A specially commissioned Torah scroll was dedicated on Sunday for use aboard a commuter train by a traveling prayer quorum on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv line.

Between 20 and 40 people pray in the train's Mesilat Yesharim Minyan each morning.

A group of commuters living in Beit Shemesh commissioned the small Torah scroll and custom-made carrying case for their daily prayers. The Torah dedication was arranged together with BeLev Echad, an organization which teaches secular and unaffiliated Jews in the communities around Beit Shemesh about Torah Judaism.

Between 20 and 40 people pray in the train's Mesilat Yesharim Minyan [prayer group] each morning after it leaves the Beit Shemesh station. The last carriage on the early morning train is unofficially reserved as the temporary "synagogue," drawing both men and women, as well as Israel Railways crew members. The regular participants are a mixture of native Israelis and immigrants from North America and Europe who work in Tel Aviv in banking, law, computers, medicine, education and business, but who choose to live in the religious communities in Jerusalem or Beit Shemesh.

The ticket inspector periodically announces the start of prayers over the train intercom, in case new passengers are unaware of the unusual minyan. Mesilat Yesharim is actually the second "train minyan" which uses a Torah scroll on the Beit Shemesh-Tel Aviv route, and there are also afternoon and evening services on the trains home from Tel Aviv.

Torah reading aboard the Jerusalem-TA line

Photo: Shaul Plen, Tiferet Studios
The Mesilat Yesharim Minyan at prayer

Photo: Shaul Plen, Tiferet Stu

Torah Dedicated in Honor of Terror Victims

Howard Jackson, a recent Oleh from Britain to Jerusalem, explains: "My job in the financial sector necessitates an early start, which makes praying with the train minyan an excellent option. The Mesilat Yesharim Minyan was well established when I joined, and we tried unsuccessfully to obtain a Torah for many years. New residents of Ramat Beit Shemesh, Darren and Dina Shaw, decided to step in and donate a scroll in honor of their grandparents and in memory of the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva students killed in the March 2008 terrorist attack." 

Darren Shaw made Aliyah from London in August 2006 and works for UBS Bank in Herzliya. He hired a scribe to write an unusually small Torah, which is just 30 centimeters high. Fellow traveler Ariel Abraham, originally from Elizabeth, New Jersey, has converted a suitcase on wheels into a portable Holy Ark.

Removing a Sefer Torah from a synagogue is often problematic, and questions of religious law concerning how the Torah should be stored and transported on and off the train were referred to Jerusalem's senior rabbinic authority, Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch.