מכתב: T-S 13J21.17

מכתב T-S 13J21.17



Letter from a physician in Silifke (Seleucia) to his sister's husband, presumably in Fustat. Dated 21 July 1137. "The Emperor John II Comnenus was on his way to Antioch—held at that time by Raymond of Poitiers—and a part of his powerful army passed through the town in which this letter was written. The Byzantines arrived before the gates of Antioch on August 29. Our letter, however, reports a rumor that the city had already fallen forty days earlier. The writer, a physician, even expresses the expectation that the Emperor might take Aleppo and Damascus as well and already placed an order for medical books which would be looted there from the homes of his colleagues." The writer had emigrated from Fatimid Egypt to Byzantium. Goitein suggests that he traveled initially with the Fatimid navy, as he lists letters he sent in previous years from the army camp at Jaffa, from Rhodes, and from the island of Chios, which were occupied by the Venetian navy in 1224. The physician also stayed in Constantinople before settling in Seleucia and marring a woman with a Greek name (Korasi). He repeatedly describes how wealthy he is despite having arrived penniless, and urges his in-laws to follow his example and join him, no matter how much they have to leave behind. [Recto 1-8:] He opens with a discussion of the fertility of his sister; she has already borne two girls to the recipient, who is now presumably hoping for a son. She has not been able to become pregnant "due to her emaciated state"; the writer believes he would be able to give her medications to allow her to conceive "even after the emaciation." (Goitein's reads shurb instead of shaḥb, and zawāl instead of huzāl, yielding, "My sister did not become pregnant despite the many medicines. If you were here, I would fix her pregnancy, by my life, even after she had ceased to bear children.") The writer's own wife never conceived except with medication. [Recto 8-9:] The writer was unable to cure Avraham, "the little beggar from Akko," who died and left his son an orphan. [Recto 10-17:] The writer provides a detailed list of the dowry that he gave his son-in-law Shemuel b. Moshe b. Shemuel the Longobardian merchant, worth altogether 200 dinars. [Recto 17-21:] The writer explains that his own letters may have never arrived because he used to send valuable materia medica with them, including mulberry concentrate (rubb tūt), ribes (rībās), barberries (barbārīs), Gentiana (ghāfit) leaves and extract, and absinthe (afsintīn). [Recto 21-27:] He lists the five letters he has sent in past years in exchange for only one from the recipients, including Abū Zikrī Yaḥyā and Abū Naṣr b. Isḥāq. [Recto 27-31:] He offers messianic wishes, citing Daniel 12:11 and a piyyut for Havdala written by the recipient's father. [Recto 31-38:] He writes of his great happiness and wealth, including a house worth 200 dinars and 400 barrels of wine. [Verso 1-4:] If the recipient really does join him, he should bring the medical books that the writer left behind. Regardless, he is hoping to obtain some medical books from the loot of Aleppo and Damascus. [Verso 4-22:] He conveys news of family and friends. [Verso 22-24:] He requests a quarter dirhem of seeds of mallow (mulūkhiyah), mandrake (yabrūḥ), and althaea (khiṭmiyyah), as these are unavailable in his location. Information from Goitein's attached summary and translation. EMS. ASE.

T-S 13J21.17 1r



S. D. Goitein, "(עדות היסטורית מעטו של רופא פייטן בארץ ביזאנטיון (מכתב מיום 21 ביולי 1137‎" (in Hebrew), Tarbiz / תרביץ‎ 27, no. 4 (n.p.: Mandel Institute for Jewish Studies / המכון למדעי היהדות ע"ש מנדל, 1958), 521-535.


