Scribes of Torah scrolls are highly trained, well-learned and skillful people. In order to be a scribe of Torah scrolls, one must learn and know the laws pertaining to composing a Torah scroll perfectly. It is also of extreme importance that the scribe be a G-d-fearing, righteous person who is dedicated to the sanctity of the scroll. After all, the Torah scroll is essentially the word of G-d and it would be unfitting for one who is not dedicated to leading a life that is geared towards serving G-d to write a Torah.
When the scribe writes a Torah scroll, he is forbidden to write it from memory; rather he must copy word for word from a Kosher Torah scroll (or a copy of a certified Kosher scroll). In addition, a scribe who is right-handed may only write with his right hand and a left-handed scribe may only write with his left hand.
The Torah scroll contains a number of variations of G-d’s names- these names must be written with special care, purity and devotion. There is therefore a custom for the scribe to immerse himself in a ritual pool called a Mikvah before he begins his work. A blessing is recited by the scribe when he begins his work, as well as before each time that he writes a name of G-d.
The Accessories of the Torah Scroll
- The Atzei ChayimThese are the two wooden shafts attached to either end of the scroll and the Torah scroll is rolled around them. They are used as handles by which the scroll is held, as well as a means of reaching the right place in the scroll.
- The Gartel/BeltThis is the sash that is used to tie the scroll so that it remains closed under the velvet covering. In the event that a Torah scroll is found to be non-Kosher, the belt is tied on top of the velvet covering so as to serve as a reminder that it is out of commission.
- The MantelThis is an ornate covering that protects and beautifies the Torah scroll. It is typically made of velvet and embroidered with golden thread, silk and beads.
- The Keter/CrownThis adorns the Torah, representing our love for our most precious possession. The crown is typically silver and it rests on the wooden shafts which extend above the scroll.
- Yad/PointerThis pointer is used by the reader of the Torah to help others follow the word that he reads. It is usually made of silver and the end is commonly shaped like a hand with its index finger extended. There is often a chain attached to it so that it can be draped over the Torah scroll when the scroll is put away.