a massive earthquake in turkey and syria killed thousands. with that, there are news reports of the international humanitarian response to save lives.
within these resports, a timesofisrael.com headline, was attention getting- “head of tiny jewish community in turkey’s antakya feared dead; torah scrolls saved.”
the story talks of death, signficant damage to the local synagogue, and the triumph that torahs were saved. the antakya rabbi, mendel chitrik, was able to remove the torah scrolls from the synagogue and post an account on social media. the article comes around to cover the disaster relief efforts.
one must ask, why was the saving of torahs headline-worthy?
the physical torah is not a book, it is not even five books as advertised. rather, it is a transmission from ancient times transmitted by ancient means. it is tantamount to a radio signal sent from earth that is traveling through the universe and to other galaxies. it is a copy of an original text from thousands of years of ago which has been diligently written by a scribe aka sofer. the animal parchment produce scrolls are carefully monitored to make sure that they are legible and that the ink remains intact. the present torah is the same that ezra read to the men, women and all who understood. nehemiah 8:3. this was a time of returning to a homeland and starting anew after the destruction of the first temple. the torah served as a pathway for those who have fallen down to get back up and make anew.
over time, this very torah was copied and brought to communities. there, the holy scrolls became part of the community. they served and serve to draw congregants to synagogues. as a good congregant, they make the rounds during the service and physically connect with those present. through tallit fringes, prayer books, and sometimes lips, congregants connect with the almighty’s words that were transmitted to moses. communities treat their torahs as royalty and adorn them with elaborate coverings, chestplates and crowns.
the text’s eternal worlds produce a time travel effect. we are in the past, present and future all at once. the torah is a connection to the four corners of the planet.
as the massive recovery in turkey and syria continues, architect and planners will start on plans to rebuild these countries infrastructures. for those confronted with family losses and injuries, the eternal playbook was preserved and is available for guidance.
in sum, while humans can rebuild the synagogues, churches and mosques destroyed, it would impossible to reproduce from scratch the original words from the creator of the universe.