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July 22, 1977 - Image 17

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1977-07-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Friday, July 22, 1977 17

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

A statement in the Torah
does not depart from its
ordinary meaning.
—Sabbath 63-.

!! WHY WORRY !!

. Leave Everything to Us

Nyn & Harold Landis

HOME CATERING

t'hone 557-6157

WYN-HAROLD CATERING

Murray Goldenberg

PHILADEPHIA—Three
closely guarded rooms and
a walk-in vault at Dropsie
University in Philadelphia
have drawn the interest of
scholars around the world.
For it is here, on the
campus of the 111-member
student body university,
that one can find the keys
to ancient mysteries in innu-

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ELECTROLYSIS

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WE FOUND THAT OUT 16
YEARS AGO. AND WE HAVE
BEEN HELPING PEOPLE RID THEMSELVES OF
'UNSIGHTLY HAIR EVER SINCE.

HELEN ZINBERG R.E.

IF YOU HAVE EMBARRASSING HAIR ON
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JPS Names Lamm

Dropsie University Great Vault
Holds Key to Ancient Mysteries

/ /// ////////

/

merable and priceless Bible
and Talmud fragments,
fragments of paper and vel-
lum bearing aged rabbinic-
al decrees and more.
According to the Phila-
delphia Inquirer's maga-
zine, Today, one can find
thousands of rare books pub-
lished from 1500 to 1699,
other rare book sections
containing nothing but
Bibles, another displaying
only clay tablets recording
the affairs of businessmen
circa 3500 BCE. There are
the periodical stacks, shelf
after shelf of scholarly and
popular magazine and news-
papers dealing with Judaica
and the Middle East.
The magazine continues:
"Then there is the great
vault, guarded by a heavy
steel door and combination
lock. The air inside is cold
and damp to preserve its
precious contents. These
manuscripts and fragments
of paper and vellum that
lasted for millenia in the
hot, dry desert air of the
Middle East would crumble
in the suphur- and lead-
tainted air hanging over
American cities. But the ar-
tificial purity of Dropsie's
vault and the reverence
with which the manuscripts
are touched by the students
permit them to live on.
"Against one wall of the
vault are hundreds of co-
dices (manuscripts bound
in the shape of books, suc-
cessors to scrolls and wax
tablets). Arabic, Hebrew,
Persian, Samaritan, Sansk-
rit, Coptic, Ethiopic, Greek
and Turkish manuscripts
line the shelves. One codex
is the 1500 edition of the
code of Muslim law accord-
ing to Abu Hanifa, written
in 1197.
"Then come incunabula,
books produced in the
earliest stages of printing,
before 1500. There is, for ex-
ample, Maimonides' com-
mentary on the Torah, pub-
lished in 1490; a Book of
Psalms, published in 1487;
a Holy Day prayer book ac-
cording to the Roman rite,
published in 1485. All of
these were done by what
was probably the world's
first commercial press, the
Soncino Press in Naples.
"Some of the most in-
triguing items are a hand-
wntten history of the Popes
up to 1600; a 13th Century
Hebrew prayer book accord-
ing to the Italian rite, writ-
ten on vellum, and a crum-
bling, browned paper re-
cording the first sermon
preached at a synagogue in
Newport, R. I., on May 28,

PHILADELPHIA—Nor-
man Lamm. president of
Yeshiva University, has
been named to the pub-
lication committee of The
Jewish Publication Society
of America.

1773.
"Many scholars consider
the most precious gem in
Dropsie's vault to be a col-
lection of 450 pieces of
paper, papyrus and parch-
ment, some torn, some
burned, some fragmented,
some so faded they are al-
most impossible to read.
They are from the geniza of
the Cairo Synagogue, estab-
lished in 616 in a former
church building. (Geniza
comes from the Hebrew
word "ganaz," which
means to hide or bury, and
genizas were burial crypts
for worn-out books, main-
tained in synagogues.)"
The Dropsie collection is
part of the books and re-
cords of the Jewish commu-
nity of old Cairo that were
buried in the geniza for al-
most 1,300 years. After
Prof. Solomon Schecter,
then of Cambridge Univer-
sity, uncovered the geniza
in 1896, its contents became
scattered. They went to the
Smithsonian Institution in
Washington, to Paris,
Vienna, Budapest and Mos-
cow, but one of the largest
representations is housed at
Dropsie. It includes:
• The world's oldest
known Haggada, the book
that is read in every Jewish
home on the first night of
Passover.
• A contract recording
the marriage in Egypt of a
Jewish couple now dead
1,000 years.
• One of the oldest and
longest letters in the world
(7,000 words when trans-
lated from Hebrew into
English), written in 1064 by
a Sicilian Jew to an un-
known recipient. It tells of
the writer's voyage to Tu-
nisia, where he faced death
in a civil war among the
Muslims. Historians writing
about the Mediterranean
area during the Middle
Ages have used this letter
as a reference.
• Six decisions of a rabbi-
nical court written in Arab-
ic.
• Part of a treatise on
charms. It offers formulas
for inducing love in another
person and for the inter-
pretation of dreams.
• Part of the translation
into Hebrew of Hippo-
crates' book on medicine.

The

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Texas U. Gets
Books in Yiddish

SUMMER SAVING
TIME

SAN ANTONIO (JTA)—A
collection of nearly 3,000
Yiddish books has been ac-
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Texas University here, mak-
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in Yiddish collections, ac-
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