Sunday, 23 April 2017


Codex Cairensis compiled by Moshe Ben Asher, 895.


Before Moshe passed away he wrote thirteen Torah scrolls. One was given to each of the twelve tribes and the other was deposited in the Sanctuary. The Thirteenth Scroll served as the Master Copy against which all future Torah scrolls were to be checked.

Later this Thirteenth Scroll was placed in the Holy of Holies in the First Temple for safe keeping.
However, during the reign of King Achaz (578-562 B.C. E) there was a campaign to destroy all Torah scrolls, so the Kohanim of the Temple hid this precious Master Copy. 

It was only discovered one hundred years later by King Yoshia (around 458 B.C.E.) who - on threat of imminent invasion and attack on the Temple – hid Moshe’s Thirteenth Torah once again.

It remains hidden and has never been seen since.


After the destruction of the First Temple, during the subsequent seventy years of Babylonian Exile, there was a profound decline in Torah study and it became impossible to find accurate Torah scrolls. Ezra the Scribe then rose to the occasion and wrote a new Torah scroll which replaced Moshe’s Thirteenth Torah and it then served as the second Master Copy.

About four centuries later, just before the Second Temple was destroyed, it was discovered that there were, in fact, three scrolls - with slight variances - and no one knew for certain which one was Ezra’s Master Copy. It was decided to take two of the three scrolls which better matched each other, and that became the basis of the third subsequent Master Scroll.

During the persecutions which took place in the century following the destruction of the Second Temple it again became difficult to find accurate Torah Scrolls. This is why there arose some discrepancies between versions of some verses as recorded in our Torah compared to those same verses as quoted in some sections of the Talmud.


An example of Babylonian supralinear punctuation.

At that time, there were three primary schools of Hebrew text and vocalisation: One was in Babylonia, and another school was in southern Israel.[1] (Both these schools placed the nekudot or markings above the letters. This method of supralinear vocalisation, however, was no longer in popular usage after the eleventh century.)

The third and most authoritative school was in Tiberius which gave rise to the common system of vocalisation that we use today.

Ibn Ezra writes that; ‘The sages of Tiberius are the most accurate of all. From them came all our mesoras (traditions) and vocalisation.’

The Tiberius school was dominated by two families, Ben Naftali and Ben Asher and they had worked on the accuracy of Torah texts for generations. Their slightly different styles are recorded in Sefer haChilufin or Book of Differences. There are 867 differences and some examples follow:[2]

Eventually, a fourth Master Scroll was finally put together in Tiberius, written by Shlomo Ben Buya’a and corrected and annotated by Aaron (ben Moshe) Ben Asher[3] in 920 C.E.  Aaron Ben Asher was the last of five Ben Asher generations who had worked on the texts.[4]

Aaron Ben Asher’s accurate Codex became the basis for the Torah scrolls we use today.

This new Ben Asher Master Scroll was soon deposited in Jerusalem, in the Karaite synagogue where it remained until the First Crusade in 1099 when it was plundered and sold to the rich Jews of Cairo for a huge ransom.

This, now famous, Ben Asher Scroll was actually seen by Rambam (1135-1204) when he was in Cairo, and he wrote about it as follows:

Rambam Hil. Sefer Torah 8:4
Since I found many mistakes in the scrolls, and since there is much divided opinion[5]...The scroll that I relied upon is the well-known scroll found in Egypt...which was in Jerusalem beforehand for many years...This (scroll) was used as the standard text for the correction of Torah scrolls. Everyone relied on it as it had been corrected by Ben Asher himself who spent many years working on it. And I have relied on it for my personal Torah scroll that I wrote.”[6]

The Master Scroll of Ben Asher was later taken to Aleppo in Northern Syria where it became known as the Aleppo Codex.

[The above is a summary of my earlier article on The Aleppo Codex. For more details, see KOTZK BLOG 73) THE ALEPPO CODEX.]


When I first wrote about the Aleppo Codex, I was bothered by the Karaite connection. Why was such an important scroll handed over to the custody of the Karaites sect of Jerusalem?

