Thirty-six expertly trained scribes, most of them Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries themselves, each armed with a feather quill and a small pot of ink, will simultaneously complete a record 36 new Torah scrolls being written for Jewish communities around the world that do not yet have a scroll of their own. This will take place in the presence of 6,500 rabbis and guests at the concluding banquet of the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries (Kinus Hashluchim) that will be live-streamed on Sunday evening, Nov. 20.

It was just last year that a plan was announced at the conference by Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice-chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch, to write the dozens of new Torah scrolls. The goal had been to complete the scrolls before 11 Nissan,5783 (corresponding to April 3, 2023), the 120th anniversary of the birth of the RebbeRabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory. However, the scrolls, which were funded by private donations and will be dedicated in honor of Chabad emissaries, were completed in record time, and the rabbis will be taking their new Torah scrolls back to their communities when they return home. It is the first time to anyone’s knowledge that so many Torahs have been completed at the same time.

A Torah scroll is a necessity for a congregation to have during the four synagogue services at which the Torah is read from during the week, as well as on Jewish holidays. But acquiring a Torah presents a considerable economic challenge for a congregation, as the writing of a scroll can take a year or more of painstaking work by an experienced scribe, and the cost of a new Torah scroll is estimated at between $30,000 and $100,000.

According to a survey of synagogues in the United States, in the two decades prior to 2021 Chabad congregations grew by 199% to 1036 from 346. That rate of growth means that there is a tremendous need for new Torah scrolls.

Over the years, various initiatives have been launched to assist with this unique supply and demand issue. The Beis Yisroel Torah Gemach, for example, loans out both refurbished and new Torahs, primarily to Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries without them.

The siyum sefer Torah (Torah completion ceremony) for even just one Torah sees the entire community coming out to welcome the new Torah. It’s a truly festive affair in which all the congregation’s Torahs are taken out of the ark, accompanied by dancing, often through the streets under a chuppah, as members of the congregation take turns holding the new Torah. This is followed by a joyous seudas mitzvah (ceremonial meal).

The grand siyum sefer Torah (Torah completion) ceremony and celebration on Sunday night will represent not just the completion of the Torah scrolls but the culmination of a host of programs and initiatives established over the last year to honor the Rebbe’s ongoing influence. This includes the 120 new Shluchim (emissaries) couples dispatched over the last year, on average one every three days, partially driving the demand for the Torahs.

Some of the atzei chayim (rollers) to be used with the 36 Torah scrolls to be completed at the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries.
Some of the atzei chayim (rollers) to be used with the 36 Torah scrolls to be completed at the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries.

Communities Around the World Eagerly Await The New Torahs

Among the 36 communities that will receive the new scrolls are: Montego Bay, Jamaica; Salem, Ore., and Kampala, Uganda.

“We have been building a permanent presence here on this island for the past four years,” Rabbi Yaakov Raskin, who directs Chabad of Jamaica with his wife, Mushkee, told “Thank G‑d, we have managed so far to borrow a Sefer Torahwhenever we have needed it. However, now that we will finally have Torah of our own, it significantly lends to the sense of permanence and establishment that the Rebbe wanted for every Chabad House.”

During the pandemic, a group of Jews in Salem, Ore., made a commitment to have a Shabbat morning minyan at Chabad every week. It is the only regular weekly Shabbat minyan in the city with an estimated 1,000 Jewish households. Yet, the community did not have its own Torah.

“We’ve never owned our own Torah,” said Rabbi Avrohom Perlstein, who directs the Chabad Center for Jewish Life in Salem with his wife, Fruma. “The Torah we have now is on loan to us by the Torah gemach(free-loan fund). Having our own Torah is a dream come true, not only for me but for the locals who have come to really appreciate Yiddishkeit and Torah. It is a talk among the shul-goers each week as they anticipate our very own Torah’s arrival. Having a Torah that is not really ours is nice and does the job, but it’s hard to describe the pride, joy and ownership one feels when a Torah is written just for your community to be used exclusively by your community!”

He continued, “We teach that every single Jew has a personal portion in the Torah, and the more we speak about it, the more this idea becomes more tangible. … The community is so excited.”

According to Rabbi Moshe Raskin of Chabad of Uganda, for the 60 members of the Jewish community of Kampala, having their “own Torah, one that belongs to us, will elevate everything that we have now.”

Among the other communities around the world receiving the Torahs are Barbados, Caldwell, N.J., Alameda, Cal., Nili, Israel, Kingston, Ont., Parkland, Fla., and Ibiza, Spain.

Some of the scrolls ready for completion.
Some of the scrolls ready for completion.

The Masterpiece of Jewish Life

An authentic Torah scroll is a masterpiece of labor and love. Comprising between 62 and 84 sheets of parchment—cured, tanned, scraped and prepared according to exacting Torah law specifications—and containing exactly 304,805 letters, the handwritten scroll takes many months to complete. An expert pious scribe carefully inks each letter with a feather quill, under the intricate guidelines of Ktav Ashurit (“Ashurite Script”). The sheets of parchment are then sewn together with sinews to form one long scroll.

Kept in the Ark of each synagogue, the Torah scroll is routinely read aloud in synagogues, and is the core representation of Judaism itself. It is the tangible embodiment of the Jewish People’s connection to G‑d and of His wisdom and guidance.

Each of the 36 scrolls will be adorned with a velvet cover reminiscent of the Torah covering on the scroll used by the Rebbe, in addition to a silver crown.

The celebration will take on extra meaning as it takes place during a Hakhel year. In ancient times, once every seven years, Jews would stream to Jerusalem before the holiday of Sukkot to unite in the Holy Temple and hear the Torah read by the king. In modern times, celebrations of Jewish unity and pride throughout the Hakhel year were encouraged by the Rebbe. In addition to the millions who will be attending Hakhel celebrations throughout the year, tens of thousands are signing up to host their own Hakhel celebrations.

Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky announced the initiative at last year's conference.
Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky announced the initiative at last year's conference.

“In this year of Hakhel, it’s only fitting that we do everything in our power to facilitate the growth of every Jewish community in the world, no matter where it may be,” said Rabbi Kotlarsky. “This is a historic moment for shluchim, our Chabad emissaries, and by extension, the entire world,” he continued. “Each one of these Torah scrolls represents hundreds of individuals in budding Chabad House communities who are thirsty for Jewish knowledge and Jewish life.”

The celebration of the completion of the 36 Torah scrolls at the gala banquet of the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries will be live-streamed on Sunday, Nov. 20, starting at 4:30 p.m. EST, at