Letter: CUL Or.1080 J22

Letter CUL Or.1080 J22


Input date

In PGP since 2017


Letter from Yosef b. Shemuel al-Dani in Palermo to Isma’il b. Avraham in Damsis. The first part of the letter deals with the tragedy that happened in the sea, near Gabes (Qābis), on the way to Sicily. After the writer arrived in Sicily, he found out that he had been expelled from his house. In the other part, Yosef writes about his wife that is still in Egypt. He wrote her a divorce certificate in case he will not be able to come back. He is willing to sell his land and take the risk to come back to Egypt, to take her and their son to Palermo, if she swears she will go with him. (Information from Gil, Kingdom, Vol. 2, #173) VMR

CUL Or.1080 J22 1r




S. D. Goitein, "“Sicily and Southern Italy in the Cairo Geniza Documents”," Archivio Storico per la Sicilia Orientale 67 (n.p., 1971), 9-33.


My elder and master, may God prolong your life and make your welfare and happiness permanent. May he augment his bounty and spiritual gifts granted to you. 

I am writing you from Palermo on the 6th of Tishri, may God make this a blessed year for me and for you and for all Israel. 

What you wish to know: I was shipwrecked in Zahlaq, between Surt (Syrta, Sirte) and Hawwāra (Lebda?), and came out of it without a dinar or even a dirhem and no garment to wear; I arrived naked in Tripoli. By God, had I not met there a Jew who owed me a qinṭār of wax (sent to him) from Zawila and with whom I agreed on a price of 5 dinars, which I received from him and with which I bought clothing and provisions, I would have been destroyed and forced to have recourse to philanthropy.

Arriving in Palermo, I found that a man from Barqa had pulled down my small house and built there another. I quarrel with him, but, by God, I have no dinar or even a dirhem to spend (on a lawsuit). Then I did not find my brother here so that I could not get from him part of what he owes me. 

I sent you ten pounds of silk with Ḥayyim b. Sa‘āda and sent you also 6 dinars gold, numbering 6 ¼ . With you I left 2 dinars and with them in the house 1 dinar and the olive oil I bought from you. As you know, 10 dinars are due the girl as her second installment (of her marriage portion). I wrote her a bill of divorce fearing the vicissitudes of fate, nor do I know whether I shall be able to return to them in the course of two or even three years, for this town is menaced by enemy attack, and, at present, I do not have a thing. 

I left with you promissory notes: of the Son of the Swollen Woman 6 ½  dinars; Isaac Qābisī — 1 ½  dinars; Ḥayyim Ibn Jāsus- three qinṭārs of tragacanth gum; all this besides what is owed me by Muslims. Collect these debts and keep the proceeds for the alimony of the boy. If she accepts the divorce, I shall send every year the alimony for the boy. But if she prefers not to accept the divorce, deal with this matter cautiously in a way deserving my thanks: ask her whether she is prepared to settle with me in Sicily. (In case she does), let her confirm this by oath and inform me accordingly. I shall then sell my apartment and bring her here together with my boy. By God, I did not write her the bill of divorce, because I do not love her, but because I was afraid of the punishment of the Creator.

And, oh God, oh God, my lord, the little boy! Concern yourself with him in accordance with your [religiosity], so well known to me. When he becomes stronger, let him pass his time with a teacher. I shall write to you and i[nform you about my situation]. By God, at this moment I have nothing, [...]. But as soon as [...] . 


CUL Or.1080 J22 1v


Verso (address)

To my elder and master Abi  Ibrahim Isma 'il b. Abraham, may God be his protector. 

From Joseph b. Samuel, known as al-?ni. Many greetings! 

To Damsis, if God will.


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