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What are the accessories for a Torah Scroll?

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein

  

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When the actual Torah Scroll (hand written parchment) is completed it is adorned with numerous accessories, and together they form the Torah Scroll as we see it in Synagogue. Those accesories are:

The Atzei Chayim:

(Hebrew, pl., trees of life; sing., aitz chayim) The atzei chayim are the two wooden shafts attached to either end of the Torah scroll, around which it is rolled. Each shaft is made long enough to extend beyond the top and bottom of the scroll, and is used as a handle with which to hold the Sefer Torah and to scroll from portion to portion.

The Gartel:

(Yiddish, belt) The gartel is the sash used to tie the Torah scroll so that the Torah remains closed and secured under its velvet covering. When a Sefer Torah is found to be non-Kosher (e.g., a letter has faded) and awaits correction, its gartel is tied around its velvet covering, on the outside, as an ostensible reminder that it is out of commission.

The Mantel:

(Yiddish, cloak) A valuable treasure is not left exposed and vulnerable. We cover the Sefer Torah with multiple coverings, dressing it in a "cloak" before restoring it to its honorable place in the Ark and drawing the curtain. The mantel is an ornate covering that both protects and beautifies the Sefer Torah, typically made of velvet and embroidered with golden thread, silk, and ornamental beads. In Sephardic communities the Sefer Torah is encased in a wooden or metal casing rather than a cloth Mantel.

The Kesser:

(Hebrew, crown) The Torah is our most precious possession, and we lovingly display that. We adorn it with a crown, typically silver, as a symbol of our endearment and veneration. The kesser rests on the wooden shafts, which extend above the scroll.

The Breast Plate:

In many communities the Sefer Torah has an additional decorative item: the ornamental breast plate. The breast plate is typically made of silver and engraved with Jewish symbols or scriptures. It is attached to a fine chain, and when the Sefer Torah is closed and covered the breast plate hangs from the Atzei Chaim over the front of the Mantel.

The Yad:

(Hebrew, hand) The yad is the pointer that the reader of the Torah uses to help others follow the written words as he reads. Usually made of silver, the end of this rod is commonly shaped like a hand with its index finger extended. A chain attached to its other end can be used to drape it over the Sefer Torah when put away.


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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Kosher
Literally means "fit." Commonly used to describe foods which are permitted by Jewish dietary laws, but is also used to describe religious articles (such as a Torah scroll or Sukkah) which meet the requirements of Jewish law.
Sephardic
(adj.) A Jew whose ancestors stem from Southern Italy, Spain, Portugal, North Africa or the Arabian countries.
Gartel
(Yiddish) A black cloth belt customarily worn by chassidic men while praying.
Yiddish
Language closely related to German commonly spoken by European Jews.