A ( he, סֵפֶר תּוֹרָה; "Book of Torah"; plural: ) or Torah scroll is a handwritten copy of the Torah
, meaning the five books of Moses
(the first books of the
The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; ["Tanach"](_blank)
A scroll (from the Old French ''escroe'' or ''escroue''), also known as a roll, is a roll of papyrus, parchment, or paper containing writing.
A scroll is usually partitioned into pages, which are sometimes separate sheets of papyrus ... is mainly used in the ritual of Torah reading
Torah reading (; ') is a Jewish religious tradition that involves the public reading of a set of passages from a Torah scroll. The term often refers to the entire ceremony of removing the scroll (or scrolls) from the Torah ark, chanting t ... during Jewish prayer
Jewish prayer ( he, תְּפִלָּה, ; plural ; yi, תּפֿלה, tfile , plural ; Yinglish: davening from Yiddish 'pray') is the prayer recitation that forms part of the observance of Rabbinic Judaism. These prayers, often with i ...s. At other times, it is stored in the holiest spot within a synagogue, the Torah ark
A Torah ark (also known as the ''Heikhal'', or the ''Aron Kodesh'') refers to an ornamental chamber in the synagogue that houses the Torah scrolls.
The ark, also known as the ''ark of law'', or in Hebrew the ''Aron Kodesh'' or ''aron ha ..., which is usually an ornate curtained-off cabinet or section of the synagogue built along the wall that most closely faces Jerusalem, the direction Jews face when praying
Prayer is an invocation or act that seeks to activate a rapport with an object of worship through deliberate communication. In the narrow sense, the term refers to an act of supplication or intercession directed towards a deity or a deified a ....
The text of the Torah is also commonly printed and bound in book form for non-ritual functions, called a (plural ) ("five-part", for the five books of Moses), and is often accompanied by commentaries or translations.
The En-Gedi Scroll is an ancient Hebrew parchment found in 1970 at
Ein Gedi ( he, עֵין גֶּדִי, ), also spelled En Gedi, meaning "spring of the kid", is an oasis, an archeological site and a nature reserve in Israel, located west of the Dead Sea, near Masada and the Qumran Caves. Ein Gedi, ..., Israel. Radiocarbon testing dates the scroll to the third or fourth century CE (210–390 CE), although paleographical considerations suggest that the scrolls may date back to the first or second century CE. This scroll was discovered to contain a portion of the biblical
The Bible (from Koine Greek , , 'the books') is a collection of religious texts or scriptures that are held to be sacred in Christianity, Judaism, Samaritanism, and many other religions. The Bible is an anthologya compilation of texts of a v ... Book of Leviticus
The book of Leviticus (, from grc, Λευιτικόν, ; he, וַיִּקְרָא, , "And He called") is the third book of the Torah (the Pentateuch) and of the Old Testament, also known as the Third Book of Moses. Scholars generally agree ..., making it the earliest copy of a Torah book ever found in a Holy Ark. The deciphered text fragment is identical to what was to become during the Middle Ages the standard text of the Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (;
The Masoretic Text (MT or 𝕸; he, נֻסָּח הַמָּסוֹרָה, Nūssāḥ Hammāsōrā, lit. 'Text of the Tradition') is the authoritative Hebrew and Aramaic text of the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) in Rabbinic Judaism. ..., which it precedes by several centuries, and constitutes the earliest evidence of this authoritative text version. Damaged by a fire in approximately 600 CE, the scroll is badly charred and fragmented and required noninvasive scientific and computational techniques to virtually unwrap and read, which was completed in 2015 by a team led by Prof. Seales of the University of Kentucky.
