Chabad Jewish Center of Vail completes the valley’s first new Torah
EDWARDS, Colorado – Maia Fishman and Brielle Quigley, both 7 years old, placed their tiny delicate hands on the same kind of feather quill Moses used and helped inscribe a few letters in a new Torah – letters and life lessons that will outlive their children’s children’s children.
They’d never had the chance to do that in our whole lives. They may not get the chance again.
The Chabad Jewish Center of Vail’s Torah is the first to be completed in the valley.
It’s a happy occasion, completing a Torah.
Almost no one in Gracie Finkel Freedman’s beautiful Singletree home had seen a Torah dedication ceremony. The home was alive Sunday night with laughter, love and good fellowship.
“I’ve been to one, myself, and that was many years ago,” said Rabbi Dovid Mintz with the Chabad Jewish Center of Vail.
Noah Ejnes is 14 and has never seen anything like it. His father, Ted, is not 14 and understands that he may not see anything like it again.
Scribe Moshe Fyzakov lives in Denver and came up through the snow to finish it. Hey, God parted the Red Sea for Moses. What’s a little snow?
Mintz teaches Hebrew School in Breckenridge, where Maia and Brielle study. Julie Fishman made the trip over Vail Pass in Sunday’s storm, with Maia and Brielle and a baby in her arms to be part of the ceremony.
“It was not to be missed. What a holy thing to be part of,” said Julie, Maia’s mother.
It’s worth the wait
A scribe in Israel spent a year and a half on it, completing the entire Torah, but leaving the last five lines blank to be filled in by members of the local community.
Mintz emceed the festivities, calling people to the table amid the commotion, as Fyzakov provided the rock steady hand to finish those last few lines.
Dozens of people, one after another, sat at Fyzakov’s right, holding the quill in their shaky right hands as he gripped it steadily, and together they completed a word or phrase.
Everything is a matter of perspective.
The Torah has been around since God gave Moses the Five Books of Moses on Mount Sinai 3,323 years ago. A few minutes to wait your turn are no big deal.
And everyone was thrilled to wait, gathered around the huge table, taking pictures, watching friends and family members take their turn at the quill.
With three letters left, Mintz brought the room to reverent silence. Gracie Finkel Freedman sat beside Fyzakov to complete the first. This Torah is dedicated to her mother, Corinne Goodstein, who took the second of the three. Her father, Howard, completed the final letter.
Then one word remained.
As is often the case in theological matters, Rabbi Aaron Raskin had that last word. The Brooklyn rabbi is in town for the ceremony and to visit family. He sat dignified and tall beside Fyzakov and together the rabbi and the scribe completed the Torah’s final word, “Israel.”
As the ink dried and cheers rang out around the home, Raskin, Mintz and Fyzakov rolled up the world’s newest Torah, slid the cover over it and topped it with a silver crown. Mintz lifted a prayer that the Torah and the people of Israel would be together when the Messiah comes.
Raskin beamed a huge smile as he lifted it high above his head as the cheering continued and the dancing began, the same way men and women dance when they get married.
“They are as one thing now. It’s like getting married with the Torah,” Fyzakov said.
Every Torah everywhere is exactly the same, exactly as Moses wrote it. In 3,323 years it has not changed.
People will always find things about which they can disagree. The Torah will not be one of them. Nor will its overall lesson, Mintz said: that we learn to live in peace with ourselves and our neighbors.
“It speaks to the unity of the Jewish people,” Mintz said. “No matter where we go or who we’re with, no matter what separates us, a completed Torah represents a unified people.”
When they raised the money, they had to wait three months for the scribe in Israel to begin. Then they waited almost a year and a half for it to arrive.
“It was a real community effort. Lots of people donated in honor of family members, some of whom are not with us any more,” Mintz said. “Once it’s completed it’s like welcoming the king to town. You’re showing him respect.”
Mintz will lead worshippers through the Torah over the course of a year. When the year and the Torah reach the end, they’ll begin again.
As one participant sheepishly made his way to the chair, Fyzakov smiled and gently told him to take the quill in his right hand, not his dominant left hand.
He looked up at Mintz and Raskin and asked, “Is this OK?”
They smiled and nodded, and Raskin said, “It will bring you good fortune.”
As he completed his letters, he realized that it already had.