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Short definition The Aleppo Codex is an old manuscript of the Bible, reflecting the Masora very exactly, written by the renowned Masorete, Aharon Ben Asher.


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Introduction

The Bible and its Transmission - Scrolls, Manuscripts, Printings

The Masoretes

The Aleppo Codex

The Vicissitudes of the Aleppo Codex

The Aleppo Codex Today


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3.1 The Extant Parts of the Aleppo Codex

3.2 The Parts that were Lost and Discovered

3.2.1 The Whole Page from Chronicles

3.2.2. The Fragment from Exodus

3.3 Photographs of the Lost Parts of the Aleppo Codex

3.3.1 Photograph of Genesis 27 Wickes

3.3.2 Photograph of the Ten Commandments from Deuteronomy

3.4 Evidence Regarding the Text of the Aleppo Codex

3.4.1 Old Evidence: the Sasson MS, Sa’adia Ha’adani, Yehudah Butini, Yehosef Ashkenazi

3.4.2 Rabbinical Responsa: Eliahu Ben Hayyim, Shmuel Vital

3.4.3 The Evidence of the Cassuto Documents

3.4.4 The Bible of Shalom Shakhna Yelin

3.4.5 The Testimony of Yishai Bar ‘Amram ‘Amadi

3.4.6 The Questions of Ya’aqov Sapir

3.4.7 The Archive of Yitshaq Zeligman Baer

3.5 Where are the Lost Parts of the Aleppo Codex?


הדף מדברי הימים – שני עמודים (דברי הימים ב לה, ז עד לו, יט) הדף מדברי הימים – שני עמודים (דברי הימים ב לה, ז עד לו, יט) הפניה לקטע מספר שמות – שני צדי הקטע – מתוך פעמים 41, עמ' 43-44 תצלום בראשית כז (ויקס) תצלום עשרת הדיברות מספר דברים תצלום רבני חלב בתחילת המאה העשרים תצלום ההערה המוגדלת מכ תצלום בוטיני תצלום כתב השליחות הקצר עם חתימות חכמי ירושלים התנ תצלום של כמה עמודים התנך ילין עדותו של ישי ב קטעים מכתב-היד של מאורות נתן

The Aleppo Codex


3.1 The Extant Parts of the Aleppo Codex

In the light of evidence about the Aleppo Codex (mainly Cassuto’s description), we can reproduce its structure and state how many pages have been lost. According to this evidence, it seems that the Aleppo Codex originally contained 491 pages: 295 have survived, and 196 have been lost. These are the missing parts of the Aleppo Codex:

Bibliography: Yosef ‘Ofer, “The Aleppo Codex in the Light of the Notes made by M. D. Cassuto,” Sefunot 68, 4 (19), 1989, pp. 280-283 (Hebrew).

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3.2 The Parts that were Lost and Discovered

The Aleppo Codex reached Israel nearly fifty years ago (in 1958). Over the years, many efforts have been made to locate the missing parts of the codex. From time to time rumors circulate about the discovery of parts of the manuscript or about their location. However, these rumors have proven false. Nevertheless, two parts of the Aleppo Codex have been discovered over the years: a whole page and a fragment of a page.

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3.2.1 The Whole Page from Chronicles

In 1982 the director of the manuscript department of the National Library, Dr. Mordecai Nadav, received a single parchment leaf from Mrs. Shulamit Romanov of Jerusalem. The page had been given to Mrs. Romanov by her aunt, Mrs. Mary Hadaya of Brooklyn, New York, who had received it from her sister, who was from Aleppo, thirty years earlier. Nadav immediately noticed that the page was identical in handwriting and dimensions to the Aleppo Codex. Indeed, that single page from the Book of Chronicles did belong to the Aleppo Codex. The pages before and after it are extant with a single page missing from amongst them, the one that was found (containing 2 Chronicles 35:7-36:19).

Malakhi Beit Arieh and Israel Yevin made a paleographical description of the page, with respect to the text and the Masora on it. In 1988, the author Amnon Shamosh traveled all over the world in search of the Aleppo Codex and in New York he met Mary Hadaya, who was then an old woman. According to her, her nephew picked the page up from the floor of the old synagogue, from among many scraps of Torah Scrolls and holy books.

