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A Handbook and Reader of Ottoman Arabic

Esther-Miriam Wagner

II. Reader

12. A Basra Passover Haggadah with Judaeo-Arabic translation (ca. 1700)

Omer Shafran

Texte intégral

1Location of the manuscript: Jerusalem, The National Library of Israel Ms. Heb. 8°713 [B 296 (8°713)].




Arabic Transcription


2‘Lo! This is the bread of the afflicted, which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt; let all those who are hungry enter and eat thereof; and all who are needy, come and celebrate the Passover! This year we are here, but next year we hope to celebrate it in the land of Israel. This year we are slaves here, but next year we hope to be freemen in the land of Israel.’ (English translation with slight alterations drawn from Russotto 1912).


has-sana ‘this year’, is an apocopation of the demonstrative hāḏi, as is common on Southern Iraqī.1 Its use in this context may additionally have been facilitated by the homophonous Hebrew definite article. The verbal form חספיי yifsaḥ, here ‘he will celebrate the Passover’, is peculiar to the language of the Jews, and is derived from the festival name Pesaḥ ‘Passover’; this verb appears also in the original Aramaic/Hebrew text (see above, חספי ). The structurereflects the spoken Arabic of Iraq, where constructions such as sana l-jāya ‘next year’, bab iš-šārgi ‘the eastern gate’, and ṣōb aljanūbi ‘the southern direction’ are common.2 It is an old construction that has disappeared from Modern Standard Arabic, but is still very common in the dialects, and its usage in this place may have been reinforced by its being a calque of the analogous Hebrew construction, le-šana (indefinite, thus in this passage) hab-baʾa (definite) ‘next year’.


1  I am grateful to Prof. Clive Holes for this suggestion.

2  Again, I am indebted to Prof. Clive Holes for his comments on the phenomenon.



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