Move over “London, Tel Aviv and elsewhere.”
Move over British Museum.
Move over US Constitution.
All of these eminent worthies — not to mention Sotheby’s and the Sassoons and the Safras — haven’t a clue about the destiny of the oldest manuscript of the Hebrew Bible known to mankind.
Its current owner is Jacqui Safra, “part of the storied Jewish banking family.” The Hebrew Bible in question is the Codex Sassoon, “written by a single Jewish scribe on 400 pages of parchment about 1,100 years ago,” “estimated to fetch $30 to $50 million when it is sold by Sotheby’s auction house this May.”
I am quoting from a JTA report, “The Oldest Copy of the Hebrew Bible is Headed to Auction This Spring.”
Little do they know what’s really driving this purchase.
Of course they don’t know what’s driving it, because they don’t know who the purchaser is and and they don’t know what his motivations are.
But I know.
You see, it all started a few weeks ago with a report at the East Denver Orthodox Synagogue about some trouble with the air conditioning.
I’ve been a member of this synagogue a long time, some four decades actually, and it seems to me that this is the umpteenth time the air conditioning has come up.
Back up. You need another piece to put this together.
In 2007 I volunteered to be the librarian of the synagogue.
We’ve built a nice library. Hebrew. English. Brand new editions. A few rare editions. All kinds of stuff.
Then it went on — the lightbulb.
I put one and one together.
Item #1: the library. Item #2: the air conditioning.
Add ‘em up and what do you get? The Sassoon Codex, of course.
With the acquisition of this universe-wide, history-spanning, unparalled-anywhere manuscript, the synagogue will have a permanent, make that eternal, fix to its heretofore periodic air conditioning issues.
Before I go further, I have to disclose that I got a kick out of Sotheby’s chief honcho’s take on the Sassoon Codex. “ . . . marks a critical turning point in how we perceive the history of the Divine word across thousands of years . . . ” First I’m saying to myself, OK, that sounds accurate. “ . . . and is a transformative witness to how the Hebrew Bible has influenced the pillars of civilization, art, culture, law, politics — for centuries.”
By now, I’m, like, what? Doesn’t everybody know this? Then I get it. This is just his sales spiel — for the most famous and authoritative Bible in existence. He could have saved his breath. And not just because everybody already knows this.
But mainly because: the Sassoon Codex is all but spoken for.
The library of the East Denver Orthodox Synagogue is going to be its new owner.
It’ll really bring in the readers, maybe even some new members too, but that’s almost besides the point.
You know how it goes. Synagogues are spiritual places but they need to meet the budget and fix the leaks and make sure the kiddush is good and take care of the nuts and bolts . . . like, the air conditioning.
Talk about state-of-the-art.
This codex is going to need the most sophisticated controlled-climate anywhere.
Move over, Independence Hall.
Sotheby’s says “the final price of the Sassoon Codex could top the $43.2 million that the CEO of a hedge fund paid in 2021 for a first-edition copy of the US Constitution sold by” Sotheby’s.
Trust me, if you can raise that kind of money, and more, for the Sassoon Codex, it’ll be a no brainer to get the super-sophisticated climate-controlled system covered.
I always wanted my own personal codex. But hey, when I figured out how much good for the shul I could do with the Sassoon Codex, I just had to sacrifice for the common good.
I can’t spill every bean, however. So I just can’t disclose where the funding for the winning bid for the codex at the auction this spring is coming from.
P.S. We’re even going to manage it so that our stellar Torah reader can actually use this codex. I mean, what’s the world’s finest Torah worth if it just sits there, museum-like, never used? A Torah is for reading from, no?
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