The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia

YAD (lit. "hand"; Judæo-German, teitel):

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A pointer to guide the reading in public of the text of the Sefer Torah. During the reading of the Law in the synagogue the reader stands on the right side, the one "called up" being in the center, and the "segan," or deputy representing the congregation, on the left. The segan points out with the "yad" the text for the reader to follow.

Origin from the School.

From the remotest times the Hebrew teacher used a pointer somewhat similar to the tapering stick employed by the professional lecturer in modern times to point out places, figures, or words on a map or blackboard. The earliest reference to its use is in connection with the schools of Bethar before the destruction of that place in the war of Bar Kokba (132-135). Bethar had a larger number of schools and scholars than any other town in Judea; when an enemy forced himself into one of the schools the teachers stabbed him with their pointers (Giṭ. 58a). The use of the "teitel" by the teacher of primary classes in the ḥeder or Talmud Torah is still common in the eastern countries of Europe.

The use of the yad by the segan for guiding the reader of the Sefer Torah is not obligatory, as the reader may guide himself with it, or it may be dispensed with entirely. It is for the convenience of the reader only, and it is handled by a second person, the segan, perhaps in order to impress the ceremony upon the reader, and to prevent errors in the reading. It serves also to keep the reader from touching the text with his fingers in a desire to guide his reading; for touching the bare Sefer Torah with the hands without a "mappah" rendered them impure for handling "terumah," the priests' share of the heave-offering (Yad. iii. 2). This is one of the eighteen enactments or "gezerot" (Shab. 14a); and the motive of the edict was doubtless to compel the priests, who had easy access to the Sefer Torah, to handle it with special care.

There are various styles of yad for the Sefer Torah. The usual size is about 12 inches long. It is made in the fashion of a staff or scepter, narrowed down at the end, which is in the shape of a closed hand with the index-finger extended. Most frequently the staff is made of silver, ornamented sometimes with a gold hand and sometimes even with jewels; but hard wood also is used, preferably the olive-wood of the Holy Land, with an ivory hand. Often the yad is inscribed with an appropriate Biblical verse, such as "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul" (Ps. xix. 7), or with the name of the donor. There is a ring attached to the top of the staff, with a chain by which to hang it to the rollers (= "'eẓ ḥayyim") of the scroll after the latter has been rolled up. The yad is one of the "kele ḳodesh" (="holy vessels") ornamenting the Torah. See Scroll of the Law.

  • Jacobs, Year Book, 5659, p. 314.
J. J. D. E.Various Specimens of the Yad.(In the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Cluny Museum, Paris, Temple Emanu-El, New York; Temple Shearith Israel, New York; and in the possession of Sir Samuel Montagu, London; E. A. Franklin, London; Maurice Herrmann, New York.)
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