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Geoffrey Mcallister, Deseret News
Rabbi Druin — one of about 150 sofers, or scribes, in the world — lectures at the synagogue on the sacred importance of the Torah scroll. The Torah is the first five books of the Hebrew Bible.

According to Jewish tradition, when God wanted to create the earth, he had a problem. There was no blueprint.

According to Cabbala, Jewish mystical teachings, God used the Torah, the first five books in the Hebrew Bible, as the blueprint for creation.

Earlier this week, Rabbi Moshe Druin came to Ogden to the Congregation Brith Sholem to help restore God's blueprint.

The Torah is written in traditional Hebrew.

"The Hebrew letters are more than just form for ways of communication," Rabbi Druin said, "like English or French or any other language, but rather the Hebrew letters have wonder and magic associated with them."

He said the names of the letters, their pronunciation and shapes have meaning. Each letter also has a numerical value associated with it.

"These letters, these are God letters," Rabbi Druin said. "They were given down by God, and ultimately they have a lot of power associated with them."

Consequently, if one letter is missing, all of creation would be compromised. He used the example of computer code — if one letter or number of the code is off, the entire program would not work as the creator intended.

Rabbi Druin intends to ensure the Torah is kosher — fit to be used in a ritual way. The origin of the word started with kosher animals and extended into meaning doing things in the proper way, based on Jewish principles.

There are 613 commandments in the Torah, and one of them tells adherents that the Torah must be made of materials that are edible. Rabbi Druin said the scroll must be made from a kosher animal hide; an animal that is kosher has split hooves and chews its cud, such as a cow, deer or sheep. The Brith Sholem scroll is made from cowhide.

"Traditionally, the reason why cow skin was predominantly used was the size and strength and durability of it," Rabbi Druin said.

Though the materials are edible, taste is an issue. The rabbi has sampled it before.

"Once years ago I did, and it tastes terrible," Rabbi Druin said.

Also, the ink must be manufactured in a kosher way out of kosher ingredients — copper sulfate, herbs, ashes of different plants and others.

"It even has honey, which actually makes the letters shine," Rabbi Druin said.

The exact recipe is a secret. He said the age-old concoction is known only by certain families and is passed down from generation to generation. He said the ink has the ability to last forever, absent extreme conditions.

Restoration of a Torah scroll is a two-part process — the internal and the external.

The external process fixes tears in the hide and broken sewing and stitching.

The internal part of the process deals mainly with the letters on the scroll. The hide dries out over time, so the letters crumble, then peel and break off. He also looks for faded letters and restores them to kosher standards.

Rabbi Druin said his mission for this visit was to fix and replace compromised letters, which he scans by eye — an ability he learned after training to be a scribe — and to fix the parchment.

"If even one letter in this entire scroll is not there, the entire Torah is not kosher," he said.

The hide also must be cleaned to facilitate reading. He demonstrated cleaning a section, and the dull hide brightened with his ministrations. Consequently, the black Hebrew script jumped off the page.

"That's the Ten Commandments he is rubbing away at there," said Judi Amsel, president of the Congregation Brith Sholem, of the section the rabbi was cleaning on the continuous scroll.

Rabbi Druin is the founder of a company that restores the Torah in the traditional way. Normally, congregations send their scrolls to him. However, this time he came to the scroll.

"As the classical statement goes, 'If Muhammad won't go to the mountain, let the mountain come to Muhammad,"' Rabbi Druin said. "This combines both the physical work of just fixing and maintaining the Torah to the spiritual element of uniting and elevating people around the concept of what the Torah is."

Keeping and passing the tradition is a huge responsibility that Rabbi Druin likened to parenthood. Though children are a big responsibility, the parent must continue to parent, regardless of the pressure.

"There are times you sit back and contemplate what you're doing, the awesomeness of it and the responsibility, but then you have to get past it and do what you have to do."


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