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Of his many travels as a shaliach derabanan, the Chida (Rabbi Chaim Yosef David Azulai) wrote a small book called "Maagel Tov" (Chida's travelogue). One of the many places he visited, was Amsterdam in The Netherlands.

I heard from Rav Daniel Glatstein shlita (in Amsterdam), that the Chida visited Rabbi Saul of Amsterdam (Rabbi Saul ben Aryeh Leib Löwenstam) during Purim. People brought Rabbi Saul of Amsterdam a present (a candy-palace of Achashverosh) from the people of Amsterdam. The Chida then recounts that after a long motzei Shabbos, the wealthy people of Amsterdam were marrying all night long. The Chida was really displeased by this kind of behaviour, because he said that they were acting af this (Amsterdam) was their city, as if they were not in Golus. But the Chida remarked that we are in Golus, and we are to recognise that we are in Golus, how comfortable we are.

Does anyone know where this story can be found? Is it in Maagel Tov?

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  • According to Wikipedia the visit was at least referenced in another of the Chida's books: ועד לחכמים מערכת ב' כג. בנין אריאל (Binyan Ariel being Rabbi Shaul's book). Maagal Tov isn't a very difficult book. Have you considered simply skimming it, or perhaps downloading the entire file and trying some simply searches?
    – Harel13
    Feb 3 at 22:47
  • @Harel13 TY. I am specifically looking for the time the Chida said that "we are to recognise we are in Golus" etc..
    – Shmuel
    Feb 3 at 23:00
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    I searched for Amsterdam in Maagal Tov and did not find the story.
    – N.T.
    Feb 4 at 9:16
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    @N.T. Thanks ^.
    – Shmuel
    Feb 4 at 14:03
  • 1
    Sure, I'll try to get to it later.
    – Harel13
    Feb 4 at 16:33

1 Answer 1

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As I wrote in the comments, I found most of these two anecdotes, but not the part where the Chida was displeased at the merry-making because of the issue of galut. In fact, the Chida doesn't state displeasure at this event, but simple astonishment.

Maagal Tov (Livorno 1879, p. 15b-16a):

"יום ש"ק ט"ו אדר הלכתי לבית הרב מהר"ר שאול הי"ו אשר הזמין אותי לסעודה ג' וקבלני הרב ובנו וכל בני ביתו בכבוד גדול. והלכו להתפלל מנחה בבי"הכנ אשר לו שם והלכתי עמם והעלני לס"ת ואחר כך סעדנו בביתו.
והרבנית אשתו שניה וכלתה אשת ר' ליב הי"ו בשלחן. והיו שם כמה למדנים וגם ר' ליב הירש ואני ברכתי ב"המז ועכבני הרב הנז'. ואחר ערבית באנו לביתו ומצאנו שם שלחן ערוך. ועליו בנין כשתי אמות דמות חצר המלך ומרדכי יושב בשער המלך בלבוש פרסי וכילה ובירה ובה אסתר על המטה ואחשורוש והמן נופל. וחוץ לבירה זו מצד אחר ברחוב והמן תלוי. ומסביב כל הבנין בעלי מלחמות מקיפין. וכמה ציורים נאים למראה בגוונים שונים. וכל זה עשוי מסוקאר לבד בחכמה גדולה. ושוה זה כעשרים סיקיני לרוב המלאכה. וכמדומה שזהו דורון ששלחו להרב איזה קצינים. וכל השלחן מלא ממגדים פירות כבריתן וגבינה וכתוב בה כשר ופסח ודוגמת קשואין בחומץ הכל מסוקאר...ובאו מיני זמר ועמד בתוך זה אחד הריקים ועשה דמות דרוש ועשה דברים בל"הק בחרוז מלוכלך. ואחר איזה שעות עלה הרב עמנו למעלה וסעדנו שם סעודה גדולה. אך אני נזהרתי כי לא הייתי יכול לאכול כלל ובדוחק אכלתי מעט פת ועוף...ואחר בר"המז ירדנו למטה ובאו מיני זמר אחרים יפים. ושלח הרב והביא סאליאה ובאנו לבית קרוב לחצות. ומצינו שם הרבה אנשים ונשים כמיני זמר ובתוכם סיעה של בעלי פרצופין מרקדין ומתהוללין ועוד באו כמה מינים בפרצופין חגרים ותורקוס וכמה מינים. ותכף קמתי ועליתי לישן והיה לי צער מהאיצטומכא שעם שנזהרתי מ"מ הייתי מצטער קצת וישנתי אחר חצות הרבה. וביום הייתי ברוע האיצטומכא ונמשך איזה ימים שלא הייתי בטוב."

