History of the Talmud III:

The Jewish Diaspora

10. What is the Jewish Diaspora? Diaspora, a Greek term, refers to the many communities of a nation dispersed over a wide geographical area. It was applied to the many Greek communities which had established themselves in areas far from the Hellenic homeland in what is known as Hellas, or Greece. There are several nations with diaspora communities; Chinese, Armenians, and others. But the Jewish community constitutes the largest and longest-lasting diaspora and has, historically, girdled the globe.

12. Where were Jewish communities settled at the beginning of the Christian Era, a little more that 2,000 years ago? There were Jewish communities in India, Afghanistan, Iran, Kurdistan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and other Turkic-speaking areas of Central Asia; Babylonia (Modern Iraq), Syria, Anatolia (Modern Turkey), Greece, Arabia, Egypt, Ethiopia, North Africa, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, and England.

13. Why were Jewish communities settled in all parts of Asia, North Africa, and Europe two thousand years ago? The answer is so natural and simple that it should arouse no wonder at all. It is that for more than eight centuries; one can be even more specific: for 863 years the Jewish People lived under tolerant, benevolent imperial rulers.

14. Cyrus the Great of Persia in 539 before the Common Era proclaimed that the Temple in Jerusalem, which had been destroyed by the Babylonian Emperor Nebuchadnezzar in 586, should be rebuilt and the Jewish State, the land of Judah, should be restored to the Jewish People. In addition, he also declared that all religions are to be recognized and honored as legitimate and all nations in the empire should have cultural autonomy. This meant that the Jewish People would be autonomous; that is, self-governing within the Jewish community and governed by Jewish Law.

16. An interesting clause in the Declaration of Cyrus which can be found in the first chapter of the Book of Ezra states that those Jews living in the Persian Empire who would prefer to remain where they had settled, should help their fellow-Jews who are returning to rebuild the Land of Israel and the Temple in Jerusalem. This indicates that Jews who had been exiled from Jerusalem and the land of Judah in 597 and 586 B.C.E., had succeeded in establishing themselves in the lands of their exile and were content to remain there.

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