(By Susan Feigin Harris “Be a Blessing” – Educational Chair)
“May the Lord bless you and protect you! May the Lord deal kindly and graciously with you! May the Lord bestow God’s favor upon you and grant you peace!”
I love this blessing! Why? When do you recall the last time you heard this blessing? Why does the Torah start with a “Bet” instead of an “Aleph”? Why is the Shema considered the “watchword” of Judaism?
These were just some of the questions posed to our new Director of Lifelong Learning, David Scott, and our Scholar-in-Residence, Dr. Melissa Weininger, Sunday, January 12, 2014 at the Kickoff of the Be a Blessing Torah Project.
As I walked through the exhibits outside the sanctuary, I learned from David Scott how he discovered how in Jewish Mysticism the word “Etz Chaim” – tree of life- translates to the numbers 70 and 90. Adding the two numbers equals 160. It was mere coincidence that this number was equivalent to Beth Israel’s Anniversary! To add to the symbolism, the term, “Etz Chaim, we learned from Rabbi Scott, is also used to describe the wooden poles to which the parchment of a Torah is attached.
How fitting is this revelation? It also reveals how much hidden meaning and symbolism we can find in Torah, if we study a little and just look closer.
The moment when the Sofer and Joan Alexander scribed the first letter of our Beth Israel People’s Torah in front of a sanctuary full of excited and thoughtful congregants was, personally, very emotional. While I consider myself a fairly knowledgeable Jew, I know there is so much more to learn. Like most of us, my husband and I reside in a secular world, busy raising our children and pursuing careers. Thus, the everyday challenges of life often drown out efforts to pursue the knowledge of faith as much as desired.
We will surely unveil more revelations in the Torah as our 160th anniversary year progresses. Please join us during future Sofer-on-Site dates to learn, and stay tuned to www.cbibeablessing.org for more plans.
Most of all, I hope you join me during this special time to expand your own horizons, and personally witness the creation of our sacred text.
Come learn with me!