Rabbi Akiva Males, right, of Kesher Israel Congregation, presents two old Torah scrolls to Rabbi Pesach Lerner of the National Council of Young Israel.
'HOMECOMING': Unused Torah Scrolls Donated to Israeli Army
Monday, December 1, 2008
BY MARY KLAUS
Of The Patriot-News
A teenager who organized his Orthodox Jewish synagogue's storage room for his Eagle Scout project has helped his congregation provide Torah scrolls to the Israeli army.
Rob Rosenberg of Harrisburg planned to clean a second-story room above the Kesher Israel sanctuary, said Rabbi Akiva Males, who leads the Kesher Israel Congregation.
"While cleaning, he found an ark that contained two old Torah scrolls easily 50 years old," Males said. "They had become too damaged to be used, and they needed to be overhauled. When Rob brought them to our attention, we brought in a scribe to look at them."
Eventually, the congregation donated those two unused Torah scrolls to the Israeli army, whose chaplains report a severe shortage of Torah scrolls.
A Torah, the most holy of the Jewish sacred writings, refers to the five books of Moses from the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. A Torah scroll is written on parchment by a scribe. Torahs, which are stored in arks, generally are 2 1/2 feet tall and weigh 15 to 20 pounds.
"Our room above our main sanctuary had 20 years' worth of all sorts of discarded and unusable Judaic texts," Males said. "Rob and some volunteers went through the room. We took 200 boxes of religious texts, old prayer books, damaged Bibles and more. We buried them in our cemetery."
Rosenberg said that when he found the closet that houses scrolls, "I thought it would be empty. But I looked inside and found the two scrolls. I told Rabbi Males about it. These scrolls are going from Harrisburg to Israel. It's like a homecoming for them. They are going back to their roots, and the soldiers can use them."
Males said the scrolls hadn't been used for decades and were in bad shape.
"The government of Israel has its own scribes which could fix them, so we decided to donate them to the Israeli Defense Forces rabbinate," he said. "A new scroll can cost up to $20,000. We didn't want them to languish and grow cobwebs. This is recycling in a beautiful sense."
Males said that the donation was made through the National Council of Young Israel, a chain of Orthodox synagogues, and will be used by Jewish soldiers in Israel. He said that the Israeli soldiers will "breathe life into these Torahs" when they use them three times each week.
"This will fill a void for the soldiers," he said. "Our congregation is happy about this, too. People have a warm feeling, like we've resuscitated something."
Israeli soldiers in the field offer their morning prayers.