Thursday, June 1, 2023

Bringing Home The Torah

 The events of the last couple of days have shaken my lack of faith 😀😀😀 and I want to share the story of how Shalom Cascadia hopes to bring an ancient scroll back to our urban kibbutz in Portland, Oregon. We have an opening for a residential fellow and one of my jobs as the house imma is to find the right folks to live with us. We have a great crew at present with three Hebrew learners but no fluent Hebrew speakers. Housing demand is high, maybe someone wants to lead our conversation cafes as part of their contribution to our collective. 

To Craigslist I went. My search turned up, shockingly, not a person but a safer Magillah Esther. Listed at MALL 205! This, I thought, had to be a scam or a serial poster pretending to be a dozen different cities or maybe a forlorn antiquities dealer. Somewhere in the back of my brain, I remembered a tradition of giving a scroll of Esther as a wedding present and I never fail to take an opportunity to remind my boyfriend that they haven't proposed yet so I asked them if they wanted to go take a look with me. 

"Of course! Adventure!" Still thinking that there was no way the Magillah was in our neighborhood I messaged the seller and asked if we could come over 'right now' and look at it. The immediacy was weed out the scammers and serial posters I figured. The seller wrote back right away and said he was at the beach but we could stop by tomorrow. Amazing. 

Three of us went from the kibbutz. My best friend who is OTD (shout out to Israeli frumkeit) can be counted on for these sorts of adventures and my religion major boyfriend and me, the most meshuaga mom you'll ever meet. 

At a small house on the shoulder of Mount Tabor we met a retired pastor who rather sheepishly explained that he would try to be respectful but was bound to say the wrong thing and assured us that he had Jewish friends and had studied Hebrew in seminary. He showed us the scroll of Esther which was real and unremarkable. American. Steady pen work. In good shape. 

"Do you want to see the Torah?" he asked. We did. Oh. We did. 

He brought it out apologetically. It was in the box from Israel. Covered with customs declarations and inspection stickers. Wrapped in . . . black plastic bags. We gingerly pulled it from the packaging and unrolled the ancient pages. 


That feeling. That feeling of forever. The feeling of standing at the Kotel. The feeling of making kiddush. The feeling of connecting with ancestors going back as far as time. That feeling. 

The Torah is from Morocco. It dates to 900 CE. It is written on deerskin. It has been inspected by Israeli authorities and determined to be in too good a shape for burial and too worn to be certified kosher. It is beautiful. One aitz chayim has been replaced. The other is . . . shockingly. Original. You can feel the ornamentation. 

We raised almost enough money in 24 hours to buy it. I am confident enough that today I'm going to go make a down payment on behalf of Shalom Cascadia and sign a bill of sale. If most of the pledges come through we will be able to walk the Torah to the Kibbutz library next week. 

The library. That's right. Our library. The Torah is holy and this Torah will be accessible. One hundred years ago, American Jews were bringing out the Torah on Friday night (shocking!!) we'll do things like that. Accessible. Transgressive. This is a queer Torah. This is a Cascadian Torah scribed by someone who never imagined our shores. This will be your Torah. Please help make it our Torah.