Chapter Thirty-three

About the Sicknesses of the Jews

Many people believe that Jews live longer than Christians, and do not have as many diseases among them as Christians. Experience teaches, however, that they die just as young as other peoples. So we also know from experience that they suffer from Chicken Pox, Measles, Epilepsy, and Cholera, and they have among them other diseases, just as much as other peoples.

They call epilepsy Choli hannophel. [falling sickness] They very commonly curse one another with this disease and say: "Der Schem (das ist: God) gebe dir Choli nophel, oder den Tippul." ["May God give you epilepsy - or its treatment." I think B. misses the point of this humorous curse, because the treatment, of course, is death.]

They call cholera Hilluch. [An abbreviation of hilluch me'ayim, "bowel movement."] They curse one another and say: May the hilluch overtake you. At the time of cholera they write strange characters and wonderful names on their houses, rooms and apartments. They say they are the names of the angels who are appointed over cholera. I once saw on their houses in big letters Adiridon, Bediridon etc. with the ending "diridon" appended to every letter of the alphabet, as well as some words in Hebrew script. They believe this to be a powerful remedium for cholera.

To be sure, leprosy is not so common among them as among Christians, partly because their numbers are few compared with Christians, and partly because they are more abstemious in respect of many foods and other things which can bring about this condition. So far as possible, they conduct themselves with regard to food according to the Law of Moses, but in nothing are they so obstinate as in the avoidance of the flesh of the pig. They will not, and cannot, even hear about it, and would rather die than eat it. However, some of them are afflicted with this disease, leprosy, as Anton Margarita testifies that there were some Jewish lepers at Prague. The Old Testament proves that it was common among them. They call it Nega, plague, and curse one another: May the Nega seize you.

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Alan D. Corré