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A Window into the Chareidi World

1 Av 5766 - July 26, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








The Crusades: Murder in the Name of Love and Mercy

by Rabbi Rafael Berelson

"In the year 4856, in the 11th year of the 256th cycle (of the New Moon). Woe is me."

In the order of the kinnos of Tisha B'Av, in addition to the Beis Hamikdosh, we also mourn for the destruction of the German communities at the beginning of the First Crusade. The Crusades took place in a blood-soaked period of the history of the Jewish people. Two kinnos written about the atrocities of the First Crusades were introduced into the order of the kinnos. This Crusade began 910 years ago, in the year 4856 (1096). Thus this calamity is known as "the gezeiroh of 4856" — "Tatnu" after the Hebrew letters of the date. The fortresses of Torah were destroyed in many communities, among them Speyer, Worms and Mainz. Thousands of Jews chose to die as martyrs rather than give in to the Christian warriors on their "holy" mission.


The sun drew closer to the Heavens. At mid-morning there was an eclipse of the sun, and there appeared to be "a shape like the wheel of a carriage" inside. The sun was colored red, green and black. An hour later the sun went back to shining as usual.

"And we only found out about it afterwards," Rabbi Ephraim bar Yaakov of Bonn relates. "Because on that same day the Edomites fought with the Ishmaelites and the E-d-o-m-i-t-e-s fell." "The Edomites" were the Crusaders who went out to conquer Eretz Yisroel from the Ishmaelites.

Rabbi Ephraim does not specify the connection between the eclipse of the sun and the collapse of the Crusades. But the colors that he mentions symbolize the people involved. Red symbolizes the Crusaders; green is the favorite color of the Ishmaelites to this very day (the flag of Hamas is green); while the black illustrates the dark days that the Jewish people endured during the period of the Crusades. "And the E- d-o-m-i-t-e-s fell."

In his memoirs which he called Sefer Hazechiroh (The Book of Recollections) he enlarges upon the vengeance of Hashem against the Crusaders: "Most of them never returned to their homes and never saw their hometown again. Some died of starvation. Some died of the plague or the sword. Others were worn out and died crossing the sea. The Hand of Hashem struck every wicked person who had attacked a Jew."

The prayer Av Horachamim that is recited every Shabbos, was composed after the First Crusade. In this prayer we ask: "Yivoda bagoyim le'eineinu nikmas dam avodecho hashofuch" (Let there be known among the nations, before our eyes, revenge for Your servants' spilled blood). After the First Crusades, kinnos were written lamenting the destruction of the communities, two of which were included in the kinnos of Tisha B'Av. Rebbe Menachem Bar Mochir, author of one of the kinnos that we recite on Tisha B'Av, ends his kinnoh with a prayer to the Almighty to wreak vengeance on the goyim: Loveish nekomo. Uroh vekumoh. Horim shiflei komoh. Yodin geviyos rikmoh. (Wear the garb of vengeance. Arouse and arise. Lift up the downtrodden. Judge the tissue of the dead bodies.)

These words are taken from the last stanza of the kinnoh; however, there are many stanzas that precede it which tell of all the reasons and causes for the vengeance that was facing the goyim!


On the 27th of Kislev, 4856 (27.11.1095), at the Council of Claremont in the south of France, Pope Urban made a famous speech in which he appealed to the knights of the West to liberate Jerusalem from the Moslems.

This congress marked the beginning of the great calamity. The Pope appointed a leader of the Crusades and planned for it to leave on August 1096. But months before this date, great masses of Christians began leaving to conquer Jerusalem. In the spring of 1096 (5686) a German army of around 10,000 proceeded northward through the Rhine valley, away from Jerusalem, and began a series of pogroms among the Jews of the Rhine Region and Bohemia, in particular. The communities of Speyer, Worms, Mainz and Cologne were the first to be hit.