The Karaites, as opposed to the Rabbanites, were a Jewish group which disregarded the Rabbinical Oral Tradition, and only relied on the literal meaning of the Biblical texts. It must be remembered that they were extremely influential and made up of the more elite and wealthy members of the Jewish community. At one stage they boasted more adherents than the ‘mainstream’ Rabbanites!

The date for the birth of the Karaite movement is usually given as around 770.

Karaism has been described as a ‘Muslim-influenced reform movement within Judaism[7], and initially, the adherents were known as Bnei Mikra, or Children of Scripture.  Karaites, or Kara’im in Hebrew, means: ‘readers of scripture’  –  or ‘people who call’, which again shows an Islamic Shiite influence, where the teacher is known as a da’i, or ‘caller’.[8]

Apparently one of the conditions of the transfer of the Ben Asher Master Scroll to the Karaites in Jerusalem was that they would allow free access to the scroll by the Rabbanites who would also need to peruse it from time to time in order to correct their Sifrei Torah.

I speculated that perhaps the reason why such an important document was given over to the Karaites was because they were known to be particularly concerned about the accuracy of Torah texts because they were literalists who only had the written Torah as their halachic Tradition.

However, upon further research, I discovered that the Karaite connection just wouldn’t go away.
The Ben Asher Scroll was not just housed in Jerusalem ‘for many years’, but it was ransomed by the Karaite Jews of Cairo, and again kept in a Karaite synagogue in that city![9]  



Likutei Kadmoniyot, by Simcha Pinsker 1860

Simcha Pinsker's dedication to his father and teacher, an 'expert Rabbi on Torah, Talmud and Spirituality, proficient at Revealed and  Mystical Wisdom, as well as Secular knowledge'.
Pivotal extract from Simcha Pinsker's Likutei Kadmoniyot.

No one seemed particularly bothered by the apparent Karaite connection until 1860, when Simcha Pinsker published his Likutei Kadmoniyot in which he documented Karaite literature and history. He maintained that, as a general rule, the grammarians of the Gaonic period[10] are usually considered to be Karaites unless there are clear indications that they were involved with Talmudic study. 

This was because the Rabbanites were not overly concerned with textual issues and focussed more of Talmudic issues. Later on, however, the Rabbanites did get more involved in textual matters as a response to the growing popularity of the Karaite movement.

Now people began to wonder whether Aron Ben Asher was perhaps a Karaite, as he doesn’t appear to have featured in the Talmudic world of the Gaonim!


From the Cairo Geniza fragments found in 1896, it appears that the Ben Asher family may have been a well known Karaite family extending back a number of generations, who were preoccupied with the preservation of accurate texts.

Rav Saadia Gaon (882-942) known for his fierce debates with the Karaites,
published a work known as “Elrad Aleeh Ben Asher” or “A Polemic on Ben Asherreferring rather critically to a certain 'Ben Asher'. However, no one connected him to the famed Aaron Ben Asher of the (later to be known) Aleppo Codex - until the relatively recent discoveries in the Cairo Geniza in 1896:

One of Rav Saadia Gaon’s students, Yaakov Ben Shmuel mentions five names of Karaites with whom his teacher was arguing against, and who were living in Egypt at that time. One of them was a certain Abu Altaib Algabli whose Hebrew name was Shmuel Ben Asher.

In the Cairo Geniza, a fragment was discovered by Max L. Margolis, which identified Shmuel Ben Asher as one of the leaders of Karaite Community of Cairo!

Although not conclusive, this is taken by many as a strong indication that the Ben Asher family may have been Karaites.


Another indication that Aaron Ben Asher may have been a Karaite can be seen in a quote from his Sefer Dikdukei haTe'amim which reads:

"The prophets...complete the Torah, and are as the Torah, and we decide Law from them as we do from the Torah."

This sentence may previously have been overlooked as an innocuous statement, but after Simcha Pinsker’s publication and the Cairo Geniza findings, it may support the notion that Ben Asher may have been a Karaite - as Karaites certainly do 'decide law from the Torah' (as opposed to the Rabbinical interpretation of the Torah which relies on the Oral Tradition of the Talmud).

This is not an entirely compelling argument as the Rabbinites also base their Law on the Torah, although, because of the Oral Tradition, with more latitude and less literalism.

