A binder for the Torah scroll, a long strip of cloth, is a means of holding the staves together when the Torah is not in use, thereby preventing damage to the parchment. The sacredness ascribed to the Torah scroll in Judaism necessitates its protection.
This petit-point binder is divided horizontally into two bands of decoration: above, series of naturalistically rendered flowers such as tulips and roses; and below, an inscription that reads: In honor of God and His Torah, the work of Signora Rikah…wife of Hayyim, the son of Joseph Polacco, the Levite…in the year 5423 a[ccording to the] l[arge counting].
The making of a Torah binder by a woman who dedicates it to a male member of her family was a common custom among Italian Jews.
This work is the key to the authorship of a large needlepoint Torah curtain now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (511-1877), which was made in 1675-76. According to its inscription, Joseph, son of Hayyim Polacco, restored this needlepoint curtain in 1702-3. The Victoria and Albert curtain has many features similar to the binder made by Rikah Polacco. The inclusion of numerous flowers, their style, and the original date of the curtain's fabrication suggest that it was made by Rikah Polacco, the wife of Hayyim and mother of Joseph. Two related, but undated, needlepoint curtains, one in The Jewish Museum, New York (F 3432), and the other in the Jewish Museum, Florence, were probably made in the 1670s as well.