18th century Scroll of Esther written by teenage girl to go on auction

There is a debate within Jewish law as to whether a Scroll of Esther written by a woman can be used to fulfill the religious duty of reading from the scroll on the holiday of Purim.

A Scroll of Esther, written by a 14-year-old girl in Rome during the 1700s, will be auctioned off. (photo credit: KEDEM AUCTION HOUSE)
A Scroll of Esther, written by a 14-year-old girl in Rome during the 1700s, will be auctioned off.
(photo credit: KEDEM AUCTION HOUSE)

A Megillat Esther, or Scroll of Esther, written by a 14-year-old Jewish girl from Rome in the 18th century has recently been discovered and will be put on auction in Jerusalem next week.

The scroll was written in 1767 by Luna Amron, daughter of the prominent and wealthy Amron Jewish family from Rome, and has been highlighted for providing a unique insight into Jewish life in what is now Italy, during this era.

Amron’s identity was revealed from the colophon, or a publisher’s statement, printed on the last page of the scroll, following the list of blessings recited after reading the religious text.

“With the help of the awesome God, the writing of these blessings and scroll are now complete on the 10th day of the month of Adar I, 5527 [1767], all handwritten, with the hand of God, who bestowed wisdom to a maiden who is humble and pleasant,” reads the colophon, “Mistress Luna Tama, daughter of the honored philanthropist, the honorable Yehudah Amron; and she is in the 14th 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.”

 A Scroll of Esther, written by a 14-year-old girl in Rome during the 1700s, will be auctioned off. (credit: KEDEM AUCTION HOUSE) A Scroll of Esther, written by a 14-year-old girl in Rome during the 1700s, will be auctioned off. (credit: KEDEM AUCTION HOUSE)

The scroll will be put up for sale at the Kedem Auction House in Jerusalem next week.

According to the auction house, the Amron family held an “illustrious position” in 18th-century Italian-Jewish society, evidence by the family seal stamped at the top of Luna’s scroll of two shields with a lion and crescent.

Kedem Auction House researchers also discovered that nine years after writing her Scroll of Esther, Luna married one Jacob David, son of Mordechai (Angelo) di Segni, another Italian-Jewish family of influence in Livorno, in 1776.

There is a debate within Jewish law as to whether a Scroll of Esther written by a woman can be used to fulfill the religious duty of reading from the scroll on the holiday of Purim, when Jewish law mandates it be read.

Some authorities in Jewish law ruled that since women are obligated to read Megillat Esther on Purim, a scroll written by a woman is valid to be used for this purpose.

Others ruled, however, that since other religious texts, such as a Torah and tefillin, may not be written by women, so, too, a Megillah written by a woman is also not valid for use.

According to Kedem Auction House, there are only two other copies of Scrolls of Esther in Italy written by prominent women.

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.

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