The Aleppo Codex (Hebrew: כֶּתֶר אֲרָם צוֹבָא Keter Aram Tzova or Crown of Aleppo) is a medieval bound manuscript of the Hebrew Bible. The codex was written in the city of Tiberias in the 10th century C.E. under the rule of the Abbasid Caliphate, and was endorsed for its accuracy by Maimonides. Together with the Leningrad Codex, it contains the Ben-Asher masoretic tradition, but the Aleppo Codex lacks most of the Torah section and many other parts.
The Hebrew name is Keter Aram Tzova, translated as "Crown of Aleppo": keter means "crown", and Aram-Zobah was a not-yet identified biblical city in modern Syria, whose name was applied from the 11th century onward by some Rabbinical sources and Syrian Jews, to the area of Aleppo in Syria.
The Karaite Jewish community of Jerusalem purchased the codex about a hundred years after it was made. During the First Crusade, the synagogue was plundered and the codex was transferred to Egypt, whose Jews paid a high price for its ransom. It was preserved at the Karaite then Rabbanite synagogue in Old Cairo, where it was consulted by Maimonides, who described it as a text trusted by all Jewish scholars. It is rumoured that in 1375 one of Maimonides' descendants brought it to Aleppo, Syria, leading to its present name.
The Codex remained in Syria for five hundred years. In 1947, rioters enraged by the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine burned down the synagogue where it was kept. The Codex disappeared, then reemerged in 1958, when it was smuggled into Israel by Syrian Jew Murad Faham, and presented to the president of the state, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi. Some time after arrival, it was found that parts of the codex had been lost. The Aleppo Codex was entrusted to the Ben-Zvi Institute and Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It is currently (2019) on display in the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum.
The Karaite Jewish community of Jerusalem received the book from Israel ben Simha of Basra sometime between 1040 and 1050. It was cared for by the brothers Hizkiyahu and Joshya, Karaite religious leaders who eventually moved to Fustat (today part of Old Cairo) in 1050. The codex, however, stayed in Jerusalem until the latter part of that century. After the Siege of Jerusalem (1099) during the First Crusade, the Crusaders held the codex and other holy works for ransom, along with Jewish survivors. The Aleppo Codex website cites two letters in the Cairo Geniza that describe how the inhabitants of Ashkelon borrowed money from Egypt to pay for the books. These Judeo-Arabic letters were discovered by noted Jewish historian Shelomo Dov Goitein in 1952. The Letter of the Karaite elders of Ascalon, the more descriptive of the two, states that the money borrowed from Alexandria was used to “buy back two hundred and thirty Bible codices, a hundred other volumes, and eight Torah Scrolls." The documents were transported to Egypt via a caravan led and funded by the prominent Alexandrian official Abu’l-Fadl Sahl b. Yūsha’ b. Sha‘yā, who was in Ascalon for his wedding in early 1100. Judeo-Arabic inscriptions on the first page of the Codex mention the book was then "transferred to the Jerusalemite synagogue in Fustat." The Aleppo codex website reveals how the book changed hands.
[It was] transferred [...] according to the law of redemption from imprisonment [in which it had fallen] in Jerusalem, the Holy City, may it be rebuilt and reestablished, to the congregation in Egypt of Knisat Yerushalayim, may it be built and established in the life of Israel. Blessed be he who preserves it and cursed be he who steals it, and cursed be he who sells it, and cursed be he who pawns it. It may not be sold and it may not be defiled forever.
The Aleppo community guarded the Codex zealously for some 600 years: it was kept, together with three other Biblical manuscripts, in a special cupboard (later, an iron safe) in a basement chapel of the Central Synagogue of Aleppo, supposed to have been the Cave of Elijah. It was regarded as the community's most sacred possession: Those in trouble would pray before it, and oaths were taken by it. The community received queries from Jews around the world, who asked that various textual details be checked, correspondence which is preserved in the responsa literature, and which allows for the reconstruction of certain details in the parts that are missing today. Most importantly, in the 1850s, Shalom Shachne Yellin sent his son in law, Moses Joshua Kimchi, to Aleppo, to copy information about the Codex; Kimchi sat for weeks, and copied thousands of details about the codex into the margins of a small handwritten Bible. The existence of this Bible was known to 20th-century scholars from the book ‘Ammudé Shesh by Shemuel Shelomo Boyarski, and then the actual Bible itself was discovered by Yosef Ofer in 1989.
