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Thought for the Day: Kavod HaTorah Expressed by Kavod Sefer Torah

During the beautiful Pesach we enjoyed in Florida with our progeny this year, there was one crisis that was very real and thankfully resolved within just a few hours.  The crisis began when my six year old granddaughter noticed that her new kosel ring was missing.  Her mother had been to a training class in Eretz Yisrael and brought back that kosel ring just a couple of week earlier.  We had been playing on the swings when she noticed it was missing.  We searched and searched, but the playground was large and covered in course sand/pebbles.  We came up empty handed.  She was devastated.  She was very mature about it (for a six year old), but it was heart breaking for all of us.  A few hours later she went back to the playground with her father for one last try; Baruch HaShem, they were successful; she had the ring back and daddy was a bigger hero than ever.

If you would ask and insurance adjuster that value of that ring, he would have told you (if he didn't hang up on you for being ridiculous) that it wasn't worth more than a few dollars.  But that value of that ring to my granddaughter (and, by extension, to all of us) was incalculable.  That ring was a special present from her mother, brought from Eretz Yisrael, and one of her few pieces of "real" jewelry.  How in the world do you put a value on that?

Similarly, the reverence we have for a sefer Torah has nothing to do with cow hide and ink, but everything to do with the fact that it is a precious gift (kli chemda) from the Creator of the world, our Father, our King, HaKadosh Baruch Hu.  One of the expressions of our feelings of reverence, is that we do not move a sefer Torah to a temporary location just for convenience.  If a sefer Torah is needed somewhere temporarily, then we need to make enough preparations to give the temporary home some aspect of stability.  The Chevra Kadisha in Chicago uses an actual aron hakodesh (compact version, to be sure) when bringing a sefer Torah to a shiva house.

The third of R' Shlomo Zalman threes that has no basis in halacha is that people think you need to read from the sefer Torah three times in its new location.  Little problem understanding this one, though, because the Aruch HaShulchan actually bring this custom.  I also know that recognized g'dolim were also makpid on this custom.  So... has a basis in halacha or no?

I believe the answer lies both in how to read the Aruch HaShulchan (end of siman 136) and also the situation where recent g'dolim were also makpid.  The Aruch HaShulchan brings the minhag, not as halacha, but to show the kind of lengths that are appropriate to go in order to be sure a sefer Torah is treated with proper respect.  The situation in America until quite recently, was that even orthodox congregations needs improvement in there feelings of reverence for a sefer Torah.  R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, ztz"l, lived in a chareidi neighborhood in Yerushalayim, so perhaps felt that no necessity for the particular minhag.

Whatever the resolution to the differences in opinion, all would agree that the intent is appropriate and laudable.  Our sifrei Torah, sifrei kodesh, and talmidei chachamim (living sifrei Torah) all need to be viewed with appropriate respect and reverence.

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