This week’s Torah reading contains the mitzvah to write a Torah scroll and thus brings to mind the following sequence of events. A few days after the Simchas Torah holidays of 5742 (1981), the Rebbe called in several of the leading members of the Lubavitch community in Eretz Yisrael for a private meeting. He forbade them to discuss the content of the meeting with others, so we do not know exactly what was said then. We do know that one of the directives the chassidim received was to have a Torah scroll written for the soldiers of the Israeli army. Each soldier was asked to purchase a letter and the chassidim were urged to hurry the project.

Around that same time period, the Rebbe had called for the writing of several communal Torah scrolls: a Torah scroll for children, and several for adults. He had cited the Biblical verse: “There will be a time of trouble such as there never has been from the time the nation came into existence... at that time, your people will escape, all that are written in the scroll.” He explained that purchasing a letter in a Torah scroll will save a person from misfortune and difficulty. [At that time, the chassidim coined the expression: “A Sefer Torah (Torah scroll) for a safer world.”] So the chassidim were not so surprised that he had asked that such a scroll be written for soldiers.

Even without external difficulties, the writing of a Torah scroll takes many months, and of course, delays can crop up. For whatever reasons, the Torah scroll for the soldiers had not been completed before the summer of 5742 (1982). Later that summer, after the first war in Lebanon broke out, the Rebbe said that it’s a shame the Torah scroll had not yet been completed. Many lives would have been saved, for the Torah scroll would have served as a spiritual helmet, protecting the soldiers.

Parshas Vayeilech

This week’s Torah reading contains the commandment for each person to write a Torah scroll, as stated in the verse: “And now write down this song for yourselves and teach it to the children of Israel.”

The mitzvah of writing a Torah scroll connects us to the very essence of the Torah. In this vein, Maimonides states that a person who writes a Torah scroll is considered as if he received the Torah at Sinai. In other words, writing a Torah scroll does not relate to merely the intellectual element of the Torah, the aspect of the Torah that we can relate to with our minds, but to the essence of the Torah, the Torah as it transcends our understanding and bonds us to G‑d. For that was the core of the Sinai experience. We did not comprehend G‑dliness; we experienced a face to face revelation of Him. The Torah was the medium for that revelation. By writing a Torah scroll we recreate and relive that event. We are commanded to fulfill this mitzvah so that every person would have an opportunity to appreciate this experience.

A question, however, comes to mind. Even in the most strictly observant Torah communities, it is uncommon to see people actually performing this mitzvah. And throughout history, many of our people’s greatest spiritual luminaries have never actually written a Torah scroll themselves. If it is a mitzvah, why isn’t it observed more popularly?

The resolution of this question lies in a halachic principle that when an activity cannot be performed by one person alone, when it is carried out by two individuals, they are both considered to have performed it in its entirely. Since, in the present age, it is virtually impossible for every person to write a Torah scroll himself, when a Torah scroll is written communally, every person who participates by purchasing a letter or a passage is considered to have composed the entire scroll and performed this mitzvah.

Performing the mitzvah in this manner actually has an advantage over actually writing a Torah scroll oneself. For when joining in the composition of a communal scroll, one unites with many other Jews. This establishes bonds of connection that bring our people together in a genuine oneness.

On the verse, “The earth feared and then became calm,” our Sages state that until the Torah was given, the earth “feared,” it was shaky and insecure. It was not until the Torah was given that stability was established.

The fulfillment of the mitzvah of writing Torah scrolls likewise contributes stability, safety, and protection to all those who participate in it. When a person participates in the writing of a Torah scroll, he draws down Divine blessings of security and wellbeing for himself, his family, his community, and the entire world.

Based on the above, over 30 years ago, the Lubavitcher Rebbe organized a campaign to have communal Torah scrolls written for adults and for children. At that time, there were tremendous international tensions — “the world trembled” as the Rebbe was wont to say. He promised that participation in the mitzvah of writing these Torah scrolls was a means of reducing tension and strife and promoting peace.

>Looking to the Horizon

This mitzvah also shares a special connection to the advent of the era of Mashiach. The great Sephardic mystic, the Ben Ish Chai, writes that the first and the last positive mitzvos of the Torah have a unique potential to hasten the coming of Mashiach, as it is written: “I have redeemed you first and last.” The first mitzvah is the mitzvah to “be fruitful and multiply,” to have children. The last mitzvah is to write a Torah scroll. By spreading the observance of both these mitzvos, we hasten the coming of the Redemption.

The connection to the mitzvah of writing a Torah scroll can be explained as follows: G‑d gave this mitzvah to the Jewish people as they were preparing to cross the Jordan and enter our Holy Land. Similarly, in the present era, we are “on the banks of the Jordan,” as it were, brief moments before coming back to Eretz Yisrael led by Mashiach. By stressing the mitzvah given before our people entered Eretz Yisrael the first time, we prepare for our people’s ultimate return to the land.