Kol Tuv Sefarad?
What's in a Name?
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
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
easy in my eyes to leave all the comforts of Spain
as costly in my eyes
to behold the dusts of your broken sanctuary.
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.
Copyright © Juan