The man quietly stood on the steps, cradling a large scroll like a precious baby. It was off-white and rough, about 18 inches long and ten inches in diameter. I yearned to touch it. I tried to peel my eyes from it and listen to what our guide was saying. I couldn’t.
We were in Jerusalem, standing in the museum of the Bible Society of Israel and Victor Kalisher, the director, was giving us a tour. Our group from ANM’s Israeli Advocacy Tour was in Israel to observe and participate in what the Messianic Jewish community was doing to reach out to the country’s “lost sheep.” The room was filled with historical artifacts authenticating the Hebrew scriptures, but I was distracted by the man and his scroll.
The tour ended in an upper room filled with folding metal chairs and a podium. As we sat, I had an even harder time paying attention to Victor—until he began talking about what the man was clutching to his body.
Victor and the man unrolled the scroll on the podium. In awe, Victor proclaimed, “This is an authentic 17th-century Torah scroll, written on parchment and sewn together with sinew. During World War II in the town of Fuerth, Bavaria, it was buried in a casket to keep it safe from the Nazis. During a construction project in 1967 it was uncovered. A Christian who was on a recent tour of the Society donated it to us.”
These words shook me to the core: I felt I was looking at something so holy I couldn’t speak. Such a treasure that touching it was forbidden. I left that room with questions: What exactly was on that scroll? Why was it so important? What does it mean to the Jewish people? What is parchment?
What goes into creating a Torah scroll?
When I returned home I began my research. I discovered:
- The Torah is the first five books of the Bible, written by Moses after God gave the Jews the Law at Mount Sinai. It is the most significant holy article of Jewish life.
- A Torah scroll must be written by a specially trained scribe called a sofer.
- All materials used (parchment, quill pens, ink, and sinew) must be kosher.
- To make the parchment, kosher animals are slaughtered and their hides tanned. It takes more than 50 sheets of parchment to hold the 304,805 words.
- The Torah may contain no errors. If an error is made writing God’s name, the Sofer must start over with a new sheet of parchment. If it is another word, it may be scraped off with a knife or pumice stone and rewritten.
- It often takes almost a year to complete this work, and it can take even longer.
What about the man who gave the scroll? Victor Kalisher, of the Bible Society, gave me some answers: “This person had purchased the scroll from a Jewish family who bought it after it was recovered. He loves God, the scriptures, and the Jewish people, through whom God gave and entrusted his word. He appreciates the cost the Jewish people went through to preserve this ancient treasure so all the nations could receive it. He has a burden to show and teach the world how precious God’s word is, so he purchases the oldest Torah scrolls he can find and donates them to places where they will get the most exposure. The Bible Society met his criteria.”
The difference a Bible makes
I finally understood, if even slightly, the impact a gift like this would make to the Bible Society, strategically located on the oldest and longest street in Jerusalem. When the word got out, it would draw in countless people walking down Jaffa Road, a road frequented by local Israelis, refugees, migrants, and tourists from all over the world. Visitors to the Society hear the simple message of the gospel of Yeshua the Messiah from the staff. Hearing the Word from fellow Jews makes an impact; often the Lord takes the message and drives it supernaturally into their human hearts.
I’ve been a Christian for more than 40 years. I cherish my Bible. I believe it is the inerrant word of God. However, seeing and researching this scroll made me realize how little I truly appreciate what I have and what a miracle it is. It has changed my approach to reading and studying what should be my most cherished possession.
God told Abraham that all the nations would be blessed because of Israel.
I certainly have been.