Our across the street neighbors and friends, Aharoni & Shoshi Neubauer (who also happen to be living in ‘our’ house) had invited the entire yishuv to the dedication of a new Sefer Torah In Neve Daniel. The entire Neubauer family had commissioned the writing of the sefer Torah in memory of Aharoni’s mother who passed away a couple of years ago. Traditionally, there is a big ‘party’ where the sefer Torah is finished in the presence of the family by various individuals. It is considered a mitzvah (obligation from the Torah) for every Jew to write a sefer Torah. This can be done by commissioning the writing of a sefer Torah and also by completing even one letter. The Neubauers invited everyone (including a full chartered bus from Jerusalem) to help them to complete the sefer Torah by writing one letter each.
I waited my turn in line with Yehuda at my side and Amichai in my arms and finally stepped up to the table, ready to participate in this wonderful mitzvah. I sat down, the sofer (the ritual scribe) handed me a feather pen dipped in ink, told me to say ‘I am doing this for the sake of writing a sefer Torah (roughly translated) and pointed to a letter for me to complete. It happened that the letter was a ‘yud’, which is the first letter in Yehuda’s name. Both Yehuda and I took this as representing his name.
By this time, 100’s of people had congregated at the house and in the street waiting for the next stage of the celebration. We would all sing and dance the Torah to its new home in the new Beit Knesset all the way to the top of the yishuv. There were dozens of kids with torches leading the way and a three man band playing music. Out came the sefer Torah under a chuppah (a wedding canopy) surrounded by the family and 100’s of people of all ages, from kids in strollers to senior citizens. Everyone was dancing and singing as the mass of people slowly made its way to the beit knesset, where the new sefer Torah was ‘greeted’ by the other sifrei Torah of the yishuv. All of the sifrei Torah had been brought out to participate in the celebration. After much singing and dancing, a few moving speeches about Aharoni’s mother and maariv, everyone moved into the social hall for a celebratory meal.
Amidst all this revelry it occurred to me, here we are only a couple of months removed from the destruction of the synagogues and communities of Gush Katif, consecrating a new holy sefer Torah and bringing it to its new home in our beautiful new Beit Knesset. Out of destruction comes creation…with Iran publicly and obscenely calling for our destruction; with terrorists still trying to bring us down, we persevere and continue to build our lives and to educate our children; to build new shuls and write new sifrei Torah. This is the spirit that makes Israel the special place that it is.