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September 3, 2015 | 19th Elul 5775
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Torah Dedication
(Ceremonies, educational opportunities)

  1. Through our rabbi's efforts, our congregation purchased a third, smaller, Torah scroll recently to complement our two larger ones (one a Holocaust torah). We had a beautiful service at the end of January to dedicate this new Torah. This service was on a Sunday afternoon, so it was set aside for the purpose of the dedication, rather than incorporated into a Shabbat service. The service had lots of music from our regular choir and an ad hoc children's choir. The Torah scribe who obtained the scroll from Europe and repaired it for our congregation shared the story of how he found it. Ten people were called up to the bimah in turn to represent the congregation and each one put his/her hand on the scribe's as the scribe finished the last ten parts of the repair work - to symbolize the congregation's participation in its repair. After the ink dried, a hakafah (procession) was made with the Torah.

    440 Member Units

  2. As a sofer (a scribe) I know that a Torah dedication is a once in a lifetime celebration for most members of a congregation and must be made special for all members of the congregation. There are a number of things that should be included and some that should be avoided. Leading up to a Torah dedication there should be educational sessions. The sessions should include a review of the traditions of:
    Making the parchment, Ink, Gid (sinew), Sewing Rollers or housing, cover, Preparation of the quill, and How to write the letters themselves (Hebrew calligraphy).

    Children's activities should include: Making "Torah Scrolls," Basic Hebrew calligraphy, Introduction to mezuzahs and t'fillin.

    As a community activity, a patchwork Torah covering is a great idea. Every time the Torah is taken out, the members see the work they did to beautify their Torah.


  3. The WRJ (Women of Reform Judaism) dedicated a Torah at their conference, held at the same time as the Boston Biennial and they had a printed service which I'm sure they would make available to any congregation. You would want to edit it, of course, since their Torat Nashim dedication had specific references to women, etc. but I recall much of the service to be useful for other dedication purposes.

    It was, also, quite a moving event replete with much singing and dancing. The scribe also wrote the last words there and then they unrolled the ENTIRE Torah around the room with honored guests holding onto the top of the parchment with white cotton gloved hands. People then filed past to look at it. Some even tried to find their Bat Mitzvah portions! The emotions were unbelievable.


  4. A few years ago, a congregant mused aloud that it's a shame that all their non-Jewish friends couldn't see the Torah up close to marvel at the beauty of the scroll and the awe of a child mastering this sacred skill. What I did in response to her question was to create a "horizontal hagbah."

    We open the scroll as wide as possible and as soon as the reading is complete, I invite anyone who wants to, to come up to the bimah and see the Torah scroll. As I stand there, I offer to the people who have gathered there, a few words about the making of a Torah scroll and the history of our particular Torahs. Many people have availed themselves of this opportunity and I have been touched each time someone reveals that it's the first time he or she (most often, she) has ever been so close to a Torah. Yes, it's noisy and disruptive and I love it. It's like our seventh inning stretch and it has created a familial, warm and intimate sense in the sanctuary.

    Often the bar/bat mitzvah student's friends come up first and after they have seen the scroll, they surround their friend to offer words of support and mazel tov. What often results is the most relaxed haftorah reading I have ever encountered.

    Each family gets the choice to have this part of the service; they also have the option for a traditional hagbah which was not part of this congregation's custom until we started this. It's definitely unorthodox but then again, so are we!

    390 members

  5. I don't recall who asked about moving Torah scrolls from one building to another, but we had a wonderful ritual almost three years ago when our congregations merged. We had a special ceremony to "de-consecrate" the building we were selling. As part of a unity celebration, we held a special ritual at that building, after which the Torahs were removed from the ark by past-presidents and carried from the building, under a chuppah waiting at the door. All the cars had been parked at a shopping center parking lot about three blocks away. People had been pre-assigned to carry the five Torah scrolls at designated places, so the Torahs changed hands several times before we got to the cars. The other temple building was about seven miles away, but would have been hazardous to walk the whole way (lack of sidewalks, busy streets, etc.), so we held the Torahs in three convertibles with the tops down (of course it was perfect weather!), leading a procession of about 50 cars, with the assistance of four different village police departments. We all parked at another lot, about a mile from the destination, so that more could participate in the torah-carrying honors. A total of about 100 people carried torahs for a block or so.

    When we arrived at the other building, another chuppah was waiting at the entrance, and past-presidents from that congregation carried the Torahs into the building, for another ceremony of dedication and celebration. Someday, when I have the time, I will write up the whole story of our very successful merger, from the initial negotiations to the wonderful rituals of our unity celebration.

    340 members


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