Sunday, October 6, 2013

Siddur dated to 840 A.D. Said to be discovered, owned by David Green (accused of antisemitism)

The Green Collection, owned by American billionaire David Green, owner of Hobby Lobby  (recently accused of antisemitism for not stocking Jewish merchandise) recently announced that they discovered in their collection a Jewish prayerbook dated to 840 a.d. with Carbon-14 testing. This would be by far the earliest copy of the Siddur which we would have knowledge of to date, and would should much light on the history and development of our Siddur.

Unfortunately, the Green Collection did not release much details and delayed the detailed announcement of the finding and that details will be released in late 2014 or early 2015 by the Green Scholars Initiative, so we will never know for sure until then regarding the details. The document is described as being in its complete parchment and original binding, factoids that are quite stunning considering its age. Written in Hebrew, the script is described as “archaic” — so old in fact that it uses Babylonian vowel pointing (a system that is no longer in use).

Dr. Stephen Pfann, a senior scholar with the Green Scholars Initiative and president of The University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem, along with his students participating in the research project, made the initial discovery among other items from The Green Collection.

To date, Pfann’s team has been able to identify six distinct sections in the siddur, including: 100 blessings/morning prayers (the earliest form of what is in today’s Jewish prayer books, even older than those of Rabbis Amram Gaon and Saadia Gaon); the Passover Haggadah; a poem on the Song of Songs in conjunction with Sukkot; a poem on the End Times (apocalyptic text of an international battle); a poetic form of the book of Zerubbabel; and a unique section entitled, “Salvation in Zion”

We will have to wait it out to see the details of this Siddur, though if true, should be able to shed much light on to the development of many of our prayers.

Scholars Discover Worlds Oldest Jewish Prayer Book | The Green Collection
The Jewish prayer book (Photo Credit: The Green Collection/Demoss)

 This news comes only months after the oldest complete scroll of the Torah from 1155-1225 has been discovered in the University of Bologna library, where it had been mistakenly catalogued a century ago as dating from the 17th century.

Oldest Complete Scroll of Hebrew Torah Found

In this undated photo provided by Alma mater Studiorum Universita’ di Bologna, a document that an Italian expert says to be the oldest known complete Torah scroll. In an interview Wednesday, May 29, 2013 Perani said he immediately recognized that it had been wrongly dated given its script and other graphic notations. Two separate carbon-14 dating tests confirmed the revised dating. (Photo: AP/Alma Mater Studiorum Universita’ di Bologna)

"In a telephone interview Wednesday, Perani said he was updating the library’s Hebrew manuscript catalogue when he stumbled upon the scroll in February. He said he immediately recognized the scroll had been wrongly dated by the last cataloguer in 1889, because he recognized that its script and other graphic notations were far older. 
Specifically, he said the scroll doesn’t take into account the rabbinical rules that standardized how the Pentateuch should be copied that were established by Maimonides in the late 12th century. The scroll contains many features and markings that would be forbidden under those rules, he said."

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