Skillfully connect to the Torah Scroll with confidence and joy
This guide connects Hebrew readers of all ages with the joy of personally locating Shabbat and holiday Aliyahs as they appear in the Torah Scroll.
Easily find upcoming Shabbat and holiday Parashahs
The “Where is my Parashah?” section of this easy-to-use handbook enables readers to find and engage with the peshat, the literal and straightforward rendering of the Biblical text, in the exact Torah Scroll column where the reading commences.
Confidently know where the Torah Scroll is rolled (or unexpectedly rolled) to
The “Where am I?” section gives readers with even modest Hebrew reading skills the ability to identify the contents of any Torah Scroll column — the Sefer, Parashah, and Aliyah(s) contained within it. Students, bar mitzvah boys, and baalei teshuvah who can find simple nouns in a Hebrew dictionary have the prerequisite skills to use this reference guide.
The Torah Scroll Column Reference Guide is an indispensable companion to Torah Scrolls and Tikkun Kor’im and provides great benefit for native Hebrew speakers as well.
“The many who have felt the sinking, helpless feeling of opening a Torah scroll, only to find that it has been rolled to the wrong spot, can fully appreciate the great gift and service that the Torah Scroll Column Reference Guide provides. This guide should be in every synagogue and will make a perfect bar mitzvah gift for budding Torah readers in training!”
Rabbi Yogi Robkin
Outreach Director, Dallas Area Torah Association (DATA) of Plano, TX
Updated: April 18, 2021 / P.R. Kliman
Note: Short Answer is at the beginning of each reply, and then full explanation follows.
What is the “Torah Scroll Column Reference Guide”?
As one reviewer observed, this book is a resource that puts in writing what an experienced Baal Korei instinctively knows.
This book empowers folks who are new to reading Torah, or who read occasionally, to stand before the Scroll and quickly and accurately identify:
- Where the Scroll is currently rolled to (the Sefer/Parashah/Aliyah(s))
- Where a desired Shabbat or Holiday Aliyah is located
The reader can either confirm the Scroll is exactly where it needs to be for their reading or now has a tool that enables them to confidently and specifically navigate to their desired reading.
Torah Scrolls come in different formats; the Reference Guide supports a frequently used modern standard of 245 Columns / 42 Lines. Many modern Tikkun use this format.
How is the “Torah Scroll Column Reference Guide” different from the Tikkun Kor’im and Chumash I use to prepare for Leining Torah?
The “Torah Scroll Column Reference Guide” uniquely arranges the first line (Line 1) of each Column, alphabetically. If the Scroll is rolled to an unexpected location – for a new or occasional reader, even one with Rabbinic Ordination, it is an inexact and frustrating process to figure out where the Scroll currently is and how to get to today’s Aliyah. This can be true even for native Hebrew speakers. A Tikkun Korim or Chumash is little help in this situation.
Using the Reference Guide, the reader simply reads the first two or three words of the first line for the current Column, and then does an alphabetic lookup until those words are found. It is as straightforward as looking up nouns in a Hebrew dictionary. With just a little bit of practice, the matching entry is quickly found in the “Where am I?” Section. The reader now knows the Column Number, the Sefer / Parashah / Aliyah(s) contained in the current Column and can look-up the Column Number for their Aliyah. Simple arithmetic tells them how many Columns they need to roll the Scroll to get to their Aliyah, and in which direction.
The “Torah Scroll Column Reference Guide” identifies the Number of each Column, but the Torah Scroll doesn’t have Column Numbers– so how is knowing the Column Number helpful?
When the Scroll is rolled to an unexpected location – using the Column Number for the desired reading and the Column Number for the current Column, the reader performs simple math and knows how many Columns to roll the Scroll, and in which direction.