Torah reading (; ') is a Jewish religious tradition that involves the public reading of a set of passages from a Torah scroll. The term often refers to the entire ceremony of removing the scroll (or scrolls) from the Torah ark, chanting t ... from a ''Sefer Torah'' or Torah scroll is traditionally reserved for Monday and Thursday mornings, as well as for Shabbat, fast
Fast or FAST may refer to:
* Fast (noun), high speed or velocity
* Fast (noun, verb), to practice fasting, abstaining from food and/or water for a certain period of time
Acronyms and coded Computing and software
* '' Faceted Application of Subj ... days, and Jewish holidays
Jewish holidays, also known as Jewish festivals or ''Yamim Tovim'' ( he, ימים טובים, , Good Days, or singular , in transliterated Hebrew ), are holidays observed in Judaism and by JewsThis article focuses on practices of mainstre .... The presence of a quorum of ten Jewish adults (''minyan'') is required for the reading of the Torah to be held in public during the course of the worship services. As the Torah is sung, following the often dense text is aided by a '' yad
A yad (, literally "hand"; ''hant'', "hand") is a Jewish ritual pointer, popularly known as a Torah pointer, used by the reader to follow the text during the Torah reading from the parchment Torah scrolls. It is often shaped like a long rod, ca ...'' ("hand"), a metal or wooden hand-shaped pointer that protects the scrolls by avoiding unnecessary contact of the skin with the parchment.
All Jewish prayers start with a blessing
In religion, a blessing (also used to refer to bestowing of such) is the impartation of something with grace, holiness, spiritual redemption, or divine will.
Etymology and Germanic paganism
The modern English language term ''bless'' likely ... ('' berakhah
In Judaism, a ''berakhah'', ''bracha'', ', ' ( he, בְּרָכָה; pl. , ''berakhot'', '; "benediction," "blessing") is a formula of blessing or thanksgiving, recited in public or private, usually before the performance of a commandment, or th ...''), thanking God for revealing the Law to the Jews ('' Matan Torah''), before Torah reading and all days during the first blessings of the morning prayer ('' Shacharit'').
''Halakha'' (; he, הֲלָכָה, ), also transliterated as ''halacha'', ''halakhah'', and ''halocho'' ( ), is the collective body of Jewish religious laws which is derived from the written and Oral Torah. Halakha is based on biblical commandm ... (Jewish law), a ''Sefer Torah'' is a copy of the Hebrew text of the Torah handwritten on special types of parchment
Parchment is a writing material made from specially prepared untanned skins of animals—primarily sheep, calves, and goats. It has been used as a writing medium for over two millennia. Vellum is a finer quality parchment made from the skins of ... by using a quill
A quill is a writing tool made from a moulted flight feather (preferably a primary wing-feather) of a large bird. Quills were used for writing with ink before the invention of the dip pen, the metal- nibbed pen, the fountain pen, and, eventu ... or another permitted writing utensil, dipped in ink. Producing a Torah scroll fulfills one of the 613 commandments
The Jewish tradition that there are 613 commandments ( he, תרי״ג מצוות, taryag mitzvot) or mitzvot in the Torah (also known as the Law of Moses) is first recorded in the 3rd century AD, when Rabbi Simlai mentioned it in a sermon that is .... ["The k'laf/parchment on which the Torah scroll is written, the hair or sinew with which the panels of parchment are sewn together, and the quill pen with which the text is written all must come from ritually clean —that is, kosher— animals."''Essential Torah: A Complete Guide to the Five Books of Moses'' by George Robinson. (Schocken, 2006) . pp.10–11]
Written entirely in Biblical Hebrew
Biblical Hebrew (, or , ), also called Classical Hebrew, is an archaic form of the Hebrew language, a language in the Canaanite branch of Semitic languages spoken by the Israelites in the area known as the Land of Israel, roughly west of t ..., a Torah scroll contains 304,805 letters, all of which must be duplicated precisely by a trained scribe, or '' sofer'', an effort which may take as long as approximately one and a half years. An error during transcription may render the Torah scroll ''pasul'' ("invalid"). According to the Talmud
The Talmud (; he, , Talmūḏ) is the central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source of Jewish religious law ('' halakha'') and Jewish theology. Until the advent of modernity, in nearly all Jewish communities, the Talmud was the cent ..., all scrolls must also be written on '' gevil'' parchment that is treated with salt, flour and ''m'afatsim'' (a residue of wasp enzyme and tree bark) in order to be valid. Scrolls not processed in this way are considered invalid.