Malakhi Beit-Arieh, “Another Page from the Aleppo Codex,” Tarbiz 51 (1982), pp. 171-174 (Hebrew). Yisrael Yevin, ““Another Page from the Aleppo Codex,” Tarbiz 51 (1982), pp. 174-176 (Hebrew). Amnon Shamosh, “Forty Years and Forty Days in the Footsteps of the Aleppo Codex,” From the Spring: Conversations and Articles, Jerusalem, 1988, p. 110 (Hebrew). Photographs: The folio from Chronicles – both sides of the page (2 Chron. 35:7-36:19). I suggest presenting this page from its place in the photograph of the Aleppo Codex, and here there will be a reference. Similarly, regarding the fragment from Exodus, and the two photographs.

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3.2.2. The Fragment from Exodus

The fragment of the page containing seven or eight lines was discovered in Brooklyn, New York in 1988 by Mr. Shmuel Sabah, originally from Aleppo. He claims to have been the first one to enter the synagogue of Aleppo after the riots, and he took the torn piece of parchment and kept it in his wallet from then on. The few words that have remained on the fragment belong to the account of the plague of frogs and the plague of locusts in Exodus, Chapter 8.

The photograph of the fragment and its description were published by Yosef ‘Ofer. Photograph: Link to the fragment of the Book of Exodus – both sides of the fragment – from Pe’amim 41, pp. 43-44.

Bibliography: Yosef ‘Ofer, “A Fragment of the Book of Exodus – from the Missing Part of the Aleppo Codex,” Pe’amim 41 (fall 1990), pp. 41-48 (Hebrew).

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3.3 Photographs of the Lost Parts of the Aleppo Codex

Two photographs, about a hundred years old, display three pages from the lost part of the Pentateuch of the Aleppo Codex. As one might expect, the quality of the photographs is far from excellent. Nevertheless, one can make out the letters and some of the vowel and cantillation marks, and even read some of the Masoretic commentary.

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3.3.1 Photograph of Genesis 27 Wickes

In 1887, the English scholar of the cantillation marks, William Wickes, published a book, on the frontispiece of which appears a photograph of a page from the Aleppo Codex, containing a chapter from Genesis. In his book, Wickes tells that he received the photograph of the Aleppo Codex from Isidor Lev. He reviewed the material carefully and came to the conclusion that the manuscript was not exact and did not represent the Ben Asher system, and for that reason its attribution to Ben Asher was to be rejected. Wickes reached this mistaken conclusion because he was unfamiliar with old Masoretic manuscripts, and he relied on a grammatical description of the accent marks (ge’yot), which is not appropriate to the methods of old manuscripts.

[The foregoing will be incomprehensible to 98% of the readers, including me.] Amnon Shamosh found a letter from Nissim Bechar in the archive of the Alliance [Isra?lite Universelle]. Bechar was the principal of the first Alliance school in the community of Aleppo, and he tells about the efforts he made to obtain photographs of the Aleppo Codex, adding that he was including four photographs with the letter. It is not known what happened to the other three photographs sent by Bechar. The copy of the Masoretic apparatus that was in Wickes’ possession was also lost, and to this day it has not been found.

Photograph: Link to the photograph from Genesis – one page – Shamosh, at the beginning of the book, pl. I – but for maximum quality, the photograph should be taken from Wickes’ book – there is a copy in the Herzog College in Alon Shvut. Bibliography: Amnon Shamosh, The Keter – the Story of the Aleppo Codex, Jerusalem, 1987, pp. 102-108 (Hebrew).

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3.3.2 Photograph of the Ten Commandments from Deuteronomy

???published a travel book in 1910. In it he describes northern Syria, and one chapter is devoted to the city of Aleppo and to the Jews living there. One picture in the book shows the Jews of the city, and another picture shows a two-page spread from the Aleppo Codex, containing the Ten Commandments from the Book of Deuteronomy.

