The Italian Rabbi Who Tried to Talk Henry VIII Out of His First Divorce

An exhibit on historical Jewish manuscripts opened yesterday at the British Museum, and is also accessible online. Among the many treasures on display are what is thought to be the earliest dated copy of Moses Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed and a 17th-century Torah scroll from the Chinese city of Kaifeng. Reviewing the exhibit, Robert Philpot describe what might be its most interesting item, found in the archives of King Henry VIII:

Desperate for biblical grounds on which his marriage to Catherine of Aragon—who had failed to bear him a male heir—might be annulled, the king canvassed the opinion of religious scholars.

Having previously obtained a special dispensation from the pope to marry Catherine [of Aragon], who was the widow of Henry’s brother, the validity of the levirate marriage was a focus of attention and a rabbi’s opinion was among those sought. But, given the expulsion of the Jews, the king’s advisers had to cast a wider net and obtained the view of Italian rabbi Jacob Rafael.

The rabbi’s response—shown in a letter contained in a ledger of correspondence in the exhibition—didn’t provide the answer Henry wanted. The rabbi stated that the justification for the levirate marriage in Deuteronomy overrode the prohibition in Leviticus (which bars sexual relations with a brother’s wife), which Henry’s advisers were attempting to use as a loophole to annul the marriage.

More often, though, Jewish opinion was stifled rather than sought. . . . A 17th-century edition of the 1596 Book of Expurgation, which is also on display, lists in alphabetical order some 450 Hebrew texts which the Catholic Church viewed as theologically dangerous or blasphemous. Censors then set to work deleting suspect passages.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Henry VIII, Italian Jewry, Levirate marriage, Manuscripts, Moses Maimonides

 

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela