The handwritten Talmud commentary, Sefer Avodat ha-Levi, dating from 1793 was only identified as having been stolen when the State Library sent the microfilmed document as a matter of routine to an institute in Jerusalem, which realized that it had already been archived by Beit Ariella.
“Things like that are very rare but still happen from time to time,” foundation spokeswoman Stephanie Heinlein told The Local.
The handwritten manuscript was stolen from the library in Israel ten years ago and was bought by the Berlin State Library for their Orient department legally from an antiquary in February 2000. The seller purchased the document not knowing it had been pilfered.
It wasn’t the first time Berlin had been duped into buying something hot, but considering the historic and emotional value, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation decided to return the document. “We already had to return things in the past which were lost to the rightful owners,” Heinlein said, emphasizing the strict policy the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation has on cases like this.
The Talmud is a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, customs, and history and is a central text of Judaism second only to the Hebrew Bible.