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Study and Theory/

The Governor's Goblet

A Jewish folk tale from Kurdistan

At dawn of the eve of Passover, several Jewish families from nearby villages arrived to Amadiya in Kurdistan to celebrate Passover at the home of Rabbi Yehuda ben Shimon.  The son of Rabbi Yehuda welcomed the visitors and together with his brothers and sisters helped the guests unload the groceries and Passover utensils from the mules that had carried them. The wives of the guests joined the women of the house and got busy helping with preparations for the holiday. The men gave food and drink to the mules and cleaned the stables of leftover chametz.

At ten o'clock in the afternoon, the voice of the beadle of Amadiya from the roof of the central synagogue was heard announcing: "The time has come for the elimination of chametz, Pesach, Pesach, you shall not do any work!"

At that time, the members of the household of Rabbi Yehuda and his guests were busy removing the remaining chametz and had gone to participate in the baking ceremony of the "preserved Matza." They all marched in the direction of the baking ovens, headed by Rabbi Yehudah's son, who carried on his shoulder the pitcher of "water that stood overnight."
The men helped the women in all the preliminary tasks preceding Matzot baking. One of the young men lit the stove with willow branches and dried lulavs, which were hid away for this purpose from Sukkot. The aging, wrinkled faced mother of Rabbi Yehuda supervised the procedure of baking of the "preserved Matza".

All the men gathered near the baking oven shouted loudly: "Cohen, Cohen" and the Cohen of the group went to bake the first loaf; "Levy, Levi" and Levi from the group baked the second loaf; "Israel, Israel" and one of the men, who is neither a Cohen nor Levi, baked the third loaf." With a stick from a Hadar-tree branch they marked by one line the "Matza of the Cohen", by two lines - the "Matza of the Levi" and by three lines the "Matza of Israel". They placed the three loaves of the "preserved Matza" that were baked while reciting the "Hallel" in a copper bowl, covered them with a decorated napkin and led them to Rabbi Yehuda's room singing chants of the holiday. As the carrier of the "preserved Matza" bowl approached with a crowd of escorts to the Rabbi's room, they were shocked to see the district governor and his bodyguards hastily leaving the house.

When they entered the room, they saw the revered rabbi, praying in a whisper with closed eyes. When Rabbi Yehudah noticed the "preserved Matza" carrier and his escorts, he opened his eyes, looked at them with a serious expression on his face, and said: "The governor told me to reveal within three days who was the one who stole a gold goblet of diamonds from his house. In the next three days, the governor will order that chametz-flour be sprinkled in every one of our houses, which shall disrupt the joy of our holiday. If I succeed to reveal the name of the thief, the governor shall grant a number of gold coins to the community fund matching the weight of the missing goblet." 

Rabbi Yehuda's words, which were uttered with a heavy heart, upset all the people and their faces fell. One of the elderly guests spread out his hands and prayed: "Our Heavenly Father, please thwart the plot of the governor who wishes to violate the commandment of your Torah: for seven days leaven shall not be seen in your homes."


When the rabbi saw the sadness on the faces of his family and guests, his face lit up and he remarked, "We will celebrate the Passover Seder as it is, and we will observe the salvation of the Creator". The rabbi's words inspired a spirit of faith and gave hope to the hearts of the hosts and the guests.

In the evening, when the entire congregation gathered in the synagogue for the holiday service, the rabbi addressed the congregation, "worship God with joy with trembling and the salvation of the Lord shall come as quick as a blink of an eye." The crowd that filled the synagogue mumbled the prayer of the holiday with fervor and devotion. The worshipers' excitement and anxiety were mostly pronounced as they raised their voices when reciting the verse from the psalm of the holiday: "And they cried out to God in their distress, and he saved them from their misery."

While Rabbi Yehuda, his sons and guests were in the synagogue, two of the governor's soldiers hid on the roof of R. Yehuda's house. The governor had ordered them to listen from the chimney of the house and to look at what the Jewish rabbi was doing, in order to discover the name of the man who had stolen from his house of treasures the goblet he had prized more than anything else.


When the "Seder" began, the soldiers listened intently to voices coming out of the chimney but heard nothing. As soon as their eyes were on the verge closing for a nap, voices of the crowd had emerged from the chimney

They sang "Dayeinu". When one of the soldiers heard that the rabbi and the people kept repeating "Dayeinu", he jumped up and whispered to his friend, "Don't you hear?
The rabbi discovered that "Dayeinu, the guard of the fortress took the governor's goblet." The sleepy soldier opened his eyes and listened to all of the people repeating, "Dayeinu, Dayeinu" as if confirming the rabbi's words.

The soldiers descended quietly from the roof of the house and rushed to tell the governor that the Jewish rabbi had discovered that the robber was Dayeinu, the guard of the fortress. That same night the governor summoned "Dayeinu."

The guard of the fortress admitted to stealing the goblet and hiding it in a niche in the guard's room. The governor ordered the arrest of the defendant and went immediately to the home of Rabbi Yehuda, to thank him and bless him for his great wisdom. The governor revealed to the rabbi that the soldiers he had ordered to stay on the roof of his house had heard from him that Dayeinu was responsible for the theft. The rabbi's eyes brightened, his face glowed with joy, and in his heart, he thanked the Creator for the wondrous salvation, and the people gazed dumbfoundedly as the governor related his narrative. 

When the governor offered the rabbi to hand over a bundle of coins to the Jewish community fund in Amadiya, Rabbi Yehuda made it clear to him that Jews were forbidden to engage in financial matters on Yom Tov and asked him to postpone the delivery of his contribution until after the holiday. The joy of those in the house of Rabbi Yehuda had risen to great heights. For a long time, they sang these words from Haggadah with excitement and joy:

"And it is that which stood for us and our forefathers, that not only one has threatened to destroy us, and the Holy One, blessed be He, has saved us from their hands.

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