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October 2, 2014 / 8 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Torah Scroll’

Sefer Torah Represents a First for Canadian City

Friday, October 4th, 2013

At first glance, it looked like any other community day in the park. Kids dabbled on arts-and-crafts projects while the adults mingled, enjoying refreshments on a nearby table as a band played in the background.

But a few details hinted that this Sept. 10 festival was unlike any other the city of Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada had ever seen—namely, the tent just off to the side, where a bearded gentleman sat with a quill in hand and a large Torah scroll open on a table before him.

The pomp and circumstance went hand in hand to mark the completion and dedication of a brand-new Torah scroll for the two-year-old Chabad-Lubavitch of the Okanagan, co-directed by Rabbi Shmuly and Fraidy Hecht.

“People were just flabbergasted, and so excited to have a Sefer Torah,” said Rabbi Hecht. “People in the community came over to me in tears telling me how happy they are living in this small town, and who would have ever thought we’d get to write our own Sefer Torah?”

Hecht noted that the date was chosen to recognize the yahrtzeit, the anniversary of the passing of Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson, mother of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.

Community member Stephen Cipes acknowledged the “great deal of support, merriment and gaiety” at the celebration. “It was very meaningful.”

Of some 117,000 residents in Kelowna, Hecht estimates that maybe 1,000 are Jewish. And while Kelowna is the largest city in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, how did this relatively quiet area—a full 4½-hour drive northeast of Vancouver—end up with its own Torah?

‘A Nice Coincidence’

According to Hecht, the story goes back several months ago to the Jewish festival of Shavuot.

For that holiday—held this year in mid-May and which commemorates G‑d’s giving of the Torah at Sinai—Hecht needed to borrow a Torah scroll from a synagogue in Vancouver, since Chabad Kelowna didn’t have one of its own. Having secured one, he then sent out invitations to the community to attend a lively holiday service.

Cipes, originally from New York, and his adult sons were among those who took the rabbi up on the invite. “It was a wonderful time we had,” recalled Cipes, adding that two of his sons were even honored with an aliyah, being called up to the Torah as it was read aloud.

After services, Cipes and his son Ezra went to talk to the rabbi. That’s when Stephen Cipes announced that he wanted to buy a Torah.

“I was just inspired, and I stood up and made the gesture spontaneously,” said Cipes. “I really didn’t even know we didn’t have a Torah,” he said, because one was present during the service. As for the timing—making a pledge to buy a scroll on the day Jews celebrate G‑d’s giving of the Torah—Cipes noted that it was a “nice coincidence.”

Hecht recalled telling Cipes after his announcement “how amazing it was that on the day of Shavuot when the Jewish people received the first Torah, how honored we are that on that day we received our first Torah.”

Given that it can cost between $20,000 and $60,000 to purchase a new Torah scroll, it is often not something most Chabad houses can do when they are first getting off the ground. (The cost is due to the meticulous work and significant time it takes for the sofer, the scribe, to compose the scroll.)

During the next few months, Hecht located a Torah scroll being written in Israel and arranged for Cipes to purchase it with a planned completion marked for the High Holidays.

The Torah they got, said Cipes, “is a piece of art. It is one of the most beautiful Torahs anyone’s ever seen … .”

And in that beautiful scroll, Cipes and other community members had a hand in physically helping to complete the final letters on that early September day in the park.

“Everyone got to do a letter from their Hebrew name, which was exciting,” said Hecht, noting that this Torah is believed to be the first ever written for Jews living in the Okanagan Valley.

Among those who wrote in the scroll was Chabad supporter Lesley Spiegel, who stood in for her husband, Timothy, who was on a plane at the time. Reflecting on that moment, Spiegel said, “Honestly, it happened so quickly that I had difficulty collecting my thoughts and trying to understand the scribe at the same time. When I thought about the whole experience later, I was very emotional. I have never seen a Torah up close!”

Torah Scroll Hidden in Polish Monastery Returned

Monday, August 26th, 2013

A Torah scroll that since 1942 has been hidden in a monastery was returned to a synagogue in Dabrowa Tarnowska in southern Poland.

The Torah had been returned earlier this month but the event was reported for the first time on Saturday.

The Torah scroll was brought to the monastery in Tuchow, Poland, some 60 miles from Krakow, by an anonymous person who asked the priests to keep it until the synagogue in Dabrowa again became a place of prayer, according to Father Kazimierz Piotrowski of the Redemptorist monastery in Warsaw.

“After the war for many years the synagogue was systematically devastated. The Torah was thus kept in a monastery in Tuchow,” Piotrowski told the Catholic News Agency.

The synagogue in Dabrowa Tarnowska was built in the second half of the 19th century. During World War II, the Germans turned it into a workshop. Over the past few years, the building was renovated and it is now called the “House of Cultures.”

Following the building’s dedication, the Redemptorists decided to return the Torah scroll there. In 2010, the mayor of Dabrowa Tarnowska gave the scroll to conservationists, and today it can be seen in the prayer hall of the former synagogue.

Western Wall Rabbi: Respect the Muslims, Don’t Come to Pray

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Haredi men and women and the Women of the Wall movement made their monthly commotion at the Western Wall Wednesday morning,  ignoring pleas from the Western Wall rabbi to show “sensitivity” to Muslims and not to pray at the holy site.

The Women of the Wall also rejected a police request not to come with Tefillin, which are not used by women in traditional Judaism. However, police have successfully barred Jews from ascending the Temple Mount the entire week.

Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz published a letter Tuesday, emphasizing “sensitivity and security at the conclusion of the month of Ramadan”, the Muslim holy month that concludes this week. Tens of thousands of Muslims crowd the Temple Mount for Muslim prayers in Ramadan, especially at the beginning and the end of the month.

Rabbi Rabinowitz has failed in the past to keep the Women of the Wall (WoW) away from the Kotel,  but his using “sensitivity to Muslims” as an excuse is exactly the kind of Ghetto mentality that has allowed Arabs to squeeze out political and religious concessions from Jews for decades.

The unprecedented closure of the Temple Mount to Jews for an entire week was a victory for the Waqf, the Muslim authority that runs the holy site to which Israel has surrendered de facto sovereignty. Harassment, insults and riots by Palestinian Authority Muslims have occasionally forced Jews to leave the Temple Mount, but they have become routine in recent weeks.

Police have allowed the violence to win the day, and Rabbi Rabinowitz’s “sensitivity” to Muslims broadcasts a strong signal that Jews are willing to give up their rights if it means causing a commotion.

Ironically, it is the Women of the Wall and Haredim who are not surrendering. Approximately 250 women showed up at the Western Wall Wednesday morning, which is the first fay of the Hebrew month of Elul and the first day of daily shofar blowing until the day before Rosh HaShanah, except for Shabbat.

An unusually large number of Haredim also showed up and filled up the women’s section, preventing the Women of the Wall from praying there.

Police also stopped a woman from breaking the rules of the Western Wall by bringing a Sefer Torah into the prayer area. The only Torah scrolls that are allowed to be used are those that already are in place, and, of course, Rabbi Rabinowitz does not allow women to use one of the Western Wall scrolls.

However, he had no problem breaking the rules and allowing Haredim to use a megaphone so they could pray louder and blow their whistles louder in order to aggravate the women.

Between the women’s singing and the whistles and shouts of the Haredim, the shofar sounded, heralding the People of Israel to repent for their sins towards the High Holy Days.

The Muslims, instead of scratching their heads at the absurdity of politics disguised by a costume of prayer  at the Western Wall, are probably celebrating the end of Ramadan as the first blow against true Jewish prayer at the Western Wall.

New Torah Scroll for Sochi Synagogue ahead of Winter Olympics

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

The synagogue in Sochi in Russia has been renovated and a new Torah scroll acquired ahead of the city’s hosting of the Winter Olympics next year.

Rabbi Ari Edelkopf, director of the Jewish Community of Sochi, told JTA the renovation was completed this month and “will help our synagogue serve not only thousands of local Jews, but also Jews from around the world who come to Sochi for business and the thousands expected during the Winter Olympics.”

The previous Winter Olympics, held in 2010 in Vancouver, drew in thousands of athletes from dozens of countries and tens of thousands of spectators.

The new Torah scroll was brought to Sochi’s synagogue, housed in the local Jewish Community Center, after a colorful procession earlier this month through the main streets of the resort city of 500,000 on the eastern shores of the Black Sea.

The Kaganovich family in St. Petersburg paid for the Torah. Berel Lazar, a chief rabbi of Russia, and rabbis from the Jewish community of St. Petersburg led a ceremony marking its arrival.

Torah Scroll and New-Born Baby Survived Two-Year Escape to Israel

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

This is the story of a miracle. It is about a group of people who survived trials and tribulations to live in Israel. This is the story of the Elias family, who lost two children on their journey and who bore Zehava Elias on the road.

Today, she is Lt. Zehava, a decorated IDF soldier.

“My father was born into the Ethiopian rabbinic community. My parents lived in a village and lived comfortably. When they first heard of the possibility of living in Israel in 1984, they immediately wanted to do it,” Zehava recalled. “It was a dream for them.” That year, Zehava’s uncles were part of a group that emigrated from Ethiopia to Israel.

Her family followed five years later. “My parents already had eight children and my mother was pregnant with me. They decided to leave everything they had behind: their possessions, their house, their animals, in order to return to Jerusalem,” Zehava said.

