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Our Torah Scrolls

Honoring the Torah

The Torah was given to Moses on Mount Sinai and he passed it to Joshua who passed it on to the elders who passed it on to the leaders of the people.

This little phrase, written in the Middle Ages, brings to mind the powerful sacredness associated with the Torah. When we hold the Torah we link ourselves to very generation of Jews throughout history. As we listen to the words of the Torah we hear in them the ancient echoes of the Jews reading the Torah on Masada, during the Crusades, in the shtetls of Eastern Europe, in the first Reform temples in Germany, in the Touro Synagogue in Rhode Island in the early 1700s, in Tel Aviv at the turn of the century, in Poland as the Nazis advanced, and in the modern State of Israel as the flag was raised for the first time in almost 2,000 years. As we place our hand upon the Torah's breastplate we feel the hands of grandparents, parents, children, and grandchildren. Through our Torah we are linked to the generations of the past and the promise of the future. With the Torah we are never alone. we are always a part of the eternal spirit of the Jewish people.

The Torah is a gift, but one which requires our meticulous care and responsiveness. Legend tells us that God gave the gift of Torah to us only with the promise that we commit ourselves to teaching each new generation to live a life guided by Torah. The Torah requires our love, our commitment, our faith, and our ability to help create a just and compassionate world. With the words of Torah bound upon our hands and foremost in our vision, our lives are enriched and our world is infused with meaning and purpose.

 

Our Holocaust Scrolls

Our congregation has three Torah scrolls. One of them has an especially remarkable story. The Temple Emanuel Holocaust Torah Scroll is part of a group of 1,564 scrolls collectively known as the Czech Memorial Scrolls. The saving of the scrolls and ritual objects in the Jewish Museum in Prague was the result of the actions members of the Jewish community. In 1942, the Jewish communities of Bohemia and Moravia were instructed by the central offices of the community in Prague to send their artifacts and Torah scrolls to the Jewish Museum in Prague where they were catelogued and stored. It was part of a project that had begun in the 1920's to systematically document the Jewish cultural heritage in the Czech lands and to collect the information in the museum. The project had been prompted by the rapid process of assimilation of the Czech Jews. For more information go to czechtorah.org.

 

Year of the Torah

"There are some people who spend their lives dedicated to the eternity of the Torah. Our congregation had the very unique pleasure to meet such a man. Neil Yerman is a scribe, a scholar, and a deep lover of Torah. During our Year of the Torah (2004-05, or 5765), Neil shared with us his fascinating expertise and taught us how to properly care for our sacred Torah scrolls. (You can read more about Neil Yerman here.)

As a community, we learned what signs to look for as our Torah scrolls naturally age. Neil Yerman showed us how to recognize letters that have cracked and words that have faded. We will continue to clean the scrolls and care for them with great love. Through our care of Torah, we will extend the lives of our scrolls and enable them to remain a living part of our congregation for many decades to come.

The Year of the Torah was a most exciting year at Temple Emanuel. Each of us had the opportunity to actually help rewrite words and letters of the Torah. We became intricately connected to the Jewish world of our ancestors as we preserve these descendant scrolls.

The Year of the Torah was about more than the mechanical fixing of the Torah scrolls. It was about fostering an intricate, personal connection with the greater concept of Torah. It is my goal that each and every congregant of Temple Emanuel will find that our love of the Jewish past, our knowledge of the Jewish present, and our belief in the Jewish future will find a newly enriched place in our hearts.

Our congregation also had to face a sad reality that year. One of our Torah scrolls, a very special scroll over 100 years old, was labeled "beyond repair." As the Torah lives, so too a Torah scroll can die. Tradition deems that we bury our departed loved ones ... Torah scrolls as well as people. During the year we gathered as a community to say shalom to one of our precious scrolls. We Jews do believe in the eternal nature of the soul. This particular Torah scroll had helped generations of Jews to live their lives enriched by the traditions of our people. Its words were imprinted on the minds of our congregants. Though we buried the scroll with great sadness, we were comforted by the thought that all who have had the honor to learn from its teachings will keep it alive in their thoughts and actions.

Our ark is the home of only three Torah scrolls now. Let us dedicate ourselves to caring for them meticulously and enlarging their teachings in our midst."

– Rabbi Kathy Cohen

Tue, August 14 2018 3 Elul 5778