The Daily Herald review: Laura Wadley

December 16, 2012

The Dead Sea Scrolls we know, but who has ever heard of the Crown of Aleppo, in many respects a more important manuscript?

Thanks to Matti Friedman’s “The Aleppo Codex: A True Story of Obsession, Faith, and the Pursuit of an Ancient Bible,” the story of the most nearly perfect original text of the Hebrew Bible is made bare. Friedman deals much less with the creation of the codex than with how it wound up in the Ben-Zvi Institute in Jerusalem with many of its most important pages missing.

The codex was held for many years by a community of Jews in Aleppo, Syria, but when anti-Jewish rioting broke out there after the 1948 partition of Palestine, the great synagogue of Aleppo was destroyed and, some feared, the codex with it.

Friedman’s years-long investigation of how the codex was actually saved by the synagogue’s sexton, smuggled out of Syria by a cheese merchant, and finally enshrined — missing its Torah pages — in Jerusalem allows him to create a non-fiction thriller that goes far toward explaining official reluctance to discuss the missing pages that were in the book as it left Syria.

The use of fragments of holy books as talismans, the court case involving the Aleppo Jewish community and the Israeli government, and the perfidy of dealers in antiquities, and of the very people who should have been guarding and preserving the sacred book are all aspects of the codex’s fascinating story.  Don’t miss it.

Book Buzz, The Daily Herald (Utah), Dec. 16, 2012

Read the review here.