Crown of Aleppo The Mystery of the Oldest Hebrew Bible Codex

  • Hayim Tawil (author)
  • Bernard Schneider (author)
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About the Book

The history and dramatic rescue of the oldest Hebrew Bible in book form.

In Crown of Aleppo, Hayim Tawil and Bernard Schneider tell the incredible story of the survival, against all odds, of the Aleppo Codex—one of the most authoritative and accurate traditional Masoretic texts of the Bible.

Completed circa 939 in Tiberias, the Crown was created by exacting Tiberian scribes who copied the entire Bible into book form, adding annotations, vowel and cantillation marks, and precise commentary. Praised by Torah scholars for centuries after its writing, the Crown passed through history until the 15th century when it was housed in the Great Synagogue of Aleppo, Syria. When the synagogue was burned in the 1947 pogrom, the codex was thought to be destroyed, lost forever.

That is where its great mystery begins. Miraculously, a significant portion of the Crown of Aleppo survived the fire and was smuggled from the synagogue ruins to an unknown location—presumably within the Aleppan Jewish community. Ten years later, the surviving pages of the codex were secretly brought to Israel and finally moved to their current location in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

This wonderfully rich book contains more than 50 rare photographs and maps, some in full color, including those of the Aleppo Codex, the Great Synagogue of Aleppo, and of the people who played a part in its rescue.


In this fascinating and comprehensive investigation into the Aleppo Codex, scholars Tawil and Schneider vividly recreate the history of this rare and eminently significant text and track its tragic course through time. . . . This highly readable and intriguing account will captivate readers both familiar and unfamiliar with the history of the Crown.

—Publishers Weekly

I once heard Elie Wiesel say: ‘Go try to write Jewish fiction when Jewish reality is always more incredible than anything that you can imagine!’ I thought of that line when I read this book . . . for if a novelist had made up this story, it would have been dismissed as impossible to believe.

—Rabbi Jack Reimer for the South Florida Jewish Journal

Crown of Aleppo amounts to something of a short course in Jewish history in general and Bible scholarship in particular for the non-specialist reader. But it is also a kind of a thriller . . . that is solidly rooted in fact.

—Heritage Florida Jewish News

The story of how the Dead Sea Scrolls were found . . . is well known. But the remarkable tale of the Crown of Aleppo, itself a simply priceless work, is much less known. This book from the Jewish Publication Society should start to fix that.

—Bill’s Faith Matters Weblog

All in all, although the book is small, it contains a wealth of information that people kissing and otherwise extolling the Torah should know.

—Jewish Eye

This new book not only shares a gripping story of survival and preservation, but it also explains a lot about how our modern Bibles were preserved through the millennia.

—Read the Spirit

Hayim Tawil

Visit Hayim Tawil's website

Hayim Tawil received his Ph.D. from Columbia University and is professor of Hebrew language and literature at Yeshiva University in New York. Tawil has published numerous articles in comparative Semitic lexicography and he is the author of An Akkadian Lexical Companion for Biblical Hebrew (2009). He is also the author of Operation Esther: Opening the door for the Last Jews of Yemen, and in 2001, was nominated for the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights for his work in Yemen.

Listen to two radio interviews with Prof. Hayim Tawil on Rabbi Wechsler Teaches:

Bernard Schneider

Bernard Schneider has a J.D. and a LL.M. in Taxation from New York University and a M.I.A. from Columbia University and is a practicing lawyer. He has a long standing interest in the Bible and represented the United States at the International Bible Contest in Jerusalem in 1983 and 1985.

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