* Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
All of us are familiar with the celebration that is held when a new Torah scroll is brought into a synagogue. But what happens when a Torah scroll is torn or its letters fade and it is no longer fit for use? Yesterday evening an unusual photo was taken at the Kotel (Western Wall): 19 Torah scrolls were displayed in a special ceremony, after which they would be brought for genizah or interment to a respectful burial site.
These scrolls served millions of people over the years. It is likely that whoever is reading these words encountered one of these scrolls when visiting the Kotel. They were removed again and again from the holy arks that housed them on Bar MItzvahs, on Shabbatot, at the beginning of each month for Rosh Chodesh, on Simchat Torah when worshippers danced with them, and on other occasions. Some of them were 150 years old, had survived both the First and Second World Wars, and arrived in Israel after the Holocaust.
And now they had become worn and were considered unfit for use. After the recital of psalms and prayers for forgiveness, according to Jerusalem custom they were taken for burial to the Mount of Olives.
I wondered to myself whether this was a sad event or perhaps a joyous one since it was a testimony to the intensity and vitality of life at the Kotel in our own times, something which we had been denied for centuries.
At the close of the ceremony, Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl, rabbi of the Old City's Jewish Quarter, spoke to the crowd that had gathered there: "We must remember that we are not escorting Torah scrolls, but that the Torah itself is escorting us."