The History of the Transmission of Torah | Part One

The Torah was originally dictated from God to Moses, letter for letter. From there, the Midrash (Devarim Rabba 9:4) tells us: Before his death, Moses wrote 13 Torah Scrolls. Twelve of these were distributed to each of the 12 Tribes. The 13th was placed in the Ark of the Covenant (along with the Tablets). If anyone would come and attempt to rewrite or falsify the Torah, the one in the Ark would “testify” against him. Similarly, an authentic “proof text” was always kept in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, against which all other scrolls were checked. Following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, the Sages would periodically perform global checks to guard against any scribal errors. To eliminate any chance of error, the Talmud enumerates more than 20 factors mandatory for a Torah scroll to be considered “kosher.” This is the Torah’s built-in security system. Should any one of these factors be lacking, the scroll then has the same status as one of a printed book. It does not possess the sanctity of a Torah scroll, and is not to be used for a public Torah reading.

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