Financial Instability and Prejudice by Paula Rose Michelson

Today we will look at a painful truth, that being the need for humans of any religion, color, or opinion to blame or assault, the character of another person or group because their faith, thoughts, or actions differ from theirs. Many justify their actions by becoming part of a group or coalition of likeminded people. Some vent their thoughts on the Bully Pulpit. And when the stakes are high enough, we might decide to follow along rather than get involved in something that we believe does not affect us, those we love, or our country.

I believe that is what happened in Spain when the king signed The Decree of Alhambra, formed the Office of the Inquisitor, and empowered it to bring heretics to faith or irradiate them. The historical notes from Casa de Naomi are below this writing, but before you read them, I would like you to think about Spain. Then think about America today. To do that let me share that Spains’ commercial centers – Toledo and Cordoba faced with the same problems that we face. The finical system that had worked could not rectify their problem. The kings’ solution was to sign a decree that forced all Jews to leave the country thus freeing up jobs, which he believed would solve the countries financial crisis. When the church and nobles heard of this they petitioned the king because they needed the Jews to continue keeping their accounts and conduct all fiduciary functions as they had been doing since the church forbad them to do so. Out of this countries need for finical stability and the churches ban on its member’s involvement in commerce the heinous acts of the inquisitors office were born.

Today, we face a similar crossroad. How we handle our finical malaise will define us as a people and affect our children’s children and us. Ask yourself:

• What do I value?

• Why do I value what I value?

• What am I willing to risk to keep what I value?

• Do I believe that others have to give up something they value so I can feel secure?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Historical Notes~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Prior to the signing of the decree, the crown moved the Jews into towns expressly set aside for them. This made it easy for the office to monitor the conversion of those Jews who had not married Catholics and subsequently converted or convinced those in high office that they believed in Christ. During that time, fervent priests were preaching against the Jews; many who feared death became Catholic and were assimilated into that faith. Others allowed themselves to be baptized and acted Catholic while practicing their Jewish faith at home. The records show that Jews who did not covert and could not, or would not, leave watched their homes and towns razed and torched before the officials killed them.

The church appointed the office of inquisitor and his assistants. Their work involved the unification of Spain under the Catholic Church. While the office hunted the hidden Jews, some Jews who followed the Laws of Moses, as they called the Old Testament, sought Jews who had fallen away from Judaism and called them back to that faith.

Historical Notes by Paula Rose Michelson

It might seem odd to some that a reflective blog would post historical notes. However, I believe that what the Sephardim experienced during the inquisition is something we all encounter, namely name-calling, or group labeling, and targeting. Many believe this practice is harmless. However, name-calling and group labeling, and targeting are abusive because it affects an individual’s life and influences how others see them. Unlike like other abuses most verbally wounded people have no one to commiserate with and never speak of what happened. This is what happened to the Spanish Jews and it most like happened, or will happen to you as well.

The portion of text for today says:

The Spanish Inquisition began with the signing of the Decree of Alhambra on March 31, 1492, which was in effect for five hundred years. That decree instituted pureblood laws, which forced the Jews to leave Spain before midnight of the above date, become a Catholic converso (which was the title the church gave them, meaning convert) or Anusim (the forced ones, as they called themselves), or die.

Here we see that the church (a group of people) named another group of people, thus defining and threatening them. Historically this has happened to many groups. Kings and rulers, countries and people of different faiths have done this to stigmatize those they want nothing to do with, those they envy, and those they fear. The key words that drive this situation are envy and fear. So let me ask you:

• Has envy or fear caused people to treat you differently?

• Have you treated others poorly because you envy or fear them?

• How did you feel when others treated you differently?

• How did others react when you treated them differently?

• What types of people want to be your friend?

• What type of people do you wish would befriend you?

• What behavior will attract people to you?

Since you might wonder why your answers to these questions matter please read “Watch Your Thoughts, They Become Words” by Frank Outlaw, which I have posted below.

Watch your thoughts, they become words.

Watch your words, they become actions.

Watch your actions, they become habits.

Watch your habits, they become your character.

Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.

Reflection: Since these simple statements might be ones you have never read before, take a moment to reflect on, or write down your thoughts.


By now, I hope you have realized that what was done to the Spanish Jews is no different from what some do to others. That is a good first step. However, another must follow if we are to clean our internal house and keep it that way. To learn the importance of keeping your commitment to choose to be a person that does not prey upon others, please read Matthew 12:43-45. “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation,” is critical to us if we want to facilitate life change.

By now this might be beginning to sound like alot of work. You might be asking yourself, “Why would I want to change?”

The answer is easy if you believe that ‘as you do unto others it will be done to you.’ To illustrate what I mean I have posted another portion of Scripture from the book of Mathew, which many refer to as the Beatitudes. As you read, you will discover a way of living, acting, and reacting that you may not know about. My challenge to you is to conceder that you create your world through your thoughts, which drive your behavior. If you want to create a better world, allow Gods word to dwell within you, and watch a miracle unfold.

Matthew 5: 1-11 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Becoming an Overcomer by Paula Rose Michelson

During the last two weeks, I have had the privilege of sharing the faith journeys of two unique and courageous women. Today’s posting is the last of the trilogy of Sephardic Voices that appear in the first volume of Casa de Naomi. As you read Janice’s story I am certain that your heart will be as stirred as mine was when she told me her story. It is one thing to discover through a confidence shared and another to find out through traveling with family that you are not as you seem. However, to discover the truth after everyone who could affirm it had died, made this gut wrenchingly poignant last entry a hard one for me to write. I hope that you listen with your heart instead of your ears. For the story Janice shares, and the pain and joy she experienced in finding out her families truth might be yours unless you learn that secrets kept secret, are obstacles that hinder us until they are overcome, and each of us can be an overcomer!

Before you read Janice’s story ask yourself:
• Do I need to do what everyone else does?
• Will I be better or worse off if I check things out for myself?
• Does fear come before or after change?
• Is it the fear of change that keeps me stuck?
• Must I continue to carry the secret burdens of others?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Janice’s Voice~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There was a stirring in my heart to follow my mother’s influence and learn about the Jewish people. I remember my fourth grade class in parochial school, where Sister Demetrius instilled within us the fact that the Jews did not kill Christ, but it was our sins that put him on the cross. Between my schooling and Mom’s love for the Jewish heritage, there was birthed within me a tenderness toward the Jewish people. As I reached what some would call middle age, this stirring intensified until I needed to know more. For years, I told people that I was Basque. However, I never went to the town whose name I bore. Then I met a woman whose son was a missionary in Spain. I asked him if he could take me to Ulibarri and he agreed. In 2008, I made the trip to Spain. We traveled throughout the Navarra region until I finally stepped onto the soil that had been home to my family centuries before. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that there was a strong Jewish presence in that region. Could my mother have been trying to tell me something all those years ago? I will never know for sure. However, my journey of the heart allowed me to look at my heritage and history with new eyes. When I returned home, I told my children, “We have a Jewish heritage.” They rolled their eyes. Months later, my son called and said, “I was waiting for the metro and was approached by a scholarly man who looked at my badge, which identifies me by my last name. He read ‘Mireles’ and asked me if I knew about my name and my heritage. I was able to give him the information you had shared with us. I was stunned when he gave me additional information, which proved to me that what you had said was correct! I called you, and I told my brothers and sisters that what you had said was true.”

Janice Mireles-Ulibarri has been involved in Messianic Worship since 1994. She served as a volunteer in the Israeli arm in 1999.

In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”