Monday, February 15, 2016

Another "oldest Torah scroll?"

SOLD, BUT FORTUNATELY STILL BEING STUDIED: Oldest Torah Scroll Proves Yemenite, Chabad Versions Right (JNi.Media).
A complete, 13th century (circa 1270) Ashkenazi Torah scroll, one of the oldest in the world, was discovered in the US about six months ago and sold at auction by Sotheby’s in New York on December 22, now resolved an old controversy over the correct spelling of a word in Deuteronomy 23:2, Matzav Haruach reported. The common tradition regarding the verse, “No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the Lord,” holds that the Hebrew word “Daka,” for crushed testicles, is spelled with the letter Heh in the end, while the Yeminte Torahs and the Torah text approved by the “alter Rebbe,” Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of the Chabad movement, spell it with the letter Alef in the end. And so does this 750-year-old manuscript.

The age of the scroll was determined by North Carolina State University physicist Dr. Hong Wand, using carbon-14 in a particle accelerator. Dr. Yossi Peretz, head of the Hebrew language specialty at Orot Israel College, was asked to analyze and verify the ancient scroll, and last week lectured on his findings at the College’s 16th annual Colloquium at its Elkana campus.

The orthographic variant discussed above is neither here nor there, but this does appear to be an interesting and very old manuscript, one I don't recall hearing about before. This scroll is not the only candidate for "oldest Torah scroll." Indeed, I'm not sure that claim is actually being made for it, notwithstanding the click-bait headline. In 2013 a Torah scroll in the University of Bologna library was carbon- and paleographically-dated to be, potentially, the oldest surviving Torah scroll. See here and here. And back in 2009, Sotheby's had another very old Torah scroll up for auction, although there was no claim that it was the oldest.