July 4th, 2002


*The Samaritan Tradition

*The Samaritans in Jewish Literature.

*A Curtain (Parokhet) for the Holy of Holies

*New Articles Posted at Our Web Site

*Results of the NY Auction: Scroll.


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 The Samaritan Tradition By Osher Sassoni

Holy Utensils


    Unlike our Brothers, the Jews, the sons of Kingdom of Judea, the Samaritan do not use tefillin, nor tie it on their hand and arms. The Samaritans interpret the verses of the commandment, as a spiritual meaning not in the material sense of the verses, as in using or tying the tefillin. In the Book of Exodus, chapter 13, verse 16, it is written, relating to the exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt;  “It shall be for a sign on your hand, and for symbols (phylactery) between your eyes: for by strength of hand Yahweh brought us forth out of Egypt." A parallel verse in the Torah is found in Exodus 13:9, where it is written; “It shall be for a sign to you on your hand, and for a memorial between your eyes”. From here we learn, that the meaning of the phylactery is a spiritual memorial, to remember God’s commands, and not as a material symbol, as it is written in another place in the Torah, “ And you shall remember all God’s commands.” This meaning that a person intends to say or do any physical action, must first remember, God’s laws. The laws of God must stand, where as no sin must be seen with you, by the works of your hands (as in physical actions). Every time a person speaks or physically acts, he must first recall the Torah (law), lest he disobeys one of the commandments. The proof which proves this, is found in verse 13, in the continuation of the spoken verse: “that the law of Yahweh may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand Yahweh has brought you out of Egypt.”

 In Deut 6:4, Shema Yisrael (Hear Israel) it is written: “You shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be for symbols between your eyes” the meaning of the word “bond” is spiritual, a bond between a man to his creator, as it was written concerning the love between Jacob, our forefather, to his son, Benjamim, “his life is bound up in the boy's life” (Genesis 44:30) This again is shown as a spiritual expression to the love between Father and his son. The bond between man and his creator is the covenant.

 Tsisit -Tait (Fringed Garmnets)

The sons of the Samaritan communities on their workdays do not wear the holy Tsisit, lest desecration of these holy Utensils may occur. The people of Israel were commanded, “and that you are to make a distinction between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean;” (Lev 10:10).

The Samaritan Garments are a white and lengthy wear, which drops down to the feet, along with lengthy sleeves. On the upper-right lapel of the garments are 22 fasteners, as a symbol to the 22 letters of the Torah. On the upper-left lapel of the garment, there are little nooses to close the garment fasteners are connected.  The Samaritans wear these garments during their prayers in the synagogue, and this equalizes everyone to one level before the creator, without the individual differences of jobs, financial situations, etc’.

The priests of the community, and especially the cantors, wear another type of garment called the ‘Tsisit-Talit’. This is worn when the scrolls of the Torah are removed from the Holy Ark. This Talit is very similar to the “Big-Talit” that the Jews wear.

Head Cover-(Kipa).

The sons of the Samaritan community, do not wear a head cover like the Jewish ‘Kipa’ (cap) used as a separation between a man to his creator. The Samaritans do have to wear a head-covering, but when entering the synagogue, or during a prayer, or when entering other holy places. Everyone who enters must put on a head-cover on his head, be they men or women. The men usually wear the crimsoned Tarbush, although, anything else can be worn.  The women wear a nylon fabric. The priests of the community wear on workdays, a turban with a red strap of cloth bound around it. On the holy days they wear the turban with a white strap-cloth bound around it. The symbol of the priest’s turbans is to separate the priests as God’s servants from all the people placing them on a little higher level above the other people. As it was written; “for glory and for beauty.”

Mezuza (doorpost)

“You shall write them on the door-posts of your house, and on your gates” Shema Yisrael (Hear Israel) 6:4

The Samaritan tradition interprets the Mezuza to mean doorpost (house walls). The post-doors (Mezuzot) are, usually a marble slab, or high quality paper with verses from the Torah written on it. Nowadays the Samaritans position their Mezuzot (door-post) above the house door or on one of the big walls of the house. Some Samaritans people just use a Jewish style Mezuza, placing inside it a small written Samaritan scroll.

The Samaritans in Jewish Literature 

   Among the Jewish Literature of early writings and still today there are passages concerning the Samaritans that have formed the opinions of Jewish regulations. Some passages conclude that the Samaritans are converts and should be treated like Jews, while like the Prophets and Josephus conclude that the Samaritans had forsaken the Laws and therefore cannot be trusted. Most of the remarks in their regulating legal books consider the Samaritans to be like Gentiles.While yet some Rabbis tried to support the Samaritans with words such as, 'the Samaritans are genuine converts, and the priests with whom they are defiled are legal priests' (Kidd  75b, Rabbi Akiba).  But are the Samaritans the focus in most of these passages?  

