Jewish Conversion in the Riots of 1391: The Legal Justification

Shalem Yahalom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study presents the halakhic rulings that preceded the riots of 1391 in Spain and provided the moral infrastructure that allowed the conversion to Catholicism of Rabbi Isaac ben Sheshet Perfet (known by the acronym Rivash) and many other Jews. Rivash was willing broadly to define duress, which exempts one from halakhic obligations. The rulings Rivash attributed to Rabbi Shlomo ben Avraham ibn Aderet (known by the acronym Rashba) – that the commandment “He shall live by them” applies even when a Jew is forced under the threat of death to abandon his faith and that the choice of martyrdom is a secondary religious commandment – were both revolutionary statements. They provided legitimacy to the religious elite – and, as a matter of course, to the simple folk – to choose life, even if it required converting to Christianity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)236-255
Number of pages20
JournalReview of Rabbinic Judaism
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2022.


  • Ferrant Martínez
  • Isaac ben Sheshet Perfet
  • Shlomo ben Avraham ibn Aderet
  • forced conversion
  • martyrdom in Judaism


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