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A FEW weeks before his lamented death, Professor David 
Kaufmanu communicated to me an annotated copy of the 
famous Purim letter written by Solomon Levi, afterwards 
known as Paul, Bishop of Burgos. As Prof. Kaufmann 
wrote to me, the text of this letter has hitherto been printed 
from incorrect MSS., and this one, though not perfect, is 
fully worthy of reproduction. 

In a short paper which I published in the second volume 
of the Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society, I took 
the view that the letter was written in London before 
Solomon Levi's conversion to Christianity. Of this there 
can now be no doubt, for the superscription of this text 
finally settles the point. 

Prof. Kaufmann suggested to me that Solomon Levi, who 
filled a post at the court of Juan I of Castile, may have 
come to London with the embassy charged with receiving 
at the English court, and then escorting, the wife of 
Henry IH— the youthful heir of the throne of Castile after 
the death of Juan I in 1390. Henry Ill's bride was 
Catherine of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt, and 
of Constance, daughter of Pedro the Cruel of Castile. The 
tone of Solomon's letter quite fits in with the assumption 
that he was in London on state affairs, and, on the other 
hand, there is no circumstance that seems to make the 
theory difficult to uphold. 

The writer distinctly states that he had been or was still 
a prisoner. This may have occurred in 1385, after the 
battle of Aljubarrota in that year, when Juan I was 
defeated. Solomon Levi may have been then captured, 
and afterwards released. His reference to his captivity 


may not mean that he was a prisoner in England. One 
may, however, hazard the suggestion that Solomon may 
have become acquainted with Englishmen, that his family 
originally lived in England before the expulsion in 1290, 
and that he was drawn to visit the country. He was then 
thrown into prison, and found an escape [after writing 
his Purim Letter) by accepting baptism in 1390 (J. Ch. 
Wolf, Bihl. Hebr., Ill, 899). 

At all events, we may now regard it as certain that this 
famous man was a visitor to England in the last decades of 
the fourteenth century. He was certainly still a Jew when 
he penned the epistle in London. The letter is moreover 
of distinct literary merit, and is a worthy addition to the 
scanty list of compositions written in Hebrew in this 
country before the seventeenth century. 

I publish it now, not only for its intrinsic value, but as 
a memorial of the interest always shown by Prof. Kaufmann 
in Anglo-Jewish history. I have also made use of some 
of his notes. The copy used below was written in Spain. 
In the fragmentary MS. from which it is taken, the opening 
piece is the epistle of Jedaiah of Beziers to R. Solomon ben 

The following is an analysis of the contents of this 
curious epistle. Little could the writer have anticipated 
that he would one day, and that not distant, become 
a bitter foe of the people from which he sprang, and that 
the honoured friend whom he was greeting would perish at 
the stake through the machinations of his correspondent ! 

Letter sent from England by the Bishop of Burgos— named 
formerly in Israel Don Salmon the Levite — to E. Meir Alguadez, 
at the time when Don Salmon the Levite was staying in England. 

(The printed texts of the Letter, for which see Israelitische Letterbode, 
X, pp. 81 sq., and Dr. Harkavy's publication in 3pNT for 1894, have 
C^nJI? "CyD. The version now published leaves no doubt that 
London is meant, though Prof. Gratz, Geschichte, ed. 3, vol. VIII, 
p. 83, note I, queried this.) 

When God made me wander from my father's house, and I was cast 
into prison, many terrible experiences were mine. (Prof. Gratz saw 


in the first phrase a reference to the writer's conversion to Christianity. 
But the expression TlIN inyn, taken from Genesis xx. 13, simply 
alludes to a departure from home. It is used in this sense e.g. by 
Leo di Modena in his letter to Menachem Raba, see lyiD 1^3. 
Compare also Ben Chananja, IX, 214 and Israelitische Letterhode, III, 
103, no. 222.) Separated from the company of Israelites, I could not 
fulfil the duties incumbent even upon the individual, such as those 
that require the use of wine for Kiddush and Habdala, at the entry 
and departure of the Sabbath. To-day I am unable to drink deep, 
as one ought to do on Purim. As on yesterday, the fast-day, so to-day, 
I can say Yes and No at the right places ; I can bless Mordecai and 
curse Haman. My senses retain their nicety, I can discern between 
white and blue even at a bowshot's distance ; my sense of touch too 
is normal. Alas for such a Purim ! 

(Then follows a metrical song in praise of wine and in lament for 
his own enforced abstinence.) 

