There is a well-known claim that Rav Sa'adyah Gaon would roll in snow daily due to an earlier incident (see, e.g., here). According to this article, the story first appears in the late 1700s. Is anyone here aware of any earlier sources (i.e. within a couple of hundred years after Rav Sa'adyah passed away), or aware of an explanation as to how he would have rolled in snow daily when the climate of the places he lived was extremely dry and hot (see, e.g., here regarding his birthplace)?

  • 2
    If you read in the comments above your citation in the linked page from the Ben Ish Chai, he explains how a person in a place like Bagdad can fulfill this service in actuality, but only during the winter months. He emphasizes that you don’t need it to snow or to live in a cold climate. That even in Bagdad one can make sufficient ice during the winter months. Commented Feb 27, 2022 at 12:44
  • 1
    To add to @YaacovDeane, Google Iraq and snow and you'll find that it does snow there sometimes. More peculiar to me is that the סידורו של שבת refers to a particular source as basis for what he said - חוה"ל שער עבודת האלוקים פ"ג which as far as I can tell refers to חובות הלבבות, and yet I did not see any mention in that chapter of snow or Rasag (he is mentioned in ch. 4, though).
    – Harel13
    Commented Feb 27, 2022 at 13:51
  • My intention was to ask about the daily part, not that it never ever snowed or got cold there. How many days a year on average does the temperature drop below zero there? Commented Feb 27, 2022 at 18:04
  • I'm pretty sure סידורו של שבת doesn't say it was daily. Just that it happened over a certain period of time (=winter, presumably).
    – Harel13
    Commented Feb 27, 2022 at 22:41
  • And if you you the section I mentioned to you above, he’s explaining that you don’t need snow or even precipitation. You leave shallow trays of water on the roof over night in winter and simply collect the ice in the early morning. If you collected enough of if, and found a way to store it in some kind of cold cellar under ground, it could last you far beyond the winter. At least some in earlier generations figured out how to have ice and probably shaved ice (like snow) without ever knowing about refrigerator freezers. Commented Feb 28, 2022 at 2:20

1 Answer 1


The book אלפא ביתא קדמיתא דשמואל זעירא (pp. 400-407) investigates this topic and concludes that the earliest reference to the story is in סדורו של שבת by ר׳ חיים מטשרנוביץ published in 1813. The author explores the trajectory of this legend in other works consequent to this initial publication. There is no known early source for the legend.

  • Dies he explain why סידורו של שבת referred to חובות הלבבות? Or perhaps חוה"ל isn't חובות הלבבות?
    – Harel13
    Commented Feb 27, 2022 at 22:42
  • Props to you for knowing who Rav Shmuel Ashkenazi ZT"L was and for having his sefer Commented Feb 28, 2022 at 0:27

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .