BREASTPLATE, metal shield placed in front of the mantle of the Torah scroll in Ashkenazi communities. This custom did not develop in Sephardi communities because their Torah scrolls were kept in a case (tik) which did not lend itself to such additional decoration. Symbolic of, and sometimes similar to, the breastplate prescribed for the high priest (Ex. 28:15ff.), the object is often called ḥoshen mishpat, the Hebrew for the breastplate. Because of this symbolic identification, the Torah ornament often contained a reproduction of the 12 precious stones which adorned the high priest's breastplate. Since more than one Torah scroll was usually kept in the synagogue Ark, it also became customary during the late Middle Ages to indicate on each scroll the occasion or festival for which it was to be used. From this practical function there gradually developed the practice of including in the breastplate a section specifying the festival on which the scroll was to be utilized. Some of the breastplates are beautiful examples of Jewish *ceremonial art.
See also *Priestly Vestments.
J. Gutmann, Jewish Ceremonial Art (1964), 17–18.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.