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p. 92]

p. 93]


Reading the depositions of defendants accused of ritual child murder with relation to the utilization of blood, one is left with the clear impression that, rather than explain the need for the blood of a Christian child, the defendants were attempting to provide a description of the wonderful therapeutic and magical properties of blood generally, and of blood extracted from children and young persons in particular. The principle emphasis was placed upon scorched, dried blood which been reduced to powder; such blood is said to have been used as an haemostatic [coagulant] of extraordinary effectiveness when applied to the wound caused by circumcision. Angelo da Verona had no doubt in this regard and explained to the judges at Trent that, once the blood had been reduced to powder, Jews normally save it for later re-use when their sons were circumcised, to heal the wound in the foreskin. If available, they were said to have used other haemostatic powders as an alternative, such as bolo di Armenia and the so-called "dragon's blood", a sort of dark red colored resin, known in pharamceutics as Calamus Draco or Pterocarpus Draco. [1]

The physician Giuseppe di Riva del Garda, known as the "hunchbacked Jew", who had circumcised Angelo’s sons, normally used it during the course of the holy operation. [2]

Obviously, Maestro Tobias, who rightly considered himself a medical expert, also knew how to prepare the magic haemostatic: "You take the blood, allowing it to coagulate; then you dry it and make a powder out of it, which can be used in so many different ways". [3]

Giovanni Hinderbach seemed scandalized by these revelations and censured the wickedness of the Jews in healing the circumcision wounds of their sons with the blood of Christian children in his opening address at the Trent trial. "As with other things Tobias confessed", explained the prince bishop, "they medicate their circumcisions with the powder of that coagulated blood and then, in the second or third day after the operation, recovering their health". [4]

p. 94]

Elias and Mercklin (Mordekhai), as well, two of the brothers accused of the terrible multiple homicide of Endingen in Alsace, during their trial in 1470, attempted uselessly to beat around the bush before the inquisitors’ demands relating to the use of the blood of Christian children by Jews. This blood was then utilized for the marvelous balsamic qualities which it possessed, beneficial in curing epilepsy and eliminating the disgusting body odour of Jews [il disgustoso fetore giudaico]. But in the end, they both admitted to making use of the magical healing liquid to cure the circumcision wounds of their sons. [5]

Leo of Pforzheim, the most illustrious among the defendants accused of acquiring blood from the children killed at Endingen, confessed that he had procured it because it was required for the circumcision procedure. Leo had known that the powdered blood of children was used as a coagulant of proven efficacy on those occasions for more than twenty years, ever since the first time he had been present at a circumcision ceremony with his father, twenty years before. [6]

The Jews accused of ritual child murder at Tyrnau in Hungary in 1494 also declared, among other things, that they had used powdered blood as a circumcision haemostatic. [7]

The widespread use of blood as a powerful haemostatic among the Jews is probably the reason for the widespread notion that Jewish males – all directly or indirectly guilty of Deicide – suffered painful and abundant monthly menstruation periods [presumably anally].

Perhaps first advanced by Cecco d'Ascoli in his commentary De Sphaera by Sacrobosco in 1324, this eccentric opinion is said to have received enthusiastic support from the Dominican friar Rodolfo de Selestat in Alsace. [8]

The Jews, the killers of Christ, and their progeny, were said to been inflicted with an abnormal escape of blood

The Jews, the killers of Christ, and their progeny, were said to been inflicted with an abnormal escape of blood, menstruations, bleeding hemorrhoids, hematuriae [blood in the urine] and exhausting fits of dysentery, which they were alleged to attempt to cure through the application of Christian blood as a haemostatic.

"I heard of the Jews [...] that all the Jews, descendants of those guilty of Deicide, have escapes of blood every month and often suffer from dysentery, from which they frequently perish. But they recover their health by virtue of Christian blood, baptized in the name of Christ". [9]

p. 95]

Circumcision hemorrhages, epistaxis [nosebleed], overly abundant menstruation, open hemorrhoids, abnormal abdominal flow. The most effective cure to control and heal them always seemed to be recourse to the powerful and magical powdered blood of children. But in this, the Jews were acting no differently from the Christians of the surrounding society, despite Hindenbach’s feigned and artificial stupefaction. In popular medicine, blood, whether human or animal, was alleged to be an indispensable component in the preparation of electuaries [powder-based medications mixed with honey or syrup to form a paste] and astringent powders of extraordinary effectiveness. [10]

As Pier Camporesi wrote, "a sacred and alchemistic haemostatic, blood (and not incorrectly, in epochs in which hemorrhages represented a terrible tragedy, was considered a powerful healant". [11]

According to the prescriptions of the Theatrum Chemicum, marvelous unguents and powders were derived from human blood, capable of arresting even the most resistant flow of blood and of expelling dangerous infirmities. [12]

The most expert specialists knew that human blood possessed great therapeutic powers and was therefore to be prepared and treated with the greatest care. They therefore recommended that "it being ascertained that it is perfectly dry, it should be immediately placed in a bronze mortar, which must be quite hot, and should be ground with a pestle and made to pass through the finest sieve, and after all of it has passed, it shall be sealed in a small glass pot and must be renewed every year in the springtime". [13]

Be that as it may, the Jews, when they described the operation of circumcision addressing the Christian public, preferred to omit the use of children's blood among the "restrictive powders" and limited themselves to listing others, such as the classical Dragon's Blood and coral powder. Leon of Modena, the noted rabbi of Venice, in his classic Historia de' Riti Hebraici described the ceremony of circumcision (berith milah) briefly as follows:

Circumcision ceremony description by Leon of Modena, the noted rabbi of Venice

"The mohel comes with a plate, upon which are the instruments and things necessary, such as razor, astringent powders, pieces of bandage with rose oil, and some similarly use a bowl of sand in which to place the foreskin, which is cut [...]. The mohel continues, and, with the mouth, sucks the blood flowing from the wound two or three times and spits it into a glass of wine, after which he places Dragon's blood, coral powder, or things which staunch, and piece of bandage soaked in of rose oil on the cut, and binds and bandages it tightly. He then takes a glass of wine [...] and bathes the infant's mouth with the wine in which he spat out the sucked blood". [14]

p. 96]

The omission of powdered blood from among the haemostatic powders could not be accidental. Confirmation of this point could easily be obtained from "Jews turned Christians". They would naturally never have concealed such a scandalous practice, assuming that they actually considered it scandalous. Shemuel Nahmias, a Venetian and disciple of Leon da Modena, later baptized under the name of Giulio Morosini, discussing the topic of circumcision, did not conceal his severe censure of the custom of placing blood mixed with wine on the child’s mouth. This practice seemed to him in implacable conflict with the Biblical prohibition against the consumption of blood

In that blood he will live

("Tell me, moreover, is it not against the Divine Law, expressed in several places, that the blood is not to be eaten or drunk? And then in the rite of circumcision, you place the circumcised boy's own blood, issuing from the foreskin, mixed in wine, in his own mouth, adding, to your greater transgression, and repeating that in that blood he will live, almost is if he were to be nourished by that blood").

But to the utilization of the blood of the Christian child as a haemostatic onto the wound of the circumcision, the convert Morosini made no mention at all, almost if the practice were unknown to him or did not merit considerable attention.

