The Torah … an answer to prayer!
Seventeen months ago, as a congregation, we began praying to have our own kosher Torah Scroll (Sefer Torah). We desired a Scroll that had survived the Holocaust. God answered!!! The Scroll to which our LORD led us was written in Romania just as the rumblings of World War II were beginning. Each of the 62 sheets of our Sefer Torah, compromised of 304,805 letters which accurately form the 79,847 words of the Torah, had survived the horrific atrocities of the Nazi regime of WWII.
Under normal circumstances it takes between one and three years for a Sofer (Scribe)to complete a Torah. It can take 45 minutes to write just one line of Scripture!
No doubt as our Scroll was being written, the Sofer (Torah scribe) experienced concern about the turmoil and rising anti-Semitism in Europe.
Picture a people whose lives were shattered during WWII for no reason other than their being Jewish. European Jews lost everything from their families, to their homes & fortunes, to their very physical health. This was the socio-political environment in which our Torah lived its first years.
After the war, the fledging country of Israel purchased and brought many Scrolls to Israel. Ours was among those. For the next 60-some years, our Scroll resided in a Tel Aviv synagogue.
This week our Scroll began its 2nd international voyage. After Israel became a state, it traveled from Europe to Israel and now from Jerusalem, Israel, to Tucson, AZ. (Even as the Scripture states, “for out of Zion [Israel], will come forth the word [the Torah Scroll] of the LORD,” Is 2:3)
We feel honored and blessed our LORD entrusted this living Torah of God into our custodianship! Obtaining this is so much more, on so many levels, than merely purchasing a new mass-produced Bible. Because every letter of each word is hand-crafted with precision and prayer.
Each of you has faithfully given! You’ve prayed!! You’ve believed!!! And Our LORD has answered!!!! Thank YOU!!!
Three parts of a Torah Scroll
There are three parts of the Sefer Torah (Torah Scroll): ink, quill, and parchment. Careful attention is made to every single aspect of a Scroll. No part can be from a non-kosher animal.
The ink (or brew) is called Dio (liquid darkness) and takes weeks to make. This very special ink is designed to last hundreds even thousands of years (eg, the clarity of the Dead Sea Scrolls, written between 250 B.C. to 68 A.D., is amazingly clear — even after 2000 years!) This ink, made only from kosher animals, does not penetrate the parchment. It sits on top of the parchment and bonds or marries the ink to the parchment.
The quill (the writing instrument) is the 2nd part is made from a kosher bird: often a turkey or a duck. There are 3 cuts in the quill which regulate the flow of ink.
The final part of the Scroll is the parchment, which generally comes from the hide of a cow, or goat, sheep, or deer. Preparing the skin for Torah-use is another highly specialized craft: it must be smooth yet supple with no blemishes. Like the ink, it is also designed to last hundreds even thousands of years. (Again, consider the Dead Sea Scrolls’ longevity of 2000 years.) The skin is called “or” (עוֹר), which has the same pronunciation as “light” (אוֹר).
Readying the hide to become a parchment
The hide is first soaked for about a day in order to soften it. Then it is cleaned making certain nothing is still attached to the skin – only the hide and the hair. The hide then returns to a basin of water to be washed with soap. After the washing, it goes back into the water basin. This time with lime, etc. and will soak for a week. The hair is removed. Afterward, the hide hangs to dry on hooks between 7 and 10 days. Afterward, the hide is folded and stays for about 6 weeks; after which the hide is very dry and crispy. (The drier the leather, the better it will absorb the Scribe’s ink.) After this drying period, the skins are then submerged into water and hung on a frame to stretch for 24 hours. The skins are then polished. (The polishing machine reminds me of a dry cleaners’ presser.) Finally, the parchment is ready for the Sofer!
The qualification process to write a Torah Scroll or Mezuzah
The first step to becoming a Sofer is to practice making lines from which the letters will hang. Lines and more lines, the apprentices draw; I understand many Sofer-apprentices quit at this point because these first steps are so tedious and often they have the feeling of not ‘getting anywhere’.
