- Every One to Possess a Sefer Torah.
- Method of Preparation.
- Size of the Scroll and Margin.
- Name of God.
- Sewing the Sheets Together.
- The Breastplate.
- Personal Copies of the Torah.
The Pentateuch, written on a scroll of parchment. The Rabbis count among the mandatory precepts incumbent upon every Israelite the obligation to write a copy of the Pentateuch for his personal use. The passage "Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel" (Deut. xxxi. 19) is interpreted as referring to the whole Pentateuch, wherein "this song" is included (Sanh. 21b). The king was required to possess a second copy, to be kept near his throne and carried into battle (Deut. xvii. 18; Maimonides, "Yad," Sefer Torah, vii. 1, 2). One who is unable to write the scroll himself should hire a scribe to write it for him; or if he purchases a scroll he should have it examined by a competent Sofer. If a Jew inherits a scroll it is his duty to write or have written another. This scroll he must not sell, even in dire distress, except for the purpose of paying his teacher's fee or of de. fraying his own marriage expenses (Meg. 27a).
Method of Preparation.
- (see image) Metal Case for Scroll of the Law.(In the Musée de, Cluny, Paris.)
- (see image) Ceremonies Accompanying the Presentation of a Scroll of the Law to a Synagogue.(From Bodenschatz, "Kirchliche Verfassung;" 1748.)
Size of the Scroll and Margin.
The width of the scroll was about six handbreadths (= 24 inches), the length equaling the circumference (B. B. 14a). The Baraita says half of the length shall equal the width of the scroll when rolled up (Soferim ii. 9). The length of the scroll in the Ark was six hand breadths, equal to the height of the tablets (B. B. l.c.). Maimonides gives the size of the regular scroll as 17 fingers (= inches) long (see below), seventeen being considered a "good" number ( = 17). Every line should be long enough to contain thirty letters or three words equal in space to that occupied by the letters . The lines are to be neither too short, as in an epistle, nor too long, involving the shifting of the body when reading from beginning to end. The sheet ("yeri'ah") must contain no less than three and no more than eight columns. A sheet of nine pages may be cut in two parts, of four and five columns respectively. The last column of the scroll may be narrower and must end in the middle of the bottom line with the words (Men. 30a).
- (see image) Scroll of the Law from China.(From the Sulzberger collection in the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York.)
Some scribes are careful to begin each column with initial letters forming together the words ("by his name JAH"; Ps. lxviii. 4), as follows: (Gen. i. 1), (ib. xlix. 8), (Ex. xiv. 28), (ib. xxxiv. 11), (Num. xxiv. 5), (Deut. xxxi. 28). Other scribes begin all columns except the first with the letter "waw"; such columns are called "wawe ha-'ammudim" = "the waw columns" (see Scribes).
It is the scribe's duty to prepare himself by silent meditation for performing the holy work of writing the Pentateuch in the name of God. He is obliged to have before him a correct copy; he may not write even a single word from memory; and he must pronounce every word before writing it. Every letter must have space around it and must be so formed that an ordinary schoolboy can distinguish it from similar letters (Shulhan 'Aruk, Orah hayyim, 32, 36; see Taggin). The scroll may contain no vowels or accents; otherwise it is unfit for public reading.
- (see image) Scroll of the Law, with Crown, Breastplate, and Pointer.(In the British Museum.)
The poetic verses of the song of the Red Sea ("shirat ha-Yam"; Gen. xv. 1-18) are metrically arranged in thirty lines (Shab. 103b) like bricks in a wall, as illustrated below:
- (see image) The first six lines are placed thus:
The scroll must be written in accordance with the Masoretic Ketib, the abnormalities of certain letters being reproduced (See Small and Large Letters). If the final letters are written in the middle of a word, or if their equivalents are written at the end, the scroll is unfit for public reading (Soferim ii. 10).
Name of God.
Scrupulous care must be taken in writing the Names of God: before every name the scribe must say, "I intend to write the Holy Name"; otherwise the scroll would be unfit ("pasul") for public reading. When the scribe has begun to write the name of God he must not be interrupted until he has finished it. No part of the name may, extend into the margin outside the rule. If an error occurs in the name, it may not be erased like any other word, but the whole sheet must be replaced and the defective sheet put in the genizah. When the writing is set aside to dry it should be covered, with a cloth to protect it from dust. It is considered shameful to turn the writing downward ('Er. 97a).
If an error is found in the scroll it must be corrected and reexamined by a competent person within thirty days; if three or four errors are found on one page the scroll must be placed in the genizah (Men. 29b).
