The Ezra Scroll and the Cairo Geniza

Question

I am reading a historical novel “The Last Watchman of Old Cairo” by Michael David Lukas. The parts of the story about Solomon Schechter and 2 sisters and the Geniza are true. I think that the rest may be fiction.

1. The characters in the book are looking for the “Ezra Scroll,” described as “a perfect Torah scroll, without flaw or innovation” written by Ezra.
Is the Ezra Scroll real? Did Ezra write such a scroll?

2. The last name of the watchman is al-Raqb. The book states that
al-Raqb means “he who watches”and it is the 43rd name of G-d.
Is there really a 43rd name of G-d?

3. Were there people assigned as watchmen of either the Geniza or the Ibn Ezra Synagogue?

Thanks.

1 year

Answers

  1. 1.The Talmud, Moed Katan 18b, teaches that Ezra (whoisknown as Ezra HaSofer – Ezra the Scribe) wrote a Sefer Torah which was used as the definitive text for all new Sifrei Torah throughout the Second Temple Era.

    2. In general, the name “al-Raqb” is an Arab name not a Hebrew one. How many names does God have? God has seven Main Names and many “sub-names” that bring the total to seventy, see Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 276:9.

    3. There may very well have been a watchman who guarded the Synagogue in Cairo. I find it impossible to believe that there was watchman for the Geniza as the Geniza was a repository for papers that were no longer of any use and value.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team

  2. Follow-up question to Item 1
    Where is the Ezra Scroll located? Of course, no one can touch it.

    Could people pass by and see the scroll?

  3. I do not know where exactly in the Temple grounds Ezra’s Sefer Torah was kept but it was accessible to the Scribes who would use it to check through their Sifrei Torah for accuracy. I do not know what happened to it but as far as I know it is no longer extant. In the Hebrew University there is a Sefer Torah that dates back to the times of Rabbainu Nissim circa. thirteen hundred CE. I am not aware of any earlier than that, you might want to investigate the web
    site of the Israel Museum: http://www.imj.org.il/museum.html

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team

  4. The book discusses that the Ezra Scroll was hidden in a closet in the Geniza in the Ibn Ezra Synagogue.  You state that the Ezra Scroll was kept in the Temple grounds.

    Am I correct to assume that the Temple grounds meant the 2nd Temple in Jerusalem and not the Ibn Ezra Synagogue in Cairo, Egypt?

  5. Yes, it was kept somewhere in the Second Temple until the destruction of the temple in 70 CE. The current site of the Ibn Ezra Synagogue dates back to the end of the nineteenth century. There were earlier locations but the earliest would have been at least several centuries after the destruction of the Second Temple. As far as I am aware the earliest manuscripts that have been found in the Cairo Geniza date back to the 800s but there is no mention of Ezra’s Sefer Torah. Personally, I would find it almost incomprehensible that such an important and priceless work would have been stored in a Geniza. Such a venerable and holy Sefer Torah would have been kept in pride of place in the Holy Ark of whichever Synagogue it was in and it would have been guarded zealously.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team