Jan 31, 2011

Torah Redeemed From Church

Kikar reports on an interesting story that recently happened. A rav from Tel Aviv, Rav Avi Zarki, heard about a, antique and rare sefer torah that was being held in the basement of a church in Bethlehem, and it disturbed him greatly that the torah was being held in a place of tumah. He felt he needed to do something, to try to get it out.

Just a picture of an ancient torah, not the actual torah from the story
Rav Zarki tried to find ways of getting the torah out, through various connections, but nothing worked. It turned out that the heads of the church were only willing to part with the torah for an astronomical sum of money. Rav Zarki easily found someone willing to donate the sum of money required to redeem the torah.

Rav Zarki then went to Rav Shteinman to ask how to proceed. His question was if, to redeem a torah, he would be allowed to go into the makom tumah of the church. (personally I would think the bigger question would be if he would be allowed to spend "an astronomical amount of money" on redeeming a torah, as it might encourage them to steal other torahs for the purpose of selling them back to the Jews for a lot of money).

Rav Shteinman said it is allowed, and he gave him his blessing to proceed.

Zarki, with the blessing of Rav Shteinman, made the arrangements. He dressed up like a tourist from France posing as an antiques collector, and went to the arranged meeting place in Jerusalem. From there, the people he met took him in a United Nations car to where they had to go.

Rav Zarki says that at one point he felt that one of the Palestinian policemen suspected that he was Jewish. The policeman tried to talk to him in English, to test his cover supposedly, but he nervously continued talking in French and withstood the test of the policeman.

Rav Zarki describes how they went into the cellar of the church, and there he saw the antique torah sitting in a very secure safe. Keeping his composure, which he describes as being very difficult because of the emotions at the moment, so as not to cause them to raise the price even more, they proceeded to finalize the deal.

The bishop gave the final approval and signature for the transfer to be made, after ensuring that the money had been deposited in the bank account. When everything was cleared, he handed over the torah to Rav Zarki.

The torah is now in a shul in Tel Aviv being used the way it was intended.

(As to this torah from Amazon, I had no idea you could buy a torah on Amazon. Perhaps Rav Zarki should redeem this one as well)

1 comment:

  1. I was quite distressed to see a number of Torah scrolls on display in Morocco, some in museums and others for sale in shops. How wonderful to restore a Torah to its rightful place in a synagogue!


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