However, the community limited direct observation of the manuscript by outsiders, especially by scholars in modern times. Paul E. Kahle, when revising the text of the Biblia Hebraica in the 1920s, tried and failed to obtain a photographic copy. This forced him to use the Leningrad Codex instead for the third edition, which appeared in 1937.
The only modern scholar allowed to compare it with a standard printed Hebrew Bible and take notes on the differences was Umberto Cassuto, who examined it in 1943. This secrecy made it impossible to confirm the authenticity of the Codex, and indeed Cassuto doubted that it was Maimonides' codex, though he agreed that it was 10th-century.
During the 1947 Anti-Jewish riots in Aleppo, the community's ancient synagogue was burned and the Codex was damaged. Later, while the Codex was in Israel, it was found that no more than 294 of the original (estimated) 487 pages survived.
The missing leaves are a subject of fierce controversy. Originally it was thought they were destroyed by fire, but scholarly analysis has shown no evidence of fire having reached the codex itself (the dark marks on the pages are due to fungus). Some scholars instead accuse members of the Jewish community of having torn off the missing leaves and keeping them privately hidden. Two missing leaves have turned up from such sources, one in 1982 and the other in 2007, leaving open the possibility that even more may have survived the riots in 1947. In particular, the 2012 book, The Aleppo Codex by Matti Friedman, calls attention to the fact that eyewitnesses in Aleppo who saw the Codex shortly after the fire consistently reported that it was complete or nearly complete, and then there is no account of it for more than a decade, until after it arrived in Israel and was put, in 1958, in the Ben-Zvi Institute, at which point it was as currently described; his book suggests a number of possibilities for the loss of the pages including theft in Israel.
Documentary filmmaker, Avi Dabach, great-grandson of Chacham Ezra Dabach (one of the last caretakers of the Codex when it was still in Syria), announced in December 2015 an upcoming film tracing the history of the Codex and possibly determining the fate of the missing pages.
In January 1958, the Aleppo Codex was smuggled out of Syria and sent to Jerusalem to be placed in the care of the chief rabbi of the Aleppo Jews. It was given first to Shlomo Zalman Shragai of the Jewish Agency, who later testified that the Codex was complete or nearly so at the time. Later that year it was given to the Ben-Zvi Institute. Still during 1958, the Jewish community of Aleppo sued the Ben-Zvi Institute for the return of the Codex, but the court ruled against them and suppressed publication of the proceedings.
In the late 1980s, the codex was placed in the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum. This finally gave scholars the chance to examine it and consider the claims that it is indeed the manuscript referred to by Maimonides. The work of Moshe Goshen-Gottstein on the few surviving pages of the Torah seems to have confirmed these claims beyond reasonable doubt. Goshen-Gottstein suggested (in the introduction to his facsimile reprint of the codex) that not only was it the oldest known masoretic Bible in a single volume, it was the first time ever that a complete Tanakh had been produced by one or two people as a unified entity in a consistent style.
Later, after the university denied him access to the codex, Mordechai Breuer began his own reconstruction of the Masoretic text on the basis of other well-known ancient manuscripts. His results matched the Aleppo Codex almost exactly. Thus today, Breuer's version is used authoritatively for the reconstruction of the missing portions of the Aleppo Codex. The Jerusalem Crown (כתר ירושלים, Keter Yerushalayim, lit. "Jerusalem Crown"), printed in Jerusalem in 2000, is a modern version of the Tanakh based on the Aleppo Codex and the work of Breuer: It uses a newly designed typeface based on the calligraphy of the Codex and is based on its page layout.
