Saturday, May 21, 2016

Writing in the Torah

At the Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville, where I attend their evening WiNK worship service, Temple Micah also meets on a monthly basis. The church and synagogue have shared this space since 1969. Their first rabbi, Albert Ginsburg, brought with him a large Torah when he started his service in 1970. He stayed with this liberal congregation for 22 years. When he left to continue his service as a semi-retired traveling rabbi, he traded this large Torah for the smaller one that was at the synagogue at the time. Sometime during Rabbi Ellen Greenspan's time as rabbi (1992-2012), she guided the congregation to acquiring a beautiful Torah, and the one Rabbi Ginsburg brought with him from Germany many years earlier, sat unused.

Rabbi Greenspan was followed by Rabbi Vicki Tuckman in 2012. Sadly she died three years later. At that time a fund was created in her honor to repair the old Torah. Which brings us up to today.

Linda Coppelson was selected to restore the Torah. She is a trained Sofret, role until recently that could only be held by a man. I truly wish I had taken notes during her presentation to members of PCOL and Temple Micah. She talked about what she had to do to become one of the only women in the world in order to do this mitzvah.

Linda also talked about the materials that go into making a Torah. In this case it is made from cow skin. The librarian geek in me got excited when she showed a book that shows how the words of the Torah are supposed to line up. There is space for 54 kerns on each line, and so many lines in each column. She showed us her tools -- from erasers to scalpels (which was a huge debate as metal objects are not supposed to touch the Torah, because metal objects are used in war). There was so much she told us, and so much I did not absorb. 

In the end she let us each write a letter in the Torah, even non-Jewish people like me (I asked first). Technically she did the writing and I put my hand on her wrist. I wrote an "ryash" in Joseph's story in Genesis. My friend, Nancy, also wrote a letter on the same line. I feel honored to be a tiny part of their Torah and their history.

The Torah restoration is expected to be completed in time for the High Holy Days in October.

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