"At this point the mohel arrives, and, behind him, another person, with a basin or cup in his hand, containing all the instruments necessary to the ceremony are placed, some silver tongs, which are placed as a sign of how much foreskin is to be cut, a powder full of Dragons Blood and other astringent powders to clot the blood, and two cups or small soup plates, one containing an absorbent material cut up for the purpose, greased with oil of Balsam or rose oil to medicate the cut, and one filled with earth or sand in which to place the foreskin, burying the portion of the foreskin which had been cut off [...] having completed the above, the mohel squeezes the little member of the circumcised boy, and sucking in the blood several times, spits it into a glass of wine, prepared for this purpose, and finishes by treating the cut with the above mentioned oil and powder. [15]

Another converted Jew, Raffael Aquilino, baptized in 1545, and later appointed by the Holy Office with responsibility for confiscating the Talmud and burning it in the territories in the Duchy of Urbino and the Marca, never dwelt in the slightest upon the presumed Jewish custom of using powdered Christian blood to heal the circumcision wound, instead, concerning himself with the analogies between the Holy Trinity and the three recurrent elements in the ceremony, applied to the burying the foreskin in the earth of the cemetery, the egg and wine, which, after washing the wound, is given to the infant to drink.

"Similarly, they take three things for the said circumcision, i.e., the earth from their sepulchers, and they put it in a basin in which they place the flesh which they cut off the foreskin, the wine with which they render thanks to God [...] and three eggs, while in the basin, into which they pour the wine used to wash the foreskin [...] and they wash the circumcision wound with the wine three times". [16]

p. 97]

The famous Tuscan convert Paolo Medici describes the ceremony of circumcision in detail, with obvious hostility, but seems unaware of the use of coagulated blood as a haemostatic powder. In fact, he restricted himself to observing, without further detail, that "the mohel [...] places astringent powders, rose oil and similar things on the cut, in certain piece of bandage, ties it up, bandages it and delivers it to the Godmother". [17]

One could at this point conclude that the use of the powdered blood of children, and especially Christian blood, as a haemostatic during circumcision, in view of the disinterest in its regard shown even by converted Jews, on other points inclined to defame Judaism, is a chimera and a tendentious invention, either of the inquisitors, obsessed with blood, or of Jews themselves, terrorized by torture and slavishly eager to placate their tormenters. But this would be erroneous and misleading.

The texts of the practical Cabbalah stress the haemostatic and astringent powders of young blood

The texts of the practical Cabbalah, the handbooks of stupendous medications (segullot), compendia of portentous electuaries, recipe books of secret cures, mostly composed in the German-speaking territories, even very recently, stress the haemostatic and astringent powders of young blood, above all, on the circumcision wound. These are ancient prescriptions, handed down for generations, put together, with variants of little importance, by cabbalistic herb alchemists of various origins, and repeatedly reprinted right down to the present day, in testimony to the extraordinary empirical effectiveness of these remedies.

Elia ben Mosè Loan, rabbi of Worms, known as the Baal Shem (literally: the patron of the name), in his Sefer Telodot Adam ("Book of the Story of Man"), in Hebrew and Yiddish, prescribed that "to arrest the flow of blood from the circumcision and that which flows from the nose, one must take the blood, boil it over the fire until it is desiccated, and reduced to powder, place it successively on the cut of the circumcision or of the nostrils, so that the blood coagulates". [18]

We find a similar recipe in the Derekh ha-chaim ha-nikra Segullot Israel ("Way of the Life, also called the Book of Portentous Remedies of Israel") by Chaim Lipschütz, which adds another magical medication, this time intended to arrest the menstrual flow.

"Take the menstrual blood and a chicken feather, which thou shalt immerse it in the menstrual blood of the patient; when the blood with the feather has been well shaken, cause it to be dried before the fire, making a powder of it, which thou shalt administer it to the woman in wine". [19]

p. 98]

Sacharja Plongiany Simoner, in his classic Sefer Zechirah ("Book of Medical Briefs"), was also rather precise as regards the Biblical references to the extraordinary curative and restrictive powers of blood.

"To stop the flow of blood from circumcision or nasal hemorrhage using the coagulated blood of the child or the patient: the blood is placed before the fire until it hardens, and then it is crushed with a pestle, making a fine powder to be placed on the wound. And that is what we find written in the book of Jeremiah (30:17): ‘For I shall restore health unto thee, and I shall heal thee of thy wounds’. It is to be understood in fact that it shall be precisely from your wound, i.e., from your blood, that your health shall be restored to you". [20]

It does not, therefore, appear that there can be any doubt as to the fact that, through an antique tradition, never interrupted, empirical healers, cabbalists and herb alchemists prescribed powdered blood as a healant of proven effectiveness during circumcision or hemorrhage. The fact that this practice was probably anything but generalized should not lead us to suppose that it was not actually in use, particularly in the Ashkenazi Jewish communities, where stupendous "secrets", first transmitted orally, then printed in suitable compendiums, are said to have enjoyed extraordinary success over time. On the other hand, empirical knowledge of an analogous kind, even if obviously applied to contingencies other than circumcision, were a heritage of surrounding Christian society, proving themselves profoundly rooted, particularly on the popular level. [21]

Two other Jewish customs relating to circumcision, which do not appear to have been uniformly widespread from the geographical and chronological point of view, are also of particular interest. Here as well, popular beliefs, based on magical and superstitious elements, seem to possess a vigor and a vitality capable of circumventing the precise norms of ritualistic Judaism (halakhah), or of seriously distorting them.

The ritual responses of the Gheonim, the heads of the rabbinical academies of Babylon, active between the VII and XI centuries, refer to the local custom of boiling perfumes and spices in water, thus rendering them fragrant and odorous, and of circumcising children, making their blood gush into that liquid until the colors were mixed. "It is at this point", the rabbinical response continues, "that all the young males wash Themselves in that water, in memory of the blood of the pact, which has united God to our patriarch Abraham". [22]

p. 99]

In this rite, of a propitiatory nature, the blood from the circumcision wound, united with the sweet-smelling potion, is said to have possessed the ability to transform itself into a potent aphrodisiac, used in curative electuaries, beneficial in lending vigor to amorous desires and to the procreative abilities of initiated males.

One form of magical cannibalism - swallowing the foreskin of a circumcised

One form of magical cannibalism, related to circumcision, may be found in a custom highly widespread among both the Ashkenazi Jewish communities and [Jewish?] communities of the Mediterranean region. The women present at the circumcision ceremony but not yet blessed with progeny of the male sex, anxiously awaited the cutting of the foreskin of the child. At this point, throwing inhibition to the winds, as if at a pre-established signal, the women hurled themselves upon that piece of bloody flesh.

The luckiest woman is alleged to have snatched it up and gulped it down immediately, before she could be mobbed by the competing females, who must have been no less hardened and highly motivated. The triumphant winner was in no doubt whatever that the proud tit-bit would be infallibly useful in causing the much-coveted virile member to germinate inside the impregnated abdomen through sympathetic medicine. The struggle for the foreskin among women without male progeny appears in some ways similar to today's competition among spinsters and nubile for the conquest of the bride’s bouquet after the wedding ceremony.

Giulio Morosini, alias Shemuel Nahmias, remembered with much annoyance this repellent custom, which he had seen rather in vogue among the young Jewish women of Venice.