Among the Jewish community of Aleppo and their descendants in the post-1947 diaspora, the belief always was that the Codex holds great magical power and that the smallest piece of it can ensure the good health and well-being of its owner. Historically it was believed that women allowed to look at it would become pregnant, and that those in charge of the keys to the Codex vault were blessed. On the other hand, community elders have written at the top of some pages "Sacred to Yahweh, not to be sold or defiled" and "Cursed be he who steals it, and cursed be he who sells it". The community feared being destroyed by a plague, should they lose the Codex, and they believed that he who stole or sold the Codex would be hit by the curse.
The consonants in the codex were copied by the scribe Shlomo ben Buya'a in Palestine circa 920. The text was then verified, vocalized, and provided with Masoretic notes by Aaron ben Moses ben Asher, the last and most prominent member of the ben Asher dynasty of grammarians from Tiberias, rivals to the ben Naphtali school. The tradition of ben Asher has become the one accepted for the Hebrew Bible. The ben Asher vocalization is late and in many respects artificial, compared to other traditions and tendencies reaching back closer to the period of spoken Biblical Hebrew.
The Leningrad Codex, which dates to approximately the same time as the Aleppo codex, has been claimed by Paul E. Kahle to be a product of the ben Asher scriptorium. However, its colophon says only that it was corrected from manuscripts written by ben Asher; there is no evidence that ben Asher himself ever saw it. However, the same holds true for the Aleppo Codex, which was apparently not vocalized by ben Asher himself, although a later colophon, which was added to the manuscript after his death, attributes the vocalization to him.
The community of Damascus possessed a counterpart of the Aleppo Codex, known as the Damascus Pentateuch in academic circles and as the "Damascus Keter", or "Crown of Damascus", in traditional Jewish circles. It was also written in Israel in the 10th century, and is now kept at the National Library of Israel as "ms. Heb 5702". It is available online here . (This should not be confused with another Damascus Keter, of medieval Spanish origin.)
The Aleppo Codex was the manuscript used by Maimonides when he set down the exact rules for writing scrolls of the Torah, Hilkhot Sefer Torah ("the Laws of the Torah Scroll") in his Mishneh Torah. This halachic ruling gave the Aleppo Codex the seal of supreme textual authority, albeit only with regard to the type of space preceding sections (petuhot and setumot) and for the manner of the writing of the songs in the Pentateuch. "The codex which we used in these works is the codex known in Egypt, which includes 24 books, which was in Jerusalem," he wrote. David ben Solomon ibn Abi Zimra testifies to this being the same codex that was later transferred to Aleppo.
The Codex, as it presents itself now in the Israel Museum where it is kept in a vault, consists of the 294 pages delivered by the Ben-Zvi Institute, plus one full page and a section of a second one recovered during time. The pages are preserved unbound and written on both sides. Each page is parchment, 33 cm high by 26.5 cm wide (13 inches x 10.43 inches). In particular, only the last few pages of the Torah are extant. The ink was made of tree types of gall, ground and mixed with black soot and iron sulfate.
The manuscript has been restored by specialists of the Israel Museum, whose director declared that, given the Codex' history, it is "in remarkably excellent condition". The purple markings that existed on the edges of the pages were proven to have been a mold, not by exposure to fire.
When the Aleppo Codex was complete (until 1947), it followed the Tiberian textual tradition in the order of its books, similar to the Leningrad Codex, and which also matches the later tradition of Sephardi biblical manuscripts. The Torah and the Nevi'im appear in the same order found in most printed Hebrew Bibles, but the order for the books for Ketuvim differs markedly. In the Aleppo Codex, the order of the Ketuvim is Books of Chronicles, Psalms, Book of Job, Book of Proverbs, Book of Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Book of Lamentations, Book of Esther, Book of Daniel, and Book of Ezra and Book of Nehemiah.
The current text is missing all of the Pentateuch to the Book of Deuteronomy 28.17; II Kings 14.21–18.13; Book of Jeremiah 29.9–31.33; 32.2–4, 9–11, 21–24; Book of Amos 8.12–Book of Micah 5.1; So 3.20–Za 9.17; II Chronicles 26.19–35.7; Book of Psalms 15.1–25.2 (MT enumeration); Song of Songs 3.11 to the end; all of Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, and Ezra-Nehemiah.
