Ancient Fairs.

Periodical assemblies for the purchase and the sale of goods. Talmudic authorities were opposed to the attendance of Jews at fairs on the ground that they are an outgrowth of pagan festivals. The Talmudic word for fair, "yarid," which is still in use among the Jews, is, according to Hoffmann ("Zeitschrift für Assyriologie," 1896, pp. 241-246), akin to the Arabic "warad" (to go down to the water), and originated in the religious processions made to the ponds near the temples. There were three cities in Palestine in which fairs were held—Gaza, Tyre, and Boḥna; the last-named is specially denounced as an idolatrous place (Yer. 'Ab. Zarah i. 4; Gen. R. xlvii.). In contrast with the custom of the time of Ezekiel, when the Jews transacted all sorts of business at the fairs of Tyre (xxvii. 17), only slave-buying was permitted by the Talmudic authorities, and that only in order that the slaves might be taken away from idolatry (Yer. 'Ab. Zarah i. 1, 4). R. Ḥiyya bar Abba, having bought a pair of sandals at the fair held at Tyre, was severely censured by R. Jacob b. R. Abba (ib.).

During the Middle Ages these restrictions were removed, and Jews were the chief frequenters of the fairs, even in places where their permanent residence was forbidden by law. But they had to pay special admission-fees. For instance, at the three annual fairs held at Leipsic in the last years of the seventeenth century the Jewish merchants, on their arrival at the gate of the town, were required to purchase tickets at the price of ten thalers and four groschen each, while women and servants were amerced in half that sum. The authorities of Leipsic kept a careful register of the names of all the Jewish merchants who attended the fairs, and deducted a percentage from their earnings. During the years 1675-1700 the number of Jewish merchants arriving at the Leipsic fairs was 18,182, among them being 2,362 women, servants, brokers, and musicians, who were admitted at half price; their admission-fees alone amounted to 173,000 thalers. It was customary to buy goods at the Easter fair and pay for them at the Michaelmas one. But during the Middle Ages fairs were not merely centers of trade for the Jews; they were also rendezvous for Talmudic scholars, especially in Poland, where scholars who had just completed their terms at the yeshibot would gather in hundreds, with their masters—in summer, at the fairs of Zaslavl and Jaroslav; in winter, at Lemberg andLublin. Public disputations on rabbinical matters were held at the fairs.

Students at the Fairs.

On these occasions marriages were also arranged—according to Hanover, "Yewen Meẓulah," hundreds, and even thousands, annually. Jair Ḥayyim Bacharach reports that he made several speeches, the first when he was twenty-four years old, at the fair of Frankfort-on-the-Main ("Ḥawwot Ya'ir," p. 230a). At a still earlier period Jews in great numbers attended the fairs at Troyes (France), especially at the time of Rashi. At these meetings important points concerning Judaism were decided. The Council of Four Lands, instituted about the middle of the sixteenth century, originated at the fairs of Lublin and Jaroslav.

In Little Russia Jews were permitted to visit the fairs in 1727, though they were not allowed to remain. The great fair of Nijni-Novgorod is a modern counterpart, frequented by Jews from Persia, India, Khiva, and Bokhara, whose merchandise consists mainly of Asiatic fancy goods. At the fairs of Kharkov and Poltava contracts for very large amounts are closed with the Jews, who trade chiefly in wool, grain, and leather. The business of the fair of Kiev is also mainly in the hands of the Jews, who originally dealt in sugar. As Jews are not allowed to live in Great Russia, only merchants of the first and second gilds and their agents may attend the fairs of Nijni-Novgorod, Irbit, Kiev, and Kharkov.

  • Grätz, Gesch. 3d ed., ix. 444;
  • Nathan Hanover, Yewen-Meẓulah, Dyhernfurth, 1727;
  • Jair Hayyim Bacharach, Ḥawwot Ya'ir, p. 230a, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1729;
  • Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages, pp. 172, 216, London, 1896;
  • Isidore Lévi, in R. E. J. xliii. 192 et seq.;
  • M. Freudenthal, Jüdische Besucher der Leipziger Messen in 1675-99, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1902;
  • Gradovski, Torgvgya Prava Yevreyev v Rossii, p. 35, St. Petersburg, 1886;
  • Mysh, Rukovodstvo k Russkim Zakonam o Yevreyakh, p. 268, St. Petersburg, 1898.
D. M. Sel.
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