Medieval Jewish Family Tragedies related in Letters of Introduction
THE two letters (also from the Cairo Genizah) reproduced below belong to a type which must have been common enough in the Middle Ages. They have a poignant human interest (of a kind with which we have become familiar in our own day), and illustrate the insecurity of the Jewish existence among the nations as well as the strong feeling of fraternity which has always pervaded the Jewish community throughout the ages. There is a sad affinity between the broken lives of Reuben ben Isaac of Rhodez, in France, and of the woman proselyte, widow of the Rabbi David Todros of Narbonne: nothing has been left to them except the hope of finding consolation among 'the mourners of Zion' or in the life of a new generation.
A COMMUNITY, PROBABLY IN SPAIN, TO THE COMMUNITIES ON THE ROAD TO PALESTINE
'I intend to go to Eretz Israel and to Jerusalem to die there. For I have reached the days that do not please me'
[Probably somewhere in Spain, 11th century]
To our brethren in the holy communities of the Diaspora, many greetings from us, your younger brethren, inhabitants of the city....
We wish to inform our brethren about Mr. Reuben, son of Isaac, who came to us from the city of Rhodez in France. This man Reuben was once a very wealthy man; he possessed silver, gold and landed property more than all [his countrymen]. But he fell into the traps of the evil men of his country and became their victim.
One day he sent his only son with his servants to work in the field. Suddenly they were attacked in a forest by rude Christian