Yad, otherwise known as hand in Hebrew, is a religious pointer, which resembles something you or your teacher might have used in elementary school. Although Jack Black’s pointer is far more suited for his school of rock, the Jewish Yad has an interesting history to its creation.
The Yad was created for the purpose of protecting the sacred texts of the Torah from bare hands while someone is reading. We all know what happens to a book after you’ve loaned it a few times or even a cd, if we all still remember those, would lose its clarity of sound after playing it over and over. The aspect of protecting the scroll and ink from a hands’ oil was necessary as well as the religious belief of not touching the sacred texts with bare hands. Somewhere between touching it would render the offender unclean and touching the Torah with naked hands means the person should be buried naked as it offends and disgraces the Torah to be touched naked, therefore the offender should also be disgraced with a naked burial, although no single reason is agreed upon conclusively.
But it makes sense at least in terms of preservation that you don’t want to go around touching your religious texts with dirty hands. I know I have more than a few textbooks with food smudges or ink smears, as one has when they’re late night studying and somehow ink bleeds onto a finger and has the potential to render a section illegible. But when you are reading the Torah, especially standing, as is the typical posture, can make it difficult to follow a line, so as child has done in learning to read, a closed hand with the index finger pointing is helpful to the reader as they follow this extended pointing finger across the scroll.
Most Yads are not made of wood and plastic like seen above but instead are made of silver or gold, and some wood ones too although typically adorned with the Star of David, the color blue, and filigree designs scrolling the length of the handle. Some include the Menorah or even a verse from the bible. Typically the Yad is gifted for a person’s Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah, and can even have the giver’s name inscribed onto it. During a Bar/Bat Mitzvah the person that is coming of age, publically reads from the Torah in front of their family and friends, and therefore needs a Yad, or can borrow one, although it’s a special item that someone receives. In Christianity it can be seen as equivocal to a rosary, which is meant for the person to use and can be a very sentimental item for the recipient. You can also see it similar to a wand from Harry Potter, as each one looks unique and is meant to be wielded with care and intent behind its direction. Either way a person buys themselves or receives a Yad, it is meant to serve a purpose, protecting the Torah, while helping the reader stay focused as they read their religious texts.