The Torah Crown Meaning
The Scrolls of the Law that contain the Five Books of Moses are a central part of the Jewish faith and the synagogue. These holy scrolls, handwritten on parchment according to centuries old traditions and laws are the center of Jewish worship, holy and revered.
The Torah Crown is the oldest recorded Torah ornament, first mentioned by medieval Jewish theologian, rabbi and scholar Rabbi Hai Sherira in the 11th century CE.
The original Torah crowns derived from the ancient custom of crowning the individual who was called up to read the final portion of the Torah during the Simchat Torah festival.
Then, and now, they were used to decorate the poles used to carry the Torah parchment. Later on in the 12th century we hear of Torah crowns made from silver and gold and specifically decorating the scrolls in a document found in the Cairo genizah describing the religious practices of the Aleppo Jewish community
The first pictorial depiction a Torah crowns come to us from Sarajevo Haggadah which, despite its name, originates in 14th-century Spain.
The Torah Crown Of Judaism
The Hebrew word for crown, Keter, appears in many medieval Jewish texts. From the 16th century CE, it also began to take on importance as a religious symbol depicted in many areas of Jewish ceremonial art and ornamentation and especially as the top or crowning ornament of the Torah scrolls.
Usually taking on the form of a European king’s crown is often shown as being carried by lions. Similar decorations are found on the upper portions of the embroidered curtains in front of the synagogues Ark which contains copies of the Torah.
The ornate Torah crown is designed to crown the Torah physically as well as spiritually and to emphasize and accentuate its supremacy. The designs traditionally incorporate a series of symollocally significant elements that reflex and relate to the values attributed to the Torah.
These symbols are often arranged in a manner that flows upwards, focusing from the more solid structures at the base of the crown and drawing it upwards to more airy, ephemeral elements at the top. Our awareness is directed from the world of everyday reality, to the spiritual world.
The Torah Crown in Jewish writing and the Kabbalah
Just as the Shabbat is the Bride so the Torah is the king, the system of beliefs, ethics and morality that is supreme and above all other things. Thus the use of crown symbolism refers not just to the “topo” of the Torah scrolls but also to Gods supremacy, the very word of God.
The crown symbol appears in many early Jewish manuscripts attesting to God’s power. One example is the Pesikta Rabbati, a collection of sermons on the lessons of the Bible compiled sometime around 845 CE: "When the crown arrives, all of the soldiers above shudder and roar like a lion Pesikta Rabbati, Part 1, Verse 20.
One of the most potent symbols of the Kabbalah is the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life consists of 10 symbols that represent the 10 attributes of God’s power and the Creation. The symbols are arranged in a diagram from the most important at the top.
The uppermost symbol, and therefore the most significant is the Keter, the crown – which represents God’s unseen core and all that which is beyond our comprehension.
Other interpretations of the crown Sephira see it as representing the Eternal God: "That which was, is and will be."
In the Kabbalah as taught by Isaac Luria Ashkenazi, the crown is seen as representing the “holy spark” that is an integral part of God’s creation and as God created all things, so everything has the holy spark.
Over time, and since the first graphic depictions of the Tree of Life and the 10 Sephirot in the 16th. Century CE, they have become an increasingly important and central aspect of popular modern practical Kabbalah. In popular representations of the Tree of Life, its roots are depicted as being planted in the Crown which suggests its proximity to God and all that is divine.