Old Torahs are Collecting Dust
by Clement Soffer
I have been involved in building several synagogues, Ahava ve Ahva in Brooklyn, Commack Jewish Center on Long Island, then the Chabad of Port Washington, Long Island, the great Safra Synagogue in Aventura, Florida and now the new Chabad of West Boynton Beach, Florida.
I am writing this article to make all of our wonderful Sephardic communities aware of an enormous mitzvah that has been forgotten. The mitzvah is the rededication of many of our old Sefer Torahs that are passul (defective) lying dormant, collecting dust and locked away in storage. Most of our synagogues have this dilemma. The rabbis and their committees are correct in removing them from circulation. It is their duty to do so.
Our forefathers struggled to pay for those beautiful Sefer Torahs, which they expected us to use for many years. Now, just because they became old and have fallen into disrepair, we ignore them and have put them away, allowing them to collect dust in storage rooms.
That is disrespectful to the Torahs, disrespectful to Hashem’s greatest gift to humanity and disrespectful to the intentions of our elders that dedicated those Torahs. When Moses broke the tablets, Hashem made him keep the broken pieces which were just as valuable as the newer tablets and were kept in the same Holy ark.
We, by contrast, store them away and ignore them and keep them in shameful conditions. We, the members of all congregations, are responsible for the rehabilitation of all those Sefer Torahs.
I realized this after the following experience: after 10 years of volunteer services at the Safra Synagogue in Florida, watching the seed planted, grow to great heights under the blessings and generosity of the Braka family and many others and the guidance of Shlita Rabbi Yosef Galimidi, came a time when the shul was running like a clock and I was no longer needed.
Hashem decided it was time for me to open the fifth house of worship in my lifetime in West Boynton Beach under the guidance of Rabbi Yosef Raichick, whose family saved thousands of Jewish children from the Chernobyl nuclear explosion in Russia. We rented a building at first and then eventually put a small deposit on five acres of land and took a large mortgage, may Hashem help us financially. The community is composed of Sephardim and Ashkenazim, retired old men and young families with children.
We begged and struggled for books, talets, chairs, shelving— everything needed for a shul. When it came to a Sefer Torah, we could not afford to buy a new one. So, we purchased a used one and spent a lot of money to fix it but we were exuberant that we finally had a Sefer Torah.
The other shuls I started had 20 to 30 new Torahs. I learned to be humble, but many times you need three different Torahs, we were forced to roll back and forth the parchment. With only one Torah we have to be incredibly careful, because if we accidentally tear it, we are left with nothing.
I am fortunate to have a good relationship with many of our rabbis. I requested from Rabbi Galimidi in Aventura and Rabbi Shaul Maslaton the loan of an additional Torah, new or even passul. May Hashem bless them and give them long life as they both responded positively.
Rabbi Maslaton lent us a Sefer passul that I can rehabilitate and honor again and give it it’s proper place of respect and use on a weekly basis.
My brother Robert and I are proud and honored to have completed the expensive checking and rehabilitation of this Torah at a much lesser cost than purchasing a new one. This dedication happened on the first day of Passover in Boynton Beach. This mitzvah has taught me humbleness and great happiness to have fulfilled the wishes of the original donor.
The rededication and elevation of a Torah, from complete desecration to a Holy place in a congregation that is hungry for its presence, is beyond the understanding of many.
I am hoping to form a committee dedicated to restoring, honoring, and respecting the great deeds of our forefathers. I would also like to show Hashem that we respect old and new Sefer Torahs and eventually we can keep them in the same place as the new ones. This committee will be formed to raise funds to restore and rehabilitate all the beautiful old Torahs and keep them stored at their present location for lack of storage space.
There are many shuls that need them, so it is a shame to let even one Torah disintegrate when it can be put to good use.
We are our brother’s keepers. Our communities and their members are very generous and we never feel the need of urgency for Sefer Torahs, despite their exorbitant costs.
After the committee restores the old Torahs, they can give them to synagogues that are newly starting or struggling to exist. The Torahs can be lent until the shul gets on its feet.
It is a multiple mitzvah. Let’s show Hashem the degree of love we have for the Torah, his gracious and sacred gift.
Clement Soffer is a realtor who helped build the Chabad of West Boynton Beach.