The New Synagogue of Long Island
The Synagogue for Spiritual Judaism

The Torah

 

It was five years ago on Sunday, May 15, 2016 (corresponding to 7th Iyar, 5776 on the Hebrew calendar), that the New Synagogue of Long Island celebrated the completion of our 100-year-old Torah.  The entire Multi-Faith Campus joined us as we completed the restoration of the Torah and welcomed the Torah into our home.

 

The Torah, or Jewish Written Law, usually refers to the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. They were given by G-d to Moses on Mount Sinai. These books make up the story of the Jewish people. These ancient stories touch upon science, history, philosophy, rituals, and ethics. Included are stories of individuals, families, wars, slavery and more. Running through these stories is the unique lens through which the Jewish people come to view their world.

 

The Torah is a large scroll of parchment.   A Torah scroll may only be written on parchment from the skin of a kosher animal.  The Torah - all 304,805 letters in 5,845 verses in 248 columns - is handwritten by a Sofer (Scribe) who must copy the text perfectly by hand. No machines are involved.  Reading from the Torah is quite challenging since no vowels or punctuation appears in the text.  The Torah is divided into fifty-four sections, each one called a sidrah or parasha.  Each week, on Shabbat another portion is read.  We also read that same portion on the Monday and Thursday before Shabbat.

 

The Torah is “Light.”  The main essential concept of Torah is that it gifts us with “Spiritual Illumination.”   In English, the word “Aura” refers to a “Surrounding Light,” which is said to illuminate and surround the body.  Torah is the Light - the Spiritual Illumination that comes from the inside out.

 

The Torah is “Love.”  In Kabbalah, Judaism’s mystical tradition, we believe that we can understand the essence of anyone or anything by looking at the sum of its individual parts.  The first letter of the Torah is Bet and the last letter of the Torah is Lamed.  If we put the two letters together, a word is formed, Lev which means “Heart.” (לב)   

 

The Torah is “Knowledge.”  In Torah, G-d reveals himself / herself to each of us.  Studying Torah tells us not only what is, but what G-d expects of us.  The study of Torah never ends.  Each year, as we read the sacred text again, it can be as if we are reading it for the first time. Each encounter offers the possibility of new meanings because even though the words and the stories of Torah are the same from year to year, we change. 

 

The study of Torah is what brings us closer to G-d. G-d can be found wherever we come together.  All people have the capacity to know G-d and to be deserving of G-d’s favor.  G-d dwells wherever a heart reaches out in prayer and in actions. Just imagine what the world might look like if we all came together, each with our own separate gifts, but all revolving around the betterment of humankind.  Showing kindness to others is something virtually all religions teach.  Imagine a just and ethical society, where everyone gives to one another and helps one another and protects one another. 

 

                                                                         

Ve’ahav’ta lere’acha ka’mocha

 

“Love thy neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:17-18)

 

The Torah in our shared sanctuary therefore embodies the true spirit of each of our communities and honors all who the call the Multi-Faith Campus their home.  The Torah belongs to all of us regardless of the path that we choose to G-d, the One Truth.


Rabbi Stuart A. Paris, HaKohen


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Torah Completion and Celebration

Sunday, May 15, 2016

7 Iyar, 5776

Rabbi Stuart Paris and Rabbi Gedaliah Druin

Rabbi Gedaliah Druin completing the last letter of the Torah