I’ll share some of the laws and traditions involved in the writing of a Sefer Torah.
Hashem entrusted us, His special nation Klal Yisroel, with the responsibility of representing Him in this world by upholding and observing the Torah He gave to us.
On the last day of his life, our leader Moshe wrote 13 Torah scrolls. Moshe gave a Torah to each of the tribes and kept one in the Holy of Holies, and it was placed either in or on the side of the Holy Ark.
Before a Sofer/scribe writes the letters of a Torah he is required to first look at a preexisting text and then write the words. This is as a security so that mistakes in the tradition don’t occur. More than 3300 years have passed since the writing of the first Torah, yet none of the 304,805 letters have been altered or omitted.
A Sefer Torah is written on parchment/Klaf taken from hides from a kosher animal.
Once the Klaf is prepared, a rectangular piece having enough room for 3-8 columns of script is used.
Each column requires Sirtut – scratching straight lines and borders so that the script is orderly, justified and beautiful. Generally, there are 42 or 48 lines in each column, although more lines of script are allowed.
There must be an empty border space before the words begin on the top, as well as borders on the bottom and the side margins.
The more than 60 parchment reams are stitched together with sinews from a Kosher type of animal.
The Torah is handwritten by a G-d fearing Sofer, with a turkey or goose quill. The ink must be black and made in a certain fashion. Before writing, the Sofer states that he is writing it for the sake of the Holiness of a Sefer Torah.
Each letter of the Torah has to be complete with no breaks, and it must stand alone without touching another letter. There is to be a hairsbreadth between the letters of a word, and the space for a smallest letter (Yud) between the words. There are basically three Ashuris script traditions, Beis Yosef, Ari z’l. and Sefardic.
There are seven letters that have three Tagin – crowns – upon them.
There are certain letters in the Torah that require a larger font and certain letters that require a smaller font. There are no vowels or Trup/cantillation signs written in the Torah. There are a few places where there are a certain number of dots on top of letters and words.
Between each book of the Torah there must be four empty lines to separate the books. There are paragraph breaks that call for a Sosum – a closed nine letter empty space within a line closed in by script on each side, and there are paragraph breaks that require a Pesucha – at least a nine-letter empty space at the end of a line.
There are two songs that are written uniquely. The script of the song the Jews sang at the sea appears like bricks are laid, and the song of the Parsha of Ha’azinu is written in two columns which gives the appearance of pillars.
The most frequent letter in the Torah is Yud. It appears 31,530 times. The second letter is Vuv, appearing 30,513 times. The third is Hey at 28,052. Interestingly, these are the letters of Hashem’s four-letter name, which appears 802 times in the Torah.
After the last word of the Sefer Torah, Yisroel, there is to be at least nine empty spaces.
The first and last of the parchment reams of the Torah are sewed onto wooden poles called Atzai Chaim/poles of life.
A complete Sefer Torah has a high level of sanctity. One has to rise in its honor and it needs to be treated with the utmost respect. One should try not touch the parchment with his bare hands.
A Gartel/belt holds the Torah closed, and the outer covering for the Sefer Torah is called a Mantel.
Before using a Sefer Torah for the first time it has to be meticulously checked for any mistakes, including missing or added letters, incomplete letters or letter that are attached to others.
Today, a Sefer Torah is also scanned by a computer to check on its accuracy.
When a Sefer Torah is completed, the Sofer outlines a number of the last letters of the Torah so that people can be honored to fill in the letters and be part of the Mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah. When it is completed it calls for great celebration.
A person was once witnessing a welcoming of a new Sefer Torah and was enthralled by the lively music, dancing and singing and ceremony. He thought that the Shul they were heading to did not have a Torah and that was the reason for the joy.
To his surprise, as they approached the Shul, the new Sefer Torah was greeted by men holding and dancing with the Torah scrolls taken from the Shul.
He asked why the celebration if they already have other Torahs?
He was told that each Sefer Torah is a world unto itself, and therefore requires a joyous celebration.
A newly completed Sefer Torah is similar to the birth of a child; they both have their individualized distinctness. A Torah is held delicately and lovingly just like when one holds a baby. Furthermore, a Sefer Torah contains 365 negative commands and 248 positive commands, and a human being has 365 sinews and 248 limbs. Each of the 613 Mitzvos of the Torah represents a sinew and limb of a person. Throughout our lives, we strive to perfect ourselves by continually living up to the ideals and responsibilities set forth in the Torah.