1630 AD to 1650 AD, Psalm 128: See the good of Jerusalem.

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This generation of the 1630s and 1640s.

According to our count, this generation is the 128th generation associated with Psalm 128. It is in this Psalm 128 that we therefore find an illustration of the facts of this generation.

This generation is marked by scientific and philosophical advances (Galileo, Kepler, Descartes …) redefining a universe that is no longer governed by religion. All these scientific advances are taking place in the countries of northern Europe, the former powers of Portugal and Spain sclerotic in a purely religious approach to the world are not participating.

By relegating religion to the background, Jews are better accepted. This is particularly the case in the United Provinces whose independence was proclaimed in 1648. The unconstrained integration of the Jews brought them an economic boom which was emulated in the countries of northern Europe (Denmark, Hamburg) and in Italy.

The new expansion of Jews into the Christian world does not come at the expense of attachment to the Land of Israel and Jerusalem. Despite the tyranny of Muhammed Ibn Farouk, newcomers settled in Jerusalem, arriving from Safed and other parts of Erets-Israel as well as from Italy, Germany or North Africa.

Emissary rabbis are recruited from the highest rabbinical authorities in Erets Israel. Very often, they become rabbis of communities in the Diaspora, a living link between the Holy Land and the Jews of the dispersion. They thus spread the fame of Erets Israel, of Jerusalem in particular.


The sciences free themselves from the religious

This generation [1] is marked by the continuation of the Thirty Years War which contributes to the redefinition of the European and therefore global powers. It is also marked by new steps towards the modern era, especially with the work of Galileo (1564-1642), begun in the previous generation, which calls into question the accepted definition of the solar system. This earned him a condemnation by the Holy Office in 1633 but it inspires in association with the work of Kepler (1571-1630) new reflections to René Descartes (1596-1650) on the age and the mathematical laws of the universe, laws that are no longer governed by the religious.

These advances are also due to the appearance of new instruments such as the telescope. Other instruments equally fundamental in the progress towards technical progress also appear to this generation: the thermometer and the barometer. And soon the chronometer. This generation also sees the birth of Isaac Newton (1643-1727) who will upset the apprehension of our world following a more and more scientific approach. Also advanced in the medical field with for example Harvey who in 1628 contradicts the theses of antiquity on the blood circulation and the role of the heart.

All these scientific advances take place in the countries of Northern Europe, the former powers of Portugal and Spain sclerotic in a purely religious approach of the world do not participate.

Jews better accepted

If the nascent powers of Northern Europe do not abandon the religious or at least retain it only for purposes of national cohesion, the march towards progress makes them more pragmatic, relegating God to the background. It also relegates the devil. It becomes possible to attend the Jews with whom he was associated. Especially if they can help the economic development which becomes priority over the elevation of the soul according to the old religious patterns.

The example of the United Provinces


The United Provinces are initiating a gradual return of Jews to society, increasingly as a full-fledged actor less and less like an outcast. This return is facilitated by the outcome of the Thirty Years War. This led to the revival of the conflict between Spain and the United Provinces in 1621 ending a truce of twelve years, France declared itself war on Spain in 1635. The end of the war sees the defeat of Spain and the end of its golden age fueled by the riches of the New World; it is also the independence of the United Provinces which is proclaimed in 1648. It is above all the victory of a new model of society.

Populated [2] by a mere one and a half million inhabitants, the seven United Provinces form a state and a society apart: a nation rooted in civic duty. Unlike the Hispanic kingdoms, which are content to squander the riches of the New World, the social composition of the United Provinces only gives the value of the sword, in its values as in its social status, a secondary position in relation to a third dominant state. For here the supreme value is work, driven by trade and profit (values completely antagonistic to that of post-inquisition Spain). Because it is associated with the freedom to do and to undertake, money is more important than the notion of honor and heroism. In Holland, the true greatness lies not on the battlefield, but rather in the construction of a system of finance and trade with proven efficiency, which drains the riches of the land and the sea to the city , that is, especially to Amsterdam.

