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4 The Miracle of the Torah Scrolls T O L D B Y S I M H. A H M E Y U H. A S L E V Y T O TA M A R A L E X A N D E R Yes, there was another miracle. Every year, the Greek king used to come from Spain to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem. You know that Jesus was in Bethlehem. That’s where she [Mary] delivered Jesus. Mary gave birth to Jesus in Bethlehem. So every year he [the king] would come for a visit, at Christmas. They would take the Torah scrolls from theYoh.anan ben Zakkai Synagogue and go out to meet the king. A welcoming ceremony. What did the Jews do? They didn’t put the Torah scrolls inside. They took them out, and carried only the cases.* Yes, empty. And they went out. Of course, he [the king] didn’t know this. Once there was an argument. There was an argument between the Stambouli Synagogue and the Yoh.anan ben Zakkai Synagogue. “I’ll show you now!” someone said. What did he do? He went and informed on them. To whom? To those who organized the reception for the Christians. “You know, you think these Jews are coming out to greet the king with their Torah scrolls. It’s all a sham. They remove the Torah scrolls and bring only the empty cases.” “Can that be?” they [the authorities] said. “Are they deceiving the king? We’ll show those Jews!” They [the authorities] pretended they didn’t know anything. The king still didn’t know anything about it [the empty Torah case]. The Jews did not know that the authorities had been informed. Then the chief rabbi had the same dream three nights running. “Get up and put the Torah scrolls in their cases!” he was told. It was already a week before the date. “Master of the Universe!” he said. “What can these dreams mean?” The date of the king’s arrival approached. Three days before his arrival , he [the rabbi] had the dream again. This time he called the shammash at once. “You know,” he told him, “for three days now I’ve been *For Sephardic Torahs, the parchment scroll is stored inside a decorative wooden case from which it can be easily removed. 27 dreaming this, that we should go put the Torah scrolls into their cases.” The shammash took the rabbi, and they went to the synagogue and put the Torah scrolls into the cases and went back to bed. No one knew what they had done. When the king arrived and they [the Jews] went to greet him, what did they take? The Torah cases. On the way back, when everyone was returning to the city, they [the authorities] told the king that it was all a lie: There were no Torah scrolls inside and it was only the cases. “Indeed? Do these Jews want to deceive me? I’ll show them!” Suddenly he said, “Stop here in the road. I want to see what the Jews’ Torah is all about.” All the Jews were trembling. They didn’t know that the rabbi and the shammash had put the scrolls back inside the cases. But when they opened the cases, all the Torah scrolls were there where they belonged. “Look what kind of people there are who can spread such libels,” said the king. The royal procession kept going. Nothing had happened. They kept going. When they [the authorities] returned to the city, they asked, “Who was it who told us that? It’s a fact that the Torah scrolls are in their places!” At once they said it was a Jew himself who had come to inform. They immediately went and arrested him again. The custom was that somebody who did something that wasn’t right, they hanged him. They would put a rope around his neck in public and lead him out. TA: In the market? SMY: On Jaffa Road . . . there used to be a clock there,* and we could hear it as far as the Old City and we could hear it chiming. TA: Next to the Generali Building, next to the Lion? SMY: No, no! In the Old City, at the Jaffa Gate. There was a clock there. You remember. TA: No. Listener: No, she doesn’t remember. I don’t remember. I was a small boy. SMY: There was a clock. It was several...


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