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You may remember that I consulted you some months ago about a claim made in the introduction to the new edition of my grandfather's Siddur that he was the first to translate our prayer books into classical Arabic.

A version of the 1917 edition of the Farhi Siddur has now been reissued and I have asked the U.K. distributor - The Association Of Jews From Egypt (UK), to send you a copy with my compliments.
I would be most interested to know what you think of the quality of be Arabic translation if you ever have the time to glance at it.
I do of course realise that The Scribe is concerned primarily with Babylonian Jewry and that a Hebrew/Arabic siddur that was widely used in Egypt may not be of immediate interest to many of its readers. However, Egypt was well within the jurisdiction of the Exilarchs and so I am hoping you may consider the book appropriate for a mention in a future edition of the Scribe.

I attach for your further information a notice that I prepared for The Sephardi Bulletin.

Lucien Gubbay

The Siddur Farhi

Lucien Gubbay, grandson of the author, writes:

The re-issue of the Hillel Farhi's Siddur of 1917 (in Hebrew and Arabic), with a preface by his grandson Alain Farhi and an Introduction by Joseph Mossers, is sure to be of great interest to Jews from Egypt and Syria, whose parents and grandparents may well have used it for their daily prayers - as well as to Arabic scholars.

Hailed by the rabbis of his time as a healer of souls for his work in translating the Siddur into eloquent Arabic verse and thus enabling the masses of Jews who knew no Hebrew to pray with real understanding for the first time, Hillel Farhi went on to translate the festival prayer books and those for Rosh Hashanah and Kippur. Though Judeo-Arabic (in Hebrew characters) versions of the Siddur had once existed, Farhi was the very first to translate the prayers and other liturgical and religious texts into literary Arabic (in Arabic script) and was thus a true pioneer.

Educated in Beirut and London, Dr Farhi was a well-known Cairo physician who heated the poor free of charge. Cast in traditional Sephardi mould, he was also a considerable scholar, grammarian and poet who wrote and translated many books - both religious and secular.

This latest version of his Farhi Siddur includes the long obituary, published by L'Aurore on the author's death in 1940. This starts by describing him as one of the last of the Mohicans and includes many fascinating details of his life, work and scholarship - including his decoration by King Fouad of Egypt for services to the Egyptian Railways and recognition by the British Red Cross for work during the First World War. Hillel Farhi lived in those seemingly far-off days when Jews and Muslims in Egypt lived side by side with a reasonable degree of harmony and mutual respect. Will they ever return?

Dear Lucien

Thank you for your letter regarding the Farhi Siddur, and also the siddur itself, which I received from the distributor.

I think that the Arabic translation is of very good quality and I did not find at a general glance any possible mistakes. The only thing I noticed was that the translating does not distinguish between Elohim and Jehova ; the first should be rendered as Allah and the second as El-Rabb. In English it is God and the Lord.

The claim that this is the first translation of the prayer book into Arabic is probably correct, since in Babylonia it was unthinkable that people could pray in any language other than Hebrew. In fact many of us knew all the prayers by heart and were more at home with the Hebrew version than with any translation, whether colloquial or grammatical. I wish to add that "Allah" was the name of a pre-Islamic Arab deity, which also had a feminine version being "Allet".

We shall certainly include a mention of this important publication in the current issue of The Scribe no. 76, which is still on the Internet, and which will be closed shortly.

Naim Dangoor


Siddur Farhi

Published by the Farhi Foundation


Dr. Hillel Farhi

1868 - 1940



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