The Philadelphia Inquirer reports on the ceremonial restoration of a Torah scroll.
While inking ceremonies are a tradition when a synagogue gets a new scroll, the honor of lettering in the last words typically goes to the rabbi or congregation president.
But like most of the immigrant rowhouse synagogues of a century ago, Shivtei Yeshuron, founded in 1876, does not have its own rabbi. And so it allowed any adult Jew who came through the doors yesterday to step up to the bimah, or Torah platform, and take up Youlus' quill pen.
Participating in such a miqveh "good work" is generally believe to bring blessings, but Torah scribe Menachem Youlus was very specific as he explained the importance of the act:
"This is the highest form of charity. When you fill in your letter you will have God's undivided attention.
"Even with all the six and a half billion people in the world, God will be listening at that moment only to your prayers. And so you can change the world.
"You can ask God for peace in the Middle East," he said. "You can ask for an end to world hunger. And if there is someone you know who is deceased, you can ask God to move that person's soul closer to him."
"This is your one opportunity to change things," Youlus said, grinning broadly. "You get to play God. And there's nothing wrong with playing God."
Many participants were overcome with emotion:
After each inking of a letter with Youlus' help, a member of the congregation recorded in a notebook the precise chapter, verse, line, and letter - an aleph, or lamed, or shin, or resh - that each person filled in.
One of the many women who lettered the Torah also said she felt overwhelmed by the occasion.
"Just being allowed, as a woman, to do something like this was an honor, a thrill," said a woman who gave her name only as Phyllis.
After identifying the exact letter - a tau - she had inked, she pulled open an English translation of her Torah portion and studied it closely.
It was Genesis 1:2. "Now the Earth was unformed and void," she read.
"From now on," she said, "that's going to be my verse."