  1. אישה כי תזריע ושאן . . . ן
  2. דכר כמא כתבת אליך פיוט עמלתה עבראני ולעלה יצל
  3. קלת פיה יוחברו עצמי עם זקיני ותראה לי רביה בן זקונים
  4. ולעל ימן אללה בחצורך ויכונו ג׳ בנאת ורזקהם עלי אללה גל
  5. אסמה וכם חזנת חית לם תחבל כרימתי מן כתרה אלשחב
  6. ולו כנת חאצר לדברת להא אלחבל לעמרי בעד אלהזאל
  7. ולא חילה פי חכם אלדהר הודא זוגתי בלא דוי קט מא חבלת
  8. וקד כאן בן אלשביעי טלב מני מחפוצה לאבן אלסעיליך מן
  9. אהל עכה ולם יתפק וקד תופי //אברהם// ובקי ולדה יתים ואלאמר ללה
  10. וכתבאת אלבלד כתיר דפענא לצהרנא ר׳ שמואל בן ר׳ משה
  11. בן שמואל אלתאגר אלאִנגֻבַרדִי דהב כ׳ד׳ש׳ פצה רטל תוב
  12. דיבאג תובין חריר ובשתין קיתין וזכאריף לטריאתין //ומזרה// חריר
  13. גלאיל ד׳ תובין קטן עמאים י׳ טואל וקצאר סריר וכלה
  14. וכזאנה דולאביה מצורה צטל נחאס וקצריה וכרניב
  15. כואתם דהב ופצה פרש אלכדים בצט תכון אלגמלה מאיתי דינר (!)
  16. ואללה אלמסבב מא כרגנא מן ענדכם במאל לא אמות כי אחיה
  17. ואספר מעשי יה ואעלם אדאם אללה בקאך אן כל כתאב ינפד
  18. צחבתה שי לעֹלָם מא יצל לאני אנפדת רב..א ורב תות
  19. וריבאס וברבאריס וורק גאפת ועצארתה ו[א]פסנתין
  20. ועקאקיר להא ענדכם קימה ותמן והו אלסבב אן לא תצל
  21. אלכתב וערפני מוצל כתאבך אן אלשיך אבו זכרי יחיי חאצרתה
  22. וקד תופית זוגתה ועגבת כיף לם יסהל עליה ולא עלי
  23. אלשיך אבו נצר בן אצחק זל יגמלונא פי בלד אלרום בכתאב
  24. עבראני וקד עלם אללה מא מצת סנה ולא תמצי אל/א/ וכתבי
  25. וארדה אליכם והדה ה׳ כתאב גואב כתאבך אלואחד א׳ צחבה
  26. מוצלה ב׳ מיעיר (!) המלוכה הדא ג׳ מן שיון ד׳ מן אלעסכ[ר] מן
  27. יאפא //ה׳ מן רודס // קלת לעל יצל א׳ מן ד׳ (!) ולעל אללה יזכיך לנבואת דניאל
  28. ושמה יוסאר (!) התמיד ואללה יקיים עלינו ועליכם כמה קאל
  29. ואלדך זצוקל פי אלהבדלה אלדי סירתהא לחצרתך צחבה
  30. בן אכתך אלי חי לאפרחי אזי יקביץ מיארקה ומיעקה
  31. ומצוקה ולמעוז ליום צרה פאמא חאלי וחילי פעלי גמלה
  32. אלסלאמה כמא קאל כלב בן יפונה הקנזי ליהושע בן נון עה
  33. ואן כאן ניתך אלמגי פלא תאסף עלי שי תכליה הנאך כמא
  34. קאל יוסף עה ליעקוב אבינו פקד מן אללה ועוץ וקד עמרת
  35. אלדאר בתקדיר ר דינר (!) ולי ת׳ מטר נביד כל מטר י׳ טמאייא/ת/
  36. וקד כתבת אלי יחיי ואכיה צהרי ואצדקאנא עבראני וערבי
  37. ואנא מבגל פי קומי מופק פי צנעתי מכרם מן רוסא
  38. [מדינ]תי . . . לי אתך וללה אלחמד ואלשכר ואן כאן


S. D. Goitein, "(עדות היסטורית מעטו של רופא פייטן בארץ ביזאנטיון (מכתב מיום 21 ביולי 1137‎" (in Hebrew), Tarbiz / תרביץ‎ 27, no. 4 (n.p.: Mandel Institute for Jewish Studies / המכון למדעי היהדות ע"ש מנדל, 1958), 521-535.