In the memoirs of the Ra'avan, who lived in that generation, he describes the masses of Crusaders as being, "more numerous than locusts, men, women and children, about whom it is said, melech ein lo'arbeh (the locusts do not have a king) (Mishlei 30, 27)." And for this I lament: "Hordes, numerous as locusts, took up arms and stripped bare the place. Woe is me."

The Crusaders were gathered in France and Germany, and they were all supposed to eventually meet in Constantinople. From there they were supposed to go up to Eretz Yisroel together.

Albert of Aachen, who lived close to that time, describes the nature of the March of the Peasants: "They began gorging themselves and drinking to excess — on that note they left their houses. And as they plodded along their way, they continued to congratulate themselves as they recalled the nature of the journey they were about to take . . . "

He also writes, "They asserted that a certain goose was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and that a she-goat was not less filled . . . These they made their guides on this holy journey to Jerusalem; these they worshiped excessively; and most of the people following them, like beasts, believed with their whole minds that this was the true course. "

The French farmers who had readied themselves for the march, attacked Jews in the cities of Rouen and Metz, but most of the pogroms occurred later on.

In his memoirs, the Ra'avan explains that that generation was specifically chosen by Divine Providence to face the severe test of the Crusades since, "they had the strength and heroism to stand in His Ark and do His command and sanctify His Great Name in the world."

The history of the next years proved this: thousands agreed to be slaughtered rather than convert to Christianity.


On Shabbos Kodesh the 8th of Iyar, 4856, the pogroms began in Speyer. Regiments of the First Crusaders arrived in the city. The Christians planned to capture all the Jews together in the synagogue. The Jews, who had found out about this, davened early on that Shabbos. By the time the Christians had gathered around the synagogue it was already empty. Therefore, the Christians went out into the streets to capture Jews.

The first Kiddush Hashem was perpetrated by "a pious and choshuva woman. She chose to die and took the knife to slaughter herself . . . and she was the first of the slaughterers and the slaughtered, and she said: Chelki Hashem omro nafshi, al kein ochil lo (Eicho 3:24) (`The L- rd is my portion,' says my soul: `Therefore will I hope in him.') (recounted in Emek Habochoh).

The actual taking of one's own life when there is an edict, was already under discussion in the period of the Rishonim. In the Tosafos of maseches Avodoh Zora (18a, s.v. Ve'el) the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam (who, incidentally, was wounded in the Crusades) is brought: "Where there is a fear that the idolaters will make people sin, for example through tortures they will not be able to withstand, then it is a mitzvah to slaughter oneself, similar to the incident in Gittin of children who were captured for iniquity, who threw themselves into the sea."

We will quote another line from the words of the Maharam of Rothenburg (who lived at the end of the later Crusades, buried in 5067): "This matter was widely permitted, for we heard and verified that many gedolim would slaughter their sons and daughters."

Eleven Jews gave their lives to sanctify Hashem's Name in Speyer. And on this I lament: "Verily, my eyelids gush with water (and my eyes) stream (with) tears, as I bewail in bitterness (of soul) the martyrs of Speyer." The rest of the Jews were saved when the Bishop John came to the defense of the Jews.


On the 23rd of Iyar, the pogroms began in Worms. The Christians dug up the cemeteries and pulled out a corpse from the grave. They walked around the streets with the corpse and made up the libel that the Jews had cooked a goy, and they poured cooking water into the city's water pits to poison them. For a whole week, many people were burned at the stake, but most of the community hid in Bishop Adelbert's castle.

On Rosh Chodesh Sivan, the Christians decided to go in to the bishop's castle. And for this I lament: "The congregation of Worms, well tested and chosen, the renowned ones of the land and perfect in purity; twice did they sanctify the Unity of G- d in awe. Once, on the twenty-third of the month Ziv in all purity; and (the second time) in the third month (Sivan) during the reading and chanting of the Hallel."

