Q:

What are some historical figures and events involving Judaism and its adherents?

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Quick Answer

Rabbi Hillel and Baal Shem Tov are considered significant historical figures in Jewish history due to the remarkable contributions they made to the religion and its followers during some of its dark periods. The Inquisition is an example of a dark period in Jewish history.

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Rabbi Hillel was a prominent sage. Although he was living in poverty, he worked as a woodcutter to support himself. He loved to study the Torah but could not afford to pay the admission fee. Still, he was so committed to learning that he would sit outside of the House of Study to listen and learn. He was revered for his gentleness, kindness and concern for humanity. He served as the president of the supreme Jewish court. The Hillel organization, which is a network of Jewish college student clubs, is named after Rabbi Hillel.

Baal Shem Tov is the pioneer of the Chasidic movement in Judaism. In his teachings, he emphasized that even an illiterate peasant could approach God. He encouraged his followers to pray, observe the commandments and take note of personal mystical experiences. His approach to Judaism was very radical for its time, as the religion emphasized that adherents could approach God only through studying the Torah.

In 1481 The Inquisition began in Spain. Thousands of Jews were forced to convert to Christianity. Many of those who had converted to Christianity but secretly continued to practice Judaism were arrested or burned at the stake. Finally, in 1492, the Jews of Spain were officially expelled. The next phase of The Inquisition started in Portugal in 1536. Portuguese Jews who refused to convert to Christianity faced similar consequences as Jews of Spain.

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