"The superstition of the women is remarkable in this regard. If sterile women wishing to become pregnant happened, as they frequently did, to be present [at the circumcision ceremony], not a single one of them would hesitate to fight off the others and steal the foreskin; and the first one to grab it never hesitates to fling it in her mouth and swallow it as a sympathetic remedy of extremely great effectiveness in causing her to be fruitful". [23]

p. 100]

Rabbi Shabbatai Lipshütz confirmed this extraordinary custom "of the struggle amongst the women to swallow the foreskin after the cutting of the foreskin, as a wonderful secret (segullah ) in the production of male children". He added there were rabbis who permitted it, such as the famous North African cabbalist Chaim Yosef David Azulay, known as the Chidah (the Enigma), and the rabbi from Salonica, Chaim Abraham * Miranda, while others energetically prohibited it, considering it a scandalous and impermissible practice. [24]

But the cabbalistic herb alchemist (Rafael Ohana), expert in the secrets of procreation, although he possessed little skill in gynecological sciences, referred with satisfaction to the results obtained from women having swallowed the foreskin of a circumcised boy, even in recent times. In his guide, intended for women wishing to have children and entitled Mar'eh ha-yaladim ("He Who Shows the Children"), the expert North African rabbi advised that, to make it more appetizing, the unusual dish be covered with honey, like a home-made sweet. [25]

The magical and empirical tradition of the foreskin of circumcision and blood

The magical and empirical tradition linked to the foreskin of circumcision as a fecundating element was not lost over the course of the centuries, but was protected by the secrets of the practical Cabbalah despite the disdainful opposition of rationalistic rabbis.

It was a common belief that the Jews used blood in powders, dried or diluted in wine or water, applying it to the eyes of the new-born, to facilitate their opening, and to bathe the bodies of the dying, to facilitate their entry into the Garden of Eden. [26]

Samuel Fleischaker, Israel Wolfgang's friend, indicted for the ritual murder at Regensburg in 1467, attributed infallible magical properties to young blood, which, spread on the eyes, was said to have served to protect from the evil eye ('ayn ha-ra'). [27]

All the cases examined above, and in a great number of those present in the compendiums of the segullot, remedies and secret medications, drawn up and disseminated by the masters of the practical Cabballah, constitute the exterior use, so to speak, of blood, whether human or animal, dried or diluted, for therapeutic and exorcistic purposes. But the accusation leveled Jews of ingesting blood, or of using it for ritual or curative purposes, in transfusions taken orally, appears at first glance destitute of any basis, being in clear violation of Biblical norms and later ritual practices, which permitted no derogation whatever from the prohibition.

p. 101]

It is not, therefore, surprising that the Jews of the Duchy of Milan, in their petition to Gian Galeazzo Maria Sforza in May dated 1479, intended to defend themselves from the ritual murder accusations spreading like oil on water after the Trent murder, by recalling the Biblical prohibition in stressing that these accusations had no basis in fact:

"That they are not guilty is easily proven by very effective proofs and arguments, both legal and natural, from very trustworthy authorities, first for the Jewish Law Moysaycha which prohibits murder, and in several places, the eating of blood, not only human but of any animal whatever". [28]

Also the most authoritative among the accused in the Trent trial, Mosè da Würzburg, kown as "the Old Man", in the initial phases of his interrogation, did not hesitate to mention the rigid Biblical prohibition against consuming any type of blood to demonstrate the absurdity of the accusation.

"Ten Commandments given by God to Moses", the learned Hebrew leveled at this accusers, "commands us to refrain from killing and eating blood; it is for this reason that Jews cut the throat of the beasts which they intend to eat and, what is more, later salt the meat to eliminate any trace of blood". [29]

Mosè "the Old Man" was very obviously perfectly well aware of the norms of slaughter (shechitah) and of the salting of meat (melikhah), prescribed by Jewish rituals (halakhah) and which apply the Mosaic prohibition against eating blood with the maximum severity. But his arguments, as we shall see, although apparently convincing, were to some degree misleading.

In fact, if we turn once again to the compendia of segullot in use among Jews of German origin, we will find a broad range of recipes providing for the oral ingestion of blood, both human and animal. These recipes are stupendous electuaries, sometimes complex in preparation, intended to cure ailments and bring about cures, as well as to protect and to cure. For Shabbatai Lipschütz, to arrest the excessive flow of menstrual blood, it was advisable to dry before the fire and reduce into power a chicken feather soaked with the menstrual blood.

The morning afterwards, a spoonful of that powder, diluted in wine and served up to the woman, on an empty stomach, was said to have infallibly produced the desired effect. Another secret medication, collected by Lipschütz and considered of extraordinary effectiveness on the basis of long tradition, was prescribed for women who wished to get pregnant. The recipe provided that a pinch of dried rabbit’s blood be dissolved in wine and administered to the patient. As an alternative, a composite of worms and menstrual blood could be of great utility. [30]

p. 102]

Also Elia Loans, the Baal Shem of Worms, celebrated the extraordinary properties of rabbit’s blood in impregnating sterile women. The expert Caballist moreover prescribed, for the cure of epilepsy, the dilution in wine of dried blood from a virgin having her first menstrual period. [31]

In this regard, it should be noted that Mercklin (Mordekhai), one of those condemned for the plural ritual murder at Endingen in 1470, stressed the effectiveness of using young human blood in curing epilepsy. [32]

The compendia of segullot furthermore stressed the prodigious properties of human blood, naturally, always dried and prepared in the form of curdles or powder, as the main ingredient of aphrodisiacal elixirs inciting to love and copulation, in addition to their ability to bring about the fulfillment of the most audacious and consuming of erotic dreams. It is not surprising that blood was sometimes featured in relation to matrimony -- another fundamental rite of passage -- in addition to its uses in circumcision and in the preparation for death.

In the popular tradition, included, for example, by the Jews of Damascus, "a man who wishes to win the love of a woman should extract a bit of his own blood, and after drying it before the fire, cause it to be drunk, dissolved in wine, by the woman who is the object of his passion". [33]

This electuary is said to have been of proven effectiveness in such cases. Other compendia of segullot state that the recipe was to be considered valid for both men and women and that, to be of greater effectiveness, the blood should be taken from the little finger of the right hand of the person suffering from an unrequited passion. [34]

The defendants accused of the ritual child murder at Tyrnau in 1494 and at Posing, both in Hungary, in 1592, also mention the use of blood as an aphrodisiac and in inciting love, including, and most particularly, in the celebration of matrimony. [35]

In the famous case of the supposed profanation of the Host stolen from the Knoblauch church in Brandenburg in 1510, the rich Jew Mayer of Ostenburg was accused of having purchased the Host at a high price to extract its essence, and then of using it on the occasion of his son Isaac’s wedding to prepare an aphrodisiac elixir intended for the bride and groom. [36]

p. 103]

In the Trent trial, the women, particularly those linked to the authoritative Samuele da Norimberg, the acknowledged head of the Jewish community, made no secret of their great faith in the effectiveness of the blood of children as an ingredient in sublime potions, both curative and protective, of which the popular medicine and the practical Caballah were extraordinarily rich, based on long tradition. Bella, Mosè da Würzburg’s daughter-in-law, stated without hesitation, in her statement in February 1476, that "that the blood of a child was beneficial in a manner wonderful to women, incapable of birth at term".

