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Congregation Beth Israel Members Take Part in Creating Torah Scroll

Posted: Updated: Mar 27, 2016 08:10 PM
Rabbi Linda Motzkin instructing Congregation Beth Israel members on constructing a Torah scroll Rabbi Linda Motzkin instructing Congregation Beth Israel members on constructing a Torah scroll
Congregation Beth Israel members checking the Torah scroll. Congregation Beth Israel members checking the Torah scroll.

People in Charlottesville are getting a first-hand look at one of the most sacred objects in Jewish tradition. Sunday, members of Congregation Beth Israel were able to take part in the process of creating a Torah scroll.

"For us, the Torah, in a sense, is the center of our worship and of our sacred life. It's the most important scroll. It's probably the most important thing that's here in the synagogue," Rabbi Tom Gutherz of Congregation Beth Israel said.

Rabbi Linda Motzkin is one of 11 women in the entire world who knows how to create a Torah scroll from scratch. She is what's called in Hebrew, a “soferet”, or a scribe.

“To be able to say, 'I did a piece of it! I was part of the making of a Torah scroll,’ for me, that's really exciting," Motzkin said.

Now she's passing on the Jewish tradition to Congregation Beth Israel in Charlottesville and hundreds of others around the U.S. Motzkin leads the group in stretching the deerskin parchment which will eventually contain the completed panels of the scroll.

"Stretching the parchment, I didn't really know how it was made or what it was made out of," Daisy Schultz, a participant, said.

The next step is to check Motzkin's work for any sign of mistakes. "Because a Torah cannot contain a single mistake. It has to be absolutely perfect," Motzkin said.

"And then you get to proofread it and look for mistakes and then when you find them, it’s like it's holy," Gutherz said.

Motzkin says it's one thing to learn about the Torah, but it's an entirely different experience to help create one. "And for a person to say, I was part of creating something sacred, something holy, it's really exciting and empowering," Motzkin said.

Motzkin has spent the last nine years constructing that Torah scroll. She estimates it will take her a total of 18 years to complete the sacred text.