't know if my specific ancestors were involved (my great-grandfather was a metalworker), but right now the Krymchaks are quite comfortable under the Crimean Khanate. Once Russia takes over, however, Palestine will look fairly enticing.
 
Well, the last post looks like a milestone in the power struggle between Jewish civilian and spiritual authorities, with the former winning the upper hand.


Regarding demographics, it'd be interesting to know the global figures ITTL Palestine....in your post you mention the numbers in Galilee, but I suppose the Jews from J'lem and Acre (and elsewhere I suppose, like Jaffa) hadn't been counted. Indeed, Jews have a clear advantage over the rest of ethnic groups in the form of a never ending source of human capital from the Diaspora.


OTOH, I'm sorry because of my little knowdledge of Jewish religious practice but.....where are TTL events exactly leading to?. As far I understand, the Sanhedrin has apparently adopted a slightly open-minded stance, trying to turn "True Jewishness" as inclusive as possible.
One of the goals is to mimize the chance of the Porte supporting an anti-Sanhedrin. The more big tent the Sanhedrin is, the harder it is for ideological opponents to claim they're part of a different millet. Spinoza as IOTL until the 20th century is too far for the Sanhedrin unless implicitly threatened by the secular power.
 
Well, the last post looks like a milestone in the power struggle between Jewish civilian and spiritual authorities, with the former winning the upper hand.
It's a definite shift in that direction, but don't expect the civil government to win every round.
Regarding demographics, it'd be interesting to know the global figures ITTL Palestine....in your post you mention the numbers in Galilee, but I suppose the Jews from J'lem and Acre (and elsewhere I suppose, like Jaffa) hadn't been counted. Indeed, Jews have a clear advantage over the rest of ethnic groups in the form of a never ending source of human capital from the Diaspora.
The Eastern Galilee community is the great majority. Elsewhere in Zahir al-Umar's domains, there are 2000 or so in Acre, around the same in Wadi Ara, a few hundred in Jaffa, and maybe a thousand scattered in other cities and towns. There are also the traditional Jewish communities in Jerusalem, Hebron and Gaza; the Jerusalem population totals 1500-2000 and the others are in the hundreds. The total is about 40,000, which is ~13 percent of the 300,000 or so people in all of Ottoman Palestine - there has been non-Jewish immigration as well, much of it Maronite and Melkite but also plenty of Egyptian and Syrian Muslims.
OTOH, I'm sorry because of my little knowdledge of Jewish religious practice but.....where are TTL events exactly leading to?. As far I understand, the Sanhedrin has apparently adopted a slightly open-minded stance, trying to turn "True Jewishness" as inclusive as possible.
One of the goals is to mimize the chance of the Porte supporting an anti-Sanhedrin. The more big tent the Sanhedrin is, the harder it is for ideological opponents to claim they're part of a different millet. Spinoza as IOTL until the 20th century is too far for the Sanhedrin unless implicitly threatened by the secular power.
As we've seen, there's a wide range of opinion and a number of factions, but by 1765, the median can probably be described as "strict on law, lenient on custom." There is both external and internal pressure in that direction - Zahir al-Umar doesn't want the Sanhedrin to adopt policies that would cause trouble in the community or discourage immigrants from coming, and the Sanhedrin itself realizes that it can't afford to provoke the civil government - or as Jacob correctly says, the Porte - into recognizing a separate authority.

I'm not going to get into too much detail about the future - that will all be revealed in due time - but the growing diversity of the Jewish population and the continuing spread of the Haskalah will both be ongoing challenges. Another challenge will be that the Yerushalmi rabbis, who are outside the Banu Zaydan polity, face a different set of pressures than the rest of the Sanhedrin.
 
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It's a definite shift in that direction, but don't expect the civil government to win every round.

The Eastern Galilee community is the great majority. Elsewhere in Zahir al-Umar's domains, there are 2000 or so in Acre, around the same in Wadi Ara, a few hundred in Jaffa, and maybe a thousand scattered in other cities and towns. There are also the traditional Jewish communities in Jerusalem, Hebron and Gaza; the Jerusalem population totals 1500-2000 and the others are in the hundreds. The total is about 40,000, which is ~13 percent of the 300,000 or so people in all of Ottoman Palestine - there has been non-Jewish immigration as well, much of it Maronite and Melkite but also plenty of Egyptian and Syrian Muslims.


As we've seen, there's a wide range of opinion and a number of factions, but by 1765, the median can probably be described as "strict on law, lenient on custom." There is both external and internal pressure in that direction - Zahir al-Umar doesn't want the Sanhedrin to adopt policies that would cause trouble in the community or discourage immigrants from coming, and the Sanhedrin itself realizes that it can't afford to provoke the civil government - or as Jacob correctly says, the Porte - into recognizing a separate authority.

I'm not going to get into too much detail about the future - that will all be revealed in due time - but the growing diversity of the Jewish population and the continuing spread of the Haskalah will both be ongoing challenges. Another challenge will be that the Yerushalmi rabbis, who are outside the Banu Zaydan polity, face a different set of pressures than the rest of the Sanhedrin.
and Yerushalem still has the veto power it was granted to join the project back in 1538, correct?
 
and Yerushalem still has the veto power it was granted to join the project back in 1538, correct?
In theory, yes. In practice, the veto has become one of those powers that will blow everything up if it's actually used, and the Yerushalmi rabbis have a strong incentive not to blow things up because a lot of money gets funneled through the Sanhedrin to their community and institutions. Generally, any issue where there's serious dissent from Jerusalem gets tabled or negotiated. But there may be a point in the future where neither of those alternatives is feasible.
 
Given that I'm lurking this thread in a semi-regular basis, I thought I could contribute a bit by sharing this flag:
Ottoman Jewish Vilayet.png

This flag was actually inspired by an earlier related thread (Selim II creating a Jewish vilayet).
 
Given that I'm lurking this thread in a semi-regular basis, I thought I could contribute a bit by sharing this flag:
View attachment 874347
This flag was actually inspired by an earlier related thread (Selim II creating a Jewish vilayet).
At least one Jewish community of the time, the Josefov of Prague, did have a flag, so it isn't impossible that the Galilee Yishuv would adopt one (or even more than one - the Ottoman Empire itself used several flags at this point).

Out of curiosity, did Zahir al-Umar have a flag? I'd imagine there would at least have been a Banu Zaydan battle standard. If there's none in the historical record, we can give him a suitably badass one, maybe a white bull on a green field.
 
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At least one Jewish community of the time, the Josefov of Prague, did have a flag, so it isn't impossible that the Galilee Yishuv would adopt one (or even more than one - the Ottoman Empire itself used several flags at this point).

Out of curiosity, did Zahir al-Umar have a flag? I'd imagine there would at least have been a Banu Zaydan battle standard. If there's none in the historical record, we can give him a suitably badass one, maybe a white bull on a green field.
Olives too. and oranges.
 
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