a savoir

Our reply to Dr Hawass(0.9Mo)

Sifrei Torah 1(125Mo)


One can see the difference between the Siffrei en roll or in casing in the Eliahou Hanabi Hekhal in Alexandria

sifrei sifrei

The Torah Scrolls

Indeed We gave Moses the Guidance, and We gave the Book in inheritance to the Children of Israel, A guide and a reminder to men of understanding.

(The Quoran, Sourat 40, Gafir Verse 53-54)

registre de la communauté

The Sefer Torah is a manuscript on parchment or skins of Kosher animals. The text is usually laid out over 248 columns with a minimum of 3 columns per sheet and predetermined vertical and horizontal margins. The Scribe (Sofer) uses quills from Kosher birds, generally geese, and a special ink made of walnuts, copper sulfate, arabic gum and water. No mistake is tolerated and no correction can be made to the name of G-d. The calligraphy is specific and without vowel signs. The animal skins are sewn together and mounted as a continuous roll over 2 stalks called “Etz Haïm”, trees of life. The shape of the rolls dates back to the time of the first versions, based on the model of all books in the Greco-Roman period.

registre de la communauté

The Sephardi Sifrei Torah are generally placed in a hinged wooden or metal box, more or less decorated with e.g. silver, mother-of-pearl or semi-precious stones. The Ashkenazi ones are covered with a silk or velvet mantle, in a similar fashion to the more ancient ones.

The Torah (the 5 books of Moses) is a testimony to the alliance between G-d and the people of Israel. It also represents divine teaching. The Sefer Torah is therefore the object of deep respect. It is at the centre of the Synagogue ritual for most services and at the heart of the passage to adulthood for every young Jew (and Jewess). The Sefer Torah thus embodies significant emotions of identity, especially through its symbolic link to family, synagogue, community and the history of each individual and the Jewish people.

However, the Egyptian government has enacted a law regarding Antiquities that apply to all and to all objects.

Our sages have always taught us that « The law of the country is the law ». We must therefore abide by this law. However a large number of Sifrei Torah are outside the scope of this law and should be allowed to continue to serve their original religious purpose. Those that do fall within the realm of the law due to their age must be “respected”, i.e., preserved under appropriate conditions.

« Moses commanded us a law, An inheritance of the congregation of Jacob» (Deuteronomy 33 :4)

Failing that, their disappearance would be inevitable. Their uncontrolled dispersion is also to be feared. For example, one scroll appeared in a Paris auction. Others were seized at the airport during an illicit export attempt. Their fate is unknown. Others, originating from a Cairo Synagogue, are in an Israeli museum.

antiquite juive

«Voilà une véritable Antiquité juive d’Egypte », Pentateuque, La Genèse. Egypte, 1353, Exposition BNF.

Simha Torah à Zaradel

Simha Torah à Zaradel Simha Torah à Zaradel

One should rather encourage the bond between the Jews of Egypt and their Sifrei Torah to continue by active use of the scrolls in their respective communities worldwide, including in Egypt, within the framework of the law and an appropriate setting. Thus, a Torah scroll from Alexandria was “offered” on the occasion of the official visit of an Israeli minister, and is currently in use in Israel. Two Sifrei Torah from Alexandria were also used for the foundation of a new synagogue in London. President Anwar Sadat also returned some to two original donor families.

In terms of genuine Egyptian antiquities, 100 years are mere minutes. A community that has led a structured existence for a total of only 120 years, from the mid-19th century until brutal dispersion in the mid-20th century, finds the 100 years limit difficult to accept. Facing the unavoidable extinction of its last members, it has been trying to recover its bibles, registers and archives for the past 25 years. The impossibility for Jews from Egypt, expelled or stripped of their Egyptian nationality, to return during many years, added to the lack of response from the authorities, have led some Torah scrolls to age beyond 100 years. In spite of this “ticking clock”, more that 1/3 of the Sifrei Torah are less than 100 years old..

In view of the number of synagogues and the years in which they were built, the proportion of 1/3 is no doubt an understatement. Based on the information available to us, only 3 Sifrei Torah in Alexandria have an important historic value, amongst which 2 “Kadmonim” including the “Massorah”. We have no information about the Sifrei Torah in Cairo.

Each year that passes sees more Sifrei Torah fall within the scope of the law. It would be unfortunate to give the impression that Egypt was playing for time to build up a collection of Jewish Antiquities!

That is why we are praying that one day we may hear an Egyptian Minister address a speech such as the one delivered on 30th January 2002 by Mr. Artras Paulauskas, President of the Lithuanian Parliament, on the occasion of the transfer of 309 Torah scrolls to the Jewish Heritage Center “Hechal Shlomo” in Jerusalem, in which he would substitute Lithuania for Alexandria. Incha ‘ Allah ! -- B’ Ezrat Hashem !

« In recent weeks, the return of the Torah Scrolls to Jewish communities has been frequently mentioned by Lithuanian mass media. But we are not returning the Torah Scrolls today.
Returning implies that something has been taken, plundered, appropriated, borrowed. The independent Lithuania neither appropriated, nor plundered nor borrowed the Torah Scrolls. This is true about both the independent inter-war Lithuania as well as the present day Lithuania. Lithuania has saved the Torah Scrolls. It saved the Torah Scrolls not only as a most valuable relic of the Jewish nation; it saved the Torah Scrolls as the wealth of ITS state – the heritage of great cultural and historic significance because our history can be fully comprehended only having read the pages written by the Jews. Besides, the history of the Jewish nation would be much poorer without the artists, thinkers, and politicians, who were born, brought up and educated in Lithuania – who are the pride of Israel and Lithuania. And of the world.
Therefore we are passing this invaluable wealth of Jewish culture and religion rather than returning it.
By passing the Torah Scrolls, we are carrying out a sincere humanitarian mission, showing good will and understanding of the significance of the Torah Scrolls - the texts of religious manuscripts that were rewritten for religious purposes – for the tradition of Jewish belief and culture. The Bible has cherished the story of the great mission of the Jewish nation, the nation that was chosen by the Lord…… I refer to the Torah, the Pentateuch, source of belief, hope and the great wisdom for generations of Jews. The Jewish nation may have survived, among other reasons, because that soul is their Torah. The Torah is not only the Jewish soul. It has formed our morality too…..Thus, all of us, representatives of two states and nations, participating in this extraordinarily important humanistic act, should recall the righteous – the people who saved the Torah, who saved the Jewish souls…. I would like to express my hope that this day will become a white page in the history of our state and nation -- a page that will make us feel closer »

« It is a tree of life to those who become attached to it and happiness befalls those who observe it » (Synagogue prayer when entering the Torah into the Tabernacle)