By REGAN E. DOHERTY – Nov 8, 2007 - JERUSALEM (AP) — For six decades, Sam Sabbagh carried a good luck charm — a parchment he found on the floor of a burned synagogue.
Turns out that parchment likely is more than 1,000 years old, a fragment of the most authoritative manuscript of the Hebrew Bible. His family plans to present it to a
The parchment, about "the size of a credit card," is believed to be part of the Aleppo Codex manuscript of the Hebrew Bible, said Michael Glatzer, academic secretary of the Yad Ben Zvi institute.
It contains verses from the Book of Exodus describing the plagues in
In 1947, Sabbagh, then 17, picked up a piece of the manuscript off the floor of a synagogue in
When Sabbagh later immigrated to
About 20 years ago, a Jewish studies institute in
After he died two years ago, his family decided to donate it to the institute.
The recovery "is important in the sense that we are getting the chance to unify the missing parts and put them in their original place," said Michael Maggen, who as head of paper conservation at the
The codex "is not just another manuscript — it's a landmark," Maggen said, mainly because it provides insights into key aspects of Hebrew grammar and pronunciation.
Portions of the codex that have already been retrieved are on display in the Shrine of the Book at the
Glatzer hopes that the parchment's recovery will encourage others to check their safety deposit boxes and attics for similar treasures.
"What (Sabbagh) did, others must have done," he said.
The codex, also known as the Masoretic Text, was written in Tiberias, next to the Sea of Galilee, in the 10th century and later brought to
It then traveled to
"We have only about 60 percent of the codex — more than a third is still missing," said Aron Dotan, professor of Hebrew and Semitic languages at
Although only a tiny scrap, the find is still noteworthy, he said.
"Every find is something, every new piece is something," he said. "It is an addition to what we have."