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Does My Synagogue Need Another Torah Scroll?

Does My Synagogue Need Another Torah Scroll?

Should a family donate a Sefer Torah in memory of a loved one?

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Jakob Steinhardt/Yeshiva University Museum
Jakob Steinhardt/Yeshiva University Museum

Dear Rabbi,

At the Shabbat table last week my friend told me that years ago her family purchased a Torah scroll for the synagogue we go to, in memory of her beloved mother. Once a year that Torah scroll is removed from the ark and read from. She explained that all year she anticipates that week when her sons and grandchildren are called up to the Torah reading.

I was thinking that maybe it would be a good idea to have a Torah written in honor of my husband who just passed away.

Is that a good way to memorialize a deceased relative?

Answer:

When a Torah scroll, known as a Sefer Torah (Heb. ספר תורה), is donated to a synagogue, it is one of the most joyous events a Jewish community can experience. The Torah scroll is central to the Jewish communal prayers and is read from at least several times a week. It takes many months for a scribe to write the scroll with a handmade quill and ink on handmade parchment. The Torah scroll is the holiest component of the synagogue.

On the day of the Torah’s completion, everyone from the Jewish community is invited to dance alongside the Torah scroll as it is paraded under a canopy, accompanied with music and fanfare.

But it seems that the synagogue you attend already has many Torah scrolls, most of them donations in memory of loved ones. While it is nice to have the Torah read from once a year, there are many living “Torah scrolls” in your community that are waiting for some fresh ink and a caring hand. I am referring to the education of young Jewish children in your community.

Jewish education is immensely costly. School buildings need to be maintained, curriculums need to be developed, and many classrooms need more teachers and a good dose of 21st century technology. Unfortunately, many Jewish educational institutions are currently facing unprecedented financial difficulties. Schools are scrambling to pay teachers and are often months behind on payroll.

A new Torah scroll, its ornaments and the grand welcoming event, could cost eighty-thousand-dollars. Think how far that money could go in furthering Jewish education.

In the words of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory:

A new Torah scroll is an auspicious idea, however, considering the current situation where our educational institutions are in great debt, and the financial situation of those that support Jewish education is also not good… the funds should therefore be directed to Jewish educational institutions.1

In general, when asked about memorializing loved one’s, the Rebbe usually suggested that in addition to adding in ones personal Jewish study, one should donate money to an educational institution, and/or towards the publishing of new Jewish books.

I am sure that seeing the children learning in the school in your merit and in memory of your husband, or watching people learn from a Jewish scholarly volume that you funded, will bring you frequent and extensive satisfaction and reward.

May you know only happiness in your life, and through your good charitable deeds, may the soul of your husband rest in peace.

See Kaddish and Memorial: Aiding the Soul's Ascent from our Jewish Death and Mourning minisite.

Footnotes
1.

Paraphrased from an unpublished Hebrew letter, October 7, 1956.

Dovid Zaklikowski is a freelance journalist living in Brooklyn. Dovid and his wife Chana Raizel are the proud parents of four: Motti, Meir, Shaina & Moshe Binyomin.
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Peter Grathios Australia September 29, 2013

Torah scroll Excellent Reply

Zev Schwarcz Algarve, Portugal February 20, 2012

My synagogue NEEDS a Torah Scroll Whereas your answer to "Does My Synagogue Need Another Torah Scroll?" was very insightful, maybe you could suggest that if they want to give a real Torah Scroll they could find a congregation that needs one. Reply

A synagogue is a place of Jewish worship. In addition to housing a sanctuary for services, synagogues (most notably Chabad centers) serve as the centerpoint of Jewish life.
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