Edmond Safra’s death is one of those mysteries that sticks. The billionaire banker, whose brother Joseph is the richest banker on the planet, died in a fire in his Monaco home in 1999.His American nurse, a veteran named Ted Maher, was convicted of setting the blaze. When first questioned Maher said he was attacked by intruders who set the fire. He then stabbed himself to make the story believable, CNN reported.
Mystery solved? Not really. The question of why Maher did set the fire remains mostly unanswered.
So perhaps, as Safra, a very spiritual man, believed, it was all because of a curse on the Safra name.
It all has to do with an ancient, sacred Jewish text called the Aleppo codex. It is the 900 year-old, first complete version of the Hebrew Bible, and this weekend New York Times Magazine had an awesome piece on how the work moved to Israel when its home, the Aleppo synagogue (in Syria) was destroyed in 1947.
The tension in the story is that no one knows exactly how the text got to Israel after being hidden from the Syrian government for around 10 years. Not only that, but some 200 pages of Aleppo codex have vanished.
All that said, keep this in mind: Edmond Safra’s family is from Aleppo, and they fled the country after World War II.
Also know this. It has been said that anyone who moved the texts from Aleppo would be cursed.
” ‘Cursed be its seller, cursed be its defiler and cursed be the community of Aram Tzova [the biblical Hebrew name for Aleppo] if it were to depart from there.’
Here’s where the Safra name gets thrown into the mix.
Years after the Aleppo codex got to Israel, writer Amnon Shamosh wrote an epic novel (later turned into a TV series in 1980s) called “Michel Ezra Safra & Sons”. It told the story of a banking family from Aleppo that fled the country in 1947. In the book, the patriarch of the family saved the Aleppo codex and took it to Nice, France.
When Edmond Safra found out about the book he tried to buy every single copy in print from Shamosh.
“A short while after the novel came out,” he told (NYT Magazine), “I got a call from Edmond Safra, who asked me to come and see him at his office in Geneva.” Safra, a billionaire in the finance industry whose family came from Aleppo, was a great believer in metaphysical forces, and when he learned of Shamosh’s novel — and that his family’s name had been mentioned in connection with the removal of the codex — he was gripped with terror. In Geneva, he was waiting for Shamosh with an open checkbook. “Here,” Safra told him. “It’s yours. Write in it any amount that you want. I’ll buy all the books that are out there, and then you can print as many as you want with a different name.”
“I tried to explain to him that it was all fictional, but I couldn’t get through to him. Safra said to me: ‘I don’t want to provoke the evil eye. This thing is going to bring about my death in terrible circumstances.’ “