93
93
An Extremely Important Ashkenazic Torah Scroll [Poland: Second Half of the 15th Century]
Estimate
70,000100,000
LOT SOLD. 62,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT
93
An Extremely Important Ashkenazic Torah Scroll [Poland: Second Half of the 15th Century]
Estimate
70,000100,000
LOT SOLD. 62,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Important Judaica

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New York

An Extremely Important Ashkenazic Torah Scroll [Poland: Second Half of the 15th Century]

Complete Torah Scroll (25 in. x app. 72 ft.; 635 mm x app. 22 m). Written with black ink on parchment , comprising 45 parchment sheets, each of three to four columns, in a characteristic mid-fifteenth century Ashkenazic square STAM script, 61 lines; some letters renewed; Genesis and first sheet of Exodus in a different hand, (perhaps coeval but in any case, not later than the mid-sixteenth century), 60 lines; several replacement sheets in a later hand; sewn with sinews (giddin); mounted on nineteenth century turned wood rollers ('atzei hayyim), upper handles trimmed with carved and turned bone finials and appurtenances.  


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Catalogue Note

the earliest known torah scroll to include the halakhic specifications of the sages of ashkenaz, especially the barukh she-amar

The prevailing form of the book in antiquity was the scroll. Ancient texts were copied onto specially prepared animal skins. The individual parchment skins were then sewn together and the ends were attached to cylindrical handles or rollers. To this day, Judaism reserves the scroll format for the sacred texts read in the synagogue liturgy. The most sacred Jewish text is the Torah scroll. Containing the Five Books of Moses (the Pentateuch), a Torah scroll is handwritten by a specially trained scribe who pens the text -- letter by letter and word by word.

Torah scrolls have no punctuation, vowel signs, signatures, colophons, or dates, making the task of identifying the time and place of a particular scroll notoriously difficult. Until recently, scholars were only able, with varying degrees of success and accuracy, to determine both the geographic origin of a torah scroll as well as its approximate date of creation, by the analysis of the scribal variants distinctive to a particular region or group. Various textual traditions, section divisions and layout of the songs as well as occasional halakhic references also help to determine when and where certain customs or practices obtained. Although these techniques are useful, they each come with certain inherent problems. More recently however, scientists, using new and highly reliable radiocarbon dating techniques, have been able to further bolster the results heretofore acquired by paleographic examination or halakhic reference.

DATING THIS TORAH AND ORIGIN OF THE TORAH

The dating of the present scroll relies on all of these different approaches, all leading to the same ineluctable conclusion. Paleographic examinations by scholars of Hebrew manuscripts and scientific testing using the latest state-of-the-art techniques indicate the mid-fifteenth century as the era in which the overwhelming majority of the present scroll was penned. Moreover, by reference to pertinent contemporary literature, it can be shown that the scroll was created in the broad geographic area referred to in rabbinic literature as Poland.

PALEOGRAPHY

Only a very few Ashkenazi Torah Scrolls exist from the medieval period or earlier and many of these exist in only fragmentary form.  Although our scroll shares a great many standard characteristics with the few remaining earlier Ashkenazi Torahs, the writing is not completely consistent with these earlier scrolls. Nor does it match exactly the standard book hand found in numerous examples of medieval Hebrew Bible codices produced in Ashkenazi lands. Similarly, while the script bears strong resemblance to what is now considered normative Ashkenazi STAM (the type of writing used for Torah Scrolls, Teffilin and Mezzuzot), there are numerous clear indications that the scroll predates the earliest appearance of modern Ashkenazi STAM in the 16th century.

The arrangement of the Song at the Sea (Exodus 15) is one of these primary indicators. In particular, the arrangement of the final two lines of the song in prose format as well as the lines preceding and following the song itself, argue for the 15th century origin of the present scroll, reflecting most closely the scribal traditions of medieval Ashkenazi Bible codices. Though adhering to the 'ariah 'al gabei levenah or "brick" pattern common to all renditions of this section, the alternating of lines of two parts or three parts is reversed here. This arrangement points to an early Ashkenazi tradition and this particular arrangement is no longer seen in Ashkenazi Torah scrolls after the 15th century. Similarly, the five lines preceding the Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32) instead of six are another indicator of Ashkenazi traditions not found after the 15th century.

Also unique to the present scroll is the presence of a parasha sedurah, a special form of textual layout mentioned in halakhic works but unknown in any but the earliest Ashkenazi scrolls. First mentioned in Mahzor Vitry, this spacing was a third alternative to Parasha Petuhah and Parasha Setumah . It occurs in the present Torah Scroll at least three times (Exodus 16:28, Numbers 28:9, Numbers 28:11).

For a detailed report on the paleographic characteristics of the present scroll, see the complete report by Professor Jordan S. Penkower of Bar Ilan University, available upon request.

THE BARUKH SHE-AMAR AND THE HALAKHIC DEVELOPMENT OF THE ASHKENAZI STAM TRADITION

Though they share a uniform textual tradition, the few medieval Ashkenazi Torah scrolls in existence today show a great disparity in a variety of scribal aspects including letter formation, layout of text and spacing. The evidence suggests that there existed in medieval Ashkenazi communities a much broader spectrum of acceptable scribal practices than exist today.

