SERIES Sephard in Ashkenaz and Ashkenaz in Sephard. More on Rosh's descendants and different approaches to Jewish martyrdom
In a previous post I mentioned Rabbenu Asher (Rosh) and his descendants in Toledo, Spain. I have finally gotten a hold of H.Z. Zimmel's Ashkenazim and Sephardim which sheds some more light on the subject at hand.
R' Asher imported many characteristics from his native country. He introduced the Ashkenazic approach to Talmudic methodology which differed considerably from the Sephardic one. In many ways, Toledan Jewry was as much influenced by him as he and his descendants were influenced by them. The book also mentions his (Rosh's) 2 daughters marrying Sephardim .
Zimmel writes: After Rabbi Asher's death in 1327 his son Judah succeeded him in office. According to Zimmel, the 'asherites' -as he calls them- set a striking example of piety modesty and self sacrifice and made a deep impression on both Jews and gentiles.
He mentions that during the anti Jewish persecutions in 1391 as the Christian mobs swept over the Jewish communities with the cry 'baptism or death', it was Judah ben Asher II a great-grandson of the Rosh who followed the example of his forefathers in Germany by killing his family and himself, a deed which was highly praised by Sephardi authors . .
We see here an interesting difference in approach to the unfortunate age old Jewish dilemma of baptism or death. Franco-German Jewry on the one hand -since the period of the Crusades- almost always chose the latter option, whereas Iberian Jewry-with few exceptions either chose to emigrate or live as secret Jews (Anusim).
If I remember correctly, it was Rabbi Yeshaya Halevi Horowitz 1565-1630 ,(known as the Shelah) who attributed this ‘weakening of faith’ among the Sephardim to the widespread study (or at least tolerance) of Philosophy (if anyone can direct me to the exact source, I'd appreciate it).
. Zimmel. H.Z. Sephardim and Ashkenazim . Oxford, 1958. Pg. 22
. Ibid, 32-33 (see original source in Sefer Yuchasin p. 51a).
. Apparently there was also some controversy surrounding this incident.