Dressing the Torah
The centrality of the Torah in Jewish life and practice is emphasized by the way it is embellished. Torah dressings are based on the garb of a high priest described in Exodus Book 28, and consist of a cloth mantle or dress, a sash, a crown or finials and a breastplate.
Many of the Torah ornaments in the Museum’s collection feature the same decorative images, all relating to the importance of the Torah. Ten Commandment tablets signify the supremacy of the word of God. Regal symbols like the Torah crown and lions suggest that the Torah is the “king” of the Jewish service. The lions also call to mind the Lions of Judah, symbolic of an Israelite tribe in the book of Genesis, and suggest strength, power and a feared creature, alluding to a general fear of God. These symbols are typical in Ashkenazi (Eastern European) congregations of the late 19th through the mid 20th century.