Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fla. Synagogue Offers Time-Share Torah

The Associate Press reports:
For a one-time gift of $1,800, members of Temple Israel [in Miami] can sponsor a section of the scroll. Each year, during the week before that section is read at Shabbat services, donors can keep the torah in their home — an event that has prompted families to host scripture studies, parades and dinner parties.

"When it's brought into a house, it makes the house more holy," said Rabbi Mitch Chefitz, who came up with the idea. "If the torah's in your room, then you have an honored guest."

... The torah was in need of cleaning and repair — to patch holes and fix lettering — so Chefitz came up with the time-share project.

About 40 of the 52 available weekly torah time-shares have been purchased at Temple Israel, a Reform synagogue. Other members have given $18 to sponsor a single letter of the scroll, and all five books have been sponsored for $18,000.

... When [Sandy] Grossman first had the scroll in her home last year, she had a gathering for friends and family. When the guests left, her 12-year-old daughter, Bari Pasternack, ran to the torah and kissed it. She read from it, and she took it to her bedroom with her and chanted prayers.

The mother watched. All her life, Grossman said, she never truly understood the torah. But that night, it came alive.

It's hard to imagine a better example of the iconic power of a Torah scroll.

Supplement (September 18th): This news has not gone down well with Rabbi Yossi Mandel of Everett, WA, who describes the ritual care with which Jewish scribes copy torah scrolls and decries this innovation: "There is no need to denigrate what is considered a sacred artifact in Judaism."

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