April 23, 2024
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April 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

To me, it’s strange to think that every Sefer Torah you will ever see has at some point been transported to shul via a whole massive Hachnosas Sefer Torah. I’ve only been to like 3 in my life, but this has to be true.

It’s not like everything else that people donate to a shul, where they just quietly put it in place, and people come in the next day and spend all of davening wondering, “Was that always there?” A Sefer Torah is the only thing you dance in. Imagine if every time someone donates a case of tissues, everyone has to dance it in.

But for all the articles out there detailing tips and checklists for making various simchas, there are not a lot of articles out there for what to do if you’re making a Hachnosas Sefer Torah. So here are some tips to get your started, based on the 3 I’ve been to:

You can donate a sefer to your shul for literally any reason. No one will question it. For example, recently my shul crowdfunded a Sefer Torah to donate to themselves because one of the baalei koreh (a close friend of mine) had been niftar from COVID. So now we have another Sefer! And fewer people to lein it. Maybe someone should crowdfund another baal koreh. Dance him to shul.

Before the event, you need to rent a truck that has earth-shaking speakers and a huge crown that rotates. The truck has to be blasting music loud enough that you can hear for miles around so that people know where the kesivas osios is happening, because it’s in a random house. Well, it’s not a random house, it’s your house. But to other people it’s random. And this way they don’t knock on the wrong door. (“Hi, we’re here to write letters?” “To whom?”) This is as opposed to like an upsherin, where you put out balloons.

You also need to arrange for pekelach for the kids and also for the adults who “need some for the kids at home.” Right. Okay.

You also want to buy a thousand flags. Which no adult will take “for the kids at home.” Look, sir, if you’re too old for a flag, you can buy your own pekeleh.

You need to speak to the cops about closing off streets. If you don’t, you’re going to have to have kids go out there and direct the traffic around. This is where the flags come in.

You also need to confirm with the cops that there’s no competing Hachnosas Sefer Torah in your town crossing over the streets that you’re going to be on, going maybe in another direction.

Unless it clearly has a different type of music, like if one is Ashkenazi and the other is Sephardi.

The first step of the ceremony is everyone showing up at your house and writing the last few letters of the sefer. This is a great photo op and a motivation for people to come on time.

FUN FACT: No one’s actually writing letters. It’s basically about coloring in letters that have previously been outlined by a professional sofer, and that’s a good thing, because based on my experience of teaching in mesivta, people do not know how to spell. (“Um… Who is this מוֹרָה הַגָדוֹל?”)

That said, most baalei simcha, arrange for a professional sofer to sit next to the people, scratching off their mistakes and telling them they did a great job trying to stay in the lines.

Are the people supposed to give the sofer a tip? I don’t know. But you should find out. I think people need to know before they start throwing change in his inkwell.

If you’re expecting a huge number of people, you can have them write the entire Sefer one letter at a time until the sofer slowly goes out of his mind.

Everyone should make sure to write their letter lishmah, and not for the sake of the picture.

While people are waiting for each other to write letters, you want to give in to the Jewish urge to have some food out for everyone—some kind of food with a rich tradition connecting it to the Torah, such as 2 winkies bound together by a Sefer Torah mantel, or franks in blanks, but there’s two franks in the blank.

There is no part of the ceremony where you smear honey on the letters and someone licks it off. You’re thinking of the wrong party. (“What happened to the alef? That took me twenty minutes!”)

At this point, the tradition is to dance the Torah all the way to shul, while singing tunes that are as old as the Torah itself.

The people who are “too old” for flags sometimes get to hold torches. This way, the torches are being held higher than the flags, as that is the ideal way to do it. The last thing you want here is burning flags.

Your procession is bound to get some stares from the world at large. It seems to be one of those simchas that the non-Jewish world does not seem to be aware of. “What’s going on out there?” they’ll say. “I think it’s some kind of parade. With one float. And the dancers don’t look very trained. They’re kind of just following the float. Some of them are walking backwards. I don’t think they know how parades work.”

Once the Torah is in front of the shul, the gabbai arranges for all the other Sifrei Torah to come out and greet it, while the gabbai sheini stays inside and vacuums the Aron Kodesh, because I’m not sure when else that’s done.

Once the Torah is in the Aron Kodesh, the singing just kind of stops short and everyone sort of wanders off. And tries to remember where on earth they parked. You can make some kind of seudah afterwards, but that’s often by invite only, because who knows what kind of people you pulled in off the street? Do you have to get up at that point and say, “Okay, you’re dismissed?” Maybe make an unscheduled Mincha at that point so it’s not as awkward.

Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published eight books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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