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shroud which covered all her other attire ; she threw a
veil over her face, and put on a fur robe in place of her
usual dress or sarbel. The bridegroom meantime was led
into the synagogue building, dressed in Sabbath attire,
with a cowled or hooded garment suspended from his neck,

1 Meien, in M. H. D. = 'to make merry' (cf. Giidemann, iii. 120). As
late as in the time of Moses Schreiber (laiD Dnn, iii. 98) the Meien ceremony
was common throughout Germany.

2 It is impossible to enter into the many variations of custom regarding
the etiquette enforced on the bride. In the Gaonic age (Miiller, Mafieach,
p. 49) the bride was talien from her father's house on the evening preceding
her marriage. She remained overnight as a guest at one of her kinsmen's
abode. Next day she was conducted to her husband's house, and at both
places the seven benedictions were recited. A similar custom still prevails
with the Jews in some parts of the East. It is almost universally the custom
with Jews that the bridegroom and bride shall not meet from sunset of the
day before until the wedding. Sometimes neither the Jewish bride nor
bridegroom left the house for the eight days preceding the marriage (Schudt,
"• 3)-

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The Wedding Ceremony 205

in memory of the destruction of the Temple, as is the
manner in the Rhine-lands.^

' The bridegroom was placed by the ark, on the north-
east side of the synagogue. Then the congregation
chanted the hymn " Lord of the world " and the morning
Psalms, but omitted the techina (or penitential prayer).
While this was proceeding, her friends decorated the bride
with garlands and gave her rings.^ The wedding ceremony
occurred directly after the morning service, and the Rabbi
wore his Sabbath clothes, as did all the relatives of the bride-
groom and bride. The Rabbi wore his week-day tallith
or praying-shawl, but when his own daughter was wed, he
substituted the tallith which he only used on Sabbaths.

' The bride had by this time been reconducted to the
synagogue door, amid musical accompaniments. There,
however, she paused while the Rabbi placed the bride-
groom on the platform which stood in the middle of the
synagogue. The Rabbi strewed ashes from a furnace on
the bridegroom's head, under the cowl, in the place where
the phylacteries ^ are worn — once more in memory of the
destruction of Zion. Joined by the notables, the Rabbi
proceeded to the door to receive the bride. He took her

1 This was a common German mourning garb. Cf. Giidemannj ibid. 121.

2 A usual gift to the bride was a girdle. This was given to her on the
Thursday, by the Rabbi or by a leading lay official (cf. above, p. 180) in the
name of the bridegroom. A gift of stringed coins is still made to the bride
in the East on the Sabbath before the wedding (cf. C. Pontremoli, B'Jia nn'Bx,
§ 5). Some other rites, e.g. Spinhoh (above, p. 144), also preceded the
wedding. These may be likened to the more ancient vparoyafda ceremonies
which the Jews adopted from the Greeks, including festivities on both the
preceding and succeeding Sabbaths (T. Jer. Demai, iv ; Shebiith, iv ; and
Levit. R. ch. xi.). Cf. Fiirst, Glossarium Graeco-Hebraeum, p. 181.

' According to the Kolbo, 86 d, p. 181, some Jewish bridegrooms wore
their tephillin as an ornament. The bridegroom also wore white shoes (ibid.).



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2o6 Marriage Customs

by the robe, not by the hand, and they placed the bride
at the right of her future husband.^ The faces of the
bridal pair were turned to the south ; their mothers both
stood near the bride. Then men took the corner of the
bridegroom's hood and placed it over the head of the
bride, so as to form a canopy over them twain. But when
his own daughter was married, Maharil took the end of her
veil and threw it over the bridal pair as a canopy, for, said
he, this was the old custom,^ but it had been forgotten.

'They held in readiness two wineglasses, one for the
betrothal, the other for the wedding, using, moreover, one
set of glasses for a maiden, another set for the nuptials
of a widow. Then the Rabbi sang the blessings of
betrothal; 3 when he had finished, he called for two wit-
nesses, showed them the ring, and asked, —

' " You see this ring, do you think it has some value .? "

' " Yes," answered the witnesses.

'If the bride was a minor (under twelve), the Rabbi
questioned her as to her age. Then he bade the witnesses
observe that the bridegroom wedded the bride with the
formula : —

' Behold thou art consecrated unto me by this ring, accord-
ing to the Law of Moses and of Israel.