The women recalled that, when young Anna of Montagana, daughter-in-law of Samuele da Nuremberg, was pregnant and suffering from the threat of miscarriage, her mother-in-law, Brunetta, as a woman and an expert in these things, as she was, visited her in her bedroom, making her take a spoonful of a medicament consisting of dried and powdered blood dissolved in wine. [37]

On another occasion, Bella had seen Anna, pregnant and suffering, sustain herself with a bit of blood mixed with the yoke of a lightly boiled egg. [38]

For their part, Bona and Dolcetta, respectively the sister and wife of Angelo da Verona, recalled with nostalgic stupefaction their meeting with an herb alchemist of great fame and experience, a few years previously. According to them, this Cabballistic quack, known as Maestro Jacob, possessed a book full of "secrets" of exorbitant and extraordinary effectiveness, including that of causing pelting rain and hailstorms.

To do this, it was necessary to mix young blood with the clear water of a fountain while pronouncing formulae and exorcisms, incomprehensible to the uninitiated. [39]

As we have already stressed several times, it is not difficult to arrive at the conclusion that, when the Jews were accused of ritual murder, rather than justify the necessity of the -- so to speak – religious uses of blood, they preferred to expatiate at length upon the magical and therapeutic functions of blood generally, both human and animal, known and widespread among the people and, in particular, among German-speaking persons, both Jewish and Christian.

This does not yet explain how the Jews, and the Ashkenazi Jews in particular, could reconcile the Biblical prohibition against the oral consumption of blood – which was rigid and without exceptions -- with the custom, apparently well-rooted, of using it, nonetheless, in medications and elixirs of various kinds, proven and tested over time.

Since these elixirs are often true and proper medications, even if not contemplated by official medicine, the Jewish ritual law (halakhah) only permitted them when the patient was considered in danger of his life, in which case the complete and temporary abolition of all the norms of the Torah -- Jewish law -- was permitted in order to save the patient.

But, as we have noted, in popular practice, blood, both human or animal, appeared even in preparations to be administered to patients suffering from minor complaints, or complaints of only relative seriousness, or even as a curative in the toils of love. Confronted by these obvious contradictions, even the defendants in the Trent trial found it necessary to take a position, and to explain and justify such things. And this was not an easy task at all, partly because many of them lacked the necessary culture to do so.

p. 104]

Lazzaro da Serravalle, servant in Angelo da Verona’s house, attempted to do so instinctively, without entering into any over-complicated reasoning. In his view, the dictates of the Torah referred to animal blood only -- which was always prohibited -- while it was permitted to ingest the blood of a human being, particularly if it was the blood of a Christian, the declared enemy of the Jews and Judaism. [40]

As usual Israel Wolfgang, who must have possessed rather more culture than Lazzaro, although not strictly rabbinical, attempted to supply a more elaborate response, ingenious and less crude.

Torah presupposed two different moral codes for Jews and non-Jews

To the young artist from Brandenburg, it was clear that the Torah and later rabbinical regulations presupposed two different moral codes, one applying to the Jewish world, and the other applicable to the surrounding Christian world, which was different and often hostile and menacing.

Therefore, that which was prohibited between Jews was not necessarily prohibited in relations between Jews and Christians. For example, the Biblical norm which prohibited usury between two brothers (Deut. 23:21), "unto a stranger thou may’st lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury"), was interpreted as concerning exclusively relations between Jews, while usurious lending to Christians was automatically permitted -- so much so as to be universally practiced. [41]

With a bold analogy, which we decline to believe was extorted by judges exceptionally erudite in Jewish matters by means of ingenious verbal and psychological trickery, Israel Wolfgang maintained that even the Biblical prohibition against human blood was absolute for Jews, and rigid when it involved blood extracted from the veins of Jews, but was permitted and even recommended when originating from the body of Christians, or Christian children in particular. [42]

"The dark tunnel of necromantic medicine"

In this regard, it is worth recalling that, in that which Camporesi calls as "the dark tunnel of necromantic medicine", specialty shops offered alchemists and herb alchemists oils and balsams extracted from fetid mummies, miraculous electuaries containing the powder of craniums, often from persons condemned to death, fat from human flesh, distilled from the bodies of persons killed and suicides. [43]

It is not surprising that popular medicine should also have permitted them as legitimate medications, prescribing them not only in the cure of serious and dangerous complaints. The sole recommendation in these cases remains the explanation that oils, fats and bones in powder, mummies and human flesh in poultices -- as Israel Wolfgang explained to the judges of Trent with reference to human blood -- were not to be extracted from the corpses of Jews. The rabbinical responses were rather clear in this regard, when they hastened to stress that "there is no prohibition against usefully benefiting from the dead bodies of Gentiles". [44]

p. 105]

Perhaps the solution to the Biblical and rabbinical contradiction between the consumption of blood and the custom -- established among the Ashkenazi Jews -- of consuming it on the most varied occasions, may be identified in a late response of Jacob Reischer of Prague (1670-1734), head of the yeshivah of Ansbach in Bavaria and later active at Worms and Metz. [45]

The ritualistic text contains testimonies to a practice widespread over time immemorial among the Jews of the German community, and considered de facto permissible, notwithstanding the fact that it obviously contradicted the dictates of the Talmud. Being a custom now generalized among the Jews (minhagh Israel), it came, over time, to assume the same strictness as a ritual standard. The inquiry and the response of the Reischer referred to the consumption of the blood of the stambecco (Bocksblut), for medicinal use, even in cases in which the patient was not in danger of his life.

"INQUIRY: What is the basis for the fact that most Jews traditionally permit the consumption and drinking of the coagulated and dried blood of the ibex [a long-horned Alpine mountain goat], known as Bocksblut and dried in the sun, even in the event that it may be consumed by patients whose lives are not in peril, such as people suffering from epilepsy, when it is one of the internal organs of the body which causes pain?

RESPONSE: The legality of this custom must be upheld because it is long-established. This medication is obviously permissible, because clearly, when a custom becomes widespread among the Jews (minhagh Israel), it must be considered to be on the level of the Torah itself. The ritual motive of the permission is based, in my view, on the fact that (the blood) is dried to the point that it is transformed into a piece of wood and contains no moisture. It is not, therefore, prohibited in any way."

The authoritative German rabbi sought to uphold the ritual lawfulness of dried blood totally without any liquid component, stating that, in this manner, the blood must be considered to have lost any alimentary connotations. But obviously, the central justification of his argument remained the notion that a custom established over time in the community of Israel, even if in contrast with the norms, was to be considered perfectly authorized and permissible.

p. 106]

It has been accurately observed in this regard (but the reasoning may be opportunely repeated in other cases as well, as we shall see), that "the Ashkenazi Jewish community, in the eyes of its rabbis, represented the community of health, zealous in the application of the Law of the Lord; to those rabbis, it was impossible to conceive of the fact that thousands of Jews, devote, fearing God and solicitous in sanctifying the name of the Lord, may His name be blessed, might be violating the names of his Law day after day.

If therefore the community of Israel practiced a certain custom, even in conflict with the norms of the Torah, that meant that this was permitted. The consequence of this bold assumption did not alarm that generation [....] The German rabbis revised in the actions of their people a sort of translation into reality of the Law of God, thus as it was transmitted for generations from father to son". [46]

If this reasoning was to be considered valid with reference to the standards of ritualistic law (halakhah), it was even more valid if applied to widespread and profoundly rooted customs, on the ritual lawfulness of which the Ashkenazi Jews, despite appearances, appeared to have no doubt. [47]

Their rabbis did not therefore hesitate to approve and approve practices and customs, such as that of the consumption of blood, even when they appeared in obvious violation of the prohibitions of Jewish law.