“They took with them only a little bit of food, money and my father’s Torah. They were joined by a guide who had already arrived in Israel during the first group’s immigration to Israel in 1984. He returned to help lead this group to Israel. They walked during the night so that they wouldn’t be identified, and they slept during the day,” Zehava explained.

Many died on the road, and the Elias family was not immune to such tragedies.

“One of my brothers was very sick. My father took him to a small town in Sudan for treatment. My older brother later told us that he was already dead in my father’s arms, but my father insisted on getting the child treatment. He was only three years old. Some time later, my other brother, who was five years old, died of dehydration. They had no choice but to continue on their journey,” Zehava explained.

“My mother was already late in her pregnancy during the journey. On one of the last days of the journey, my brothers carried my mother in a stretcher because she could not walk anymore,” Zehava recalled. “Her water broke while they were crossing a river and I was born, right there in Sudan.”

And their adventure continued. During their journey, Zehava’s father and older brothers were stopped and imprisoned in Sudan. Their mother and the rest of the children had no choice but to continue on.

More than a year after their departure from their home village, they arrived safely at their designated meeting place. From there, they took a plane to Israel.

The arrival in Israel was not as joyful as expected, because the family was still separated. The first year was not easy: language difficulties, problems with integration and, above all, the difficulty of building a new life without the men of the family.

It was only after more than a year that the last members of the family were released from Sudanese prison in order to join their family in the Jewish state.

In 1992, Zehava’s mother gave birth to twins, the first members of the family to be born in Israel. A few years later, Zehava began elementary school, where she already had plenty of brothers and sisters. As soon as they were old enough, every member of the family worked outside of school hours in order to support the family.

“My father worked as a janitor or repairman. It was hard work but he did it with pleasure because he was able to be in Israel. We also worked hard at school and were accepted into a very good school,” Zehava said.

In 2007, during Zehava’s last year of high school, Tata, one of her older sisters and mother of seven, told the family that she had cancer. Before she died, ”She instructed me to do something good in the army, whatever is most important to me. She believed in me,” recalled Zehava.

Zehava finished her studies with excellence. Then, in February 2008, she enlisted in the IDF. She became a commander at Havat HaShomer, a military base for troubled youth, before enrolling in officers’ training.

“I did not tell my family that I was doing the officers’ course. I needed to succeed because I took to heart all that Tata had asked of me. When my father came to the ceremony – he was obviously very proud at the officer’s ceremony. My mother was in tears,” Zehava said.

Kotel Rabbi Promises Women Won’t Be Arrested for Saying ’Kaddish’

Friday, April 5th, 2013

The rabbi of the Western Wall has promised Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky that women will not arrested if they dare to say the mourners’ ”kaddish” prayer at the Western Wall.

The “Great Enlightenment” of Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz is the latest chapter in the saga of the Women of the Wall (WOW), whose movement – however suspect its motives might be – has exposed a total disconnect between Haredi rabbis’ outlook and the Jewish world at-large.

The flak over the recital of the recital of the Kaddish prayer also has showed that Jerusalem police act on the orders of Rabbi Rabinowitz.

WOW plans to pray on next week’s Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) and on Rosh Chodesh at the Western Wall.

But reciting the Kaddish? That appears to be too much for the Western Wall rabbi.

Even though there is a  partition to separate men and women according to the ancient custom practiced today even by non-Haredi orthodox communities, perhaps the rabbi is  relying on the strictest of the strict prohibition of a man, God forbid, hearing a woman’s voice and therefore losing his concentration on his prayers.

Or perhaps he considers the Kaddish prayer reserved for men.

Whatever his reasoning, Jerusalem police commission Yossi Pariente wrote Anat Hoffman, chairman of WOW, “We would like to inform you that, starting on this coming Rosh Chodesh, the Israel Police will fulfill its duty to enforce the law.”

The police previously have arrested women trying to pray in a minyan of 10 people on Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the new month. The women’s group has drawn worldwide publicity by wearing prayer shawls and trying to carry a Torah scroll to the Western Wall, in violation of a High Court order.

There is a solid foundation of rabbinic laws against the women’s monthly attraction, which understandably is seen as a provocation by Israeli Jews, even those who are not Haredi or even not orthodox.

But the altercations of the police and the scenes of a Jew being arrested for holding a Torah scroll have played into the hands of the WOW movement and have indeed been a provocation – provoking more hatred of rabbinic authority.

The motives of the Women of the Wall are more than just reciting prayers or reading from a Torah scroll. They openly campaign against what they call a “monopoly” of Orthodox Judaism, which has been around for many centuries, leaving open the question of how tolerant women and Reform Jewish leaders would be of Haredi demands if they were to be in authority.

