Wednesday, February 22, 2012

SEPHARDIC RABBIS: Rabbi Yehuda Bibas (1776-1852) and the independence of Israel

Previously we explained (see here) that Rabbi Yehuda Bibas served as the chief rabbi of the island of Corfu (today's Greece) from the year 1831 to 1850. The influence of rabbi Bibas, however, was not restricted just to his own communjty. During those years he traveled to numerous Jewish communities in Europe and North Africa with a clear message: We, Jews, must come back to Zion.

But why now

Rabbi Bibas saw a rare window of opportunity for the Jewish people in the fact that many countries in those days revolted against the ruling empires and achieved their independence. Living in Corfu, gave him the privileged perspective of being a direct witness of the Greek revolution against the Ottoman Empire between 1821 and 1832, and the ensuing Greek victory which lead to their independence.  Israel, called Palestine in those days, was also under the ruling of the Ottoman Empire. Rabbi Bibas estimated that the Jews were capable then to obtain their own independence, since the Ottoman Empire was weaker and in a process an inevitable decline. According to rabbi Yehuda Bibas:"The jews must conquer militarily the land of Israel from the Turks in the same way the Greeks conquered their own land from the Turks." 
As we explained last week, Rabbi Bibas argued that the concept of teshuba needed to be understood then also as a call for returning to Israel. If you analyze carefully the book of Debarim Chapter 30:1-11 you will find that teshuba, mentioned there eight times, appears as the idea of national reconciliation with HaShem. Same as exile in the previous persahiot was the outcome of national abandonment of HaShem, coming back to Israel is seen as the peak of reconciliation between Am Israel and our God. 

Rabbi Bibas had practical plans and ideas to inspire the Jews to come to Zion. His plan, which we will explain in more detail B'H next week, might be summarized with one single word: "education".
(to be continued...)

WATCH: Shema Israel  Understanding the wisdom of Judaism's most important prayer. 
From by Charlie Harary