A Megillat Esther (Scroll of Esther) written by a 14-year-old Jewish girl from Rome some 250 years ago was recently revealed in Jerusalem, providing a glimpse into Italy’s Jewish community.
This is a very significant historic discovery, as Scrolls of Esther inscribed during that time period by women are few, and it sheds light on the important position that religious women occupied in Italian Jewish community life.
The name of the young female scribe was Luna Amron, daughter of the prestigious Amron family, a prominent and wealthy Roman Jewish family. The scribe’s identity was revealed from the colophon printed on the last page of the Scroll, following the list of blessings recited after reading the Scroll.
“With the help of the awesome G-d/the writing of these blessings and Scroll are now complete/on the 10th day of the month of Adar I, 5527 / all handwritten, with the hand of G-d who bestowed wisdom to a maiden who is humble/and pleasant. Mistress Luna Tama daughter of the honored philanthropist, the honorable Yehudah Amron and she/is in the fourteen year of her life. Give her from the fruits of her hand/and they shall praise her actions in the city gates./And we shall merit witnessing miracles and wonders speedily in our days and her days.”
The Amron family’s illustrious position in 18th century Italian-Jewish society is evident from the family seal stamped at the top of the Scroll which is formed of two shields with a lion and crescent.
In addition, Kedem Auction House researchers discovered some interesting information regarding Luna. Some nine years later in 1776, Livorno, a Luna Amron was wed to one Jacob David son of Mordechai (Angelo) di Segni, another Italian-Jewish family of influence, as noted on Luna’s ketubah (Jewish ritual marriage deed) which has been preserved until this day.
The fact that this Scroll of Esther was calligraphed by a woman is particularly fascinating when accounting for the fact that it renders the halachic status of the Scroll debatable. Tractate Gittin 45b establishes that a Torah Scroll, tefillin (phylacteries) or mezuzah written by a woman is invalid, whereas the halachic status of a Scroll of Esther that was written by a woman is in debate. Some notable Rabbinical opinions, including that of Rashi’s grandson Rabbeinu Tam, maintain that the laws of writing a Sefer Torah are parallel to those of writing a Megillah, and that a Megillah written by a woman is thus invalid. Others, including Moshe Maimonides, permit it on the grounds that a woman is obligated to listen to the reading of the Scroll of Esther.
Among the various manuscripts that are known to be copied by famous women, there are only two other copies of Scrolls of Esther in Italy: One was written by Hannah daughter of David Joseph Pepirno (1840), and the other by Estalina daughter of Captain Menachem of Venice (1564). There are also known cases of Scrolls of Esther written outside the borders of Italy, most famously a Scroll of Esther written by the daughter of Rabbi David Oppenheim (1664-1736), Chief Rabbi of Prague, who permitted it to be read.
The Scroll will be available for public auction at Kedem Auction House in Jerusalem next week.