Torah Codex by Benayah ben Sa’adyah

Collection ID







San'a, (Yemen)




Ink on Paper


10.67 × 8.125 × 2.5 in. (27.5 × 20.7 × 6.4 cm)

Exhibit Location

On View in The History of the Bible, Translating the Bible

Benayah ben Sa’adyah ben Zechariah and his descendants are widely known as the most prominent scribal family in Yemenite Jewish tradition. Unfortunately, of the hundreds of texts written by them, only a few dozen have survived. Benayah ben Sa’adyah himself wrote this beautiful codex in Yemen in 1469–1470. It contains all the books of the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy with masorah, a Masoretic introduction to the Bible, and a poem. As with all Benayah codices, its text adheres precisely to the scribal guidelines established in Maimonides’s “Mishneh Torah.”

Created in 1469–1470 by Benayah ben Sa'adyah ben Zechariah for Joseph ben Avigad ben Maimun ben Avigad.[1] Acquired ca. 1860 by Mahfud ben Daud el-Dehbani; Mortgaged in 1867 to Suleiman ben Joseph al-Meshraki.[2] Acquired in 1911 or between ca. 1918 and ca. 1932 by David Solomon Sassoon;[3] Purchased at auction in 1994 by a private collector;[4] Purchased at auction in 2014 by David Sofer;[5] Privately purchased in 2017 by the Green Collection, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Donated in 2019 to The Signatry, under the curatorial care of Museum of the Bible, Washington, DC.

Notes: [1] The manuscript’s colophon is written on pages 643 and 644. As a dated manuscript, this codex is also found on [2] Page one in the manuscript notes the mortgage of the manuscript by Mahfud ben Daud el-Dehbani to Suleiman ben Joseph al-Meshraki in 1867. However, it is unclear whether the manuscript ever came into his possession permanently. [3] David Solomon Sassoon most likely purchased the manuscript, which he designated MS 942, either in 1911 or between 1918 and 1932. In his catalog “Ohel Dawid,” he references acquiring several Yemenite manuscripts in 1911 but does not give a list of those manuscripts in detail. Most of his other manuscripts were purchased after World War I (“Ohel Dawid” I, pp. x–xii, 607–608). In addition to this manuscript, Sassoon purchased a nearly identical Benayah Torah codex, also written in 1470, from the Sotheby’s sale of George A. Crawley’s manuscript collection in 1927 (MS 964 in “Ohel Dawid,” 604–607). Due to their almost identical features and date of completion, it is likely that Benayah penned the manuscripts concurrently. This other manuscript was in the possession of the Valmadonna Trust Library (Jack V. Lunzer) until it was sold at the Valmadonna Trust Library sale, Sotheby’s New York, 22 December 2015. [4] Seventy-six Important Hebrew and Samaritan Manuscripts from the library of the late David Solomon Sassoon, Sotheby’s London, 21 June 1994, Lot 52. The name of the purchaser was not disclosed, but the sale is referenced in the provenance section of the Important Judaica auction, Sotheby’s New York, 4 December 2014, Lot 104. [5] The Important Judaica auction, Sotheby’s New York, 4 December 2014, Lot 104.

Selected References:

David Solomon Sassoon, "Ohel Dawid, Descriptive Catalogue of the Hebrew and Samaritan Manuscripts," Vol. II (London: Oxford University Press, 1932).

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