The Book of Ben Sira


The manuscript bearing the shelfmark JTS MS R1622.1 is one of the most important Mishna manuscripts extant. It is so recognized by Michael Krupp, for example, in his survey of Mishna manuscripts in The Literature of the Sages series. After describing the three complete manuscripts (Kaufmann [Budapest], Parma A, and Lowe [Cambridge]), Krupp next mentions three important incomplete manuscripts, one of which is the text presented here, JTS MS R1622.1.1

The extant portion of the codex contains 16 folios, with portions of Seder Moʿed (Festivals) and Seder Nashim (Women). Though some of the pages have major lacunae, by and large the manuscript is in excellent condition, with the Hebrew script very legible throughout. Codicological analysis dates the manuscript to the 12th century, most likely from Italy. To be sure, the vocalization system in the manuscript is of the northern Italian – southern French tradition, as demonstrated in great detail by Yaʿaqov Ben-Tolila in his monograph devoted to the subject.2 A later hand (or later hands) introduced changes to the original text on a number of occasions, through cross-outs, marginal insertions, etc.

The manuscript was obtained at some point in the late 19th century or early 20th century by Ephraim Deinard (1846-1930) in Syria.3 Deinard later sold the manuscript to Mayer Sulzberger (1843-1923),4 who in turn donated this important document to the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. An early description of the manuscript, bearing the shelfmark 138, can be found in the Catalog of Hebrew Manuscripts in the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Rabbinic manuscripts section, prepared by Alexander Marx in c. 1925 (click here).5

In the comprehensive nine-volume catalogue of rabbinic manuscripts in the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary produced by Judah Brumer in 1984-1986 (click here), our manuscript receives the shelfmark 1622.

The situation is a bit more confusing, however, because JTS MS R1622 actually contains folios from two different manuscripts. The first 16 folios constitute the manuscript described herein and presented at this website. An additional two folios (17a-17b-18a-18b) comprise a different Mishna manuscript altogether, and hence they are not part of our current project.

The solution is to distinguish the two manuscripts, which has been done at last by Yaʿaqov Sussman in his recently published אוצר כתבי-היד התלמודיים = Thesaurus of Talmudic Manuscripts (Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Zvi, 2012), vol. 2, p. 561, available online at Sussman’s solution was to call the first 16 pages bearing this shelfmark 1622[א] and to call the final two folios bearing this shelfmark 1622[ב]. They are listed in his Thesaurus as nos. 6050 and 6051, respectively.

Since we are presenting the text online, with only Latin letters and numerals permissible within the URL, and with additional periods creating some confusion, we have elected to use the domain name

Notwithstanding the importance of this manuscript, until this point it has been available only to visitors to the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York or in microfilm format to visitors at the Department of Manuscripts and Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts of the National Library of Israel (under the shelfmark F 11389).

But we live in the digital age now, so it is our pleasure to make this important text available to all interested parties via this dedicated website. We gratefully acknowledge the permission granted to us by the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America to produce this website. David Kraemer, Director of the Library, and Jay Rovner, Manuscript Bibliographer, have assisted us throughout this process, and to each of them we are greatly obliged. In addition to all the other courtesies, the Library provided the superb photographs which adorn this website, thereby allowing the user of this material to inspect the manuscript first-hand, as it were.

We invite you to view the manuscript, with the images and the transcriptions side-by-side. We have provided two separate transcriptions: one with the text divided mishna-by-mishna, so that one can locate a desired reading relatively easily; and one with a diplomatic representation of the document, folio-by-folio, line-by-line.

As with all Mishna versions, the numbering of each mishna or halakha differs from manuscript to manuscript. To introduce order into the chaos, scholars have adopted the numbering system used by Hanoch Albeck in his standard edition of the Mishna6. When our manuscript differs from the Albeck system, we have placed the manuscript’s particular numbering within parentheses. For further details on this and other matters, see the Conventions.


  1. Michael Krupp, “Manuscripts of the Mishna,” in Shmuel Safrai, ed., The Literature of the Sages, Part One (Assen/Maastricht: Van Gorcum [Philadelphia: Fortress]), 1987), pp. 252-259, especially p. 255.
  2. Yaʿaqov Ben-Tolila, מסורת צרפתית-איטלקית של לשון המשנה (ʿEda ve-Lašon 14; Publications of the Hebrew University Language Traditions Project, edited by Shelomo Morag; Jerusalem/Beersheva: Hebrew University and Ben-Gurion University, 1989).
  3. For information about Deinard and his remarkable career, see and (the latter by Brad Sabin Hill)
  4. For information about Sulzberger and his achievements, see and (the latter by Arthur Kiron)
  5. The notation in this catalogue entry mentions the specific purchase location as Gubbar, near Damascus, Syria. The town and its synagogue are referred to in standard works as Jobar, located just to the northeast of Damascus and home to an ancient and medieval Jewish community (see JE entry on 'Damascus', for example). Sadly, the Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue in Jobar reportedly was destroyed in May 2014 during the Syrian Civil War (click here). Our thanks to Charles Häberl (Rutgers University) for this information.
  6. Hanoch Albeck,
    ששה סדרי משנה,
    6 vols. (Jerusalem: Bialik, 1952-1959).

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and Transcription