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Eight Souls, Eight Torah Scrolls

Eight Souls, Eight Torah Scrolls

As I closed my eyes I imagined eight souls dancing in a circle above us and the circling Torah scrolls.

by Moshe Kempinski

Eight Torah scrolls for eight souls. Eight Torah scrolls were completed one year after eight young Jewish boys were gunned down by a Palestinian murderer. Eight Torah scrolls were brought together with singing and dancing through the streets of Jerusalem back into the yeshiva where the flame of those eight young souls was extinguished.

I struggled during the day as to whether I wanted to join the ceremony in memory of those boys, a ceremony that would be so interlaced with sadness and loss. The evening was called "Remembering and Continuing" and I finally decided that I could not detach myself from that sadness and loss.

As I approached the area of the Merkaz HaRav Yeshiva I found myself joining a steady stream of young people, families with little children, and older Jews walking on canes. Every face set with determination and every set of eyes glistening with a tear. Yet, as we got closer, the stream became a river and the mood seemed to change. Soon, I was engulfed by a sea of people singing and dancing as they approached the gates of the yeshiva.

We were all there to honor the souls of eight young people who had still so much to achieve in their young lives. We were there to offer strength and comfort to eight families who had lost the most precious of gifts that God and life have to offer. At the deepest level, we were also there to be comforted and strengthened ourselves.

As I entered the yeshiva study hall, I was again engulfed in a sea of pain and joy, hope and loss. The new Torah scrolls were held aloft amidst the dancing, each scroll with the name of one of the eight young boys embroidered on the Torah cover. The Torah scrolls of Avraham David Moses, Ro'i Aharon Roth, and of Neria Cohen were dancing with the scrolls of Yonatan Yitzchak Eldar., Doron Maharete, Yochai Lifshitz, Segev Peniel Avichail and Yonadav Chaim Hirschfeld.

It was probably because I wanted it to be so, but as I closed my eyes I imagined eight souls dancing in a circle above us and the circling Torah scrolls. Then the Torah scrolls mixed in and joined the other Torah scrolls of the yeshiva.

The thunderous singing shook the large windows of the building. It was impossible to do anything else but jump up and down, and that very action added to the intensity of the moment. Thousands of people trying to reach to the very heavens with leaps and bounds.

The evening was also an opportunity to bring to a culmination a study cycle of the Talmud that was begun in the memory of the eight boys. Over the course of the year, those who wished to study a section of the Talmud in memory of the slain students had signed up via an Internet site designated for the purpose, specifying the pages they planned to study. The entire Talmud was completed more than three times in this manner.

As Rabbi Shapira began the siyum ("conclusion") ceremony, each bereaved father sat with his son's Torah scroll. It was clear that they were not holding up the Torah scroll at all, but rather the scroll was holding them up and strengthening their broken souls.

I remembered a story that I had heard a very long time ago.

After the end of the madness of the Holocaust, a small community tried to regather in one of the small towns of Poland. It was the eve of Simchat Torah, the holiday celebrating the study and reading of the Torah. When the congregants opened the ark to dance with the scrolls, they were shocked to find it empty. The scrolls had been stolen. At that point, the children began to cry uncontrollably. Several men simply picked up the children, some of whom were orphaned in the camps, and began to dance with the children.

The Torah scrolls became children.

In Jerusalem, over 60 years later, the children became Torah scrolls.

February 28, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 8

(8) Simah, March 18, 2009 2:31 AM

All the lights are off for me. Like the record scratching that brings the party to an abrupt halt. Jerusalem stopped Thursday. Eight lives were brought as pure sacrificies - fragrant in their ways. Brought as pillars of strength for the land to see. The lights were towers rising - ashes falling blanketing the already white city walls and stones. Their tallisim white and pure. This white light is blinding. It blinds the distinctions that classify us and limit us from seeing each other. Eyes actually limit our vision. Because our soul sees all around and above - our soul sees the holy smoke , our eyes see the ashes. Our soul sees white , our eyes see black. I see black on white - as black lines drawn on white tallis. As black letters inscribed on white parchment. In the next world, in the world of truth, only white remains- we will read not the black separate letters, but rather the white that encompasses the whole. The tunnel that leads to that world is here in Jerusalem it is hidden in the cave where Adam and Eve dwell where people see beyond the dust. From there the soul sees the blinding light - the Endless light- where the transition from eyes to soul is transformed from blinding light into to true seeing. - from truth seeking into true seeing. May those pure souls spread their tallis wings of white around our darkened city. Oh Jerusalem you are black and you are beautiful. Just as the number eight is represented during Chanukah and at the time of a bris - let us hold your hands , you precious souls, and see with your vision - the light that weve lost, the light that you've beholden. We will miss you, please help defend our city.

(7) Vivian Aronson, March 2, 2009 4:15 PM

The 1st hand story of simchas torah .

My father Rabbi Dr.Leo Goldman of Oak Park Mich.was present on that Simchas Torah night. Our family grew up with this story, as well as many others of the Shoah. This recollection was immortalized by the music group JOURNEY in the song "The Man from Vilna", after hearing my father speak in Detroit.The children they carried that night had been hidden in a closet and were mute after not being allowed to speak for years. How tragic it is that over 60 years later we have the Sefrai Torah, but have lost 8 innocent souls.

(6) ruth housman, March 2, 2009 5:06 AM

we are dancers

This image, of the dance, the Torah, and these eight young men, is beautiful, and could have come out of Isaac Bashevis Singer. It's uplifting to dance in memory of brave young souls and it is uplifting to think that maybe, just maybe, we could enter a new kind of world, in which such deaths would not be happening. There is hope in this season. The purity of Purim. It's in the words, themselves. I am looking at the snow coming down here in New England. Another soft, steady, snowstorm, and peering through these white white veils in the blue of morning, I am thinking of possibilities, and most certainly, about love. Yes! the Torah scrolls become the children.

(5) j. jacklin, March 2, 2009 1:52 AM

A very moving article.

The faces of the young students killed will forever be etched in my memory!

(4) Anonymous, March 1, 2009 7:31 PM

amen.THank you!!very meaningful article!

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