The Aleppo Codex (Matti Friedman):Book Review

The Aleppo Codex

Through his own admission, Matti Friedman, did not aim at writing this book when he first delved into Jewish religion history. Friedman, a Jerusalem native and a journalist attached with the Associated Press, Jerusalem Report and Times of Israel has traversed Palestine and Israel territories to cover stories on archaeology and religion.

When he came across Aleppo Codex in a museum in Israel, its contents intrigued him and he set forth to discover the story behind the popular manuscript. His account traced back to almost 900 years ago is an account of the journey of Codex of Aleppo from Jerusalem. This was during the time when Christian Crusaders were invaded (Friedman 12). It is also an account of the major Jewish religion manuscripts.

The Codex, written by one of the greatest scribes of the time in 930 A.D, under the tutelage of Aaron Ben-Asher, offers the closest version of the bible. The manuscript is additionally the famous manuscript, upon which, a clear account of Jewish Bible was written. Utilized by the Maimonides to write the Mishneh Torah, the Crown of Aleppo, is a vital story of the Codex, a popular manuscript.

The writer therefore closely evaluates the journey of the Codex as it is presented in sequence of events that are quite intriguing and controversial. When Christian Crusaders attacked Jerusalem in 1099, they burnt and destroyed Jewish manuscripts in the city. Muslims also provide an account stating that they even burnt people who were in the synagogue.

However, they stored some materials as ransom. Jewish living in Aleppo in Syria sent a delegation mainly to negotiate for a ransom settlement when they realized that that the Codex was not destroyed. It was during this time when Codex moved to Aleppo from Jerusalem, a place it had been kept for many years until 1947.

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In 1945 when Israel was established, Jews living in Syria went back on a journey to Israel. The codex therefore found itself again in 1947 back to Israel. Friedman’s book therefore follows the journey of the Codex, from Aleppo to the time it crosses the borders of Syria into Israel (Friedman 24).

The account similar to a detective’s presents the interesting part of the story. The author uses his journalistic instincts to evaluate the mystery of the manuscripts missing pieces. From the deceptions, missing pieces, historical accounts, mysteries, trials and conspiracies, the author closely evaluates the significance of the manuscript to the Jewish people.

The author also offers an interesting account of the value of the manuscript to the Jewish state. The story also focuses on how the codex was sneaked out of Syria. Additionally, it details how sacred pages of the book went missing. The author claims that a version of the story provided by Jews living in Aleppo is a clear indication that the book left Aleppo when it was intact (Friedman 24).

Even so, at the time it resurfaced in Jerusalem ten years later to be presented to the public, the book had 294 pages only yet it was originally a 487 page book. The difference was therefore attributed to the temples destruction in Syria by a fire set by riots because of the creation of the state of Israel in 1947. The author also presents a close account of the trial resulting over Codex ownership following its smuggling from Syria.

The Codex is revered in the history of the Jewish. Jews believe that it can ‘‘protect the people who protect it and destroy those who destroy it’’ (Friedman 43). It was also strongly believed that it was the source of the communities’ mystic power, a relic that holds historical significance to the creation of Jewish religion.

Friedman turns out to be a great story teller, lacing the history of the manuscript with the history of Jewish religion up to the year 1940. From Jerusalem to Aleppo, Brookline to London stops in between, the author travels across the glove to offer a highly evaluative account of what truly happened. Did the fire really destroy the scribes?

Friedman does not believe so and he sets to investigate. ‘‘A large quantity of leafs had mysteriously gone missing’’ (Friedman 1). The circumstantial shift from 1940s to 1950s and to the current and recent past historical presents clearly offers an interesting and convincing version. The author bases his arguments on factual information backing his claims with records of historical events and with reports.

The accounts of deceptions, political machinations and trials present the report with highly intriguing descriptions thus creating more questions than answers. Friedman presents not only an historical account but he also establishes an explanation of controversies surrounding the ownership of historical treasures.

The author in my own opinion presents a very interesting evaluation of the importance of myth and history in Jewish religion. He claims that religious documents play a very crucial role in the identity of the Jewish religion. The myths surrounding the book also support these claims. The Jews just like any other religion believe in the Torah, their only one holy book.

However, they revere different historical books that present an account of their religion. The Codex is one of the books. The author as a way of protecting historical books presents a clear narration of the journey the Codex undertook from the city of Aleppo to Jerusalem, albeit the missing pages.

In this book, I have been able to comprehend the Jewish history most significant books as well as their correlation to the Jewish Bible. The creation of Jewish state of Israel, scattered by the time by circumstances revives obsession with different religious manuscripts that are believed to be very essential in description of monotheist religion. The book also provides a very fascinating version of the history of Jewish religion, presenting a correlation between symbolism and religion that is compelling both in the present and in history.

Friedman’s book as a religious book is a meditation of myth, superstition and history. From the creation of the Torah to the significance given to the Codex, its role in definition of religious path as well as its mythical powers, this ‘‘book on a book’’ is a clear evaluation of Jewish religion in the context of history (Friedman 54).

The Torah is inscribed without vowels. Since Aleppo Codex is a very accurate account of Jewish bible, it offers a simpler version with vowels missing in the final manuscript. This is also a book that spurns across Christian, Jewish and Muslim interactions in the history of religious fights.

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Works Cited

Friedman, Matti. The Aleppo Codex: a true story of obsession, faith, and the pursuit of an ancient Bible. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2012. Print.