The interesting thing though, is that Ben Asher’s manuscripts containing his Sefer Dikdukei haTe’amim were similarly kept by Karaites, in Crimea[11]. This suggests a sense of Karaite ownership of all the Ben Asher texts (his Codex and his other writings)!

Another support for the view that Ben Asher may have been a Karaite is that his contemporaries referred to him by the title haMelamed, or teacher. This was a common honorary title used by Karaites but not by Rabbanites. (Some counter that he actually was a teacher of children as well, which accounts for him being called a melamed.)


I then found something very interesting, which may have relevance to our discussion:

There exists another slightly earlier Codex, known as the Cairo Prophets Codex (or Codex Cairensis) which was written according to its colophon[12], by Moshe Ben Asher – the father of Aaron Ben Asher.

This Codex, which was written in 895,[13] is not as complete as the Aleppo Codex of his son, as it only contains the Books of the Prophets (whereas the Aleppo Codex originally contained the entire Tanach).

Cairo Prophets Codex or Codex Cairensis compiled by Moshe Ben Asher, 895.

What is interesting is that the story of the Cairo Prophets Codex  almost exactly parallels the story of the Aleppo Codex:

It was similarly presented to the Karaite community in Jerusalem – it was also plundered by First Crusades in 1099 - and it was also later redeemed by the Karaite community of Cairo!

While there does appear to be some controversy regarding the Cairo Prophets Codex’s dating, if the colophon is to be believed, this would be further evidence of a Ben Asher/Karaite connection to another very important Codex, perhaps showing a precedent for Karaites as custodians of important Biblical texts.


Not everyone is happy with this alleged Karaite connection to the Ben Asher family:

One of the reasons why some take issue with the notion that Ben Asher may have been a Karaite, is that it was popularised by the secular historian, Graetz[14] who endorsed Simcha Pinsky’s theory. (I’ll leave it up to the Reader to decide if there is merit in that argument.)

Aron Dotan suggests that the ‘Ben Asher’ who is the target in Rav Saadia Gaon’s polemic was indeed another Ben Asher who was a Karaite, but it was not Aaron Ben Asher.[15]

Some say that there is no evidence of Karaite communities living in Tiberius ‘at any time’, and that the major immigration of Karaites was directed mainly towards Jerusalem. It therefore ‘does not seem reasonable’ that before this immigration took place there was already an established family of learned Karaite grammarians living in Tiberius.[16]



If Aaron Ben Asher indeed was a Karaite, it would create an astounding halachic conundrum because Karaites fall into a category known as minim, or heretics. The law is that if a Sefer Torah is written by a min, it is to be burned!

Does this mean that we have to burn the Ben Asher Master Copy?[17]

Perhaps this difficulty could be resolved by pointing out the Aleppo Codex was never intended to be used as a kosher Torah. It was written in book (as opposed to a rolled scroll) form and also contains notes and nekudot (vowel vocalisation), something a Torah scroll does not have. It is more of a Technical Manual and Text Book than a Torah Scroll.

Therefore it does not have to be burned.


Rambam (who like Rav Saadia Gaon, also debated - but more amicably - with the Karaites) was known to have had quite good relations with the Karaite community, and we know that he endorsed Ben Asher's Torah.

Rambam wrote:

Jews should show the Karaites the honour due to every human long as they deal sincerely with the traditional Jews...We should circumcise their children even on Shabbat...Since we must practice the commandment of brotherly love towards non-Jews, then how much more so to the Karaites. We are allowed to enjoy their wine, for they are not idolaters.”

So Rambam seemed to place Karaites in a halachic category very close to that of the Traditional Jews, and may not have had issues with Ben Asher because he was perceived as having ‘dealt sincerely’ with Rabbanites, and was therefore deemed trustworthy.

However, in his Commentary to the Mishna and his Mishneh Torah, Rambam does refer to Karaites as minim, or heretics!

One could answer that Rambam does distinguish between various types of Karaites, because he writes in a responsum that:

The Karaites who live in Alexandria, Cairo and Damascus should be treated with respect and approached with honesty (i.e. they can be trusted).”

