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Torah Case with Finials and Pointer (work of art)

Artwork Info

Created
Case: circa 1860 or earlier; finials and pointer: probably later
Artist
Unidentified workshop (associated with Hoaching, probably Guangzhou, Canton)
Dimensions
Case:
38 1/2 x 11 1/2 inches (97.8 x 29.2 centimeters)
Finials:
6 5/8 inches (16.8 centimeters)
Pointer:
17 inches (43.2 centimeters)

Credit

Gift of Carlos and Terri Union Zukowski, their children, and grandchildren in loving memory of Bettye and Ben Saslaw, Del Saslaw, and Doba and David Zukowski

Object Number
2006.9.1–3
Culture
Chinese
Classification
Metal
Department
Judaic

Key Ideas about this Work of Art

  • The Torah silver case symbolically encloses the scroll in a floral garden (possibly a reference to the Garden of Eden).
  • The Jewish Torah scroll is considered a sacred object and is kept safe inside a case at all times.
  • Decorative floral designs are often featured in traditional Chinese art. The intricate patterns of leaves and petals on the surface of the case represent both the beauty of life and the Torah scroll that is protected inside the case.

Learn More

Among the Jewish communities in the areas under Muslim rule, the Torah scroll was often protected in a hinged wooden case covered with copper or precious metals. The scroll in this case is wound on two rollers inside the case and is never removed. During public readings of the Torah, the open case stands upright on a table.

This Torah case, or tik (pronounced teek), is one of a small group of ceremonial objects made by Chinese artisans for the Baghdadi Jewish communities in India. Originally from Iraq, the Baghdadi Jews emigrated to the Indian subcontinent in the 1800s. This Torah case was originally part of the collection held by the Magen David Synagogue in Mumbai (Bombay). It was taken to Israel when some members of the congregation emigrated to Israel in 1949. Before it was acquired by the Museum in 2006 the case was owned by the Kelly Yakov Ein Synagogue in Kiryat Bialik, Israel. 

Religious objects tend to be traditional in design, and the Chinese artisans who created this work of art respected the domed cylindrical form of a traditional Iraqi Torah case. The ornamental finials are capped by crowns that resemble the British crown, a possible reminder of the privileged position of the Baghdadi Jews under the Raj. The bulbs of the finials feature images of fruit and flower petals. The top of the case is shaped like a pomegranate, a fruit that  grows throughout the Mediterranean coastal regions and Middle East. Pomegranates are often depicted on Jewish ritual objects.

The plaque on the right inner face of the crown features several verses from the Hebrew Bible: “This is the Teaching which Moses set before the Israelites” [Deut 4:44]. “Moses charged us with the Teaching, as the heritage of the congregation of Jacob” [Deut 33:4]. “These are the laws, rules, and instructions….that the Lord established between Himself and Israel on Mount Sinai through Moses” [Lev 26:46].

The plaque on the left inner face of the crown is its dedication and translates as follows: “This Torah case and the Torah scroll it contains were dedicated by Rabbi Ezekiel Ezra Isaac Elijah Zechariah, may the Lord give him strength and life, for the eternal bliss and rest of his compassionated wife, Yochebed, may she rest in peace and may her soul be bound in the bond of life. She was the daughter of Rabbi Joseph Moses Hareiyn, may the Lord give him life and strength. Wednesday, the 27th of Adar, 5647 (1887).

 

Additional Resources

Resources for Teachers:

  • Read an article that explains how a Torah scroll is written.
  • Read an article about Jewish ceremonial objects. The tik, or wooden case, is described.

 

Resources for Students:

Images

  • A hinged wooden case with domed finials on top and metallic floral patterns on the outside surface.

    Torah Case with Finials and Pointer

  • A hinged wooden case with domed finials on top and metallic floral patterns on the outside surface.

    Torah Case and Finials, opened view.

  • A hinged wooden case with domed finials on top and metallic floral patterns on the outside surface.

    Torah case and Finials, reverse view.

  • A hinged wooden case with domed finials on top and metallic floral patterns on the outside surface.

    Torah Case and Finials, finials detail close up.

  • A hinged wooden case with domed finials on top and metallic floral patterns on the outside surface.

    Torah Case and Finials, left dedication panel.

  • A hinged wooden case with domed finials on top and metallic floral patterns on the outside surface.

    Torah Case and Finials, right dedication panel.