Thursday, April 22, 2010

Genizah Update #12

Day 10: Cairo Wrap-up

March 1, 2010

Hi Everyone,


I apologize. Yesterday’s excitement, the pressure of limited Internet access, and my overall klutziness all led to several mistakes and omissions in yesterday’s email. Please allow me to correct them.

1. Yesterday’s update was #11, not #12 as it was labeled. In the future, I’ll be more careful in my pasting.

2. My fear of failure here in Cairo was that I would lay a big “goose-egg” –n ot a “good egg,” as I indicated in yesterday’s update. In fact, the only eggs that I ever lay are of the goose variety.

3. To clarify, because of the 15-foot abyss between the entry to the Genizah and its floor, I did not fully enter the chamber – doing so would have been very dangerous. I did, however, stick my head into the Genizah, which itself was an achievement I considered a huge success.

4. After I sent yesterday’s update, I realized that I’d neglected to mention just what it was that I saw in the Genizah. The answer: SALT. The Genizah is empty; Solomon Schechter removed most of its documents its documents in 1897, and a man named Jacques Mosseri removed the remaining ones in 1911. The floor of the Genizah bore a coat of dusty, gravelly schmutz, and the chamber’s only contents were two large bags labeled “SALT.”

Why were there bags of salt in the Genizah? This, my friends, is a good question – one that is likely to remain a mystery for a long time to come.

5. It is, I believe, important to note that Jacob Glickman is the first person to have photographed the inside of the Cairo Genizah – ever.

6. Today I learned that the dilapidated tomb we visited yesterday was that of Rabbi Chaim Kapuchi, a 16th century mystic who lived here in Cairo. According to legend, the rabbi went blind at one point, but, when he continued to read from the Torah anyway, he miraculously regained his vision. After his death, many people suffering from ophthalmic diseases or blindness visited his grave in search of healing.


This morning we toured Azbekiyyah Garden and its environs. Once a grand, Paris-style park, the Azbekiyyah has now fallen into ruin. The opera, Aida, premiered at the nearby Opera House in the 1890’s, and Solomon Schechter stayed across the street during his historic visit.

We lunched with Jere Bacharach and Barbara Fudge. They split their time between Cairo and Seattle, and have been very helpful in the planning of our trip.

Then, this afternoon, we were privileged to meet two prominent Muslim Genizah scholars. One was Professor Hassanein Rabie, an economic historian of Medieval Islam, and a former Vice President of Cairo University. The other was Dr. Mohamed Hawary, a professor of Hebrew Studies at Ain Shams university. Courageously, Dr. Hawary has publicly reached out to the Jewish community in many ways, striving to bridge the chasm that often separates Jews and Muslims.

The opportunity to meet each of these men was a real honor.


Tomorrow morning, thanks to the miracle of manned flight rather than that of parted waters, Jacob and I make our exodus from Egypt. From here we head to the land of our people – New York.

We will continue to keep you updated, and we thank you for your continued interest.


Rabbi Mark Glickman

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