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Israeli Prime Minister Pens History at Masada Synagogue

Israeli Prime Minister Pens History at Masada Synagogue

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu writes a word in a Torah scroll at the synagogue in Masada as Rabbi Shimon Elharar looks on.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu writes a word in a Torah scroll at the synagogue in Masada as Rabbi Shimon Elharar looks on.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined thousands of people who have penned letters in a Torah scroll commissioned by Chabad-Lubavitch of the Dead Sea in an ancient synagogue on Masada.

The synagogue, which dates back 2,000 years, was discovered more than 50 years ago by Yigal Yadin, the well-known Israeli archeologist, politician and second chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces. There, in the course of archeological digs, he found portions of the ancient documents collectively known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, including chapters of Deuteronomy and Ezekiel.

Rabbi Shimon Elharar, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of the Dead Sea, conceived the idea of having a ritual scribe write a Torah scroll at the synagogue. Together with Masada National Park director Eitan Campbell, his dream came to fruition.

The ancient synagogue atop the historic Judean Desert fortress is quite small. The room where the new scroll is being written sits directly over the burial place of the ancient scrolls, where they are now preserved.

Rabbi and scribe Shai Abramovich works in a special, glass-enclosed chamber within the synagogue. It both facilitates climate-controlled protection for the scrolls and offers a ready viewing space for tourists, which number about 1 million a year.

“It’s a little like working in an aquarium,” said Elharar of the scribe. “You need to have a calm nature.”

Netanyahu came to the historic site as part of the filming of a promotional video by the Israel Ministry of Tourism. Accompanied by Elharar and wearing tzitzit ritual fringes, he penned a word.

A few hours later, the prime minister’s office contacted Elharar at Netanyahu’s request to ask about the significance of that word. The rabbi answered that it was “commanded,” from the verse in Exodus 35:10.

“The writing of a letter in the Torah scroll,” explains Elharar, “exemplifies our connection with the Torah and with G‑d, who gave it to us on Mount Sinai. The prime minister, who by writing a word joined the completion of the scroll, also joined generations of Jews who use the Torah to guide their daily lives.”



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Anonymous UK June 6, 2016

The New Masada Torah Scroll This article recalls for me a very special memory. In 1976 I visited
Israel and stayed with the family of a friend. I needed to see the Land and its people. We went on various excursions. Masada was so steeped in the memory of the zealots that one felt that to turn around quickly would be to catch a glimpse of them. In the ruins of the synagogue, our Israeli guide asked for someone to read their leader's speech, in English, choosing death rather than degradation
That was the first time I ever read in a synagogue. It meant so much that it was where such courage had been shown in the past; and also that it was the place where the modern Israeli forces swore allegiance to their land and their nation. It was an experience that has remained with me and has influenced me ever since. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma July 15, 2013

the writing of a letter The act of penning a letter in a sacred scroll, is like participating in the first day of Creation. Reply

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