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The Discovery of the New World

The New World is discovered at last! The Portuguese explorer, Bartolomeu Dias [bar-TOLLO-mew DEE-ahz], has rounded "Cape of the Needles" at the southern-most tip of Africa. For orientation: Cape of the Needles is a little over 100 statute miles southeast of the Cape of Good Hope. As Dias rounds the cape it is clear sailing to the New World... India... but his crew wants to go home so they travel northeast to Bushman's River Mouth where it becomes clear that they have rounded the southern-most part of Africa. With that feat accomplished, they erect a monument which remains to this day. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Even though the Portuguese have reasonable maps of the areas around Yemen and India, they think of the rounding of the cape as a journey to the New World. By "new" they mean "new to them" and it's not even totally new since they have been to India over land, but rather, it is a new view or new way to get there. "Discovery" means more than uncovering something totally unknown. More often it is a different way of looking at something already familiar. For example: by tradition we say that Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity... yet if gravity hadn't been there the whole time, most of us would have floated off the Earth before we had a chance to grab something and hang on. What Newton really "discovered" was a different way of understanding gravity... a new way to look at it that opened up a whole new way of thinking about our universe. By rounding the cape, what the Portuguese discovered was that the voyage was possible. They PROVED that it could be done and that was something new.

The Royal Netherlands Navy and Military Surplus

This shouldn't go unnoticed. The Royal Netherlands Navy marks its beginnings from this year. Maximilian the 1st establishes the official navy after putting down the First Flemish Revolt. The Low Countries include Flanders with the Netherlands. Before this time, the navy was a group of armed merchants and hired warships. With the authorization from Maximilian, they are legally established as a regular navy. They will grow into a major naval force but in the modern day the Royal Netherlands Navy will be composed primarily of frigates and submarines. [6] [7]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Having the military being "legally established" is a modern idea... one that draws a line between the military and civilians. In the late 1400s these ideas are still being worked out. By the time of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, many of the familiar military limits will be established and that will make this "legal establishment" of the Royal Netherlands Navy more important. In the modern day the line between the military and civilians has become fuzzy. Terrorists by definition are not regular troops so if a soldier shoots someone it often becomes a question of whether he is committing wanton murder or taking out a terrorist. Unless a suspected terrorist actually takes a shot at you, how can you tell? It's a tough call. Recently a number of military Humvees were sold at auction to the public. I'm OK with that but they are not exactly military surplus trucks and they are not street legal so what will they be used for? Off-road dune-buggies? When military-grade surplus is sold to the public or even to the police it becomes difficult to tell who is part of the military and who is not.[8] [9] [10]

Joseph Karo and Modern Judaism

Joseph Karo [KAH-row] is born in Toledo, Spain before the expulsion of the Jews from Spain. He and his parents will escape to Portugal in 1492 and then to Turkey when Portugal expells the Jews in 1497. He will grow to become one of the greatest Jewish scholars of the modern era. In fact, he will be known simply as "the Author" because modern Jewish observance will be based largely on the digest of Jewish Law that he will write with additions from the Rema [REH-mah]. [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Rabbi Joseph Karo's influence on Modern Jewish observance cannot be over-stated. Even modern spin-offs of Judaism, no matter how crazy, will take their leap from the platform that Rabbi Karo built. It's the same thing that happens with a rebellious son and his father. Father says, "Let's go to the movies" and his son says "I want to stay home." Father says, "Susan seems like a nice girl." His son replies, "I like Joan better." You know that if Dad liked Joan, his son would have like Susan best. The son is not making a decision for himself. He's making his decisions based on the opposite of what his father does. That is what I mean when I say that modern forms of Judaism define themselves in relation to Rabbi Karo... even when they reject his opinion.

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1488, Wikipedia.

See Also


* The asterisk in the section header indicates that it was read on the podcast.
  1. Cape of Good Hope (Cape of Storms) - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  2. Cape Agulhas (Cape of the Needles) - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  3. Bartolomeu Dias - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  4. Brotton, Jerry. A History of the World in Twelve Maps. New York: Viking Penguin. 2012. (BOOK) quote: "Even the term 'new world' is studiedly vague: the Portuguese refer to the rounding of the Cape of Good Hope in 1488 as the 'discovery' of a 'new world', even though maps of the time represented a version of the Indian Ocean and its related territories. Renaissance scholars were not as excited by the shock of the new as we are today, and invariably tried to assimilate this kind of 'discovery' into classical geographical knowledge."
  5. Boesmansriviermond (Bushman's River Mouth) - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 18 December 2014.
  6. Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 18 December 2014.
  7. Royal Netherlands Navy - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 12 December 2014.
  8. Public auction of military Humvees creating a buzz - Fox News. foxnews.com (December 16, 2014). Retrieved on 18 December 2014. “All of the vehicles are either troop or cargo carriers, and have been fully demilitarized by the DLA, so no armor or mounts for arms are included, but buyers will still have to clear a trade security background check.”
  9. Royal Netherlands Navy Warships of World War II. NetherlandsNavy.nl (NOT OFFICIAL) (2011). Retrieved on 18 December 2014. “The start of the world war in May 1940 caught the Dutch navy in the middle of reconstruction, as many modern ships were at the dockyard. Only a few ships could be saved when the Germans finally forced the Netherlands to surrender.”
  10. Peace of Westphalia - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 18 December 2014.
  11. Joseph Karo - Jewish Virtual Library. 2014 [last update]
  12. Weiner, Rebecca. The Shulkhan Arukh - Jewish Virtual Library. 2014 [last update]
  13. Telushkin, Joseph. Shulkhan Arukh - Jewish Virtual Library. Jewish Literacy. NY: William Morrow and Co., 1991.
  14. Rabbi Yosef Karo - Zissil, zissil.com, 2014 [last update]
  15. Moses Isserles (The Rama) - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 17 December 2014.
  16. Shulchan Aruch - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 17 December 2014.
  17. Alex Shrugged notes: I know someone will tell me that the Talmud is the basis of modern Jewish observance. Then I will remind that person that we study the Talmud but we don't take our observance directly from the Talmud. We take our observance from the Rishonim (the first ones) and the Acharonim (the latter ones). Essentially they consolidated and organized the law.

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