   "The first mechanism I shall discuss is that of sereptitious defiance, combined with outward compliance. As explained above, talmudic passages directed against Christianity or against non-Jews had to go or to be modified - the pressure was too strong. This is what was done: a few of the most offensive passages were bodily removed from all editions printed in Europe after the mid-16th century. In all other passages, the expressions 'Gentile', 'non-Jew', 'stranger' (goy, eino yehudi, , nokhri) - which appear in all early manuscripts and printings as well as in all editions published in Islamic countries - were replaced by terms such as 'idolator', 'heathen' or even 'Canaanite' or 'Samaritan', terms which could be explained away but which a Jewish reader could recognize as euphemisms for the old expressions." Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years by Professor Israel Shahak

   'Later, upon the arbitrary exercise of the Christian censor's power over the printed editions of the Talmud, "Kuthim" was easily used as a substitute for "Goyim,: Gentiles", or the sharper expression, "Worshippers of the stars and constellations," terms which often included the Christians.....Elder MSS often show that the reading "Kuthim" is not original." THE SAMARITANS, The Earliest Jewish Sect, Their History, Theology and Literature. By James Alan Montgomery, 1907, The John C. Winston Co., Philadelphia. p.165-166. (See note 2 for listings)

    Christian persecutions over the years censored the books of the Jews for any thing considered to be of anti-Christian wording. Many Jewish  books were burned (See E.J., Talmud, burning of, vol. 15, p768.), to counter this some of the wording had to be changed. Who better than the small sect of the Samaritans that posed them no threat. The change of wording would still be known to contain the same implications that were given in the beginning. But this may have been two-fold, accordingly there were some 40 Samaritan manuscripts that entered Europe before 1700. The fact that the Samaritan manuscripts were becoming known to the European communities added to the knowledge that there was a different Text other than the Jewish version and the LXX. This had to have had a great impact on the Jewish communities, not withstanding the criticism of their own books. Therein the changes of the wording to denote the Samaritans, may have also been a defense by the Jewish rabbis concerning their own texts.


A Curtain (Parokhet) for the Holy of Holies (the Ark of the Law),

Embroidered in 1747/48 C.E. has been Restored

    One of the most important curtains concealing the Holy of Holies in the Synagogue on Mount Gerizim was restored, of late, by Yissachar and Dror b. Avraham Hammarchivi, Samaritan brothers from the Samaritan community in Holon. Yissachar, who works in the “Menorah” Insurance Company in Tel-Aviv, and Dror, owner of the “A.Marchiv” Sewing Factory in Holon responded to the request of High Priest Shalom, who took into consideration  Dror`s extensive expertise in textile production and sewing, and asked them to check the possibility of a professional reconstruction to one of the most important Holy of Holies Curtains at the Synagogue on Mount Gerizim. The brothers approached Mrs. Susie Gabizon, Director of the Center for Preservation at the Museum of Israel in Jerusalem, requesting a bid on the restoration. The bid included removing the Parokhet, which was falling apart, from the ancient fabric, transferring it onto a new cloth together with the original worn-out one, preparing a lining and arranging it for hanging.  The museum estimated restoration at some 75-80 hours for the price of $4000. The time schedule was about 8 months.

    When the brothers informed High Priest Shalom of the price he was astounded by the high cost of the work. After a brief consultation between themselves they decided to do the restoration themselves and dedicate the time and cost invested as a gift to the synagogue on Mount Gerizim.  Last Passover 26.4.2002 a suitable occasion has been set, to return the Parokhet to its place of honor at the Synagogue on Mount Gerizim.

    The embroidery on the curtain puts the right a common error in the folk Samaritan tradition, passed on from one generation to another, about the “exile” of priest Tabia b. Yessak in the years 1752-1787 [the year of his demise in Nablus]. Due to the affair of the death of his first wife, who was the sister of the community leaders, the brothers Shalma and Abraham b. Yacob. B. Ab-Seekuwwa Hadinfi, a quarrel broke out between Shalma, the older brother and Tabia the priest. Shalma accused Tabia the priest of neglecting his sister. Tabia fell into melancholy and depression and decided to leave Nablus behind and move to live in the Samaritan community in Gaza. It appears that he did not travel to Gaza by himself but took his mother, Hadabeh, with him. First they went to Jaffa [called "Phelishtem" by old Samaritan writers] to visit Tabia`s friend, the sage Tabia b. Ab Zahutaa Hammatari, who lived there and held there a senior administrative position. Tabia lay his troubles before the sage, including the fact that the leader, Shalma Hadinfi, was preventing the community from giving him a woman in marriage.