The custom of ingesting dried blood

The persistence of the custom of ingesting dried blood in medicinal electuaries, widespread among the Ashkenazi Jews until modern times, is testified to in the response of Hayym Ozer Grodzinski (1863-1940), a respected rabbi of Vilna (Vilnius). Responding to a question (dated 1930!), relating to the lawfulness of medications based on dried animal blood to be administered to sick people who were not in peril of their lives, the Lithuanian rabbi recalled the tradition, rooted for generations among Ashkenazi Jews. "As to the problem of the lawfulness of administering animal blood to a patient who is not in danger, since the blood has lost part of its elements and has been dried, this is my response". Therefore, Grodzinski went on to explain:

"If the blood is completely dried, it must certainly be permitted [...] and, even in the case of true and proper blood, as long as it was watered down, permission may be granted, in an emergency. And yet, since it is easy to use dried blood, which is considered by all to be perfectly lawful, it is impossible to imagine a state of emergency which would permit the oral ingestion of blood dissolved in water". [48]

p. 107]

In conclusion, the Jewish custom in the Germanic territories, throughout history, of consuming potions and medications based on animal blood, without regard to ritual prohibition of the Torah, appears to be incontrovertibly confirmed by authoritative and significant Hebraic texts. As we have seen, the compendiums of segullot in many cases expanded the lawfulness of using human blood, to be administered dried and dissolved in another liquid, which was to be recommended, not only for therapeutic purposes, but in conjurations and exorcisms of all kinds. [49]

The Trent defendants were perfectly well aware of this, and listed a long case history of it based on personal experience, even if, during the first moments of the trial, they may have considered it expedient to mention the Biblical prohibition against the ingestion of blood, which is well known to everyone, as if it were applied by them scrupulously in everyday reality.

The records of the Trent trial were also to reveal, not only the generalized use of blood by German Jews for curative and magic purposes, but the necessity which the accused, according to their inquisitors, are alleged to have felt to supply themselves with Christian blood (and that of a baptized child, in particular), above all, in the celebration of the rites of Pesach, the Jewish Passover.

In this case, all they had to do was turn to specialized, acknowledged retailers of blood, or itinerant alchemists and herb alchemists, to obtain the required goods; but it was necessary to ascertain that the object of purchase was actually that precious and much sought-after commodity, young Christian blood, despite the facility of falsification and adulteration. And this was not an easy thing to do, or something to be taken for granted.

During the trial for ritual child murder brought against the Jews of Waldkirch, a village a short distance from Freiburg, in 1504, the victim's father, Philip Bader, was later found to be the murderer of the victim, little Matthew, and therefore executed publicly, thus illustrating the perpetrator’s relations with Jews.

In his deposition rendered to the Judge, Bader admitted obtaining a certain amount of blood from the child's neck, without intending to kill him, to sell the blood to the Jews, who, according to him, paid high prices for that type of merchandise. In this case, the Jews are said to have refused to buy it, saying that Bader intended to swindle them, offering them animal blood instead of the blood of a Christian child. For their part, the Jews of Waldkirch advanced the theory that the unnatural father had killed the child, probably during a clumsy attempt to take blood from the carotid artery and profit from the sale. [50]

p. 108]

In any case, it seems certain that, in the reality of the German territories, blood was frequently purchased and sold, at high prices, for the most diverse purposes, and that young human blood was certainly preferable to animal blood. It was, therefore, foreseeable that the ambiguous and equivocal sector of selling and purchasing human blood was rife with fraud and counterfeiting for the purpose of increasing one’s profits with the minimum of effort.

According to Trent defendants, their more alert clients had demanded that the resellers provide certificates of ritual suitability, signed by serious and acknowledged rabbinical authorities, as was customarily done for food products prepared according to the religious rules of the kashrut.

No matter how paradoxical and improbable this fact may appear to our eyes -- so much so as make one believe that it was invented out of whole cloth by the judicial authorities of Trent -- we believe that this matter deserves a certain amount of attention and precise verification, where possible, of the underlying facts and particulars upon which it appears to be built.

Both Maestro Tobias and Samuele da Nuremberg, Angelo da Verona, Mosè "the Old Man" of Würzburg, and his son Mohar (Meir), all recalled having come into contact with these retailers of blood, often, according to them, equipped with written rabbinical authorizations.

Sometimes they even recalled their names and origins; in some cases, they described their physical appearance with numerous details.

Abramao (Maestro Tobias’s supplier), Isacco of Neuss, from the bishopric of Cologne, Orso of Saxony, Jacob Chierlitz, also of Saxony, are not names which mean a lot to us. These are the names attributed to these itinerant merchants, originating in Germany and traveling, with their leather purses with waxed and tin-plated bottoms, to the Ashkenazim communities of Lombardy and the Triveneto region. [51]

"Old Man" Mosè da Würzburg assured the judges that, in his long career, he had always acquired the blood of Christian boys from trustworthy persons and retailers bearing the required written rabbinical guarantees, which he called "testimonial letters. [52]

So as not to be too vague about it, Isacco da Gridel, cook in Angelo da Verona’s house, recalled the manner in which the wealthier Jews of Cleburg, a city under the domination of Filippo de Rossa, acquired the blood of Christian children from a rabbi named Simone, who lived in Frankfurt, then a free city. [53]

p. 109]

This "Simone of Frankfurt" is certainly identical with Shimon Katz, rabbi of the Jewish community of Frankfurt am Main from 1462 to 1478, the year of his death: Shimon Katz was also the chairman of the local rabbinical tribunal. Rabbi Shimon Katz maintained close relations with the spiritual leaders of the Ashkenazim communities of Northern Italy and maintained close relations and friendship with Yoseph Colon, almost undisputed religious head of the Italian Jews of German origin. [54]

To consider him as a common trafficker in Christian blood, as Isacco the cook claimed, frankly impresses me as an oversimplification and not very believable, in the absence of other information in support of such a singular thesis.

Undoubtedly more serious and worthy of consideration, even if extorted by means of cruel coercive methods, was the related testimony of Samuele da Nuremberg, undisputed head of the Jews of Trent. Samuele confessed to his inquisitors that the itinerant peddler Orso (Dov) from Saxony, from whom he had obtained the blood, presumably that of a Christian child, bore credential letters signed by "Mosès of Hol of Saxony, Iudeorum principalis magister".