Photographs: Reference to the photograph of the Ten Commandments, two pages, the photograph is in Shamosh, p. 54 – but for the best quality, the original photograph should be copied from the journal, which is in the National Library. Photograph of the rabbis of Aleppo from the early twentieth century – Shamosh, p. 79. Bibliography: M. H. Goshen-Gottstein, "A Recovered Part of the Aleppo Codex", Textus 5 (1966), pp. 53-59

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3.4 Evidence Regarding the Text of the Aleppo Codex

For many generations, the Aleppo Codex was a focus of interest for those who dealt with the text of the Bible and the Masora. When the Aleppo Codex reached Israel, and it was learned that many parts of it were missing, the possibility was raised of surveying the writings of scholars who had consulted it and searching for copies of the Aleppo Codex or parts of it, or information about the text of the Aleppo Codex. In recent years, a great deal of evidence of this kind has accrued, and by using it, it is possible to reconstruct a considerable part of the missing information about the text of the Aleppo Codex.

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3.4.1 Old Evidence: the Sasson MS, Sa’adia Ha’adani, Yehudah Butini, Yehosef Ashkenazi

Some of the oldest evidence providing information about the Aleppo Codex comes from the large Masora of MS Sasson 1053, which is a tenth century manuscript of the Bible. The Masoretic comment refers to the names of the princes of the Tribes in Numbers 1. There is a long comment about compound names (such as “Elitsur,” which is composed of the words “Eli” [my God] and “tsur” [rock]), stating that in Torah scrolls, these should be written as a single word: These should be written as one word and read that way, and we find them in the work of the great scholar Aharon Ben Moshe Ben Asher in his works in the codex called altaj: All the names of the princes and [those called] and their fathers .. [the text presents a list of names here] Contrary to the practice of Masoretic comments, the Masorete mentions the source that he depends upon here, and he states that he copied the list from the “codex” written by the great scholar Aharon Ben Asher, which is known as “altaj,” or, in Hebrew, Haketer, the crown. Later evidence (of Cassuto and Baer) shows that, indeed, there was such a Masora in the Aleppo Codex, and it was copied on the pages at the beginning of the manuscript.

Later sources indicate the presence of the Keter in the city of Aleppo. Rabbi Sa’adia Ha’adani stated (before 1479) that he had seen the Aleppo Codex and read it, and that at the end was written, “I Aharon Ben Asher corrected it.” Rabbi Yehuda Ben Rabbi Moshe Albutini, a rabbi from Jerusalem, stated in 1515 that he had seen the codex in the synagogue of the Aleppo community, and that he heard from the heads of the congregation that the Keter had reached their city along with the commentary on the Mishnayot and five or six volumes of the Yad hazaqa [lit., the Strong Arm, another name of the Mishneh Torah] of Maimondes, in his own hand. Rabbi Yehosef Ashkenazi of Safed, at the end of the sixteenth century, also stated that he had seen the Keter in Aleppo, and he reported on the manner of writing the open and closed portions in it.

Photographs: Enlargement of the Masoretic comment from MS Sassoon – this must be obtained from the Institute for the Photography of Manuscripts in the National Library, film no. 8881. Photograph of Butini – there is one in my possession (Y. O.) Bibliography: Itzhak Ben-Zvi, “The Crown of the Torah of Ben Asher,” Studies of the Aleppo Codex, ed. H. Rabin (publications of the Hebrew University Bible Project, I), Jerusalem, 1960, pp. 1-9 (Hebrew). Yosef Ofer, “The Aleppo Codex in the Light of the Notes of M. D. Cassuto,” Sefunot 68 4 (19), 1989, pp. 302-304.

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3.4.2 Rabbinical Responsa: Eliahu Ben Hayyim, Shmuel Vital

The Aleppo Codex is mentioned in a number of books of rabbinical responsa in connection with the correct way of writing a Torah scroll. The rabbis who answered the questions had consulted the Aleppo Codex, and they reported on the spelling and the division of portions in several places in the Pentateuch. Rabbi Eliahu Ben Hayyim lived in Turkey around 1530-1610. In his work, Mayim amuqim (Deep Waters), Rabbi Eliahu made use of his knowledge of the Aleppo Codex in order to determine the proper way of writing several portions. He said, for example: “There is in my hands a well-corrected manuscript. I corrected it according to a manuscript that was in the hands of a sage, who corrected it from the Book of Ben Asher that is in Aleppo.” Elsewhere he says: “And other people have also told me that they saw the Book of Ben Asher that is in Aleppo, that there is no portion there.” From these references, one may conclude that knowledge of the Aleppo Codex passed from person to person, and from copyist to copyist, and that it served to resolve doubts regarding the correct way of writing a Torah scroll. The printed book, Beer Mayim Hayyim (Well of Living Water), contains the response of Rabbi Shmuel Vital, the son of the famous Kabbalist from Safed, Hayyim Vital) from the years 1646-1676. One of these questions contains comprehensive evidence about the spelling of the Torah in the Aleppo Codex, and it is very similar to the testimony of Rabbi Menashe Stahon, Sithon, i.e. Sit + hon. who examined the Aleppo Codex in the nineteenth century, and whose notes were copied by Moshe David Cassuto.