Accordingly, Rambam may have trusted certain Karaites including particularly Aaron Ben Asher.


Moreover, even from the wording Rambam used in his Mishneh Torah (quoted earlier on) referring to the ‘well known text in Egypt which had previously been in Jerusalem for many years which was used by everyone to check their texts’ – ‘everyone’ would have known that both in Egypt and in Jerusalem the Ben Asher Codex was housed in Karaite synagogues!

And the Karaite synagogue was situated ‘within shouting distance’ of the Rabbanite synagogues in Cairo, which means that there would have been no secrets regarding the origins of the text - nor where the text was housed.

This would imply that ‘everyone’ must have known of some Karaite connection, at least relating to the housing if not to the writing of the Ben Asher Codex.


The debate over whether Aaron Ben Asher was a Karaite or not, only came to the fore after 1860 when Simcha Pinsker published his Likutei Kadmoniyot. It then intensified a few decades later after the discovery of the Cairo Geniza fragments which appeared to link Aaron Ben Asher to the Ben Asher criticised by Rav Saadia Gaon in his polemic.

But there does not appear to have been any debate on Ben Asher’s credentials during the 900 years prior to the late 1800s. This makes the debate a rather recent one. But that should not take away from the merits of the debate.

Assuming the Ben Asher family was indeed a known clan of influential and scholarly Karaites, it is absolutely astounding that our most critical Master Scroll was collated and edited by them.

To think that our Sifrei Torah today are textually derived from Karaite sources, would be difficult for many to comprehend.

If this is true, the question begs:

- Was Rambam ignorant of the apparent origins of the Master Scroll which he endorsed?

- Or was he aware of its origins yet confident enough to rely on the Karaites regardless, because they (some) Karaites were known to be experts and particular about the accuracy of their texts?

Whatever the answer, it does make for a fascinating study to think that our final Master Copy of the Torah text which we use today, came from Aaron Ben Asher who may indeed have been a Karaite!


A New Ben Asher Manuscript, by Moshe Haberman. Hakira vol. 21.

Ben Asher’s Creed – A Study of the Controversy, by Aron Dotan.

Sacred Trash – The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza, by Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole.

A History of Palestine, 634-1099, by Moshe Gil.

[1] In the school of southern Israel, surviving manuscripts show the segol and tzere, the kametz and patach, are all used interchangeably, suggesting a pronunciation similar to modern Israeli Hebrew.
[2] Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, by Emanuel Tov, p. 44.
[3] Also known as Abu Sa’id in Arabic.
[4] The Ben Asher family began their textual work from the mid-700s.  For comparison, this was the same time as the Karaite movement was started by Anan ben David (715-795).
[5] Particularly regarding the ‘open’ and ‘closed’ sections. Some read the Mishneh Torah as Rambam endorsing only the 'open and closed sections and the songs' and nothing else!
[6] Laws of Sefer Torah, ch. 8. Hal. 4
[7] See Sacred Trash, by Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole, p. 153.
[8]Ironically, in their attempt to return to a pure, unadulterated Judaism, the Karaites ended up - in ways they could not have anticipated – introducing the contemporary Arabic intellectual and religious Zeitgeist into the bloodstream of Hebraic culture, as they drew both the inspiration and technique for this linguistic inquiry from the Islamic context in which they lived.
Nowhere is that irony more pronounced than in the association between ‘marginal’ Karaites and the Masoretes – the eighth- and ninth-century Tiberian scholars who standardised the biblical text...“  See Sacred Trash, ibid. p. 158.
[9] For more discussion on whether the synagogue in Cairo was Karaite or Rabbanite, see A History of Palestine, by Moshe Gil, p. 180. There is some debate over whether some of the colophons of the Aleppo Codex were forgeries in favour of either the Karites or Rabbanites.
[10] Gaonic Period (589 – 1038 CE).
[11] See A History of Palestine, by Moshe Gil, p. 179.
[12] Colophon definition: ‘Publisher's emblem or imprint, usually on the title page of a book'.
[13] However, according to the Hebrew University Bible project it is dated as from the 11th century, and is not ascribed to Moshe Ben Asher.
[14] Graets wrote this around 1870, which was about ten years after Simcha Pinsky.
[15] See Ben Asher’s Creed, by A. Dotan.
[16] See A History of Palestine, by Moshe Gil, p. 182.
[17] Ironically enough, there are allegations of the scroll being burned while still in Aleppo during the uprising of 1948, as well as other allegations.

