These are the moments that life in Israel is made of. These are the moments when you realize there is absolutely nowhere else on Earth as overwhelmingly fulfilling or inspiring as is your own backyard.
Tonight, there was a Hachnassat Sefer Torah in the Yishuv. This moving event occurs when a Torah scroll or Torah scrolls are brought to the synagogue and officially donated by a family or organization for use in the synagogue. A Torah scroll might be commissioned in memory of someone and then donated to a shul; or it might be that a family has an already existing Sefer Torah that they want to now give to a shul.
My good friends, Zvi and Sharon Ron, were in the latter category, and honored our yishuv tonight with the dedication of their family’s Sefer Torah.
I get goosebumps just thinking of relaying the story of this Torah. Our friend, Zvi, had a great-grandfather who owned this beautiful Sefer Torah before World War II in Czechoslovakia. When the war broke out, and all of Zvi’s family was either misplaced from their homes to go into hiding, or murdered by the Nazis, the Sefer Torah was taken by the Nazis. Why was it taken? It was taken, not to burn or desecrate, but to be an exhibit as part of a museum of Jewish items. The Nazi plan was that such a museum would showcase the items of the long-deceased people; of the religion that used to be and of the culture that had been obliterated.
Can you imagine?
And so, the Sefer Torah was kept by the Nazis in a warehouse. When the war finally ended and the warehouse was abandoned, the Torah made its way to a makeshift shul for post-war Jews. One day after the war, Zvi’s uncle, who had been a partisan during the war, stumbled into this shul and was called to the Torah. As he stood there, in post war-torn Europe, he realized that the Torah before him belonged to his family. And he walked out of the shul with the Torah in his arms.
The Torah made its way to New York with Zvi’s uncle, and then eventually here, to our land, in Israel. Zvi’s father had the Torah in his possession in Hashmonaim and he spent time fixing it and taking care of it. He told Zvi that someday, when Zvi had a shul in the new neighborhood of Neve Daniel, that the Sefer Torah should come with him and enjoy a home there.
|Zvi on the right fulfilling his father's promise and Daniel Kasovitz on the left|
And tonight, the Sefer Torah, that was intended to be used as part of a museum of the murdered religion, took its place in the newest shul in Gush Etzion, along with another beautiful Sefer Torah donated by another family. Hundreds of us gathered on the street to dance and sing the Sefrei Torah to their new home. During a Hachnassat Sefer Torah, the Torah or Torahs are held under a Chuppah (marriage canopy) as everyone sings wedding songs and dances around the Torahs. It is a glorious ceremony filled with hope, continuity and promise.
Who would have thought, when Zvi’s great grandfather was torn from his home and his family; when the Torah was placed in a museum of the dead; when his uncle happened to stumble into a shul in post-war Europe…that the Sefer Torah would someday arrive in the hills of Gush Etzion, in Eretz Yisrael, among hundreds of Jewish people.
|Three generation of Ron family members: Zvi on right, his daughter Kinamon and his mom|
What a gift.
What a moment.
What a glorious message to those who have tried to annihilate us again and again.
We are here.
Our Sefrei Torah are here. They make it home to us, eventually.
As do many of us.
And our future is here. Now.