Bibliography: Jordan S. Penkower, "Maimonides and the Aleppo Codex", Textus 9 (1981), pp. 39-128. Yosef Ofer, “The Aleppo Codex in the Light of the Notes of M. D. Cassuto,” Sefunot 68 4 (19), 1989, pp. 334-337; 339-341 (Hebrew).

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3.4.3 The Evidence of the Cassuto Documents

Professor Moshe David Cassuto went to Aleppo in 1943 and examined the Keter in order to use it for the edition of the Bible, which he was publishing at that time. After overcoming many obstacles, Cassuto was permitted to examine the Aleppo Codex for four days and to make notes from it. He described the life of the Aleppo community in his journal, which Amnon Shamosh published in his book. The information about the Aleppo Codex from Cassuto’s notes was published by Yosef Ofer. They contain information about the open and closed portions of the Pentateuch, about the spelling of the Aleppo Codex in comparison to the received text, about the dedications of the Aleppo Codex, and the chapters of Masoretic grammar that were in the beginning of the book, about the division of the “orders” in the Pentateuch, and much more.

{UNCLEAR!!} Here is the physical description of the Aleppo Codex according to Cassuto’s notes: The Aleppo Codex is kept in a wooden box covered with red leather. The box opens in two parts, and the Keter is attached to it, similarly to the two parts of the cover of an ordinary book. Most of the fascicles [that comprise the Aleppo Codex] include ten folios each. However, since most of them were damaged and torn and corrected over time, it is sometimes difficult to discern their original composition. The sewing of the fascicles is broken in some places, and the book is torn and tattered. The book has been damaged by dampness, especially in the lower, outside corner. On additional pages in the beginning and the end there are drawings in gold and colors.

Journal of Cassuto in Amnon Shamosh, The Keter – the Story of the Aleppo Codex, Jerusalem, 1987, pp. 102-108 (Hebrew). Bibliography: Yosef ‘Ofer, “The Aleppo Codex in the Light of the Notes of M. D. Cassuto,” Sefunot 68 4 (19), 1989, pp. 227-344 (Hebrew).

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3.4.4 The Bible of Shalom Shakhna Yelin

Rabbi Shalom Shakhna Yellin (1790-1874) was an expert in the text of the Bible from the city of Skidel OK in Lithuania. In 1855 he began preparations for immigration to Eretz-Israel, and his main intention was to reach Aleppo and examine the Keter, as he stated in a letter to his son, Rabbi Arieh Leib Yellin, the author of Yefe ‘ainayim (Of Beautiful Eyes), a commentary on the Talmud. The elder Yellin reached Jerusalem and obtained a letter appointing him as emissary from the greatest rabbis of Jerusalem (including Rabbi Shmuel Salant, who later became the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem), addressed to the Hakhamim (rabbis) of Aleppo. The latter were asked to receive Yellin cordially, to host him, and to allow him to examine the Aleppo Codex. In the end, this mission was not accomplished as planned. In place of Rabbi Shalom Shakhna Yellin, his son-in-law, Rabbi Yehoshu’a Qimhi was sent. Yellin gave his son-in-law a copy of the Bible with many marginal notes about the text. Qimhi examined the Aleppo Codex, and in every place he recorded the wording of the Keter. Yellin also listed the open and closed portions in the Prophets and the Writings, and other data about the Aleppo Codex. It was known that this copy of the Bible existed. However, all traces of it had been lost. In 1987, the Yellin family house in Qiryat Moshe, Jerusalem, was about to be torn down. The books were removed from the attic, and some of them were going to be sent for burial in the genizah. At the last moment, the connection between these books and Rabbi Shalom Shakhna Yellin was discovered, and the Bible that had returned from Aleppo was saved from oblivion.

