Judaica DH at the Penn Libraries Blog //Talking the Talk: Pretty Signatures
Blog //Talking the Talk: Pretty Signatures

In this series we honor the contributions made on the Zooniverse Talk boards for our project, Scribes of the Cairo Geniza . Talk is a way for citizen scientists on Zooniverse to converse with one another and experts on the different material they are working on, ask questions, and explore new insights. Each week we will feature a talk conversation that we love. Thanks for the participation #genizascribes! Subject 12602701: ENA NS 31, Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary

@stefriegel2: pretty #signature

@citsci-rancho: Those #signatures are astounding! @researchers What sort of document is this?

Researcher: This is a formal letter, quite modern — it was sent from Jerusalem to a place called Karkukh (maybe the city Kirkuk in northern Iraq) in the year 1843 (I wander how it found its way to the Genizah, if at all) The senders, probably the leaders of the Jewish community in Jerusalem, reproach the local leaders of Karkukh for not giving any money to their envoy (שלוחא דרבנן), whose name is written there in big letters — Ya’akov Aharon Koral — who came to the city to collect money for Jerusalem three months ago and was left empty handed. They accuse them of neglecting the holy city, against the tradition, and of not keeping their promises. If I understand correctly, there is also some hidden threat that if they continue with such a policy, the community of Jerusalem will cut of any contact with them, and pray at the Western Wall to replace the unfriendly local leadership :0
Amazing #letter ! #jerusalem #money

@stefriegel2: Amazing!

Researcher: Those wacky signatures started in the Mamluk period and continued into the Ottoman period, presumably in imitation of the signatures on sultans’ decrees, the `alāma and tughrā.

@citsci-rancho: Jaw-dropping! Thanks for the detailed translation.
It does seem odd that it turned up among the Geniza fragments. But if this was a big deal at the time, the authorities in Jerusalem might have circulated copies of the letter sent to Karkukh both to shame them, and to threaten other communities not to try anything similar. This tactic might be a safer one than Western Wall prayers for regime change in Karkukh. After all, if they actually tried that, and nothing happened, it would be mighty embarrassing, to put it mildly.

@citsci-rancho: I love the wacky #signatures! You have commented previously that they are very hard to decipher, and there is not yet much work done on them. Maybe it will be quite a while before there is published work, but if you do come across more information about them, please let us know. Thanks!

@Chavi-NY: #samach_tet in signature , bottom left side of the page

@ev111: I read the Hebrew sentences (lines 4 & 5) :
כל העמל והטורח לא עלתה בידו ליקח הכסף פרט למזומן
אחר שישב שם כמשלש חדשים יצא בידים ריקניות
And i don’t understand what the envoy DID take ?

@citsci-rancho: The envoy took umbrage. Kidding — but it’s a cool word which is barely used now, and has an even better archaic meaning: https://www.google.com/search?q=umbrage&oq=umbrage&aqs=chrome..69i57.5521j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

@ev111: I can’t properly translate that Hebrew sentences , but , it says something like “he took only cash-money , and was leaving empty ended” , so , what is this word “mezuman” that now days we use as cash ?

@Chavi-NY: Maybe it means he only got money for food/lodging, but nothing extra to bring home.

@citsci-rancho: Seriously, you are asking a good question, which I am not at all equipped to answer. I hope someone will be able to determine what got the august writers of this letter so angry.

@ev111: Why doing this to me ??? I almost got out of my mind trying to figure out where did you see the month August , until i found the other meanings of the word :) Actually , the month is Adar (about March) .

Researcher: I like the explanation for how it got into the geniza, circulated to shame other communities into being more generous. But as @Veredrk points out, it might have gotten into Adler’s collection (acquired by JTS in 1923) another way. He collected manuscripts from all over the Middle East, and while it’s always been assumed that he kept the geniza fragments separate from the others, I don’t know whether it’s been demonstrated. So this might have come via Jerusalem (a master copy of the letter for the archives?) or Kirkuk (if that’s the town meant). As to the frustration of understanding what’s going on more precisely, welcome to my world. As a teacher of mine never tired of pointing out, the topics of conversation in letters were so well known to reader and writer that they never had to explain themselves better, alas for us.

@citsci-rancho: Thanks for the very plausible explanation of how this letter might have ended up in the JTS geniza collection. It’s interesting to realize that some of the documents might have been collected from other sources, without being so labeled. It’s complicated!

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Exported from Medium on April 14, 2020.

Cite this post: admin. “Talking the Talk: Pretty Signatures”. Published April 11, 2019. https://judaicadh.github.io//blog/2019-04-11-talking-the-talk/. Accessed on .