Alarmed at the lack of consistency and uniformity among scribal traditions, a 14th century scribe named Samson ben Eliezer (born ca. 1330) undertook to remedy the situation and devoted his life to clarifying the regulations concerning the writing of the STAM (Sefer Torah, tefillin, and mezuzot). An orphan since the age of eight, Samson had been apprenticed to a Torah scribe called Issachar, who passed on to him the Tikkun (scribal compendium) compiled by the scribe Abraham ben Moses of Sinzheim, a pupil of Meir ben Baruch (Maharam) of Rothenburg. Samson became so proficient in this craft that his fame spread throughout Germany and was widely recognized as the leading authority on STAM. Samson achieved great importance as a preserver of the German tradition in this sphere of halakhah, when he revised and clarified the writings of Abraham of Sinzheim and added his own notes, the resulting work being known as Sefer Barukh she-Amar. In addition to being directly traceable to the teachings of the Maharam, Samson also draws upon generations of Ashkenazi luminaries such as the Elazar of Worms (Rokeah), Barukh ben Samuel of Mainz and others. Sefer Barukh she-Amar is the first systematic and accessible formulation of the writing of STAM.

Samson's student, Yom Tov Lipmann Muelhausen further elaborated the formal rules of writing the sacred scrolls and also composed a treatise on the forms of the letters called Perush... Al Zurot Otiyyot ha-Alef Bet, based upon Samson's work. Other Ashkenazi halakhists, such as Jacob Moelin (Maharil) and Jacob Landau (Sefer ha-Agur), Solomon Luria (Maharshal), and Elijah Shapira.would incorporate their directives concerning the manner in which Torahs were to be written and these in turn became incorporated in the halakhic mainstays of Ashkenazi Jewry.  The work of these early pioneers in the halakhic development of STAM would lay the groundwork for future generations of scribes.

Today, all Torah scrolls are written with close attention paid to the strictures and regulations first enjoined upon Ashkenazi scribes by Samson ben Eliezer, the author of Sefer Barukh she-Amar and those who followed him. The present Torah Scroll is the earliest known Torah to incorporate this halakhically accurate manner of letter formation in the tradition of the Barukh she-Amar. It is the precursor to the myriad Torah scrolls that would be written in the ensuing centuries in the Eastern European heartland of Ashkenazi Jewry.

For the close affinity between the present scroll and the scribal emendations and practices called for by R. Samson ben Eliezer in Sefer Barukh she-Amar, please see the report of Rabbi David Leib Greenfeld, Director of Va'ad Mishmeret Stam(U.S.), available upon request.

SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE

Although this unknown Ashkenazi script combined with the variant arrangements of the text suggested a Torah scroll that bridged the gap between medieval Ashkenazi scrolls of the 13th and 14th century on the one hand and the scrolls that proliferated since the end of the 16th century, on the other hand, further evidence was sought to confirm this hypothesis. Two separate (mutually blind) radiocarbon dating examinations were performed on the parchment of the main section of the Torah, the first using standard Carbon14 dating protocols and a second confirmatory examination using the more advanced and more exact AMS or Accelerator Mass Spectrometry method. Radiocarbon dating (Carbon 14) has established that the likeliest window for the creation of the scroll is between the years 1452-1482 CE. The center of that range would place the Torah at or about the year 1467 CE. The complete radiocarbon dating results are available upon request.

The results of these radiocarbon dating examinations further corroborate the paleographic findings above, namely that the present scroll is an extremely early precursor of modern Ashkenazi STAM and the earliest extant complete Torah Scroll that includes the application of the halakhic developments described above.

LOCALIZATION OF THE SCROLL

Having firmly established on the basis of paleography, contemporary halakhic references and scientific evidence that the scroll was created in the second half of the 15th century, all that remains is for us to attempt to determine where this Ashkenazi scroll was penned. There is strong evidence as to the "Polish" origin of the present scroll from an autograph manuscript of Yisrael ben Shalom Shakhna of Lublin, Poland (MS Oxford 803: op. 304). He draws the "correct" forms of the Ashkenazi STAM letters in an alphabet that is strikingly similar to the letters of our Torah (see sothebys.com for images). We may also refer once again to the writings of Samson ben Eliezer, author of the Barukh she-Amar. Unlike modern Torah scrolls, there is in the present Scroll, a distinct blank space at the end of each verse.  In a gloss in which he discusses the injunction of Elazar of Worms (Rokeah, fl. 13th century) to include such spaces, Samson notes that, even in his day, only the scribes of Poland remained meticulous in the observance of this particular tradition. The inclusion of this nearly lost practice in a fifteenth century scroll seems to be a strong indicator that it was created in Poland, which had become by then, the new center of Ashkenazi halakhic development

Sotheby's gratefully acknowledges the information used here from reports on the present Torah Scroll by Professor Jordan S. Penkower of Bar-Ilan University, Rabbi David Leib Greenfeld, Director of Va'ad Mishmeret Stam (U.S.), and Dr. Hong Wang, Director of Geochronology, University of Illinois. These reports are available upon request. 

Important Judaica

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New York