A Torah Time-Share?

A Torah Time Share? - Don't Get Me Started!

As most people know, we Jews are in that wonderful and tenuous time of year when we celebrate our new year (Rosh Hashanah) and yet right around the corner we're going to be starving ourselves and atoning to for our sins for the year (Yom Kippur). As with everything else in the Jewish religion it's all based on balance...good things going on, remember the bad and vice versa. So at this time of year, it's no surprise to see more articles about us Jews in the newspaper and online. And while I know our Christian brothers all ready have a difficult time understanding us, a third page headline in the paper the other day didn't help. "Time-share Torah touches families' hearts - Florida synagogue lets members take sacred scroll home for $1,800 donation." A Torah time share? - Don't Get Me Started!

In explaining the High Holy Days to my guy (a former altar boy) I'm always sort of stumped when having to explain why synagogues charge for tickets to the High Holy Days services. He's always asking me, "So basically it doesn't matter that you belong and are paying fees and contributing to the building fund, you also have to buy a ticket basically to just go to worship on those days?" My answer is always, "Yes, that's right. Don't ask me why, it's just always been that way. You know when Tevye sings, "Tradition" in Fiddler On The Roof? It's just like that so stop asking me." Now there are many reasons for the whole having to buy tickets to these services and while some might say that this is the only time of year that all the Jews are dying to get into synagogue (to absolve themselves of their sins) there are others who say that congregations are just so large that this is the only way to accommodate everyone on the same days at the same time in the same building. I remember as a child the synagogue we belonged to would actually rent the Symphony Hall which seats over 2,000 people and it would be filled to the last row in the last balcony of Jews coming to worship.

As we all know, the stereotypes that have been handed down from generation to generation are that Jews are cheap and always looking to make a fast buck. Well, the recent headline about a rabbi in Florida basically renting the shul's Torah made my guy sigh and say, "You'd better come look at this one. You're not going to like it." It's really all about that secondary headline, "Florida synagogue lets members take sacred scroll home for $1,800 donation." It's true; for $1,800 a family can basically rent the shul's Torah for a week a year. Throughout the year, the Torah moves from home to home and just like any other time share, you can change your week if needed as some families like to have the Torah there in their home the week of a child's Bar Mitzvah or other special occasions. The rabbi brings the Torah to the family's home and they throw Torah parties, reading from it and generally saying, "Look at my family, we have the Torah!" Now this most sacred of scrolls usually never leaves the synagogue and most shul's even build an ornate and beautiful ark to house it. The reasons behind the time share are a good idea but that secondary headline just put us Jews back to approximately 1952. The first synagogue this rabbi Chefitz led didn't have a permanent synagogue so members of the congregation would take turns taking the Torah home each week to ensure its safety. So when he arrived at his new shul and saw that the Torah was over 100 years old and badly in need of restoration, the idea came to him that not only would it be an honor for the family that got to hold the Torah for a week in their house but through the money it would raise it would be a mitzvah that they could restore the Torah to it's original glory. See, good idea but bad headline.

You can also donate money to restore a letter in the Torah for $18. But how can you not look cheap or keep up with the Markowitz family who has the Torah for a week at $1,800 if you buy three vowels like Vanna White's poor Jewish cousin for your 54 bucks? (Now for all you non-Jews who are like, "What is it with these Jews and the number 18, what they're too cheap to round up to 20 or 2,000? What, would it would break them?" Here's a little history lesson for you. The word for "life" in Hebrew is "chai." The two Hebrew letters that make up the word "chai" are chet and yud. In Gematria (the numerical value of Hebrew letters), chai is equivalent to 8 and yud is equivalent to 10. So "chai", chet and yud together, equals 18. Giving money in multiples of $18 is symbolic of giving "chai" or life. Many people give money in mulitiples of $18 as presents to someone celebrating a birth, a bar or bat mitzvah or a wedding.) So you see, we're not cheap, we're spiritual!

