Examples of Safrut at the Penn Libraries Manuscript Collections, part 1: Polish-Lithuanian and Jerusalemite Safrut

Recently, I cataloged a number of items for the Kislak Center which are examples of historical Safrut, or ritual scribe writing.

A Sofer is a Jewish ritual scribe; Safrut is the ritual writing by a Sofer. Ritual writing follows a strict set of rules and small details will disqualify the item from ritual use.

Disqualified Torah scroll fragments are permitted to be used for study purposes but it is impermissible to recite the texts or the blessings pronounced over the texts in a ritual context. A misspelled word, certain misshapen letters, disorderliness, and even beginning certain columns with the wrong word can sometimes disqualify an entire scroll (more on this later). Maimonides (b. Cordoba 1135 – d. Fustat (Old Cairo) 1204), an eminent medieval Jewish legal authority, writes: “[A Sefer Torah which is] invalid, and does not have the holiness of a Sefer Torah in any way, only that of a bible [text] like any other used to teach schoolchildren” (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Tefilin, Mezuzah, and Sefer Torah, chapter 7 law 11).

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