' Thereupon the bridegroom placed the ring on the fore-

^ 'At thy right hand doth stand the queen,' says the wedding ode in
Psalm xlv. lo. Jewish fancy went further than the mere imitation of this
passage, and read the word bride (i^S^) in the final letters of the words of
the text just quoted, IJiD'S hvt> nax: (read backwards) . Cf. Rokeach, § 353.

''■ Cf. Genesis xxiv. 65 : ' And she (Rebekah) took her veil and covered
herself when she met her future husband, Isaac.

' Cf. S. Singer, Authorized Daily Prayer-book, p. 278 seq. In the Karaitic
prayer-book (ed. Vienna, 1854) the service occupies twelve large pages.
The thirty-first chapter of Proverbs (S'ln nB'N) was included. The same
addition may be found in the Yemen MSS.

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The Seven Benedictions 207

finger of the bride's right hand.^ Two other witnesses
were then called to testify to the Kethuba^ and marriage
settlements, but the Rabbi did not read the contents of
the document aloud. The Rabbi stood all this time with
his face to the East, saying the Seven Benedictions, of
which the fourth ran thus : —

'Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe,
who hast made man in Thine image, after Thy likeness,
and hast prepared unto him, out of his very self, a perpetual
fabric. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, Creator of man.

' But when, in the recitation of the subsequent blessings,
the Rabbi reached the words : —

' O make the loved companions greatly to rejoice, even as of
old Thou didst gladden Thy creature itt the Garden of Eden,
he turned his face to the bridal pair and continued : —

'Thou didst create joy and gladness, bridegroom, and bride,
■mirth and exultation, pleasure and delight, love, comradeship,
peace and fellowship. Soon m.ay there be heard in the cities
of Judah, and hi the streets of Jerusalem., the voice of joy
and gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice
of the bride, the jubilant notes of bridegrooms from, their

1 Cf. Rokeach, § 351 ; M. Minz, § 109. As the ring was intended to be
a token of marriage, it was worn on the most prominent finger (see nipD
D'jnjc, p. 105). At present, Jewesses transfer the ring from the right to the
left hand after the ceremony.

2 The Kethuba, or written marriage contract, dates from the Hellenistic
period; it was introduced by Simon ben Shetach (first century B.C.). Cf.
N. Krochmal, More Nebuche Hazeman, p. 185 a. The Kethtiba included the
wife's settlements; indeed, the word Kethuba came to mean the settlements
themselves. The amount contracted to the bride greatly varied in dif-
ferent parts. Cf. Zunz, Zur Geschickte, p. 177. The marriage document was
sometimes ornamented with portraits of the bridegroom and bride (A. de
Boton, 31 En'? vf'w, § 15), or even with nude figures representing Adam and
Eve in Paradise. Reading the Kethuba aloud to the bride was at first an
eastern Jewish custom (im'jN rmN, p. 160). It is now general.



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2o8 Marriage Customs

canopies, and of youths from their feasts of song. Blessed
art Thou, O Lord, who makest the bridegroom to rejoice
with the bride.

'At the end of the "blessing" — as the wedding cere-
mony was aptly termed in the middle ages ^ — the Rabbi
passed the wine to the bridegroom and then to the bride.
He retained the glass in his hand while they sipped its
contents, but he now gave it to the bridegroom, who
turned round, faced the north, and threw the glass at the
wall, breaking it.^ Thereupon the assembled company
rushed at the bridegroom, uttering expressions of joy, and
conveyed him — before the bride — to the wedding house.^

' After the ceremony was over,' continues our inform-
ant, 'it was an ancient rite for the married couple to eat
an egg and a hen in the wedding house by themselves,
with only one person — a female relative — in attendance.*
Then all the relatives and whoever wished entered, in
order to increase the merry-making. Now, however,' con-
tinues our fourteenth century authority, 'this custom has
been forgotten, and all flock in together, and there is no
tete-a-tete for the happy pair — a change which is im-
proper. During the seven days after the wedding public
entertainments are given,^ and during all this period, if

^ Cf. p. 177 above.

2 It is nowadays usual to have a separate glass for this purpose. The
bridegroom breaks it with his foot. See above, p. 187.

' Either his own abode or the public hall mentioned above, p. 74.

* Sometimes this first meal consisted of milk and honey, and salt (' it is
a covenant of salt for ever,' Num. xviii. 19) was strewn in the house (^Rokeach,
§ 353)- O" ^^ second day after the wedding, fish was a favourite dish
(^Rokeach, § 354) • Special foods on the various days succeeding a marriage
were common with the ancient people of India, but salt was avoided (Win-
ternitz, ibid.).

