Purim Saragossa

Purim Saragossa

In Aragon (Spain) there once lived a mighty ruler. His power extended over many cities where many Jews lived under his reign.

In Saragossa, the capital city, the large Jewish community took the opportunity of showing the king their appreciation. Whenever the king celebrated some special occasion with a royal parade which passed through the Jewish quarter, the leaders of the Jewish community would go forth to meet him, carrying the beautiful cases which housed their Sifrei Torah (Torah Scrolls). The actual Sifrei Torah they would leave behind in the synagogues.

All this show of honor pleased the king mightily, and all would have been well had there not been a man in the king's court who hated the Jews and resented the king's friendly feelings towards them. This man's name was Marcus, and he looked for a way of putting the Jews in a bad light and at the same time, gaining favor for himself.

When by chance Marcus learned that the Jews went to meet the king carrying empty cases, leaving the holy Sifrei Torah behind in the synagogues, he felt he had found the opportunity he was looking for, and told the king about it. The king, not a malicious but neither a very clever man, was easily convinced by the sly Marcus that the Jews meant to mock him by carrying empty cases when they went out to greet him at his parades. Seeing how angry he had managed to make the king against the Jews, Marcus quickly suggested that the king give an order to have all the Jews driven out of the land or killed.

However angry the king was he had not intended doing anything so dreadful to the Jews by way of punishment, so he said:

"I understand they have a powerful G‑d. Would He not punish me for hurting His people?"

"The Jews cannot expect mercy or consideration from their G‑d. Since they live comfortably under your reign, they have drifted away from their religion and do not obey His commandments," said Marcus with conviction.

"But if we send the Jews out of our land won't our country suffer? After all, they pay taxes and are useful citizens."

"The Jews are really so scattered about the land that you wouldn't notice their absence very much," urged Marcus.

"But is it fair to punish all the Jews? What about those who are innocent?" feebly protested the king.

"Your Majesty should know that they are all the same. They all stick together in all they do, and so they are all equally to blame for the disrespect they have shown you. Besides, it is the heads of the community who come out to greet you in the procession, so surely there is no excuse for them," finished Marcus, with a smile on his face, feeling sure he had won the argument.

"Look here Marcus, I am indeed very angry with the Jews and agree that they must be severely punished, if what you say is true. But I want to be fair to them, for they have so far always shown themselves to be loyal subjects. At the next parade, when the Jews come out to meet me, I'll have you riding by my side. I give you the authority to open their holy cases and, if they are found to be empty, you may carry out your plan against them. On the other hand, if what you say is untrue, then the punishment will be turned against yourself. Are you prepared to accept that? I do not intend to be made a fool of myself by anyone."

Marcus, who was quite sure that he had the right information, readily agreed. He was already picturing himself riding beside the king, sitting beside the king, and being second to the king in everything.

The night before the royal parade, the shamash (beadle) of the main Jewish congregation in Saragossa could not fall asleep. He was thinking about the king's visit to the Jewish quarter, and he was worried. He tossed and turned and was weighed down by a dreadful feeling that something terrible was threatening the Jewish community. He felt an urge to run out and warn the heads of the community, but thought that they would laugh at him, for everything was so nice and peaceful for them. Finally he fell into an uneasy sleep. He dreamt that an old, gray-bearded, stately man appeared before him, saying: "Arise! Waste no time. Danger threatens the Jews. Hurry to the synagogue and quickly put the Sifrei Torah inside their cases. But say not a word to anyone!"

Before the shamash had a chance to say anything, the vision disappeared. He quickly awoke, trembling with fright. He pulled on some clothes and ran all the way to the Synagogue, stumbling in the dark. He was certain that the man in his dream must be none other than Elijah the Prophet, and that his dream was a serious warning which he must see to without delay.

What the shamash did not know was that he was not the only one to whom the prophet had appeared. All the other Synagogue beadles in the city of Saragossa had the same dream that night. They had likewise hurried to their synagogues and secretly put the Sifrei Torah inside their cases, anxiously awaiting developments.

