16th Century Sefer Torah from Isfahan, Persia

16th century

This image depicts the correction that was made in one of the lines on this particular Sefer Torah, rendering it not Kosher. The Hebrew letters in the script are also cracked and broken; this is also another reason why a Sefer Torah could be considered no longer Kosher. 

The Hebrew letters of a Sefer Torah are written in the "Assyrian" script. The lines must be perfectly straight and even. Numberous laws deail the precise figure of each letter, and if even one letter is missing-or, in some instances, merely cracked or smudged-the whole Sefer Torah is not kosher. Other common reasons as to why a Sefer Torah may no longer be considered Kosher are the parchment ripping and expanding into the writing, the discoloration of ink, and cracked and broken letters. A Sofer can be asked to determine whether or not a Sefer Torah is still Kosher.


Identifer: CJF.2009.001.227


Items on Display; Torah & Its Ornaments

University of Cincinnati Hillel Collection

The Sefer Torah, or scroll containing the five Books of Moses, is the most sacred of all Jewish books.  It is usually written on parchment, by a specialist called a Sofer, according to strict rules, using a stylus and ruler and a tikkun (guide), and a book with a Torah text. A Torah scroll is treated with special sanctity and reverence. 

 To ensure that the letters will be straight, and the lines equally spaced, 43 thin lines are drawn across the width of the page with a stylus and ruler, leaving specifically prescribed margins.  The lines are end-stopped with the stylus to ensure that all lines are ended equally.  Since the beginning of the 19th century, a standard pattern was established of 248 columns of 42 lines each.  The rituals of writing, the sofer’s preparation and the prayers uttered before and after are all fixed by tradition, as are the types of script permitted, the nature of the ink, and the relative size of the letters.  Finished pages are sewn together with a type of thread made of animal tendon, then affixed to wooden rollers by inserting the thread into holes drilled in them for that purpose. These rollers, called atzei chaim (trees of life) are usually terminated by flat disks with wooden handles, to avoid touching the parchment with the bare hands.

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