This Torah scroll, written in Germany in the 19th century, survived a time of horrific persecution and is a testimony to those who cherished it, to God’s care for His people and to the preservation of His Word.
DP.TS.11.18 (this is the registration number) is a complete Ashkenazi (E European Jewish tradition) Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, handwritten on calf skin. Based on an analysis of the handwriting, the scroll was written in the 19th century from Germany. The scroll is written on 60 panels or skins and is 86.07 feet in length and 18.32 inches in height. The scroll is comprised of 156 columns and is made up of 45 lines per column. The scroll was written by the same sofer or scribe. There are no replacement panels.
The scroll indicates many careful repairs and corrections that were done over the years. Many of the letters have been reinked to make sure the letters are black and readable according to regulations. There are 532 scribal marks calling for corrections in the columns. There are 1,718 careful corrections in the scroll. The corrections include the spacing of letters (letters cannot touch), correcting the orthography and simple corrections to the text bringing the scroll into perfect conformity with the standard Hebrew text (called the Masoretic text). A detailed analysis of the scroll is included. It provides a thorough examination of all pertinent features of the scroll.
The Torah is owned by Dan Pritchett from Bellingham, WA of Faithlife Corporation and Logos Bible Software. The scroll was acquired by Dan Pritchett in 2018 from the Ben David Collection, the largest private collection of scrolls in the world, located in Jerusalem. The Ben David Collection works in close consultation with staff from the National Library in Israel and with the Israel Antiquities Authority. The scroll was exported in full compliance with Israeli law governing the sale and export of such items and is the rightful property of Dan Pritchett.
The scroll is pasul (meaning not fit for liturgical use). It probably survived because it was not in kosher use and had been hidden away. Survivors of the Holocaust returned to ruined synagogues and gathered whatever they could find in genizahs (repositories in synagogues and cemeteries where pasul scrolls and religious writings were stored) and left with them for Israel and other countries to start new lives. Displaced refugees sold the items they had to the government, synagogues and collectors to provide start-up capital for them in Israel. The Torah eventually found its way to the Ben David Collection in Jerusalem in 2010.
This Torah is a vibrant testimony to a living tradition. It speaks to God’s care for His people and for His Word. The Torah has survived the darkest chapter of modern history. It is a living memorial of the loving commitment of those who wrote it, cared for it and read it over the past two centuries. It is hoped that the scroll will be an inspiration to Columbia International University faculty, staff and students.
1. Torah is the first 5 books of the Bible in scroll format (it also known as the Pentateuch when it’s in book form).
2. The words of every Torah are identical because they are copied exactly.
3. There are 304,805 letters and 5,845 verses found in each Torah.
4. A 4-line break signals the end of one book and the beginning of the next book.
5. Notice the elongated letters used to “justify” the margins.
6. Spaces within the lines or between them indicates daily readings.
7. Hebrews is written from right to left.
8. English is written on top of the lines; Hebrews is written under the lines, so the letters appear to hang from them. For English readers, this can give the appearance that the document is upside down!
9. There are no vowels, punctuation marks, chapters or verses in a Torah.
10. There are only slight spaces between the words.
11. None of the Hebrew letters are permitted to touch.
12. A Torah typically takes around 1-year to write.
13. A Torah is usually written on calf skin but, occasionally, on deer skin or even goat. In all instances, however, the animal must be kosher.
14. Each skin is specially treated and stretched to make it thin enough to be used for writing and, once completed, rolling it closed.
15. Each sheet of parchment is then scored with an implement called a sargel that is essentially a wooden dowel with a thorn affixed on the end.
16. Ink is made from organic materials (tar, oil, gall nut juice, honey, sap, etc).
17. Thread that holds each skin together is called sinew or gidin and is made from the gut of a kosher animal. After the Torah is completely written, it is sewn together.
18. Any mistake made while writing a Torah is quickly corrected employing a variety of methods:
a. If found while the ink is still wet, it can be carefully wiped away with a clean rag.
b. If found after-the-fact, a sharp implement might be utilized to gently scrape away the mistake.
c. Occasionally, a correction is made by cutting away the problem area and inserting a piece of vellum from the back side of the scroll and writing the correction on top of the new piece of vellum.
19. If a complete skin contains numerous corrections, it may be necessary to replace the entire panel, probably taken from another Torah that is no longer in use.
20. Even today, a Torah is written by a scribe (aka a sofer) using a goose or turkey feather because they are kosher birds and their quills are very hard.
Manuscript Research Group
Grand Haven, MI 49417 ~ 616-847-4009
This document may be used for educational purposes only and acknowledging Manuscript Research Group.
GENERAL INFORMATION ON HOW TO HANDLE YOUR TORAH, MAINTAINING ACCOUNTABLILITY, AND CULTURAL CONSIDERATIONS
➢ Because each Torah is written on animal skin, the natural oils from your hands are not harmful to it.
➢ Avoid touching the ink and the letters. Each “jot and tittle” in the text is important and we don’t want to accidentally cause letters to flake or fade.
➢ Each panel is sewn together by hand and, over time, may become weak. Take special care when handling the seams and when opening and closing the Torah.
➢ Animal skin is very resilient and should hold up well under ordinary conditions. While it is not necessary to maintain a climate-controlled environment to house it, common sense should prevail.
➢ Make the area around your Torah “Pencils Only”. One accident with an ink pen or marker can irreparably damage the scroll.
➢ Should your Torah become dirty, gently wipe between the columns with a clean, soft, dry cloth. Never use a cloth that has been treated with bleach or fabric softeners.
➢ If you notice “black dirt” on the scroll, it is probably ink that has flaked off. In this case, it is best to use a very soft brush to gently remove the particles, one panel at a time.
➢ It is unnecessary to wear gloves while handling the scroll for the following reasons:
o Cloth gloves can be slippery, increasing the chance that you might drop the scroll;
o Gloves are more likely to catch or snag on seams, patches, and holes
o As mentioned above, the oils of the hands are good for the leather.
➢ When handling the Torah, hands should be clean and free of lotions and perfumes.
➢ Avoid prolonged or excessive exposure to sunlight.
➢ If your Torah is moved from place to place, best practices advocate placing it on a cart and wheeling it to the next spot. While not always practical, this helps ensure that the scroll is not inadvertently dropped.
➢ As an added level of security, we recommend that you develop a system of accountability. This can be as simple as a sheet of paper indicating the date and time one accessed the scroll, what time that person finished, and who the overseer was at the time. One might also consider working in pair or groups.
➢ There are multiple reasons a Torah might be considered “pasul” or no longer kosher. Some common reasons are that too many corrections may have been made, or that the ink has faded, or that the ink is flaking off the surface, etc.
➢ Many Jewish communities will pay to have a Torah made kosher again. This is not always possible or practical so replacement panels from other scrolls may have been inserted.
➢ Avoid posting pictures on social media of anyone touching your Torah. Your scroll is no longer kosher but it is not possible to know that when looking at a picture; best to just avoid it.
➢ All Torahs are written on animal skins that have been specially treated. The most important requirement in the practice is that every aspect of it the must employ kosher materials, particularly the animal skin. Your Torah may have been written on the skin of a cow, a goat or a sheep. Because of Hindu sensitivities, you might consider referring to the skin as membrane. Unfortunately, it is usually difficult to know exactly which animal was used without expensive testing.
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Manuscript Research Group