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Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History
Vilniaus Gaono Žydų Istorijos Muziejus

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EXHIBIT OF THE MONTH

 
Published: 2021-02-08

 Torah mantle (meìl) of the Jewish community of Kaunas

Lithuania, beginning of the 20th c., textile, metal threads, embroidery, 60.5 x 34 cm, ref. No. VŽM 8140
 
 
The Torah scroll is one of the most sacred sacral objects for Jewish. The text of the Torah (the Pentecost of Moses) is written on a parchment in black ink by a specially trained scriber called sofer in Hebrew. The scroll is rolled on two wooden shafts, is luxuriously decorated with a mantle (meìl in Hebrew), crowns (Keter Tora – Torah crown in Hebrew) and shields (tas in Hebrew) that are hung on the Torah mantle, and it is kept with great reverence in the aron kodesh (the holy cupboard in Hebrew) of the synagogue. A Torah scroll is removed from the aron kodesh during prayer.
 
The exhibited Torah scroll mantle is decorated with traditional Jewish symbols. The star of David is embroidered in the centre of the meìl, with the Hebrew character ה (H) in the middle, representing the first letter of one of the Lord's names, Ha-Shem. Above the star there is the inscription ‘Torah’ divided in half by the upper beam of the star. Above the inscription there are blessing palms of cohens. These symbols are surrounded and protected by the yellow canopy of the Torah crown with embroidered Hebrew letters כ (K) and ת (T) (Keter Tora). Among the symbols there are embroidered plant ornaments and two pillars – Jachin and Boaz – that once stood in front of the Temple.
 
This meìl, together with the Torah scroll, whose photograph is also presented here (ref. No. VŽM 8139), has a history of its own. They belonged to the Jewish community of Kaunas. During World War II, the meìl with the Torah scroll was hidden in the Ohel Jakov Choral Synagogue in Kaunas in one of the few hideouts that survived the war. After the war, the Torah was still used in worship for some time. Today the meìl and the Torah scroll, which was handed over by the Jewish religious community of Kaunas, is stored at our museum.
 
Ilona Murauskaitė, Head of Inventory,Research and Conservation of Holdings Department
 
 
 
 
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