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Taking It to The Street, Chabad Style

Two weeks ago, Chabad Santa Clara welcomed a new Torah scroll, the ceremony — Hachnasat Sefer Torah — bringing the scroll new home to its new home accompanied by singing, dancing, music and a procession along El Camino.

“The street is where the Torah should be, both literally and figuratively,” said Rabbi Yigal Rosenberg, director of Chabad Santa Clara, “to bring godliness everywhere, not just in houses of worship.”

The Torah procession goes back to King David’s (ca. 1000 BCE) bringing the Ark of the Covenant  — the container holding the Ten Commandments — to Jerusalem: “And David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of [the] shofar.”

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The Torah, the first five books of the Bible, tells Judaism’s founding story of Moses leading Hebrew slaves out of Egypt into the Sinai wilderness, where God gives the Jewish Law and makes a covenant with them to lead them into a “promised land” where they will live by the Law and in peace.

While most know that the Torah is Jews’ most sacred holy book, few likely know that every Torah used in religious ceremonies is hand-written on special parchment with a quill and special ink by a trained scribe — sofer — exactly the same way the Torah has been copied for millennia.

The copying of the 304,805 Hebrew letters must be exact — errors can render the scroll invalid. It takes about a year and a half to copy a Torah scroll, and costs tens of thousands of dollars. Torahs are stored in an ornate case — a Torah ark — covered by an embroidered curtain — a parochet.

Writing or commissioning the writing of a Torah scroll is great mitzvah — a religious or moral action as well as an act of great merit.

This is Chabad Santa Clara’s second Torah scroll. It comes from Hungary and dates from before WWII. “It’s immaculate, which is a miracle in itself,” said Rabbi Rosenberg.

Started in 2017, Chabad Santa Clara is Santa Clara’s first synagogue, as far as anyone knows, and is part of the Chabad branch of Hasidic Orthodox Judaism. Originating in the Russian town of Lubavitch  — the name means “city of brotherly love” — 250 years ago, Chabad is widely known for its charitable work and Chabad Houses providing a spiritual and social home for Jews throughout the world.

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