Numerous Christians assembled together from all the surrounding villages, and joined up with the Crusaders and Christian residents of Worms. On Rosh Chodesh Sivan, they all went up to the bishop's castle, "and they besieged them and fought with them, and there was an enormous battle, the two sides against each other, until they captured the rooms where the Holy Jews were. And it happened when they saw the battle from both sides, the decree of the King of Kings, they acknowledged the rightness of Divine Judgment, trusted in their Creator and offered themselves up as righteous sacrifices, and took their children and slaughtered them for the Unity of His Great Name in perfect tranquility."


Mainz. A great city of G-d, a fortress of Torah in Western Europe. And for this I lament: "For the noble ones of the esteemed congregation of Magentza (Mainz), who were swifter than eagles and stronger than lions (to do G-d's Will)." The Jews of Mainz heard about what happened in Speyer and Worms, "and they cried to Hashem with all their heart, and they said, "Hashem, G-d of Israel, will you destroy entirely the remnants of the Jewish people?" Their leader, Rav Klonymus managed to get a defense writ from the Kaiser of Germany, Heinrich the Fourth.

After some consultation it was decided to try to bribe Bishop Ruthard and his nobles with a huge sum of money. The bishop himself was given 300 zekukim, and that was just an advance payment. When the Jews appeared before the bishop and his nobles, they were advised to hide themselves and their money in the bishop's castle until the Crusading troops passed. However, "all the bribery and all the compensation were of no help in defending us on the day of wrath before the calamity."

Leading the Crusaders who arrived in Mainz was Count Emicho of Leiningen, may his name be blotted out. He led some 12,000 Crusaders. The Jewish community of Mainz held secret negotiations with him. He agreed to forgo the attack on the Jews of Mainz in exchange for a large sum that would cover the costs of part of the Crusade. The community had no choice but to hand over 7 pounds of gold to him. He took the gold and proceeded to attack the Jews anyway. For this I lament: "They rejected ransom, but they oppressed (our) souls. Woe is to me."

For two days the gates of the city were closed to the Crusaders. After two days, the city's Christians opened the gates. The Jews who had not hidden in the bishop's castle martyred themselves first. The Jews who had hidden in the bishop's castle got ready to fight for their lives. When the Crusaders broke in, the Jews "put on armor, and girded themselves for war, both old and young, and Rav Klonymus bar Meshulam, their leader, was at their head.

"But because of the great calamities and fasting they had undergone, they lacked the strength to withstand their enemies . . . and every Jew armed himself for war in the bishop's inner courtyard, and they all drew closer to the gate to fight against the vagabonds (the Crusaders) and the men of the city, and the two sides battled against each other inside the gate. And as a result of their sins their enemies oppressed them, defeated them, and conquered the gate."

The bishop's people, who had promised to defend them, were the first to flee, "to lock them into the hands of their enemies." Even the bishop himself escaped; the Crusaders threatened to kill him since he had sided with the Jews. Some say that he took with him some of the booty of the murdered Jews.

When the besieged Jews realized that the decree had been determined, they all cried together, "and they acknowledged the rightness of Divine Judgment, and said to one another: `Let us strengthen ourselves and suffer the yoke of Holy Fear, because soon our enemies will kill us . . . and we will be alive and exist . . . happy will we be if we do His Will, and fortunate is he who is killed and slaughtered and dies for the Unity of His Name.'

"And then they all cried in a loud voice saying: `We will not tarry any more, for our enemies are already coming upon us. We will go ahead straightaway and give ourselves up as a sacrifice to Hashem. Anyone who has a knife should check that it is not blemished, and come and slaughter us for the sanctification of the Unity of the Everlasting One, and then he should slaughter himself—.'

"And as soon as the enemies entered the courtyard they found a few of the pious ones dead with Rabbeinu Yitzchok b"r Moshe, who uprooted mountains (of scholarship). He stretched out his neck and they cut off his head first. And they covered themselves with their talleisim and sat inside the courtyard to quickly carry out the Will of their Creator. And they did not want to flee into the room to live for a few extra minutes of life, for they had accepted the Heavenly Judgment with love.