In a Hebrew poem, composed by me, which I sent to you - I hope it will arrive - I  said: "Let my limbs be joined to my aged husband, and fruit will appear: a son of his old  age" Perhaps God will fulfill your wish, when you come here - and then there will be three girls! - but God will nourish them. I can imagine how grieved you were when my  sister did not become pregnant despite the many medicines. If you were here, I would fix  her pregnancy, by my life, even after she had ceased to bear children. However, nothing  avails against the judgment of Fate. Thus, my wife never became pregnant without taking  medicines. On the other hand, at the request of the Seventh, I made a recipe for Abraham, the little beggar from Acre, but it did not help; he died and his boy was left an  orphan - God ordains.  

Dowries in this country are very expensive. I gave my son-in-law, R(abbi) Samuel,  son of R. Moses, son of R. Samuel, the Longobardian (Italian) merchant, the following:  324 pieces of gold; a pound of silver; a brocade robe; two silk robes; two woolen garments;  two Greek pounds of ornaments; ... a silken handbag; four tunics; two cotton robes;  ten long and short turbans; a bed with a canopy; a round cupboard, decorated with paintings; a copper ewer, washbasin and dipper; rings of gold and silver; blankets; servants;  carpets; altogether two hundred dinars. It is God who caused this. When I left you, I  had no money - "I shall not die, but live and recount the works of the Lord.

Please take notice - may God prolong your life - that every letter accompanied with  a gift never arrives. I used to send "mulberries," ribes, barberries, Gentiana leaves and  essence, absinthe and other medicinal plants, which have a very high price in your  country, and this is the reason my letters do not arrive ...  

I am astonished that it is not easy for the elder Abū Zikrī and the elder Abū Naṣr b. Iṣhāq to favor us here in the Land of the Romans with a Hebrew letter God knows, not one year has passed, nor will pass, without letters coming from me to you. As against  your one letter, there are five addressed to you personally by me, namely: 1. This one,  which I am about to deliver to its bearer; 2. From the royal city; 3. From Chios; 4. From  the army camp, from Jaffa; 5. From Rhodes. I thought that at least one of the four would  arrive. 

 Perhaps God will let you see the fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy about the removal of the  daily sacrifice and bring about, in my life and in yours, what your late father has expressed  in a song of his for ushering out the Sabbath - I sent it to you with your sister's son -:  My living God will gather in my chicks, etc. 

As for me, I am in the best of health, as Caleb said to Joshua ("I am as strong this day  as I was on the day that Moses sent me.") If you come here, as you intend to, you will  not long regretfully for anything you left there; as Joseph said to our father Jacob ("Come  down to me; tarry not ... and I shall nourish you.") God has favored me and replaced  my losses. I have built a house worth 200 dinars, and I possess 400 barrels of wine, each  measuring 10 timāya- I have written about all this to Yaḥyā and his brother, my  brother-in-law, and to all our friends, in both Hebrew and Arabic. I am well liked here,  successful in my profession, and honored by the leaders of... Thanks and praise  to God.  

Should you really come, please bring my books, which I left behind with you. As a matter of fact, I have asked our commanders to take along any medical books for me, from  Aleppo or from Damascus, which might fall into their hands. According to what we have  heard, they have already taken Antioch.  


