By Matti Friedman
Winner of the 2014 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature
A thousand years ago, the most perfect copy of the Hebrew Bible was written. It was kept safe through one upheaval after another in the Middle East, and by the 1940s it was housed in a dark grotto in Aleppo, Syria, and had become known around the world as the Aleppo Codex.
Journalist Matti Friedman’s true-life detective story traces how this precious manuscript was smuggled from its hiding place in Syria into the newly founded state of Israel and how and why many of its most sacred and valuable pages went missing. It’s a tale that involves grizzled secret agents, pious clergymen, shrewd antiquities collectors, and highly placed national figures who, as it turns out, would do anything to get their hands on an ancient, decaying book. What it reveals are uncomfortable truths about greed, state cover-ups, and the fascinating role of historical treasures in creating a national identity.
Booklist’s Top 10 Religion and Spirituality Books
“A superb work of investigative journalism that reads like a detective thriller.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Friedman’s clear writing and dogged pursuit of some otherwise overlooked assumptions read more like a detective novel than history . . . Friedman has written an important account in accessible, gripping prose.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“A thrilling, step-by-step quest to discover what really happened to Judaism’s most important book . . . Many of [The Aleppo Codex’s] most astute and well-earned revelations are also its biggest surprises.” —The Boston Globe
“The Aleppo Codex builds to a moral crescendo more impressive than the climactic fight scene in any thriller.”—Salon
“Friedman creates a riveting story, one that the reader will have a hard time putting down.”—The Advocate
“Thrilling . . . a real-life National Treasure that reads like fantastical fiction.”—CultureMob
“[Friedman] opened a treasure box of history, mystery, conspiracy, and convolutions that would do any biblical thriller proud . . . Friedman has done a remarkable job—finding sources and digging through archives—of getting the Crown’s fascinating story out of the shadows and into the light. In the process, he’s become the latest in the long line of the Crown’s protectors.”—Booklist, starred review
“Sharply etched . . . A carefully paced narrative of purloined Judaica.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Friedman’s account of how the Codex was taken from Syria in the 1940s, later to resurface in Jerusalem, although no longer