Positive Mitzvah Eighteen

Every Jewish Man Must Acquire a Scroll of the Torah

Devarim 31:19 So now, write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the Benei Yisrael, place it in their mouth, so that this song shall be for Me a witness against the Benei Yisrael.

By this injunction we are commanded that every man among us is to have a Scroll of the Law for himself. If he writes it with his own hand, he is greatly to be praised, and this is to be preferred, as the Sages say: "If he writes it with his own hand, Scripture considers it as if he had received it from Mt. Sinai." If he cannot write it himself, he is obliged to purchase one, or to hire [a scribe] who will write it for him.

The rules for the writing of a Scroll of Law and the conditions attaching thereto are explained in Menachot 3 at the beginning of Bava Batra, and in Shabbat.

The Sefer Torah or Scroll of the Law must be written on sheets of parchment, specially prepared from the skins of Levitical clean animals, and so sewn together as to comprise the Five Books of Moshe in their entirety. Only the square Hebrew characters are used, as prescribed by established law and usage. The writing - a task specially sacred - is entrusted to a professional Sofer or Scribe, who is both skilled in this art and devoutly religious; for a Scroll that is written by an unbeliever is worse than if it were written by an idolater, and must be burned. Before commencing to write it the Scribe sanctifies it in the words, "I herewith dedicate this Scroll, which I am writing as a holy Scroll of the Law." In like manner, before writing the Name of Hashem, the Scribe must first sanctify It as such; and the rules affecting the forms and combinations of letters are strict in the extreme (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah, 274, 1; 276, 2). In writing a Scroll of the Law the Scribe must have before him a finished copy, from which he reads, pronouncing every word before inscribing it.

In transporting it from place to place one must carry it near his heart, avoiding any slight or mark of disesteem as far as possible.

Av, 4, 6; Mishneh Torah, Ahavah, Hilchot Sefer Torah, 10, 11

"He who sits in the presence of a Scroll of the Law must observe great solemnity, abiding in fear and in awe of the trustworthy testimony [of G-d's word] as handed on to all generations, as it is said, That it may be there for a witness against you (Devarim 31:26); and he is therefore to honor it as far as it is in his power to do so. Thus said the Sages of old: 'He that dishonors the Law shall himself be dishonored by mankind, while he that honors the Law is himself honored by mankind.'"