מכתב: T-S 13J20.22

מכתב T-S 13J20.22



Letter from Ḥalfon b. Menashshe's wife, in Fustat, to her brother Abū l-Ḥasan ʿEli b. Hillel, probably in Bahnasa (based on T-S 13J21.18). In the hand of Ḥalfon b. Menashshe. In Judaeo-Arabic. Dating: 1121–25 CE. She reports that the young son of Sitt al-Jamāl died immediately after ʿEli departed. They buried him in the 'desert' early on Friday, and when they returned, they found Sitt al-Jamāl's son Abū l-Mufaḍḍal sick as well, and he remains in a difficult condition (r6–11). She reports that later the same day, Abū l-Faḍl b. al-Neʾeman was fired from his post by the vizier al-Maʾmūn (1121–25) and was commanded to leave Cairo and take up residence in Fustat. Abū l-Faḍl cannot show his face now, and the rest cannot be explained in a letter (r11–14). "These things came to me upon emptiness of heart (farāgh qalb)" (cf. Quran 28:10)—perhaps she means that she could spare no attention for this matter, because she was so preoccupied on account of her children, who are still sick, as the addressee knows. "My heart became split, rising and falling, and if it weren't for your rebuke, I wouldn't have written you a single letter of all this" (r14–16). Abū ʿImrān is in the same state (probably of illness) that the addressee knows about (r16–17). She here describes the weaving of a checkered (mutakhkhat) shuqqa cloth and a complex deal involving a silk weaver (al-qazzāz) and the addressee and money to be sent (r19–25). Goitein understands that she owes the silk weaver 9.5 dirhams of wages for the piece of cloth 19.5 cubits long ("Nineteen and a half cubits were not ordered, but the proprietor had given the weaver a certain quantity of silk thread (most probably with the intention of getting 20 cubits) and was notified in the letter of the yield. Here the payment is not called ujra, as usual, but kirā, used today in Egypt for "rent" and "fare," but in other countries, e.g., Yemen, for "wages."). The addressee's elder son reminds him to send the Hebrew(-script) letter of condolence he had promised. At the very end of the letter, she complains about what they are suffering from the wife of Khalaf and how she is intending to do something (complain / raise a petition?) to the government. (Information in part from Goitein's index cards; also Mediterranean Society, I, pp. 90, 404, 412; II, pp. 183, 345, 558; V, pp. 243, 574.) ASE.

T-S 13J20.22 1r



S. D. Goitein, unpublished editions.


  1. בשמ רחמ
  2. לו דהבת אן אשרח לך יא אכי וסידי ואתירי ומולאי מא חאלנא מן אלוחשה
  3. לפראק חצרתך אלכרימה ל[מא] וסע דלך ביאן ולא חמלתה מכאתבה ואלי
  4. אלכאלק יתעלה שמו אסאל וארגב פי אן יגעלך פי חיז אלסלאמה וינגח
  5. מסאעיך ויכלצך מן כל שדה ולא יוקפני לך עלי מכרוה והוא למען שמו
  6. ישמע ויענה ואמא מא תריד עלמה פאן סאעה כרוגך חתי אנני
  7. לא אחתשם אן אקול אן מא כנת בעד וצלת אלברכה מאת בן סת אל
  8. גמאל אלצגיר אללה תעאלי יכפינא פיך ופי אולאדך וטלענא בה בכרה
  9. יום אלגמעה אלצחרא ונזלנא מן אלדפן מרץ אבנהא אלכביר אבו אלמפצל
  10. והו אלי אלאן תחת חאלה צעבה אללה תעאלי יכפי שבאבה וישפיה באל
  11. עאפיה ואכר נהאר יום אלגמעה אצרף אלשיך אבו אלפצל בן אל
  12. נאמן מן אלכדמה ואמר מולאי אלמאמון באן לא יבקא באלקאהרה
  13. ואנזלה אלי מצר והו אלי אלאן לא יקדר יטהר ואמור לא ימכן שרחהא
  14. פי כתאב וגאתני הדה אלאשיא עלי פראג קלב ולא חילה ואלצביאן
  15. מרצא כמא תערף וצרת מקסמה אלקלב טאלעה נאזלה ולולא פזעי
  16. מן עתבך למא כתבת לך חרף ואחד מן גמיע דלך ואבו עמראן עלי
  17. אלחאל אלדי תערף אעלמתך דלך ומא אחתאג אוציך פי אן לא תקטע
  18. עני אכבארך בכל מא אנת עליה ואחואל אולאדך ומן ענדך
  19. פשגל קלובנא בך אופא מן גמיע אלאשיא ואעלמך איצא אן אל
  20. שקה אלמתבת קד פרגת וגא טולהא תסעה עשר דראע ואל
  21. קזאז כל סאעה ענדי יטאלבני בתסעה ונצף ען כראהא ובאללה
  22. אלעטים לו כאן מע אחדנא שי מא אבקינאהא לחטה ולא כתאבנאך
  23. בדלך פאחרץ פי אנפאד אלדראהם סרעה נפתכהא ונטרחהא אלקצ[אר
  24. לעל תנתגז לך קריב וכדלך איצא אלמראה אנפד סתה ונצף חתי
  25. נפתכהא בהא ולא תתואנא ומא כאן לך מן חאגה שרפנא בקצאהא
  26. ולא תקטע ענא אכבארך פי כל וקת ליטמאן קלובנא כץ נפסך

