Seha, the traditional wise man-fool in Jewish Morocco is a popular fictional hero in simple yet rich tales, playful yet witty enough to provide life lessons with commitment to social fairness and mutual respect. In this collection of tales, the authors introduce readers to their grandparents and the teaching they imparted. Through humorous Seha tales, the authors transmit deeply engrained Jewish values, accentuated in accompanying socio-historical commentaries which shed light on the evolution of Seha as a popular fictional hero as well as on processes of social change and modernization experienced by Moroccan Jews, who were influenced by movements in three nations that impact their identity, namely Israel, France, and Morocco.
Annette B. Fromm is an associate editor and review editor of the online journal Sephardic Horizons.
Marc Eliany is the chairman and founder of the Jewish Moroccan Museum and Archive.
List of Figures
Introduction: Seha, A Man for All Seasons
Part One: Tales of Seha the Sage
Chapter One: Seha at Rabbi A’mar’s Rock
Chapter Two: Seha the Beggar, Elijah, and Charity
Chapter Three: Charity and Education in the Moroccan Interior
Chapter Four: Tales of Compassion and Gossip
Chapter Five: Population Surveys and Birth Registers
Chapter Six: Modesty and Happiness
Chapter Seven: Love and Compassion
Chapter Eight: Prestige and Social Stratification
Chapter Nine: Mutual Help and Reciprocity
Chapter Ten:Mutual Aid Organizations
Chapter Eleven: Amulets and Good Fortune
Chapter Twelve: French Education, Urbanization, and Modernization
Chapter Thirteen: Dar al Makhzen, House of Government and Dar a Siba, House of Rebellion
Chapter Fourteen: Craftsmen and Priests in Aghamat
Chapter Fifteen: Yearning for Redemption in Jewish Morocco
Chapter Sixteen: Pilgrimages, Sainthood, and Miracle Making
Chapter Seventeen: Artistic Creation and the Moroccan Jewish Diaspora
Chapter Eighteen: Jewish Immigration from Morocco to the Holy Land
Chapter Nineteen: The Karaites and Ephraimites in Morocco
Chapter Twenty: On Peace and Justice
Part Two: Tales of Seha the Clown
Chapter Twenty-One: The Love for Three Oranges
Chapter Twenty-Two: Spoken and Written Words
Chapter Twenty-Three: Moroccan Cuisine
Chapter Twenty-Four: Wisdom and Poverty
Chapter Twenty-Five: Inequality, Mutual Aid, and Social Justice
Chapter Twenty-Six: Social Change and Modernization
Chapter Twenty-Seven: Seha the Clown
About the Authors
With this volume, Marc Eliany becomes a transformational agent who introduces to readers the tales of Seha that he heard in his family oral tradition. The sage-clown, who could also be a trickster and a fool, represents two aspects of wisdom in the folklore of many peoples. Seha joins a gallery of Jewish wise-clowns in Ashkenazic and Sephardic narratives.
Eliany’s allegorical tales, convey with wit a community quest for intercultural respect and emancipation. Entertaining and informative.
Eliany’s tales of Seha the Sage and Seha the Clown, convey with humor and wit colors, shades, flavors and fragrances, community values that bridge folktales to social-history, social change and modernization in Jewish Morocco. Eliany’s work indicates that recounting thousands of years of a community’s history requires telling its folktales too.
Through the memories of his beloved grandparents, the author transmits his appreciation for the humor, way of life, and values of Moroccan Jewry. They present us the witty character Seha, which has been enjoyed by many generations of both children and adults. We are grateful for the author’s works which preserve the culture of Moroccan Jewry which has been transmuted by modernity and emigration.
This book makes an important contribution to the anthropological and sociological research of the Beni Mellal Jewish community. In it Eliany establishes a memorial to commemorate his family and community. As a researcher of Maghreb Jewry and Spanish Jewry, I greatly appreciate Marc Eliany's contribution to deepening the knowledge about the Jewish community in Beni Mellal.