You ask about Abu 'l-Ḥasan, the son of the daughter of my paternal uncle. I have  already written in ten letters that he died in Constantinople, in the house of Abū ‘Alī, the  son-in-law of the Ḥāvēr al-Baghdādī, the pancake maker. It is reported that he left  money, textiles, and promissory notes. I was sorry to learn about the misfortune of the daughter of my paternal uncle. God knows, had it not been for the insecurity of communications, I would have sent help not only to her, but to the whole family. I have sent  a letter of condolence to the elder Abū Zikrī on the death of his mother, his aunt, and her  son Abu 'l-Faḍl. Hamawi and his son wrote you a letter of thanks and friendship together with this my letter to you. In future, do not address him as teacher; he is a rabbi, and his  son has studied with R. Hillel and he himself was a student of my grandfather and of  R.... He is now in Pa(l)ia, which is as distant from Seleucia as Cairo is from the  Fayyūm. He married off his son there. This is a place which has everything in the world just like the Fayyūm. He serves them as rabbi, preacher, judge, and as head of the community. They are about fifty families. May God bless them. Hamawī and his son visit us  frequently. Fahd, the son of al-Ṣahrajti, and his son have died. Only his wife, the daughter of Ben Shumailē, is still alive. Please inform his brother, my lord R. Solomon.  

I kiss your hands and your eyes, and so do Korasi and her little ones, my father  (or: brother)-in-law, Hamawī, his son and his wife. I kiss the eyes of my sister, and  (greetings to) the son of my paternal uncle, my paternal aunt and his sisters, and to any one who asks about me; also to the cousin of my mother in Alexandria.  

I have written to him and to you to send me a quarter of a dirham of seeds of mallow,  mandrake, and althaea, for we do not have any of these. So far, I have not received a  thing.  

Written on the first day of the month of Av in the year 1448 (of the era of the documents). 


T-S 13J21.17 1v



  1. לחצרתך מגי פתכון כתבי אלדי כליתהם הנאך צחבתך
  2. עלי אני קד אוצית רושאנא(!) אן וקע להם מן צובה
  3. ודמשק כתב טביה יצתצחבוהא לי וקד מלכו הם עם
  4. אנט[אכ]יה כמא סמענאה פאמא חאל אבו אלחסן בן בנת כאלי
  5. פקד כתבת י׳ כתב אנה תופי פי בית אבו עלי צהר אלחבר
  6. אלבגדאדי אלזלבא[ני פ]י אלקסטנטיניה ודכרו אנה כלף מאל
  7. ותיאב ונסך ואלע.ם ללה וגמני מא גרי עלי בנת כאלי
  8. וקד עלם אללה לכל אהלי לולא קלה אלתקה כנת אנפד ממ/א/
  9. בעת אללה לא להא וחדהא וקד כתבת ללשיך אבי זכרי
  10. אעזיה ען ואלדתה וכאלתה וולדהא אבי אלפצל זל וקד
  11. כתב חמוי וולדה כתאב עבראני מע מוצל כתאבך
  12. באלשכר ואלמחבה ולא תעוד תכתב בסבבה אלמעלם לאן
  13. הדא נקץ ענדהם לאן אלרגל ראב (!) וולדה תלמיד ר הליל זל
  14. וחמוי תלמיד גדי ותלמיד ר ..מ. זל והו אליום בבא..יה
  15. תכון מן סלוכיא מתל מצר מן אלפיום וקד זוג ולדה הנאך
  16. וכל כיר אלדניא ענדהם מתל אלפיום והו להם ראב (!) ודרשאן
  17. ודיאן וראש והם כמו נ׳ בתים יברכם אל והו וולדה כל קליל
  18. ענדנא ובן אלצהרגתי פהד תופי הו וולדה ובקוית (!)
  19. זוגתה בנת בן שמילה תעלם אלמולי אכיה ר׳ שלמה
  20. אני אקבל ידיך ועיניך וכדלך כֻרְשִׂי ואט{פ}אלהא
  21. וצהרנא וחמוי וולדה וזוגתה ועיני כרימתי ובן כאלי
  22. וכאלתי וכואתה וכל מן סאל ענא ובן כאל ואלדתי //בנאמון//
  23. וכנת כתבת אליה ואליכם בסבב רבע דרהם בזר מלוכיה
  24. ויברוח וכטמיה לאן מא לנא מנהם שי ולם יצלני
  25. שי אלי אלאן נכתב בראש חודש אב שנת אתמח לש
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