Marriage in Mogador- Asher Knafo-David Bensoussan

הועתק 68Marriage in Mogador

Mogador-Essaouira, a maritime metropolis of the South, younger than the northern towns ( Fez, Meknez, Tetouan, Rabat, Salé ) and its big neighbour Marrakesh, brimming with its many and varied activities, participated, in spite of its recent history, in the grand destiny of Jewish Morocco and the Sherifian Empire. It was famous for its important role in opening up the whole country to the outside world, its economic and cultural influences, and its tujjar a־s-sultan, the traders of the King, who were not only exporters and importers of goods – produce of the land and artisans – but were also erudite, belonging to the tradition of businessman-scholar (the artisan-scholar also belonged in this category), who pursued the double quest of science and fortune.

The scholarly writer of Essaouira, the one who was known throughout the past two centuries, has the same intellectual profile and the same spiritual destiny as those like him in the past or present in the cities of Fez, Meknez, Tetouan or Marrakech. He was often their disciple or emulator, or sometimes even master in certain subjects and disciplines such as poetic creativity, both Hebrew and dialectical, and the playing of Andalousian music, whether classical or popular.

I would like to evoke here a few illustrious figures who I have known personally in my childhood, and for whom I have preserved wonderful and moving memories. These include my masters of Talmud and Midrash, Rabbi David Attar and Rabbi Pinhas Abisror, Rabbi Braham Bensoussan, and Rabbi David Knafo. I remember also my grandparents Rabbi Meir Zafrani and Rabbi Abraham Ben David ve- Yossef, talmudists and kabbalists of whom I was a disciple, and those great cantors and poets Rabbi David Elkai'm and Rabbi David Iflah. These two liturgical singers, as well as many others, knew how to preserve, enrich, transmit and teach piyyut (liturgical poetry) and songs, a thousand year old musical heritage still present in the memories and hearts of Moroccan Jews.

If Rabbi David Iflah, known as Sheikh David, the "Dean" of the community, was the great master of Andalousian music, a specialist known and respected by Jews and Muslims of his generation, Rabbi David Elkai'm was also an artisan and artist-carver by profession, an engraver, draftsman, and painter. His many manuscripts, epitaphs and ketubot are masterpieces due to their admirable calligraphy and the illuminations with which they were often illustrated. His poetic oeuvre is assembled in his diwan entitled Shiray Dodim (Songs of Loves.)

The collection of ketubot, which is so remarkably presented in the present collection, contributes to our knowledge of a world that has now disappeared. It also contributes to the awakening of an interest in research, memory and identity. This is an undertaking worthy of high praise. I hope that it will be followed by other comparable works which will bring to light the richness and the diversity of the faces and the cultural heritage of Moroccan Jewry in general, and that of Mogador-Essaouira in particular.

Dr Haim Zafrani

Paris, January 24, 2002

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