The Gift of Torah

Posted on February 3, 2021

By Hazzan Barbara Barnett

This week in Torah, the journey of our ancestors continues, leading them to the foot of Mount Sinai, where Moses disappears for forty days to talk with God and return with the Ten Commandments. It’s a pivotal moment coming early in the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land and the “aseret hadibrot” (the ten words, as one might translate the Hebrew)  frame the entirety of the 613 commandments (mitzvot) contained in the Torah. Mitzvot that to this day provide structure and scaffolding to live a good Jewish life.

The Torah was given to the Israelites, a precious gift, and even the angels, says our tradition, were astounded that such a thing should be put into the keeping of mere mortals. But the Torah is ours, not just an artifact of an ancient time, but living, breathing document to be turned and studied and interpreted and re-interpreted to guide us.

Over the generations, the words of the Torah were inscribed onto parchment scrolls, from which each week we can study its words and explore its depths and meaning for us in our time.

North Suburban Synagogue Beth El is blessed to have numerous Torah scrolls. Most weekdays when we read Torah publicly and on Shabbat, we only need a single Torah; there are some Shabbatot where we need up to three! (February 13 is one of those rare three-Torah days).

But Torah scrolls are handwritten in quill and ink on heavy parchment, and over time and with use (and sometimes with lack of use), the letters fade, flake off or something else goes wrong with the physical scroll and the writing. And the Torah scroll in order to be considered “Kosher” and appropriate to read publicly must be in perfect condition.

When we identify a problem, it needs to be repaired. Perhaps a letter needs to be re-inked meticulously and as an exact match to the hand that is in the original scroll. Perhaps an entire section needs re-inking or replacing.

So every once in a while, it’s a good idea to have all the Torahs checked to make sure they are in perfect condition for use. And to identify issues—and fix them.

Next week we will be hosting a visit from Sofer on Site, a company specializing in Torah repair and restoration. Rabbi Moshe Druin, one of their master sofrim (scribes) will visit Tuesday and Wednesday first to evaluate all our Torahs and initiate repairs. Wednesday, February 10, everyone will have an opportunity view him at work via the “Torah Cam,” which will be placed in the Zell to allow us a bird’s eye view of Rabbi Druin as he repairs our Torahs. He is happy to answer questions and explain what he is doing if you stop by any time between 10 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday. Questions before Rabbi Druin’s visit? Feel free to email me at