There are only two types of kosher parchment
Parchment is a writing material made from specially prepared untanned skins of animals—primarily sheep, calves, and goats. It has been used as a writing medium for over two millennia. Vellum is a finer quality parchment made from the skins of ... allowed for a Torah scroll: '' gevil'' and '' klaf''. The ink used is subject to specific rules. After the preparation of the parchment sheet, the scribe must mark out the parchment using the ''sargel'' ("ruler") ensuring the guidelines are straight. Only the top guide is done and the letters suspended from it. Most modern Torah scrolls are written with forty-two lines of text per column ( Yemenite Jews
Yemenite Jews or Yemeni Jews or Teimanim (from ''Yehudei Teman''; ar, اليهود اليمنيون) are those Jews who live, or once lived, in Yemen, and their descendants maintaining their customs. Between June 1949 and September 1950, th ... use fifty-one). Very strict rules about the position and appearance of the Hebrew alphabet
The Hebrew alphabet ( he, wikt:אלפבית, אָלֶף־בֵּית עִבְרִי, ), known variously by scholars as the Ktav Ashuri, Jewish script, square script and block script, is an abjad script used in the writing of the Hebrew languag ... are observed. Any of several Hebrew scripts may be used, most of which are fairly ornate and exacting. The fidelity of the Hebrew text of the Tanakh, and the Torah in particular, is considered paramount, down to the last letter: translations or transcriptions are frowned upon for formal service use, and transcribing is done with painstaking care.
Some errors are inevitable in the course of production. If the error involves a word other than the names of God
There are various names of God, many of which enumerate the various qualities of a Supreme Being. The English word ''god'' (and its equivalent in other languages) is used by multiple religions as a noun to refer to different deities, or speci ... the mistaken letter may be obliterated from the scroll by scraping the letter off the scroll with a sharp object. If the name of God is written in error, the entire page must be cut from the scroll and a new page added, and the page written anew from the beginning. The new page is sewn into the scroll to maintain continuity of the document. The old page is treated with appropriate respect, and is buried with respect rather than being otherwise destroyed or discarded.
The completion of the Torah scroll is a cause for great celebration, and honoured guests of the individual who commissioned the Torah are invited to a celebration wherein each of the honored guests is given the opportunity to write one of the final letters. It is a great honour to be chosen for this.
Commandment to write a scroll
It is a religious duty or ''
In its primary meaning, the Hebrew word (; he, מִצְוָה, ''mīṣvā'' , plural ''mīṣvōt'' ; "commandment") refers to a commandment commanded by God to be performed as a religious duty. Jewish law () in large part consists of discus ...'' for every Jewish male to either write or have written for him a Torah scroll. Of the 613 commandments, one – the 82nd as enumerated by Rashi
Shlomo Yitzchaki ( he, רבי שלמה יצחקי; la, Salomon Isaacides; french: Salomon de Troyes, 22 February 1040 – 13 July 1105), today generally known by the acronym Rashi (see below), was a medieval French rabbi and author of a compre ..., and the final as it occurs in the text the Book of Deuteronomy
Deuteronomy ( grc, Δευτερονόμιον, Deuteronómion, second law) is the fifth and last book of the Torah (in Judaism), where it is called (Hebrew: hbo, , Dəḇārīm, hewords Moses.html"_;"title="f_Moses">f_Moseslabel=none)_and_th ... () – is that every Jewish male should write a Torah scroll in his lifetime. This is law number 613 of 613 in the list of Laws of the Torah as recorded by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin in his book "Biblical Literacy", 1st edition, New York: Morrow 1997, p. 592: "The commandment that each Jew should write a Torah scroll during his lifetime."
It is considered a tremendous merit to write (or commission the writing of) a Torah scroll, and a significant honour to have a Torah scroll written in one's honour or memory.
Professional scribes (''soferim'')
In modern times, it is usual for some scholars to become '' soferim'' and to be paid to complete a Torah scroll under contract on behalf of a community or by individuals to mark a special occasion or commemoration. Because of the work involved, these can cost tens of thousands of
United States dollar
The United States dollar (symbol: $; code: USD; also abbreviated US$ or U.S. Dollar, to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies; referred to as the dollar, U.S. dollar, American dollar, or colloquially buck) is the official ...s to produce to ritually proper standards.
A printed version of the Torah is known colloquially as a
Chumash Chumash may refer to:
''Chumash'' (also Ḥumash; he, חומש, or or Yiddish language, Yiddish: ; plural Ḥumashim) is a Torah in printed and book bound form (i.e. codex) as opposed to a Sefer Torah, which is a scroll.
