In time for Purim, Megillah dating from 1460s donated to Israel national library

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In time for Purim, Megillah dating from 1460s donated to Israel national library

Scroll is believed to have been written by a scribe on the Iberian Peninsula in the 15th century based on Carbon-14 dating

A megillah dating from around 1465 has been gifted to the National Library of Israel and made available to view online, just in time for the festival of Purim.

The megillah (or scroll) of Esther, the heroine of the Purim story, is believed to have been written by a scribe on the Iberian Peninsula in the 15th century, prior to the Inquisition, based in part on Carbon-14 dating.

It is written in brown ink on leather in an elegant, characteristic Sephardic script, which resembles that of a Torah scroll.

The first panel, before the text of the Book of Esther, includes the traditional blessings recited before and after the reading of the megillah, and attests to the ritual use of this scroll in a pre-expulsion Iberian Jewish community.

It has now been gifted to the National Library of Israel (NLI) in Jerusalem, home to the world’s largest collection of textual Judaica, by Michael Jesselson, whose father Ludwig founded the International Council of the Library, then known as the “Jewish National and University Library”.

Recently arrived 15th century megillah (Courtesy: National Library of Israel, Jerusalem)

Torah scrolls and Esther scrolls from pre-expulsion Spain and Portugal are exceedingly rare, with only a small handful known to exist.

NLI curator Yoel Finkelman said the new addition was “an incredibly rare testament to the rich material culture of the Jews of the Iberian Peninsula” and “one of the few 15th century megillot in the world… The Library is privileged to house this treasure.”


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