^ In the Sephardic custom the bride used to remain under the chuppa or
canopy all day, receiving the guest's congratulations (Schudt, ii.* p. 5).

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The Sabbath Rejoicings 209

a stranger is seated at the table who was not present at
the wedding, they repeat the Wedding Benedictions. On
the next Friday evening the young men assemble for the
evening prayer in the home of the bridal couple, for the
latter do not go to synagogue.

' On the Sabbath morning, when the congregation have
finished the early Psalms, the leading members leave the ser-
vice and escort the bridegroom to synagogue, with his hat
on in the usual manner, not suspended as a hood from his
neck as at his marriage. He is placed in the north-east of
the synagogue, near the ark. Next, the fathers of the bride-
groom and bride choose groomsmen, and seat them by his
side. All these men are " called up " to the Law — sometimes
there are more than the usual seven (who are " called up "
every Sabbath). Then the Precentor sings various special
hymns ^ while the bridegroom and his company ascend the
reading-desk. More hymns are sung, offerings are made for
providing wax candles, for a wrap for the Scroll of the Law,
for alms to the poor, for supporting the school, and for
providing dowries for poor maidens. In the afternoon of
the Sabbath, the bridegroom mostly remains at home,
so that certain passages ^ need not be omitted. In some
parts the bridegroom for the first time in his life wears
a tallith (the praying-vestment worn by male worshippers)
on the occasion of his wedding.^ When I was myself wed,'

^ See p. 1 1 above.

2 pnx inpix. Authorized Daily Prayer-book, ed. Rev. S. Singer, ed. iv.
p. 176. On this point see Tur, Orach Chayim, § 131, where we are told
(.-•nn ni33 D'Soij pN, showing that the service was held in the bridegroom's
private house. Later on (cf. Joseph Caro, loc. cit.) the custom was for the
bridegroom to go to synagogue.

' This would not be unnatural, seeing that marriages were so early. Possi-
bly we have here the origin of a modern custom — the bride presents the

P

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2IO Marriage Customs

adds our informant, ' a large body of the chief members and
a concourse of young men came with me by water for three
miles, from Mayence to Oppenheim.'

bridegroom with the silken iallith in which he is wed. In the middle ages
the tallith sometimes served as a chuppa. Cf. Rokeach, § 353, and above,
p. 206.



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CHAPTER XI



TRADES AND OCCUPATIONS



In the year i i6o, or thereabouts, a Jewish merchant left
Tudela, his native town in Navarre, on a journey round the
world. Of the incidents of this journey, Benjamin of
Tudela's Itinerary has preserved the precious record.^
Benjamin travelled from Saragossa by way of Catalonia,
the South of France, Italy, Greece, the Archipelago, Rhodes,
Cyprus, and Cilicia, to Syria, Palestine, the lands of the
Caliphate, and Persia. His return route took him to the
Indian Ocean, the coast towns of Yemen, Egypt, Sicily, and
Castile, whither he returned, after an absence of about
fourteen years.^ This Benjamin was a typical Jewish
trader of the middle ages, yet he was no financier, usurer,
hawker, or dealer in secondhand goods. As a merchant,
he records the state of trade, and the nature of the products,
of each country which he visited. His Itinerary furnishes
the oldest material for the history of the commerce of
Europe, Asia, and Africa in the twelfth century. But with
an almost modern large-mindedness, Benjamin was equally
interested in the general life of the peoples into whose
midst he strayed. Countries and men interest him as

1 The best edition (Hebrew and English) is The Itinerary of R. Benjamin
of Tudela, ed. A. Asher, 2 vok. (London, 1840-41).

2 Cf. Zunz, op. cit. ii. p. 251.



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212 Trades and Occupations

much as their commerce and handicrafts. Courtly gossip,
popular superstitions, are entered in his diary side by side
with business-like statements concerning trade and traders.
Here, says he, may be obtained the brightest pearls. There,
he tells us, again, arose the latest new Persian-Jewish
Messiah. Art and archaeology have attractions for him.
He revels in the picturesque with all the ardour of an en-
thusiastic sightseer. He invariably tells us the number of
Jewish residents in the various parts of the world through
which he passed, and reports on their manner of life, their
schools, and their trades. But he devotes much of his
space to topics of wider interest. He describes the Assassins
in Syria and Persia, the dangers of navigating the China
seas ; he gives a full account of Rome, with its buildings
and relics ; he has several brilliant paragraphs descriptive
of Constantinople and Bagdad ; Jerusalem and Damascus
are depicted vigorously and vividly. Kings and peoples,
their learning and their customs, their dress and their
burials, all fall within the purview of this medieval
merchant. His Hebrew style is that of a plain merchant,
but it says a good deal that a plain merchant could write
with so much simplicity and with so many graceful touches.
Jews of the type represented by Benjamin of Tudela
were not confined to Spain. The double motive of feeling
and preserving the magic bond between Jews scattered to
the four corners of the world and of finding new outlets
for trade, made the Jewish merchants of Italy and the
Levant active and farseeing beyond their confrkres of other
faiths. Greed for information and greed for gain form
a not undesirable business combination. But, for the
moment, our interest lies in the Jewish mercantile opera-
tions, in so far as they brought nation into contact with

