I heard from a Bengali writing - just a single line that - Jews fear their God that much that they even fear to touch the God's word. Then I searched and found that Jews use Yad when they read Torah. But I've seen many documentaries where people was reading hand-held Torah without Yad.

But it seems interesting to me that I found a similar tradition in the Indian Subcontinent Hindus and Muslims, when they read their scriptures.

I'm interested-

  • why the Jews use the Yad?
  • what's the reason behind the tradition?
  • is that only a traditional thing, not a daily Jewish lifestyle?
up vote 13 down vote accepted

wikipedia:

A yad (Hebrew: יד‎) (Yiddish: האַנט), literally, "hand," is a Jewish ritual pointer, popularly known as a Torah pointer, used by the reader to follow the text during the Torah reading from the parchment Torah scrolls. Beyond its practical usage, the yad ensures that the parchment is not touched during the reading. There are several reasons for this: handling the parchment renders one ritually impure and the often-fragile parchment is easily damaged. Moreover, the vellum parchment does not absorb ink so touching the scroll with fingers will damage the lettering.[1] While not required when chanting from the Torah, it is used frequently and is considered a hidur mitzvah ("embellishment of the commandment" of reading the Torah).

Having been a Torah reader for about 30 years, I can verify how easily the ink can fade or smudge if it is rubbed too hard or there is a build-up of liquid or the humidity level in the ark is too high. Too low humidity can cause the parchment to become brittle - a separate problem. Thus, when the Torah is read and people are called up, the rabbi and I encourage people to kiss the Torah on its side in the rolled up area (i.e. - non-written side that's rolled on the wooden scroll, rather than on the words themselves.

While using the pointer is not required, i.e. - you can read by sight or pointing with your finger in the air above the parchment, I find that using the pointer helps both me and the person receiving the Torah honor better follow and locate where I am. This is esp. helpful for people with weakened vision.

If you have a link to the Bengali expression that you found, please edit your question. It is an interesting expression, though, I'm not sure if that can be applied as a universal principle towards everything Jews do. I see the analogy to the Yad, but, Jews touch numerous holy books containing G-d's name with their bare hands.

  • Someone should get at that wikipedia page because tumas yadayim is irrelevant today along with most of taharos – Yitzchak Sep 23 '14 at 19:22
  • @Yitzchak If you touch a scroll during a meal you might have to rewash your hands even nowadays. (This is actually discussed.) – Double AA Sep 23 '14 at 19:24
  • @DoubleAA Interesting. I don't see people being makpid on washing their hands after touching scrolls even if they are makpid for things like haircuts – Yitzchak Sep 23 '14 at 19:49
  • @Yitzchak Those two have nothing to do with each other AFAIK. – Double AA Sep 23 '14 at 19:50
  • I'll look it up, because I was pretty sure I remember haircuts, hakazas dam, etc. on a list of things that are m'tamei yadayim – Yitzchak Sep 23 '14 at 20:21

Don't forget too that the one called up to the Torah to make the blessings must follow the ba'al koreh verbally albeit silently in fulfilling his brachah, that the blessings not be in vain or for naught. Don't forget too that many people wear glasses, or need glasses, and where the ba'al koreh reads is much easier to follow when a pointer is used. And if you were to sample in most congregations the ages of those called up for aliyot, you'd probably find the mean on the older side, for whom good vision is usually more of a problem.

  • "you'd probably find the mean on the older side, for whom good vision is usually more of a problem." I wouldn't go so far as to making this generalization. There are loads of demographic factors involved into what age group attends a service, a synagogue and all the synagogues in a city or village. One shul in my neighborhood has 3 services each Shabbat - a "youth minyan", (teens, mainly); a married couples minyan; and a family "main" minyan. Combining all 3 I estimate 400 people with a mean age of about 35 - 40. – DanF Jul 17 '17 at 1:58
  • Ok, scratch the last sentence. I only went by my own experience, being in shuls, say for the last 50 years at least. – ruffy Jul 18 '17 at 3:57
  • That's fine. I understand and empathize with what it's like. I've been a Torah reader in mainly "aging" shuls for the past 30 years approx. It's strange being the youngest person in the shul and each week discovering that there are more people on the yahrtzeit and "sick" list than those in shul. We may as well name the shul Temple Alav Hashalom. – DanF Jul 18 '17 at 14:21

a yad is used because they do not want to damage the torah e.g. smudge the ink or rip the parchment. this is because it usually takes 5 years to write the torah because if you make one mistake it cannot be used.

  • 6
    Mistakes can be repaired; a sefer torah isn't like a mezuzah klaf where you have to start over. But we still want to be careful to avoid causing damage, because it can make the scroll pasul until it's fixed and because fixing damage involves expense and inconvenience -- better to not damage it in the first place. – Monica Cellio Feb 8 '15 at 20:34

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