Letter: Bodl. MS heb. b 11/27

Letter Bodl. MS heb. b 11/27


Input date

In PGP since 2020


Most of a long, very distressed letter from Menaḥem, writing in Fusṭāṭ/Cairo, to a business associate, whose family lives in Fustāṭ/Cairo and who has traveled. The details of the case are difficult to follow and merit deeper examination. Menaḥem's enemies have gotten the upper hand, and they are gloating to the utmost, and he has lost a great deal of money. In what remains of the letter, he first mentions the visit of Lu'lu' ("may the enemies of Israel perish"), who may be identical with al-Raqqī, to a prison (where Menaḥem had been held?). The entirety of the rest of the story has to do with the misdeeds of al-Raqqī and Ibn Kātib al-ʿArab, called "dogs" by the writer (they call him the same). The latter "stands in the middle of the markets [of Fusṭāṭ and Cairo] and hosts great gatherings (? maḥāfil), even greater than those of al-Raqqī. He said that I am his enemy and that I testified against him to the representative of the sultan" (r12–15, 29). Apparently the addressee normally has the ear of Ibn Kātib al-ʿArab, and so none of this would have happened if the addressee had not had to travel "for my sins" (r24–25). Menaḥem writes repeatedly that he is "in the fire" and that it would be better to be dead (r25–31, v21–25). His uncle (ʿamm) Abū l-Faraj is egging on al-Raqqī, standing in the market and "on the slaughterhouse" (?) and cursing Menaḥem and the addressee before the Jews and the Muslims. Abū l-Faraj is instructing al-Raqqī not to "appraise these pawns" (hādhihi l-ruhūnāt lā tuqawwimuhum) (does Menaḥem run a pawnshop?) (r32–36). The villainy of Abū l-Faraj goes deeper, for he "sits in the house with Yūsuf and his brothers and his children, dancing (raqṣ) and listening to music (ṭarab) (rm22–33). The installment of the story that continues on verso has to do with al-Raqqī's claim that he is owed 1000 nuqra (dirhams) by the addressee. Various legal documents and (false?) witnesses are produced (v1–15). Someone states, "This is how fortunes are lost because of slander" (v12). Menaḥem expands on his wretched state. He prays for God to command the "angel of my misfortunes" to relent. Every day ends with tears and with the melting of his liver, bit by bit (v19–32). He concludes by urging the addressee to come quickly and to seek aid from a powerful man ("kiss the feet for me of he whom you know," v33–34). He apologizes for the distressing matter contained in the letter (v35–37). R. David sends his regards and rebukes; R. Shelomo is well, recovering, back to his usual self; the addressee's wife and children are well (v37–40). In a postscript: "I heard that Muhadhdhab b. al-ʿŪdī is in critical condition and that wheat is expensive. May God have mercy." ASE