Matti Friedman is a reporter in Jerusalem for The Times of Israel, and author of “The Aleppo Codex.” His blog posts are featured on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog Series. For more information on the series, please visit:
Although it fell, in retrospect, at the mid-point between the launch of the Kindle and the Kindle 2, I don’t think I had more than a vague notion of what a Kindle was on the day in the summer of 2008 when I first descended into a dark room at Israel’s national museum in Jerusalem and, standing in front of a dimly lit display case, encountered its exact opposite.
I spent much of the next four years writing the story of the object I found in the museum, a manuscript known as the Aleppo Codex — a millennium-old bundle of animal skins that is the oldest and most accurate copy of the entire Hebrew Bible. In these years I was not cut off entirely from the march of technology. I acquired an iPod, and learned to send email from my cellphone. But I never purchased a Kindle or any of its cousins, nor did I fully understand what they augured.
The Aleppo Codex is a book, one of the most important on earth. I wrote a book about this book. These things seemed clear to me, but when my deadline passed and I finally looked up to find myself staring into the dead electronic eye of the Kindle Fire, I saw that the meaning of “book” had been altered and that I had just spent these years of revolution engrossed in a mirror image of the present.