by Abraham ben Baruch
Sefer Sinai (Book of Sinai)
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe
Only a few Jewish scripts from the Middle Ages could be saved from destruction. The original manuscript entitled "Sefer Sinai" shown here is one of these rare books that have survived to the present day. The unique copy from the year 1391 is the most valuable item in the library collection of the Jewish Museum Berlin.
The manuscript can be traced back to the brother of the renowned Meir from Rothenburg, Abraham ben Baruch from Rothenburg ob der Tauber (Rothenburg above the river Tauber). Both brothers as well as other rabbi of late medieval times discussed questions concerning the religious laws on purity and observance of the Shabbat, the day of rest. "Sefer Sinai" thus provides historical insights into the contacts between the medieval Talmud scholars.
The precious manuscript has an eventful history. Daniel Itzig (1723-1799) purchased it from a Christian professor at the beginning of the 18th century. Itzig later became the alderman of the Jewish Community of Berlin. The manuscript was taken to London in 1802 by Rabbi Solomon Herschell from Berlin, who was later appointed chief rabbi to the English Jews. It was here that it came to the library of the orthodox rabbi seminary "Jews’ College," founded in 1852. Almost two centuries later, in 1999, Jews’ College had to put the precious piece up for auction at Christie’s in New York. It has since been part of the collection of the Jewish Museum Berlin, where, as one of the collections most prized pieces, it is kept in a purpose-made, acid-free box in a climatized depot.
Abraham ben Baruch <Rothenburg>; Me'îr Ben-Barûkh <Rothenburg>; Dueren, Isaac Ben Meir
Manuscript, ink on parchment, 263 pages
Measurements: 37,3 x 29,5 x 8 cm