MANTLE OF THE LAW (
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The cover of the scroll of the Pentateuch. The Hebrew name "mappah" is derived from the Greek μάππα. Originally, a wrapping of fine silk was spread along the full length of the parchment, to protect the writing from dust and injury when the scroll was rolled up. The mantle is mentioned in Soferim iii. 16. "A scroll that has no mantle shall be turned face down, so as not to expose the writing" (Yer. Meg. i. 9). The custom of completely covering the writing with silk, when the mantle is not in use, is still practised by the Sephardim in the Orient. The color chosen is usually green. Probably, in earlier times the less expensive method was adopted of using a narrow strip of silk to cover the writing at the opening of the scroll, which would account for the word μάππα = "kerchief" or "napkin." Another kind of covering was called "miṭpaḥat," and was used to wrap the scroll after it had been rolled up. It appears from the Mishnah that all books or scrolls were provided with coverings (Kelim xxiv. 14). When Levi b. Samuel and Huna b. Ḥiyya were preparing coverings for the books of R. Judah, they thought the scroll of Esther did not require a miṭpaḥat, for which opinion they were rebuked by R. Judah (Sanh. 100a). In the Orient, mantles are often not used, carved wooden boxes being substituted for them.
The "mantle of the Law," as it is popularly called, is made in the form of a bag, to fit the scroll after it is rolled up. It is open at the bottom and closed at the top except for two openings to allow the scroll-handles ("'eẓ ḥayyim") to pass through. The mantle is made of expensive material, which must not have been used for any other purpose. Old, worn-out mantles should not be thrown away, but should be stored in the genizah or sewed into a shroud for a corpse to be buried in (Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 154, 4). Between the sectional readings of the Pentateuch at the synagogue the scroll is closed and covered with the mantle. On special occasions, when two scrolls are read from,the one first used must be rolled up and covered before the mantle is removed from the second scroll (ib. 147). The mantle of the Law is usually decorated or embroidered with the Crown of the Law, the Lion of Judah, and with tassels and ornaments. The mantle is often made and presented to the synagogue by women, and sometimes bears the name of the donor or donors.