The most important information that emerges from Qimhi’s notes in the margins of the Bible relates to the open and closed portions in the prophets and writings. This information was unique to the Aleppo Codex, and it cannot be reconstructed according to any other manuscript of the Bible. Breuer’s editions of the Bible, which were published after the discovery of the Yellin Bible, rely upon those notes, as do the missing portions of the Aleppo Codex which were published in the editions of Miqraot Gedolot Haketer.

Photograph of the short letter of appointment with the signatures of the rabbis of Jerusalem – in the Library of the Ben Zvi Institute. The text of the long letter of appointment, according to the book, Avoteinu by Y. Y. Yelin or the article: D. Yitshaqi and Y. Y. Tshingel, “Ben Asher and the Bible of Rabbi Shalom Shakhna Yellin (1), ” Tsefunot 8 (Tammuz 1990), pp. 67-73; (2) Tsefunot 10 (Tevet 1991), pp. 68-73 (Hebrew). [Up to know there have been references to a journal named ספונות and now there is a reference to a journal named צפונות – are these the same?] {TWO DIFFERENT JOURNALS} Photograph of some pages from the Yellin Bible – photograph in the Ben-Zvi Institute. Bibliography: Y. Ofer, “The Aleppo Codex and the Bible of Rabbi Shalom Shakhna Yellin,” in Jubilee Volume for Rabbi Mordecai Breuer, Jerusalem, 1992, pp. 295-354 (Hebrew). D. Yitshaqi and Y. Y. Tshingel, “Ben Asher and the Bible of Rabbi Shalom Shakhna Yellin (2),” Tsefunot 10 (Tevet 1991), pp. 68-73 (Hebrew).

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3.4.5 The Testimony of Yishai Bar ‘Amram ‘Amadi

Yishai Bar ‘Amram Hacohen ‘Amadi (from the city of ‘Amadia in Kurdistan) examined the Aleppo Codex and in accordance with it he wrote corrections on a printed copy of the Pentateuch (which had been printed in the city of אישאר in Spain in 1490). ‘Amadi did his work in the second half of the sixteenth century. At the end of some of the books of the Bible, this reviser wrote the following comment: “This volume of mine, I, the young servant in Israel and the youngest of them, Yishai Bar ‘Amram Hacohen of blessed memory revised it according to the Keter that was revised by Ben Asher of blessed memory.” ‘Amadi’s revision relates to matters connected to the writing of a Torah scroll. He provides information on the way of writing the Song of the Sea and the Give Ear Song, on open and closed portions, and on the spelling of the Torah. His notes provide an almost complete picture of the practice of the Aleppo Codex in these areas. ‘Amadi does not comment on matters of vocalization or the cantillation marks or on the Masora of the Aleppo Codex. Some of his comments are presented in the name of “the Book of the Writing of ‘Ezra,” and it is difficult to determine whether this is another name for the Aleppo Codex or the name of another “Keter” that ‘Amadi had seen.

Photographs: Photographs 1-6 presented in the book by Y. Penkower, The Text of the Pentateuch in the Aleppo Codex – New Evidence, Ramat-Gan, 1993, pp. 114-119 (Hebrew). Bibliography: Yitshaq S. Penkower, The Text of the Pentateuch in the Aleppo Codex – New Evidence, Ramat-Gan, 1993 (Hebrew).

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3.4.6 The Questions of Ya’aqov Sapir

Ya’aqov Sapir was an Ashkenazi rabbi in Jerusalem, known for his book, Even Sapir (Sapphire), in which he describes his journeys to Yemen and other countries as an emissary of the Jerusalem community. Around 1855 he formulated 550 questions about the text of the Pentateuch, the Haftarot, and the Five Scrolls, and he sent them to Rabbi Moshe Sathon, who lived in Aleppo. Sapir asked Sathon to examine the Aleppo Codex and respond as to its version of each of these passages. Sathon did as Sapir asked and alongside each question, he wrote the result of his examination of the Aleppo Codex: “thus” or “not thus.” Sometimes he also added a short comment on the wording of the Aleppo Codex. Here are two examples of questions regarding the vocalization of words: Gen. 2:12: “וּזֲהַב” (and gold) – with a hataf patah? The answer: “Thus and an accent on the vav.” Gen. 21:9: “מְצַחֶק” (he sports) with a segol? The answer: “Not thus, but with a tsere.” Sapir edited the list of questions and the answers and the description of the Aleppo Codex, which he had received from Sathon, and he called that work Meorot Nathan. Parts of the list of questions also appeared in Halevanon, a periodical published in Jerusalem in 1863.

