Letter: Halper 415 + Halper 416

Letter Halper 415 + Halper 416



Letter draft from an anonymous shaliaḥ, in Fustat/Cairo, to an unknown addressee, in Jerusalem. In Hebrew. Dated: Monday, 22 Raḥamim, 5595 AM, which is 1835 CE. There is some ambiguity about the specific day. If Raḥamim is Elul, the 22nd should have been a Wednesday. But perhaps Raḥamim here means Av, when the 22nd did fall on a Monday. The letter conveys a remarkable tale of the writer's fortunes ever since he left Jerusalem on a fundraising mission on behalf of a certain Kollel. He first went to Gaza (not Giza as his spelling might suggest), where he bought passage to Suez with some gentiles from Bethlehem. In Suez (or before arriving there?), he came down with a terrible fever for ~24 days. He paid a Muslim woman a qirsh a day to wash his soiled clothing in the sea. When he entered the city, he found an epidemic (cholera?). All the gentiles were trying to flee in boats to Jedda. The writer too tried to flee, but a certain officer came and commandeered the boat, kicking him and a group of Damascenes off of the boat. The writer then had a second bout of fever ("my whole body burnt, and my tongue cleaved to my palate, and I went to the doctor, who treated/cured me a second time"). By this point all his money had run out. Shortly thereafter he developed an eye disease. There follows a long tale of how he relied on the hospitality and charity of various strangers, mentioning various "polisas" (securities), various letters proving his status as a shaliaḥ that he had to present, and various people--Jews and gentiles--whom he turned to for help. Relatively early on he made his way to Fustat/Cairo, where he had little success raising money or gaining allies. The capitation tax collector (baʿal ha-kharāj) apprehended him for failing to pay for 'the third year' (he had only paid for the years '50 and '51) and he spent three days in prison, where he fell ill again for the fourth time. He got out of prison through the intercession of Muʿallim Bekhor. His subsequent luck raising money was no more successful than before. He mentions going to the Beit Midrash to sleep there, because he had nowhere else to turn. The end of this letter is a plea for the addressee to send him money. The letter ends mid-sentence, and there is no address, suggesting that it was never sent (and thus could find its way into the Geniza). ASE.