There appear to be no doubt that this "Mosè of Hol" was identical with Rabbi Mosès, head of the yeshiva at Halle, who, together with his family, enjoyed privileges granted by the archbishop of Magdeburg in 1442 and later by Emperor Friedrich III in 1446, including that of adorning himself with the title of Jodenmeister, i.e., the principalis magister Judeorum, as Mosè is described in Samuele da Nuremberg’s deposition. We know that Mosè abandoned Halle (a particular apparently ignored by Samuele) as early as 1458 and had moved to Poznán in Poland, to pursue his rabbinical activity in that community. [55]

The text of the certificate of guarantee signed by Mosè of Halle, which accompanied the purse of dried blood sold by Orso (Dov) of Saxony, was quite similar to the text of an attestation commonly issued in relation to permissible food: "Be it known by all, that all that which is carried by Dov is kasher"/ [56]

It is understandable that the script intentionally omitted any mention of the type of merchandise dealt in by Orso. Samuele, once he had bought the blood, wrote his name on the white leather of the purse, which featured a list of the German merchant’s clients and a signature in Hebrew: Rabbi Schemuel mi-Trient. [57]


[1] "Accipiunt dictum sanguinem dictorum puerorum Christianorum et illu redigunt in pulverem, quem pulverem ipsi Iudei servant et postea, quando circumciserunt eorum filios, ponunt de sanguine pueri Christiani super preputiis circuncisourm [...] et si non possunt habere de sanguine pueri Christiani quando circumcisorum, ponunt de bolo Armeno et de sanguine draconis, et dicit quod dictus pulvis mirabiliter consolidat vulnera et restringit sanguinem"

["They take the blood of Christian boys and reduce it to powder, which powder these Jews use themselves, and later, when they circumcise their sons, they place the blood of Christian boys on the foreskin of the circumcised child [...] and if they cannot obtain the blood of Christian boys they circumcise, they use Bolo of Armenia and Dragon’s Blood, and say that the said power miraculously heals the wound and clots the flow of blood"]

T. Deposition of Angelo da Verona to the Trent judges on 8 April 1475. Cfr. A. Eposito and D. Quaglioni, Processi contro gli ebrei di Trento, 1475-1478; I: I processi del 1475, Padua, 1990, p. 288. On the Jewish custom of applying astringent powders such as dragon's blood on the circumcision wound, see J. Trachtenberg, The Devil and the Jews, Philadelphia (Pa.), 1961, pp. 150-151.

[2] "Magister Ioseph, qui habitat Ripe et qui circumcidit filios ipsius Angeli, tenet de sanguine predicto, quod postea utitur quando circumcidit"

["Master Joseph, a resident of Riva, who circumcised Angelo ’s sons, obtained blood, and then used it when he circumcised"]

(cfr. Esposito and Quaglioni, Processi, vol. I, cit, p. 288).

"Magister Iosephus phisicuc", known as the "zudio gobo" [hunchbacked Jew], the circumcisor of the sons of the Angelo da Verona, appears to have been active at Riva del Garda, together with his son Salomone, at least until the end of 1496 (cfr. M.L. Crosina, La communità ebraica di Riva del Garda, sec. XV-XVIII, Riva del Garda, 1991, pp. 29, 33, 42-43).

[3] 'Thobias [...] dicit quod (judei) accipunt sanguinem pueri Christiani et illum faciunt coagulare et deinde illum essiccant et de eo faciunt pulverem"

["Tobias [...] said that (the Jews) take the blood of a Christian boy and cause it to coagulate and then they dry it and make a powder of it"] (cfr. Esposito and Quaglioni, Processi, vol. I, cit. p. 318).

[4] "Pro ut Thobias inter alias confessus est, (pueros suos circumcisos) cum pulveribus dicti sanguinis coagulati medentur et statim altero vel tertio die santitatem recipiunt" ([Benedetto Bonelli], Dissertazione apologetica sul martirio del beato Simone da Trento nell'anno MCCCCLVXXV dagli ebrei ucciso, Trent, Gianbattista Parone, 1747, p. 113).

[5] Cfr. K. von Amira, Das Endinger Judenspiel, Halle, 1883, pp. 95-97; R. Po-Chia Hsia, The Myth of Ritual Murder. Jews and Magic in Reformation Germany, New Haven (Conn.)-London, 1988, pp. 20-21

[6] Cfr. Po-Chia Hsia, The Myth of Ritual Murder, cit., p. 29.

[7] Anton Bonfin, in Rerum Hungaricuarum Decades, by K.A. Bel, dec. V.I. 4, 1771, p. 728.

[8] On this matter, see recently P. Billar, View of Jews from Paris around 1300. Christian or Scientific?, in D. Wood, Christianiy and Judaism, Oxford, p. 199; I.M. Resnick, On Roots of the Myth of Jewish Male Menses in Jacques de Vitry's History of Jerusalem, in "International Rennert Guest Lecture Series", III (1996), pp. 1-27. See moreover Trachtenberg, The Devil and the Jews , cit., pp. 50, 148.

[9] "Audivi a Judeis [...] quod omnes Judei, qui de eorum processerunt, singulis mensibus sanguine fluunt et dissenterium sepius patiantur et ea ut frequentius moriuntur. Sanatur autem per sanguinem hominis Christiani, qui nomine Christi baptizatus est"

(Historiae Memorabiles, by E. Kleinschmidt, Cologne, 1974, p. 65).

[10] On the multiple uses of the blood, fresh or dried, human or animal, in the popular Christian pharmacopaeia of the Middle Ages until the early modern era, see the classic study by H.L. Strack, The Jew and Human Sacrifice. Human Blood and Jewish Ritual, London, 1909, pp. 43-88.

[11] Cfr. P. Camporesi, Il sugo della vita. Simbolismo e magia del sangue, Milan, 1988, p. 14. See also the recent study of this problem by B. Bildhauer, Medieval Blood, Plymouth, 2006.

[12] "Ex sanguine humano fieri potest oleum et sal, post haec lapis rubeus mirabilis efficaciae et virtutis; cohibet flux sanguinis, multasque infirmitates expellit" (Theatrum chemicum, Strasburg, heirs L. Zetzner, 1613, vol. I, p. 693).

[13] The quote is dealt with by Francesco Sirena, L'arte dello spetiale, Pavia, G. Ghidini, 1679, p. 86. See also Camporesi, Il sugo della vita, cit., pp. 20-21.

[14] Leon da Modena, Historia de' riti hebraici, Venice, Gio. Calleoni, 1638, pp. 95-96.

[15] Giulio Morosini, Derekh Emunah. Via della fede mostrata agli ebrei, Rome, Propaganda Fide, 1683, pp. 114-118.

[16] Raffaele Aquilino, Trattato pio, Pesaro, Geronimo Concordia, 1571, pp. 35v-36r.

On the appearance and personality of Aquilino, whose previous Jewish name is unknown, but who was probably a rabbi, see F. Parente, Il confronto ideologico tra l'ebraismo e la Chiesa in Italia, in "Italia Judaica", I (1983), pp. 316-319.

[17] Paolo Medici, Riti et costumi degli ebrei, Madrid, Luc'Antonio de Bedmar, 1737, p. 11.

[18] Eliyahu Baal Shem, Sefer Toledot Adam, Wilhemsdorf, Zvi Hirsch von Fürth, 1734, c. 16r.

The handbook was printed earlier, at Zolkiew in 1720, while there must have been many republications before that at Lemberg in 1875.

[19] Chaim Lipschütz, Derekh ha-chaim, Sulzbach, Aharon Lippman, 1703. Under the title Sefer ha-chaim ha-nira Segullot Israel and the attribution to Shabbatai Lipschütz, a similar work was printed in 1905 (the recipes in question are at cc. 19v and 20r) and at Jerusalem in 1991. The use of powdered blood on the circumcision wound is also recommended in the modern editions of the Ozara ha-segullot ("Treasure of Secret Remedies"), by A. Benjacov (Jerusalem, 1991, and in the Refuah chaim we-shalom ("Medicine, Life and Peace"), by S. Binyamini (Jerusalem, 1998). See also the manuscript code of segullot , reproduced by Y. Ytzhaky (Amulet and Charm, Tel Aviv, 1976 [in Hebrew], in which the prescription of powdered blood on the circumcision wound appears at p. 101.