Photographs: Passages from the manuscript of Meorot Nathan (I have a photograph, but permission is needed from JTS, N.Y.). Raphael Zer, “Meorot Nathan by Rabbi Ya’aqov Sapir,” Leshonenu 50 (1986), pp. 151-213 (Hebrew).

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3.4.7 The Archive of Yitshaq Zeligman Baer

Yitshaq Zeligman Baer (S. Baer) was a nineteenth century scholar of the Masora who was active in Leipzig, Germany. He studied the grammatical comments of the Masora that are appended to old manuscripts, and he published an edition of Diqduqei hate’amim (Precisions of the Cantillation Marks). Recently Baer’s archive has been discovered, and in it are copies of Masoretic material from many manuscripts. Among these copies there is also a nearly complete copy of the rich Masoretic material that was appended to the Aleppo Codex at the beginning and the end. The copy from the Aleppo Codex was made for the well-known Karaite traveler, Avraham Firkovich. This episode was reported by the Jerusalem rabbi Ya’aqov Sapir in Even sapir. After Firkovich’s death, the copies from the Aleppo Codex passed into Baer’s possession, and a full copy was preserved in his archive.

Photographs: Photograph from the Baer archive, in which the Aleppo Codex is mentioned (in my possession). Bibliography: Y. Ofer, "A Masoretic Note in the Aleppo Codex Concerning the Composite Words," Textus XXI (2002), pp. 209-233.

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3.5 Where are the Lost Parts of the Aleppo Codex?

He went to the place where he went and came and opened the safe, as his father had commanded. He put out his hand and pulled out a stuffed pillowcase, hastily packed and tied up. With trembling hands he untied the knots and put out his hand, withdrawing a bundle of parchments, ancient Hebrew letters on parchment, with “In the beginning, God created” at the head of them all. He put out an inquiring finger and cautiously turned over the parchments. Now he could see with his own eyes, at the top and bottom of the pages, explicit admonitions, such as “cursed be he who steals this,” “cursed be he who pawns this,” and “cursed be he who befouls it,” written again and again, and from time to time an entire sentence in his language, “cursed be he who steals it and cursed be he who pawns it and it may not be sold and it may not be defiled for all eternity.” From his childhood, he had heard and known that it was explicitly written in the Aleppo Codex that on the day when it was removed from the city, the Jewish community there would be destroyed. A second thought made him shudder: was it not true that the Aleppo Codex was kept and preserved in the holy city of Jerusalem, as people said? He stretched out his right hand. The right thumbnail was gnawed to the quick. He turned the pieces of parchment over again and again and found that only the Five Books of Moses were there. Just a few pages from the end were missing. He remembered that people had said that the whole Pentateuch had been burned, and only the Prophets and Writings had reached Jerusalem intact. If so, what they had said was burned was not burned at all. Woe to the eyes that see this. That is an imaginary description of the lost part of the Aleppo Codex by the author Amnon Shamosh, who left Aleppo, the city of his birth in 1938 and immigrated to Eretz-Israel. He included that description in his book, Michel ‘Ezra Safra and his Sons (pp. 142-143), which describes the fate of a Jewish family from the city of Aleppo. The book was adapted for a successful Israeli television series. [Hasn’t it appeared in English? I can’t find it on the web.] I don’t know if there is an English Version.

The more the accuracy, status, and importance of the Aleppo Codex became known, interest in the fate of missing parts increased. From time to time, items appear in the newspapers about the discovery of Keters or of old parchment folios, which are offered for sale or found in the possession of a collector or dealer. Newspaper stories about the Keter have tried to evaluate the meaning of these items. It is impossible to know whether more parts of the Aleppo Codex will be found in the future, and of course one cannot rule out the possibility that they might be discovered in one way or another. As we have said earlier, during the past fifty years, one whole page and a piece of another page have been found, and it would be wonderful if more parts were located

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