For a Torah Scroll in the frequently used standard layout of 245 Columns / 42 Lines:
- Column # 1 – Sefer Bereshit begins (first Column of Scroll)
- Column # 61 – Sefer Shemot begins
- Column # 111 – Sefer Vayikra begins
- Column # 148 – Sefer Bemidbar begins
- Column # 200 – Sefer Devarim begins
- Column # 245 – Sefer Devarim concludes (last Column of the Scroll)
Preparing to Lein
- The reader uses “Where is my Parashah?” Section of the Reference Guide and identifies the specific Column Number where their Aliyah begins
In front of the Torah Scroll when it is rolled to an unexpected location
- Reader uses the first 2-3 words of Line 1 of the current Column, and performs an alphabetic look-up in the “Where am I?” Section of the Reference Guide; the current Column Number is identified
- Reader uses arithmetic to mentally calculate how many Columns need to be rolled to get to the Column contain desired Aliyah
Example 1 – Desired Aliyah is in Column 6 and Scroll is currently rolled to Column 44. The Scroll needs to be rolled 38 Columns towards Sefer Bereshit (beginning).
Example 2 – Desired Aliyah is in Column 53 and Scroll is currently rolled to Column 44. The Scroll needs to be rolled 11 Columns towards Sefer Devarim.
- Additionally, the Reader begins to use common sense, creating a framework for building an intuitive sense of navigating the Scroll.
- If the desired Aliyah is in Column 6 and the Scroll is rolled somewhere in the middle (about equal amounts of parchment on either side), then roll the Scroll to the beginning of Bereshit and count 6 Columns.
- If the desired Aliyah is in Column 61 (Cohen Aliyah for Parashah Shemot) and the current Column is 44, simply roll towards Sefer Devarim until you encounter the 4 blank lines indicating the beginning of a new Sefer – in this case Sefer Shemot beginning in Column Number 61.
I use the amount of parchment rolled to each side to figure out where the Torah Scroll is rolled – why would I need to use a different technique?
The “Torah Scroll Column Reference Guide” does not eliminate, but rather adds precision, to the technique of evaluating the amount of parchment on each side of the Scroll to figure out where you probably are.
Being even 4-5 columns off from your expected column can be very unnerving if you do not read Torah all the time and you do not have an instinctive sense of where you are.
For new or occasional Torah Readers, a scenario would look something like this:
- Using the Reference Guide, reader identifies their Aliyah begins in Column 154 (Cohen Aliyah for Parashah Naso in Sefer Bemidbar)
- Based on so much parchment on the right, Reader believes the Scroll is rolled somewhere in Sefer Devarim
- Reader uses “Where am I?” Section of Reference Guide to confirm
- Reader rolls the Scroll towards the beginning (Sefer Bereshit), and passes the beginning of Sefer Deverim (Column Number 200 / using the 4 blank lines as the indicator of a new book), and continues rolling to the beginning of Sefer Bemidbar (Column Number 148 / using the 4 blank lines as the indicator of a new book)
- Reader rolls (back towards the end of the Scroll) 6 columns from Column Number 148 until they reach Column Number 154
- Reading commences
Torah Scrolls, especially older ones, come in many different formats. Which format does the “Torah Scroll Column Reference Guide” support? What about other formats?
The “Torah Scroll Column Reference Guide” is based on a frequently used modern standard of 245 Columns / 42 Lines. Many modern Tikkun Korim adhere to this layout.
Before using the Reference Guide, each Torah Scroll needs to be checked to see if it is in a compatible format.
Just like technology having different protocols (think of an IPv4 32-bit address vs IPv6 128-bit address regarding how we communicate over the Internet) – one is picked as a “standard” so folks can have a common platform for exchanging information.
Since before the time of the RamBam, there have been standards to ensure a Torah Scroll was Kosher. Communities also developed local conventions regarding how many columns per Scroll, how many lines per Column, and what types of words to begin the Column (ex: using Vavei Amudim where almost all columns begin with a Vav).
I Lein Torah all the time and have a strong sense of the Scroll – how could the “Torah Scroll Column Reference Guide” help me?
If you are like our main Torah Reader in our Shul, the Reference Guide would probably slow you down (just as someone who plays music by ear would be slowed down trying to follow sheet music). However, for many Leiners, we are not there yet and need the help of sheet music (or in this case, the Reference Guide) to assist us.
