A Treasury of Jewish Letters: Letters from the Famous and the Humble - Vol. 1

By Franz Kobler | Go to book overview
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26
A Family Letter written in Hebrew by a Jewess

LETTERS from Jewish women which have survived from the Middle Ages are few and far between, and this one (also from the Cairo Genizah) is one of the earliest. It is written in elegant paitanic Hebrew, and there is no reason to doubt that it was the composition of Maliha herself. This lady, originally from Egypt, had apparently gone to settle in Byzantium on being married, and after some years of absence she was longing once more to see her family in her native land. That she was afraid of the voyage is not surprising, considering the dangers to which one of the preceding letters (pp. 141f.) bears forceful testimony. The feminine delicacy with which the writer's longing and anxiety are conveyed makes this document a notable contribution to Jewish letter-writing.

LADY MALIHA TO HER BROTHERS ABU-SAID AND SOLOMON

'Oh for the wings of a dove that I could fly and join my brothers!'

[ Byzantium, 11th or 12th century]

May this letter be delivered in gladness to my excellent brothers, Abu Said and Solomon, from your sister Maliha. May peace from Heaven like the drops of water from above [and abundant] like the fishes in the depths [of the sea] be bestowed upon you and strength, vigour, favour, mercy and pity and a long life like his who became father of the people,1 or his who was bound as a victim on a high mountain,2 or of Jacob, the plain man 3, or of him who dreamed,4 or of him who sprinkled the blood on the altar seven times.5 May all blessings come and be gathered and accumulated upon the heads of my brothers, Solomon and Abu Said, gentle and most beloved brothers, from your sister Maliha. And heartiest greetings from my little daughter Zoe.

We are in good health, and trust in the Rock of your welfare

-145-

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