The Aleppo Codex
The Aleppo Codex is a medieval bound manuscript of the Hebrew Bible. The codex was written in the 10th century A.D. The codex has long been considered to be the most authoritative document in the masorah ("transmission"), the tradition by which the Hebrew Scriptures have been preserved from generation to generation. Surviving examples of responsa literature show that the Aleppo Codex was consulted by far-flung Jewish scholars throughout the Middle Ages, and modern studies have shown it to be the most accurate representation of Masoretic principles in any extant manuscript, containing very few errors among the roughly 2.7 million orthographic details that make up the Masoretic Text. For these reasons, many scholars view the Aleppo Codex as the most authoritative representative of the masoretic tradition, both its letter-text and its vocalization, although most of its Torah section and many other parts of the text are now missing.
The Karaite Jewish community of Jerusalem purchased the codex about a hundred years after it was made. During the First Crusade, the synagogue was plundered and the codex was transferred to Egypt, whose Jews paid a high price for its ransom. It was preserved at the Rabbanite synagogue in Cairo, where it was consulted by Maimonides, who described it as a text trusted by all Jewish scholars. It is rumoured that in 1375 one of Maimonides' descendants brought it to Aleppo, Syria, leading to its present name.
The Codex remained in Syria for five hundred years. In 1947, rioters enraged by the UN decision to establish a Jewish state in Palestine burned down the synagogue where it was kept. The Codex disappeared, then re-emerged in 1958, when it was smuggled into Israel by Syrian Jew Murad Faham, and presented to the president of the state, Itzhak Ben-Zvi. On arrival, it was found that parts of the codex had been lost. The Aleppo Codex was entrusted to the Ben-Zvi Institute and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
The Aleppo community guarded the Codex zealously for some six hundred years: it was kept, together with three other Biblical manuscripts, in a special cupboard (later, an iron safe) in a basement chapel of the synagogue supposed to have been the cave of Elijah. It was regarded as the community's most sacred possession: people in trouble would pray before it, and oaths were taken by it.