The oldest surviving complete Torah scroll from pre-Inquisition Spain was sold at Sotheby’s yesterday to an unnamed American private collector for $398,500—not quite the half-million bucks the auction house gave as the high estimate, but impressive nonetheless. The 700-year-old scroll was put up for sale by Rabbi Yitzchok Reisman, a Torah scribe and repairman on New York’s Lower East Side who bought it for less than $40,000 a decade ago from a Moroccan family of Spanish origin now living in Israel. Not a bad return—and, as is its wont, Sotheby’s did the rabbi the favor of giving him a photograph of the scroll as a keepsake.
Jesse Oxfeld, a former executive editor and publisher of Tablet Magazine, is a freelance theater critic. He was The New York Observer’s theater critic from 2009 to 2014.