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Benjamin of Tudela' 213

nation. Montpellier in the twelfth century was a convenient
clearing-house for the trade between Italy and the Levant.
'You meet there,' says Benjamin of Tudela,^ 'with Christian
and Mohammedan merchants from all parts : from Portugal,
Lombardy, the Roman Empire, from Egypt, Palestine,
Greece, France, Spain, and England. People of all tongues
are met there, principally in consequence of the traffic of
the Genoese and of the Pisans.' Yet Montpellier was the
seat of an extremely active and wealthy commercial colony
of Jews, as well as of a learned and famous Rabbinical
college. A similar remark applies to Marseilles and to all
the Mediterranean seaports. Regensburg, to take a typical
town of another description, formed one of the chief inland
centres from which the products of the East reached central
and northern Germany. From Constantinople the cargo
boats filled with Eastern commodities worked up the Danube
until they reached Regensburg, and the vessels returned
laden with the agricultural products and manufactured
articles of Germany.^ In this international trade the Jews
took a foremost part, and their extensive wholesale opera-
tions had an excellent effect on the traffic, which extended
to and from Germany in all directions.

Another characteristic instance is supplied by Narbonne.
This southern French town was a noted centre of Jewish
learning from the eleventh century onwards. It also stood
in direct commercial communication with the East. Literary
and industrial intercourse was maintained by way of Kairo-
wan and southern Italy. As late as the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries the Jews succeeded in performing a
similarly important service to central Europe. In those

' Ed. Asher, i. p. 33.

2 Berliner, Aus dem inneren Ltben der deut. jfuden, p. 43.

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214 Trades and Occtipations

centuries the nobility and peasantry of Poland had no com-
prehension of the value of their own native products. But
in Silesia the raw materials of Poland found a ready market.
Two-thirds of this very considerable trade was in the hands
of enterprising Jewish merchants, who carried the products
of Poland to Breslau and exchanged them for the products
and manufactures of Germany.^ This striking fact is
certain. In all the great inland ganglia of commerce in
the middle ages, no less than at the peripheral seaports,
Jewish merchants congregated in large numbers. Indeed,
as Mr. Lecky maintains, Jews were for centuries the only
representatives of international commercial activity. ' By
travelling from land to land till they had become intimately
acquainted both with the wants and the productions of each,
by practising money-lending on a large scale and with
consummate skill, by keeping up a constant and secret^
correspondence, and organizing a system of exchange which
was then unparalleled in Europe, the Jews,' says Mr. Lecky,
' succeeded in making themselves absolutely indispensable
to the Christian community.'^

Passing from this general question, it is probable that
Oriental products owed a good share of their acclimatization
in Europe to Jewish importers, to the quickness of percep-
tion and resourcefulness of the medieval Jewish middle-
men. This is not only true of coffee and tobacco,* but
also of sugar. It was the Portuguese Jews who in 1548
transplanted the sugarcane from the island of Madeira to
Brazil.^ European Jews also imported sugar to Vienna

^ Brann, in the Graetz- jfubelschrift, p. 225.

^ Mr. Lecky is mistaken in supposing that this correspondence was neces-
sarily or usually secret.

* Rationalism in Europe, ii. p. 283. * Above, p. 137.

s G. Kohut in Publ. Jew. American Hist. Soc. iv. p. 103.

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International Commerce 215

from Candia.^ Spices of all descriptions were also im-
ported by Jews, partly because of the ritual laws for the
Passover, which required absolute purity in all the condi-
ments used during that festival. Religious needs also
induced the Jews of various parts of Europe to import
myrtles from France and citrons from the coasts of the
Mediterranean.

