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The articles in this issue have been divided up into the following categories







Rabbi Zimbartoot

by Edward Yamen, Milano

I thank The Scribe for bringing into my mind the name of Hakham “Zimbartoot”. Regarding the statement, attributed to him, which was equally known to me, as mentioned in your issue 74, page 63, if perused to a reader of the present, he would hardly believe that an offensive statement of the kind could be uttered by a Rabbi at any time and at any place. Surely the time was different, tolerance prevailed all over and a strong will to live in peace, regardless of religion was dominant.

Besides all that, the person under reference was so special and amiable by all, Muslims and Jews, being a good-hearted man and well-known of having a witty skill in cracking jokes of all kinds up to a degree that he was given the liberty to cross the bounds of good taste as a “privilege”, enticing him to speak his eloquence freely and without any inhibition whatsoever, which was called at that time “AMAN WA RAI” which means more or less: “absolute freedom of speech”! So, things went like that with him, undisputed, as it seemed.

Before concluding, I want to clarify that in his era people felt more strongly the warmth of a friendship in the willingness to share enthusiasms and knowledge and lived in that adoration.

Regarding the name “Zimbartoot” it does not seem “his real one” and behind how he got it, there was a story which is as follows:

While he was a Yeshiva student in Baghdad reciting a passage in the Talmud amongst his teacher and companions he mispronounced a word which went his way in the passage. The word was ‘SEMARTOOT’ or if you like, ‘SMARTOOT’ which literally means a worthless piece of cloth. It seemed that his bad pronunciation made it change into “Zimbartoot” instead.

From that moment onwards, his companions started to use it as a nickname which replaced his personal one until now. “What is in a nickname” is always funnier than “What is in a name”!

Was the mispronunciation, kind of a joke? The reader’s guess is as good as mine.


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