4 Cheshvan 5781 / Thursday, October 22, 2020 | Torah Reading: Noach
 
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From Generation to Generation    

From Generation to Generation



For us "old timers," the Haknassas Sefer Torah that took place this motzei Shabbat was bittersweet. The young children bearing the torches are our future...

 



Motzaei Shabbat, a very special wedding took place in our neighborhood – a wedding between the Torah and the Jewish People.
 
Have you ever seen a Haknassas Sefer Torah – a newly completed Torah scroll being escorted to its new home? It's a very emotionally charged celebration, that, despite the canned music and the fact that it's a common event here in the Holy City of Jerusalem with its abundance of shuls and yeshivos, never fails to bring tears to my eyes.
 
First, for those who have never had the privilege of attending a Haknassas Sefer Torah, let me describe the ceremony. Prior to the actual chupah, members of the congregation take turn filling in the final letters of the Sefer Torah, under the scribe's supervision, of course. Meanwhile, the neighborhood children gather on the street in front to the house (usually the Rav's house) where the final writing is taking place. They line up and are handed long multi-wick candles. Meanwhile, a "music truck" with flashing lights on its roof and a huge sign proclaiming "Tnu Kavod l'Torah," "Show respect for the Torah," arrives and the excitement mounts with the blasting of special "Haknassas Sefer Torah" music. Just before the Torah leaves the house, the children's torches are lit, and they start marching, with the music truck following close behind.
 
And then -- it appears: The Sefer Torah -- proudly cradled in the arms of a prominent member of the congregation, surrounded by the community. Dancing, clapping, singing; the joy is contagious.
 
The wedding procession weaves its ways through the streets, picking up more and more people along the way. Young mothers with small children stand on the porches to watch it go by; others rush outside to join the celebration. Men race out of their homes and businesses to take part in the dancing, some for just a few minutes, while others accompany the "bride" all the way to the wedding hall, the community shul.
 
Before bringing the new Torah into its new home, members of the congregation carry the shul's other Torah scrolls out to greet it. Then, proudly bearing all the many Torah scrolls, the congregation joyously dances into the shul, where the celebration continues.
 
Memories
 
Sometimes, the lines of marching children bearing torches are blocks long (and that, of course, never fails to bring out the handkerchiefs). Other times, there are just a few dozen children, and a small group of men dancing. Each one is special; each has its own particular flavor.
 
Many years ago, when our neighborhood was still very small, the Haknassas Torah procession marched down the street -- straight into an oncoming bus at the end of its route! The bus stopped and the driver yelled at the procession to move to the non-existent sidewalk to allow him to pass. When he realized that that was impossible, he lifted his hands in resignation and angrily opened the doors to allow the passengers to leave.
 
The moment the doors opened, several men, including the man carrying the Sefer Torah, danced into the bus and handed the Torah scroll to the startled driver. He broke into a huge grin and, proudly bearing the Sefer Torah, joined the procession. He continued dancing with the Torah all the way around the block to the shul! 
 
A couple, whom I know, donated a Sefer Torah to their neighborhood shul. The writing was completed in their house. My friend's husband (who is no longer alive) was sick at the time, and barely able to walk. Yet, somehow, he managed to proudly carry the Sefer Torah down the stairs of his house to the waiting chupah, and even dance a few steps before returning to his wheelchair. He said that he was literally carried on wings of joy, despite the agony.
 
A Special Couple
 
The Sefer Torah that was brought to its new home this motzaei Shabbat was written in memory of two very special neighbors, Natan and Faigie Fruchtman. When we first moved into our neighborhood twenty-five years ago, the Fruchtmans were in their mid-sixties, while we were all young couples, with one or two small children. (My boys -- ages 5 and 7 -- were among the oldest children and took the regular city bus to cheder each morning!) 
 
We viewed the Fruchtmans as surrogate parents, and they looked at us, the young, struggling couples trying to make our way in Eretz Yisrael, as their beloved children. Our kids needed a playground, but we were too busy with our learning, jobs and babies to run around with the Israel bureaucracy (in those days, phones were only used for emergencies. Official business was taken care of in person!), so the Fruchtmans arranged it. There were problems with the gas company – the Fruchtmans took care of it. The sidewalks needed sweeping – Mrs. Fruchtman swept! There was no Shabbat shiur for the ladies – Mrs. Fruchtman arranged for rotating speakers.  Mr. Fruchtman raised money for the shul, organized the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services and even set up our first, tiny grocery store, so we wouldn't have to travel into the city for milk and bread! With their wealth of experience, the Fruchtmans were there to teach us how to survive, and hold our hands as we tentatively took our first steps as adults. They were there for us, always.
 
From Generation to Generation
 
For us "old timers," the Haknassas Sefer Torah that took place this motzaie Shabbat was bittersweet. The young children bearing the torches are our future; the continuation of the Jewish Nation; tradition. We felt a sense of closure; the marching children were our grandchildren, not our children. We are no longer the young couples, looking to surrogate parents to guide us. The Fruchtmans are no longer with us, and now we are the older generation, the grandparents who supposedly have a wealth of wisdom to offer. We are the ones the young couples look up to (gulp!). Baruch Hashem we have excellent role models to emulate.
 
Many years ago I took my young son shopping in Meah Shearim. Exiting the store, we walked smack into an enormous Haknassas Sefer Torah dancing down the street. The music was blaring, the streets were full of exuberant Chassidim, and the joy was palpable. My son looked up to me and innocently asked, "Imma, is Moshiach here? Are we on our way to build the Beit Hamikdash?"
 
Such an innocent question, yet so full of truth! Yes, we are on our way to build the Beit Hamikdash – with our deeds and devotion to Torah and mitzvot.  It's each generation's responsibility to pass on the legacy of Torah to its children and grandchildren. The Fruchtmans conveyed that legacy to the community, and now it’s the community's responsibility to convey it to our children. May we be worthy of this enormous responsibility.




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