The sheets are sewed together with threads made of dried tendons ("gidin") of clean beasts. The sewing is begun on the blank side of the sheets; the extreme ends at top and bottom are left open to allow stretching. The rollers are fastened to the ends of the scroll, a space of two fingerbreadths being left between them and the writing. Every sheet must be sewed to the next; even one loose sheet makes the scroll unfit. At least three stitches must remain intact to hold two sheets together (Meg. 19a; Git. 60a).
Sewing the Sheets Together.
If the scroll is torn to a depth of two lines, it may be sewed together with dried tendons or fine silk, or a patch may be pasted on the back; if the tear extends to three lines, the sheet must be replaced. If the margin or space between the lines is torn, it may be sewed together or otherwise repaired. Care must be taken that every letter is in its proper place and that the needle does not pierce the letters.
A scroll written by a non-Jew must be put aside in the genizah; one written by a heretic ("apikoros") or sectarian Jew ("min") must be burned, as it is to be apprehended that he has wilfully changed the text (Git. 45b).
- (see image) Breastplate for Scroll of the Law.(Designed by Leo Horvitz.)
Decayed and worn-out scrolls are placed in the Genizah or in an earthen vessel in the coffin of a talmid-hakam (Ber. 26b). See also Manuscripts.
The reverence with which the scroll of the Law is regarded is shown by its costly accessories and ornaments, which include a beautiful Ark as a receptacle, with a handsomely embroidered "paroket" (curtain) over it. The scroll itself is girded with a strip of silk and robed in a Mantle of the Law, and is laid on a "mappah," or desk-cover, when placed on the almemar for reading. The two rollers, "eẓ hayyim," are of hard wood, with flat, round tops and bottoms to support and protect the edges of the parchment when rolled up. The projecting handles of the rollers on both sides, especially the upper ones, are usually of ivory. The gold and silver ornaments belonging to the scroll are known as "kele Kodesh" (sacred vessels), and somewhat resemble the ornaments of the high priest. The principal ornament is the Crown of the Law, which is made to fit over the upper ends of the rollers when the scroll is closed. Some scrolls have two crowns, one for each upper end.
- (see image) Scroll of the Law from Tafilet, Morocco.(From the Sulzberger collection in the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York.)
For domestic use, or during travel, the scroll is kept in a separate case, which in the East is almost invariably of wood; when of small dimensions this is sometimes made of the precious metals and decorated with jewels.
Bibliography: Masseket Soferim:
Maimonides, Yad, Sefer Torah, vii.-x.:
Shulhan 'Aruk, Yoreh De'ah, 270-284;
Vitry Mahzor, pp 651-685, 687-704;
bibliography under Sofer;
William Rosenau, Jewish Ceremonial Institutions and Customs, p. 32, Baltimore, 1903; Catalogue Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition.J. J. D. E.
- (see image) Binder for Scroll of the Law.(From Kirchner, "Judisches Ceremonial," 1726.)
- (see image) Metal-Work Cases for Scrolls of the Law, with Floral Designs and Hebrew Inscriptions, Dated 1732.(Formerly in a synagogue at Bokhara, now in the possession of M. N. Adler, London.)
- (see image) Wooden Case for Scroll of the Law from Tafilet, Morocco.(From the Sulzberger collection in the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York.)
- (see image) Case Containing Samaritan Scroll of the Law.(From a photograph by the Palestine Exploration Fund.)
- (see image) Breastplate for Scroll of the Law.(In the synagogue at Schönhausen, Germany.)
Personal Copies of the Torah.
The history of the dissemination of the scrolls of the Law is one of vicissitudes. While they were few in number at the time of the Chronicler (II Chron. xvii. 7-9), their number increased enormously in the Talmudic period as a result of a literal interpretation of the command that each Jew should write a Torah for himself, and also in consequence of the custom of always carrying a copy (magic influence being attributed thereto) on the person. In the later Middle Ages, on the contrary, the scrolls decreased in number, especially in Christian Europe, on account of the persecutions and the impoverishment of the Jews, even though for 2,000 years the first duty incumbent on each community was the possession of at least one copy (Blau, l.c. p. 88). While the ancient Oriental communities possessed scrolls of the Prophets and of the Hagiographa in addition to the scroll of the Law, European synagogues have, since the Middle Ages, provided themselves only with Torah scrolls and, sometimes, with scrolls of Esther. Six or nine pigeonholes, in which the rolls are lying (not standing as in modern times), appear in certain illustrations of bookcases (comp. Blau, l.c. p. 180; also illustrations in "Mittheilungen," iii.-iv., fol. 4), these scrolls evidently representing two or three entire Bibles, each consisting of three parts, the Torah, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa. Curiously enough, the interior of the Ark in the synagogue of Modena is likewise divided into six parts (comp. illustration in "Mittheilungen," i. 14).
- See also Scribes.
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