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Scrolls of different sizes from Prestice and Horazdovice
Photo: Shelley Laddie

CREATING A SCROLL

The Torah is the first part of the Hebrew Scriptures and contains the five Books of Moses. It is hand-written on parchment by Soferim (expert scribes) and is a masterpiece of labour and skill.

The Sofer writes on separate sheets of parchment or vellum called Yeriot. Each Yeriah is prepared from the skin of a kosher animal, usually a cow, and must be checked by three Rabbis before it can be used. A Yeriah can have no less than three and no more than eight columns, each with forty-two lines of text.

The text of a Torah Scroll cannot be written from memory, it is copied from a master copy called a Tikkun. It is written in Hebrew in special permanent ink, without vowels or accents. It contains exactly 304,805 letters. There must be no textual errors and every letter must be legible and perfect. The lines must be fully justified and the letters may be extended for this purpose. The space between the columns must be the width of two fingers.

A full Torah has 248 columns. The text is written with a quill – preferably a goose feather – with the point cut to a special shape. Many quills are used in the course of writing one Torah. Only permanent black ink may be used and it is prepared in small quantities to ensure that it is always fresh .

The finished Yeriot are sewn together with Giddin (sinews) taken from the leg or foot of a kosher animal. There is one stitch for every six lines of text and they are on the back of the parchment so they are not visible from the front. The finished Scroll is secured to and wound on wooden rollers known as Etz Hayim (literally tree of life).

Scrolls received by the Memorial Scrolls Trust varied in size and age.