On the days set apart for gifts, when the witchery of wine should 
hold sway, friends are afar, and no poor are nigh to receive my 
ofierings —now turn I to the oldest friend, wine, for which since the 
world began no substitute could be found. Only because wine failed 
did the generation of the flood sink in water. But that Noah, the 
re-founder of the world, had planted a vine, still would mankind 
be sunken in water. But this friend has left me, and my soul has 
gone out with him. Joy has fled from my table, the sun of my meal 
is under a cloud. Only its memory remains. 

The thought comes to me of those merry throngs who are to-day 
joyously celebrating the feast in Burgos, whither men come from far 
and near. (There was a famous Scroll of the Law at Burgos which 
was the object of pilgrimage. See R. Menachem Meiri's notice in 
1DD TT'lp, S. Sachs, Cat., G-insburg, p. 44.) There, poor and rich 
linger long over their wine, which flows from bowl and cask; all 
tongues are loosed, incoherence prevails, and a wild scene of mingled 
love and rage ensues. But me, alas, wine has left solitary, and I have 
declared : Never more will I name the traitor on my lips ! But the 
memory of the day is too strong for my resolve. Another wine 
enflames my soul, and unlocks my lips. The sleep of separation 
which has been called more than a sixtieth part of death passes off, 
and, taking courage from that other wine, the Law, I will sing of the 
wine which I cannot enjoy. 

(Then in twenty-four apt stanzas, which display considerable poetical 
power, the writer sings the praise of wine, as revealed in the history 
of Israel. Each stanza has three rhymed lines followed by a cleverly 
chosen text from scripture in which allusion is made to wine. The 



first eleven stanzas contain the acrostic '•vH nD?t5> ''JN. Although the 
copyist has marked the initials of the remaining verses, they do not 
appear to form any further acrostic.) 

The greatest events in human and in Jewish history, says the 
poet, are consecrated by institutions in which wine is employed. 
The Sabbath, reminiscent of Creation, is honoured by wine in the 
Jewish ritual. The salvation from the flood was marked by Noah's 
plantation of a vine. When Abraham bore Isaac to the altar, full 
sure the libation of wine was duly made. At the service in 
commemoration of the Exodus, four cups of wine occupy a chief 
place. On Purim, wine plays its highest r6le. The verses terminate 
with a prayer for the restoration of Israel, when the wine of Judah 
will once more be enjoyed, and the redeemed people will praise God's 
love even above the praises of wine. 

A singer of the songs of the Lord in a strange land, he writes this 
epistle to his flesh and blood, his friend and brother (Meir Alguadez), 
that it may be seen that not by wine alone is the drunkard made 

Gratz regarded this composition as a satire. But it is 
a genuine expression of medieval Judaism. Its exaggeration 
of the virtue of wine-drinking on Purim — a characteristic 
foil to the general sobriety of the Jew — its warm love of 
the ceremonies, its quaint association of piety with the 
joys of the table, its mystic delight in the beneficence of God 
as shown in his gift of wine, its total lack of overstrained 
asceticism, its playful seriousness, its sane humour — all 
these qualities stamp the letter as the work of a man still 
imbued with the sentiments of the medieval Rabbis. 

I. Abrahams. 

}n rh^in nwo bmn a-in t33nni> m^c nbrNO nrh^ '•li'n poi'B' 

aron, ii> rh^ db'di (?) 'v:'<tr\n dj? 

n''^Kh vnjD na b^m Mib nn n3i }''no Dnnn i>« o'ly ncn 
• nuai iiin oyv E'nni'N i^nd 'i ann taann ♦ pi -\'<m niw inNi pyn 


n^ro hy nanono ^jiehj ^aijn '•in rr'so di^n tiik nynn -ib>n3 
nain hnt '•ai? • lua tiin iDty tanioN i?i2n '•T'dn it^N Dip»i tiun 
iBpna pmc hbcd ino3 ^^Jaa • oijian n^'S'' »3''3)3 dj nisiu nnip 

• nxn ''3N iCN ny i>33 ''i» nity wn nr ijai • mpa ps nn bi lami 
nvwin niv»n nio^K'a loanni inonno n:uyn '•^Qib reritj' n» 
pn» Ti3 Tiaci) niyi one^ iioi tok' nit«x »i n^on n»3» • rh nni' 
rroiaa vappa e't dinb' 'T'n* nisoa siw i'xnB'ii mh njiaty njnoi? 
pjot noa vTf :h 'rr'ar n^j Nni>iaK"i »EnDB> la-i xtyip d« riMiycjn 

