The Torah on Display at R-MA

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Cooper Bourdon '11

Torah.jpgMembers from Ratio Christi, Latin for “The Reason of Christ,” came to Boggs Chapel this past Thursday, November 9th, to present a scroll of the Torah from the 16th century. This scroll predates the King James Bible and came to the United States from Yemen. It is a remarkable artifact that has experienced a significant amount of history.

It contains 221 columns, 304,895 letters, and 42 panels of scripture stitched together giving it a length of 79 feet. Making a scroll was no easy task. It was a time consuming, expensive, and meticulous process. They take about one year to complete and could cost (in modern day currency) anywhere from $20,000-$50,000 to make. A man had to memorize 4,000 rules just to have permission to write a scroll, and he wrote the entire scripture by himself. 

This scroll made its way to the United States sometime after Operation Magic Carpet. Scrolls like this are scarce in number for many reasons. The Nazis burned countless Jewish artifacts during their conquest and even used scrolls made of leather as new soles for their boots. As a result, many Jewish families hid their scrolls in the attics and basements of non-Jewish friends for the sake of preservation. An ample amount of these hidden scrolls were not recovered by their owners and were lost to history.

Ratio Christi is fortunate to have three in their possession and R-MA was fortunate to have one on campus. After Ratio Christi’s presentation of the Yemen scroll, many students came to the front of the chapel to take a closer look. The students were even allowed to touch the scroll, as long as they did not touch the letters, because the scroll was not kosher. 

To learn more about 500-year-old scrolls and the mission of Ratio Christi visit https://ratiochristi.org/.