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View of the exhibition room Torah with showcases and a wooden tree

Thematic Space Torah

Words, Writing and Language in Our Core Exhibition

The Torah is Judaism’s most important text and the basis for religious practice throughout the world. The first room in our core exhibition is dedicated to it and a Torah scroll is centrally positioned in the room. In this room you can also learn about the Hebrew alphabet, Jewish languages of the Diaspora, and the concept of a genizah.

On this page, you will find the most important topics, as well as some audio clips and objects.

Map with all buildings that belong to the Jewish Museum Berlin. The Libeskind building is marked in green

Where

Libeskind Building, level 2, permanent exhibition
Lindenstraße 9–14, 10969 Berlin

The Torah

The Torah is both narrative and law. Its text connects the history of the people of Israel with God’s directives. According to tradition, God revealed the Torah to his people on Mount Sinai.

The parashah, or the weekly portion of the Torah, is at the heart of prayer services. The text is divided into 54 segments that correspond to specific weeks, and it is read in full during the course of the year. Consequently, the Torah scroll is always rolled to the upcoming text passage, taken from the First to the Fifth Book of Moses. On Simhat Torah, literally “Rejoicing with the Torah,” the last chapter of the last Book and the first chapter of the first Book are read together.

A trained Torah scribe, a sofer, uses special ink and a quill to write on the parchment.

Round showcase hanging from the ceiling with a Torah scroll inside. To the right of the showcase is a curved wall on which an introductory text about the Torah is printed. The Ten Commandments are printed in Hebrew on a curved wall to its left.

The exhibition’s layout references the shape of a Torah scroll; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Roman März

A close-up view of a Torah scroll showing the Hebrew text. This text passage includes the 10 Commandments.

A close-up view of the Leavor Family Torah scroll, Hohensalza (Inowrocław) 1903; Jewish Museum Berlin, accession 2011/98/0, gift from the Leavor Family in honor of Dr. Hans and Louise Librowicz, photo: Roman März

Each copy must be accurate and without errors. The writing of a Torah scroll is a sacred undertaking that ensures the text will be passed down faithfully to the next generation.

The Hebrew Alphabet

In order to read the Torah and the prayers, Jewish children learn the Aleph Bet. The Hebrew alphabet has twenty-two letters.

In the exhibition, you can write your name in Hebrew letters. A series of photographs shows different teaching and learning experiences from throughout the world. One display case contains educational materials, from a writing slate to a contemporary Hasidic reading primer.

A Torah scroll is unrolled to show two columns of Hebrew text.

A Torah scroll, Hohensalza (Inowrocław) 1903; Jewish Museum Berlin, accession 2011/98/0, gift from the Leavor Family in honor of Dr. Hans and Louise Librowicz, photo: Roman März

Genizah – Sacred Remnants

A genizah is a final repository for texts and ceremonial objects. The Memmelsdorf Genizah (c. 1725–1830) is on display in our core exhibition. You can learn about it in more detail on our website.

Religious texts that are no longer usable are not thrown out but ritually buried or put into storage.

Discolored and damaged document, written in Hebrew, containing a prayer for rain

Prayer for rain, part of the Memmelsdorf Genizah, Memmelsdorf (discovery site), c. 1762–1830; Jewish Museum Berlin, accession 2003/131/26, photo: Roman März

Jewish Languages

Through contact with the surrounding cultures, Diaspora Jews developed Jewish languages that were mostly written with Hebrew letters. The most well-known are Yiddish, Judeo-Spanish (Ladino) and Judeo-Arabic.

In our core exhibition, an world map invites you to explore these languages through sound. The audio clips take you not only to Eastern Europe but also to Yemen and India.

In this episode of the RBB radio show “Zwei auf EINS” (Two to one) dedicated to the opening of the core exhibition, curator Tamar Lewinsky spoke with hosts Daniel Finger and Sven Oswald about Jewish languages; Jewish Museum Berlin, August 2020

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