"And their enemies threw stones and arrows at them and they were not afraid to flee, and they smote all those they found there by the sword and annihilated them."

The besieged Jews urged one another saying, "Let me be the first to Sanctify the Name of the Almighty, the King of Kings." The pure women threw money out of the windows so that the Crusaders would be delayed outside gathering up the coins, while in the meantime they could finish offering their sacrifices. For this I lament: "Tender-hearted women, with their own hands slaughtered their children born in purity, (instead of) Pilgrimage-offerings. Woe is me."

" . . . The pious and righteous women, each one, stretched out their necks to each other, to be sacrificed for the Unity of Hashem, as did each man to his son and his brothers, and each brother to his sister, each women to her son and daughter, each person to his neighbor and friend, a chosson to his kallah, and a person betrothed to his betrothed — one would sacrifice and be sacrificed, another would sacrifice and be sacrificed." And for this I lament: "Bridegrooms and brides, too (were slaughtered in place of) peace offerings and burnt-offerings, young men and young maidens, and the leaders of the congregations, (instead of) thank-offerings and minchah-offerings. Woe is me!"

On that day, the 3rd of Sivan, one thousand one hundred sacred souls were killed.

When the Christians went into the inner rooms they pillaged the money until nothing was left. In one of the rooms, the Jews managed to fight back and hold their ground until the evening.

When the Jews saw that the Christians were about to break inside they immediately joined the legions of the King for the Sanctification of His Name. "The righteous women would throw stones out of the windows onto the enemies, and the enemies would stone them . . . and they would insult and revile the vagrants (the Crusaders) about the one hanged (That Man)."

There was a pious man in the fortress whose name was Moshe b"r Chalbo, who had two sons with him. When the Christians drew close he called his sons and told them: "My sons, Chalbo and Shimon, right now Gehennom and Gan Eden are open. Which of them do you wish to go into now?"

The two sons said, "We want to go into Gan Eden." The cursed Christians speedily granted them their wish. And for this I lament: "As brethren united, so was their blood shed as one. Woe is me."


In one of the rooms of the fortress the Jews kept guard over a sefer Torah. When the Christians discovered this, they profaned the Torah. And for this I lament: "More desirable than gold. Yes, more precious than fine gold, more glorious within each precious instrument — I have seen them torn, bereft and solitary."

The women were the first to see the Christians profaning the Torah and they straight away called their husbands and told them about the terrible calamity that was happening in front of their very eyes. When the men saw for themselves the profanation of what was Sacred, "They felt a great jealousy for Hashem our G-d and for our Holy and precious Torah."

One of those present, whose name was Rav Dovid b"r Ravno Menachem, called on everyone to tear their clothes. The men tore as required, and in their zeal they managed within a short time to kill one of the Crusaders.

"After that, when the Holy Jews who were in the rooms had been killed, the gentiles came in to strip the dead, clear the room of the dead bodies, and throw them out of the windows naked onto the ground. Piled high, heaps on heaps, till it was like a high mountain. For this I lament: `My wounded, and those who are riddled with sword thrusts, lie naked; sucklings, young men and maidens (together) with hoary old men, their corpses are like carrion for the wild beasts of the land.' "

The preeminent Jewish Sages also gave up their lives for the Sanctification of Hashem's Name, and the Torah centers were destroyed.

Many of the Jews were alive when the Christians had thought they were dead. They signaled with their fingers for a little water, "And when the vagrants (the Crusaders) saw that they still had some life in them, they asked them: `Do you want to soil yourselves (to be Christian) then we will give you water and you can yet be saved.'

"And they shook their heads and looked to their Father in Heaven, saying, No! And pointing with their fingers to the Almighty, for they were unable to utter a word because they were so wounded. For this I lament: `For the noble ones of the esteemed congregation of Mainz, who were swifter than eagles and stronger than lions (to do G-d's Will); they gave up their souls for declaring the Unity of the Revered G- d."

