מכתב: T-S 16.277

מכתב T-S 16.277



Letter from Surūr, in Bilbays, to his widowed mother, in Cairo, who lives with her two other sons Faraj Allāh and Rashīd. The letter deals with a case to be brought before the Nagid Yehoshua Maimonides (1310–55) b. Avraham II (1245–1313) b. David (1222–1300) b. Avraham (1186–1237) b. Moshe (1135–1204), containing circumstantial evidence (amāra) and details sustaining it. The first part of the letter (r1–17) includes lengthy apologies for failing to visit when he heard that his mother was sick. He was unable to come because of the expense of renting an animal, the danger of the journey, and because he was suffering from ophthalmia ('but now, thank God, I am better'). In the next part of the letter (r18–v1), he informs his mother that he remarried four months earlier, to a beautiful virgin who shares all of his mother's good traits and who is the fulfillment of his mother's prayers for him. His wife is distressed on behalf of her mother-in-law's illness and wishes to come to visit. Goitein suggests that the key to why Surūr neglected to tell his mother or ask her permission prior to the marriage lies in his neglect to mention his wife's name or that she comes from a good family. Most likely, she did not come from a good family, and his mother would have disapproved. In the third part of the letter (v1–27), he gets to the main purpose of writing: he had loaned a siddur to a pilgrim to Palestine named Fakhr against a security of 6.5 nuqra dirhams (containing three times as much silver as regular dirhams). Now that Fakhr has returned to Cairo, he has heard that family members already returned the silver, but Fakhr refused to return the siddur. The writer wishes Fakhr to be pressured to return the siddur. He suggests first that his family tell Sulaymān al-ʿAṭṭār, who mediated the original loan/security, "So-and-so [Surūr] says such-and-such to you with the following signs." He then recounts the story of how Sulaymān and Fakhr stayed in the khān in Bilbays with six other pilgrims (al-Shaykh Muwaffaq the cantor, Saʿīd b. al-Kātib, Nāṣir b. Ṭayyib, Yehoshua b. al-Ghāriq, Mūsā b. Mardūk, and Ibn Abū Saʿd al-Khādim), and how they were stranded there over Shabbat when the caravan left. If Sulaymān's intervention doesn't work, Surūr's brother Faraj Allāh should approach the Nagid Yehoshua. He then gives "signs" to remind the Nagid of his case: how, when he visited Bilbays, he spoke with Surūr about the copy of a Bible belonging to Yaʿqūb the brother of the teacher; how the Nagid was involved in Surūr's divorce from his first wife; and how the Nagid went to see the head of police (wālī) of Bilbays, who directed him to the Qadi, who was not available. If this doesn't work, he suggests that his brother go to Yaʿqūb the brother of the teacher and solicit his help. Information from Mediterranean Society, II, pp. 337, 601 and from Goitein's Tarbiz article on Yehoshua Maimonides. ASE.

