Monday, May 28, 2018
Sacred Treasure - The Cairo Genizah: The Amazing Discoveries of Forgotten Jewish History in an Egyptian Synagogue Attic 1st Edition by Rabbi Mark S. Glickman (Jewish Lights)
Sacred Treasure, the Cairo Genizah: The Amazing Discoveries of Forgotten Jewish History in an Egyptian Synagogue Attic by Rabbi Mark Glickman is a fascinating glimpse through time. The subject suggests dreary text and arcane terminology. However, this book is an amazing page turner. Rabbi Glickman has turned the discovery of hundreds of thousands of medieval documents in a synagogue attic in Cairo into what one reviewer accurately called a genuine Raiders of the Lost Ark. The book brings to life the passions of the men (with the help of some women) who discovered these ancient texts and the events subsequent to their discovery.
The book is full of coincidences, accidents, loss and recovery. It is a story of passion and envy, trickery and modesty. It tells the tale of how significant materials were often overlooked and how documents were almost destroyed. In a mere 230 pages the book brings us up-to-date in the long process of cataloging and publishing this mass of materials which is distributed in libraries and collections throughout the world.
Along the way Rabbi Glickman manages to bring to life the characters involved and helps us to understand what treasures were stashed in that attic for so many years. Even the footnotes are worthwhile. One led me to a fascinating article about ancient Jewish music and a link to a modern rendition of a 12 century poem set to the melodies of a Gregorian chant. The piece, accompanied by a viola de gamba is hauntingly beautiful. You never know what one might find in a palimpsest or a footnote.