It took $35,000 and more than a year for a scribe to write
out the 304,805 Hebrew letters with a turkey feather pen dipped in kosher
But on Monday, a Torah was unveiled in Passaic. And the homecoming for
Judaism's holiest book was joyous. More than 100 adults and children danced
on Passaic Avenue as the bound scroll made its way to YBH of Passaic-Hillel,
a religious school that intends to use it for generations of students.
"It represents the soul of every Jewish person, and every Jew longs
to be close to it," said Dr. Jonny Gold, incoming president of YBH
in Passaic Park, which instructs 400 students from pre-K to eighth grade.
Jews believe the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, contains
the words of God as revealed to Moses. For thousands of years, Torah scrolls
have been written by sofers, or scribes, who pen the letters on parchments
made from animal skins. Each page is sewn to the next with thread, and
then rolled onto wooden rods referred to as the "Trees of Life."
The process of creating a Torah is painstaking. A rabbi writes each letter
by hand in 245 columns spanning 62 pieces of parchment. No punctuation
separates the words because believers chant the passages. Scribes train
for decades to write them.
For Jews, the Torah cannot contain errors, as it is to be written exactly
as it was first presented at Mount Sinai in Egypt. Three proofreaders
checked the work of Rabbi Zvi Chaim Pincus, of Brooklyn, for the Passaic
Torah. Then, each parchment was fed through an optical scanner to ensure
the accuracy of words and lettering.
"It is not a new Torah. It is newly written," said Pincus, as
he sat before the last page of the Torah during Monday morning festivities
for the book.
The Torah was commissioned by Isidore and Sandra Teitelbaum, of Manalapan,
whose 5-, 6- and 7-year-old grandchildren attend the YBH school. Teitelbaum
dedicated the scroll to Sandra's father, Gerszon, a Holocaust survivor
from Poland who died in 1983.
The couple decided to commission the Torah because those used by the school
They also wanted to give young Jewish children the opportunity to develop
their faith. Students read a small section of the book on Monday and Thursday
mornings, as is Jewish tradition.
On the Sabbath, an entire section is read in the school's synagogue. The
Torah will also be used in local bar and bat mitzvahs.
"It's not like it's written and put away in a box," said Marc
Nash, 39, a Passaic resident and the Teitelbaums' son-in-law.
On Monday morning, families gathered at Nash's house to celebrate the
new Torah. The book is considered a community effort, and about 50 families
paid $18 a letter to fill in the shapes the rabbi had outlined. Writing
in the Torah is a mitzvah, or a good deed, and every Jew is expected to
help bring a Torah into existence once in their lives.
"Look at all these families," said Sandra Teitelbaum, 57, as
two girls dressed in matching pink skirts gathered by Pincus' side to
watch their parents fill in the letters. "It's the future of Judaism
to bring this kindness into the world."
At noon, Pincus slipped the completed Torah into a felt cover with the
date and the Teitelbaums' names embroidered on the front for a procession
to the school. Since biblical times, finishing a Torah has been commemorated
with dance and music.
Dozens of families gathered on Passaic Avenue to watch the Torah and listen
to traditional Jewish music piped from speakers on a flatbed truck painted
with Torah imagery. Isidore Teitelbaum walked outside with the Torah clasped
against his chest, taking his place underneath a chuppah, or a Jewish
marriage canopy, as men in black hats danced around him.
"I'm so thankful to keep my father alive through this," said
Sandra Teitelbaum, who cried when she first saw the Torah Monday morning.
Reach Heather Haddon at 973-569-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org