Friday, May 19, 2023

A Treasured Book

A 1,100-year-old Tanach, one of the world's oldest surviving biblical manuscripts, sold for $38 million in New York on Wednesday, becoming among the most expensive books ever bought. The manuscript is the world's oldest nearly complete copy of the Hebrew Bible. It was handwritten roughly 1,000 years ago on 792 pages of sheepskin, includes all 24 books of the Bible, and is missing only about eight pages. The Codex Sassoon, a leather-bound, handwritten parchment volume containing a nearly complete Hebrew Bible, was purchased by former US Ambassador to Romania Alfred H. Moses on behalf of the American Friends of ANU and donated to the ANU Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, where it will join the collection. Sotheby's Judaica specialist Sharon Liberman Mintz said the $38 million price tag "reflects the profound power, influence, and significance of the Hebrew Bible, which is an indispensable pillar of humanity." If you are wondering why the buyer paid a handsome sum of $38 million for the Tanach, please listen to his words. "The Hebrew Bible is the most influential book in History and constitutes the bedrock of Western civilization. I rejoice in knowing it belongs to the Jewish people," Moses said. "It was my mission, realizing the historic significance of Codex Sassoon, to see that it resides in a place with global access to all people." As we approach Shavuos, the anniversary of the Jewish People receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai, reflecting on this awesome event is worthwhile. The impact the Torah had on civilization is far beyond the Jewish People. When our ancestors embraced their mission to the Kingdom of Kohanim and a Holy People, it had a profound impact on the world. The events at Mt. Sinai were a turning point not only in Jewish History but in World History. The historian Paul Johnson wrote this in his book The History of the Jews. "Certainly, the world without the Jews would have been a radically different place. Humanity might have eventually stumbled upon all the Jewish insights. But we cannot be sure. All the great conceptual discoveries of the human intellect seem obvious and inescapable once they had been revealed, but it requires a special genius to formulate them for the first time. The Jews had this gift. To them we owe the idea of equality before the law, both divine and human; of the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person; of the individual conscience and so a personal redemption; of the collective conscience and so of social responsibility; of peace as an abstract ideal and love as the foundation of justice, and many other items which constitute the basic moral furniture of the human mind. Without Jews, it might have been a much emptier place." Jewish Wisdom teaches us about the spiritual connection one can attain through Torah Study. Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzatto writes in Derech Hashem about the topic. He explains that while there are many different opportunities and experiences that one can have to G-d in this world, there is one medium that is more compelling and significant than any other: Torah Study. The more an individual studies Torah, the more he becomes connected to G-d. Society has radically changed since the Tanach sold by Sotheby's was written 1,100 years ago. The printing press invented by Gutenberg in the 15th century and the more recent development of the internet have opened new opportunities for Torah Study. King David wrote that the Torah is complete and perfect, and it is restorative for the soul. I don't think many would argue that our souls could use some restoration. The need is clear and the solution of a more committed approach to Torah Study is here. As we approach Shavuos, we must ask ourselves, "What are we waiting for?" Have a Peaceful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch

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