Finally after about a year of meticulously drawing lines and practicing letters, the teacher says the student is now ready write the Megillat Esther.
(Why does a Sofer begin with the book of Esther? Because the name of God is not mentioned in that book; therefore, the rules for writing this book are less strenuous. Writing the name of “God” is very involved. Prior to writing the name of “God”, the Sofer goes into the mikveh and says a special blessing. God’s name is written with a quill and ink used only for writing the Name. Should the Sofer make a mistake in writing God’s name, either that entire sheet of the Scroll must be buried or in some cases a square can be cut out with the error and a new square inserted. Why is it so stringent? Because there can be no errors or mistakes when it comes to God’s name.)
After 3-4 years of continuous and tedious practice plus passing the exam, the apprentice is finally able to write a mezuzah and Torah.
Light vs Dark
In 2015, we had the opportunity to hear Master Sofer (scribe) Rabbi Gedaliah Druin at the University of Arizona. He gave the analogy explained that the “liquid darkness” of the ink marries the “light” of the parchment. (We see this juxtaposition of light and dark at the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are stored. Outside this museum is a black wall which faces the white museum.) Throughout the Word, we also observe the symbolism of dark/black and light/white is common (eg, “The light shines in the darkness,” John 1:15; ‘cloud of darkness by day and pillar of fire by night’, Exodus 13:21-22; etc).
What book do you kiss? Shakespeare?
Rabbi Druin asked those of us in the audience to consider the following. And I would encourage you to personally ponder the questions he posed: ‘What book do you cradle? Do you cradle a book of Shakespeare?’ ‘What book do you kiss?’ ‘What book do you ‘dress’?’ ‘Do you give it an “apartment” (the Ark)? ‘Do you build it a “house” (a synagogue or house of worship)?’ Only the Torah! Because the Torah is not a book; it is an instrument, a living instrument!! He also mentioned that in some ways, a Torah is not so different from a cell phone. To get maximum benefit, we must learn how to use and care for each of them. You are able to search for information on them. However, only the Word speaks to you [your heart].”
Raise the Torah to a higher place
As a believer, I have fallen more in love with His Word; my reverence and appreciation for His Word is far deeper than it was even yesterday. God’s Word is living – it is much more than a mere book – it is God’s instrument of love; His instruction for us! We cherish the Bible (and the Sefer Torah) above every other book; we handle it with care; we revere it. And the light of His Word overpowers the darkness around us. Let’s each day make more of a concerted effort to raise the Torah to a higher place in our lives.
TO LEARN MORE (click on the links below):
- This Torah is an answer to prayer!!!
- To learn how a Scroll is made, watch these great videos.
- From Generation to Generation (in Hebrew: mi dor l’dor)
- Dedication of this Torah Scroll
PRAYER: “Mighty God, thank You for giving us this beautiful Sefer Torah! We love You, Your precious living Torah! Thank You for sending Your Son, our Messiah! We pray for the victims and the families from the Orlando massacre. Help our country to turn to You … and away from our own wicked, self-centered ways. We pray for Your intervention, for Your bringing Your peace to Jerusalem. In the Name of our Messiah, we pray.”
IMMEDIATE Prayer Requests:
- Pray for Israel!
- Eric, Connie, Rhonda: pain
- Joe & Mary Benton: as they return to Mexico to continue the Bible translation.
- April: diagnosed with cancer. Payer for healing & restoration.
- PJ: tumor
- Tere & Deb: healing!!!
- 2-year old Grandson (Mary & Joe Benton): Please pray little Joshua’s healing.
- Protection for pastors
- Olsens: wisdom & peace
- Marsha (Rhonda’s friend): friend’s husband & her cousin. Encouragement and peace.
- HEALING and PEACE for all!!!
- Pray: for ISIS to be stopped; protection of believers
- Pray: for victims of terror and their families
- Pray: for those who are in financial or emotional difficulties.
- Pray for America.