Illustrating the Hebrew Bible

From the Torah (Five Books of Moses/ Pentateuch)

Torah Scroll
Vellum scroll of the Pentateuch
Acquired by the Duke University Libraries in 1942

Note here the special arrangement of the text of the Song of the Sea, representing the column of Israelites crossing the Sea of Reed on dry land, between two walls of water. (Exodus 14.22)
The Torah Scroll contains the first five books of the Bible, also known as the Five Books of Moses:  Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  In synagogue it is kept in a special ark  “Aron Ha-kodesh” and taken out for public reading of assigned portions on Mondays, Thursdays, Sabbaths and holidays.

A Torah scroll consists of strips of parchment made of the skin of a kosher animal, prepared specifically for this purpose and sewn together.  The words are hand written by a trained scribe , a Sofer, who uses special black ink and a quill and follows a strict set of guidelines from antiquity.  There are no punctuation or vocalization signs in the text, nor is there a record of the scribe’s name, date of completion or place.  Both ends of the scroll are wound around wooden rollers called “Atsei Hayim” – Trees of Life.