Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tora! Tora! Tora!

One of the many beautiful things about learning at seminary is the opportunity to partake in amazing events. Going to the Kotel (Western Wall) and singing in the darkened holiness. Spending Shabbat with an amazing group of women in Efrat. Not to mention, just learning Torah with amazing teachers and amazing women.

And once in awhile, you merit being a part of a great simcha (celebration) - a Hachnasat Torah, or introduction of a new Torah to a community.

Yesterday afternoon, Nishmat, the seminary where I learn, was blessed to receive not one, but two new Sifrei Torah (kosher Torah scrolls). One came all the way from New York, facilitated by the teacher of our Rabbanit (who has completed the circle by becoming the teacher of the teacher), the other from the neighbourhood synagogue located next to Nishmat.

Nishmat has a policy of including the neighbourhood in everything. Even the Chesed, or volunteer work, that the girls do, takes place in the local area. So of course, the neighbours were invited to the party!

The celebrating took place on the streets of the Pat neighbourhood in Jerusalem, with the mitzvah mobile (in North America, you rent an ice cream truck for a street party, in Israel, you rent a truck that plays simcha music!), balloons, candy, dancing and lots of singing.

Every time a community - synagogue, school, hospitals, whoever - receives a Sefer Torah, it's as if we were at Sinai, receiving the Torah from God all over again (look it up - Moses, mountain, golden calf, 15- no, 10 commandments). We can almost - almost - imagine the joy of our ancestors. We have it better though. We know what we're receiving; our ancestors had no idea yet what a beautiful, powerful gift they had been given.

Lest you think this is something that only the religious people care about, there were so many people in the neighbourhood who came running out of their buildings to kiss the Torahs as they went past, who joined in the festivities, who were excited about dancing with the Torah.

We blocked off streets, preventing the local bus from moving for maybe 5-10 minutes. It was the first time I'd experienced a blocked bus driver not leaning on his horn. The passengers didn't seem to mind; they were all on their feet in the bus, clapping right along.

I had to leave before the girls got their chance to dance with the Torahs once they were safely delivered to the Bet Midrash ("house of learning" or our study hall) of Nishmat. But this is such an important, joyous event, as I was making my way out, tables were quickly being pushed out of the way, instruments were being set up and the room was practically sparking with the urge to celebrate this beautiful event.

I'm sure I missed a heck of a whirl, but what a blessing to be a part of such an amazing experience.


OneTiredEma said...

This sounds like a rockin' good time!

I didn't realize Nishmat was in Pat now. (?!)

Alissa said...

It was!

Being new to Nishmat, I didn't realize it had ever been anywhere else! Where was it before?

OneTiredEma said...

It was in...I want to say bayit v'gan. Somewhere in that direction. But this was before the yoetzet program, before the Alisa Flatow program, before before :)