LETTER OF PREVIOUS LUBAVITCHER REBBE
CONCERNING THE ORDER OF BRINGING IN
A SEFER TORAH TO THE SYNAGOGUE

FREE TRANSLATION 

By the Grace of G‑d
20th of MarCheshvan, 5702
Brooklyn, New York 

Peace and Blessing!

In answer to your letter concerning the purchase of the Sefer Torah; and which, G‑d willing, you are making ready to soon complete and bring to the synagogue; I hereby bless you with the blessing of Mazal Tov upon the fulfillment of the commandment “He wrote for himself,” as explained in Shulchan Aruch. It is expounded in various books of homiletics, and at greater length in the books of the greatest of the Sefardic sages of blessed memory, the greatness of fulfilling this mitzvah. They praise, admire, and hold holy every action and minutest detail of honor at the time of the writing of a Sefer Torah, at the time of its completion, and at the time of its being brought to the synagogue with a multitude of people and great fanfare, with a canopy and lit candles, with song and musical instruments, [the people] clothed in Yom Tov garments, and in open joy with dance and the recital of Psalms. One must do all possible that every Jew, men and women and particularly children, have the merit to kiss the Sefer Torah’s mantle at the time the Sefer Torah is being carried to the synagogue. It is a segulah for health and long life.

There were those who brought their children still in the cradle to a position on the processional path of the Sefer Torah, so to merit to place the Sefer Torah’s mantle on the child’s face.

There were those who, at the time of the sewing of the mantles and sashes for the Sefer Torah, would endeavor to acquire more material than needed. Before the sewing, they would cut small pieces from the extra material – which does not possess any sanctity of ritual objects, only beautification and honor of ritual objects – and when one of the children would kiss the Sefer Torah, the parents would purchase a small piece of the above material as a protection for the child, with pure faith in the segulah hidden and concealed in beautification of a mitzvah.

The accepted custom in our country is that a few days before the completion of the Sefer Torah and the bringing of it to the synagogue, announcements are made in all the synagogues of the city that: on such and such a day, there will be G‑d willing, a completion of the Sefer Torah and the bringing of it to the synagogue; and all congregants are invited to come to give honor to the Torah when it is being carried to the synagogue. (That is, also those who for some reason, as is customary among householders in matters of honor and the like or jealousy and hate, do not wish to come to participate in the completion of the Sefer. But carrying the Sefer and bringing it to the synagogue is a general matter in which all should participate for the sake of honor of the Torah.)

That day was a holiday on which tachnun was not said, and all the inhabitants of the city would prepare for the celebration in honor of the Torah. Chassidim and men of deeds immersed themselves in the mikvah prior to prayer, and during prayer candles were burning in the synagogue.

After finishing the order of the completion – with the sewing of the parchment, the mantle, and the sash, and the initiation of the Sefer Torah with a reading – the celebration of the procession began. The celebrant [i.e. he whose Sefer Torah it was] and his household would form up around the Sefer Torah, stand under the canopy, and sing; the onlookers would bless them with blessings of Mazal Tov. The celebrant would carry the Sefer Torah from his house for a number of steps, and stop. Then all the honors given out in the carrying of the Sefer Torah would begin. They would announce that so and so should stand forth for the honor of the Torah, and he would carry it for a few steps. Then a second person would be honored, and a third, until they would come to the synagogue. A few steps before the synagogue, the celebrant would again be given the honor of carrying the Sefer Torah. His family would form a guard of honor around him, and they would bring the Sefer Torah into the synagogue.

When they were preparing to enter the synagogue, the gabbai (warden) of the synagogue, his deputies, and the cantor of the synagogue, would open the ark and take out the Sifrei Torah. Before the ark was opened, the cantor would say “Sifrei Torah, you are requested by all the holy community, the congregants of the synagogue, to trouble yourself and to go welcome the Sefer Torah which so and so has merited to write and to bring in to this synagogue in a good and successful hour.” Then they would take the Sifrei Torah and stand in two rows. The celebrant and his family would come with the new Sefer Torah and pass between the two rows, and announce the verses of Ato Horaysa as on Simchas Torah. When the verses were completed, seven hakofos [circling of the bimah] were made, and during each hakofoh they would dance with the Sefer Torah as on Simchas Torah. When the seventh hakofoh ended, they said “Rejoice and exult in the rejoicing of the Torah,” and while saying this passage an eighth hakofah was made to distinguish between the hakofos of Simchas Torah proper and these of rejoicing on bringing in the Sefer Torah. Then “Yehallelu” was said, all the Sifrei Torah were put into the sanctuary, and “Oleinu” and Mourner’s Kaddish was said. Then they would celebrate with a festive meal in honor of the mitzvah, and talk words of Torah, and words of inspiration to set fixed times for [study of] Torah, dissemination of Torah with the awe of Heaven, and strengthening of those who learn Torah.

Although you wrote that you did not [initially] contemplate making any fanfare of this, your decision to accede to the will of those around you pleased me greatly for with this the public is given the merit of honoring the Torah and holding dear that which is sacred.

Even external honor of the Torah with great beauty and a multitude of people is capable of arousing the feelings of the soul, as is usual in all matters of beauty and splendid glory. Besides this, glory and honor of the Torah arouse the spark of Jewishness that is within each Jew, male and female. This arousal is very precious in itself, and it is liable to be the cause and reason for an arousal of repentance to abandon the wicked way and to choose the ways of Torah and mitzvos.