In this model, the Jews, thanks to a diaspora especially of Portuguese origin in all the places which count for the international trade, are an undeniable asset for the economic development of the United Provinces. Thus the place of the Jews in Amsterdam is easily consolidated in the absence of a truly repressive policy. They may, unlike the generations that suffered the Inquisition, display a Judaism uninhibited even if some restrictions remain.

The integration policy of the Jews of the United Provinces is accompanied by an economic boom noticed by the other nations who in turn open their doors to the Jews:

  • Several [3] centuries after the expulsion of Jews from most European states (1290 in England, 1394 in France, 1420 in Austria, …), some princes and urban authorities, seeing the economic interest they could withdraw from the coming of the Jews and, in the first place, the more prosperous Sephardim, sought to attract them to their lands. Their commercial networks with the Ottoman Empire (the Balkans, among others), especially with the Italians, as well as with the Iberian Empires for Western European countries, were important assets in this respect. Jews could moreover be a means of fighting the guilds’ hold, since they by definition escaped their jurisdiction.
  • Among the many public calls for Judeo-Portuguese immigration is that of Christian IV of Denmark, in the 1620s, who tried to populate Glückstadt – a newly founded city – of Sepharad in order to compete with Hamburg.

And also :

  • Jealous [4] of the advantages which the Jews’ stay assured in Amsterdam, several Christian princes endeavored to attract some to their country as well. Christian IV, King of Denmark, solicited administrators of the community to send a certain number of Jews to his states, promising to authorize the exercise of their worship and grant them other privileges. The Duke of Savoy called Portuguese Jews to Nice, and the Duke of Modena to Reggio. The Jews thus found, in the midst of Christian Europe, intolerant and fanatical, asylums where they could raise their heads and regain their freedom little by little.

Another development point is Northern Germany and Hamburg in particular, which are also trying to attract Sephardic Jews.

For the first time in many centuries, Jews in Christian lands can be considered as more or less normal citizens. Constrained in previous generations to the survival and condition of pariahs with a precarious economic role, the slow emergence of modern times in Northern Europe allows them to be normal economic actors and take full advantage of the economic boom of the new powers.

This is what the psalmist evokes in the beginning of the psalm of this generation:

  1. A song of ascents. Praiseworthy is every man who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways.
  2. If you eat the toil of your hands, you are praiseworthy, and it is good for you.
  3. Your wife will be as a fruitful vine in the innermost parts of your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table.
  4. Behold that so will a man who fears the Lord be blessed.

Faithfulness to Jerusalem

The fidelity of the Portuguese Jews to their religion despite the repression of the Inquisition, including outside the Iberian Peninsula, was rewarded.

Many Portuguese crypto-Judaism communities are born in a new world, in Europe, India or the New World, and benefit from both economic growth and population growth. Thus in Amsterdam [6], the Sephardic community increased from 500 individuals in 1612 to more than 1000 in 1620, 2000 (some 400 families) around 1650.

The new expansion of the Jews in the Christian world is not done to the detriment of the attachment to the Land of Israel and Jerusalem. In 1625, the Jews of Jerusalem suffer the tyranny of Ibn Farouk, at his fall they can find their place:

