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Folk-lore of the Holy Land, Moslem, Christian and Jewish, by J. E. Hanauer [1907], at



A FEW of the Jews resident at Jerusalem celebrate, beside the usual Jewish feasts of Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles, etc., a yearly anniversary which they call "the Saragossan Purim," in order to commemorate the deliverance of the Jews of Saragossa, the capital of the former kingdom of Arragon, from a great peril. The story of this escape, as recorded in certain small parchment scrolls or Megilloth written in the style and evident imitation of the Roll of Esther, is read in public at each celebration. I had heard of the custom a good many years ago, but on February 13, 1906, having been informed

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that the festival had been held two days before, I obtained the loan, through a friend, of a copy of the roll. It was, of course, in Hebrew, and on parchment. The narrative is, briefly, as follows:--

About the year 1420, in the reign of Alphonso V. of Arragon, there were in the city of Saragossa twelve handsome synagogues supported by as many congregations of prosperous and influential Jews, who were so well treated by the Government that, whenever the king came to Saragossa, all the rabbis went out in procession to honour him, each carrying, in its case, the Roll of the Law belonging to his synagogue. People objected that it was dishonour for the Sacred Rolls to be carried out to flatter the vanity of a Gentile; and so the rabbis, possibly glad of an excuse not to carry the heavy manuscripts, got in the habit of leaving the scrolls at the synagogues on such occasions, and going out with the empty cases.

Now a certain Jew, named Marcus of Damascus, turned Christian, and in his zeal as a new convert became the deadly enemy of his own race. When the king one day was praising the loyalty of his Jewish subjects, this renegade, who was among the courtiers, replied that his majesty was being grossly deceived. The loyalty of the Jews was a sham, he averred, like their carrying empty cases before the king when pretending to bear the rolls of their respective synagogues.

At this the king was angered against the Jews, but would not punish them until he had ascertained the truth of the charge. He set out at once (Shebat

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[paragraph continues] 17th) for Saragossa, with Marcus in his train; and the latter was in high spirits, thinking he had ruined the Jews. But that night an aged man roused the servant of each synagogue, and told him how the king intended to surprise the rabbis. So when the noise of the king's coming went abroad next morning, and they went out to meet him as usual, they were not unprepared. Alphonso did not return their greetings but, frowning, ordered the cases to be opened. His command was obeyed very cheerfully, and every case was found to contain its scroll of the Pentateuch. The king then turned his anger upon Marcus, who was hanged from the nearest tree.

To commemorate this event the Jews of Saragossa instituted an annual feast, observed even after subsequent persecutions had driven them from Spain, and still, as we have seen, celebrated by their descendants on the 17th of Shebat.

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