Finished Sefer Torah rededicated to Wash. U. Chabad chapter

Kayla Steinberg | Contributing Reporter

Around 30 Washington University students, along with campus Chabad Rabbi Hershey Novack and his family, completed inking an unfinished Sefer Torah— previously in storage at Barnes-Jewish Hospital— and rededicated the scroll to Chabad Sunday Sept. 17.

Many students are excited, as the scroll has been dedicated before the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, and will usher in a new era for Chabad.

Chabad rabbi Hershey Novack completes the inking on a previously unfinished Sefer Torah.Kayla Steinberg | Student Life

Chabad rabbi Hershey Novack completes the inking on a previously unfinished Sefer Torah.

It is the first time Washington University Chabad has owned a Torah, and those that attended the celebration after the inking commemorated the occasion with dancing to Jewish music under a chupah (ceremonial canopy).

Novack was enthusiastic about receiving a Torah scroll on Washington University’s campus.

“Colleges are special places to bring a Torah scroll,” said Novack. “It’s a beautiful closure of a circle in the sense that the Torah began its life in a place of rehabilitation for the elderly, and now, the young people at Wash. U. Chabad have had the privilege of participating in the rehabilitation of the Torah scroll itself for them to use.”

“Reading the Torah is central to the Jewish communal prayer service,” sophomore Max Helfand said. “The Jewish community’s heading in a great direction, and I just think it’s going to be amazing for this community to have this [Torah].”

The Torah was initially located at the Probstein Chapel in the Jewish Hospital of St. Louis, but when the hospital merged with Barnes Hospital, the building that housed the chapel was torn down, and the Torah was put into storage. The hospital then gifted the Torah to Chabad through the Spiritual Care Services at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. The transfer was facilitated through a Torah Gemach, located in New York City, which lends Torahs to groups all over the world.

Before the Torah could be reused, every letter needed to be reviewed, and many of them had to be re-inked. It typically takes one year for a single Torah to be completed, and Novack predicted that Chabad’s new Torah took a scribe between 6 months to 1 year to refurbished.

“Each letter needs to be written perfectly for the scroll to be valid for use,” Novack said, “No letter can be cracked, faded or missing.”

The Novacks, who have been living at the Chabad house for 15 years, were honored to possess the scroll.

“We’ve never had the ability to own our own Sefer Torah,” Mushka Novack, the rabbi’s daughter, said. “It’s a momentous occasion [and it] marks how far we’ve come from the beginning of this Chabad house.”