The story behind the Parchment Torah Project:
-Rabbi Jamie Korngold, Adventure Rabbi
Shortly after the salad had been served, long before the main course would arrive, he and she (long time Adventure Rabbi participants) leaned across the table toward me and said, “We love what you do. We want to give you a donation. What’s your pitch?”
Their oldest children had completed our Adventure B’nai Mitzvah Program and their youngest was eagerly looked forward to the day when she would be old enough to hike mountain peaks, make matzah ball soup, and jump-start cars with us in our Adventure Class. Although this family does not live in Boulder, they do their best to join us when they can. Meanwhile, that evening we were celebrating another family's simcha.
I didn't need to think before answering, “I love our backpacking Torah, it is so special. But we’ve been a community for 13 years now and its time for us to be guardians of parchment Torah.”
She immediately leaned in further. He began to nod. I continued, “There is something unique about reading from a parchment Torah. I’m not sure what it is. The fact that a scribe took a year to write it? The parchment? The wood? It links us to our past in a palpable way. Even holding a parchment Torah feels different than the backpacker does. Its solid; it says we are here to stay, as a community and as a People.”
She jumped in, “You know Jamie, a parchment Torah is the one thing I have for felt for years that this community is missing. We don’t need a building. We don’t need committee meetings. But a parchment scroll links us to each other, to Jews all over the world and Jews through time. It reminds us of all people have done and sacrificed to keep Judaism alive through the generations. I really want our daughter to read from a parchment scroll.”
They wrote a check for $20,000. “Get the community to match it,” they said. “Let everyone own this Torah together. Give everyone who wants a chance to pledge or make it their own, so its not some unconnected ritual thing tucked away in a box.”
When I called Rabbi Evon he cautioned, “Be careful that this doesn’t just become some object like so many other objects. We have to connect with it; we have to experience it. We have to teach everyone about why a Torah is important so that they feel it and know it, so that each time we stand shoulder to shoulder in our a circle to unscroll the Torah and hold the parchment, each time we hear the words being chanted, we feel our place in the living tradition the scroll represents. I know – let’s do a Torah retreat for the families. I’ll call my friend to see if he will sponsor the retreat.” And he did and he did.
When I called the scribe he said, “I can ship you a complete Torah or I can leave the last 300 letters unfinished. I’ll come to Boulder and we can write it together. I’ll let people hold my hand, let them grasp the quill as I hold it and they will assist me in writing the last 300 letters. That way they fulfill the mitzvah of writing a Torah in their lifetime. Make sure people know it’s a mitzvah!” he urged.
“We get to actually write the Torah?” asked Carolyn Grant. “We get to hold the quill and put ink on the parchment? What an amazing experience! I imagine that many people would want to see and do that - to be part of something so special." She and her husband, Robb, wrote a check.
Shari Annes texted me from San Francisco, “I heard you are getting Torah. Loved the retreat I came on. I love what you do.” and she too wrote a check.
Noah Finkelstein filled out a donation form online writing, “I hear we are getting a Torah! Yahoo! Use this to help inspire others to give. Please tell me what else I can do.”
Join us. Add you name to the list. Help us purchase our new scroll.
Imagine: Its Passover 2015. We stand on the red rock of Moab, shoulder to shoulder in our circle and unscroll our new parchment Torah. We read a list of all the people who contributed to the scroll, some giving $1.80 and others giving $18,000. The steep canyon walls echo the names back to us, sound building on sound, action building on action, reminding us of the layers of community and connection.