    The folk tradition recounts that Tabia Hammatari consoled his friend and promised him he would take him with him to his own family in Gaza, where he would marry him to the daughter of his brother, Jacob. The Gaza Samaritans, who were at that time threatened by extinction were very happy with the great honor that befell them and gave him a woman in marriage in exchange for a promise that he would remain with them and try to help the last remnants of the community to recover.

    However, the real story was slightly different. Tabia did not marry his cousin, he married another daughter of the same family from Gaza, Mussarah [Ikhlak] b. Shalah b. Yishmael [the “owl”] Hammatari of Gaza [called “Kaftarrem” by the Samaritan old writers]. This took place in 1743, according to a marriage deed (Katubah) number 44 in the Firkowitch Collection at St. Petersburg, section number 10. The High Priest who officiated in Nablus at the time was Tabia`s uncle, Libi b. Abraam. When High Priest Libi passed away in 1752, the powerful dignitary Shalma b. Yacob Hadinfi, who had himself married seven times one after the other without any success at producing an heir, (his brother Abraam Elayyeh too married at least two wives one after the other), - had given in to the pressure of his wise brother Abraam Elayyeh and both traveled to Gaza at the head of a deputation, asking Tabia the priest to come back to Nablus and serve there as High Priest.     

    Consequently, Tabia, whose longings to Mount Gerizim had been very powerful, hurried to return to Nablus, bringing with him four Torah Books and four of the last Samaritans in Gaza.  The popular common error concerns his wife`s name. 

According to oral tradition she was called Hadabeh, whereas according to the Parokhet, Hadabeh was the priest Tabia`s mother and the sister of Tabia and Yacob b. Ab Zahutaa Hammatari. This is testified by the embroidery at the bottom of the curtain, using silver threads that have turned black. Translation:  Tabia b. AbZahutaa Hammatari, a resident of Jaffa, a man of wisdom who does many a good deed, made a donation of this curtain to the Lord and the Lord will accept it of him and to him He will convert evil into goodness and preserve the lives of his sons, Amen.  In the year 1160 of the Hijrah (=1747/8 C.E.) I thank the Lord, Tabia son of Yitzhaq the priest the Levite of Nablus wrote the curtain, may the Lord forgive his father and place his father`s spirit in Paradise forever. This curtain was embroidered in honor of the Synagogue in Nablus by the perfect woman, Hadabeh daughter of AbZahutaa of the Matari, and she is the mother of the writer of the curtain, may the Lord forgive her, Amen.
   To the brothers Yissachar and Dror b. Avraham Hammarchiv, - Well done!
   (A.B. News Services)

New Articles Posted at Our Web Site

New! Popular Judaism at the Time of the Second Temple in Light of Samaritan Traditions by Moses Gaster.

New! The Land and the Book or Biblical Illustrations Drawn From the Manners and Customs, The Scenes and Scenery of the Holy Land by W.M. Thomson.

New! The Samaritans in the Hasmonean Period by Lester L. Grabbe.

New! The Tsedaka Family: One of the Most Active Elements in the Samaritan Community in the 20th Century by Nathan Schur.

New! The Return of the Diaspora Samaritans to Nablus at the End of the Middle Ages by Nathan Schur.

New! Literary Remains of the Late Emanuel Deutsch,1874

New! The Last Israelitish Blood Sacrifice by John D. Whiting, 1920.

New! The Samaritan Passover by Owen Tweedy, 1928.

New! Literary Remains of the Late Emanuel Deutsch,1874.

Results at the NY Auction:

Concerning the Samaritan Torah Scroll

    The handwritten Torah scroll previously owned by Dr. Schrire was up for auctioned on June 25th, by Kestenbaum and Company in New York. The Samaritan Scroll was written by Yacob B. Azzi in Shechem in the 1920's was offered at the auction by Fishburn Books of London. The Torah scroll was listed in the catalog as # 260  and estimated to sell for 6,000 to 8,000 US Dollars. Unfortunately no one purchased the scroll at the auction. Amazing, I can only speculate that no one there knew the significance of the scroll! Don't forget that Fishburn Books still have some of the remaining books from Dr. Schrire still for sale. Visit their website at http://fishburnbooks.com/    (Shomron)

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