The Wave of Persecution That Put Moses in Moroccan Haggadahs

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.

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

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy