Mystery Tale of the Sarajevo Haggadah

rabban gamaliel sarajevo

The Mystery Tale of The Sarajevo Haggadah in Dm — Bb

I am a book a telling
the tale, the story
this, then, the telling of the telling
distinguished I am by illuminations
drawn onto sienna red background
blue foreground, blue borders
I am the tale that begins with Creation
ending with the present
I am called Haggadah
which means a telling
the most celebrated Haggadah in the world
one of the most famous books in the world
I am the Sarajevo Haggadah.

I was created for a wealthy Castilian family in Barcelona
about 1350.
It is assumed I left Spain with the expulsion in 1492
then to Italy.
How I crossed the Adriatic to Bosnia Hercegovina
a mystery.
Mystery tale
and wonders
and signs.

I am 107 pages long hand written on vellum [calf skin]
similar to a Sefer Torah, the holy Bible
the first 34 pages are miniature paintings
painted on one side only
no bleeding through
my colors are bold blues sienna reds bright copper
the other 58 pages are hand written text
songs, poems, Biblical passages
the story of the story
told on Passover.

From marginal notations added to the text
I reveal that I was sold in northern Italy in August, 1510
then examined by an Italian ecclesiastical censor in 1609.
I crossed the Adriatic some time between then and 1894 —
when I was sold by the Jozef Kohen family
to the Sarajevo National Museum
for $7,000 —
In 1991 it was estimated I am worth $700 million.

In World War II, the Nazis came looking for me.
First they carried off 80 percent of Sarajevo’s 12,000 Jews
then they came looking for its soul.

The Catholic director of the National Museum deceived them
a Croat Jozo Petricevic and a Muslim librarian Dervis Korkut
hid me on a mountain
they buried me under an apple tree
Mount Bjelasnica.

I am I am I am one of the most beautiful books
in the world.
I am beautiful because I am colorful
I am old
I am beautiful because
I am an unlikely survivor.

I survived with part of my story
intact
the telling of the telling is somewhat known.
There is nothing as dear
to me as survival.

I am the tale – without the telling, I am nothing
with the telling – I am everything. 
I am the secret of survival
the telling of the telling
freedom of freedom in freedom.

I have a hand-drawn quality
my words inscribed in bold Mediterranean posture
I am 650 years old more or less
my story however begins with Genesis
I conclude with the present —
that is, the whole story.

During the Bosnian War of 1990s
I was hidden then too
an explosion flooded a basement next to my hiding place
again I was saved.

I am presently kept in a bank vault in Sarajevo
I am wrapped in white tissue
I am in a sealed blue metal lock box.

In 2003, I was revealed to the public
in a secure climate controlled room
with documents — from the Bosnian Orthodox
from the Muslims from Catholic Bosnia —
a project of hope sponsored by the United Nations.

From Jakob Finci, president of the Jewish community of Bosnia-Herzegovina
in Sarajevo:
we can live together
we used to live together for centuries
let’s hope we can live together in the centuries ahead of us.
This country is divided in so many ways
only the opening of this room
brought them all together with one idea.

I am a symbol
a survivor
from the first Golden Age in Spain
I survived into a 2nd Golden Age
Sarajevo
Yerushalayim chica
the little Jerusalem of Bosnia
I am a much more important story
than the world knows –

With this, I have given you
the telling of the telling
now you know.

Among all the mystery tales of my text
I survived:

A la una yo naci
I was born at 1 o’clock

a las dos m’engrandeci
at two I grew up

a las tres tomi amante
at three I took a lover

y a las cuatro me cazi
and at 4 I married

alma vida y corazon
soul, life, and heart.

The future belongs to the future
what to make of the past
memory ascending
exile descending
tearful triumphant romantic

night memory —

a whole life told in hours
an entire world told in stories
and always the great story
every thing contained in some thing
an entire life told in hours
a history in stories.

When the Jews leave a city,
the city is finally dead

Bosnian proverb.

The remnant – O God
preserve the remnant
so that no one will ever say
these holy prayers have perished
the ones who spoke them –

perished too.

james stone goodman

Songs:

Shomeir Yisrael, O guardian of Israel
Project them, preserve the remnant
U’ve-Moftim
Alma Vida y Corazon
A La Una Yo Naci