Out of the Vault: Priceless Torah Scrolls Revealed in New Series from the National Library of Israel

Miniature Torah. Collection of the National Library of Israel (NIL)

Shavuot, the Jewish holiday celebrating the giving of the Torah, is celebrated this year from the evening of June 4 until nightfall the following day.

This year, ahead of Shavuot, the National Library of Israel (NLI) released a series of video clips featuring four of the most important Torah scrolls from its world-renowned Judaica collection. Due to their extremely delicate condition, the Torah Scrolls are not generally available to the public and were only taken out of the NLI vaults for a few minutes to be filmed and photographed, with expert approval and supervision. in conservation.

Shavuot, the Jewish holiday celebrating the giving of the Torah, is celebrated this year from the evening of June 4 until nightfall the following day.

Items on display include fragments of a 1,000-year-old Yemeni Torah scroll, which were found in a binding, as well as one of the world’s smallest readable Torah scrolls, measuring just 6 centimeters (2 1/3 inches) tall.

The other two rolls featured have outstanding stories behind them.

Scholars believe that the “Torah of Rhodes” was written in Iberia in the 15e century, and that Sephardic refugees brought it to Rhodes, where it was used for hundreds of years in the Kahal Shalom Synagogue, today the oldest synagogue in Greece. Just days before the Nazis deported almost all Jews from Rhodes in 1944, the scroll was smuggled out and placed in the custody of the local mufti, Sheikh Suleyman Kasiloglou. The mufti is said to have hidden the Torah under the pulpit of a local mosque, and the scroll later survived the war, even though the vast majority of Rhodes’ Jewish community did not.

The last scroll featured in the series is believed to belong to Saul Wahl, a prominent Jewish merchant and adviser to royalty who, according to legend, served as King of Poland for a single day in the late 16th century. The Saul Wahl Torah features staffs made of ivory and horns, and decorated with silver. It also comes with its own miniature holy ark, with a doorway made from a 17th century Torah shield.

Every day before the Shavuot weekend, the National Library of Israel posts a new clip on its Facebook in English and Twitter accounts.

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