• nnoB^ nnens m'' ij-na Dvn nij? jni • xnans tjnpNi sion »i> xann 
Dvn bi ♦ Nniaa '•oioas Tiam n* nxvi* n'' ^jk^ ps D^nan onin^i' 
Dva iticnNai iNi> it6 hvn in }n i"!? y<&rh ae^TiN Tijna ntn ican 
Sonxa '•Dj? D3ni '•Eini' D) »: NipNi • -inN }ani »aTio pax taix 
■•CI ••» • n&p '•incoa pmn tai'!' n^an }''a niNnn '•j'-jn taiK'i'K' ta 
' 103 N^ ia nni loyo noy '•ana • j?ok>k hpi noon insiD TiaN iior 
ON wn tjyon ♦ nann Kin prnn oiatjTi piva yan "!{?« bi pan n'' 
ynii noai '•ano^ nhtJi ip'' n^i no »a^ i"}* Tntss na'-x a"N • ai 
Dioai "i»yt3 riN inutfa k^ dn QiK'yji tanaM ni'Nn D»D»n nvn nais 
nan • n'lac' i»"iDai> Nnn ♦ ni:N nnoi "i^ nn''i maix sixaxs p iijy 
Tnonn rrrri* caa ns-ioa • nn '•a Nam •'ai' i>N nai» '•aas 

unpNi '•hp 

— W — Vy Vm" 

pyn Diaa }nu }na nirni» nyu niaoi ni3noi> t3»»i 

pN tansi nunoi' p^^N P'*'! oniJoi ''snvc ipm 

pj> ti-ina Dnia hnsdn ia ntyaax nn'' ta^ja dipo i^jn 

pxa r-i i>an xna tava mya lanyi Nin 

pp bini pv tj^ax nnn laaiE' t3''oa mvrh tap 

\''i]) la-in Dnw hao '•aaa lytaa ohy tiD'' »i>'ii> 

pyn ■<b» tavn saa "lay nxy ■•E'aa"! '•aNX* np na 

pyn DinD Tniyo tyaa* f)DNa naoan }o ^'•ai nnae' 

P''a iitwij ^ab ''mn nanax ^ai» unara ^a sjn 

♦ loao nipni' D''Nan • ^Da nnys '•a iB>aa i^y naacNi mars ni»N 
■•aa bv nrm tik' piu nr • p'-n bv tarn QnnNan bio^ n'2 b la^nx 

s a 


nanon '•a b loai' ^iNin joi nnna D''''doi taa nns • ''i'<'bn "ii> noN» 
t6 iB^ • na ij? 13 nvaii • ppE''' ta'-^ajj mx ^nan • pp»i>n'' djiij 
DJ tanKJC DJ Dnanx dj ddsb^ Dcy nijaji ♦ injn natj' »"« lynt?* 
lyiri Mini Tiy uaiD'' DNn^xn riK irn'' vry iiac nijinnai ♦ onwp 
flNi DiTi»j; 01 ist? ly cnonai niaina DDBBt)3 mujT'i aTyoD^ 
N^ iHTicpa Tina iji^n • hoind Ti-tJ'y n^ na dji '•jH) niyjo njia p\n '•a 
lino aitan i^a nar • iDca iij? laiN sh • unats xi* TnoNi in^riNSD 
■•aija iD^Jxa inioia nisvi inatPK '•33 Tivba N''aT •'jai' xa onia nnat? 
D''B>''Kn3 nnx isy mnian in^n nyc • d^jb^nt -naE' aan mjjia twa 
iniN "T'0^1 VQ''br\'< laoD t''N *a ion^ t^^in lano Tiija i-iya nn''oa 

• nsion ^jy ooine'Ni inj? pxi taiaxi pacn iNa ciiEion nisN'' v^y 
nny a»an nxi niiT e'^s pN '•a Nnsi nai na jaNi ni{5'''t5'Na "jdid pxi 
" TTiB' • '•ynr »i> yt?ini tin ts'^N px ''oy»i iNon }a aana pxn oy 

• iai>D Tiaoj mm i»B> n3« an niai'D p''Di • nJ? Tia-n miai • '>-!»'? 

lioa '•D lana '•Jit?!' man • 'a Tinna w njn 

D\niM ^''xonij ntaiy iin 
DN-naji niaa i'yo niaa 
DNnioa '[pmh psii'' ob 
p''D inn n''3it3 '•a 

nosya nisis ip ntaii 
noana nvin n''1{od naina 

nciNH '•JOK'DI D'OCn ijDD 

p''i nnb N'sin 

'ywi '•EnE' ici^xa nit' 
'yn ^JN visya nnn ia 
^yaK'n ova nj'-i 
pn li'cn a^ aitaa 

naiDj ma "m^vb n\t naiz' 
nany fnhtj'a na6 niv 
naba inssa i»nanh 
pST nriEnsa '•yaE'n ova dj 


unjon QBnn din "iioB'h inpi? 
cniBO nivoa "innni my 
enw"! nw» -\3jn noin 
p'' nay -aw 