[20] Scaharja Plongiany Simoner, Sefer Zechirah, Hamburg, Thomas Rose, 1709, M. Steinschneider (Catalogus librorum hebraeorum in Biblioteca Bodleiana, Berlin, 1852-1860, column 2249), translates the title: Memoraie et specifica (medicamenta superstitiosa).

The same quotation from Jeremiah 30:17 as a textual basis for the use of dried blood as a haemostatic is reported in the Sefer-ha-chaim by Lipschütz, who, after illustrating the treatment of the circumcision wound, recommends, in the event of nose bleed, "di fiutare il sangue in polvere come fosse tabacco" [to insert it in the nose as if it were tobacco]".

[21] Strack (The Jew and Human Sacrifice, cit., pp. 139-144) records similar, sometimes identical, customs, present in the popular culture of the surrounding Christian society, but minimizes any consideration of the significance assumed by blood among the Jews, considering any such significance to be the product of tardy external influences of little importance.

[22] Anon., Sha're' Zedq ("The Doors of Justice"), by Nissim Modai, Salonicco, Nahman, 1792, c. 22v.

The Gaonic response on the perfumed waters of circumcision is reproduced and commented upon by Strack, The Jew and Human Sacrifice, cit., pp. 136-137.

[23] Morosini, Derekh Emunah. Via della fede mostrata agli ebrei , cit., pp. 114-115.

[24] Lipschütz, Sefer ha-chaim ha-nikra Segullot Israel, cit., Chaim Yoself David Azulay, Machzik herakhah, Leghorn, Castello and Sadun, 1785

(Yoreh de'ah, par. 79). Chaim Abraha Miranda, Yad neeman, Salonicco, Nahman, 1804.

[25] R. Ohana, Sefer mar'eh ha-yeladim, Jerusalem, 1990.

[26] On this matter, see G.A. Zaviziano, Un raggio di luce. La persecuzione degli ebrei nella storia. Riflessioni, Corfu, 1891, pp. 4-5; Trachtenberg, The Devil and the Jews , cit., pp. 150-155.

[27] Cfr. R. Straus, Urkunden und Aktenstücke zur Geschichte der Juden in Regensberg, 1453-1738, Munich, 1960, p. 78-79; Po-Chia Hsia, The Myth of Ritual Murder, cit., p. 75.

The use of (animal) blood as a safeguard against the Evil Eye is also present among the traditions of the Jews of Kurdistan (cfr. M. Yona, Ha-ovedim be-erez: Ashur: yehude' Kurdistan ["Dispersed in the Land of Assyria: The Jews in Kurdistan"], Jerusalem, 1988, p. 59).

[28] Cfr. C. Guidetti, Pro Judaeis. Riflessioni e documenti , Torino, 1884, pp. 290-291; Zaviziano, Un raggio di luce , cit., p. 175.

[29] "Cum in X praeciptis Moisi a Deo ipsis Iudeis sit mandatum quod quempiam non interficiant nec sanguinem comedant; et propter hoc ipse Iudei secant gulas animalibus que intendunt velle comedere, ut magis exeat a corporibus animalium, et quod postea etiam salant carnes ut sanguis magis exicetur" (cfr. Esposito and Quaglioni, Processi, vol. I, cit., p. 351).

[30] Lipschütz, Sefer ha-chaim ha-nikra Segullot Israel, cit. The recipe of rabbit's blood to cure sterility in women is repeated by Ohana, Sefer mar'eh ha-yeladim, cit. A variant sometimes consists of the prescription that either it should be the man, and not the woman, who should ingest the potion before having sexual relations. In this regard, see E. Bashan, Yahdut Marocco 'avarah we-tarbutah ("The Hebrewism of Morocco, Its Past and its Culture"), Tel Aviv, 2000, p. 216. On arresting excessive menstrual flow, a compound of fallow-deer’s blood and powdered frog, diluted in almond oil was sometimes recommended (Binyamini, Refuah chaim we-shalom, cit.).

[31] Elyahu Baal-Shem, Sefer Toledot Adam, cit., par. 6, 18, 43, 80. The prescription of the menstrual blood of a virgin as a cure for sterile women is repeated with several variants by Banjacov, Ozar ha-segullot, cit.

[32] Cfr. Amira, Das Endinger Judenspiel, cit., p. 97; Po-Chia Hsia, The Myth of Ritual Murder, cit., p. 21.

[33] Cfr. Ytzhaky, Amulet and Charm, cit., p. 169.

[34] Cfr. Benjacov, Ozar ha-segullot, cit.

[35] Cfr. Strack, The Jew and Human Sacrifice, cit., pp. 201-205.

[36] In this regard, see M. Rubin, Gentile Tales. The Narrative Assault on Late Medieval Jews, New Haven (Conn.), pp. 190-195.

[37] "Dicit quod dictus sanguis valet mulieribus non valentibus portare partum ad tempus debitum, quia si tales mulieres bibunt de dicto sanguine, postea portant foetum ad tempus debitum [...] Et dicit quod dum ipsa Bella esset in camera in qua erat Anna, illuc venit Bruneta, quae in manibus habebat quoddam cochlear argenti et praedictum illum ciatum argenti, quem Samuel in die Paschae de sero habebat in coena, et de quo ciato argenti dicta Bruneta cum cochleari accepit modicum de vino et illud posuit super cochleari et miscuit illud modicum sanguinis cum vino et porrexit ad os Annae, quae Anna illud bibit" ([Bonelli], Dissertazione apologetica, cit., pp. 122).

[38] "Quod vidit Annam quadam alia vice comeder modicum de sanguine, quem sic comedit, ponendo illud in quodam ovo coctus" (ibidem).

[39] "Dixit quod quidam Magister Jacob Judaeus, modo sunt duo anni, dixit sibi Bonae et Dulcette, quod si quid acciperet de dicto sanguine et iverit ad aliquem fontem clarum et de illo projecerit in fonte, ex postea cum facie se fecerit supra fontem [...] et dixerit certa verba, sine dubio inducet grandines et pluvias magnas [...] et praedictus M. Jacob habebat quendam, super quo erant descripta omnia, ad quae sanguis pueri Christiani valet" (ibidem, p. 43).

[40] Deposition of Lazzaro da Serravalle dated 16 December 1475. "Quod Christianis, inimicis fidei Judaice, possunt Judeai facere omne malum et quod lex (Dei) [...] loquitur de sanguine bestiarum"

["That the Jews may do any evil unto Christians, who are the enemies of the Jewish faith, and that the law (of God) [... ] speaks of the blood of beasts"] (ibidem, p. 53-54).

[41] On the Jewish attitude towards lending to Christians at interest, see H. Soloveitchik, Pawnbroking. A Study in the Inter-Relationship between Halakhah, Economic Activity and Commercial Self-Image, Jerusalem, 1985 (in Hebrew); The Jewish Attitude in the High and Late Middle Ages, in D. Quaglioni, G. Todeschini and G.M. Varannini, Credito e usura fra teologia, diritto e amministrazione. Linguaggi a confronto (sec. XII-XVI), Rome, 2005, pp. 115-127; J. Katz, Hirhurim 'al ha-yachas ben dat le-kalkalah ("Considerations on the Relationship Between Religion and the Economy"), in M. Ben-Sasson (author); Religion and Economy. Connection and Interaction, Jerusalem, 1995, pp. 33-46 (in Hebrew); A. Toaff, Testi ebraici italiani all'usura dalla fine del XV agli esordi del XVII secolo, in Quaglioni, Todeschini and Varannini, Credito e usura , cit., pp.103-113.