Several complete or partial editions of the Tanakh based on the Aleppo Codex have been published over the past three decades in Israel, some of them under the academic auspices of Israeli universities. These editions incorporate reconstructions of the missing parts of the codex based on the methodology of Mordechai Breuer or similar systems, and by taking into account all available historical testimony about the contents of the codex.
Complete Tanakh: These are complete editions of the Tanakh, usually in one volume (but sometimes also sold in three volumes). They do not include the masoretic notes of the Aleppo Codex.
Complete online Tanakh:
The Central Synagogue of Aleppo, (Hebrew: בית הכנסת המרכזי בחאלֶבּ, Arabic: كنيس حلب المركزي), also known as the Great Synagogue of Aleppo, Joab's Synagogue or Al-Bandara Synagogue (Arabic: كنيس البندرة), has been a Jewish place of worship since the 5th century C.E. in Aleppo. When it functioned, it was considered the main synagogue of the Syrian Jewish community. The synagogue is noted as being the location where the Aleppo codex was housed for over five hundred years until it was removed during the 1947 Aleppo pogrom, during which the synagogue was burned. This synagogue still stands.Damascus Pentateuch
The Damascus Pentateuch (Hebrew: כֶּתֶר דַּמֶּשֶׂק Keter Dameseq or Crown of Damascus) is a 10th-century Hebrew Bible codex, consisting of the almost complete Pentateuch, the Five Books of Moses. The codex was copied by an unknown scribe, replete with Masoretic annotations. The manuscript is defective in its beginning, as it starts with Genesis 9:26, and Exodus 18:1–23 is also missing. In 1975 it was acquired by the Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem, which in 2008 changed its name to "National Library of Israel". The codex was published in a large, two-volume facsimile edition in 1978. It shouldn't be confused with another "Damascus Keter", of medieval Spanish origin.Hebrew University Bible Project
The Hebrew University Bible Project (HUBP) is a project at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to create the first edition of the Hebrew Bible that reproduces the text of the Aleppo Codex and includes a thorough critical apparatus.It was begun in 1956 by Moshe Goshen-Gottstein, assisted by Chaim Rabin and Shemaryahu Talmon. These three scholars were the project's first board of editors.The text reproduced in this edition is the Aleppo Codex; the full masora (large and small) in that manuscript is included, but not massora from other sources. Six levels of footnotes record textual variants from a wide range of sources. These include:
Translations: the Septuagint, the Vulgate, the Vetus Latina, the Peshitta, the targums and Saadia Gaon's Arabic translation.
Manuscripts, such as the Dead Sea scrolls and the most important mediaeval copies (particularly the Codex Cairensis and the Leningrad Codex).
Rabbinic works, including the two Talmuds and various midrashim (many examined for this purpose for the first time).The editors add comments in English and Hebrew.So far, the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel have been published.Isaiah 14
Isaiah 14 is the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Isaiah in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. This book contains the prophecies attributed to the prophet Isaiah, and is one of the Books of the Prophets.Isaiah 15
Isaiah 15 is the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Isaiah in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. This book contains the prophecies attributed to the prophet Isaiah, and is a part of the Book of the Prophets. This chapter and the following chapter deal with the forthcoming history of Moab.Isaiah 27
Isaiah 27 is the twenty-seventh chapter of the Book of Isaiah in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. This book contains the prophecies attributed to the prophet Isaiah, and is a part of the Book of the Prophets. Chapters 24-27 of Isaiah constitute one continuous poetical prophecy, sometimes called the "Isaiah Apocalypse".Isaiah 28
Isaiah 28 is the twenty-eighth chapter of the Book of Isaiah in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. This book contains the prophecies attributed to the prophet Isaiah, and is a part of the Book of the Prophets. The Jerusalem Bible groups chapters 28-35 together as a collection of "poems on Israel and Judah".Isaiah 58