The following morning, the sound of the trumpets was heard in the city, heralding the beginning of the royal parade. As always, the heads of the Jewish community went out to meet the king.

As the royal carriage stopped for the king to receive the greetings of the heads of the Jewish community, Marcus, who was sitting by the side of the king said:

"Your Majesty surely wishes to see what is inside these things that the Jews are carrying."

"Of course. Open the cases!" ordered the king.

The Jews were horrified at the unexpected request. What would the king say, or do? They had no choice but to obey, so, with sinking hearts they opened up the cases and, to their wonderment and relief beheld the Sifrei Torah inside, for all to see.

The king seemed quite surprised. As for Marcus, the look of expectancy and triumph disappeared from his face, which had now turned pale with fright. He tried to speak, but no words came. Instead, the king burst upon him in rage. "Traitor! Deceiver! This time you have outsmarted yourself and you shall suffer the penalty of your own vicious scheme! Have him hanged immediately!" the king ordered, and the scheming Marcus received the end he so richly deserved.

As for the Jews, the king declared publicly that he had every confidence in their loyalty. As a sign of his goodwill towards them, he ordered that they be freed from paying taxes for the next three years.

When the Jews learned the full story of their narrow escape, their relief and joy can better be imagined than described. They all humbly thanked G‑d for His benevolence towards them and resolved to serve Him with greater devotion in the future. They also decided to observe the 17th and 18th days of Shevat as days of prayer and joyous thanks to the Almighty, so that their children and future generations would remember the story of how they had been miraculously saved from destruction at the hands of a cruel enemy.

This, then, is the story of the Purim of Saragossa.

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David Rivers Riverview, FL, USA January 28, 2015

Claiming HaShem's Healing My wife Cecilia is having 3 stents put in on 6 February, 2015 or the day after, and that corresponds to 17 and 18 Shevat this year, the anniversary of the events in this faith-enriching story. I had looked up this day on the Jewish calendar to find out whether it was an auspicious day for her procedure according to the history of His Chosen People.. Since it is, I know and "believe with perfect faith" (Maimonides) that HaShem will bring her through it for K'vodo, His Glory, which is why He is HaShem Rapha, G-d our Healer, just as He was the Jews' Deliverer in the incident in Saragossa. Claim His beneficence on His days of deliverance and know His Presence and Blessing no matter what your current circumstances! Am Israel Chai! Reply

Anonymous USA January 28, 2013

Purim Saragoza This story is very similar to the one of Esther and King Ahazueros in Persia. Now that I have been studying Torah and all related to the Jewish people suffering around the world, seems like there is, in every generation, a Hamas, and a Hitler. The enemy of the Jewish people seems to come from of old in Torah. I have had one which I have had to fight all my life in every place I have resided in my years of life. Prayers, studying Torah, and dedicating our lives to our Giver of Life, the Eternal G-d is the only way to destroy them until the coming of Moshiach. I do not think we can batle him alone. It is only through our Fortress in the Holy of Holiest. May we all see the Mercy of our King of King, who will bring salvation to Jews and Non Jews according to their merit, as we seek Him. Reply

Leonard Elkins February 10, 2012

Purim Saragossa I love everything about being Jewish and this story shows the love we have for the Almighty and the things He gives to us. Reply

Alice Broudy Cupples San Diego, CA February 10, 2012

Purim Saragosa A wonder-filled story which I will enjoy sharing with my brother's 11 grandchildren (all under 9 yrs). G-d truly does for us which we could not do ourselves. Reply

Jerry Terdiman Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey February 10, 2012

Purim Saragossa This is a beautiful story. It is wonderful to know that Ha' Shem is always with us to protect us from evil.

However, I do not feel comfortable with the theme of glorification of a powerful monarch who exerts instantaneous power of life and death over his subjects. As noted even though things worked out the king was ready to destroy his Jewish subjects over the whim of a slight to HIS ego.

