Mid-15th century Esther scroll from Spanish Empire finds a home in Israel

The gifted Iberian Esther scroll is one of the oldest surviving renditions of the biblical tale of Esther taking up her noble destiny to save the Jewish people from the evil Haman.

A mid-15th century Sephardic Esther scroll which was gifted to the National Library of Israel (photo credit: NATIONAL LIBRARY OF ISRAEL)
A mid-15th century Sephardic Esther scroll which was gifted to the National Library of Israel
(photo credit: NATIONAL LIBRARY OF ISRAEL)
A mid-15th century Iberian megillah of Esther - also referred to as the Esther scrolls - has been gifted to the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem.
The Iberian Esther scroll is one of the oldest surviving renditions of the biblical tale of Esther taking up her noble destiny to save the Jewish people from the evil Haman.
Experts determined that the mid-15th century scroll was written by a Jewish record-keeper around 1465, prior to the expulsion of Jewish populations from Spain and Portugal at the end of the century.
A mid-15th century Sephardic Esther scroll which was gifted to the National Library of Israel. (National Library of Israel)A mid-15th century Sephardic Esther scroll which was gifted to the National Library of Israel. (National Library of Israel)
It was the only complete 15th century megillah currently being held in private hands prior to the donation. There are only a few of these complete megillahs worldwide, and those from the pre-expulsion period in Spain and Portugal are "even rarer, with only a small handful known to exist," the National Library said.
It was written on leather in brown ink portraying the characteristics of Sephardic script. The section that appears just before the text of the storied Purim tale contains a traditional blessing recited before and after the reading of the megillah, which corresponds with the traditional uses of this scroll in Iberian Jewish communities prior to their expulsion.
The scroll was gifted by Michael Jesselson and his family. Jesselson's father, Ludwig Jesselson, was the founding chairman of the library's International Council.
Curator at the National Library Dr. Yoel Finkelman said that the gifted scroll was “an incredibly rare testament to the rich material culture of the Jews of the Iberian Peninsula.  
"It is one of the earliest extant Esther Scrolls, and one of the few 15th century megillot in the world," Finkelman added. "The library is privileged to house this treasure and to preserve the legacy of pre-expulsion Iberian Jewry for the Jewish people and the world.”
The Esther scrolls detail the miraculous events that took place in Persia 2,300 years ago when the Jewish people were saved by the actions of Mordechai and Esther from Haman and King Ahasuerus' decree to exterminate the Jewish population.
Jews across the world connect to the spirit of Purim by reading the megillah, sending gifts to friends (mishloach manot), giving charity to the poor (matanot la'evyonim) and finally, as the holiday draws to an end, participate in a joyous festive meal (mishteh).
Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.