A damaged Passover Haggadah from about 1,000 years ago has been digitally scanned and is being presented as part of the Scribes of the Cairo Genizah – a project aimed at restoring old texts used by the Jewish community of Middle Ages Egypt.
Photo credit: New York Library of The Jewish Theological Seminary
Researchers have revealed two pages from an ancient Passover Haggadah, apparently from the 10th or 11th century CE, which was used by the Jewish community in Egypt.
The Haggadah is one of hundreds of thousands of damaged Jewish scripts from around that time which have been digitally scanned as part of the Scribes of the Cairo Genizah – a restoration project run jointly by Oxford University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Haifa.
Traditionally, the Jewish community in Egypt tended not to destroy damaged books or documents containing the Hebrew name of God, due to their sacrosanct nature. Instead, they were kept in a special repository called a Genizah.
Written on square pieces of parchment, the Haggadah is mostly in Hebrew but has instructions in Jewish Arabic, meaning Arabic written with Hebrew letters. It offers historians a glimpse into the unique customs of a fascinating, nearly-forgotten time in Jewish history.
“The hundreds of thousands of documents restored in the Cairo Genizah continue to provide us with first-hand information about the Jewish life of the Middle Ages,” said Dr. Moshe Lavee, the head of the Cairo Genizah Center in the University of Haifa.