"Shabbat Kodesh, 15th of Adar, I went to the house of our teacher, Rabbi Shaul, may Hashem guard and protect him, who invited me for Seudah Shlishit, and the rabbi and his son and his household welcomed me with great honor. And we went to pray mincha at the shul that he had there, and I went with them, and I was called up to the Sefer Torah, and after that we ate at his home.
And the rebbetzin, his second wife, and her daughter-in-law, wife of Rabbi Leib, may Hashem guard and protect him, were at the table. And there were some learned men there, as well as Rabbi Leib Hirsch, and I said Birkat Hamazon, and the aforementioned rabbi delayed me. And after Arvit we came to his house and we found there a set table. And upon it a tower of some two cubits high in the shape of the royal court, and Mordechai sitting by the gate of the palace wearing Persian garb, and a canopy and a tower and in it Esther upon a bed and Achashverosh and Haman falling. And outside of the tower from the other end a street and Haman hung. And the building was surrounded by warriors. And so many beautiful shapes in various shades. And all of this was masterfully made from sugar alone. And this craftsmanship was worth about 20 sequins.1 And it seems that this was a gift that some important people sent to the rabbi. And the table was packed with wonderful dishes, [fresh?] fruit2 and cheese and upon it was written 'kosher' and 'Pesach' and models of pickled zucchini,3 all made from sugar...and some musicians came and among them stood one of the riffraff and acted out a drasha and sang out things in Hebrew (Lashon Hakodesh) in dirty verse. And after some hours the rabbi went with us upstairs and we dined there a great feast. But I was careful for I wasn't able to eat at all, and barely ate a bit of bread and chicken...and after Birkat Hamazon we came down and various, other, quality musicians came. And the rabbi sent and brought Saliah (?)4 and we returned home close to midnight. And we found there many men and women with instruments and among them a masked troupe dancing and making merriment and then others with dumb masks and Turkic masks5 came, and of different types. And I immediately rose and went to bed and I had gut5 pains, that though I had been careful, I was still pained somewhat and I slept after midnight for a long time. And during the day I was pained by my gut and this continued some days with me feeling unwell."

ibid. 16b:

"ליל א' מס' פקודי מוש"ק כל הלילה היו עושין ברחובות שמחה ופרצופין ושטויות בשביל פורים כאלו העיר שלהם בפרסום גדול ברחובות קריה. ורובם אשכנזים שיש באמשטרדם יותר מן' אלף נפשות מאשכנזים. והעיר חירות והם לוקחים החירות יותר מדאי כאלו הם המושלים ומלכי ארץ דבר פלא."

Sunday evening of Parshat Pekudei (=the night before Sunday morning), Motzei Shabbat Kodesh, all night there were people merry-making and wearing masks and doing nonsensical things in the streets in celebration of Purim as though the city was theirs, in great advertisement in the streets of the city. And most of them were Ashkenazim, as there are in Amsterdam more than 1000 (or perhaps, but less likely, 50,000)7 Ashkenazim. And the city was free and they took this freedom one step too far and acted as though they were the rulers and kings of the land, and this was astonishing."


1 The Hebrew is סיקיני or סיקינו and clearly refers to a large form of currency. The Dutch currency wasn't the sequin, but it seems likely that the Chida would have referred to a better-known coin either because he himself was more familiar with that coinage, or because he expected his potential readership to be more familiar with that. The Chida spent a considerable amount of time in Italy, so the sequin, also called a zecchino, a costly gold coin, seems to be the most plausible candidate.

2 The Hebrew is פירות כבריתן = fruit as they were created? Meaning unclear.

3 The Hebrew is קישוא, which in modern Hebrew is zucchini, but I have no idea to what vegetable the Chida was referring to.

4 Not sure what סאליאה is.

5 In context it seems that פרצופין refers to masks. What comes to mind are European festival masks (Carnival, Festival of Fools for example). חיגר refers to a dumb person, so perhaps a better translation is a fool's mask or something of the sort. I am not certain about the meaning of the word תורקוס, but I think it might come from Turkic, i.e., an eastern, "exotic" type mask, or maybe a Venetian Turkish nose mask (for example).

6 אצטומכא appears in many Jewish sources, typically with regards to the digestive system, and from what I can tell, refers to the קיבה, or gut.

7 I was unsure whether the מן' with an apostrophe over the Nun was supposed to mean 50, which would mean 50,000, or simply מן, "of", so just 1000. But 50,000 Jews sounds like an exorbitant number.

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  • Wonderful. Really interesting and great to learn since the chida is writing about my country :). I think the Chida is referring to 50,000 Jews indeed, since before the 1940's, there would have been appr. 80,000 Jews in Amsterdam. Also, I suppose קישוא refers to cucumber (Dutch: komkommer)? I ordered the sefer (המאור- version). Any tips on how to search for his Dutch trips? Would he begin with Amsterdam, or just by mentioning Rav Shaul of Amsterdam? Does the sefer has an index per country?
    – Shmuel
    Feb 4 at 19:39
  • I'm seeing some mixed figures on Ashkenazi Jewish demographics in Amsterdam in the 18th century. Some have it less than 20k, others more than 20k. Also unclear whether they were the dominant community in demographic terms. Re his trip to the Netherlands, I don't really know. I would at least find the section with Rabbi Shaul's and then go back to see if that's the first Dutch place he came to. I've never seen the המאור edition, but I've heard it's top quality, so an index of places seems likely.
    – Harel13
    Feb 4 at 19:49
  • Shkoyach! Wonderful answer and great research behind it, as always! I do know that the Ashkenazic community wasn't that big compared to the Sephardic one in Amsterdam.
    – Shmuel
    Feb 4 at 20:04

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