Instead of dealing with the challenge in a 21st fashion – perhaps sitting down with the women  and learning with them the Talmudic  views that actually promote many aspects of modern feminism – the Haredi community has chosen measures that conjure up horrid visions of centuries of non-Jewish rules’ disgust of Jews and Judaism.

“Prohibiting women from saying Kaddish is a shanda (Yiddish for shameful) and brought on solely by the hegemony and short-sightedness of Rabbi Rabinowitz,” said Hoffman in response to the letter Jerusalem Police Chief Pariente. “He has, without a doubt, crossed a clear red line, as women’s right to say Kaddish is respected and accepted by the entire Jewish world, including Orthodox factions…

“To refuse mothers and mourning women the right and obligation of saying the mourner’s prayer, Kaddish, is cold-hearted. Women of the Wall will be at the Kotel and will say Kaddish, with the utmost religious intention and emotional commitment that is deserved and require of us.”

The issue has become so emotional that there is almost no room for any logical or knowledgeable input. American Jewish journalists and non-Orthodox Jewish leaders, often without any understanding of Jewish law, have jumped on the harassment of women to show Judaism as Medieval and allegedly anti-feminist.

One of the most recent examples is Peter Beinart’s Open Zion blog on the Daily Beast.

He posted an article by Emily Hauser, who has made herself one of thousands of modern “commentators” on the Torah. She titled one recent article, “Moses was a jerk, & Passover wouldn’t have happened without five women.”

Hauser exploited Pariente’s letter to promote populism whereby everyone is a religious authority. The “Israel’s government is telling the world’s Jews that they know what Judaism is, and we don’t,” she wrote.

Torah of Ben Ish Chai Rescued in Covert Op

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

An ancient Torah scroll once belonging to the great Torah sage Ben Ish Chai has been rescued from war-torn Iraq, and made its way home to Israel’s beach-side community of Netanya on Tuesday.

One of the world’s oldest Torah scrolls still kosher for use, the 400 year-old Torah was liberated in a covert operation conducted with the help of US Armed Forces still stationed in Iraq. The unique scroll is printed on gawil – thick parchments not split during the construction of the scroll – and etched with large letters. It once served the community of the celebrated Baghdadi Rabbi Abdullah and his renowned disciple, Rabbi Yosef Chaim, who came to be known as the Ben Ish Chai.

Dr. Nissan Sharifi, attorney and chairman of the Be’er Chana synagogue in Netanya, explained to Israel’s Hidabrut website that he began his quest to rescue the precious scroll after representing some Jewish US Army soldiers who had immigrated to Israel. He began to hear stories from the Jewish-American soldiers about ancient Jewish manuscripts and books in the possession of the Jewish community of Baghdad, including the Torah scroll of the Ben Ish Chai. When he heard about the existential threat facing the dwindling Jewish community of Baghdad in the wake of the withdrawal of the US from Iraq, and understood the danger to the Jewish artifacts posed by angry rioters in a turbulent post-war Iraq, he decided to try to save the scroll, the second oldest scroll which is kosher for use in the world, after the 500 year-old scroll of Rabbi Isaac Abuahav, which is currently in the Galilean city of Tzfat.

Iraqi law makes removing artifacts relevant to the country difficult to accomplish. Sharifi would not go into detail about the rescue, but told Hidabrut that the original cylindrical case ensconcing the scroll was not salvaged – only the parchments arrived in Israel.

According to Sharifi, the small remaining Iraqi Jewish community in Baghdad supported the transfer of the scroll to his synagogue. Yom Kippur was the last time the scroll was used, when Jewish Army soldiers joined the 7 or 8 remaining elderly Baghdadi Jews to make a prayer quorum (minyan). In the possession of the community remain thousands of handwritten items, manuscripts, books, and tens of Torah scrolls, all of which are threatened by the somber reality of the vulnerability of the community resulting from the US Army’s withdrawal from the area.

The Torah was received in a festive ceremony at the Be’er Chana synagogue, which was established by Sharifi in the name of his mother, who was born in Baghdad. In attendance was Chief Rabbi of Tzfat Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, son of the late former Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, who was an advocate of the preservation of Iraqi Jewish traditions and a student of the teachings of the Ben Ish Chai.

In the early 1900s, as many as 300,000 Jews lived in Baghdad. A major anti-Semitic upswing following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 eventually resulted in rescue Operation Ezra and Nechemiah(named after the prophets who led the Jews of Babylon to the land of Israel), which evacuated up to 120,000 Jews from Iraq in 1 year, leaving just 6,000 by the end of 1952.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/torah-of-ben-ish-chai-rescued-in-covert-op/2012/01/24/

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