‘Time-share Torah’ is reprehensible

I was appalled to read the Saturday article, “Florida torah turns into time-share,” in which the following sentence appeared: “One synagogue … is taking the unprecedented step of allowing congregants to host Judaism’s sacred text in their homes in exchange for a donation.”

Just how far should we be willing to go in pursuit of the almighty donation? Would an environmental group offer the opportunity to take a chainsaw to a tree for a donation? Would a house of worship allow lewd behavior for its donors? Should we regress to the “sale of indulgences” of centuries ago?

There is a reason this step is unprecedented. The Torah scroll, which most would know as the first five books of the Bible, is painstakingly handwritten on handmade parchment by a trained ritual calligraphist called a Sofer over a period of more than six months, using handmade ink and quill. This scribe may have immersed each day in a ritual bath before performing what was to him a holy task. There are detailed rules for securing and protecting the Torah scroll, as well as transporting it, the least of which is that it must be wrapped in a Tallit, a ritual prayer shawl. More on this can be found at www.SnoJewish.org/518721.

There are many other time-proven ways of raising funds to purchase or fix a Torah scroll. Congregations have allowed members to symbolically purchase a letter or paragraph in the scroll for which they receive a certificate listing their section. Perhaps a gift of a printed Torah book, with a commentary for study, will allow the families to actually enjoy the teachings of the Torah in their home for more than a short visit. There is no need to denigrate what is considered a sacred artifact in Judaism for this purpose.

Rabbi Yossi Mandel

Director, Chabad Jewish Center of Snohomish County


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