[42] Desposition of Israel Wolfgang dated 3 November 1475. "Existimant Judaei non esset peccatum comedere aut bibere sanguinem pueri chistiani et dicunt quod lex Dei, data Moysi, non prohibitat eis aliquid facere aut dicere quod sit contra christianos aut Jesus Deum Christianorum, dicens quod ex dicta lege eis prohibitum est foenerari, et tamen tenent Judaei quod nullum sit peccatum foenerari christiano et christianum decipere quovis modo"

["The Jews do not consider it a sin to eat or drink the blood of Christian boys and that the law of God, the so-called Laws of Moses, do not prohibit doing or saying anything at all against Christians or against Jesus the God of the Christians, saying that the said law prohibits them from lending at interest, and yet the Jews do not consider it any kind of sin at all to lend money at interest to Christians and to deceive Christians in any manner whatever"] ([Bonelli], Dissertazione apologetica, cit., p. 53).

[43] Cfr. Camporesi, Il sugo della vita, cit., p. 14.

[44] Hebrew: Mete' goim enam asurim ha'anaah; en asur ba-anaah ella mete Israel; met goy mutar ha'anaah afilu le-choleh she-en-bo sakkanah ("One may also use the corpse of a non-Jew in curing a sick person who is not in danger of losing his life"). See David b. Zimra, Sheelot w-teschuvot. Responsa, vol. III, Fürth, 1781, no. 548 [=979]; Abraham Levi, Ghinnat veradim. Responsa ("The Garden of the Rose"), Constantinople, Jonah b. Ja'akov, 1715, Yoreh' de'ah, vol. I, response no. 4; Jacob Reischer, Shevut Ya'akov . Responsa ("The Captivity of Jacob"), vol. III, Offenbach, Bonaventura de Lannoy, 1719, no. 94 (see also the following note). The responses on this topic are based on the opinion expressed in regards to the Tossaphists, the classical Franco-German commentators on the Talmud. In this regard, see also H.J. Zimmels, Magicians, Theologians and Doctors , London, 1952, pp. 125-128, 243-244.

[45] Reischer, Shevut Ya'akov, cit., vol. II, Yoreh de'ah, no. 70. For a detailed examination of this response, see D. Sperber, Minhage' Israel, ("The Customs of the Jewish people"), Jerusalem, 1991, pp. 59-65.

[46] In this manner, Haim Soloveitchik, intelligently and without reticence, as always, discusses the relationship between the customs of the Ashkenazi Jews and the norms of Jewish law, often in contradiction and mutually incompatible (cfr. Pawnbroking, cit., p. 111).

[47] See the illuminating comments in this regard by Daniel Sperber, who discusses and broadens the arguments presented by Soloveitchik (cfr. Sperber, Minhage' Israel, cit., pp. 63-65).

[48] H.O. Grodzinksi, Sheelot w-teshuvot Achiezer. Responsa, New York, 1946, vol. III, pp. 66-68 (par. 31).

[49] On the magical and necromantic practices of Medieval Ashkenazi Judaism, with particular reference to the creation of the Golem, the artificial anthropoid, see M Idel, Golem. Jewish Magical and Mystical Traditions on the Artificial Anthropoid, New York, 1990.

[50] On the ritual murder at Waldkirch (1504), see F. Pfaff, Die Kindermorde zu Benzhausen und Waldkirch im Breisgau. Ein Gedicht aus dem Anfang des 16. Jahrhunderts, in "Alemannia", XXVII (1899), pp. 247-292; Po-Chia Hsia, The Myth of Ritual Murder, cit., pp. 86-110.

[51] Cfr. Esposito and Quaglioni, Processi, vol. I, cit.

[52] "Predictia quibus (dictus Moises antiquus) emit sanguinem pueri Christiani habebant litteras testimonials factas a suis superioribus, per quas fiebat fides quod portantes illas litteras erant persone fide et quod illud quod portabant erat sanguis pueri Christiani".[".... (Moses the Old Man said) that those who sell the blood of Christian boys have testimonial letters prepared by their superiors, attesting that those who bear these letters are persons to be trusted and that that which they carried was the blood of Christian boys"]. Mosè da Würzburg added that, when he had been living at Monza fifty years before, he had used Christian blood from an authorized merchant named Süsskind of Cologne (cfr. ibidem, pp. 358-359).

[53] For this testimony by Isacco, Angelo da Verona's cook, see G. Divina, Storia del beato Simone da Trento, Trent, 1902, vol. I, p. 109; vol. II, pp. 21-23.

[54] On the life and death of Rabbi Shimon Katz, head of the yeshivah of Frankfurt, see R. Yoseph b. Moshè, Leqet yosher, by J. Freimann, Berlin, 1904, p. L1 (par. 132); Germania Judaica, III: 1350-1519, Tübingen, 1987, pp. 365-366 (s.v.R. R. Simon Katz v. Frankfurt am Main). See also I.J. Yuval, Scholars in Their Time. The Religious Leadership of German Jewry in the Late Middle Ages , Jerusalem, 1984, pp. 135- 148 (in Hebrew).

[55] On Rabbi Moshè of Halle and his rabbinical activity, see Leqet yosher, cit., vo. XVI (par. 101); Germania Judaica. III: 1350-1519, cit., p. 501 (s.v.R. R. Mosès von Halle). See also Yuval, Scholars in Their Time, cit., pp. 197-207.

[56] On certificates of guarantee for permissible food, and in particular for those used at Pesach, in the Ashkenazi communities, see I. Halpern, Constitutiones Congressus Generalis Judaeorum Maraviensium (1650-1748), Jerusalem, 1953, p. 91, no. 278 (in Hebrew and Yiddish): "(anno 1650). The obligation to inspect foodstuffs of any kind, both food and drink, originating from other communities, existed in every Hebrew community. Anyone taking foodstuffs outside a given community had to equip himself with a certificate of guarantee, written and signed (by the rabbinical authority), attesting that everything had been prepared according to the rules [ she-na'asah be-heksher w-betiqqun] [...], such as, for example, foodstuffs used at Passover".

[57] "[...] litterae, quas Ursus habebat seu portatur, continebant inter alia ista verba in lingua hebraica: 'Notum sit omnibus illud quod portat Ursus est iustum'; et deinde in subscriptione legalitas dictarum litterarum, inter alia verba erant ista: ‘Moises de Hol de Saxonia, Iudeorum principalis magister" [...] et dicit quod dictus vas erat coopertum de quodam coramine albo, super quo coramine erant scripta in hebraico hec verba: 'Moyses Iudeorum principalis magister', super quo coramine albo ipse Samuel etiam se subscripsit manu sua in litera hebraica, scribendo hec verba: 'Samuel de Tridento'"

["... the letters that Oros carried with him contained, among other things, these words in Hebrew: ‘May it be known to all that which Oro carries is kosher’; and then, the inscription of the said letters, said as follows, among other things: ‘Moses of Halle of Saxony, main head of the Jews’, upon which Samuel then signed his name in Hebrew letters on the white leather, writing these words: ‘Samuel of Trent’"] (cfr. Esposito and Quaglioni, Processi, vol. I, cit., pp. 255-256).


Revised by the original translators, Feb. 2011

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