Jn all these directions the Jewish mercantilej^ctivTtyjva^
thus useful to the general community and productive of an
.enlightened spirit among the Jews themselves. The nar-
ratives of the Jewish travellers of the middle ages are
extraordinarily free from mythical elements ^ and rich in
notes useful for the social history of the times. Every
Jewish congregation had its 'travellers' tales,' .but these
tales were records of fact as well as of fiction. This partly
accounts for the absence of original Jewish fairy tales in
the middle ages. The Jews interpreted to Europe the
folk-lore of the East, which they brought with them on
their many travels. But as they carried with them facts
as well as fancies, they were unwilling or unable to weave
fresh imaginative designs in imitation of those already
existing. On the other hand, there is in the Jewish
satires of the middle ages a remarkable use of folk-lore
elements so far as the form is concerned. Joseph Zabara,
for instance, is probably the first European to employ the
Indian framework and chain of stories for the purposes of
satire. Far more, however, than this was acquired by
means of the merchant and Rabbi travellers of the middle
ages. Not all Jewish scholars were so restless as Abraham
Ibn Ezra, who wandered to and fro all over Europe, even

1 Berliner, loc. cit. p. 45.

2 Petachia's narrative, it is true, is far more ' fabulous' than Benjamin's.



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2i6 Trades and Occupations

visiting England twice, and leaving behind him as the
signposts of his journeys works which breathe the spirit
of an observer who has known many men and many lands.
But it is worthy of note that scarcely a great Rabbi of
the middle ages ended his career in the land in which he
was born.

We shall soon see that the Jews suffered in two distinct
ways from the opposition between the theological spirit and
the commercial which dominated the general thought of the
middle ages. For the present we must fix our attention on
the fact that the Jgws wprp t-)ip nnly p-rpaf merchants, prac-
tically without rivals in Christian circles, until the great"
Italian ffe p iT W igs n^ oV'gani^T^emselves on a commercial
■^asis. The Jews were also intermediaries of the retail,
as"well as of the wholesale trade of Europe. If the Jew
was a familiar figure at the seaports, he was equally in
evidence at the fair and the inland market.^ Just as the
enterprising merchant travelled to little-known lands in
search of profit as well as of knowledge, so the motives of
the lesser Jewish merchants were made generous by the
noble alloy of intellectual curiosity. For visitors from
Cologne, Mainz, and Worms would betake themselves, say,
to the fair at Troyes, not merely in order to display their
wares, to introduce fresh commodities, to push a newly
imported spice, to arrange a marriage, or buy a trinket for
their wives. They would go thither to sit at the feet of
Rashi, or at least to breathe the atmosphere purified by the
near neighbourhood of that great Rabbinical luminary of
the eleventh century. While Eastern Jews were venerating

1 See p. 172 above ; Brunschvicg, Les jfuifs d' Angers, p. if • Graetz
(Eng. Trans.), IV. ch. xviii ; Lowenstein, Kurpfah, p. 8 and passim ; Bacha-
rach, Resp. tni mn, p. 230 a ; Depping, p. 132.

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Jewish Dyers 217

the relics of dead saints, the Jewish hawker in Europe was
expending his heart's overflowing reverence at the shrine of
some great living teacher whose reputation and works, and
not his dead relics, became the precious heirloom to the
Jews of all succeeding ages.

But the ubiquity and the range of Jewish commercial
enterprises, their curious combination of religion with every-
day life, are not the only object lessons read to us by the
narrative of Benjamin of Tudela. He introduces us not
only to Jewish traders, but also to Jewish artisans. He
shows us not only what Jews did when congregated in large
numbers in cities where the arts and handicrafts were more
or less completely barred against them, but he also informs
us of the manner in which Jews worked with their hands
in countries where the guilds or parallel institutions were
unknown. Benjamin often came across solitary Jews living
in isolation from their brethren. This is, indeed, a note-
worthy point. For Benjamin found small congregations of
Jews, or even single families, scattered in several places on
his route. In later centuries such a phenomenon becomes
far rarer. The supposed gregariousness of Jews in large
towns was no innate instinct, but was a characteristic
enforced by the necessities of European life. In these
small congregations of Jews, Benjamin invariably found
his brethren engaged in handicrafts. I give a few of Ben-
jamin's entries in his own words, some referring to larger,
others to smaller, Jewish congregations : —

One day's journey (from Taranto) to Brindisi on the sea coast, containing
about ten Jews, who are dyers}-

Three days (from Corinth) to the large city of Thebes, with about two
thousand Jewish inhabitants. These are the most eminent manufacturers of
silk and purple cloth in all Greece.^

1 Ed. Asher, p. 45. " Ibid. p. 47.

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