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Writing a Torah One Letter at a Time

December 15, 2011

This past weekend, Sophie, Bryan and I had a rare and humbling experience. Our Jewish congregation — in honor of its 150th anniversary — is creating a Torah scroll for the synagogue. The three of us were extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to dedicate a letter in the Torah and be present when it was written.

The Torah – also known as the Old Testament – contains the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). Jewish religion teaches the entire five books were revealed to Moses by God at Mount Sinai. The Torah is written on one long continuous parchment scroll by a sefer, or Torah scribe. Soferet (female Torah scribe) Julie Seltzer is writing the Torah for our congregation. She is only the second woman in the world to write an entire Torah scroll.

Bryan and I chose to dedicate one letter in the Torah to Sophie. As a result, we were able to sit with the scribe as she explained to us the letter we were writing. We were given the letter Mem, the thirteenth letter in the Hebrew alphabet, which symbolizes water and flow.  We then recited a blessing, and held each other’s arms as Julie dipped the feather in ink and wrote the word in the Torah.

This experience is one I will always treasure. It is humbling to see that during modern times of e-books and iPads, Torahs are still written by scribes who dip their feather pens in ink and write by hand. As a writer, I can certainly respect that. I feel honored and blessed Bryan, Sophie and I were given this opportunity to not only see the Torah being written, but also be a part of the scroll by dedicating the letter to Sophie. I am proud she will always be a part of the congregation’s history. And I can only hope she looks back at this experience with as much awe as I feel now.

22 Comments leave one →
  1. December 15, 2011 3:58 am

    This was just beautiful. Thank you for explaining and sharing your religion and this experience with me; I would think that being part of something so sacred will make it even more meaningful to Sophie.

    Loved the photo of her little hand on top of the two of yours.

    • December 16, 2011 9:33 pm

      Thanks, MJ. I feel particularly blessed we had this opportunity.

  2. December 15, 2011 5:13 am

    Lovely post and lovely photo of your three hands. What a nice way to celebrate the Torah and contribute to your synagogue.

    • December 16, 2011 9:33 pm

      Isn’t the hand photo lovely? The photographer did an amazing job capturing that moment.

  3. December 15, 2011 5:57 am

    Leah, what an amazing experience you and your family will never forget!!!

    • December 16, 2011 9:33 pm

      Thanks, Rada. I will for sure not forget it.

  4. December 15, 2011 6:39 am

    Wow, what a memorable experience. Thank you for sharing. I think it’s a very cool thing your congregation is doing and letting its members be a part of it is so special.

    • December 16, 2011 9:34 pm

      I agree, Caryn. And what I love is that our congregation made it affordable to anyone who wanted to participate. Whether you can donate a small amount or something large, you could still participate.

  5. December 15, 2011 1:04 pm

    That was so beautifully written, Leah! I am so proud of you, Bryan and Sophie, for contributing to the memory of your synagogue and its new Torah. Hope you frame the letter you all helped to inscribe. Another soulful blog!

  6. December 15, 2011 2:32 pm

    So beautiful and what a rare opportunity!

    • December 16, 2011 9:34 pm

      Thanks, Nina. It was indeed rare and I am blessed we could participate.

  7. December 15, 2011 10:47 pm

    What a beautiful experience! Hopefully, she’ll remember. It’ll be up to you to tell and re-tell the story to her to keep it alive for her as she gets older. Keep repeating it, showing her your photos, and she’ll remember.

    • December 16, 2011 9:35 pm

      That kid has a pretty good memory. It won’t surprise me if she remembers it. It’s nice they’ve been learning about the Torah so much at school too. Makes it very real to her.

  8. December 16, 2011 7:02 am

    What an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience! Such a beautiful memory for Sophie! I agree – it’s lovely that this is still hand written – given a sense of time and respect it deserves. Thank you for sharing, Leah – this was a really touching post.

    • December 16, 2011 9:35 pm

      Thanks so much, Ann. I’m glad you agree on the hand-written angle. I think that really makes it special.

  9. December 16, 2011 7:30 am

    What a lovely post and an amazing opportunity to be a part of this! Sophie will have that permanent memory etched of the incredible love and respect of her parents in the context of such an historic experience. So beautiful!

    • December 16, 2011 9:36 pm

      Thanks, Julia. I truly appreciate the kind words.

  10. December 17, 2011 1:36 am

    What beautiful treasure to be apart of something so unique and special. 🙂

  11. December 18, 2011 4:28 am

    How very special! What a wonderful opportunity. What a beautiful family.

  12. December 21, 2011 1:12 pm

    These are the memories worth making, sharing, and remembering. Sophie will have this always. I remember Mass with my Dad on Christmas Eve. I was never into going as a kid, but he was always patient with my restless spirit and promised me I would remember always the the mass being spoken in Spanish, the singing, also in Spanish, even though I can’t speak or read a word, I still remember those nights. He was right. Wonderful memory making.


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