After the bishop's castle had been emptied of all living Jews, the Christians went on to another courtyard where Mr. David b"r Netanel the gabbai was hiding. The courtyard was in the possession of a priest who went up to "Mr. David" and told him that most of the Jews of the city had already been killed. The priest suggested that he convert and thereby save his life, his family's lives and his money. Mr. David heard the suggestion and asked the priest to go out into the street and call the Crusaders.

The priest was very happy and ran outside to call them. Crowds gathered around the courtyard when Mr. David announced to them all: "You believe in a god who is illegitimate and has been hanged. But I believe in G-d who is Everlasting. . . . I have trusted in Him to this very day. And I will continue to do so until my soul leaves me.

"And I know the truth: If you kill me my soul will be placed in Gan Eden, in the light of life, and you will go down to the depths to the nethermost pit in dreadful disgrace. And you will be judged in Gehennom along with your god" . . . After the Jewish community in Mainz had been slaughtered, the city's non-Jews buried the dead in nine communal graves. This was arranged through the money that the Jews had left with them.

Fifty-three Jews managed to hide in the basement of one of the houses, led by Rav Klonymus the community leader. They made contact with a person who supplied them with water in exchange for payment.

In the middle of the night, one of the nobles came up to them, saying that he was a messenger of the bishop. As stated earlier, the bishop had escaped from Mainz. The noble said that the bishop was in the village of Rodsheim, and he had sent him to bring them to him. The noble said that the bishop had "three hundred armed men, bearing swords and armor" at his disposal. The survivors accompanied the noble, who took them on a ship by way of the Rhine River until the Rodsheim village.

When the bishop met Rav Klonymus the parnass, he was overjoyed. Then he went back on his word and told him that he could not save them and that they had to convert to Christianity. The parnass went back to the Jews and told them what the bishop had said, "and then they all got up together and recited the blessing for their sacrifice and unanimously acknowledged the rightness of the Divine judgment."


The Jews of Cologne were at first saved from the pogroms, but after the destruction of the communities of Speyer, Worms and Mainz they also had to drink the bitter cup. On erev Shavuos the news about the destruction of the community of Mainz reached Cologne. The Jews fled and each of them hid independently in the houses of the goyim in the surrounding area.

They came to an arrangement with the bishop that they be transferred in groups to a number of small towns in the area, until the storm blew over. The Crusaders burst into the city and took out their wrath on the synagogues and the ritual articles. They even broke into the empty Jewish houses, where they plundered, pillaged, and stole.

One of the Jews of Cologne, Mr. Yitzchok bar Elyokim was discovered by the Crusaders. He spit at them and at their idol worship, and of course was burned at the stake. Mr. Yitzchok bar Elyakim could have hid himself but he did not, since "he was happy to accept the Divine judgment."

On the 10th of Sivan, the bishop scattered the Jewish community into seven nearby small towns.

The Crusaders had no intention of giving up. They stayed in the area, and replanned their route — through the small towns where the Jews were hiding.

At the beginning of the month of Tammuz, they headed for the little town of Nussa, the first of seven towns where the Jews were in hiding.

One of the Jews was severely tortured until "he did not know what to do with himself any more." Consequently, he was unable to withstand the test. When he came back to himself, he decided to give his life for the Sanctification of Hashem's Name. He returned home to Cologne where he jumped into the waters of the Rhine. The waters drew him back to the small town of Nussa where he was washed up onto the banks of the river beside the "pious Mr. Shmuel." They were buried together in the sand.

At the end of erev Shabbos, the 4th of Tammuz, the rioters arrived at the village of Zentch, where the Jews were hiding. The Crusaders found the Jews as they were sitting down to their Friday night seuda. The Jews managed to make Kiddush on the wine, and even eat some bread.

Suddenly an urgent voice spoke. The head of the community spurred the community with words of encouragement with his heart aflame, and honored the Kohen who was present with the position of leading the ceremony for the Sanctification of Hashem's Name.

