A Collection of Long-Lost Manuscripts Sheds Light on Medieval Afghan Jewry

A few years ago, the National Library of Israel acquired some 300 pages of documents written by Afghan Jews in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries. These include personal and business correspondence, religious and legal documents, journals, and ledgers. Most are in Judeo-Persian—Persian written in Hebrew characters—but some are in Hebrew, Aramaic, or standard Persian. Highlighting some of the most interesting finds in the collection, Yoel Finkleman and Ofir Haim write:

A few weeks before Rosh Hashanah sometime in the 11th century, a distraught, young Jewish Afghani named Yair sent a painful letter to his brother-in-law, Abu-al-Hasan Siman Tov. Life had dealt Yair a tough hand, or maybe it was just his own bad choices. Having failed in business in his hometown of Bamiyan, he was now rumored to have “broken promises . . . regarding property” and failed truly to “observe the Sabbath.” Putting these problems behind him, he had left his young wife to move some 150 miles to Ghazni and begin anew.

But even there he struggled to make a living. More importantly, he missed his family. “Anyone who marries a woman brings peace to his own mind, as it is for all people, not so that I will be sitting in Ghazni and she in Bamiyan.” But, with business doing so poorly, Yair could barely make ends meet on a day-to-day basis, let alone afford the costs of travel. . . .

Hebrew or Aramaic liturgical and religious texts, [however], are in many ways the most exciting documents to come upon. Thus, one finds two pages of a prayer book for the Sabbath that are easily legible to any reader of modern Hebrew, despite being nearly 1,000 years old. With minor changes, they are identical to the prayers recited by traditional Jews today. Another two pages from the Mishnah . . . suggest that Jewish communities in the eastern part of historical Iran might have been closer to the talmudic and rabbinic tradition than anyone previously imagined, since scholars had often assumed that these traditions had not quite made it this far east.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Afghanistan, History & Ideas, Middle Ages, Persian Jewry

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7