Station: [10] A Book with History: the Torah Scroll

Not a book? And yet part of the Bible! So how does that work?

The Bible isn’t a Christian invention. And it comes from a time when bound books didn’t even exist.

The Torah -- the five Books of Moses, or the Pentateuch – is the holy scripture of Judaism. Like all Torah scrolls, our exhibit was made by a trained ritual scribe called a sofer. His work had to be absolutely flawless, because inscribing a scroll is a sacred act – and the finished scroll is a sacred object.

So sacred that no hand may ever touch the scroll. During the service, special pointers are used to trace along the line as it’s read aloud. That’s because the Torah – divided into 54 sections – is read out during the weekly services at the synagogue. 

Usually, the strip of parchment is rolled on to a pair of wooden shafts, one on either side. These are missing from our Torah scroll – a sign that the scroll has been de-sanctified, in other words, officially removed from its religious context.

When a scroll is being read aloud in the synagogue, the two wooden rollers are turned to move the visible section along, or reveal the upcoming section.

And so, turning the Torah scroll, one takes a turn through the entire year. Starting with the creation of the world in Genesis, and ending with death of Moses, which concludes Deuteronomy, the Fifth Book of Moses. Then, in the New Year, the reading begins again.

The Torah – which translates as "teaching" or "instruction" – is the most important part of the "Hebrew Bible", the "Tanakh". But it’s not the only one. 

That’s because the Tanakh coincides with the Christian Old Testament. And in addition to the Torah, that is, the Five Books of Moses, there are also the Books of the Prophets and what’s known as the Writings, that is, the Psalms and the Historical Books.

So Jews and Christians share the Old Testament – the foundation of their faiths.

All depictions: © Bibelgalerie Meersburg