A Wandering Bible: The Aleppo Codex
---Saving the Aleppo Codex
Believed to be lost, the Aleppo Codex nevertheless rose from the ashes. When the riots had died down, it turned out that the Jews of Aleppo had managed to retrieve and hide it. Some ten years later, in 1958, the Codex was brought to Jerusalem in a bold clandestine operation, made possible through the intervention of President Yizhak Ben-Zvi of Israel and various rabbinical leaders. The Aleppo Codex was entrusted to the Ben-Zvi Institute in Jerusalem, and a board of trustees, which included the Sephardi chief rabbi (the Rishon le-Zion), was appointed to look after it. It remained at the Ben-Zvi Institute for a while, and later was on display at the National Library before finally arriving at the Israel Museum.
Unfortunately, the Codex that reached Jerusalem was no longer complete – the beginning, the end, and a few pages from the middle were missing. Because of its poor physical condition, extensive restoration was necessary; this was carried out in the Israel Museum laboratories over a period of some ten years. Pieces of tape stuck to the Codex were removed, stains were cleaned, and the ink was reinforced where it had disintegrated and peeled off. Considerable efforts were made to locate the lost parts, for it was rumored that they still existed somewhere. These efforts have not been very successful. To date, only one complete page, with a passage from the Book of Chronicles, was discovered in NY in 1981. It was brought to Israel, and is now owned by the Israel Museum. In addition, a small fragment of a page from Exodus was kept as an amulet in the wallet of a member of the Aleppine community in New York. It too is now owned by the Israel Museum. Only time will tell if any other leaves of the Codex still exist.