CAA Features Family Torah Discussion
By Karen Frost
Through the ages, Torah scrolls have been created by the meticulous process of hand-copying. Writing the 304,805 letters, approximately 79,000 words, in a Torah scroll requires a skilled, experienced scribe and takes about a year to complete.
The history of Sefer Torahs dates back to ancient Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean civilizations.
Torah scrolls are very durable. The oldest complete Torah scroll on record, roughly 800 years old, is a Sephardic Torah housed in the library of the University of Bologna.
Scrolls were widely used before the Romans invented the codex, or book format, in the first century CE, and they remained in use long after the codex was introduced. In Europe during the Middle Ages, scrolls ceased to be used for books. Reintroduced during the 17th century, they were used for official treaties and other international documents and continue to be used for administrative and accounting purposes all over Europe.
Today, it’s not uncommon to see a Mezuzah scroll on the door frame of a Jewish household. Other books from the Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible, are also written in scroll form, and some Jewish families own a Megillat Esther, the Scroll of Esther, for use during Purim.
But owning a family Torah scroll is uncommon and very special. On Sunday, Dec. 17, the community is invited to join the discussion about the amazing journey of several family Torah scrolls and how they made their way to Congregation Agudas Achim. All are welcome to participate in learning the history and motivation behind these family Torahs.
Stan Mayer and Gary Susswein will be relating the stories of their family Torah scrolls as those scrolls traveled across Europe, South Africa and the United States to join the community in Austin, Texas, one for a few years and the other for the long term.
Online reservations for the discussion can be made at theaustinsynagogue.org/featured-events.
As we mark the last few months before CAA’s new Torah scroll is dedicated Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018, community members can still become a sponsor and write a letter in that Torah scroll. The dedication ceremony is free, and all members of the community are welcome.
Opportunities to write a letter with soferet Jen Taylor Friedman will be available the week of Feb. 5, 2018. Those interested in fulfilling the 613th mitzvah with Congregation Agudas Achim should visit the CAA website to learn how to become involved at theaustinsynagogue.org/10000-faces-of-torah.
As an illustration of CAA’s egalitarian values, this Torah Scroll will be the first Torah Scroll in the state of Texas written under the guidance of a soferet, a female scribe. Funds raised for the 10,000 Faces of Torah project will seed an endowment for CAA to enhance and deepen its Torah learning and guarantee that its sacred space will be maintained for generations to come. ■