Q-ita fjoityi Dip\n Tib 

Din yisn b >nni 

D13 yc3n p»nv to^joj 

{■•NT p nK'M 

cu lion 3N mroD t*!?!! 

n^''n D''i'N pns3 Niip 

D^NOX DJ D^ayni' iiDni" enis 

J" TinD K^ai C]D3 N^3 

nin^a nana tin* 3npn 

n^iys '5'3n3 i:in 3t5'n3i 

ninyi? ^rhT) S^n nx npM 

p'' 13D31 

irv'31 1313 •n'' 5)133 

WNB> "in!53 "ly 3ni> pns'i 

inion^ iniN "i^33n''i 

P"" ''p-lT»3 DTllK^n 

n-i3yi }i-in3 cin'"in riN mci 
msi ayr D''yn ^aNiJO 
miN\n ni^n i3nM 
p''3 nao mb\ni 

''310N nnt? DyiB'3 q-isi' 
*3pn ''3n3 ntisyn \o ^mtfw 
•''• }K«3 ppM 
p»[0] (3) }3nnO 11333 

im3y t33E'a Dye's np& 
inDp3i i£3s inn Da rh&^ 

intDn D13 TIN DpB«1 
p''1 « no 013 »3 


}1DN OnnN D»D3 Dipn 

f«n IT'S i>N '•3N''3n 

i*Dani> nnoa onnoi niso ^y iyi 
->''3mi> vni^''^y moia wixai 

i>3N"n "i^ano my m^ai 

iiaNn nS naani e'Sj mo N''ni 
r"'D sh miaen 

fT i::ni wan nx ann 
nasi anni' vaa niK^i 

nran nwiDiji ni'nx iK^t? 

nnon miN nn»n Dnin^i) 
}"i b'bn) Slim 

DiTi'-VN Ippn -ISD3 pi3t 

nni^ DmnNT ibpi lo^p 
nnijoD n^sn onian 'd* m D^pi* 

PU n^N DJ1 

P'sn^ iny-»i' e«n nub 
pijyn^ D'avasi' nunoi 
pnnh psj^ miyo Tinoi 
pi sisoi ^aj i^a 

caiya f^n paa iina nDti> 
DUiaiai ^133 bi'' EniTi lisai by 
Qiaain n^a ^jn iii^n 
pi inB* oniisN moNi 


DnuDoa btn^ 'oan nrn nrh 

pu IK'S: niND iB'N ijja 

D"'Dys5 fpo Dnn: j'api 
Di^m' nigral mvT nya vn^i 
P'' D^nitjn D^biN Tr»"3i n^n 

DH'-i'T n-i3T pj? pr>3i 
DnnuD n*3D Dvn ic-iu 

n^N Dj? nitry^ " ij^jn cim n»N' tk 
N^s rT'E'y ''3 IOC mi3 

• n^^b nn'DT |ni: VK'iy ni^si? pxn rnDtoi jnison pyo nrx dn: 
pipyi n^nn nairy • 133 riDns ^y '^1 -i^r ns icn -ip3 n33 in^ p3 
iNsn' 13 -IK'S i>njn vnsi i^'j p sin ncsi loxy in m D'h^ npyn 
irpDT'Jo }:3-i 'sj^n '3^ Nninn3T '^03 v:3 nncTD • -»pini enn 
iDNij '•'n3inon "hi n'on psr n"'3B'ni7 •ip3i7 • nnij insi T-tJ n3D»3 
.Tncn n^''3N3 -iiDsn onis dv3 3ni3 npiy in 'j^d siny in^jo 'n 
HTirni • ipT" N^3n ^3 D'on py ^yi n^^y3^ npSDon in npDDon 
13 D''3r3 n-ia" -»pjn onn n^r^xn ^^''vn • p' on^jn nx nipB'ni' m3 
^y Ntan ib'no nrn DVn Dsy3 ipr^ nsi"»n my p-'m'' sh n3iB" 
11355 r*^ bv N^s '•3 lymn fy»h ip^M nN-»:i d''D3 luyn '3 csjn 
T'yvn i33n'' v^i'yo3 dj ib^t hsb'^i nnt5« Tn3 ^n3» -i3nE'on n3nE« 

ri'^K' on >'hn nD^e>