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Kol Tuv Sefarad?
What's in a Name?

windowWhatever link you have followed to this website, whatever wandering through cyberspace brought you to here, you are probably wondering why I picked this particular name for my domain and my website.  "Kol tuv Sefarad" means, literally, "all the good of Spain" or "all the good things of Spain" in Hebrew.   In that sense, the name of the website fits its purpose:  i.e. to be a repository of educational materials about Judaism for descendants of Sefardic Jews who were expelled from Spain ("Sefarad" in Hebrew) over half a millenia ago.   Most of the material presented in this website will be either about Sefardic Jews, their historical experience or the Jewish culture and religion reflected through a Sefardic lens (although in many cases I will also share other important perspectives that are not necessarily Sefardic). Although the title promises "all the good of Spain", I hope to share with you, God willing, at least a small fraction of it.

However, there is a deeper understanding of this title.  

"Kol tuv Sefarad" is actually a quote from one of the most celebrated poems of Hebrew Literature "Libbi vemizrach" (My Heart is in the East) by Judah Halevi.  Judah Halevi (1075-1141 CE) was one of the greatest philosophers and Sages of the Golden Age of Sefardic Jewry.  Born in Lucena (in Christian Spain), Halevi was a student of the great Rabbi Isaac Alfasi (the Rif) and absorbed all the best products of the Judeo-Arabic culture that was flourishing in Muslim Spain. Halevi is the celebrated author of the philosophical treatise written in Judeo-Arabic Kitab al-Ḥujjah wal-Dalil fi Nuṣr al-Din al-Dhalil (Treatise in Defense of the Despised Faith) more commonly know by its Hebrew title The Kuzari (press here to read).  Aside from his philosophical and intellectual achievements, Halevi is among the best poets in the history of the Hebrew language.  His poems, both on secular and religious subjects, are an important part of the liturgy and heritage of Israel to this day.  Among his better know poems is his My Heart is in the East, an ode of longing and love for the Land of Israel written from the perspective of the Diaspora. Indeed, Judah Halevi left the comforts of Spain for the Land of Israel.  There, legend has it, he died trampled by a horseman while he kissed the Land of which he sung so sweetly.

libi vemizrach

(hear the poem)


My Heart is in the East

My heart is in the East, and I in the ends of the West,
How will I taste my food?  How will I enjoy it?
How will I pay my vows and my bonds, while
Zion is in the fetter of Edom and I in the chain of the Arab 
Tis'
easy in my eyes to leave all the comforts of Spain
as costly in my eyes to behold the dusts of your broken sanctuary.

kotelI believe that this poem, aside from being a beautiful work of art and one of the pivotal works of Hebrew literature, also expresses one of my central opinions about the return of the descendants of the Anusim.  Many descendants of Anusim and organizations that support their return have a great emphasis on 'aliyah.  They believe that only in the State of Israel and through its intervention will the descendants of the Anusim be brought back to their roots.  I think this approach is misguided and premature.  Although 'aliyah is an important part of being Jewish and it behooves the descendants of the Anusim to support and love the Jewish State, education and observance should come first.  Only after the descendants of the Anusim who want to return to the Jewish fold are familiar with "kol tuv Sefarad", with all the elements of our Jewish tradition and are living Jewish lives after having converted halakhically, will they be able to behold the beauty of Zion.  

(January 9, 2008)

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