By Mina Williams For The Herald
EDMONDS — In 2008, Rabbi Zevi Goldberg and his wife Leeba quietly opened the Chabad Jewish Center of Snohomish County.
On May 2, the rabbi and his wife led a not-so-quiet celebration through the streets of Edmonds to commemorate the center’s receipt of its first Torah Scroll, one of the Jewish people’s most sacred objects.
“It was my dream to move to an area without an established Jewish community,” Goldberg said. He was willing to go anywhere in the world, from his home in New York, and he selected Snohomish County. Once he scouted the area, there was no looking back. “It’s been a great move.”
Synagogues, Jewish houses of worship, must have a Torah, Goldberg explained.
“It is the most valuable thing to a synagogue,” he said. “A Torah is everlasting. It is treated with the highest respect, like a human being, really. When not in use it is put into the ark, like a newborn. (Congregations) start with one, but you really need more than one.”
During services several people read from the scrolls. The Chabad Center had been using a Torah borrowed from a Seattle temple.
A Torah typically takes one year for a accomplished scribe to write by hand more than 600,000 letters with a feather ink pen. The completed work encompasses five books of Moses across 54 pieces of parchment. There can be no smudges of ink or cracks in the parchment.
The Chabad Center’s Torah was crafted in Israel.
“Getting a new Torah is a beautiful thing,” said Goldberg.
Celebrants at the event not only welcomed the new Torah, inviting the community to take part in the festivities, they also completed the last letters of the scroll, ceremonially finishing the Torah here in Edmonds.
The Torah was introduced to its new community and paraded through the streets of Edmonds with singing and dancing. A festive meal and music followed the parade.
Given the workmanship and length of time a Torah takes to complete, the associated cost ranges from $30,000 and $50,000. Congregations generally have the sacred object donated by individuals or groups. A local sponsor came forward a year ago to move the Chabad Center’s Torah project along. The center opted to accept donations at all levels from $1,800 for a complete book of the Torah to $18 for a single letter to complete the Torah.
“We wanted everyone to be a part of our Torah and put no financial barriers to that,” Goldberg said.