Faith

Lawrence, Chabad Center to celebrate completion of Torah scroll

As Rabbi Berel Sossover creates sections of a new Torah scroll at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life in Lawrence, others gently touch his quill to be part of the experience.
As Rabbi Berel Sossover creates sections of a new Torah scroll at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life in Lawrence, others gently touch his quill to be part of the experience. Chabad Center for Jewish Life

A great many things have been written at the University of Kansas over the last century: books, research formulas, scientific articles, term papers, newspaper stories, letters home asking for money — the list is endless.

But on Sunday the school and its home city of Lawrence will celebrate the completion of something unusual: the first Torah scroll locally quilled, at least in part.

According to specifications, it will contain 304,805 handwritten letters, the very last to be inked by Rabbi Gad Sebag. The Israeli ritual scribe was to fly in with the bulk of the completed parchments on Friday.

Some sections, however, were done by Rabbi Berel Sossover, the only scribe in Kansas. The faithful in Lawrence have been able to participate by gently laying their hands on his quill as he worked.

“It can take six months to a year just to write one scroll,” said Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel, director of the Chabad Center for Jewish Life, which commissioned the work and which will house it.

“This one took about seven months. There are 4,000 Jewish laws pertaining to the writing of a Torah,” Tiechtel said.

Filling the 54-portion parchment is painstaking. A slip of the turkey quill means voiding a section.

“We set up a website where individuals from all over the country with some connection to KU can purchase letters of the scroll,” Tiechtel said. “According to Jewish tradition, if a individual pays something toward the creation of the scroll, that’s considered as if that individual has written his very own scroll.”

All this is part of the idea to make the project a community one and promote unity, he said.

The final letters will be inscribed by Sebag, his quill touched by Tiechtel, university Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and cantor Aryeh Hurwitz, of the Lawrence Jewish congregation.

All this occurs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at the Chabad Center at 1203 W. 19th St.

And as is done on such occasions, the sacred scroll then will be taken to the streets under the traditional canopy in a procession with a float, torches, music and, yes, dancing.

Another first for Lawrence and the university.

To reach Darryl Levings, call 816-234-4689 or send email to levings@kcstar.com.

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