Obj. ID: 40825
Sacred and Ritual Objects Torah crown, Bou Saida, circa 1875
The following description was prepared by William Gross: The earliest Torah ornaments are the Torah crown and the finials mounted on the Torah case or on the staves of the Torah scroll. We first hear of a Torah crown in the 11th century, in a responsum of Hai Gaon concerning the use of a crown for a Torah scroll on Simḥat Torah. The use of the Torah crown is linked in this responsum to the custom of crowning the so-called "*Bridegrooms of the Law," i.e., the persons called up on Simḥat Torah to complete the annual cycle of the Torah reading and to initiate the new cycle. At the time, the Torah crown was an ad hoc object made from various decorative items, such as plants and jewelry. About a hundred years later, fixed crowns, made of silver and used regularly to decorate Torah scrolls in the synagogue, are mentioned in a document from the Cairo *Genizah. Their earliest depiction is in the 14th-century Spanish Sarajevo Haggadah.
Torah crowns are used in almost all communities (the exceptions are Morocco and Yemen), their design being influenced in each locality by local tradition. The onion-shaped or conical crown of the Iraqi-Persian Torah case follows the tradition of the crowns of the Sassanid kings, the last Persian dynasty prior to the Muslim conquest. In Cochin, India, and in Aden, the independent port of Yemen, a tapering dome-like crown developed through which protrude finials mounted on the staves on which the Torah scroll is wound; the crown is not fixed to the case. By the 20th century, the Torah crown in Cochin showed distinct European features. In Eastern Iran, where the Torah had a small crown, the outer sides of the crown lost their spherical shape and became flat dedicatory plaques. Today this crown looks like a pair of flat finials, and only their designation as "crowns" hints at their origin in the Torah crown. The circlet or coronet on the Mediterranean case, which became an integral part of the case, was based on a local medieval crown tradition typified by floral patterns. The European crown is shaped like a floral coronet with arms closing over it. In Eastern Europe, a two- or three-tiered crown developed, inspired by the crown motif on the Torah Ark in this region. In Italy, on the other hand, the Torah crown was a coronet, known in Hebrew as the atarah.
The use of a crown was not a common original custom in north Africa, but a result of the European influence beginning in the 19th century. The round crown of Europe was adapted to the faceted shape of the Torah tik and place on top. In Libya and Tunisia, the top of the tik has on the top shaped wooden ends for each of the facets, which serves as a non-removable crown. The faceted panels of the crown provide a wonderful space for inscriptions and decoration and this crown has a very elaborate and unusual set of both. On one of the facets are listed the four crowns, including that of the crown of "a good name", an unusual occurrence.
Since panel 6 carries an inscription describing the circumstances of its repair in 1910, it is clear that the original crown was made at an earlier date. As well, since the place of the repair is mentioned, Bou Saida, it is reasonable to assume that the crown was used there as well. Bou Saada, as it is called today, is a town located about 250 kilometers south of Algiers in the southern fringes of the Sahara desert. Donated by Ephraim Sulam. Inscription:
Panel 1: Psalm 67:1-8 in the form of a menorah 42 letter name of God (the first letter of the 42 words of the hymn "anah be'koach", the names of temple implements)
Panel 2: Shadai. The Lord bless thee, and keep thee. The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee. The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee and give thee peace (Num. 6:24-26)
Panel 3: There are four crowns: the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, the crown of kingdom and the crown of a good name, which rises above them all. (based on Mishnah Avot 4:13)
Panel 4: Hear, o Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Blessed be his name whose glorious kingdom is forever and ever. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be upon thy heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be for frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the door-posts of thy house, and upon thy gates (Deut. 6:5-9)
Panel 5: (geometric design)
Panel 6: This is the Torah crown, the heartfelt donation of Ephraim Sulam, may his light shine, which was damaged..............................to repair it anew and it is dedicated to the Lord, the work of my hands, the elderly shalom, the son of my father, the honorable rabbi Ya'akov Monsonego, may his light shine. (in french) - finished in Bou Sa'ada, the 30th of October, 1910
Panel 7: May you be blessed in the city and blessed in the field. May you be blessed in your coming and blessed in your going out. Adam -- Eve. Avraham -- Sarah. Yitzhak -- Rivka. Ya'akov – Leah
Panel 8: The beginning words of the ten commandments
A | Abstract | Abstract geometric
O | Ornamentation: | Foliate and floral ornaments | Floral motif
C | Crescent and star
S | Sanctuary | Sanctuary Implements | Oil Jar
M | Menorah | Stepping Stone of the Menorah (Kevesh)
C | Crowns, the Four (listed according to Misnah, Avot, 4:13) | Crown of Law (Crown of Torah)
P | Priest (Cohen; See also: High Priest, Elazar the Priest) | Priestly Blessing
T | Tree
T | Tree | Cypress (Cupressus)