T-S 16.277 1r



S. D. Goitein, unpublished editions.
  1. עמי עשו שקר החן והבל היופי אשה יראת וגו
  2. אלי חצרה אלואלדה אלעזיזה אלמופקה אלסעידה ופקהא אללה תע
  3. ואטאל בקאהא ואדאם עזהא ולא אוחש מן כדמתהא וקריב
  4. ליס בעיד יגמע אלשמל בהא הי ואלאכוה אלמופקין אלעזיזין
  5. פרג אללה ורשיד ופקהם אללה תע ושמלהם ברחמתה וענאיתה
  6. וינהי אלי עלמהם אלכרים אן אלממלוך טיב פי עאפיה בענאיה
  7. אלהי הרוחות ורופא כל בשר ואנא יא ואלדתי משתאק אלי
  8. נטרכם אלכרים כתיר כתיר גדא וסמעת באנך צעיפה
  9. פשק אלאמר עליי גדא וצעב עליי וקצדת אן אגי אלי כדמתך
  10. מא קדרת לאגל כרי אלבהימה ומשקה אלטריק וכלפהא
  11. ו]כנת רמד ואליום ברוך השם אנא טיב והני אלסר וטיב אל
  12. עיש מן פצל אל שדי וסובל הכל וסומך נופלים ועוזר
  13. דלים וישהד אללה [ תע . . . . . .]ק . . . אלראזק לקד [תאלמת]
  14. כתיר למא סמעת באנך צעיפה ומא פי ידי חילה ולאכן
  15. יגבר צדעך דיין אלמנות ואבי יתומים כי הוא יכאיב
  16. ו]יחבש וג ואללה תע למען שמו המיוחד בעולמו
  17. .] יסתרנא בחאיתך ובקאך יא גאמעה אלשמל ויא תאג
  18. ר]אסנא וקד דכלת ביתי מן מדה ארבעה שהור וכוני יא
  19. ואלדתי טיבה אלדי כנת תדעי לי בה חצל באנהא אשה
  20. כ]שרה צדקת טובת מראה מאד בתולה וא ל יד ומא
  21. כ]לת מן אכלאקך אלכרימה אלגמילה אלחסנה אלראיסה
  22. שי והי משתאקה אלי נצרך אלשריף ושק עליהא צעפך
  23. פאללה תע יגמע אלשמל בך קריב ואנתי טיבה פי עאפיה
  24. ומא אריד //מן// אחסאנך וצדקאתך אלא תתפצלי עליי באל
  25. דעא לי


S. D. Goitein, "Parents and Children: a Genizah Study of the Medieval Jewish Family," Gratz College Annual of Jewish Studies 4 (n.p., 1975), 47 - 68.

(My) help comes) f(rom the) L(ord, who) m(ade) h(eaven) and earth) Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord (is to be praised).” 


To my beloved, prosperous, and blessed mother, may God, the ex(alted), make her prosper, prolong her life, and make her honored posi- tion permanent. May he never let me be absent from her service, and soon, note late, unite me with her and with my prosperous and beloved brothers Faraj Allah and Rashid, may God make them prosper and encompass them with his mercy and solicitude. 

I bring herewith respectfully to your knowledge that I am well and in good health thanks to the solicitude of the God of the spirits and healer of all flesh. I am yearning, dear mother, very very much to see you. I heard that you were ill and was very much upset and sad about this. 

I intended to come and serve you, but was unable to do so because of the high price of the rent of a mount and the other expenses and difficulties of the travel. Moreover, I had sore eyes. Today, however, thanks to his name, I am well and happy and have a good life, thanks to the allmighty God who bears all, supports the falling, and helps the poor. God the creator… and sustainer, is my witness that I was deeply distressed when I learned about your illness, being unable to help. But the Judge of the widows and Father of the orphans will restore your health, for he wounds and binds up, etc. God, the ex(alted), for the sake of the sanctification of his name in his world, will preserve you and protect us by your presence, you, the unifier of our dispersed family, you, the crown of my head. 


Four months ago I entered my house. But be quiet, dear mother, all you have asked for me in your prayers has come true, for she is a virtuous and pious woman, "very fair to look upon, a virgin w(hom no) m(an) h(ad) k(nown).”  She does not lack any of your noble, fine, beautiful, and excellent character-traits. She yearns for your respected pres- ence and is distressed about your illness. May God, the ex(alted), unite us soon while you are in good spirits and health. And I request from you the favor and charity that you bestow upon me your prayers day and night, as you have been accustomed to do for me.


I heard that you (plural) have returned the money for which the prayer book was given as a collateral, but that he refused to give it to you. 

Please say (plural) to Sulaymān the druggist: "So-and-so' says to you: 'Remember what happened to you in Bilbays, in the caravanserai outside the town, which is situated on the route to Palestine; you were then on your way to the Land of Israel, may it be rebuilt and restored soon, you, and the cantor Muwaffaq (“Prosper"), and Saʿid, the son of the gov- ernment clerk, (may his) R(ock) p(reserve him), and Ṇāsir b. Tayyib 

("Victor, son of Good"), and Joshuʿa, the Son of the Drowned," and Mūsā b. Mardūk (“Moses, son of Mordechai"), and the son of Abū Saʿd, the beadle (may his) e(nd be) g(ood). He gave you 61⁄2 silver pieces and you gave them to him.

