First Torah scroll completed in the Okanagan

Certified Torah scroll scribe David Ehrentreu fills in one of the last letters of the local Jewish community
Certified Torah scroll scribe David Ehrentreu fills in one of the last letters of the local Jewish community's new Torah scroll for local Rabbi Shmuly Hecht (left) at a ceremony in Kelowna Tuesday.
— image credit: Alistair Waters/Capital News

The Jewish community in the Okanagan has a new Torah scroll.

After years of borrowing scrolls to read from during ceremonies,religious gatherings, holidays and events, Stephen Cipes, owner of Summerhill Pyramid Winery, paid $40,000 to have one written especially for the Chabad Okanagan Synagogue in Kelowna.

"The Torah is the heart of Judaism, it is our backbone," said Rabbi Shmuly Hecht of Chabad Okanagan. "It is a user-manual for a Jew, how a Jew should live life according to God."

The scroll, written by a certified Torah scroll scribe in Israel, took a year to write and is written on special parchment in a special ink, using a quill. The calligraphy is precise.

Hecht said all Torah scrolls are written the same way they have been written for 3,600 years.

On Tuesday, in a park in south Pandosy, members of the local Jewish community gathered to not only get a look at their new Torah scroll but also participate in a once-in-a-lifetime experience, helping complete a Torah.

Each member of the community got to help complete a letter in the new scroll with the assistance of certified Torah scroll scribe David Ehrentreu, who flew in from New York to participate.

Also on hand was Rabbi Yitzchak Wineberg, the head of Chabad B.C., who drove from Vancouver for the ceremony.

"This is quite amazing," he said. "I'm here to help celebrate a milestone."

He described the Torah, which is read whenever Jews meet, as a document that "signified eternity of the Jewish people."

He called it a great honour to be able to help complete a Torah scroll, one many Jews never get an opportunity to experience.

Cipes said when he made his offer to provide the Okanagan with a Torah scroll, he had no idea it would be a first for the Okanagan.

"It kinda just flowed from me. I didn't even know how much it would cost. I jut wanted to do it."

The Torah contains the five books of Moses, from Genesis to Deuteronomy. Written in Hebrew, it is the same as the document Moses is said to have brought down from Mount Sinai. Containing 613 commandments, it is made up of 600,000 individual characters, the same number as the number of Jews who fled Egypt according Jewish religious teachings.

The new Torah scroll will make its home in the Chabad Okanagan Synagogue in Kelowna.



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