From the memoirs of Rabbi Shlomo bar Shimshon: "The pious man of faith began by saying . . . `Let us recite bircas hamozone to our living G-d, our Father in Heaven, because the Altar is smoking — now the table is laid in front of us. So let us get up and ascend to the House of Hashem and do the Will of our Creator quickly, because our enemies are coming to us today, and each of us slaughter his son, his daughter and his brothers on Shabbos, and bring blessing upon us today.

"`And let no man pity himself or his fellow man. And the last one left will slaughter — so that the defiled with their wicked hands and their abominations will not defile us. We will offer ourselves as a korbon to Hashem as a perfect burnt offering for On High, a sacrifice on the Altar of Hashem. We will be in a world which is entirely day, in Gan Eden, in a enlightened mirror where we will see Him eye to eye . . . and we will be in the company of Rabbi Akiva and his friends . . . and there we will keep the Sabbaths— for here we are not able to.'

"And they all answered unanimously: `Omen. Kein yehiye, vechein yehi rotzon.' And the pious Rabbeinu Moshe began to recite the Bircas Hamozone . . . and he said: HoRachamon Hu Yinkom beyemei hanish'orim achareinu le'eineihem dam avodecho hashofuch vehe'osid adayin lishpoch . . . (May the All Merciful avenge in the days of those who remain after us, before their eyes, a revenge of the blood of Your servants that has been spilled and will yet be spilled) . . . and he recited many blessings on the event, despite the decree that hung over them, as my fathers and the rest of the elders who were involved in this told me, who witnessed this tremendous deed.

"And it happened when they got up from the table and the pious man told them: `You are sons of the living G-d,' say together in a loud voice, Shema Yisroel Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echod.' And they did so.

"And now do not tarry much longer for the time has come to act, to sacrifice ourselves before Him."

And on erev Shabbos, bein hashemoshos they gave themselves up as a sacrifice before Hashem instead of the korbon Tomid of bein ho'arbayim, and they became themselves like the Tomid of the dawn. And as one who finds great spoil rejoices, and as one who gathers the harvest, so they rejoiced and were happy to do their service of G-d and to sanctify His Great and Holy Name."

Thus the Crusaders continued on from village to village, and from city to city.


The Crusaders continued on their way to liberate the Holy Land. Some of the crusaders were under the leadership of the charismatic monk, Peter the Hermit of Amiens, may his name be blotted out. When the troops passed through Hungary, a problem came up. In those days, the armed forces had to buy food in the place where they were located, for it was not possible to transport food as is done in our day. The Hungarians, who were also Christians, charged exorbitant prices for the food.

A fierce dispute arose in one of the cities between a Crusader and a local Hungarian. The dispute quickly developed into a merciless butchering by the Crusaders against the residents of the city.

This time it was not helpless Jews that they faced, but the king of Hungary, who had taken the matter to heart. The king ordered no more aid to be given to the Crusaders. The troops continued marching until they reached a river.

Wanting to cross, the Crusaders entered a nearby village, destroyed houses and built a wooden bridge across the river. They crossed the bridge, arriving at a fortified city that was bolted and barred. Following the king's command, the residents of the city would not let them in. The priest Peter of Amiens dispatched messengers requesting that they sell him bread outside the city, but the residents of the city refused to do that too. Even when he offered them an outrageous price, he met with a refusal.

Therefore, the priest announced that the Hungarians were "lacking in faith" even more than the Ishmaelites and "worthy of being stoned." The priest mobilized his soldiers, broke into the city and again butchered its residents. This time the King could not contain himself. He gathered together all his army and went to take care of the Crusaders.

First, he closed the borders of the country to any new Crusaders, and then he took care of the Crusaders who were already inside. The Hungarian army pursued the Crusading troops that were led by the priest, and did not leave a single refugee, "and the Almighty took vengeance, a blood revenge for His servants and not a single one of them was left alive."

During that period, the Crusading troops, headed by Count Emicho of Leiningen, approached the Hungarian border. In order to cross into Hungary, they dispatched a delegation of four nobles to the king. The four were locked in jail for four days. On the third day they swore to bring the Count's head to the king. The Hungarian army went to fight these Crusaders as well. It killed many of them, and still more were killed when they drowned in the River Donai, "till people trod on them like one treads on dry land."


"Inside the King's palace. In joy and gladness. Powerful is their merit. And their righteousness. Stand by the remnants. For ever. Seloh." (the Ra'avan, in a kinnoh composed for the martyrs.)

The quotations in the article are taken from a number of memoirs, written by contemporaries of that generation. The most prominent is that of Rabbeinu the Ra'avan. Other memoirs are those of Rabbi Shlomo bar Shimshon and Rabbi Ephraim bar Yaakov of Bonn, and another whose author is not named. The essays were compiled in the book, Gezeiros Ashkenaz veTzorfas. The words of the kinnos are from the two kinnos of the decrees of 4856 (1056) which are now among the regular kinnos of Tisha B'Av.

The Crusades—Background

Christianity was established as the official religion of Rome more than 1,700 years ago. After some time, the Roman government split into an eastern and a western empire. The eastern kingdom was called Byzantium. Byzantium was under pressure from the Turks (the Seljuks), and they looked to the western Christians for aid.

In the year 4831 (1070), the Turks conquered Eretz Yisroel and, since the Christians who went on pilgrimages to Eretz Yisroel suffered greatly from them, the Byzantium kingdom hoped to take advantage of the situation. Alexis I, the Emperor of Byzantium, asked Pope Urban II to come to his aid against the Islamic Turks. The Emperor hoped the Pope would send troops of knights to aid the empire — but the Pope had other plans.

On the 27th of Kislev, 4856 (27.11.1095) the Christian Church Congress convened in Claremont in the south of France. At the congress, Pope Urban II made an impassioned speech appealing to the knights of the west to liberate Jerusalem from the Moslems! The Pope called on loyal Christians to liberate the city, and the Church of the Sepulcher which was located in it, from Moslem hands. At the congress, the following spring was established as the date when the Crusaders would meet in Constantinople — on the way to the Holy Land. The Pope appointed a representative to lead the Crusade, but many excited peasants and fighters left on their own.

Forced Convert and Martyr

When the Crusaders forced the Jews to convert, there were a few who agreed to be baptized — on the face of it. One of these was "Mr. Yitzchok." He had little children, and so that the Crusaders would not raise his children as Christians after they had killed him, he decided to convert - - to outward appearances. They therefore spared his life. After two days, he decided to give his life to sanctify Hashem's Name and atone for what he had done.

He went into a house, which he set fire to on all four corners. The flames devoured the building and he walked around from one corner to another, with his palms spread heavenward. He prayed to Hashem from the fire in a loud yet pleasant voice. The Crusaders realized what was happening, and called out to him from outside: "Wicked man, come out of the fire. You can still be saved." They even stretched out a long stick to him to help him escape the flames.

The martyr "Mr. Yitzchok" refused. May the L-rd revenge his blood.

The Religion of Love

HaRav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch, on the Crusades, the Christians and the Jews.

The Christians:

"With one hand they held a sword and flaming torch, and with the other hand they waved an idol. How very distant they were from their mission of loving humanity, as it were, was blatantly proven by the actions of this religion. These comprised enslaving nations, worshiping rulers, extorting tears and broken sighs, wars and immense bloodshed, and the burning of our huts to dust. These people were brutal in the butchering of our wives and children, the expulsion of our families, the diminishing of our happiness, and destroying our meager possessions, using the most harmful possible means."

