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You'll have to excuse my ignorance and if I word something slightly awkwardly, but I did wonder how old is the tradition of burying the Genizot, or alternatively, if that is unknown, what is the oldest recovered Genizah site that we know of?

To my understanding, this tradition of paper-interment has been going on for long enough to potentially provide for an incredibly valuable historical record of events, long forgotten local cultures and so on. So which Genizot site was dated to be the oldest that also provided us with some insight into times of when these Hebrew-language books and papers were buried?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

The Talmud discusses Genizoth. I don't recall off-hand the context, but I remember learning a Gemara that said students of great sages in the Tannaic era, when writing Torah SheBe'Al Peh was prohibited, would take notes that they would later commit to memory before placing in Genizah.

In addition (or in contrast, perhaps), if a scribe made an uncorrectable error, he'd place the erroneous parchment in Genizah; if an unaccepted tradition were discovered (in the times when some of the holy texts were still being canonized), it, too, would (likely) be placed in Genizah.

For those reasons, I've always been skeptical of the assumption that, just because something old was found in Genizah, it is proof that things used to be different (and that today's practices are not faithful to an older tradition). You can never know the motives of those who placed those items there.

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I heard that a Geniza expert came to R' JB Soleveitchik and told him of a newly discovered opinion found in one of the old Genizas which contradicts the known shittas (I don't remember the story precisely). R' Soleveitchik asked him "What do you think of ... (a famous expert in the same field as the professor)?" The professor said "utter moron!". RJB answered "Nu, so who said that the author of that newly found text is better than ...?" – Shmuel Brin Nov 11 '13 at 5:14
@ShmuelBrin I heard a similar story. – Double AA Nov 11 '13 at 14:54
@DoubleAA so that's where I heard it – Shmuel Brin Nov 11 '13 at 18:19

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