Once in a lifetime creation witnessed
The ink was drying fast in the sun and thin mountain air.
The rabbi mixed a tiny amount of water with the olive wood ink to slow the process. That gave members of Temple Bat Yam a moment to relish and help with his inscription of the final words of their new Torah.
It is rare that a Jew witnesses the creation of a Torah, so the camera clicks and video recording were natural.
The Torah is the center of Judaism. It contains the first five books of the Bible and is written in Hebrew on parchment made from nothing processed. Jews gather several times a week to hold a service during which one of its 54 “portions” is read.
Temple Bat Yam’s new Torah is made from cowhide and was written with a quill from a turkey. It has 304,805 flawless handwritten letters. If a scribe makes a mistake, an entire section must be rewritten for there can be no erasures.
Sunday, on a grassy hillside at Heavenly Ski Resort, about 100 people gathered to witness the final lettering.
“I’m very happy to be here with you, this is such a beautiful place,” said Rabbi Shmuel Miller, who has led a temple in Los Angeles for 15 years. “It was a great surprise for me. I expected it to be in a dark synagogue.”
Miller began to write the text of the Torah inside Temple Bat Yam last May. Then he sent it to Israel where scribes completed the body of it.
Sunday the rabbi wrote its final words, from of the Book of Deuteronomy, which translate to: “In the eyes of all the Jewish people.”
Members of Temple Bat Yam, which was founded in 1983, decided they needed a new Torah more than a year ago.
The curled, ripped parchment, fading ink and unraveling thread helped them make the decision.
“We had the option of repairing it, but that would have taken away any specialness of it surviving the Holocaust,” said Charna Silver, chairwoman of The Torah Project Committee. “We plan to keep it, but not open and read from it.”
A Bay area resident gave the Torah, which was saved from destruction during the Nazi’s domination of Europe, to Temple Bat Yam in 1990. Before that, members used a smaller Torah owned by one of the temple’s founders.
“This is the beginning,” Silver said. “This is the big one. I know this will be around for generations after we’re gone. That’s what our religion is all about, continuing the traditions.”
With the ink dry, temple members, and others who wanted to participate in the ceremony, began a parade that started at Heavenly and ended at Temple Bat Yam.
The procession was symbolic of Moses’ descent from Mount Sinai with the first Torah and the Ten Commandments.
Traditional music floated in the air as a police escort guided the Torah and its followers down Pioneer Trail. In Judaism, a chuppah, or a traditional canopy, is used in weddings to symbolize the creation of a new home. Temple members protected the Torah during the processional to symbolize the marriage of the Torah to its new home.
A year’s worth of fund raising made Temple Bat Yam’s new Torah possible. Silver, with the help of a committee, organized a dinner-dance, family retreat and Jewish book fair. Those events combined with generous contributions from all walks of the community raised more than $50,000 for The Torah Fund.
Other members of the Torah Project Committee are Ellen Goldberg, Jan Halpern-Segal, Robert Mueller, Wayne Omel and Ilana Rugg.
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