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Torah Pointer

Modeled on a Torah pointer from Frankfurt am Main, 1904

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Because of the sanctity of the Torah scroll, touching it with one’s hands is prohibited; hence, Jews around the world use a pointer (yad) while reading from the Torah in public. In many communities it was customary to design the pointer in the shape of closed hand, with an extended forefinger guiding the reader along the text. 

This object was inspired by a Torah pointer ordered by Bertha Pappenheim, a Vienna-born pioneer feminist and social worker, as a wedding gift for her brother. It was part of a set of religious ornaments that also included Torah finials and a Torah shield. 

The set was designed and manufactured by the renowned firm of silver- and goldsmiths founded in 1834 by R. Lazarus Eliezer Posen, which later became particularly successful under the guidance of his widow Brendina. The objects’ Moorish style recalls the type of synagogue architecture that developed in Europe in the 19th century. 

The original pointer, from the Israel Museum collection, was purchased through the generosity of the Ari Akerman Foundation; Moshe and Charlotte Green, New York; the estate of Meir Kaufman, Jerusalem; Erica and Ludwig Jesselson, New York; and anonymous donors from Switzerland and South Africa 

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