But unfortunately for us, the headline makes you think that Jews have just found yet another way to make more money for themselves, even at the price of renting something sacred. As they say, perception is reality and for those anti-Semites out there, this isn't going to make them hate us any less or more. But how I wish the headline had read, "Rabbi Finds Fun Fundraiser To Restore Torah" instead of "Jews Rent Torah For $1,800!" It's the same thing when the only representation of gays that I see in the paper are of those gays who dress in drag and appear on rainbow colored floats. But just imagine if there was a Jewish drag queen on a float who was also renting Torahs? Now that would be a grand slam for Jew and Gay haters everywhere! A Torah time share? - Don't Get Me Started!

Read More Scott @ www.somelikeitscott.com

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Comments 8 comments

Guru-C profile image

Guru-C 9 years ago

Dear Scott, the funny thing is, Temple Israel in Miami lets people in on Yom Kippur without tickets! My parents and I attend each year (My dad makes a donation out of the goodness of his heart and sense of pride) and they have a beautiful service and a diverse congregation. In the beginning, I used to scan the room for men... and realized that many were holding hands with each other. The rabbi and cantor (a gorgeous woman with a great belt) are very creative. A couple of years ago, we sang "Avinu Malkenu" to the tune of "It ain't necessarily so." They offer tons of services to the community. Maybe you and your love would like to join us next year :-)

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somelikeitscott 9 years ago from Las Vegas Author

WOW! That's sounds fabulous!!! Sounds like my kind of shul and my kind of Jews! Thanks so much for the info and now I have ammunition when my guy asks me why ALL synagogues charge for these High Holy Day services! Tempe Israel DOESN'T! Good Yontif Guru-C (and everyone else)!

Guru-C profile image

Guru-C 9 years ago

Happy New Year to you, Scott!!!

Isabella Snow profile image

Isabella Snow 9 years ago

Vanna White's poor Jewish cousin, lol....

So do you get into heaven free if you rent the torah for a week?

somelikeitscott profile image

somelikeitscott 9 years ago from Las Vegas Author

Or at least line cuts to the big buffet in the afterlife!!!

Ellen (Jodie's friend) 9 years ago


May you and your loved ones have a healthy and happy year filled with only the good things in life!! You deserve it!! Thanks for always making me laugh!

Cecilia 9 years ago

Scott, I am a Gentile and it is embarrassing for me to read in this day and age the opinions of other Gentiles, such as "your friend" the "altar boy" and his remarks. I take this opportunity to tell you something somewhat personal with the intention that you read this Gentile's opinion. I was blessed and very fortunate to have met the acquaintance of a Hassidic Rabbi while I lived in New York. I was always so curious about them and wanted to meet them something awful. One day and I beleive I was inspired by HaShem I checked the internet and there it was, in front of me, the Hassidics conduct tours of their community in Brooklyn. So there I was first thing one Sunday. That tour was fulfilling, educational, etc. all 15 of us liked it very much. During lunch, the Rabbi and I talked a lot and to my surprise the following day I found an e-mail from him in which he invited me to his house to meet his family and spend shabbot with them. If I had won the lottery I wouldn't have been so happy and grateful that someone like the Rabbi with a PhD and highly educated would invite me. I spent Saturday in their home and had a wonderful time, this was a year ago and it is still fresh in my mind. I was and am very grateful that people such as him and his family opened their doors, wide open, for me and made me feel like one of them. They even told me that I could visit them anytime I wanted. Now I live in Las Vegas and am trying to find a Jewish congregation that I may join, yes, I like the best people, the most educated, generous, friendly, and why shouldn't I be able to join the best? Thank you for reading this and I wish you and all the Jewish people happiness and success.

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somelikeitscott 9 years ago from Las Vegas Author

Cecilia, thank you so much for that beautiful story. We Jews are pretty great, aren't we? Best of luck on your quest to find a shul here in Vegas and thanks again for sharing something personal that I know will touch everyone who reads it. Scott

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