A hachnosas sefer Torah is always a reason for celebration, and in Crown Heights, they happen more often than not.
Usually done to memorialize a loved one, the immediate family gathers on the special day, some come in from afar, and they are joined by friends and neighbors.
The writing of a Torah is indeed a Mitzvah. The Rambam writes (in hilchos Talmud Torah) that each and every Jew should write himself a Torah (“ve’ata’ kisvu lachem” in Devorim).
But I recently came across an illuminating letter from the Rebbe, written on Rosh Chodesh Shvat 5735 to a woman named Neima Chakian.
She wanted to do something in merit and in memory of someone dear to her and had 2 options: A Torah or an aron kodesh for a shul.
The Rebbe told her there is a third option “before the previous two options: ‘Adopting’ a yungerman who learns Torah and donating his expenses to learn in a Yeshiva.”
“I wrote a yungerman in the singular,” the Rebbe notes, “but of course it can be more than one, according to your abilities.”
I’ve made a calculation, that in Crown Heights alone, about $1.5 million has been spent in the last year alone on purchasing new sifrei Torah, many of which lay untouched unless they’re donated to a Chabad House of a family member.
If you have signed up your child for the Children’s Sefer Torah, and if your parents have done so when you were a child, then I would assume that you have fulfilled the Mitzvah by now.
So why not take the money and invest in education?
In United Lubavitch Yeshiva of Ocean Parkway there is the “Reb Shmuel Schrage middos program” named after the school’s assistant principal and which encourages good behavior among students.
The asking price of $40,000 that a family (and many times, community members) pays for a new Torah, can be put to use for many years to have children *learning* Torah.
There are better ways to spend the money. Let’s raise teachers’ salaries, give out scholarships, fund the training programs for staff and after-school activities for children.
Imagine how wonderful it will be for a family to gather together in a school or a Beis Medrash to inaugurate an educational or learning program? It can even be done on the day of the yartzeit or the special date.
Let me be clear: I am not writing this in connection to any current or recent hachnosas sefer Torah. It is beautiful that families and the community comes together around something as holy as the Torah.
But Torah is meant to be learned. The only time we leave it closed and dance with it is on Simchas Torah. Our shuls are filled with Torahs. It is high-time that we make sure we spend resources so that everyone can know what’s written in them.