Saturday, January 27, 2007

Torah, Torah, Torah

Was present at the dedication of a Torah scroll at Shira Hadasha - you know, that's the shul with all the singing, that makes Ira crazy but makes me happy. Anyway, in honor of their 5th Anniversary, there was a Torah being dedicated in memory of a member's mother, who died a year ago. I went along for the ride with Jess and courtesy of her, had cadged myself a bit part for the night. More on that later.

We met up at a house where the final letters of the scroll were being finished. Interestingly enough, anyone was welcome if they were male and right handed. Something about left handedness being a problem, unless I guess, the whole scroll was written by a left handed sofer/scribe. As I arrived, amid noshing children and adults, Daniel (Jess's) was sitting and filling in a letter, which he said, was quite a thrill. The sofer had the usual bearded look but was wearing outrageous magnifying glasses while he worked and supervised the "filler inners." When all was finished, he produced, of all things, a blow dryer and dried the scroll off. The Torah was dressed, in a lovely velvet, embroidered cover and carried off for it's walk to Shira Hadasha (about 5-7 minutes away). Btw, the Torah is a small one, designed to be portable and to bed used for happy occasions like B'nei Mitzva and sad occasions, being brought to a shiva home.

We exited outside and were greeted by noise and excitement. A van had arrived, pulled by a car in the front. The van was lit up with colored lights and decorated with a large, lit up crown on top. It sparkled and twinkled and frumy, hassidishe music was playing. I'm not sure why you have to listen to Hassidic music at such an occasion but it seemed appropriate to all. There was a huppa/canopy in back, and the Torah traveled under the huppa along with singing and dancing to the shul building.

Jess and I ran off to Shira Hadasha, to pick up the Torah's that are already there and bring them to the entrance gate to "meet" the new Torah. That was my special job. We came to the gate, Torah's in our arms and were met by kids with torches - shades of "I'll get you my pretty," but everyone assured me no problem, not to worry about little kids with fire (typical Israel). The van arrived, the new Torah arrived and we made our way into the building, up the stairs and into the main space with song and dance. It was fun and relaxed in its way and I enjoyed it very much. The family that had dedicated the Torah spoke - the wife did, about her mother and about her feelings toward the community and the support that they had offered here when her mother died. After 1 other speech from the community thanking the family, the 3 grandchildren got up and read from the Torah. That was fun as the youngest was a girl of about 8 or 9 and the next child about 11 and the oldest was probably of Bar Mitzvah age. Shira Hadasha has it's problems - too crowded, too much yuh'buh'buh'ing, the mechitza - but it's resolutely an egalitarian, orthodox model and it works and it makes for a community where the women really feel that they matter. They do as a matter of fact and that makes it a good place. As well, there is no other place that I have ever been to that has singers that take their singing as lustily. I say this, as I was there this week on Fri night and Sat and sometimes you wish they'd move on to the next prayer but there's an attention to prayer, a love of prayer and a sheer enjoyment of the whole thing that is infectious. I am fortunate that the women are a friendly bunch - open, warm and welcoming - especially after they see you return on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the guys are not that friendly and the only thing that we've been able to figure out by now is that it's a guy thing - guys have to daven and that's that and there's a suspicion of being friendly to a tourist when they won't be around next week. I say, what's wrong with being friendly with tourists. Anyway, enough of that. It was a good 5th Anniv celebration and it continues to be a place that calls to me.

Shavua Tov. A good week to all.

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