Obj. ID: 37272
Sacred and Ritual Objects Torah pointer, Estonia, circa 1850
The following description was prepared by William Gross:
The pointer used by the Torah reader to keep the place is known in European communities as the *yad, "hand," or the etẓba, "finger," and in Sephardi and Eastern communities as the moreh, "pointer," or kulmus, "quill," the former because of its function and the latter because of its shape. Halakhic sources also use the terms moreh or kulmus. The pointer was originally a narrow rod, tapered at the pointing end, usually with a hole at the other end through which a ring or chain could be passed to hang the pointer on the Torah scroll. An additional reason for using the pointer was to prevent the oily finger from touching the parchment and inked letter, something that would eventually cause severe deterioration.
The original form of the pointer was preserved in Eastern communities, the differences from one community to another being mainly in length and ornamentation. In certain communities, a hand with a pointing finger was added, and accordingly, the pointer came to be known as a yad, "hand," or eẓba, "finger." Pointers are made for the most part of silver or silver-plated brass, but in a few European communities, they used to be made of wood. In such cases, the pointers were carved in the local folk-art style.
Ritual art from Estonia is exceedingly rare. To find something locally-made and marked is even more unusual. Almost no ritual art is recorded with an Estonian origin, so no stylistic model is apparent. In this present example, the shape and decoration do not fall within any of the standard European models, especially the delicate applied decoration at the top of the Yad.