Letter: T-S NS J408 + ENA 2808.6

Letter T-S NS J408 + ENA 2808.6



Family letter in Judaeo-Arabic. From an unidentified man possibly named Karīm, apparently in Zarnīkh (in Upper Egypt, see recto l. 44 and recto right margin l. 3), to his brother ʿĀzir and his mother (or at least an older female relative) Suʿūd the wife of Nissim al-Kohen, in Fustat/Cairo. He alternates between addressing ʿĀzir directly and addressing Suʿūd directly throughout the letter. In Judaeo-Arabic, with many quite modern dialectal features. The handwriting is reminiscent of some of the late Judaeo-Persian documents. The sender frequently mixes up emphatic and non-emphatic consonants (e.g., ק and כ, or ט and ת) and has unusual orthography throughout (e.g., זכות is spelled סכות); it requires further study to determine if this is the norm for Judaeo-Arabic letters of this period or if it reflects some specific linguistic background of the sender. Dating: Certainly 15th–19th century, but this range can likely be narrowed. There are greetings to several other family members and acquaintances (especially in recto, ll.1–8). The sender describes a great number of harrowing violent events and general destruction from which he narrowly escaped. He was being pursued by 'the rajjāla' (policemen of some sort?) who intended to kill him. He was initially traveling with Turks or "Turkmen" (תרקמאן) by land. He had a document (marsūm) with him concerning a certain Ḥasan the son of the kāshif (district administrator). He parted ways with the Turks, and that very night Ḥasan and every one of the Turks was slaughtered and thrown into the sea (or Nile), which the sender discovered when he arrived in Wādī אלעראקת(?). The sender himself continued to be pursued (including by rajjāla coming down from the mountain from ʿAqaba?) until he reached a place called ריואן or דיואן. (At another point in the letter he mentions a place called Wādī al-ʿUlayqāt and a traveling companion named Ṣāliḥ al-ʿUlayqī.) The same group had come in the night and killed the kāshif, and 15 Turks had fled, "and they plundered all of the documents." The next part of the letter deals with 3 gold coins that the addressees are supposed to collect in Fustat/Cairo, and also various commodities, some of which the sender sent with Muḥammad al-Babarī. He asks for either an account (ḥisāb) or a calendar spanning two years. He mentions someone named al-rayyis/al-amir Samāʿīn. He wants Suʿūd and ʿAbd al-Karīm to come see visit him in Zarnīkh, quickly. He emphasizes his bond with Suʿūd with a medical metaphor: "I am your tested theriac, and you are an old woman, and no one (but me) will come to your side and go before you." He asks her to pray for him. He orders ink, paper, and pens, plus some halloumi cheese and olive oil. He gives the strange instruction not to come to him "naked" but to come dressed (well) for the sake of onlookers. He asks Suʿūd to distribute money to the poor for his sake, and to tell his sister Ghāliya to pray for him in the synagogues. In a first postscript, he asks for news of his niece Siwār who was due to give birth. He gives further news about someone else (a rabbi? הראב) who was going to be killed, but then a group called al-jawābir(?) came and killed over a hundred people, and the sender was forced to flee. In a second postscript, he lists various items that he has sent with Muḥammad al-Babarī, instructing the addressees to sell them for a good price. He asks them to take good care of this Muḥammad, including bringing him to the Qaraite physician in order to have a good medicine prepared for him. On verso, in a different hand, there are jottings of accounts in Judaeo-Arabic, along with two lines containing greetings to 'the mother Ghāliya.' Join by Oded Zinger. ASE.

ENA 2808.6 1




ENA 2808.6 2

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  • ENA 2808.6: Images provided by the Jewish Theological Seminary Library (JTSL) CC-Zero / Public Domain