A Curious Megillat Esther or How to Find a Needle in a Haystack

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Almudena, in Madrid, preserves the legacy of the priest and scholar José Fernández Montaña (1842-1936). Part of this legacy is a synagogue scroll, which only came to light in the spring of 2010. This is a scroll of the Book of Esther, written in Hebrew and beautifully illuminated, which could date from around the end of the 16th or the first half of the 17th centuries CE. A peculiarity of this scroll is the signs (like the circellus masoreticus followed by two dots in a horizontal line), unique in the whole manuscript, that are found over four consonants, located in four words in a row. These supralinear markings must be related to one of the characteristics of the Book of Esther itself which distinguishes it from the rest of the books of the Hebrew Bible: it does not contain the divine name. Some commentators, especially starting in the Middle Ages, looked for hidden references to the divine name in this book. That tradition has been preserved in the Megillat Esther of Madrid Cathedral.