A yad is a pointer used in a synagogue to trace the text in the Torah. A rabbi will not run his finger across the parchment, he uses a yad instead. We learnt this over the weekend as part of my 12-year-old son’s RE homework, which involved learning at least three of the things that they had studied in the week, all about the Torah. These included the following:
- The Torah is the Jewish Holy Book.
- It is made of the five Books of Moses.
- It is written in a language called Hebrew.
- It is kept in a cupboard and is covered with clothes and crowns for decoration.
- It includes stories about Moses, Noah and Abraham.
- It is read out loud in the synagogue.
- Jews do not touch the writing in the Torah. They use a stick called a “yad” instead.
As I have mentioned a few times in these posts my wife is Jewish and I am Catholic. I have taken my children to mass almost every weekend of their lives, which means that my son has attended mass at least 600 times. He and his sister have also attended Jewish summer schools in summer holidays (fewer than 10 days in total) but otherwise have not spent much time in synagogues.
Last term, as part of his RE homework, he had to identify and copy the symbols of Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and Christianity, something I had never done. An accompanying table summarized the names of each religion’s holy texts (Torah, Koran, Bible and so on) and places of worship (synagogue, gurdwara, mosque…).
We referred back to this during the weekend, which might have confused things a little. While I asked him questions specifically about the Torah he initially picked, seemingly at random, other words from somewhere in his RE book. “What language is the Torah written in?” “Islam?” “No, that’s not a language.” “Hindu?” “No, that’s not a language either, but the answer does begin with H and end in an –oo sound.” Blank. “It’s Hebrew. Let’s try another one. The Torah is read in what place of worship?” “Buddhism?” “No.” “Mosque?” This went on for much longer than it should have, an infuriating amount of time. Eventually we got there and he could answer three questions appropriately: What is the Jewish Holy Book called? What language is it in? Where is it read out loud?
Some time later, during lunch, he wanted to be asked more questions. “Okay, what’s the name of the stick that’s used in a synagogue, to point to the words in the Torah (which is in Hebrew)?” “Yad.” “But we didn’t even practise that one. How could you know the answer to that one and tell me that the Torah was written in a language called Hindu?” I asked if he had been giving me all those other answers just to wind me up. It had worked.