genizah

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

A genizah in the Jewish Cemetery in Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal, India
A modern genizah in the Nachlaot area of Jerusalem, Israel

From Hebrew גְּנִיזָה (g'nizá, archiving, preservation, storage; hiding; genizah) (plural גְּנִיזוֹת (g'nizót)), from Old Persian *ganza-, from Median *ganza- (depository; treasure).

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Noun[edit]

genizah (plural genizahs or genizot or genizoth)

  1. (Jewish law) A depository where sacred Hebrew books or other sacred items that by Jewish law cannot be disposed of are kept before they can be properly buried in a cemetery.
    The Cairo Genizah was discovered in 1896.
    • 1874, John W. Nutt, “Appendix I. The Collection of Samaritan MSS. at St. Petersburg.”, in A Sketch of Samaritan History, Dogma, and Literature, Published as an Introduction to “Fragments of a Samaritan Targum, Edited from a Bodleian MS.”, London: Trübner and Co., OCLC 32710100, page 153:
      In the year 1870 the Russian Minister of Public Worship purchased from the well-known Karaite traveller and archaeologist Abraham Firkowitsch his collection of Samaritan MSS. for the Imperial Library of St. Petersburg. It consists almost exclusively of fragments, this circumstance arising from the fact that the collector during his stay in Nablus and Egypt completely ransacked the Samaritan Genizoth (that is to say, the garrets and cellars of the synagogues whither their worn-out books were conveyed), thus acquiring several fragments of Samaritan Pentateuch rolls— []
    • 1935 January 15, R[ichard James Horatio] Gottheil, “A Fragment on Pharmacy from the Cairo Genizah”, in The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland: With which are Incorporated the Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, part I, London: Published by the Society, 74 Grosvenor Street, London, W. 1, OCLC 654854313, page 124:
      Unfortunately, too, the fragment begins in the very middle of a sentence, as do most of these Genizah fragments. It is evident that the leaves come from a large volume, as each drug was numbered.
    • 1983, Jacob Z[allel] Lauterbach, “73. Ritual for Disposal of Damaged Sefer Torah (Vol. XXXIV, 9124, pp. 74–75)”, in Walter Jacob, editor, American Reform Responsa: Collected Responsa of the Central Conference of American Rabbis 1889–1983, New York, N.Y.: Central Conference of American Rabbis, OCLC 978-0-916694-83-8, page 243:
      The rule of burying the old Scrolls which became spoiled or torn was in course of time extended to all Hebrew books which became torn or spoiled. This, indirectly, probably led to the well-known practice of having special places called Geniza, where such books were temporarily kept before being buried []. In almost all Jewish centers, there are Genizot in the synagogues—under the Bima, within the walls, or in the garrets. As the place grew overcrowded, the content was carried to the cemetery for burial.
    • 2002, Stephen M. Brown, “Beginning Talmud Torah”, in Stephen Garfinkel and Karen L. Stein, editors, Reclaiming Our Legacy: The More Torah, the More Life, revised edition, New York, N.Y.: Department of Youth Activities, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, OCLC 18557606, pages 110–111:
      [A]ccording to Jewish law and practice, ritual objects which contained the name of God could not be thrown away or destroyed. The tradition was to treat these objects with great reverence. A place called a Genizah (from Persian, "ganoz," which means "treasury" or "hidden place") was created to house these ritual objects. [] A genizah, therefore, was a place of concealment. Sometimes this was a hidden cave; other times it was space between the stories of a building or a separate cupboard or small room with a small opening into which could be placed the remnants of books and manuscripts which contained the name of God. [] Often things placed in the genizah were destroyed over the years from mildew and erosion, but in certain climates they were preserved. Such was the case with a great genizah in old Cairo that was discovered by Professor Solomon Schechter. Schechter's discovery opened to modern Jewish scholarship thousands of pages of ancient manuscripts and original works that had been lost or not known to modern scholars.
    • 2016, Mark Glickman, “Loading the Jewish Bookshelf”, in Stolen Words: The Nazi Plunder of Jewish Books, Philadelphia, Pa.: Published by the University of Nebraska Press as a Jewish Publication Society book, ISBN 978-0-8276-1208-2, page 33:
      Originally Jewish law required only the words of Scripture to be stashed in genizahs, but over time the understanding of which texts were sacred often became far broader. Soon Jews were depositing rabbinic writings as well as scriptural ones into their genizahs. Later, they included any document even mentioning God and sometimes documents bearing any Hebrew at all. In fact, by the tenth century—particularly in the highly literate lands of the Middle East and North Africa—many Jews seem to have considered any document of any kind worthy of preservation in their genizah repositories.

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