Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Friedman gives a masterful account of a major religious document, housed with the better known Dead Sea Scrolls in Jerusalem’s Shrine of the Book. The Aleppo Codex, a volume of parchment folios written in Tiberius circa 930 C.E., is considered the most accurate text of the Hebrew Bible. Stolen by Crusaders from a Jerusalem synagogue, the codex made its way to Egypt, was used by the great 12th-century scholar Maimonides and later brought to Aleppo, Syria, by a descendant of Maimonides. After being carefully kept in Aleppo’s Great Synagogue, the codex was damaged in 1947 by Arab rioters angered by the U.N. resolution to partition Palestine. Friedman plumbs two mysteries relating to the codex: how did it end up in the hands of Israeli authorities after being rescued from the Great Synagogue? And what happened to its missing pages (which caused a scandal when the government revealed their absence)? Facing missing court documents and the “conspiracy of silence” surrounding the codex, AP reporter Friedman sleuths out the answers, revealing a highly disturbing tale. Friedman delivers an atmospheric, tense story about the destruction of a sacred relic, raising inevitable questions about who owns a people’s historical treasures.

Photos. Agent: Judy Heiblum, Sterling Lord Literistic. (May)

The Aleppo Codex: A True Story of Obsession, Faith, and the Pursuit of an Ancient Book

Matti Friedman. Algonquin, $24.95  (320p) ISBN 978-1-61620-040-4

Reviewed on: 02/06/2012