Pikesville synagogue dedicates Torah

September 29, 1997|By Tamara Ikenberg | Tamara Ikenberg,SUN STAFF

On screen, the immaculately curved Hebrew letters are striking against the bone-white scroll as Rabbi Moshe Rappaport fills in the final letter -- the Hebrew L, lahmed.

The lahmed completed the Sefer Torah. It is the holy book of the Jewish people, containing the first five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, and this version was created for Beth Tfiloh.

The completion of the text was projected on a large screen to personalize the event for the audience.

'Family' project

"I feel absolutely ecstatic," says Rappaport, a Baltimore resident. Rappaport is a professional mohel, or one who performs circumcisions, as well as a scribe.

"It's one thing to finish a Sefer Torah, it's another thing to be involved in a whole family."

He is referring to the legions of people involved in making the Sefer Torah; nearly 1,000 gathered at Beth Tfiloh synagogue in Pikesville yesterday for the dedication.

Heads craned, and children were shushed as the scroll was carried in beneath a chupah, a blue canopy held aloft by four poles.

"Usually when you have a wedding or a bar mitzvah and it ends, there's usually a big letdown. This is a total high," says Barbara Goldberg, who coordinated the project. "I'm going to start crying again."

Her reaction is understandable. Nearly two years ago, the Pikesville resident presented the idea as the perfect way to end the congregation's 75th anniversary festivities. After her idea was approved, preparations began immediately. Her first task was to find a scribe in Israel to write the bulk of the Torah.

The scribe's handwriting needed to be compatible with Rapaport's, who would complete the scroll. Handwriting samples were faxed back and forth to Israel, until Rabbi Avrum Clark was chosen as the scribe. Clark took about a year to finish, and Beth Tfiloh's Rabbi Mitchell Wohlberg traveled to Israel to retrieve the scrolls.

'Sense of awe'

"I had the same sense of awe you get with a newborn baby," Wohlberg says. "It was ours. I was taking it home. It was something living."

After Rabbi Wohlberg brought the Torah home, Rapaport began a series of programs where congregation members could watch him complete the unfinished sections while he lectured on the process and the significance.

According to members of the congregation, the dedication is the perfect end to the anniversary, and the perfect beginning for the High Holy days, which commence this week with Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year.

The new Torah scroll will be joining the 10 Torah scrolls already at Beth Tfiloh.

Pub Date: 9/29/97

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