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Purim Hebron

by Talks and Tales


Library » Holidays » Purim » The Story | Subscribe | What is RSS?


Among the special "Purims" which are celebrated by certain Jewish communities on certain days of the year, to commemorate some miracle, there is also a special "Purim" which the Sephardic Jews of Hebron used to celebrate on the fourteenth day of Teveth. The historic details of this happening are hidden in the mists of the remote past. Our story is based on that event.

Many, many years ago the old city of Hebron was inhabited by a community of Sephardic Jews who had been driven out of Spain and other Christian lands where Jews were cruelly oppressed.

One day two venerable Jews arrived in Hebron from Jerusalem, for the purpose of collecting money for "Pidyon Shvuim" (obtaining release of Jews from Slave traders).

The two emissaries met with the heads of the community and explained their important mission, namely, to collect not less than five thousand piasters from the Hebron community, for their lifesaving endeavor.

The heads of the community knew that, with a vigorous effort, they could manage to raise the required sum, but they claimed that "Charity begins at home," and they had to meet the needs of their own poor people first. So they "bargained" with the emissaries who insisted, however, that nothing less than the five thousand piasters would be acceptable. And if the Hebron community refused, or were unable to raise the required sum, the Almighty would show them where the necessary help would be available, and the Hebron Jews would lose the great merit of "Pidyon Shvuim" saving Jewish souls.

The arguments and entreaties of the emissaries proved in vain, and they left empty-handed.

Now a new Pasha came into power as ruler over Hebron, and he was a Jew-hater. He lost no time in introducing new edicts against the Jewish community, draining them of their hard earned money. At first he began in a moderate manner, but very soon tired of this slow process, and looked for some way in which he could make a clean sweep and cash in all that the Jews possessed.

The Pasha was an educated man who mastered several languages in addition to Arabic which was his native tongue. He read in history books, accounts of how Christian rulers treated the Jews in their lands, and learned that, in some cases, they threw rabbis and Jewish leaders into prison until such time as their Jewish communities would ransom them for huge sums of money. Some Christian rulers, he found, even went to the extent of driving the Jews out of their country; robbing them of all their possessions.

This latter possibility appealed greatly to this Jew hating Pasha. He quickly issued a call to the rabbis and leaders of the Hebron Jewish community and told them that he had put a tax on them, in the sum of fifty thousand piasters which must be paid within the month. Failing which, the Jewish leaders would have to pay with their lives, and the rest of the Jews would be sold as slaves! And, to make sure that the leaders would not run away, a few of them were immediately arrested and put in chains.

The Pasha then sent the others home, warning them that they had better start at once to raise the demanded fifty thousand piasters. The entreaties of the rabbis and leaders that it was impossible for them, and in so short a time, to produce such a vast sum, fell on the deaf ears and stony heart of the cruel Pasha, and they left in great despair.


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