A Medieval Hebrew Bible Breaks an Auction-World Record

On Wednesday, the oldest near-complete Tanakh was purchased by a group of American philanthropists from Sotheby’s for $38.1 million. They plan to donate it to the Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv. Jennifer Schuessler writes:

The volume, known as the Codex Sassoon, includes all 24 books of the Hebrew Bible, minus about eight leaves, including the first ten chapters of Genesis. Researchers have dated it to the late 9th or early 10th century, making it the oldest near-complete Hebrew Bible known to exist. Since 1989, it has been owned by the Swiss financier and collector Jacqui Safra, and has been seen by few scholars.

The price tag of $38.1 million, including buyer’s fees, may seem like a relative pittance compared with the stratospheric prices reached regularly at high-profile art auctions. But such figures are obtained only rarely for books and historical documents. . . . Even in its own time, the book was an expensive object, requiring the skins of easily more than 100 animals to create its roughly 400 parchment leaves. The text was written by a single scribe.

The Bible—one of only two complete or substantially complete Hebrew Bibles of the period known to survive—was made in present-day Israel or Syria. It contains what is known as the Masoretic text, after the Masoretes, a lineage of scholar-scribes who lived in Palestine and Babylonia from roughly the 6th to the 9th centuries, and who created systems of annotation to make sure the text would be read and transmitted properly.

The book also includes several inscriptions tracing changes in ownership across the centuries. The earliest is a deed of sale from around 1000 CE, indicating that it was sold by Khalaf ben Abraham, a businessman who worked in Palestine and Syria, to Isaac ben Ezekiel el-Attar, who ultimately gave it to his sons.

Read more at New York Times

More about: Masoretes, Rare books, Tanakh

Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security