Sunday, 2 April 2017



Sefer Emek haMelech first published in Amsterdam in 1648.


R. Naftali Hertz Bachrach lived in the first half of the 1600’s. Born in the town of Bacharach in the German Rhineland, he excelled in Kabbalistic philosophy and travelled to Israel to study from the students of the R. Yitzchak Luria known as the Ari Zal (1534-1572). Although he had never met the Ari Zal personally, he referred to him as his ‘teacher’. 

Then, in 1648, he published a book called Emek haMelech, or Valley of the King, in which he claimed to expound on the teachings of the Ari Zal, as he received them through his (the Ari Zal's) foremost student, R Chaim Vital.


For some, Emek haMelech was to become one of the most authoritative textbooks on the Lurianic Kabbalah of the Ari Zal - as transmitted directly through his student R. Chaim Vital – and then to R. Naftali Bachrach.

For others, though, the alleged authenticity of R. Bachrach as custodian of Lurianic Kabbalah was considered to be questionable, and the book was regarded as unrepresentative of the teachings of R. Chaim Vital. According to this view,  the line from the Ari Zal to Emek haMelech was regarded as having been broken, and it was suggested that R. Bachrach may have been more influenced by another student of the Ari Zal, R. Yisrael Sarug.


As a rule, Emek haMelech found favour predominantly amongst the Ashkenazim.


R. Shneur Zalman of Liadi and the Vilna Gaon – although polar opposites in terms of theology – both regarded the work as an absolute primary source for Lurianic Kabbalah. 

The Sefer Baal Shem Tov records:

There is a tradition in the hands of the masters of Chabad handed down from one master to another, going back to our holy rabbi, Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezeritch—and possibly going back to the Baal Shem Tov, and indeed I heard that it does go back to the Baal Shem Tov—that the Baal Shem Tov accepted the kabbalah (of the author of Emek Hamelech). 
And on the basis of this kabbalah, the teachings of Chabad always cite the words of the author of the Emek Hamelech
And it appears as well that the words of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov that address levels higher than Atzilus are based on this kabbalah (see further for elaboration on this point)”[1]

TOSAFOT YOM TOV (1579-1654):

The book was additionally held in high esteem by R. Yom Tov Lipman Heller (1579-1654) known after his commentary on the Mishna as the Tosafot Yom Tov. He even wrote his approbation to the first edition of Emek haMelech, and praised the fact that it expounded on the idea of reincarnation. 


Another supporter of the book was R. Yehoshua Heschel of Cracow[2] who was the teacher of the Shach, one of the greatest commentators on the Shulchan Aruch.


Furthermore, Emek haMelach informed much of the teachings and writings of the Ramchal as well.

It is also of interest to see that selections from Emek haMelech were translated into Latin.[3]



On the other hand, many other respected rabbis were opposed to Emek haMelech because they felt that R. Naftali Hertz Bacharach was not as genuinely rooted in Lurianic Kabbalah as he had claimed. They maintain that he misrepresented his close connection to R. Chaim Vital, the key student of the Ari Zal.

According to this view, the line tracing back to the Ari Zal may not have been as direct as first presented. It appears that R. Bachrach drew much from another student of the Ari Zal, the Egyptian Kabbalist, R. Yisrael Sarug.

In fact, it appears that R. Bachrach copied sections of text directly from R. Yisrael Sarug’s manuscript Limudei Atzilut.

However, this only became widely acknowledged about two hundred years later in 1850, when Limudei Atzilut was first published. Up to that time, R. Sarug's work may not have been well known because it remained in manuscript form.[4]

This may be one of the reasons why prior to the mid-1800’s, people were not aware of R. Bachrach's connection to R. Yisrael Sarug, and assumed he was simply expounding on the teachings of R. Chaim Vital.

Limudei Atzilut Lemberg Edition, only published as late as 1850.

