International war, the gradual yet violent retreat of colonialism, and the ongoing construction of a universal Jewish homeland were the brush strokes that colored the uncertain infancy of Israel’s statehood. The challenges posed by five simultaneously invading armies aside, Israel’s leaders undertook the difficult task of cultivating the cultural Jewish identity that would transform their nation into the proper historical home for a people who had been without one for nearly two millennia. Part of this work included corralling the great Torah scrolls, Biblical codices, and rabbinical writings that had sustained the unity of the Jewish faith in its fractured diaspora since the destruction of the Temple by Titus’ legions in 70 A.D.
The Aleppo Codex, known as the Crown of Aleppo, was identified as a foundational Hebrew text, one that belonged within the borders of the new Jewish polity. Matti Friedman, a Middle Eastern correspondent for the Associated Press, navigates through intentional deceit and government cover-ups in The Aleppo Codex: A True Story of Obsession, Faith, and the Pursuit of an Ancient Bible, a work that catalogs the convoluted – and often deliberately misleading – history of one book’s journey into the hands of the fledgling Jewish state.