Torah Pointers

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Torah Pointers Guide

The Torah is the holiest book in all of Judaism. A Torah scroll like those in synagogues is hand-written by a scribe with special ink on a specific type of parchment, then placed onto two rollers and kept in the Holy Ark. Each week, a portion of the Torah is read out loud in front of the community, so that during the course of a whole year, the entire Torah is heard. Because the Torah is so holy, and to prevent damage to the parchment or smudging the ink, the Torah scroll is not actually touched while it is read. Instead, the Torah reader uses specially crafted Torah Pointer to follow along.

Public Torah Reading

The Torah contains the Five Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Together, these five books of the Hebrew Bible comprise the basis of all Jewish law and tradition (and the text on which all of Judaism’s other sacred texts, laws, and commentaries are based). Because, in ancient times the majority of the population couldn’t read, the study of the Torah was reserved mostly for scholars and the highly-educated. Then, after the Israelites returned to the Holy Land after the exile in Babylon (c. 538 BCE), Ezra the Scribe initiated the practice of reading passages from the Torah in public so everyone could hear and learn from its sacred words. The exact tradition and ritual surrounding reading the Torah has changed over the years, but the idea of reading so that all the community can hear has remained.

How a Torah is Made

There are very specific laws and traditions governing the making of Torah scrolls, and the process is so complex and difficult that only a specially-trained scribe (or “sofer”, in Hebrew) is able to undertake it. The sofer hand-writes the Torah in Hebrew calligraphy using a feather quill and special ink written on a meticulously-prepared parchment made from the skin of a kosher animal. The entire Torah scroll contains exactly 304,805 letters, and no erasing or white out is allowed!

Torah Pointers

Both for reasons of practicality (in order to prevent damage the parchment or lettering) and for religious and spiritual reasons (in order to show the Torah extraordinary honor and respect), the Torah parchment itself is not actually touched with the hands, and the reader does not follow along with a finger while reading. Instead, he uses a special Torah Pointer (or “yad”--which in Hebrew means hand) to keep place while he reads. The yad itself is designed exactly for its purpose: the reading end is generally shaped as a hand with a pointed finger! Torah Pointers can be made from any type of material, but are most commonly made of silver or wood.

Whether ornate or simple, a Torah Pointer makes a truly meaningful gift for Bar or Bat Mitzvah by commemorating the first time a young man or woman publicly reads Torah or other texts as an adult member of the community.

For More Information

For more information on Torah Pointers or other Synagogue items, feel free to contact our Judaica experts with any questions or concerns.

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