Letter: ENA 2558.10

Letter ENA 2558.10



Letter from Berakhot b. Avraham Ibn al-Ḥājja (aka Abū l-Barakāt Hibatallāh b. Ibrāhīm al-Ṣāʾigh), in Būsh, in northern Upper Egypt (בעמאל אלצעיד אלאדנא/بعمال الصعيد الادنا), to his mother, in Alexandria. The letter is dated: Sunday, the fast day of 17 Tammuz 4918 AM, which is 1158 CE. The address is made out to Alexandria, the goldsmiths' market, to be given to Abū Zikrī Yehuda b. Yiṣḥaq, who is to forward it to the house (or wife) of Abū l-Wafāʾ b. Ḥalfon al-Ḥaddād in the Bīr Jabr neighborhood, at the Iraqi synagogue (simply called Kanīsat al-Yahūd in the Arabic version). One of those men is the brother-in-law of the sender. The letter is written in Judaeo-Arabic, in a beautiful hand. The address is written in both Judaeo-Arabic and Arabic script. He opens with a complaint about the lack of letters from his mother and from his brother Abū Saʿd and even says that he took an oath not to write again, which he clearly failed to keep. He says he is sick and tired of working in Upper Egypt (bilād al-ṣaʿīd), which is why he came down to Būsh, but he is still not content there, so he hopes to move on to Fustat after the holiday. He says that caravans from Alexandria frequently come to Būsh to buy flax. He wants to find a trustworthy man with whom to send some flax to his mother so that she can make him a nice linen garment for Shabbat and holidays; he already has plenty of garments for everyday use. He mentions 100 dinars, but the context is not clear. He was told that ʿAmāʾim and Raḥel her maternal aunt are in Fustat, together with her husband Abū l-Faḍl and a certain Abū l-Surūr. The text in the margin contains some juicy gossip: "A letter came for me (with the news) that Hārūn divorced his wife Yaman. Praise God! She married him and divorced him while we were absent. Keep her with you—(away?) from the wife of Abū l-Wafāʾ—in the house until God grants her a livelihood." The situation is unclear, but it appears that the sender is on the side of Yaman, who also has a son to rear. It is not clear how the wife of Abū l-Wafāʾ—who is supposed to receive this letter, according to the address—fits in. In any case, the addressee should shelter [Yaman] and feed her until the sender can arrive and take her to her brother in al-Shām. The best way to contact the sender is to send letters to Fustat to al-Bilbaysī or to Abū Sahl in Darb al-Kharrāṭīn, and they will forward them with the Jewish merchants to Abū l-Barakāt al-Ṣāʾigh the Jew in Būsh. On verso, the letter concludes with greetings to various people, including: Abū l-Bishr and his mother; Yūsuf; Mukhtār who was in Barqa; the teacher Abū Zikrī Yehuda and his children. (The sender's family name, Ibn al-Ḥājja, means 'son of the woman who made the pilgrimage,' but there is a chance it could be Ibn al-Ḥāja and a nickname for someone with many needs). OZ, AA, ASE.

ENA 2558.10 2




ENA 2558.10 1

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