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Outreach Torah to complement Jewish Experience mission

A Scribe Fills in Words in the Torah Commissioned by The Jewish Experience, DenverAccording to the Zohar, the Torah contains 600,000 letters and spaces, including unprinted vowels and cantillation signs.

Kabbalists say it is no coincidence that 600,000 is also the number of souls who stood at the base of Mount Sinai to receive the Torah at that pivotal moment marking the birth of the Jewish people and their covenant with G-d.

“For a Torah to be kosher, every single letter and space must be there. So, too, with the Jewish people,” says Rabbi Ahron Y. Wasserman, director of the The Jewish Experience.

The Torah — and the scroll upon which it is written — is the consummate symbol of the unity of the Jewish people.

For that reason, The Jewish Experience, a Denver organization created to reach out to Jews of all backgrounds and observance levels, is in the midst of commissioning an outreach Torah scroll.

Most Torah scrolls are housed in synagogues. Usually people come to where the Torah is — the synagogue — for prayer and learning.

But since The Jewish Experience is not a synagogue, its new Torah will go to where the people are, which is actually what TJE has been doing since it started eight years ago with its classes in people’s homes and offices, and its retreats and lectures.

Rabbi Wasserman had dreamed of a Torah scroll for his organization, but a new, custom-written Torah can cost between $25,000 and $50,000, depending on the quality of the work. For a young outreach organization, a project of this scale and expense would have to wait.

Then, four years ago, TJE established The Sunday Experience, a religious and Hebrew school for children from families not affiliated with any synagogue.
The school attracted families such as Joel and Lisa Appel and their children, Zachary and Danielle.

The Sunday Experience and the return to Judaism that it represented to the Appel family had such an impact on them that they wanted to help Rabbi Wasserman attain his goal of having a Torah scroll.

TJE kicked off its Torah scroll project last fall. Rabbi Tzvi Chaim Pincus of Tiferes Stam in New York and a leading expert in the scribal arts, officially started the new scroll, writing the first letters.

Torah scroll campaigns derive their income from Maimonides’ declaration that every Jew should participate in the writing of a Torah scroll in his or her lifetime. A sofer (scribe) may do so on behalf of other Jews.

Rabbi Wasserman reports that the new Torah — being written in Israel — is 75% complete. It is scheduled to be brought to Denver in early November with a final completion and dedication on Nov. 16.

The first use of the Torah will be at the Bar Mitzvah of Zachary Appel.

In fact, Bar Mitzvahs will be one of the immediate uses for the sefer Torah. Seven Bar Mitzvahs of The Sunday Experience students are scheduled to take place this year.

The new Torah is smaller than those typically found in synagogues, making it easily portable to these Bar Mitzvahs, retreats in the mountains, shabbatons, shiva minyanim and other events at which the Torah would be read.

Rabbi Pincus has been to Denver several times since the project began last fall. TJE is using the opportunity to teach as many people as possible about the mitzvah of writing a Torah and the unifying power of the Torah.

“All Jews, from secular to religious, can relate to the Torah,” says Rabbi Wasserman. “The Torah has never changed. It keeps us constant.”

Larry Hankin

IJN Associate Editor |

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