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The Torah scrolls of Ashkenazim have a very different look than those of Sepharadim. Ashkenazim just roll the parchment onto two poles, and read it in a horizontal position; the Sepharadim install the poles into an elaborate hinged casing, which is opened and read in a vertical position. Which of these two formats was the one commonly used in antiquity? Is there any record of what Sifrei Torah looked like in the times of the Mishnah, for example?

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+1. Re "horizontal", though, no: we read it on a slant, on purpose. (Same with m'zuzos: Ashk'nazim's are slanted, and S'faradim's upright.) – msh210 Nov 18 '11 at 17:46
@msh210: what slant? I don't get it. – Shalom Nov 18 '11 at 19:13
@Shalom, Ashk'nazi Torah-reading tables are sloped. So are our affixed m'zuzos. They are neither horizontal nor vertical. – msh210 Nov 18 '11 at 19:18
@msh210: oh. I hadn't thought about the Torah-reading table thing. Yes if you need to set the Torah upright you want it totally level; I guess some Ashkenazic tables are slightly inclined (for better projection, I assume?), not sure all of them are. Is this a halachic thing, or just a practical one? – Shalom Nov 18 '11 at 19:36
@Shalom, that's what I meant by "on purpose": it's an halachic thing, just like m'zuzos. See Rama in, I think, 289. (I don't have time now to look up the exact reference.) – msh210 Nov 18 '11 at 20:02

When the Gemara says the greatest honor in the Torah-reading ceremony is being the "roller"; which I've always heard explained as actually meaning the one who lifted the Torah, as done with Sephardic scrolls.

At the tenth anniversary of Rabbi Joseph Soloveichik's death, a group of his students gathered to discuss his legacy. One pointed to this Gemara -- "the roller's merit is greater than those called up" -- and explained that in Talmudic times, the "roller" meant the supporter, and the "callee" meant the reader -- thus, "the merit of the one supporting the Torah is greater than the one reading it."

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