The “Torah,” meaning teaching or instruction, is the “Law” of the Jewish faith and the holiest of the sacred writings in Judaism. A “Sefer Torah” is a copy of the Torah written on parchment in a formal, traditional manner by a specially trained scribe under very strict conditions. The Torah contains the first of the three sections of the Bible, and is divided into five books, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, known as the Five Books of Moses. The holy parchment is attached to two wooden poles known as Atzei Chaim, meaning the “Tree of life.” The expression, found in the Book of Proverbs, is figuratively applied to the Torah itself: “It [the Torah] is a Tree of Life to those who cleave to it.”
The tradition of adorning the Sefer Torah with bells (“rimonim”) and a breastplate (“choshen”) is associated with the bells and breast-plate worn by the High Priest (“Cohen Gadol”). As God instructed Moses, the breast-plate of the Cohen Gadol had twelve precious stones engraved with the name of each of the twelve tribes of Israel. The custom of decorating the Torah thus dates back to the First Temple. It is said that King Solomon was the first to implement the practice of Hedoor Mitzvah. Hedoor Mitzvah is the act of glorifying a commandment. King Solomon was attentive to the glorification of God in the construction of the First Temple and its utensils.