Isaiah 58 is the fifty-eighth chapter of the Book of Isaiah in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. This book contains the prophecies attributed to the prophet Isaiah, and is one of the Books of the Prophets. Chapters 56-66 are often referred to as Trito-Isaiah. This chapter contains a proclamation regarding "fasting that pleases God".Jeremiah 30
Jeremiah 30 is the thirtieth chapter of the Book of Jeremiah in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. It is numbered as Jeremiah 37 in the Septuagint. This book contains prophecies attributed to the prophet Jeremiah, and is one of the Books of the Prophets. The Jerusalem Bible refers to chapters 30 and 31 as "the Book of Consolation", and Lutheran theologian Ernst Hengstenberg calls these two chapters "the triumphal hymn of Israel’s salvation".Jeremiah 32
Jeremiah 32 is the thirty-second chapter of the Book of Jeremiah in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. It is numbered as Jeremiah 39 in the Septuagint. This book contains prophecies attributed to the prophet Jeremiah, and is one of the Books of the Prophets. In this chapter, Jeremiah redeems a piece of property belonging to his family and explains the significance of his act.Jerusalem Crown
The Jerusalem Crown (כתר ירושלים Keter Yerushalayim) is a printed edition of the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) printed in Jerusalem in 2001, and based on a manuscript commonly known as the Aleppo Crown). The printed text consists of 874 pages of the Hebrew Bible, two pages setting forth both appearances of the Ten Commandments (one from Exodus 20 and the other from Deuteronomy 5) each showing the two different cantillations - for private and for public recitation, 23 pages briefly describing the research background and listing alternative readings (mostly from the Leningrad Codex, and almost all very slight differences in spelling or even pointing, which do not change the meaning), a page of the blessings - the Ashkenazic, Sefardic and Yemenite versions - used before and after reading the Haftarah (the selection from the Prophets), a 9-page list of the annual schedule of the Haftarot readings according to the three traditions.
The text has been recognized as the official Bible of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Israeli parliament (the Knesset) since 2001. Since its publication, it has been used to administer the oath of office to new presidents of the State of Israel. The text was edited according to the method of Mordechai Breuer under the supervision of Yosef Ofer, with additional proofreading and refinements since the Horev edition.Leningrad Codex
The Leningrad Codex (Latin: Codex Leningradensis, the "codex of Leningrad") is the oldest complete manuscript of the Hebrew Bible in Hebrew, using the Masoretic Text and Tiberian vocalization. It is dated 1008 CE (or possibly 1009) according to its colophon. The Aleppo Codex, against which the Leningrad Codex was corrected, is several decades older, but parts of it have been missing since 1947, making the Leningrad Codex the oldest complete codex of the Tiberian mesorah that has survived intact to this day.
In modern times, the Leningrad Codex is significant as the Hebrew text reproduced in Biblia Hebraica (1937) and Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (1977). It also serves as a primary source for the recovery of details in the missing parts of the Aleppo Codex.Masoretic Text
The Masoretic Text (MT or 𝕸) is the authoritative Hebrew and Aramaic text of the 24 books of Tanakh for Rabbinic Judaism.
It was primarily copied, edited and distributed by a group of Jews known as the Masoretes between the 7th and 10th centuries of the Common Era (CE).
The oldest extant manuscripts date from around the 9th century. The Aleppo Codex (once the oldest-known complete copy but since 1947 missing the Torah) dates from the 10th century. The Masoretic Text defines the Jewish canon and its precise letter-text, with its vocalization and accentuation known as the Masorah.
The ancient Hebrew word mesorah (מסורה, alt. מסורת) broadly refers to the whole chain of Jewish tradition (see Oral law), which is claimed (by Orthodox Judaism) to be unchanged and infallible. Referring to the Masoretic Text, mesorah specifically means the diacritic markings of the text of the Hebrew Scriptures and the concise marginal notes in manuscripts (and later printings) of the Tanakh which note textual details, usually about the precise spelling of words.
