Even Chen Synagogue, Bangkok: "A New Sefer Torah"
Dear Family and Friends,
The invitation arrived to “Welcome a New Torah.”
I decided to attend since I had never participated in this type of this celebration.
Here's the story:
Rony and Shoshy Gad live in Bangkok with their four children - Liran, Lior, Liad and Liel. Although he was under no obligation to do so, Liran volunteered for the IDF - the Israel Defense Forces.
I can only imagine how the parents feel when their oldest son leaves home for the Army.
As a tribute to their son's devotion, the Gads sponsored the creation of a new Torah scroll that would be donated to the Even Chen Synagogue. The synagogue is located inside the Shangri-La Hotel here in Bangkok.
In a large hotel meeting room, as young and old looked on, several members of the Synagogue joined Rabbi Zabichi as he inscribed the final letters in the Torah. When the Torah was complete and enclosed in its silver Sephardic style case, we all followed the Scribe and our Rabbi Kantor and our Cantor, Rabbi Ashkenazi down the hotel hallway and up the stairs to the Synagogue.
In the Synagogue the singing was joyous and the dancing was energetic as the other Synagogue’s Torahs welcomed their new partner in Jewish learning and faith. The most inspiring moment came with many long and loud blasts as Rabbi Zabichi blew the Shofar to proclaim to the Congregation and to the world that the new Sefer Torah had indeed arrived to take its honored place in the Holy Ark.
Rabbi Kantor explained the connection of the Gads’ donation of a Torah to their son's service in the Army. The Rabbi told the story: When Moses raised his arms to Heaven, when Moses invoked the power of the Torah, the Israelites fought and defeated the Amelek.
I did a little research:
“In one of the most compelling images from the Torah, the Jews wage a war for their lives, against their terminal foe, Amalek. The Bible records the fight as follows:
Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of G-d in my hand.”
So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed.
But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.
And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.(Exodus 17)
The sages never interpreted this episode to demonstrate that Moses had some "magical" ability to influence the outcome on the battlefield by raising or lowering his hands. Rather, the message is that when Moses raised his arms, and the Jews raised their eyes to heaven, they took courage in the presence of G-d, and fought with valor, and ultimately were victorious in battle.
However, although Amalek was defeated at Rephidim, he was not destroyed. And consequently, throughout history Amalek has returned, and we are under an unremitting duty to wage uncompromising war against him, until at last, he is completely defeated.”
Is it possible that Liran Gad will face a new and dangerous Amelek during his years of service in the IDF?
If so, we pray that the power of G-d and the presence of our new Torah will provide Liran with courage and valor and victory.
I was puzzled by the name “Even Chen.” The Cantor explained that it means “precious stone.” I smiled. I know that more than a few members of this congregation are Sephardic Jews who are in the jewelry business.
Now I am perplexed. Since when do we name a synagogue after something secular, an ostentatious materialistic object? We don’t name a synagogue “Precious Ready-to-Wear Dress” or “Precious Legal Brief” or “Precious Stethoscope” or “Precious Feature Film” or “Precious Computer Chip” or "Precious Search Engine” or “Precious Social Network”!
(Reminds me of a story that only a few of us “ancient” New Yorkers would understand…. Max became a wealthy man and decided to open a bank. He told his friend Sam that he intended to name his bank “Max Savings Bank.” When Sam protested, Max replied and insisted, “Why not? Irving did it!”)
I did a little more research:
The word “shamir” appears three times in the Hebrew Bible and each time it indicates a material noted for its hardness. It most likely refers to corundum, the second hardest natural mineral used for engraving softer stones.
The Hebrew “shamir” may be related to the Greek “emery” and both can refer metaphorically to “hardness of heart.” Finally, and more to the point of our celebration, the etymological evolution begat the Greek word “adamas” that translates to “indomitable.”
Perhaps the founders of Even Chen Synagogue had the “indomitable” interpretation in mind when they named their sanctuary.
Since my Hebrew name is Moshe ben Chaim ha Levi, may I be permitted another idea? I recall that (my namesake) Moses held up his hand to Heaven. But he grew weary, as we all grow weary, and sat on a stone. Perhaps Moshe Rabbenu teaches us that the sacred stone of support and sustenance is the true “Precious Stone.”
The Jewish Community of Thailand | Web: www.jewishthailand.com