A 17th-century Ashkenaz Torah Scroll.
What is the Torah Scroll?
The Torah Scroll is the holiest object in Judaism. It is the physical expression of the Jewish people’s connection with God and contains the Five Books of Moses or Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). As such, the writing of a Torah scroll, its use, and storage are subject to strict rules. The smallest mistake, such as a missing letter, can invalidate a Torah Scroll, making it unfit for ritual service and public reading in the synagogue. The sacred text must be written in Hebrew without vowels and accents by a devout, expert scribe. Writing text from memory is forbidden, hence the scribe must use a book of the Pentateuch as a guide. It is made out of parchment or leather sheets obtained from the skins of animals permitted in Jewish law. Once completed, the parchment sheets are sewn together to make a long scroll, whose ends are affixed to and then wound on two wooden rollers. When not in use the Torah Scroll is stored upright in the Holy Ark, a closet situated in the front of the synagogue, usually on its eastern wall. In synagogues worldwide, the Torah Scroll is read publicly four times a week: on the Sabbath, morning and afternoon, on Mondays and Thursdays, as well as on Jewish festivals and fast days.
This 17th-century Torah Scroll made of forty-eight strips of ivory coloured parchment is provided with two wooden rollers. The fine square tilted Ashkenazic script (of Germanic origin), the tagin (delicate flourishes adorning some of the letters), and the nearly perfect justification of the 147 scriptural columns, show the work of a skillful copyist.
View images of the entire manuscripts via our Digitised Manuscripts website.