Modern scholars seeking to understand the history of the Tanakh’s text use a range of sources other than the Masoretic Text. These include early Greek (Septuagint) and Syriac (Peshitta) translations, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Dead Sea Scrolls and quotations from rabbinic manuscripts. Most of these are older than the oldest surviving Masoretic text and often contradict it. Which of the three commonly known versions (Septuagint, Masoretic Text, Samaritan Pentateuch) is closest to the alleged (but unsubstantiated) Urtext is not determinable. The Dead Sea Scrolls have shown the Masoretic Text to be nearly identical in consonant text to some texts of the Tanakh dating from 200 [BCE] but different from others. Although the consonants of the Masoretic Text differ little from the text generally accepted in the early 2nd century (and also differ little from some Qumran texts that are even older), it has many differences of both greater and lesser significance when compared to the manuscripts of the Septuagint, a Greek translation (about 1000 years older than the MT made in the 3rd to 2nd centuries BCE) of the Hebrew Scriptures that was in popular use by Jews in Egypt and the Holy Land (and matches the quotations in the New Testament of Christianity, especially by Paul the Apostle). A recent finding of a short Leviticus fragment, recovered from the ancient En-Gedi Scroll, carbon-dated to the 3rd or 4th century AD, is completely identical with the Masoretic Text.The Masoretic Text was used as the basis for translations of the Old Testament in Protestant Bibles such as the King James Version and American Standard Version and (after 1943) for some versions of Catholic Bibles, replacing the Vulgate translation, although the Vulgate had itself already been revised in light of the Masoretic text in the 1500s.Matti Friedman
Matti Friedman (Hebrew: מתי פרידמן) is an Israeli Canadian journalist and author. He is an op-ed contributor for the New York Times.Mordechai Breuer
Mordechai Breuer (Hebrew: מָרְדְּכַי בְּרוֹיֶאר; May 14, 1921 – February 24, 2007) was a German-born Israeli Orthodox rabbi. He was one of the world's leading experts on Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), and especially of the text of the Aleppo Codex.
His first cousin was the historian also named Mordechai Breuer. Breuer was a great-grandson of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch.Parashah
The term parashah (Hebrew: פָּרָשָׁה Pārāšâ "portion", Tiberian /pɔrɔˈʃɔ/, Sephardi /paraˈʃa/, plural: parashot or parashiyot) formally means a section of a biblical book in the Masoretic Text of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). In the Masoretic Text, parashah sections are designated by various types of spacing between them, as found in Torah scrolls, scrolls of the books of Nevi'im or Ketuvim (especially megillot), masoretic codices from the Middle Ages and printed editions of the masoretic text.
The division of the text into parashot for the biblical books is independent of chapter and verse numbers, which are not part of the masoretic tradition. Parashot are not numbered, but some have special names.
The division of parashot found in the modern-day Torah scrolls of all Jewish communities is based upon the systematic list provided by Maimonides in Mishneh Torah, Laws of Tefillin, Mezuzah and Torah Scrolls, chapter 8. Maimonides based his division of the parashot for the Torah on the Aleppo Codex. The division of parashot for the books of Nevi'im and Ketuvim was never completely standardized in printed Hebrew bibles and handwritten scrolls, though important attempts were made to document it and create fixed rules.
Incorrect division of the text into parashot, either by indicating a parashah in the wrong place or by using the wrong spacing technique, halakhically invalidates a Torah scroll according to Maimonides.Shemuel Shelomo Boyarski
Rabbi Shemuel Shelomo ben Moshe Meir Boyarski (Hebrew: שמואל שלמה בוירסקי; around 1820 – after 1894), known as "Rashash Boyarski" (רש"ש בויארסקי), after the initials of his personal names, was a Lithuanian rabbinical scholar and ritual scribe who lived in Jerusalem, as part of the Old Yishuv. He was the author of the book Ammudei Shesh (עמודי שש), a rabbinical work on various Jewish religious topics, which he published in Jerusalem in 1894. (The book deals with various topics, including "the section about the Biblical Codex" (שער כתר תורה), about the famous Aleppo Codex. It is this section which has made Boyarski known to history, for the Codex was still undamaged in his day, whereas much of it was lost in 1948.)The Aleppo Codex
The Aleppo Codex: A True Story of Obsession, Faith, and the Pursuit of an Ancient Bible is a 2012 book by Matti Friedman published by Algonquin.