And remember how the caravan moved on and left you in the caravanserai, where the whole company passed the Sabbath.1 So let Fakhr give me the prayer book." 

If he will not give it to you (plural), let my brother Faraj Allah [and ...] and Abu Saʿid, the beadle, go to our lord, the Nagid, (our) m(aster and) t(eacher) Joshua may God heighten his rank and increase his dignity and say to him, I mean, the Nagid: "Remember what you have said to your servant Surūr in Bilbays with regard to the copy belonging to the elder Yaʿqūb (Jacob), the brother of the school teacher. Or remember, how a divorce was arranged for your maidservant. Or remember how I went to the chief of the police in Bilbays and how he referred me to the qadi of Bilbays, whom I did not find. So, please, get that prayer book out of the hands of so-and-so. Or let my brother go to the elder Yaʿqūb, the brother of the school teacher and say to him: "So-and-so says to you: 'Remember when your servant had supper with [ . . . . . . . . . . . .]and said to you giving an oath on the Bible [ . . . . . . . . . . ]. Induce Fakhr to give me the prayer book." 


T-S 16.277 1v



  1. פי אלליל ואלנהאר כמא עואידך עליי וסמעת אנכם
  2. [[אלסידור מא]] ארדדתוה אלפצה אלדי כאן אלסידור
  3. מרהון עליהא מא רצי יעטיה לכם פקולוא(!) אלי סלימאן
  4. אל]עטאר קאל לך פלאן באמארה מא וגדתה פי בלביס
  5. פ]י אלכאן אלדי ברא דרב אלשאם ואנת ראיה אלי ארץ
  6. י]שראל מהרה תבנה ותכונן אנת ואלשיך מופק אלהון
  7. ו]סעיד בן אלכאתב שצ ונאצר בן טיב ויהושע בן אלגארך
  8. ומו]סי בן מרדוך ובן אבו סעד אלכאדם סט ואעטאך
  9. פ]תח ונצף וקרה ואעטיתהא לה ובאלאמארה כאנוא
  10. אלגמאל סאפרוא וכלוכם פי אלכאן ואסבתוא פיה
  11. כלי פכר יעטיני אלסידור ואן כאן מא יעטיה לכם
  12. כלי אכי פר גאללה [. . . . . . . . . . . . .] אלכאדם ירוח
  13. אלי סידנא אלנגיד מור [י]הושע יעלה אלהים מעלתו
  14. למעלה ויגדל כבודו תם יקול לה אעלם לי אלנגיד באמ
  15. באמארה מא קלת לממלוכך סרור פי בלביס עלי אל
  16. נסכה אלדי ללשיך יעקוב אכו אלמלמד או באמארה עברתהא
  17. אלגיט או באמארה מא רחת אלי ואלי בלביס ווגהה אלי קאצי
  18. בלביס ומא וגדתה כלץ לי אלסידור מן פלאן או כלי אכי
  19. ירוח אלי אלשיך יעקוב אבו אלמלמד ויקול לה קאל פ.
  20. פלאן באמארה מא אתעשא עבדך . . . . . . . . . . . .
  21. וכדלך עלי אלמצחף וקבלה כלה וגזאח כלי מכר יעטיני
  22. אלסידור בעד אלסלאם עלי ידיד נפשי אלופי ומידעי עטרת
  23. ראשי אורי וישעי ונוגה שמשי מצודתי וסלעי חלקי וכוסי
  24. מ ורבי חרש ומסגרי פרשי ורכבי קרית משושי קשתי וחרבי
  25. הוא אדונינו וטפסרינו מלמדינו וכתרנו אלעזר אשר במיליו אני
  26. נעזר המלמד נזר כל המלמדים וכתר השרידים
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