Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Really Old Book

A few months ago my great-uncle died. He was an askan in many Jewish causes, a respected man. He had a large collection of seforim and books. His children, unfortunately, have no need for seforim. So they called us asking us to take what we want before they sell his house. We collected several large boxes. Among these boxes was one box of really old seforim.

I was going through this box, and I found many different siddurim, tehillims, chumashim, etc. from various times and places in Europe. Then, on the bottom of the box I found a small, thin volume wrapped in plastic. I unwrapped it and carfeully opened the cover. It is completely handwritten. The pages are brown and splotchy and sometimes hard to read. The date on top reads 1719.

The chances of this actually being from 1719 is virtually nil, and as I began reading the cursive script I was more and more sure of that. It tells the story of Avraham Ben Avraham, the famous Ger Tzedek of Vilna. He wasn't killed until 1749. So it seems obvious to me that the date of 1719 is the date when the story begins in this book. The first sentence would also lead to that conclusion.

I had always accepted this story as factual, not having done any research into it.

But a visit to Wikipedia shows that there is some scholarly debate if this story really happened. If I could accurately date this little book, perhaps some of this doubt can be put to rest. I don't know when it's from but it looks really old to me. Significantly older than some of the 1850's era books that were in the box.

Closed book

This is what it looks like when you open the cover. There are obviously some pages that were cut out with a sharp-edged object.

There seems to be some kind of ledger, where the author wrote a list of names with a number near each one. There is no monetary symbol, unfortunately.

First page

I have a high-res (3.89mb) scan of the first page, if anyone wants it.