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Nablûs - The Ancient Samaritan Pentateuch

The Samaritan Pentateuch or Torah. The Torah rests in a cylindrical case and is covered by an embroidered cloth. The top handles of the scroll are adorned with two ornate spheres, one smaller and one larger. Samaritan writing covers the embroidered cloth.

Bedford, Francis
1862 April 13
J. Paul Getty Museum

Francis Bedford (English, 1815/1816 - 1894) Nablûs - The Ancient Samaritan Pentateuch, April 13, 1862, Albumen silver print, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles


Shavuot is celebrated in the month of Sivan. Its origin was environmental, and the holiday was later attributed to a historical event. This source gives students a good idea of how scrolls differ from books. Today the Torah, written on a scroll, sits in a special shrine, the Torah ark, in most synagogues. The Samaritans are a distinct ethno-religious group whose beliefs and practices are different from Rabbinical Judaism in some ways.

Shavuot (also called the Festival of Weeks) began as a harvest holiday. In ancient times, the grain harvest began with the harvesting of barley during Passover and ended with the harvesting of wheat and first fruits (such as figs) at Shavuot. It was a very happy time of year, because everyone had enough to eat. Although the Tanakh never says the two are connected, Shavuot later became a celebration of God giving the Torah, the most important part of the Tanakh, to Moses on Mount Sinai after the Jews were freed from slavery in Egypt. The Torah contains the Ten Commandments, which are the important principles of both Judaism and Christianity. Most synagogues have Torah scrolls inside a Torah ark like the one in the photo. In what Jewish month is Shavuot celebrated? Is the origin of Shavuot connected to the environment, the history of the Hebrews, or interactions with other people?


Ancient Customs: After they harvested their wheat, ancient farmers in the land of Israel would load their baskets with grains and fruits and go to Jerusalem for a large celebration. They would be happy and grateful because their food supply was secure for another year. People were supposed to bring two loaves of bread to offer at the Temple. Later, priests began to teach that this agricultural holiday was on the same day that God gave the Torah (with the Ten Commandments) to Moses on Mount Sinai. 

Modern Customs: Jews get together to celebrate the giving of the Torah. They eat a dairy meal of foods like blintzes, cheesecake, and casseroles. One of the most popular religious explanations for this custom suggests that the tradition stems from God’s gift of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai. The Jewish kosher (food) laws are described in the Torah. These laws require cooks to separate dairy foods from meat and require butchers to slaughter cattle in a special way. Since there was no time to prepare kosher meat before the feast, the Israelites ate a dairy meal.

Photographed by Francis Bedford during the tour in the East on which by Command he accompanied His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. Plate 30. Nablus The Ancient Samaritan Pentateuch.