The Theodotus Inscription

The obligation to read the Torah in public every Shabbat, Monday, and Thursday is a rabbinical institution enacted by Moshe Rabbeinu. (See Rambam, Hilchot Tefillah 12:1). In 1913 Baron Rothchild funded the excavation of the French-Jewish archaeologist Raymond Weill in what is today known as the city of David. Realizing the significance of the site, Baron Rothchild had purchased the land from the Ottoman Turks on behalf of the Jewish people. During excavations Weill found a few large cisterns. Inside one of them was the Theodotus inscription dated to the early first century CE. The inscription is actually a dedication plaque commemorating a “synagogue that was built for the reading of the Torah and the teaching of its commandments.” Ironically the only thing preserved from this synagogue is this plaque. This shows that the Torah was being read in synagogues in accordance with the Oral Law over two thousand years ago, over 1,300 years after Moshe instituted the enactment, and nearly 200 years before the Mishnah was committed to writing.

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