Manuscripts from the Cairo Genizah, a collection of ancient Jewish writings stored in an Egyptian synagogue, which were recently examined reveal new segments of the Talmud, Mishnah (oral Jewish laws) and rabbinic literature.
Among the scriptures was a whole sentence off the Jerusalem Talmud's Tractate Bikkurim which had been missing until now. The incorporation of the phrase in the Gemara renders the tractate chapter intelligible.
The manuscripts, which include 350 pages from the Cairo Genizah were stored for some 100 years in a tin can in the Geneva University, that no one knew existed. Greek papyrus experts recently discovered the tin can and employed the services of Hebrew Univesity's Prof. David Rosenthal of the Talmud Department.
Rosenthal recently published a book containing some of the newly discovered segments together with accompanying analyses.
The Tractate Bikkurim segment found in Geneva (Photo: Biblioteque de Geneve)
"The Cairo Genizah included any tattered Jewish book, which means it contains a variety of literature. There were texts we didn't know existed and each one is important," Rosenthal explained.
"The Jerusalem Talmud we know is based on a single manuscript and therefore any ancient Genizah segment we find it extremely important. What we found in the Geneva collection is a sentence which didn't appear in the versions we know of."
Apart from the Talmud, the manuscripts found also contained other sources such as a piece from Rabbi Saadia Gaon's Sefer ha-Galui, as well as poetry and liturgy.
"The 20th century has given us two great discoveries. One is the Dead Sea Scrolls and the other is the unearthing of parts of the Cairo Genizah," Prof. Rosenthal said.
"The segments in the Genizah exposed us to many new writings we had no knowledge of, and equally as important – introduced us to different versions of known text. Therein lays the importance of the pages found in Geneva."