  • In 1625 [7], Muhammad Ibn Farouk, of Nablus, bought dearly from the regional governor of Damascus the office of governor (pasha) of Jerusalem. The few years of his reign are among the most dramatic of all Turkish rule. It spreads a real terror among the Jews, many of whom flee before being arrested and put in prison. Without any motive, rabbis and notables are incarcerated and their property vandalized or confiscated. Excessive taxes are imposed and in a few months the Jews of Jerusalem are reduced to the most terrible misery. A call for help is launched in Constantinople where the Jews intervene vigorously with the Sultan, who ends, after two years, by removing Ibn Farouk from his office. Calm returns then, but the excessive taxations are maintained by his successors.
  • In Jerusalem, however, newcomers arrive from Safed and other points in Eretz Israel as well as in Italy, Germany or North Africa. […].
  • Because of the tyranny of Ibn Farouk, the Jewish population of Jerusalem has decreased by more than half! After the Pasha’s fall, emissaries are sent to the diaspora to ask for help for Jerusalem. A return movement is gradually taking place and the Jewish community is developing again. […]
  • Jerusalem had not been, even in the general boom of the sixteenth century, an important commercial or handicraft center. It was above all a home of religious life. This is even more true in the seventeenth century with the beginnings of the recession in the Ottoman Empire. Jerusalem is poorer in material terms, but enriches spiritually. She takes over from Safed to become the bright center of the entire Jewish world. Scholar from the diasporas of Europe and North Africa are attracted to Jerusalem. […]
  • The existence of emissaries sent from Eretz Israel to the various countries of the Diaspora dates back to the first decades after the destruction of the Second Temple. But it is especially from the sixteenth century that the number of emissaries increases […]
  • In the seventeenth century, and it will continue thereafter, it is a kind of institution. The rabbis are recruited from among the highest rabbinic authorities of Eretz Israel. No doubt the purpose of their mission is, as today, to collect money for one or the other of the four holy cities: Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed and Tiberias. But their role as « supplicant » is largely surpassed by that of teacher and preacher. The outgoing rabbi, wherever he goes, teaches, preaches and even resolves complicated religious conflicts that local authorities can not resolve. It is crowned with the prestige of Erets Israel. We listen to him, we ask him for advice, we honor him. Very often, pressure is put on him to stay longer and become a rabbi of a particular Diaspora community. He is the living link between the Holy Land and the Jews of dispersion, for whom this distant land is often more mythical than real. That’s why he sometimes stays several years in a city. He often takes advantage of it to have one or more of his books printed in Europe, as well as books by his masters. He takes care of their diffusion. He thus spreads the name of Eretz Israel, of Jerusalem in particular.

This role of Eretz Israel and Jerusalem towards the communities of dispersion is illustrated by the blessing that concludes the psalm of this generation:

  1. May the Lord bless you from Zion, and see the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life.
  2. And may you see children [born] to your children, [and see] peace upon Israel.

[1] After (directed by) Jean Delumeau: « History of the world from 1492 to 1789 ». Chapter « A scientific revolution ». (French: « Histoire du monde de 1492 à 1789 ». Chapitre « Une révolution scientifique ». (p. 210 à 213) ).

[2] After (directed by) Jean Delumeau: « History of the world from 1492 to 1789 ». Chapter « The United Provinces – 1661-1683 ». (French: « Histoire du monde de 1492 à 1789 ». Chapitre « Les Provinces Unies – 1661-1683 ». (p. 315) ).

[3] (Antoine Germa Collective / Benjamin Lellouch / Evelyne Patlagean): « The Jews in History ». Chapter of Natalia Muchnik: « Powers and Jews in Western Europe ». (French: « Les Juifs dans l’histoire ». Chapitre de Natalia Muchnik: « Les pouvoirs et les Juifs en Europe occidentale ». (p. 295) ).

[4] Heinrich Graetz: « History of the Jews, volume 5 ». Chapter VI: « Formation of Marranos Communities in Amsterdam, Hamburg and Bordeaux, 1593-1648 ». (French: « Histoire des Juifs, volume 5 ». Chapitre VI : « Formation de Communautés marranes à Amsterdam, à Hambourg et à Bordeaux, 1593-1648 ». (p. 138, ) )

[6] According to (Collectif Antoine Berma / Benjamin Lellouch / Evelyne Patlagean): « The Jews in History ». Chapter of Natalia Muchnik: « Powers and Jews in Western Europe ». (French: « Les Juifs dans l’histoire ». Chapitre  de Natalia Muchnik: « Les pouvoirs et les Juifs en Europe occidentale ». (p. 299) ).

[7] Renée Neher-Bernheim: « Jewish Life in the Holy Land, 1517-1918 ». Chapter: « The seventeenth century ». (French: «La vie juive en Terre sainte, 1517-1918». Chapitre : « Le XVIIe siècle ». (p. 88 à 98) ).