Unity is something easily preached, but seldom practiced.
Which is what makes the Siyum of the Miracle Sefer Torah on Sunday night such a rare achievement.
It was a joyous, climactic denouement for the Torah that was nine months in the making. Born in Crown Heights in the thick of Covid and inspired by the now-ubiquitous story of the Baal Shem Tov, the Torah raced across boundaries real and imagined.
Rabbi Paysach Krohn, the popular international speaker, put it plainly in his address during the evening’s festivities, “This Torah united Chassidim and Litvish, Ashkenazim and Sephardim.”
Indeed, in a frantic final week, the Miracle Sefer Torah embarked on a tour across the richly diverse tapestry of the Tri-state frum world. From Lakewood to Boro Park, Williamsburg to Crown Heights, to Monroe, Monsey, and Flatbush, the Torah arrived at the homes and Battei Midrashim of Rabbanim, Admorim, and askanim of every stripe where they grasped the same quill and filled in letters in the same Sefer Torah.
After making final stops at the Ohel and then in the office at 770 Eastern Parkway, the Torah made its way to a hall in Brooklyn, where it was given the royal treatment of a six-hour-long celebration live-streamed to nearly 500,000 viewers across the world.
The masterfully planned program produced by Shneur Najar and program director Dovid Weinbaum wove narrative, inspiration, and entertainment into a compelling viewing experience. Videos, crafted by Rivkin Media, of first-hand testimony from those who credit their miraculous healing to a letter in the Miracle Sefer Torah gave way to messages from the dynamic brotherly duo of Rabbis Simon and YY Jacobson which seamlessly moved to performances from a veritable who’s who in Jewish music.
Avraham Fried, Mordechai Ben David, Chaim Yisrael, Eli Marcus, Baruch Levine, 8th Day band, Lipa Schmeltzer, Shmuli Ungar, Shlomo Simcha and Mendy J sang solo and in duet, soulful tunes and rousing Hakafos niggunim, as they danced across the stage late into the night.
Avrumi Schreiber & The Freilach Band provided world-class musical accompaniment, and Bentzi Marcus made the musical arrangements.
From the beginning, the Miracle Sefer Torah was defined by urgency. Rabbi Moshe Klein, owner of Hasofer, who wrote the Torah, shared how Beryl Junik, Zalmy Cohen, and Shloime Greenwald called him late one night to commission the Sefer Torah. He agreed, and said he would go to the office the next morning to begin the work. Ten minutes later, however, they called again, “we have to do it now.” Rabbi Klein made his way to Junik’s house, where he wrote the first letters of the Torah.
In the end, that urgency never faded. The Siyum was a rallying cry of achdus, not just preached but practiced. After the Torah had been completed, lifted, and dressed, Rabbi YY Jacobson spoke about achdus. “Ahavas Yisrael is the courage to learn the song in someone else’s heart. And to then sing it to them when they forget it.” He continued to decry “fragmentation, enough mistrust…enough of the tunnel vision that constricts us.”
The Torah that danced across the stage was a testament to that conviction. A Torah that contains the multitudes of the Jewish people; from Chassidish to Litvish, Ashkenazi to Sephardi, religious to secular.
The three tireless organizers, Shloime Greenwald, Zalmy Cohen and Berl Junik, can only hope that the lessons learned persist long after the Torah’s epic completion.
Photos by Chaim Tuito