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VCU Menorah Review Winter/Spring 2015
Number 82
For the Enrichment of Jewish Thought

Zachor

From Donna Sarah to her husband Solomon

This letter belongs to the private Hebrew letters found in the Genizah. It is addressed to the scribe Solomon who left his home in an Italian town, apparently with the purpose of obtaining release from taxes, and did not return, for unknown reasons. Whether the letter was composed by his wife, Donna Sarah, herself, or by someone on her behalf, we cannot say. The author displays considerable epistolary skill, which enable him or her to plead eloquently the cause of an abandoned wife and mother.

Donna Sarah to Her Husband Solomon.
An Italian town, probably 13th century

May ample peace and welfare be with my master and ruler, the light of my eyes, the crown of my head, my master and husband, the learned Rabbi Solomon, the Scribe, may he live long. May ample peace be bestowed upon you by the Master of peace and from Donna Sarah your wife, your daughters Reina and Rachel, from Rabbi Moses, your son-in-law, and Rebecca.

We are all longing to see your sweet face, as one longs after the face of God, and we are wondering why you have not answered the numerous letters we have sent you. We have written you often, begging you to return, but — no answer at all. If you can manage with the help of the esteemed physician, Rabbi Solomon, may he live long, to obtain release from taxes, it will be greatly to your profit, and this kindness will exceed all benefits which he has conferred on you. May the Lord grant him a rich reward in this world and the world to come, and may he educate his son for Torah, marriage, and good works. And now let us return to the previous subject. We are all assembled, your wife, your daughters, and your son-in-law Moses, to implore you from the bottom of our hearts not to go further, either by sea of by land, because we have heard that you have the intention of leaving for Turkey. I swear to the Lord that, if you do this, you must not speak with us anymore; and if you do this, which will make the world despise us and cause a quarrel between your son-in-law and your daughter, who is in certain circumstances [sic], you will inflict pain upon your daughter and perhaps she will suffer a miscarriage. And you will also endanger the happiness of your daughter Rachel, who has grown up and has become a beautiful and modest maiden. People will talk scandal and say: “Here is a respectable old scribe, who left his wife and daughters and has been missing for many years. Perhaps he is mad. For he went to a distant county and you know what the verse says: ‘The eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.’” Beg the physician, Rabbi Solomon, therefore, to provide you a confirmation about the release from the taxes; otherwise come home [in the name of] the Blessed one! …Do nothing else. And Peace!

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Updated: Jan. 24, 2013

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