Opening Intention for RSNS Day of Collective Tikkun (Repair)
7am: Join Cantor Eric by Zoom for an opening intention for our day of tikkun. We will observe a brief ritual to mark the beginning of a daylong fast, for those that choose to observe this custom.
7am-7pm: Those who wish to perform an act of g’milut chasadim (loving kindness) can donate blood (“The Torah is the lifeblood of our people”), or contribute in-person or virtually to a local food pantry (“There is no Torah without sustenance").
12pm: Join Rabbi Lee’s Zoom clergy connection as we continue our day of study and reflection.
4:15pm: At our Beyond Synagogue School program, there will be a family-friendly exploration of issues surrounding this topic.
7pm: Join us by Zoom for our Tikkun Leil Shavuot, where our yearly Shavuot Study Session will explore different aspects of tikkun in our tradition.
8pm: We will conclude our day-long tikkun with Shavuot services by zoom (including Yizkor), after which our fallen Torah will once again be acceptable for regular use.
At services this past shabbat, our Torah scroll fell to the floor after being placed in the Torah stand. Fortunately, the scroll itself was not damaged, but the top left holder (etz) will need to be repaired or replaced. To our knowledge, this is the first time this has happened at RSNS. Seeing our most sacred object fall to the ground evokes strong associations for many. For some, there is the recollection of the forced desecration of Torah scrolls at the hands of the Nazis and others at times of Jewish persecution throughout history. For others, it is reminiscent of seeing an American flag - symbol of our nation’s enduring freedom for which so many have sacrificed so much - touch the ground. For others, it is a reminder that, despite our best efforts and intentions, our sense of security and control over what we value most is illusory at best.
Immediately following services, the clergy met to discuss the implications for our community. The matter was then brought before the ritual committee, to explore a values-based approach to an appropriate communal response. For RSNS, the essential values we wish to honor by our response are: the importance of honoring tradition, the centrality of lifelong Jewish learning, and the sense of communal obligation, to each other and our world. One prescriptive response is for the person responsible for the Torah’s fall (or also, in some cases, those who witnessed it) is to fast (from sunrise to sunset) for forty days (just as Moses took forty days to deliver the Torah to the Jewish people). Although no mention of this custom (or indeed of any specific response) appears in any Jewish sources prior to the 19th century, the fact that this custom is so widely known indicates the strong value placed on the scrolls by the Jewish community.
We then looked to examples of other Jewish communities who have had to respond to similar situations, and found a variety of creative ways to achieve a tikkun (repair) brought about by the falling of a Torah scroll. In addition to fasting, other responses have included a period of study, social action, and giving of tzedakah. Although customarily the obligation falls on the one responsible for the Torah’s fall, we have decided to bring the full community together for a day of collective tikkun (repair), incorporating each of the elements mentioned above. This tikkun will take place on Thursday, May 28, which happens to be Erev Shavuot - the holiday where the entire Jewish people celebrates our receiving the Torah at Sinai.
Please join us on May 28th.
We hope that this communal response will provide a variety of avenues for our members to engage with the process of tikkun, as together we continue our journey from Egypt to Sinai.
The RSNS Ritual Committee