THE RASHASH (1720-1777):

The famed Yemenite kabbalist, R. Shalom Sharabi (1720-1777) known as the Rashash, was also sceptical about those who claimed to write in the name of the Ari Zal. According to him, the only authoritative line of Lurainic Kabbalah was to be found in the teachings of the Ari Zal’s primary student, R. Chaim Vital himself. It was only R. Chaim Vital who had personally received the most direct form of oral transmission of the mystical tradition from the Ari Zal.

R. Sharabi together with many other mystic purists, suggested we only study kabbalah from three main works – Eitz Chaim, Shmoneh Shearim and Mavo Shearim – because we know these to have been transmitted directly from the Ari Zal to R. Chaim Vital.

Most Sefardim held steadfastly to R. Sharabi’s objection and (with the notable exception of the Ben Ish Chai), excluded Emek haMelech from their kabbalistic literature.


The following are two examples of possible points of contention:


The Eitz Chaim speaks of a ‘world’ or realm called Adam Kadmon, which is the beginning of Atzilut (which is regarded as the highest spiritual realm). It does not reference in great detail any worlds higher than Adam Kadmon (except for a vague reference).

However, R Yisrael Sarug – the other student of the Ari Zal – does delve into these higher realms, which get subdivided further into more ‘worlds’ and ‘gates’. These ‘higher realms’ are then recorded in Emek haMelech and presented as the normative view of R. Chaim Vital.


Another difference between R. Yisrael Sarug and classical Kabbalah of the Ari Zal is the direction of the Tzimtzum or ‘removal’ of the infinite divine light prior to creation (to ‘make space’ for physical creation).  It appears that, according to the Ari Zal, the light withdrew to the ‘outside’ (to create an empty space’) in the middle - whereas according to R. Sarug it contracted to a central focal point in the ‘middle’.


R. Chaim Yosef David Azulai, known as the Chidah, made the following rather derisive remark regarding R. Bachrach’s Emek haMelech:

 “I have heard that no genuine writings (from the Ari Zal) ever made their way into his (R. Bacharach’s) hands...For this reason, those who understand, will refrain from referring to this book.”

R. MOSHE CHAGIZ (1671-1750):

For similar reasons, R. Moshe Chagiz the great anti-Sabbatean activist and kabbalist, was also opposed to this book.
Interesting Gemara which belonged to two scholars: The first was R. Elchanan Bachrach, father of the Emek haMelech. His name can be seen deleted at the top, probably by the next owner, R. Leib of Altona.



Emek haMelech describes some details on how to make a Golem.

Extract from Emek haMelech describing the unusual event in Hebron, 1619.
Emek haMelech records the famous story about a synagogue in Hebron which only had nine congregants for prayers on Yom Kippur, and needed one more to make the minyan. Most of the congregation had gone to Jerusalem, ‘a quarter of a day’s walk away’. 

As night was falling, they noticed an elderly stranger approaching and they were overjoyed when he joined to form the quorum. The Chazzan was selected to host the stranger for the breaking of the fast the following evening, but the stranger had disappeared. 

That night the stranger appeared to the Chazzan in a dream and told him that he was Avraham Avinu who had come from his nearby grave at Machpela to make the minyan.

The synagogue then became known as the ‘Avraham Avinu Synagogue’, and today there is a plaque on the wall containing an extract from Emek haMelech describing the unusual event.




Emek haMelech also describes how, about seven years before the destruction of the First Temple, five righteous men began to hide the treasures of the Temple, for fear that they would be plundered:

These documents (‘treasure maps’ according to some) were written by five righteous men (under the prophet Jeremiah). They were: Shimur the Levi, Chizkiyahu, Tzidkiyahu, Chaggai and Zecharia.

They hid the vessels of the Temple and the treasures of Jerusalem, which will not be found again until Mashiach ben David...”

These five men recorded this in Babylon, together with other prophets including Ezra haSofer...”

