It’s a precious artefact that can take a year to write by hand – in ink, with a quill – and takes several weeks to inspect its 304,805 characters.
There are thousands of them all across the world, virtually identical, save for the individual brushstroke of their authors, all re-telling the dictation by God, recorded by Moses and meticulously transcribed for generations of people of the Jewish faith over the course of 3,500 years.
In just over three weeks, Richmond’s Jewish community will have the honour of receiving its fourth Torah Scroll, gifted by its counterparts in Lethbridge, Alb., who are closing their synagogue due to dwindling numbers.
The official dedication of the new Torah at Chabad Richmond on Sunday, Sept. 18 will come exactly a week before the Jewish New Year and it’s a day Rabbi Yechiel Baitelman is very excited about.
“It’s certainly auspicious that we will be celebrating the arrival of this Torah around the same time as the Jewish New Year,” Baitelman told the Richmond News.
“Any time a new Torah is brought in it’s a special occasion. It’s about generational continuity.”
People unfamiliar with the Jewish faith may wonder why you would need more than one Torah Scroll, let alone four.
“There are times in the Jewish calendar when we would have to take out three Torahs at a time, for different readings at different times,” explained Baitelman.
“And sometimes there are needs outside of the house of worship, if someone loses a family member for instance we would go to the house of the mourner. In happier times we might take them to retreats outside of town for readings there.
“Each one is a precious artefact. It is a continuous document that’s not been altered in close to 3,500 years. But they don’t last that long.
“We’re not sure how old (the Lethbridge one) is. When a Torah is written, it’s not necessarily recorded on the Torah. We think this one was written around 1955, if not earlier.”
Scribe makes sure Torah Scroll is "kosher"
Baitelman explained that Chabad Richmond received the new Torah a “little while ago” but it has been away for several weeks being inspected by a scribe to “make sure it’s kosher.”
“We have to make sure that every letter is still there and that every letter is correct and hasn’t faded,” Baitelman added.
“It has been certified and is in good working order and is coming back in the next couple of weeks.
“He reviews the entire Torah…maybe adding a little ink here and there if needed.
“It’s not what makes them distinct, it’s what makes them the same. Every single Torah has the exact same number of letters, in the exact same order.”
If there is a discrepancy, said Baitelman, “you have to correct it” or it has to be ceremoniously buried.
Each Torah Scroll must be perfect
“You cannot have a Torah that is incomplete or imperfect. That would bring an imperfection into the chain, so to speak.
“One Torah is copied from another, so if one is incorrect, that might be passed on to the next one.”
Chabad Richmond’s new Torah Scroll dedication will take place Sunday, Sept. 18 at 1 p.m. at Thompson Community Centre.
For more information and the opportunity to dedicate part of the Torah, contact Chabad Richmond at 604 277 6427 or visit www.ChabadRichmond.com/TorahDedication