This assistance is not only at the Bimah with the Torah Scroll; it can also be at the privacy of our kitchen table with a 245/42 Layout Tikkun Korim and the Reference Guide to help us on our journey of becoming skilled navigators of the Scroll.
How can the “Torah Scroll Column Reference Guide” help me recognize my starting place for reading my Aliyah?
Use the Reference Guide to not only identify which Column your Aliyah begins in, but which Line within that Column. This is especially helpful when the Column does not contain any open or closed spaces.
Some Columns, it is easy to find where the Aliyah begins, because it follows the only Open or Closed Space within the Column. Sometimes there are multiple Open and/or Closed Spaces within a Column, and the Aliyah begins after a specific one. Sometimes it is more challenging since there are more than 30 Columns where there are not any Spaces within the text – so knowing the Line Number is a big help in locating exactly where your reading begins. Use the Reference Guide as a companion to your Chumash, where you will find the specific beginning text you will be reading.
Why would our synagogue need a copy of the “Torah Scroll Column Reference Guide” – none of our Torah Scrolls use the 245 Column / 42 Line format
Hebrew education! Use the Reference Guide as a textbook along with a 245/42 Layout Tikkun for both your Hebrew Language classes and to introduce Torah Scroll formatting concepts to your Bar Mitzvah Students.
Many Bar Mitzvah students have never seen a Tikkun Korim and prepare for their big day using a Chumash. As an educational supplement, the Reference Guide can be used as a textbook in conjunction with a Tikkun Korim that is in the 245 Column / 42 Line format (one that works well is: “Tikkun Korim Hamefoar: Tikun for Reading the Torah with Instructions and Laws in Hebrew and English” by Abraham B. Walzer (available on Amazon). Even though the Torah they will be reading from will be in a different format – students will be introduced to concepts of spacing in the Scroll (between Sefers and open and closed spaces within the majority of Columns). Teachers can enrich lessons with a 5-minute warm-up exercise asking students to find each Aliyah for their Parashah in the Tikkun, using the Reference Guide to assist (especially helpful when an Aliyah is not preceded by an open or closed space). A bonus activity would be finding the Cohen Aliyah for the upcoming Shabbat Parashah.
These same educational activities can be used in your Hebrew classes (with students of all ages) to strengthen Hebrew reading skills and confidence. After students graduate from your Synagogue’s Hebrew Reading Classes (using NJOP (National Jewish Outreach Program) or equivalent lessons) ongoing classes can be offered to keep reading skills strong, using the Reference Guide with a 245/42 Tikkun. Weekly, students take turns practicing finding and then reading portions of upcoming Shabbat or Yom Tov Aliyahs.
I’m not a Synagogue, I’m a Jewish Day School – how could the “Torah Scroll Column Reference Guide” be used in the Classroom?
Pair the Reference Guide with a Tikkun Korim that uses the 245/42 format to create a multitude of games and activities for your students. Some ideas –
- Friday Morning Challenge – Pair students in teams of two and assign each team an Aliyah to find from the upcoming Shabbat Parashah. Have each team find and tell the class where the Aliyah is found in the Torah Scroll, and then read the beginning text. Ask more advanced students to translate the beginning text. Designate two students to validate answers. Special recognition to teams finding their Aliyah within 60 seconds.
- 20 Minute Activity when Class needs a Diversion – Ask one student to share what their Bar Mitzvah Parashah is. Have students shout-out the location for each Aliyah (Column Number and Line Number) as they find them in the Tikkun, using the Reference guide to speed things up – ask two students to validate answers.
Extra-Credit Activity/Quiz – In advance, prepare 5 slides with Line 1 text from 5 different Torah Scroll Columns. Students will use both the “Where am I?” Section of the Reference Guide and the 245/42 Tikkun Korim to answer the following questions for each: (1) What Sefer and Parashah(s) are in the Column; (2) What is the Column Number; (3) List the Aliyahs within the Column; (4) Describe the layout of the Column (ex: Amount of open/closed spaces; does it begin a new Sefer; is there any unusual formatting (such as Column 78 or 242)); (5) Does the Column contain any special text (ex: Shema or Birkat Kohanim or text for Shabbat Zachor, etc.)