A Purportedly 11th-century Letter

Copy of a letter, supposedly to Hasdai b. Shaprut, from a Khazar Jew describing the conversion of the Khazars to Judaism. 

Folio 1r

1 Armenia, and [our] fathers fled before them. […] for they were un[ab]le

2 to bear the yoke of idol-worshippers, and [the people of Qazari]a received them. For the pe[ople] of

3 Qazaria were at first without Torah, while [their neighbor Armenia] remained without

4 Torah ad writing. They intermarried with the inhabitants of the land, in[termingled with the gent]iles,

5 learned their practices, and would continually go out with them to war];

6 [and] they became one people. However, they were confirmed only in the covenant of circumcision; only a por[tion of them were]

7 observing the Sabbath. There was (at the time) no king in the land of Qazaria; but rather

8 whoever would achieve victories in war would they appoint over themselves as chief officer of

9 the army. (Thus was it) until the Jews once went out with them to do battle as was their

10 wont. On that day a certain Jew prevailed with his sword and put to flight

11 the enemies come against Qazar. So the men of Qazar appointed him over them as chief officer of

12 the army according to their ancient custom. They remained in this state of affairs for many days,

13 until the Lord took mercy and stirred the heart of the chief officer to return (to Judaism);

14 for his wife, whose name was Serah, influenced him and taught him successfully; and he too

15 agreed, since he was circumcised. Moreover, the father of the young woman, a man righteous in that generation,

16 showed him the way of life. Now it happened that when the kings of Maqedon

17 and the kings of Arabia heard these things, they became very angry, and sent

18 messengers to the officers of Qazaria (with) words of scorn against Israel:

19 “How is it that you return to the faith of the Jews, who are subjugated under

20 the power of all (other) nations?” They said things which are not for us to relate, and influenced

21 the hearts of the officers adversely. Then the great officer, the Jew, said: “Why should we

22 multiply words? Let there come (here) some sages of Israel, some sages of Greece,

23 and some sages of Arabia; and let them tell, each one of them, before us and before you,

Folio 1v

1 the deed of [his] Lord [from beginning to] end.” They did so; [Ma]qe[d]on sent some of

2 [its sages, and also] the kings of Arabia; and the sages of Israel volunteered

3 to come [in accord with the request of] the officers of Qazaria. Now the Greeks began to give testimony

4 about Him (?) fi[rst, and] the Jews and the Arabs began to rebut him (sic). Afterwards

5 [began the Ara]bs, and the Jews and the Greeks rebutted them. And afterwards began

6 [the sages of Isra]el from the six days of Creation until the day when the children of Israel came up

7 [from] Egypt and they came to an inhabited land. The Greeks

8 and the Arabs bore witness to the truth and declared them right; but there also occurred a disagreement between them.

9 The officers of Qazaria said, “there is a cave in the plain of TYZWL; bring forth to us

10 the books which are there and expound them before us.” They did so. They went

11 into the midst of the cave: behold, books of the Torah of Moses were there, and the sages of Israel

12 explained them according to the previous words which they had spoken. Then returned

13 Israel, with the people of Qazaria, (to Judaism) completely; the Jews began

14 to come from Baghdad and from Khorasan, and from the land of Greece, and they strengthened the men of

15 the land, so that (the letter) held fast to the covenant of the “Father of a Multitude.” The men of

16 the land appointed over them one of the sages as judge. They call him in the language of

17 (the) Qazar(s) KGN; for this reason the name given to the judges who arose after him has been

18 KGN until this day; whereas the name of the great officer of Qazaria did they change to

19 Sabriel, and made him king over them…