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ToRoll: Materialized Holiness

Torah scrolls as a codicological, theological, and sociological phenomenon of Jewish scribal culture in the Diaspora

Applying the ink and forming the letters while writing a Torah scroll

Applying the ink and forming the letters while writing a Torah scroll
Image Credit: Annett Martini

Materialized holiness is a collaborative research project to examine the production of ritually pure Torah scrolls as an extraordinary codicological, theological, and sociological phenomenon of Jewish scribal culture. The project includes the digital edition of selected scribe literature from antiquity until the modern era, paleographical analyses of the letter crownlets and particular forms of lettering, analyses of the inks and the materials used for writing medieval Torah scrolls of European provenance, and qualitative interviews with contemporary scribes. A primary objective of the planned project is to further integrate central research fields of Jewish Studies into the inter- and transdisciplinary research discourses, and to open them up for methodological approaches with the help of the Digital Humanities. For processing new research questions, the project combines the academic expertise from Jewish Studies with the methods of material research, the social sciences, and art history, as well as with the future-oriented approaches of information technology.

The project is being supported by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research for a period of four years (2022–2026) in the funding line Small Disciplines – Strong Together. It is based at the Institute for Jewish Studies at the Free University Berlin with five researchers and supported by experts of the project partners – the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM) and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). Together with external project partners – the Mainz Academy of Sciences and Literature, the Berlin State Library – Prussian Cultural Heritage, and colleagues from the Institute for Art History at the Free University Berlin –, we are working on a digital repository of knowledge that will be made available equally to the national and international research communities as well as to the interested public for use and scientific advancement in open access.

Magdeburger Torah scroll, Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel

Image Credit: Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel

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