Moshe Danon became hahambasi or chief rabbi of Sarajevo in the year 1815. While his scholarship and piety would have made him an outstanding rabbi in any event, his fame and significance derive from a series of events beginning soon afterward, and culminating in 1819. A Jew from Travnik, Mose Havijo, converted to Islam and assumed the name Dervis Ahmed. He began preaching against the Jews, and was eventually killed. Fanatics among the Muslim populace then approached the Turkish governor, Ruzdi Pasa, and demanded sanctions against the Jews for their alleged responsibility in the death of the convert. Ruzdi Pasa ordered the arrest of the leading Jews of Sarajevo, including Rabbi Danon. The hostages were given three days to pay a fine of a half million gold groschen, on pain of death.
The night before the execution was to take place, a Sarajevo Jew named Rafael Levi went to the Bascarsija, or old market in Sarajevo, and began lamenting the impending fate of his coreligionists. A crowd of Muslims gathered and began listening.
Then, spontaneously, the Muslims swore an oath to liberate their Jewish neighbors from the unjust governor or to die in the attempt. The next morning, 3,000 armed Muslims surrounded the Konak or residence of Ruzdi Pasa.
The Jews were freed, and the shock of the occasion was said to have unhinged the governor, who fled to Travnik.
Many Jews ascribed the liberation of the Jews by their Muslim neighbors to divine intervention thanks to the saintliness of the Rabbi.
In 1830, Rabbi Danon himself decided to show his gratitude to the Almighty, by making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. However, he got no further than Stolac where he died and was buried in the present Jewish Cemetery there.
The tomb of Rabbi Danon consists of a monumental stone in the old Bosnian Jewish style known as "seated lions,” the most famous examples of which are found in the Sephardic Cemetery of Sarajevo.
The form is unique and clearly shows the influence of the Bosnian steci. The tomb is inscribed in Hebrew as follows:
THIS STONE IS HERE PLACEDSO THAT IT BE A SIGN AND MONUMENT
FOR THE BURIAL OF THE SAINTLY PERSON WHOSE WORKS WERE WONDROUS AND OF WHOM IT WAS SAID THAT HE WAS PIOUS AND SAINTLY HE WAS OUR MASTER TEACHER AND GREAT HAHAM RAV MOSE DANON HIS GOOD WORKS AID US. AMEN.HE LEFT THIS WORLD ON THE 20TH DAY OF SIVAN 5590
In the years after his death in 1830 the tomb of Rabbi Danon became a place for regular pilgrimages by Bosnian and other Balkan Sephardic Jews.
Later Sephardic songs were composed to celebrate the pilgrimages. The similarity of this practice with pilgrimages to the graves of Islamic holy men in such places as Buna, also in Herzegovina, is worthy of note.
Unfortunately, the practice virtually disappeared with the genocide of Bosnian Sephardim during the Holocaust, and specially during last war 1992 - 1995 in Bosnia Herzegovina.
18th of Sh'vat, 5783
February 9, 2023Jevrejski kalendar
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