The Mysteries Of An Ancient Art Revealed In Dallas
By Laurie Bessler
The most important and holy objects in any synagogue are its Torah scrolls. Handwritten using tools and techniques from ancient biblical times, the writing of these scrolls is only carried out by specially trained scribes and scholars called “sofrim.” While the process of writing these sacred scrolls is mystifying to many, a Dallas-based congregation has teamed up with a local scribe in a unique campaign to create a new Torah Scroll.
Congregation Torah Chaim of Dallas (TorasChaimDallas.org), under the leadership of Rabbi Yaakov Rich, has partnered with scribe Rabbi Avraham Chaim Bloomenstiel to, for the first time, publicly create a Torah Scroll. Using the “Blogosphere,” the synagogue intends to document, from day one, the entire writing, column-by-column, of the entire scroll and the unique age-old techniques of its creation.
“Nothing like this has ever been done. Ever.” says Dovid Meisel, an Israeli blogger who writes on Judaism and the internet. “We see the Torah, we read from it in the shul [synagogue], but to lay the whole process of writing before the world like this is a unique milestone in the use of the internet to, well, literally, spread Torah.”
In Meisel’s opinion, this may also be the most detailed documentation of scribal techniques yet created. “Rabbi Bloomenstiel has agreed to photograph and discuss even the most esoteric aspects of his art. It is simply incredible…he is a genius, an internationally known scholar of Talmudic law… to have this kind of a thing from this sort of a person is a rare opportunity.”
Creating a Torah scroll involves a tremendous amount of work. All five books of the Old Testament must be painstakingly copied by hand, in an ancient Hebrew script, onto over 60 large sheets of parchment. The whole task is carried out using a hand-cut feather quill and specially made ink. The sheets must then be sewn together and the whole scroll checked, letter-by-letter, four times before it can be consecrated in the synagogue.
“It’s a lot of work, but I can think of very few things more worthwhile,” said Rabbi Bloomenstiel in a phone interview yesterday. “The Torah is who we are. Without it, we are nothing.”
According to Rabbi Bloomenstiel, a scribe must be an expert in the over 4,000 ancient laws that govern the creation of sacred texts. “The purpose for every detail of these laws,” says Bloomenstiel, “is to ensure proper transmission of the Torah. A comparison of every scroll extant today reveals that they differ by less than 10 letters – and these are letters that do not even affect the meaning of the text!”
The synagogue is soliciting public sponsorship and contributions toward the completion of this scroll. For more information on sponsorship opportunities, and to view the creation of this Torah, visit http://www.ctc-torah.org/.