Unknown regulations in Ladino from Salonika (ca. 1740): Ethos, ideal, reality

Yaron Ben-Naeh*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In the mid-1930s, Viennese bookseller David Fränkel described a booklet containing regulations in Ladino. Its whereabouts were unknown until it recently appeared in a public auction in Jerusalem. Though Fränkel attributed it to Istanbul, his description leaves no room for doubt that this is the same text, but internal evidence points to Salonika. The four-page booklet is unsigned and undated; one can only conjecture that it was printed in the mid-1740s upon the initiative of the rabbinical and communal leadership in Salonika. It contains two groups of regulations: the first, 24 in number, is arranged according to the months, generally with some connection between the content of the regulation and the month in which it was promulgated; the second contains 18 diverse halakhic directives. In addition to its rarity, the booklet is most instructive about several matters: (a) The religious-cultural character of the community, far from the one desired by the rabbis and from the ideal image of a traditional society that punctiliously observes religious commandments - both depicted by historians as well as by those who wrote about their native community after it was exterminated by the nazis. The text relates to many transgressions of the religious law, whether intentionally or accidentally; members do not know the basics of Judaism and do not understand the prayers or passages read from the Torah. There is much information on the practices connected to the Sabbath and holidays and to lifecycle. (b) The Ladino spoken in Salonika in the mid-eighteenth century is in a transitional stage, showing traces characteristic of earlier periods as well as innovations. Many Hebrew words are interspersed in the text, a fact that raises the question about knowledge of Hebrew. (c) The use and the importance and meaning of printing as mass communication. The following is a summary of the 24 regulations. Some are previously unknown, while others are more or less familiar. Reference is made in the article to similar earlier or contemporary regulations (such as in Orhot Yosher). The objective of most of the regulations was to prevent ostentatious consumption and waste of money, moral failings, tension with non-Jews or their complaints about indecent behavior of Jewish women, disregard of religious commandments, as well as to eliminate improper practices, particularly those related to prayers and the Sabbath.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)137-149
Number of pages13
JournalMiscelanea de Estudios Arabes y Hebraicos, Seccion Hebreo
StatePublished - 2016


  • Community
  • Culture
  • Islam
  • Ottoan Jewry
  • Regulations
  • Religion
  • Salonica
  • Traditional society


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