... (plural ''Chumashim''). Although strictly speaking it is known as Chamishah Chumshei Torah (Five "Fifths" of Torah). They are treated as respected texts, but not anywhere near the level of sacredness accorded a Torah scroll, which is often a major possession of a Jewish community. A ''chumash'' contains the Torah and other writings, usually organised for liturgical use, and sometimes accompanied by some of the main classic commentaries.
While not in use a ''Sefer Torah'' is housed in the
A Torah ark (also known as the ''Heikhal'', or the ''Aron Kodesh'') refers to an ornamental chamber in the synagogue that houses the Torah scrolls.
The ark, also known as the ''ark of law'', or in Hebrew the ''Aron Kodesh'' or ''aron ha ... (''Aron Kodesh'' or ''Hekhal''), which in its turn is usually veiled by an embroidered parochet
A ''parochet'' (Hebrew: פרוכת; Ashkenazi pronunciation: ''paroches'') meaning "curtain" or "screen",Sonne Isaiah (1962) 'Synagogue' in The Interpreter's dictionary of the Bible vol 4, New York: Abingdon Press pp 476-491 is the curtain that c ... (curtain), as it should be according to .
The gold and silver ornaments belonging to the scroll are collectively known as ''kele kodesh'' (sacred vessels). The scroll itself will often be girded with a strip of silk (see
A wimpel ( yi, ווימפל, from German, "cloth," derived from Old German, ''bewimfen,'' meaning "to cover up" or "conceal") is a long, linen sash used as a binding for the Sefer Torah by Jews of Germanic ( Yekke) origin. It is made from t ...) and "robed" with a piece of protective fine fabric, called the "Mantle of the Law". It is decorated with an ornamental priestly breastplate
The priestly breastplate or breastpiece of judgment ( he, חֹשֶׁן ''ḥōšen'') was a sacred breastplate worn by the High Priest of the Israelites, according to the Book of Exodus. In the biblical account, the breastplate is termed the ''br ..., scroll-handles (''‘etz ḥayyim''), and the principal ornament—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. The metalwork is often made of beaten silver, sometimes gilded. The scroll-handles, breastplate and crown often have little bells attached to them.
The housing has two rollers, each of which has two handles used for scrolling the text, four handles in all. Between the handles and the rollers are round plates or disks which are carved with images of holy places, engraved with dedications to the donor's parents or other loved ones, and decorated with gold or silver.
Mizrachi and Romaniote traditions
In the Mizrachi and Romaniote traditions, the Torah scroll is generally not robed in a mantle, but rather housed in an ornamental wooden case which protects the scroll, called a "tik", plural ''tikim''. On the other hand, most Sephardic communities — those communities associated with the Spanish diaspora, such as
Moroccan Jews ( ar, اليهود المغاربة, al-Yahūd al-Maghāriba he, יהודים מרוקאים, Yehudim Maroka'im) are Jews who live in or are from Morocco. Moroccan Jews constitute an ancient community dating to Roman times. Jews b ..., the Spanish and Portuguese Jews (with the exception of the Hamburg tradition), and the Judaeo-Spanish
Judaeo-Spanish or Judeo-Spanish (autonym , Hebrew script: , Cyrillic: ), also known as Ladino, is a Romance language derived from Old Spanish. Originally spoken in Spain, and then after the Edict of Expulsion spreading through the Ottoman Em ... communities of the Ottoman Empire — do not use ''tikim'', but rather ''vestidos'' (mantles).
The installation of a new Torah scroll into a synagogue, or into the sanctuary or study hall ('' beth midrash'') of a religious school ('' yeshiva''), rabbinical college, university campus, nursing home, military base, or other institution, is done in a ceremony known as ''hachnosas sefer Torah'', or "ushering in a Torah scroll"; this is accompanied by celebratory dancing, singing, and a festive meal.
