a personal traveling compendium of Judaic knowledge: a testament to devotion and erudition
The particularly apt Aramaic title of this book, Zivadin le-Orhah (Sustenance for the Journey), is taken from the Targum on Genesis 42:25. This compact volume contains within its neatly written pages a broad array of classic Jewish texts. These include a lengthy treatise on the calendar and its intercalation, including charts and tables re: months and zodiacal signs, abbreviated laws of shehitah (ritual slaughter), biblical measurements and currencies, genealogy from Adam through the Second Temple period, a treatise by Nahmanides on the nature of exile, Explication of the 13 hermeneutical principles of Rabbi Ishmael, Moda'ah Rabbah, a preemptive confession of faith, and a host of other small, yet significant and diverse texts.
Nothing is known of David ibn Yefet 'Adani of Baghdad but what can be learned from the present lot. By his own testimony he was one of the poor itinerant peddlers who settled in Penang in Malaysia in the years between the World Wars. His physical poverty notwithstanding, David was rich in knowledge and gifted with a deep love of learning that is readily apparent to any reader of his Zivadin le-Orhah.
This little compendium encompasses within its covers an entire spectrum of Jewish life and lore, wit and wisdom, and puts a lie to the notion that the importance of Jewish history is told only by the works of great men or the recording of great events. This unprepossesing volume was written as the entire Jewish world teetered on the brink of a tragedy that could not have been foreseen by a peripatetic Jew wandering the back roads of an Asian hinterland peddling his wares. Yet within these pages is the essence of Jewish fortitude and the reason for Jewish survival. Unable take with him the many books whose wisdom he knew so well, he copied those treasured passages that he knew would sustain his appetite for Torah, in all the far flung places to which his destiny carried him.
We do not know when David ben Yefet was born nor do we know how or when he passed from this world. All we know of this remarkable man is what we see written in his own hand on the pages of the book he composed to take with him as Tzeidah la-Derekh, "Sustenance for the Journey." This was the lifeline, composed in ink and inscribed on a raft of paper, that connected him with the hundreds of generations of Jews that had preceded him.
Literature: Raimy Ché-Ross, A Penang Kaddish :The Jewish Cemetery in Georgetown. A case study of the Jewish Diaspora in Penang (1830s-1970s), at : http://www.ttc.edu.sg/csca/rart_doc/RaimyCheRoss.pdf.
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