This is not the Torah view of a righteous king. A righteous king is subject to G-D's Law. This certainly includes provision of due process for the accused before a legitimate court. Reply

tmoriah channelview, texas/usa January 29, 2011

purim Saragossa it make's me happy to know I was born on such a great for the jewish people.our god is wonderful. Reply

David Tzvi-Hersh Mesa, Arizona February 3, 2010

Beautiful Thanks for this beautiful story. It confirms what we already know. Be open to receiving G-d's assistance and you will understand his message. Try to figure out if it's a leyend or a fact, and you miss the message.

To Jim. There must be a Chabad Center near you. Go chat with the director, everyone is always welcome, you don't need to be Jewish, and he will not ask you to become Jewish. Explain what you do and ask for his help to find work. Reply

Jim Higginbotham Hazen, North Dakota February 1, 2010

Dream Reality. Howdy.
thanks everyone for your thoughts and advice.
like i said, my wife and I are going through some really bad times right now.
most of it due to our LACK of finances, and on top of that the medical stuff i have been going through for the last two years, i can't even afford to RETIRE, because of this economy.
i KNOW there are folks out there worse off than we are, and WE THE PEOPLE DIDN'T CREATE THE MESS WITH THE ECONOMY.
i am a man who is used to WORKING and paying my way, but NO WORK in my trade right now, i just ask GOD to help us SURVIVE.
God Bless ALL HERE. Reply

Linda Plainview, tx/usa February 1, 2010

Dreams and bad times Jim, I'm not Jewish, but respect and love their G-d. I'm doing a family history and it is surprising how I see my great grandparents following dreams resulting in surviving in spite of adverse conditions.
I've seen this in my own life too.
Study Torah here with Chabad and you'll learn to understand more about and learn to love the G-d of the Jews. Reply

Angel February 1, 2010

DREAM Reality Jim when you trust and believe in the "One True G-D" you will be helped in good times and in not good times. Have faith and think positive that way you prove your faith. Reply

JJ ny, ny February 1, 2010

Miracle x2 A true miracle, whose impact is intensified from the echo of another miracle we know! Reply

R. Nosson February 1, 2010

Autheticated stuff If you just check google you'd find many links to sites which authenticate this with even a picture of the megilla p.s. there are many many private purims check ou the jewishencyclopedia :) Reply

James Higginbotham Hazen, ND February 1, 2010

dream Howdy.
i wonder if God comes in the dreams of us who are not of the Jewish faith?
that Marcus was indeed an EVIL MAN and DESERVED his punishment for trying to decieve his King against the Jewish people.
myself i love the Jewish people for bringing us the ONE TRUE GOD, but there are times when i am going through some bad times like i am now for GOD to send one of his Angles to help me.
God Bless.
Jim. Reply

Baruch Davidson, Chabad.org February 3, 2008

In the Megillah (scroll) that the descendants of the Jews of Saragossa read, all the details of the story are included. The story took place in the year 1420, in the city Saragossa, the capital of Aragon – now part of Spain, then its own country – which was under the rule of a king referred to as Saragonssus (apparently a generic name referring to any ruler of the Kingdom of Aragon) better known as Alfonso V.

This holiday is celebrated by the descendants of the Jews of the Saragossan community of old. A personal friend of mine living in Istanbul recently wrote an article with photos of a family in his community which continues this custom to this very day, reading from an ancient scroll passed down in in their extended family. Reply

Anonymous January 25, 2008

More Information, please This is a lovely story, but unless you give more information (date, name of the king, etc.) it sounds like just another legend... Reply

Anonymous January 24, 2008

Re: Where is Purim Saragossa still observed? Purim Saragossa is celebrated by Jews whose ancestors were from Saragossa, by reading a "Megillah" in which they documented the entire chain of events. I do not know of a "Saragossa community", so it seems that it is celebrated privately by these Jews together with their families, and other Saragossa émigrés. Reply

Anonymous Amstelveen, Netherlands January 24, 2008

Where is Purim Saragossa still observed? Can you tell me in which communities Purim Saragossa is still observed? What are the customs? Reply

Anonymous Mexico City, Mexico January 24, 2008

To my understanding, the place you're referring to is Zaragoza and not Saragossa... Reply