I am simple and of the earth—vellum from the tanned, scraped, and polished skin of a kosher calf, my pages sewn together with animal sinew. A steady human hand inscribed me, carefully stroking each letter onto the page with a quill from a kosher bird.
But I am also of the spirit—an exalted object, revered by many. Not for what I am so much as for the words I carry: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy—I know the words by heart. My words preserve the history of a people, remind them of sacred law. And so… I think of myself as a teacher.
Moroccan immigrants carried me to Jerusalem, and many heard my words in services at the Wailing Wall. Always, I felt so proud as the rabbi used a yad to point to my words as he read them aloud.
But time had its way with me, and like all earthly things, I became worn with use. So deep in my work, I barely noticed it happening. My words remain, as beautiful and strong as ever, and I do not mind my worn places, for they are my memories; they remind me of how important I was, and how well loved. But I was sad to no longer feel the yad tracing the lines of the stories I hold.
But do not be sad for me. For now I have come to a new place, and I will have a new life.
I do not know what became of the Torah case I once dwelled in. But the people here have placed me in a handsome case that had lost its scroll. It is a good union, a lovely friendship, for we are of the same age, familiar to each other, and we remind each other of our past, of what we’ve lost. And in my heart, I am young again.
Now I hear the people talking about a new home, a place I grow eager to see. It will not be a place of worship. But a special place just the same. A place of great beauty. A place of questions and ideas. A place where the past is revered and treasured along with the new.
And many people—people of all faiths, from many different lands—will come to see me, and learn.
Soon, they say, I will be there. Soon the people will come. And I will be a teacher again, in a new way. And I will be proud to do this good work. For now, a time to sleep—to remember the past, to dream of the future.
This post is part of the series Follow Our Journey. Follow Torah Scroll and six other works of art on the Big Move to the Museum’s new building.
North African, probably Moroccan, Torah Scroll, mid-19th century, ink on calf skin vellum, sewn with animal sinew, H. 20 1/4 in. (variable), Gift of the Friends of the Judaic Art Gallery in honor of Dr. and Mrs. Elmo Scoggin; Iraqi, Torah Case (Tik), 1908 (dedication date), silver: die-stamped, repoussé, cast, appliqué, chased, engraved, partly gilded; wood; textile; carnelian beads (restoration), H. 36 7/8 x Diam. 10 1/2 in., Museum Purchase, Judaic Art Fund and Museum Purchase Fund; Iraqi, Torah Finials (Rimmonim), late 19th-early 20th century, brass: repoussé, chased, cast, gilded, H. 6 1/2 in., Gift of the Harold Kadis and Robert Kadis families in memory of their parents, Isaac and Mary Kadis