Fast Facts

  • This man, Carlos Padilla, is carrying a Torah. The Torah is the most holy text in the Jewish religion. This Torah, in the form of a large scroll, is called a sefer Torah. (The handles of the sefer Torah are resting in Carlos' hands.)
  • The Torah is covered by a decorated velvet bag called a Torah mantle. The language used on the Torah mantle is Hebrew, the traditional language of the Jewish people. The two words at the top, on either side of the crown, read "Crown of Torah." The words in the middle of the mantle are the first two words of each of the Ten Commandments.
  • The headwear Carlos is wearing is called a kippah. A kippah is often called a yarmulke, and is customary for Jewish men to wear during prayer.
  • Carlos' blue-and-white striped garment is called a tallit. This square or rectangular prayer shawl has little religious significance on its own.
  • The tallit is worn to hold the knotted white fringes, seen on the tallit near Carlos' shoulder. These fringes are called tzitzit. Tzitzit serve as reminders of the mitzvot, or commandments given by God in the Torah.

For Further Exploration

Vocabulary

Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry

Jewish

Adjective

having to do with the religion or culture of people tracing their ancestry to the ancient Middle East and the spiritual leaders Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

kippah

Noun

headwear, usually a flat skullcap, worn by Jewish men. Also called a yarmulke.

mitzvot

Plural Noun

collection of 613 commandments in the Torah, the holiest book in Judaism, as well as additional rules for conduct and worship.

prayer

Noun

communication with a spiritual deity.

religion

Noun

a system of spiritual or supernatural belief.

sefer Torah

Noun

large scroll containing a handwritten copy of the Torah, the holiest text in Judaism. Also called a a Torah scroll.

significance

Noun

importance.

tallit

Noun

four-sided shawl with fringes (tzitzit), worn around the shoulders of Jewish men during prayer.

Ten Commandments

Noun

rules for conduct and worship honored by Jewish and Christian faiths.

Torah

Noun

first part of the Jewish bible, the most important text in the Jewish religion.

Torah mantle

Noun

fabric bag used to cover and protect the Torah, the most sacred book in Judaism, when it is not in use.

tzitzit

noun, plural noun

knotted white fringes or tassels attached to a Jewish man's prayer shawl (tallit).

velvet

adjective, noun

thick, soft fabric.

Credits

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Photographer

Yvonne Garcia, courtesy The Association of Crypto-Jews of the Americas

Producer

Caryl-Sue, National Geographic Society

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