Baruch ben Samuel

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BARUCH BEN SAMUEL (d. 1834), adventurer and physician. Baruch was born in Pinsk and emigrated to Safed in 1819. The reports of a messenger who traveled from Safed to Yemen and back in 1825 gave rise to wondrous tales about a Jew from the tribe of Dan whom he allegedly met in Yemen and of stories about the "Sons of Moses" and the Ten Tribes. The community of Safed decided to send a messenger to these remote Jews to come to the aid of their brethren in Palestine. They chose Baruch who, in their opinion, possessed the qualities necessary for such a bold undertaking. They gave him a letter addressed to the Ten Tribes and made him swear to devote himself wholly to this task.

Baruch started his journey in 1831. His travels took him to Damascus, Aleppo, Kurdistan, Mesopotamia, Baghdad, Basra, Bushire, Muscat, and Aden. Toward the end of 1833 Baruch reached Yemen. The rabbis of San'a received him cordially and one of the members of the community (dayyan Māri Yiḥye al-Abyat) accompanied him to Ḥaydān at the northern extremity of Yemen, where, according to the rumor, the tribe of Dan lived. Baruch and his companion made their way into the desert where they met a shepherd, who appeared to them like a Danite. They gave him the letter and he promised to deliver the answer to them in Ḥaydān. Then Baruch and his companion hurried back to San'a for the autumn Holidays. The Jews of Ḥaydān promised to forward the anticipated answer to San'a, but it never came.

When Baruch returned to San'a, he offered to cure the sickly imam of Yemen, al-Mahdi. He hoped thereby to enlist the imam's aid in the completion of his mission. After his recovery, the imam appointed Baruch his court physician. Baruch began to behave haughtily toward the Muslims, and thus aroused their enmity and jealousy. In 1834 Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt attacked Yemen and captured Mocha. Baruch assured the imam that if he would give him an army, he would drive out the conqueror on condition that afterward he himself be appointed the ruler of that city. This proposal served Baruch's enemies as a pretext for charging him with spying for Egypt. The imam believed this false accusation and in February 1834, during his daily walk in the garden with Baruch, the imam shot his physician. The dying Baruch predicted that the Imam and his family would lose their kingdom. His prediction came true in less than a year.


J. Saphir, Even Sappir, 1 (1866), 83–86; E. Brauer, Ethnologie der jemenitischen Juden (1934), 42–44; Yaari, Sheluḥei, 147ff.

[Yehuda Ratzaby]