Aleppo Codex

  • Issue: December 2000
  • Designer: Aharon Shevo
  • Stamp Size: 30.8 mm x 30.8 mm
  • Plate no.: 429
  • Sheet of 15 stamps, Tabs: 5
  • Printers: Government Printers
  • Method of printing: Offset

The Aleppo Codex is the earliest known manuscript comprising the full text of the  Bible. In all probability, it is also the most authoritative, accurate, and sacred source document, both for the biblical text, and for its vocalization, cantillation and "Massorah". As such, it has achieved a position of pre-eminence among Hebraic and Judaic manuscripts and has greater religious and scholarly import than any other manuscript of the Bible. The Codex was copied by the scribe Shlomo Ben-Buya'a over one thousand years ago. The text was then verified, vocalized and provided with the "Massorah" by Aaron Ben-Asher, the last and most prominent member of the Ben-Asher dynasty, which shaped the Hebrew "textus receptus" of the Bible. A time-honored tradition invests the Codex with a unique aura of authority, reverence and holiness. This tradition maintains that this was the manuscript consulted by Maimonides when he set down the exact rules for writing scrolls of the Torah (deduced from his comment: " I used it as the basis for the copy of the "Sefer Torah" which I wrote according to the Law" (Mishneh Torah, Book 11, "Ahavah, Hilkhot Sefer Torah",viii, 4).

Recent research bears out the traditional account of the manuscript's origins, and establishes the likelihood that Maimonides indeed sanctified and codified everything that he found in the Aleppo Codex for future generations. Furthermore, it is widely believed that the Codex represents the first complete manuscript of the Bible ever written, This explains why it is termed a "crown", and elucidates the adage that "crowns are holier to the people than are Scrolls of the Law".

The Codex was written in Eretz Israel in the early tenth century, looted and transferred to Egypt at the end of the eleventh century, and deposited with the Aleppo community at the end of the fourteenth century, perhaps by the great-great-great grandson of Maimonides.

The rabbis and elders of the community guarded it jealously for some six hundred years.. During the riots against Jews and Jewish property in Aleppo in December 1947, which followed in the wake of the United Nations resolution to establish a Jewish state in Palestine, the community's ancient synagogue was put to the torch and the Codex, which was kept in the synagogue's "Cave of Elijah", suffered damage. Members of the community managed to save most of it and concealed the salvaged sections for about ten years in several different hiding places. In 1957, two elders of the community entrusted the surviving portions of the Codex in the hands of Mordechai Faham, who smuggled it out of Syria into Turkey.

On January 23, 1958, the Aleppo Codex was brought to Jerusalem and entrusted to President Ben-Zvi. Unfortunately, the manuscript in our possession today contains no more than 295 of the original 487 leaves. Only the last six chapters of the Pentateuch have survived.

The manuscript was entrusted to the Ben-Zvi Institute and is exhibited in the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

Amnon Shamosh

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The Aleppo Codex