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Taking out the Sefer Torah

 

Torah service—before the reading of the Torah:

There is none like You, Adonai, among the gods, and there are no works like Yours{Psalm 86:8}.

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion endures through all generations{Psalm 145:13}. Adonai rules, Adonai did rule, Adonai will rule forever and ever{Exodus 15:18}. Adonai, give strength to Your people; Adonai, bless Your people with peace{Psalm 29:11}!

Source of mercy: may it be Your will to treat Zion with goodness. Rebuild the walls of Jerusalem{Psalm 51:20}. For in You alone do we trust, O Sovereign, high and exalted God, Master of Eternity.

And when the Ark would travel, Moses would say, “Arise, Adonai, and let Your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee from You{Numbers 10;35}.” For out of Zion shall the Torah come forth, and the word of Adonai from Jerusalem{Isaiah 2:3}. Blessed is the One Who gave the Torah to Your people Israel.

Listen, Israel: Adonai is our God, Adonai alone{Deuteronomy 6:4}!
Our God is One; great is our Lord; Holy is God’s Name.
O magnify Adonai with me, and together let us exalt God’s Name.

Yours Adonai is the greatness and the power and the splendor the triumph and the glory — For all there is in heaven and in the earth is Yours. Yours Adonai is the kingdom and the supremacy as head over all{First Chronicles 29:11}.

Exalt Adonai our God and prostrate yourselves toward God’s footstool{Psalm 99:5}. Exalt Adonai our God and prostrate yourselves toward God’s holy mountain, for Adonai our God is holy{Psalm 99:9}.

During the last terrible days of the Roman siege of Jerusalem in the year 70 CE, it became clear to Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai that neither the capital city nor the Temple would survive. A tradition relates that he and his disciples left the city and established a school not far away at Yavneh. It is worth noting that it was a school—which was not considered a political threat by the Romans—that was able to keep the Jewish people alive after the destruction of the Temple. In fact, the new Jewish institution functioned in three capacities, namely, as:
1. a beit k’nesset (“house of communal gathering”), from the root
k n s “to enter”
2. a beit tefila (“house of prayer”), and
3. a beit midrash (“house of study”), from the root d r sh “to closely inquire”)

At this point in the service, the synagogue—on Monday, Thursday and Shabbat changes roles. Most of the prayers have been completed, and the synagogue switches from a beit tefila to a beit midrash. Recall that the rabbis believed that studying Torah was the greatest of all the mizzvot because it led to all the others.

At this point the Torah scrolls—sifrei Torah—are lovingly taken out of the Holy Ark—aron ha-kodesh—and paraded around the synagogue. People reach out with their sidur or their zzizzit, touch the Torah scrolls and then kiss the sidur or zzizzit—thus figuratively kissing the Torah itself.

The scroll from which the baal korei (“master of reading”) will chant the Torah portion of the day is uncovered and placed upon the lectern.

The scrolls themselves contain the Five Books of Moses, handwritten by a specially-trained sofeir (scribe) on the skin of a kosher animal, using a feather quill. The calligraphy is a fine art. The Torah contains no vowel-points, only consonants. (Vowel-points were not invented until the 10th century of the Common Era; Torah scrolls had begun to be written many hundreds of year earlier.)

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