Barcelona Jewish Court Documents: A Jewish Widow and her Daughter, 1261-1262 CE
Translated from the Original Spanish Document
In March of 1261, a Jewish woman named Cruxia (pronounced Crusha), widow of an important scholar, Shmuel (Samuel) haSardi, appealed to the Jewish court in Barcelona on behalf of her daughter. She claimed that her daughter's inheritance was being dissipated due to neglect by her guardians. Cruxia was concerned that since her brother, one of the guardians, had married and moved to Tortosa three years previously, the other two guardians were not fulfilling their duties. In response to her appeal, the court wrote up the following document:
"We, the undersigned court [testify] that it so happened that the Lady Cruxia, widow of R. Shmuel b. R. Yitzhak HaSardi, appeared before us and said, "It has been some time since the death of my lord and husband, R. Shmuel . . . who left a minor daughter, named Reina; after her father, my husband, died, the court appointed three guardians to supervise the legacy which my husband left my orphaned daughter, and they are my brother Don Bonsenyor of Gerona, R. Yehuda b. R. Shmuel, and Don Zark Malet. As of now, it has been nearly three years since my brother Don Bonsenyor went to Tortosa, having married a woman there, and the two other guardians, R. Yehuda and Don Zark Malet, who remain in the city do not wish to exert themselves and to make an effort in the affairs of my orphaned daughter, because the third guardian is not with them. I fear that the property may go to the royal treasury for several reasons: first that the interest is consuming it on account of the debts which she [Reina] owes; also that the officials appointed for tax-collection are pressuring and pressing me and requesting the taxes owed on the estate of her father; also my orphaned daughter needs food and there is no one who is making an effort to provide for her from her property and to pay her taxes and her debts. Now, please summon the two guardians, R. Yehuda and Don Zark Malet and persuade them to fulfill their role as guardians, and to make an effort in the affairs of my orphaned daughter."
And we the court saw that her words had merit, and deserved attention and we investigated the matter of whether Don Bonsenyor and R. Yehuda and Don Zark Malet had been appointed [to deal with] the property of the orphan, and the matter remained unclear. Since the property of the orphan was being wasted because there was no one to take care of it, and we saw that R. Yehuda b. R. Shmuel and Don Zark Malet were trustworthy, affluent and fit to appoint as guardians for the orphan, we made them agents of the court and appointed them and Don Bonsenyor guardians for the property of the orphan, with the stipulation that whenever all three of them should be in this city, they shall do whatever needs to be done in the affairs of the orphan by agreement of the three of them, and whenever Don Bonsenyor is not in this city, we have given full power and authority to R. Yehuda and Don Zark Malet to do business, the two of them alone, with the property of the orphan . . .
(The rest of the document specifies the powers of the guardians, and concludes with standard formulas. It is dated Nisan, 5061)
Fifteen months later, in Elul 5062, Cruxia was back in court. This time, she wanted to collect her ketubbah (marriage settlement), which was still owed her by her daughter. The court wrote:
We the undersigned court were obliged [to act] in the matter of the honored lady Cruxia, the widow of R. Shmuel b. R. Yitzhak HaSardi, who delayed the prayers in the synagogue for many days to have her ketubbah and the gift which her husband . . . made to her collected for her; the [Jewish] officials in charge of justice in this city ordered us, the undersigned court, to take care of her needs . . . to collect her ketubbah and her gift from the estate of her husband.
The court proceeded to verify all aspects of her claim. They first examined her ketubbah and the deed of gift from her husband, recording the amounts of money involved, the dates and the witnesses to the two documents and validating the signatures of the witnesses. The sum owed her came to 400 gold coins. The court then summoned Reina's guardians to ask if there was any evidence that she might have been paid already. When the guardians confirmed that there was no such evidence, the court required Cruxia to swear that she had not received any part of the money which she was claiming. Finally, they examined Reina's property to determine what would be best to sell in order to pay Cruxia. They recorded that only one pair of buyers was found; the rest of the document is a bill of sale selling the designated land to the two buyers, Moshe de Tolosa and Avraham Ascandrani, who were also buying some land from Cruxia herself.
Another document dated the same month describes the actual transfer of both plots of land, the one sold by the guardians and the one sold by Cruxia herself.
We the undersigned witnesses [testify that] we were present together when R. Moshe and R. Avraham took possession of that land . . . which was R. Shmuel HaSardi's . . . and the guardians of the orphan Reina, daughter of R. Shmuel HaSardi and Don Perfet Bonafos [acting] for Cruxia. . . were present, and in our presence the guardians and Don Perfet for Cruxia said to them, "go and take possession and buy that land" . . . . and R. Moshe and R. Avraham asked us to write this memorial of testimony to be a proof for them that they took possession with the authorization of the aforementioned guardians and with their [referent unclear] authorization and with the authorization of the lady Cruxia by the agency of Don Perfet . . . .
These documents are found in the Arxiu Capitular de Barcelona, and were published in facsimile by J.M. Millas i Vallicrosa, Documents hebraics dels jueus catalans (Barcelona, 1921), nos 16, 18, 21. Translated by Elka Klein, Fordham University.