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The KETER: The Aleppo Codex
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The KETER: The Aleppo Codex
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The Aleppo Codex

Amnon Shamosh

The Aleppo Codex (the Hebrew term "Keter," literally meaning "crown," signifies a codex of the Bible, as opposed to a scroll) 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" (literally "transmission" of the Bible, the oral and written tradition by which the holy scriptures have been preserved and passed on from generation to generation).

As such, the Aleppo Codex has achieved a position of preeminence among Hebraic and Judaic manuscripts, and is of greater religious and scholarly import than any other manuscript of the Bible. A time-honored tradition invests the Codex with a unique aura of authority, reverence, and sanctity, and maintains that this was the manuscript consulted by Maimonides in setting down the exact rules for writing scrolls of the Torah (deduced from his comment: "I used it as a basis for the copy of the 'Sefer Torah', which I wrote according to the Law").

The Rabbis and elders of the Aleppo community guarded the Codex jealously for some six hundred years. The drama (if not the trauma) of its loss during the 1947 anti-Jewish riots in Aleppo when the local synagogue was set on fire, turned to joy and relief when it was rediscovered (albeit partially) thanks to intensive, dramatic rescue efforts, and brought to Jerusalem.

Born in Syria in 1929, Amnon Shamosh immigrated to Tel Aviv as a child, and later became one of the founding members of Kibbutz Ma'ayan Baruch, where he resides today. A graduate of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, author of both poetry and prose for children and adults, his work has been translated into English, Spanish, and French, and one of his novels was made into a mini-series for television. Amnon Shamosh is a recipient of the Agnon Prize, named after the celebrated Israeli Nobel Laureate in Literature, the Shalom-AleichemPrize, the Prime Minister's Prize for Creativity, the President of Israel's Award for Literature, and numerous other literary awards.

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