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Cambridge University Library

Hanukka 2021

Hanukka ceremony at the University Library
Melonie Schmierer-Lee
Tue 30 Nov 2021

Happy Hanukka to all readers of Genizah Fragments! Yesterday evening (in what was possibly a first for the University Library?) a Hanukka menorah (hanukkiya) was lit at the front of the building in an event jointly organised by the University Library and the Cambridge Chabad Society. 

Menorah lighting at the UL

Hanukka and Purim, though seen as minor holidays because they are not set out in the Torah, were nevertheless celebrated by the Jews of medieval Egypt (according to S.D. Goitein, ‘rated in the miracle-ridden world of the Geniza far higher than in Ashkenazi Judaism of yesteryear’). They were occasions for sending good wishes, with hopes for miracles similar to those commemorated. For ʿEli ‘the Adept’ ben Abraham, Hanukka was an occasion to send holiday greetings to Abraham ha-Kohen ben Haggai, along with an invite to meet at the synagogue the next day. His invitation, T-S 8J22.7, written in Hebrew around 1050 CE, was perhaps designed to bring Abraham to a synagogue that he didn’t usually attend, or to guarantee his attendance, to ‘unite the community, speed up concord, and bring together the scattered’. These had been difficult times for ʿEli. He had been falsely accused and fled prison to throw himself on the mercies of his wealthy and influential Karaite benefactor, Abū Naṣr Tustarī (see T-S 13J13.21). His patron was of little help, however, having just been murdered himself. Perhaps hoping for his own Hanukka miracle, ʿEli may have been trying to gather support at this difficult time – Abraham was a parnas and oversaw charitable donations, and could have been a suitable replacement patron in these turbulent times: ‘And as far as I know I know the degree of your piety and your love, I burden you with these couple of lines so that we shall meet tomorrow in the synagogue: God will put the days of Hanukka upon him and all that he has, as a sign of good and a sign of blessing.’

T-S 8J22.7

T-S 8J22.7 (recto)


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