Saturday, April 22, 2006

G-d Is In the Details

Something unusual happened today in synagogue. We were in the middle of the Torah reading for this week, listening to the details of which animals are and are not kosher, and suddenly the reader just.....stopped. As the pause drew out, the Rav of our yishuv went over and looked at the place where the reader pointed to in the sefer Torah. It turns out that one of the letters was written incorrectly, so the Torah was closed up, its "gartel" (the sash used to close the two rolls of parchment together) was tied on the outside of the velvet cover (versus inside) to distinguish it from the other Torahs, and another one was taken out to be read.

In this particular instance, it was clear that a letter was written incorrectly. When there is a doubt, an interesting event takes place, one that excites my imagination. A small child, who is old enough to know the Hebrew letters but not old enough to read words, is called over. I can just imagine the scene, as a little kindergarden-age kid is motioned to the center of the synagogue, as all of the adult faces look on with expectation. The Rabbi scoops him up and points to a place in the sefer Torah, and with a kindly look asks him, "what's this letter, cutie?" This little innocent child will judge whether or not the Torah is pasul (unfit).

There are many people, both Jews and non-Jews, who think that we Orthodox are too stubbornly obsessed with the small details, and that we'd be better off, and would be easier to get along with, if we would just relax a little. So what if a letter is written incorrectly - what's the big deal about a few drops of ink?

The answer to this is that those few drops of ink are crucial - and our survival as Jews for centuries has been ensured by our stubborn insistance on paying close attention to the details. By making sure that the Torah is written exactly as it should be, we know that we Jews are "all on the same page", as it were. The same Torah that we read in our little community in the Shomron is the same one that they read in New York city and in a remote village in India, where a Chabad shaliach (emissary) runs a synagogue for the Jewish tourists from Israel. It is also the same one that that they read in the Warsaw ghetto, in the old synagogues in Spain before the Jews were expelled in 1492, and in the ancient city of Jerusalem thousands of years ago.

There may be arguments about how to interpret the texts - but there is no argument about what the text is - and we take our responsibility to guard the text for future generations seriously.

Think of it this way - what is the difference between and www.westbankblog.blogspotcom? Just a tiny amount of virtual ink, no?


Blogger Emanuel Ben-Zion said...

Did you tried to click on both links? the first goes to your blog, the second goes to an error page. Like the Torah, a word can make the difference. The Torah is sacred, so no mistakes are allowed, and I think every jewish movement thinks like this. I was taught to whenever a letter is not correct the Torah is pasul, and I'm a Masorti.

shavua tov

5:49 AM, April 23, 2006  
Blogger Editor said...


8:18 AM, April 23, 2006  
Blogger Regina Clare Jane said...

I can understand that very well, westbankmama... it reminds me of when the Catholic Church dropped Latin in its use during worship. Latin was used all over the world in every church- you could be in Mississippi or in Angola and the Mass would be the same- not now, however... and it's a shame. That was continuity for us... and continuity is what keeps all of us together...
Very interesting, wbm...I think we can all learn a lot from our Orthodox brothers and sisters...

2:25 PM, April 23, 2006  
Blogger Rafi G said...

very poignant post..

Emanuel - does that mean westbankmama's blog is sacred, by comparison?

10:56 PM, April 23, 2006  
Blogger Emanuel Ben-Zion said...

Rafi, every part of our soul is sacred. and if a blog is an apendice of our being then, yes, WBM blog is sacred.

2:45 AM, April 24, 2006  
Blogger Mark said...

What a terrific post. Thank you.

I am tickled to see that Emmanuel is commenting here. I know him from Thoughts By Seawitch, ( but I wandered in here from HH at Perspectives of a Nomad.


7:40 AM, April 24, 2006  
Blogger westbankmama said...

emanuel - thank you for your compliments - although I wouldn't call my blog "sacred"...

regina - that is an interesting point. I didn't know that Catholics said Mass in Latin (even though I had Catholic friends as a girl I never went to church with them!!!)

rafi - thank you too - are you getting any sleep with the new boychik in the house?

mark - welcome to my blog. This is why I love Havel-Haveilim, because it makes it easier for us to discover new blogs.

9:57 AM, April 24, 2006  
Blogger westbankmama said...

editor - I'm glad you thought something was funny, but I am perplexed as to what it was. Perhaps my reference to the Chabad shaliach in India?

9:58 AM, April 24, 2006  
Blogger YMedad said...

That happened to us too but it tunred out that there was no error. Simply the kid reading had pointed the "yad" at one word and read out another and since the both were from the same root, the person who had the Aliyah stopped him and said there's an error. The Gabbai automatically began the "wrap-up" process but then someone else insisted on seeing the "error" and we all sighed a collective 'whew!'.

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