HEBREW TEXT: Who Were the Masoretes?

Who were the Masoretes, and what valuable comments have they made on the Hebrew text? What do we know about the Masoretes? What did their work involve? What did the Masoretes do regarding the Hebrew text? What is the Masoretic text, and how do we know that it is reliable? How dependable, how accurate is this Masoretic text? Can we find a “pure” Masoretic text? Why did the Masoretes take such extreme care not to alter the text when previous copyists had altered it? Was their form of Jewish belief different from that of their predecessors?