A Letter of Introduction for a medieval Jew who travelled from Russia to Jerusalem
THIS letter introduces us to a particular Jewish type of travellers -- a member of the great family of Jewish pilgrims to the Holy Land. The magnetic power which has attracted Jews in all countries and during all ages to their sacred homeland is well illustrated by the irresistible desire of this unknown Russian Jew, neither Rabbi nor scholar, but a most simple, unsophisticated soul, to set out on the long and dangerous journey to Palestine. The letter, given to him by the community of Salonica as a kind of passport (once again a gem from the Cairo Genizah), also shows the readiness of the Jews to assist the pilgrims.
'For he knows only Russian'
[Salonica, probably 11th century]
...We send greetings to you and feel it our duty to inform you about the request of Mr. N. N. He is a Jew from Russia and stayed with us here in Salonica, where he met his relative, Mr. X. Y., who returned recently from the holy city of Jerusalem, may it be restored by the Lord for ever. When he was told about the splendour of Palestine, Mr. N. N., too, became very desirous of going there and prostrating himself on the sacred spot. He asked us to give him these few lines in order to use them as means of introduction.
Please help him to reach his goal by the proper route, with the support of reliable men, from town to town, from island to island. For he knows neither Hebrew nor Greek nor Arabic but only Russian, the language of his homeland.
At all times the house of Israel, our brethren...excelled in the strength of righteousness and the power of charity, and you