The Wave of Persecution That Put Moses in Moroccan Haggadahs

April 11 2023

In the standard seder liturgy, Moses—the apparent protagonist of the exodus narrative—goes unmentioned, with his name appearing not once. But Jewish communities from Morocco and Western Algeria traditionally add a text in Judeo-Arabic near the beginning of the Haggadah that makes extensive mention of the biblical prophet. Joseph Chetrit explains why:

As can be discerned from the Arabic language of the two versions discussed here, the text about Moses was formulated at the end of the 13th or the beginning of the 14th century. . . . It seems [therefore] that the return of the figure of Moses and his role in the exodus story came at a time when the Jewish communities in Morocco and other lands of North Africa and Andalusia (Muslim Spain) were allowed to return to open practice of their Judaism at the end of the 13th century under the rulers of the first Marinid sultanate. The connection is a dramatic and even tragic event of long duration that nearly destroyed all the North African and Andalusian communities at the beginning of the reign of the fundamentalist Muslim Almohad caliphate.

During the Almohad persecutions (ca. 1121–1269), Jews were forcibly converted to Islam en masse, and authorities did their best to stamp out every trace of Jewish practice, even as many of these apostates clung to their ancestral faith in secret—in an adumbration of what would happen two centuries later in Christian Spain. This experience, Chetrit writes, would shape the practices of these Jews’ descendants after the Almohad dynasty collapsed and many conversions were reversed:

The hidden Jews saw their return to Judaism as a second exodus from Egypt. Moreover, because of the forced Muslim education they received, and the Muslim sermons they were forced to hear in the mosques, the central figure etched in the minds of the converted Jews was the figure of the prophet Mohammad, who has always been at the center of Islamic worship and belief. The community leaders who sought to restore Jewish life and Jewish consciousness among the survivors of the apostasy needed to obliviate the image of the prophet of Islam and counter it with a central Jewish figure that would overshadow it.

Hence their need for the image of Moses. . . . From the end of the 13th century and through the 14th century, the image of Moses appeared in other Judeo-Arabic poems and texts that were at the core of the Judeo-Arabic culture and poetry that developed from that time among Moroccan Jewry and until the community’s dispersal in the third quarter of the 20th century.

Recordings of the recitation of the text can be found at the link below.

Read more at Librarians

More about: Anti-Semitism, Conversion, Haggadah, Moroccan Jewry, Muslim-Jewish relations


Why President Biden Needs Prime Minister Netanyahu as Much as Netanyahu Needs Biden

Sept. 28 2023

Last Wednesday, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the first time since the former’s inauguration. Since then, Haim Katz, Israel’s tourism minister, became the first Israeli cabinet member to visit Saudi Arabia publicly, and Washington announced that it will include the Jewish state in its visa-waiver program. Richard Kemp, writing shortly after last week’s meeting, comments:

Finally, a full nine months into Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government, President Joe Biden deigned to allow him into his presence. Historically, American presidents have invited newly installed Israeli prime ministers to the White House shortly after taking office. Even this meeting on Wednesday, however, was not in Washington but in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Such pointed lack of respect is not the way to treat one of America’s most valuable allies, and perhaps the staunchest of them all. It is all about petty political point-scoring and interfering in Israel’s internal democratic processes. But despite his short-sighted rebuke to the state of Israel and its prime minister, Biden actually needs at least as much from Netanyahu as Netanyahu needs from him. With the 2024 election looming, Biden is desperate for a foreign-policy success among a sea of abject failures.

In his meeting with Netanyahu, Biden no doubt played the Palestinian issue up as some kind of Saudi red line and the White House has probably been pushing [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] in that direction. But while the Saudis would no doubt want some kind of pro-forma undertaking by Israel for the sake of appearances, [a nuclear program and military support] are what they really want. The Saudis’ under-the-table backing for the original Abraham Accords in the face of stiff Palestinian rejection shows us where its priorities lie.

Israel remains alone in countering Iran’s nuclear threat, albeit with Saudi and other Arab countries cheering behind the scenes. This meeting won’t have changed that. We must hope, however, that Netanyahu has been able to persuade Biden of the electoral benefit to him of settling for a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia rather than holding out for the unobtainable jackpot of a two-state solution.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship