Letter: T-S 12.493

Letter T-S 12.493

Tags

Input date

In PGP since 1989

Description

Letter from a woman to the Head of the Jews, in Fustat. Dating: Early twelfth century (see explanation below). The writer asks the addressee to send her money for two orphan sisters whose care she was reluctantly supervising. The girls were ten and thirteen years old and had no relatives to take care of them, and nothing to live on. They had been allotted two dinars from communal charity funds, but for some reason (the letter is torn here, and parts are missing) the money had not actually been sent; without it, they had "only enough for a crust of bread." A childless widow who lived nearby had volunteered to teach them embroidery, and the letter's narrator was willing to check in on them once in a while. But she refused to take them into her household, even though the girls themselves wanted her to: "They constantly tell me, 'We want to come to you so that you can take care of us.' She asked the Head of the Jews instead to provide the two dinars that the girls had been promised, along with extra funds to rent them a living space and to hire a religious teacher who could "teach them prayer, so they will not grow up like animals, not knowing shemaʿ yisra'el." Eve Krakowski, Coming of Age in Medieval Egypt, p.1. Regarding the date: "The time of the document can be defined approximately by the mention of al-haver Ibn al-Kāmukhi, the member of the yeshiva bearing a family name derived from the profession of kāmukhī, preparer of preserves with vinegar sauce. Two such persons are known, one living at the time of the Nagid Mevorakh, around 1095, and another during the incumbency of the Nagid Shemuel b. Ḥananya around 1145. The script of the letter would fit either of the two dates, better perhaps the latter." Goitein, "Side Lights on Jewish Education," p. 88 (doc. 3).

T-S 12.493 1r

1r

Transcription

S. D. Goitein, "Side Lights on Jewish Education from the Cairo Geniza," in Gratz College Anniversary volume (Philadelphia: Gratz College, 1971), 83-110.
  1. לנצח אן [
  2. סתהם קד [תופית וליס מן]
  3. ידברהם גי[רי ] אן הדה אלדינארין אלדי תוכד
  4. פי מאונת[הם מא יחצל] מנהא גיר כסרה כבז פקט עלי
  5. מ]וצע אלאמור ואיצא אן הונא זוגה ר [יוסף] אלחזאן תלמיד
  6. אלחבר בן אלכאמכי אלמתופי ליס להא ולד [ו]קד רגבת
  7. פי אן תאכד הדה אלבנתין תעלמהם אלרקם ויגי אלי אלד[אר
  8. מן יעלמהם אלצלאה ח[י]ת מא ירבו מתאל אלבהאים לא
  9. יערפו שמע ישראל ויכון סכנהא קריב מן ביתי א[קדר
  10. פי אוקאת אתפקד אחואלהם ואיצא אן אלבנת אלבכירה
  11. קד בלגת מן עאם אול וטרידתהא להא עשר סנין וכסר
  12. וכל קליל יקולו //ללעבדה// נריד נגי אלי ענדך תרבי אחואלנא פקאלת
  13. אלעבדה מא אפעל שי אלא ען ראי סידנא ירום הודו ומא
  14. ארידהם יכונו מעי פי דאר ואחדה בל יכתרא להם
  15. מכאן קריב מן ביתי ותכון הדה אלמרה זוגה אלחזאן
  16. ר יוסף תדור חואליהם פי אלצנעה וגיר דלך וא[ן הדה
  17. אלדינארין תסלם ללצבייה אלכבירה תצרפהא [פימא יחתאגו
  18. מן מאונה וחריר וגיר דלך פמא אולאהא [אן תזיד חצתהם וה'
  19. יכפיל שכרה ויהי בעזרה ויחיה חמודיה הש[רים
  20. ]ים [ואל[ ] ושלום הדרתה יגדל ואל ידל וכן יהי ר[צון

Translation

S. D. Goitein, "Side Lights on Jewish Education from the Cairo Geniza," in Gratz College Anniversary volume (Philadelphia: Gratz College, 1971), 83-110.

Recto

[ ... May your rule last] for ever. 

The grandmother [of the orphans so-and-so and so-and-so has died and there is now no one] who looks after them ex[cept myself]. Those two dinars which are taken for them [suffice only] for a piece of bread in normal times.

Also here is the wife of Rabbi [Joseph], the cantor, a student of the late member of the academy al-Kāmukhī; she has no child and would like to take these two girls and teach them embroidery; moreover, someone should come to the house and teach them the prayer so that they should not grow up like animals and not even know "Hear, oh Israel." She should live near my house so that I should be able to inspect their doings from time to time. 

The elder girl has attained puberty last year and her younger sister is slightly above ten years. They constantly say to your maidservant: "We want to come to you so that you may take care of us." But your maidservant says: "I act only at the instruction of our lord, may his glory be enhanced." I do not wish that they should stay with me in the same house, but a place should be rented for them in my neighborhood, and this woman, the wife of the cantor Rabbi Joseph, should take care of them with regard to their work and other matters. Those two dinars should be handed over to the elder girl, who will spend them on their maintenance, the silk, and other matters. But how appropriate for you [to increase their share. May God] give you double reward and always be your support and may He keep your sons, the p[rinces …]. 

 

May the welfare of your excellency always increase and never decrease. And this may be His w[ill]. 

 

T-S 12.493 1v

1v
Image Permissions Statement
  • T-S 12.493: Provided by Cambridge University Library. Zooming image © Cambridge University Library, All rights reserved. This image may be used in accord with fair use and fair dealing provisions, including teaching and research. If you wish to reproduce it within publications or on the public web, please contact genizah@lib.cam.ac.uk.