Redeeming Torah Scrolls, Uniting a Nation
A project called Safra Veseifa is connecting IDF units in need of a Torah scroll with Jews who reside overseas and scrolls that require fixing, in a unique way.
The project, whose name means “Bible and Sword”, is centered on the idea of renovating damaged Torah scrolls that have piled up in the IDF's storage warehouses and making them kosher for use – then giving the scrolls to IDF units, whose soldiers require them for prayer.
The renovation of the scrolls is usually sponsored by Jews from overseas, who accompany the scrolls to their new abodes in Torah-welcoming ceremonies. This has become a favorite solution for Bar Mitzvah celebrations: five Bar Mitzvahs were held by the project just last week, says Uri Dopelt, spokesman for the project.
The IDF possesses many hundreds of Torah scrolls that have been donated to it, which are in various degrees of disrepair. The job of mending the scrolls is carried out by a special beit midrash, or study hall, named “Derech Ami,” located at Jerusalem's Nof Tzion neighborhood, and named after Lt. Col. Emanuel Moreno, an IDF hero from the elite Sayeret Matkal unit, who was the last soldier killed in the Second Lebanon War. It was established by his brother, Rabbi Shmuel Moreno, who directs it. The students at the beit midrash are young men who have completed their military service and who want to get closer to the Torah and mitzvot.
Dopelt explained to Arutz Sheva that the demand for Torah scrolls is great:
“Every company is supposed to have its own Torah scroll,” he said. “The army needs a large amount of Torah scrolls for times of emergency. For instance, during Operation Pillar of Defense about a year ago, the army called up tens of thousands of reservists. Every company was supposed to have a Torah scroll.”
For sponsors, the project offers an advantage in cost: while having a Torah scroll made from scratch can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 in Israel, the cost of renovation through Derech Ami is just $12,000.
Forty scrolls have been renovated thus far in the project, which is in its second year.
Dopelt explains that it is a project in which everyone wins: the donors receive the satisfaction of donating a Torah and dedicating it, in a celebration that is meaningful and memorable to all involved. The army, for its part, receives much-needed Torah scrolls - and the young men at Derech Ami can earn their daily wages as they study and prepare for later life.