Jeralyn Wessel— Staff Writer
In May 2022, Dordt University received a 200 year-old Torah scroll from Dan Pritchett and family. Pritchett works as the principal at Faithlife, the maker of Logos Bible Software, and has amassed an extensive collection of Hebrew scrolls from a variety of time periods. A few years ago, the Pritchett family decided to begin donating the scrolls to institutions through the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities. Over 130 scrolls have already been donated.
Before arriving at Dordt, the scroll went through an extensive verification process to ensure it had been obtained properly. The Israeli government validated the document as an authentic, legal copy of the Torah, appraised, and examined by many historical scholars.
This Torah is about 80 feet long, two feet tall, and written on 32 calf skins sewn together with animal string made from the leg sinews of a kosher animal. The rabbi who penned this scroll attempted to replicate what an ancient Torah may have looked like. The rabbi lived in the Netherlands, which is part of the reason it matched with Dordt.
Writing the Torah on animal skins produces a far more durable product than simply using paper. This scroll does not need to be stored in a humidity-controlled environment and can safely be touched, since certain oils from human hands help preserve the scroll.
Dordt put the scroll into storage in the Hulst Library archives indefinitely after being displayed to the student body at chapel on Sept. 14. The Torah will eventually be exhibited publicly when a proper place is selected; it may be put in a display case outside the library or incorporated into the B.J. Haan Auditorium renovations.
Proper care of the document requires that no more than four feet be displayed for long periods of time, and the scroll should be away from sunlight. Jennifer Breems, Director of Library Services, said audio of the Hebrew reading of the Torah could potentially be part of the permanent display.
While this Torah scroll will interest anyone studying history or the keeping and passing….down of Scripture, it also melds art and science together in its beauty and painstaking creation.
“The single biggest value to us as a campus of this beautiful piece passed down in history is that it is just one example of the work of the Spirit preserving the Word of God passed down from generation to generation,” Aaron Baart, Dordt’s Chief of Staff and Dean of Chapel, said.
Many Hebrew scrolls take years to finish, and this rabbi meticulously wrote nearly 7,200 lines to hand down to subsequent generations. While only one example of an ancient practice, this kind of commitment and consistency testifies to the reliability of the transmission of Scripture.
“I hope seeing those things evokes a sense of confidence for students and our Christian tradition and the legacy of passing down God’s words,” Baart said. “I hope they have an appreciation for the aesthetic and beautiful art form involved in it.”