This morning was a special religious service for Erma’s consecration (welcome) to the religious school. Her teacher told us last week at school that we should practice the prayer she would need to know – the sh’ma.
Okay, this is a prayer that I actually know, so no problem.
However, because I am both an awesome Jew and Mother, it was Friday afternoon that I realized I had only taught her the first of the two lines she needed to know. Also, I realized that it was some kind of holiday in addition to the consecration, so I googled “Simchat Torah.”
Friday night, we were taking turns practicing the sh’ma and crying. And I was panicking about how to use the temple’s coffee machine, because the religious school parents were hosting the kiddush (after-party).
Well, everything went fine. First off, this totally awesome guy named Rob took care of the coffee. Second, my friend Lindsay showed up to make sure that everything went okay with Sigourney. And third, Erma stood under the talit with her classmates and said the sh’ma about as perfectly as any other five-year-old who has never known another word of Hebrew could say it.
The rabbi presented Erma with a consecration certificate and her own miniature Torah, in honor of her joining the religious school and in celebration of the holiday called Simchat Torah.
Toward the end of the service, the Torah scrolls were taken out of the Ark and paraded around the Temple. The kids had designed flags and we sang and danced around the sanctuary.
After that, the Torah was unrolled on a table at the back of the sanctuary. Except for the small portion that was unrolled at my bat mitzvah, I had never seen a Torah enrolled, how all the pages were taped together.
Simchat Torah is the reading of the end of the Torah (the five books of Moses) and beginning again at the first of Genesis. The Torah is unrolled all the way to the end, and the rabbi told us about how each letter is hand printed, how some artistic license is taken with the lettering so to make it all fit neatly in the columns, and how almost every column starts with the letter ו (the Hebrew letter vav). She told us that it takes 45 sheep skins to make one Torah, and that this Torah at our temple is over 100 years old and even survived a fire.
It was the most interesting Saturday morning service I have ever attended. What a cool document.
Erma may be the one enrolled in Hebrew school, but I feel like I am the one getting the education.