New American Reform Responsa
28. The Form of the Yad
QUESTION: All of the Torah pointers in my congregation are in the form of a hand, sometimes with a ring on the index finger and at other times not. A young silversmith would like to create a Torah pointer which is more akin to the branch of a tree, as that would fit with a Torah ornament which he is also in the process of creating. Is this permissible? (Fred Danovitz, Washington DC)ANSWER: There is nothing in the traditional literature which deals with the yad although there is a considerable amount of discussion about the (rimonim) Torah crowns (Yad Hil Sefer Torah10.4; Tur and Shulhan Arukh Yoreh Deah 282.16; Orah Hayim 138.18). The pointer seems to have been incidental and was a practical device to prevent the reader from getting lost in this text with which contains no markings of any kind. The earliest known pointer comes from Frankfurt in 1570 (Franz Landsberger “The Origin of European Torah Decorations” Beauty in Holiness (ed) J. Gutmann p 102 ff). Pointers from succeeding centuries are found in many collections; all examples which I have seen are either in the form of a hand or akin to a scepter. They represented the taste of the particular age and it was the gold or silversmith who determined the design. They were often created by Gentile craftsmen. We should note that a large number of pointers were wooden rather than precious metal. There would be nothing wrong with designing a pointer in the form of a tree branch and it would be a refreshing change in Torah ornamentation. Such a yad would be appropriate.May 1990
If needed, please consult Abbreviations used in CCAR Responsa.