The Yemenite Torah

The Yemenite Torah is pictured inside the Nebraska Union on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

A recognized student organization brought a 400- to 500-year-old Hebrew Torah to its weekly meeting Wednesday.

The Torah, which consists of the first five books of the Bible, was publicly displayed in the Nebraska Union’s Centennial Room so members of the Ratio Christi RSO and others could learn about its history.

Ratio Christi, which is interpreted in Latin as “the reason of Christ,” is a national organization that teaches its members to use history, philosophy and science to support following Jesus Christ, according to its NvolveU page. This semester, the UNL chapter is focusing on the topic “Is the Bible true?” so that the group can explore and understand the Bible’s history. The UNL chapter is using the scroll to examine the history of the Bible and the Torah to reiterate their confidence in the Bible.

“We thought it would be an awesome opportunity to be able to see how the text of scripture has been passed down throughout history,” he said. “Displaying this scroll that’s between four and five hundred years old is a good way to learn about the transmission process and see the care and meticulous nature that the scribes approached copying scripture for future generations.”

UNL’s chapter of Ratio Christi obtained the scroll from its national organization. Blowers said the scroll is among several that a donor gifted to Ratio Christi. 

Yemeni Jews wrote the scroll in the 1600s, and Blowers said the scroll has changed hands several times since then. He said the scroll was likely transported to Israel by a Jewish community during Operation Magic Carpet, a secret airlift by several countries to transport about 49,000 Jews from Yemen to Israel in 1949. 

Tools like magnifying glasses and pointers were laid out with the Torah for viewers to use while looking at it. Blowers said the Torah’s writers used the pointers to keep their place in the scroll. 

He said the Torah would have taken a year to write, and one scribe would have written the whole piece after memorizing around 4,000 rules. Scribes also used only kosher materials in writing the Torah.

Mohrmann said Blowers presented historical details about the scroll at the RSO’s meeting Wednesday night.

Joel Mohrmann, chapter president and a second-year graduate student in electrical engineering, said the scroll is a compelling piece of history. 

“We thought it would be an interesting visual of … what the bible looked like when it was written down early on and then copied over the generations and then passed down to us,” he said.

Ethan Caplinger, a sophomore philosophy major, said he was fascinated by the Hebrew language.

“I like the fact that everything is imprinted,” he said. “I’m really fascinated with their characters [and] with the unique letters that they use.

Blowers said the ability to see how the text and meaning doesn’t change through translations gives readers confidence in the Bible.

“The importance of it is the fact that it is the text of scripture as Christians and Jews; we both hold that this is God’s word,” he said. “The ability to see how it’s been transmitted to us and then how the text hasn’t changed is an important way that we can confirm or that we can have confidence that errors, myths, legends, inaccuracies haven’t been written into the text accidentally.”