The book tells the story of how the Aleppo codex, one of the world's oldest extant Bibles , was saved from destruction during the 1947 Aleppo pogrom, how it was smuggled into Israel, and what became of the missing pages. The Wall Street Journal calls Friedman's book "a detective thriller," noting that, "not everything about the codex is as it seems."Torah scroll (Yemenite)
Yemenite scrolls of the Law containing the Five Books of Moses (the Torah) represent one of three authoritative scribal traditions for the transmission of the Torah, the other two being the Ashkenazi and Sephardic traditions that slightly differ. While all three traditions purport to follow the Masoretic traditions of Aaron ben Asher, slight differences between the three major traditions have developed over the years. Biblical texts proofread by ben Asher survive in two extant codices (the Aleppo Codex and the Leningrad Codex), the latter said to have only been patterned after texts proofread by Ben Asher. The former work, although more precise, was partially lost following its removal from Aleppo in 1947.
The Yemenite Torah scroll is unique in that it contains many of the oddly-formed letters, such as the "overlapping" pe (פ) and the "crooked" lamed (ל), etc., mentioned in Sefer Tagae, as also by Menachem Meiri and by Maimonides, although not found in ben Asher's orthography. The old line arrangements employed by the early Yemenite scribes in their Torah scrolls are nearly the same as prescribed by ben Asher. Like ben Asher's Masoretic tradition, it also contains nearly all the plene and defective scriptum, as well as the large and small letters employed in the writing of the Torah, a work held by medieval scribes in Israel to be the most accurate of all Masoretic traditions.
The disputes between ben Asher and Ben Naphtali are well-known to Hebrew grammarians. Maimonides' verdict in that dispute is in accordance with ben Asher.
The codex that we have relied upon in these matters is the well-known codex in Egypt, comprising twenty-four canonical books, [and] which was in Jerusalem for several years to proof-read the scrolls there from, and all [of Israel] used to rely upon it, since Ben-Asher had proof-read it and scrutinized it for many years, and proof-read it many times, just as they had copied down. Now, upon it, I relied with regard to the book of the Law that I wrote, according to the rules which govern its proper writing.
Maimonides' ruling in this regard eventually caused the Jews of Yemen to abandon their former system of orthography, and during his lifetime most scribes in Yemen had already begun to replace their former system of orthography for that of Ben-Asher. Scribes in Yemen, especially the illustrious Benayah family of scribes of the 15th and 16th centuries, patterned their own codices containing the proper orthography, vocalization and accentuation after Maimonides' accepted practice in his Sefer Torah, who, in turn, had based his Torah-scroll on Ben-Asher's orthography, with especial attention given to the line arrangements of the two Prosaic Songs mentioned by him, the Open and Closed sections of the Torah, and plene and defective scriptum. Such codices were disseminated all throughout Yemen. The tījān (codices) were copied with particular care, since they were intended as model texts from which scribes would copy Torah scrolls, with the one exception that in the Torah scrolls themselves they contained no vocalization and accentuations. In most of these tījān, every three pages equalled one column in the Sefer Torah. A recurring avowal appears in nearly all copies of codices penned by the Benayah family, namely, that the codex which lay before the reader was written "completely according to the arrangement of the book which was in Egypt, which was edited by Ben Asher...." Based on the preceding lines of this avowal, the reference is to the Open and Closed sections that were copied from the section on orthography in the Yemenite MS. of Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, a work which Maimonides himself claims to have been based on Ben-Asher (i.e. the Aleppo Codex), universally recognized since the time of Maimonides as the most accurate recension of the Hebrew Bible. Benayah’s use of this avowal simply mirrors the words of Maimonides in his Hilkhot Sefer Torah, while most scholars doubt if he had actually seen a codex proofread by Ben-Asher. Others say that the avowal merely refers to the Tiberian masoretic tradition (vowels and accentuations) adopted by the Benayah family in their codices.