130 Levites were killed but 100 escaped with Shimur the Levi. They then hid 500 000 trays of fine gold, 1 200 000 trays of silver... in a tower in the land of Babylon, in the great city of Baghdad...There is no end, no measure, no set amount and no weighing of the gold that overlaid the Temple...All this plus another 7 000 talents of gold were brought and hidden in the Segel haBar...All these were hidden from Nevuchadnezzar by the fittest men of Israel...All these were concealed, hidden and safeguarded from the army of the Chaldeans in a place called Borseef.”[5]

R. Nafrali Hertz Bacharach thus reveals what he says is a (lost) Tractate of Mishnaic literature, which deals with vessels from the Temple. There are twelve paragraphs and each is called a ‘mishna’. This is allegedly the missing text of Masechet Keilim.


It’s interesting to see that while the Jewish world did not pay too much attention to this ‘lost Tractate’, Napoleon apparently attempted to search for the treasures of Jerusalem during his Palestine Campaign in 1799.

Later, after the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947, a Hebrew Copper Scroll was then also found in Qumran in 1952. This now famous ‘Copper Scroll’ is, according to some, an inventory of the treasures of the First Temple. It is eight foot long and lists sixty-four locations written in twelve columns indicating where the treasures were hidden.

Today it is difficult to reference the locations mentioned in this Copper Scroll because it referred to landmarks known only in those times. For example, it states: “Sixty-five bars of gold lie on the third level of in the cave of the old Washer House,” and “Seventy talents of silver... in Matia’s courtyard.”

Some try to link the Qumran Copper Scroll to a fascinating reference to a ‘Copper Scroll’ mentioned in Emek haMelech

In chapter two of the ‘missing Mishnaot’ brought in Emek haMelech, it also tells of an inventory of the Temple items which were inscribed on a Copper Scroll!

Coincidence or not, it certainly is very interesting.

When the Cairo Geniza was discovered 1896, a copy of a Tosefta - which is a supplement to the Mishna – was discovered amongst the fragments. It was thought to have been the missing sections of Masechet Keilim. 

This was alleged by the well-known archaeologist Vendel Jones (who is said to have been the inspiration for Spielberg's Indiana Jones, and who appears to have had a good relationship with R. Shlomo Goren and the Lubavitcher Rebbe). These Tosefta fragments are said to match the text in Emek haMelech - thus proving that R. Bachrach had indeed found the lost Tractate of the Mishna!

However, according to the Tosefta Blog,[6] these ‘matching Tosefta fragments’ have not yet been verified, or made available for viewing, nor are they recorded in the Bar-Ilan University Tosefta project and other libraries which house the Cairo Geniza fragments!

For more on the actual historical fragments of the Cairo Geniza see KOTZK BLOG 91.


Leaving alone all the intrigue surrounding the location of the treasures of Jerusalem, there remains much controversy over the authenticity of Emek haMelech as a kabbalistic primary source.

As we have seen, some hold it in the highest esteem while others deride it.

It’s remarkable and sad, although not uncommon, for a work which could shed so much light on the teachings of the Ari Zal, to be subjected to such controversy and disagreement.

There really does appear to have been a battle for the soul of the Ari Zal.


The Tosefta Blog.


A Tribute to Rav Shlomo Elyashiv, Author of Leshem Shevo v-Achloma: On his Ninetieth Yahrzeitby Joey Rosenfeld.

[1] Mekor Chaim 9, Parshat Ki Tisa.
[2] Although a Kabbalist, R. Yehoshua Heschel did not allow his mystical leanings to exert any influence on his halachic writings.
[3] See: Knorr von Rosenroth‘s Kabbala denudata (1677/1684).
[4] R. Naftali Hertz drew from R. Yisrael Sarug as well as from R. Shlomo Delmedigo and R. Shabbatai Horowitz although he does not sufficiently acknowledge these sources in his book.  However, some still claim the Limudei Atzilut was written by R Chaim Vital. HebrewBooks, for example, lists the author as R. Chaim Vital.
As an interesting aside, according to Jacob Haberman (Jewish Virtual library): ‘R. Joseph Solomon Delmedigo (1591-1655) immersed himself in the Kabbalah for two purposes: (1) To find in it solutions which philosophy could not offer, and (2) to criticize it.’
[5] Emek haMelech: ch. 11 Introduction (Hakdamat hamechaber) 14a.
[6] Tosefta Blog August 2009.