Tuesday, December 8, 2015

One story to last 8 nights

I'd like to present some stories, including a recipe or two, over these next eight nights of Hanukkah. True, this is the third night and this is my first story, but since I haven't been blogging in some time, it's taken a few early morning jumping jacks to gain the stamina needed to blog again. (If you're a blogger you'll know what I'm talking about.) Anyway, I'd like to tell some stories, and altho they may not be posted consecutively, and may not be the holiday stories you're looking for, or may even be considered insignificant, I'm hoping they might shine a little light in these dark times.  

Here's the first story.

 Twelve against One

 Shalom Assaraf

Shalom Assaraf would NOT be outdone. A Jewish merchant in the Imperial city of Fes, Shalom had many Muslim clients with whom he got along, but there was one whose extravagant wife never paid her bills. Finally, after much pleading, Shalom took the man to Muslim Court and sued him under Sharia law.

For Jews in the 19th century this was a common practice, oftentimes with favorable outcomes. Jews and Muslims used both Jewish and Muslim courts to settle disputes. There was a fluidity between the courts. In the day to day, a fluidity too, as Jews and Muslims spoke with each other and were neighbors, unlike today, where a deep, infinitesimal chasm divides the two.


1. a yawning fissure or deep cleft in the earth's surface.
2. a marked interruption of continuity; gap
3. a sundering breach in relations, as a divergence of opinions and/or beliefs between persons or groups.

Back to Shalom: He sued the guy whose wife didn't pay. The guy sued back, saying Shalom had not one shred of evidence. Shalom then gathered 12 Muslim men in court to testify. They told the judges they knew the wife and knew she hadn't paid, thus, another suit

The Muslim man sued back saying there was still no written proof; Shalom returned to court and sued again (without papers, as he hadn't written anything down for the wife), and it went back and forth like this for months, the Jew and the Muslim fighting like boxing opponents in the open air market, knocking down stalls and spilling vegetables, without end.

Finally, after many trials and errors, the Muslim court declared Shalom the Jew the winner! 

I can see the headlines now, "A Jew wins in Sharia Court!"

The End

Note: Needless to say this couldn't happen today. The two people who come from the same father hardly speak to each other, are afraid of each other, have taken things from each other that they can't give back: goods, property, peace, life. But even the Jew Maimonides (next story) traded and worked with Muslims, rumor being he converted to one before he died. Even today there are still a small few who try to bridge the chasm.

This story was taken from notes written during a lecture by scholar Jessica M. Marglin, from her book, "Across Legal Lines: Jews and Muslims in Modern Morocco." Presented at ELYSIAN as part of Kan Ya Ma Kan. A portion of what she said is laid down here with a few additional flourishes, by me.



  1. Charlotte, what a wonderful idea for Hanukkah stories. Thank you for creating this. Please make more. The nights are long, and we need this little light!

    1. Just the encouragement needed! Thank you friend!

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed your blog, Charlotte. Hope there will be more.
    Chag Sameach Hanukah!

    1. Sandy! how wonderful to see you here! Okay more coming up i promise. Happy Hanukkah!!