The Jews:

"And in those darkest times, when the rabble was struck with madness, and destroyed synagogues and tore the Holy Books, the persecuted and despised Jew turned to his G-d, morning and night, and was comforted and hoped for the days when this madness would disappear, and justice, truth and peace would be the heritage of humanity. The sons went to the graves of their slaughtered fathers, knowing that in that same place where this abomination raged still Yisgadeil veYiskadeish Shemei Rabbo . . . veYamlich Malchusei le'olom ule'olmei olmayo."

Who Joined The Crusades?

It is commonly believed that the pogroms against the Jews were perpetrated by the common elements, that is, the poor, ignorant and uneducated farmers. Twenty five years ago, the researcher Riley Smith did new research on the Crusade, which examined the background of the people who participated in the Crusades.

In the course of the research the computer was fed significant quantities of historical details gathered from memoirs, certificates, and such like, from that period. The computer cross-checked the data and proved that the participants were not poor, since participation in the Crusades was only permitted for those who owned property.

It was 843 years following the First Crusade when the Holocaust—not far from there — broke out. Until this day it is not clear whether the Crusaders can be defined as French or Germans. What is clear though, is that neither money nor culture prevent a person from turning into an animal.

The Crusades were spread out over exactly 300 years. The First Crusade began in 4855 (1096), and the Crusade of Nicopolis — considered the last European Crusade — began in 5155 (1396). From a distance of hundreds of years it is difficult to define which March of the Christians could be defined as a Crusade and which as a conquering campaign, or just simply a visit to the Holy Land. Therefore, there are those who limit the period of the Crusades as ending in 5050 (1291).

During that year the Crusader Akko fell. Akko is defined in history books as a Crusaders' empire in Eretz Yisroel as "the last accord in the history of the Jerusalem kingdom." In total, there were eight major Crusades.

Rashi, who was passed away ten years after the outbreak of the First Crusades, composed the shamta which is full of curses about the Crusaders. The shamta is built on the opposite order of the Hebrew alphabet, with double lines.

Here are the first four lines of the curse: "Make them into a disgrace for curses and destruction. Let Your anger, fury, wrath and rage burn against them. Send the cursing, maledicting, tumultuous angels against them. Destroy them with a bereaving of the sword from the outside and let them be infused with terror."

The Last Crusade?

HaRav Yaakov Meir Schechter told a story in one of his shiurim that he had heard from a reliable person by the name of HaRav Ezriel Paterson. This elderly Jew came from Lithuania and he gave over what he had heard from the Chofetz Chaim himself.

The Chofetz Chaim, with tremendous emotion, told of how in one of the little towns there was a decree to exterminate all the Jews of the town, and they were forced to hang a cross over their doors. If not—they were sentenced to death. There was a Jew in the town who had rebelled and was non- observant, who was a apothecary by profession. There was never a trace of any Judaism about him, but now at the time of this decree, the Jewish spark was wakened in him.

The apothecary decided not to hang the cross on his door. His gentile maid, who knew the punishment her master faced for this, begged him to obey the royal command to save himself from death. But he would not comply. The maid suggested that he should do nothing, but she would do it for him—but he would not agree! He declared that he was ready to die rather than serve idols.

And indeed he was caught and taken out to be killed, and he publicly sanctified the Name of Hashem. Thus, the greatness of the Jewish neshomoh was exposed for everyone to see, even when it was buried under the deepest layers (the story was found in Leket Amorim 8:2, page 174).

Thousands Killed `By the Way'

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

The professed goal of the Crusades was to conquer Eretz Yisroel from the Moslems. The thousands of Jews who were slaughtered in Europe were only `by the way.' In other words, if they were already going up to Jerusalem to butcher the Ishmaelites, then why not butcher the Jews as well?!

This matter is clearly depicted in the Ra'avan's memoirs: "And it happened when they passed through the small towns where the Jews were, they said to themselves, we are going to look for our remedy and take our messiah's vengeance against the Ishmaelites. But it was the Jews who killed him and crucified him. Let us wreak vengeance on them first and we will delete them from the nations and the name of Israel will be no more."


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