This practice has its source in the escorting of the
Ark of the Covenant
The Ark of the Covenant,; Ge'ez: also known as the Ark of the Testimony or the Ark of God, is an alleged artifact believed to be the most sacred relic of the Israelites, which is described as a wooden chest, covered in pure gold, with an ... to Jerusalem, led by King David
David (; , "beloved one") (traditional spelling), , ''Dāwūd''; grc-koi, Δαυΐδ, Dauíd; la, Davidus, David; gez , ዳዊት, ''Dawit''; xcl, Դաւիթ, ''Dawitʿ''; cu, Давíдъ, ''Davidŭ''; possibly meaning "beloved one". w .... As described in the Books of Samuel
The Book of Samuel (, ''Sefer Shmuel'') is a book in the Hebrew Bible, found as two books (1–2 Samuel) in the Old Testament. The book is part of the narrative history of Ancient Israel called the Deuteronomistic history, a series of books ( Jos ..., this event was marked by dancing and the playing of musical instruments (). Both the priests or '' kohanim
Kohen ( he, , ''kōhēn'', , "priest", pl. , ''kōhănīm'', , "priests") is the Hebrew word for "priest", used in reference to the Aaronic priesthood, also called Aaronites or Aaronides. Levitical priests or ''kohanim'' are traditionally b ...'' and David himself "danced before the Ark" or "danced before the Lord".
Handling the scroll
Special prayers are recited when the Torah scroll is removed from the ark and the text is chanted, rather than spoken, in a special melodic manner (see
Cantillation is the ritual chanting of prayers and responses. It often specifically refers to Jewish Hebrew cantillation. Cantillation sometimes refers to diacritics used in texts that are to be chanted in liturgy.
... and Nigun
A nigun ( he, ניגון meaning "tune" or "melody", plural nigunim) or niggun (plural niggunim) is a form of Jewish religious song or tune sung by groups. It is vocal music, often with repetitive sounds such as "Bim-Bim-Bam", "Lai-Lai-Lai", ...). Whenever the scroll is opened to be read it is laid on a piece of cloth called the ''mappah''. When the Torah scroll is carried through the synagogue, the members of the congregation may touch the edge of their prayer shawl ('' tallit'') to the Torah scroll and then kiss the shawl as a sign of respect.
As it is important to guard the sanctity of a Torah, dropping it, or allowing it to fall, is regarded as
a desecration, though the belief that a person who does, or even witnesses it, this must fast for 40 days has little support from the Talmud."What’s the truth about...fasting forty days upon seeing a Torah scroll fall?"
Rabbi Dr AZ Zivotofsky at Jewish Action: Retrieved 24 December 2022
The Five Scrolls or The Five Megillot ( he, חמש מגילות , ''Hamesh Megillot'' or ''Chomeish Megillos'') are parts of the Ketuvim ("Writings"), the third major section of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). The Five Scrolls are the Song of Songs, t ... (the "Five Scrolls"), parts of the Hebrew Bible traditionally grouped together
The term Hakhel (Hebrew: הקהל ''haqhēl'') refers to a biblical commandment of assembling all Israelite men, women and children, as well as converts to assemble and hear the reading of the Torah by the king of Israel once every seven years.
Or ..., biblical commandment to assemble for a Torah reading
* Ktav Ashuri, the Aramaic alphabet adopted by Judaism
* List of Hebrew Bible manuscripts
A Hebrew Bible manuscript is a handwritten copy of a portion of the text of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) made on papyrus, parchment, or paper, and written in the Hebrew language. (Some of the Biblical text and notations may be in Aramaic.) The oldes ... - list of ancient scrolls and codices
* Tikkun (book), used to prepare for the reading of Torah scroll in synagogue
* Torah scroll (Yemenite), the specific Yemenite (as opposed to Ashkenazi or Sephardic) tradition of writing the Torah scroll
* Universal Torah Registry, an initiative to prevent Torah scroll theft
Three complete kosher Torah scrolls for study online (Congregation Beth Emeth of Northern Virginia)
Computer-generated Torah scroll for study online with translation, transliteration and chanting (WordORT)
Scroll of the Law
article from the ''
''The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day'' is an English-language encyclopedia containing over 15,000 articles on th ...''
Examples of ancient Torah Scrolls
Examples of Torah Covers Torah Mantles
Hebrew Bible words and phrases
Hebrew words and phrases
Hebrew words and phrases in Jewish law
Jewish prayer and ritual texts
Jewish ritual objects
Uses of leather in Judaism