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 www.westbankblog.blogspot.com and www.westbankblog.blogspotcom? Just a tiny amount of virtual ink, no?