Embracing Torah

A chance to perform a once-in-a-lifetime mitzvah.

Three hundred and fifty years ago in the Eastern European town of Kolin, a sofer sat down at a small table with a feather quill, a bottle of special ink, and the skin of a kosher animal. He spent more than one year writing out 248 columns of Hebrew text, 42 lines to a column—304,805 letters.

That Torah served the community of Kolin for 300 years, and was kept safe in Prague during the Holocaust while the community perished.

That Torah now resides in our ark. We have been entrusted with its care and maintenance and, more importantly, with the preservation of the tradition that it represents. It is our obligation not to let it become a mere artifact, but to make it a living part of our community. We are the link between our ancestors—those that first read from this Torah—and our descendants; every child who has become bar or bat mitzvah at TAS since 1978 has carried this Torah.

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: the chance not just to restore this Torah, but to take quill in hand and write the Torah, aided by a sofer stam (Torah scribe) who works with the same tools and dedication as the one who wrote this Torah more than three centuries ago. The Torah teaches that it is the responsibility of each Jew to personally write a Sefer Torah; it is considered to be the 613th mitzvah. As we read in Deuteronomy 31:19, “Write for yourselves this song, and teach it to the Children of Israel.” Tradition tells us that one who writes even a single letter in a Torah, or causes one to be written through their support, fulfills this commandment.

Each and every member of this community will have the opportunity over the course of the year to participate in the renewal of this very sacred and precious little scroll. We are going to make this Torah, once more, a living vibrant part of a Jewish community as its mystic scribe intended three and a half centuries ago. We hope that everyone will find a meaningful way to participate by dedicating words, verses, weekly portions or even an entire book of the Torah.

Join with me on this sacred journey over the coming year as we embrace this task with strong arms—arms that lift the Torah in celebration as our congregation’s children become b’nai mitzvah, arms that hold fast to the Torah as we dance at Simchat Torah, arms that will hand down this Torah from generation to generation. We embrace Torah and, in embracing Torah, we embrace each other.

— Rabbi Barry Lutz