Recto, right margin:

  1. באתם אלסלאם ואהלך ואולאדך אלסלאם ואלשיך אבו אלמנא ואכוה אלשיך אבו אלמעאלי ופתוח וסת אלנסב וסת
  2. אלפכר וצהרך ומופק יכצוך אלסלאם ועבדך אבו סעיד בן קטאיף משתאק אליך ומסתוחש מנך

Recto, top margin:

  1. והו יכצך ויכץ אולאדך
  2. באתם אלסלאם
  3. ובאלכאץ ולדך
  4. אלכביר והו יסאלך
  5. פי כתב כתאב
  6. אלעזא אלדי אועדתה
  7. בה עבראני ואנפדה
  8. סרעה ולא תסל
  9. מא נקאסי מן זוגה
  10. כלף אלתי אזוגתוה
  11. ענדכם והי מעולה
  12. תקף ללסלטאן
  13. ומא [ר]אי
  14. תקדים אל
  15. . . גרה


Renée Levine Melammed, "Jewish women in Muslim territory in the Middle Ages: two documents from the Cairo Geniza," Clio. Women, Gender, History, no. 44 (n.p.: Belin, 2016), 229–41.


  1. In your name, O merciful one

  2. If I were to begin to elaborate for you, my brother, my lord and favored one, and he who [...] those longings that I have (for you)

  3. Due to the separation from your honored presence, a note could not possibly contain this nor would an exchange of letters encompass it.

  4. The creator, may his name be exalted, I request and beseech that he will place you in the realm of being safe and sound, and allow for the success of

  5. Your efforts, and will deliver you from all misfortune, and will not confront me with any bad news about you. And he, for his name’s sake,

  6. May he hear and respond. As for what you want to know, from the time of your departure, even I

  7. Am not ashamed to say that I wasn’t (there). After the arrival of the “blessing,” the young son of Sitt al-

  8. Jamal died, may God the exalted protect you for us and your children. We brought him in the morning

  9. On Friday to the cemetery and (as) we left the burial, her eldest son, Abu al Mufaḍḍal, fell ill 

  10. And he is, until now, in a serious condition, may God the exalted guard his youth, and heal him 

  11. With (good) health. On Friday afternoon, the elder Abu al-Faḍl, son of “the trustworthy one,” was dismissed

  12.  From service. And my lord al-Ma’mun ordered him not to remain in Cairo

  13. And dispatched him to Fustat. And until now, he cannot show his face (here). There are other matters that are impossible to explain

  14. In a letter. These things came to my knowledge when I was distracted and there is no recourse. And the boys

  15.  Are ill, as you know. My heart is split, (from the) top down. If I were not fearful

  16. That you would berate me, I wouldn’t have written you even one word about all of this. And Abu ‘Imran is in the same

  17. condition; you already know (because) I notified you about this. And I need not counsel you not to withhold

  18. From me your news about everything concerning you and the condition of your children and those with you.

  19. We are very worried about you more than anything else. I am also informing you

  20. That the sheet of cloth that was smoothed out is unloaded and its length comes to 19 cubits,

  21. And the silk merchant is by me constantly demanding from me a payment of 9 and ½ dirhems for (its) storage. And by God

  22.  Almighty, if one of us had anything, we would not leave it (the silk with him) for one moment. And we would not be corresponding with you

  23. about this. Please make an effort to send the dirhems quickly so that we can recover it and send it to the cleaner.

  24. Perhaps it will be ready for you soon. Likewise also send six and a half (dirhems) for the mirror so that

  25.  We can recover it with them (the dirhems). And do not hesitate, if you have need of anything whatsoever, honor us in this way by letting us discharge it.

  26. Do not hold back news about yourself, (but write to us) all the time so that our hearts will be calm. I send you


Right margin

Best regards and to your wife and regards to your children. And the elder Abu al-Muna and his brother, the elder Abu al-Ma’ali, and Futuh and Sitt al-Nasab and Sitt al-Fakhr and your brother-in-law and Muwaffaq send you greetings. And your slave Sa’id ben Qata’if misses you and yearns to see you.


Upper margin

And he blesses you and your children heartily and especially your eldest son. And he (the slave) requests that you write the letter of consolation which you promised him, in Hebrew, and (had promised) to send it quickly. And don’t ask how we suffer because of the wife of Khalaf who you (pl.) had him wed by you, and she intends to go into service of the sultan…

T-S 13J20.22 1v


Verso, address:

  1. אכי ומולאי אבו אלחסן עאלי בן הלאל
  2. אלחזן אלבגדאדי זל
  3. אטאל אללה בקאה ואדאם נעמתה
  4. מן כרימתה געלת פדאה
  5. אמונה אומן

Verso (address)

To my lord and brother Abu al-Hasan

‘Ali b. Hillel, the Baghdadi

Hazan of blessed memory.

May God prolong his life and perpetuate his grace.

From his sister, may she Be his redemption. Steadfast faithfulness.


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