The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Two Newly Identified Tenth–Eleventh-Century Oriental Torah Scrolls in the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg

On a recent trip to St. Petersburg, I identified two Oriental Torah scrolls (henceforth: PS3 and PS18), dating based on palaeographical grounds to ca. 1000, that were unknown to scholarship until now. According to Richler, the two Firkovich collections at the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg include approximately two-hundred seventy-seven Torah scrolls. In 1875, Strack and Harkavy published a catalogue that gave details on thirty-five scrolls in the First Firkovich collection. The Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts, which photographed the two Firkovich collections in the 1990s, did not photograph the scrolls. As a result, a complete catalogue of the scrolls has never been published and the date and character of most of the scrolls is unknown. PS3 preserves the entire Torah minus some lacunae, whereas PS18 only preserves seven sheets from Gen 1:1–24:60 and Gen 28:12–35:2. PS18 is the beginning of a scroll preserved in numerous fragments in the Cairo Genizah with other fragments at the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, the University Library at Cambridge, and the Lewis-Gibson Collection. The lecture will present the textual and paratextual characteristics of these two tenth–eleventh century scrolls with a comparison to the standard Tiberian text. Some issues that will be considered include full and deficient orthography, beyah shemo, vave haʿamudim, the layout of the songs, open and closed sections, extraordinary points, and scribal corrections. PS18 is of particular interest due to its archaic characteristics such as graphic line-fillers, marginal notes, and other scribal practices which invalidate it for use in public liturgy according to the (later) rulings of halakhic authorities. A study of these scrolls will contribute to a knowledge of medieval Jewish scribal culture and the transmission of the biblical text in the Middle Ages.