The Torah (meaning “teaching” or “instruction”) is the Jewish Bible, and contains the five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. It tells stories from the creation of the world through the generations until the end of Moses’ life. The last part of the Torah tells of Moses looking over Israel, the land he has brought the Jewish people to. Moses dies before the Jewish people go into Israel.
Some Jews believe the Torah is the word of God and regard the laws in it (traditionally 613) as binding and unalterable; others take guidance from it and the stories in it, believing it to be inspired by God but written by people. We read one portion of the Torah every Shabbat morning during the synagogue service, so that by the end of the year we have read the entire text.
The Torah is written by scribes, who must not make any mistakes at all! They write with a quill on parchment made from animal skin, which is sewn together piece by piece. Each end of the scroll is then sewn on to a wooden rod, and the parchment is wound around these. The Torah is decorated with a fabric cover (traditional in European communities) or wooden or metal case (traditional in Oriental communities), bells and a silver breast plate – these show the importance and specialness of the Torah and also recall the decorations worn by High Priests in the Temple.
Click here to see a video about the Torah Scroll.
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