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Crossroads & Connections: Color Coding the Bible

By The National Library of Israel

Published Apr 26, 2023

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Solomon Mandelkern's Bible, Leipzig, late 19th century

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Solomon Mandelkern (1846–1902), rabbi, poet, and Hebraist, dedicated his life to his magnum opus, a rigorous new concordance of the Bible in Hebrew and Aramaic, which he named Heikhal HaKodesh (the Sacred Structure). From the outside, this volume does not appear extraordinary; but seen from the inside, one can appreciate the years of toil Mandelkern invested in his research and his methodical and innovative approach.

A concordance is an alphabetical listing of all the words in the Bible with citations and one of the most important tools in critical Bible study. Mandelkern color coded all the words in his Bible to guide the development of modern Hebrew: root words in blue, prepositions in yellow, personal pronouns in green, and proper nouns in red. Zionist leader Nahum Sokolow recalled of Mandelkern, “All his acquaintances will remember the sight of the Bible that he would show to everyone—his inked, mottled, banded Bible with different colors under each word … Someone ought to donate that Bible to some Jewish museum or to the National Library in Jerusalem.” Along with his nineteen volumes of the original manuscript of the concordance, the National Library of Israel is now home to “Mandelkern’s Bible.”

 

Hebrew Bible, printed by Meir (Max) Halevi Letteris, Berlin, 1879, with subsequent glosses by Mandelkern. V 204.

Photography by Ardon Bar-Hama.

 

Click here to return to the full Crossroads & Connections: Collections of the National Library of Israel digital exhibition on Kolture.

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Founded in Jerusalem in 1892, the National Library of Israel (NLI) holds the collective memory of Israelis of all backgrounds and faiths and the Jewish people worldwide. While continuing to serve as Israel's preeminent research library, over the past decade NLI has embarked upon an ambitious journey of renewal to encourage...

Reflections

Click here to visit the exhibition resource page to learn more and to browse accompanying lesson plans, webinars, and videos, about the treasures in this exhibition.

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