Skip to comments.Sefer Torah Dedicated At Pentagon Chapel
Posted on 10/18/2005 3:37:15 PM PDT by SJackson
In the place where terrorists crashed a plane into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, killing 189 people, a Torah scroll now resides in an ornate Israeli-built ark (aron kodesh).
The Pentagon Chapel`s office and the Aleph Institute hosted a sefer Torah dedication ceremony on September 26. The historic and emotional event was celebrated with the participation of over 150 military personnel, guests and dignitaries who gathered at the Pentagon Memorial Chapel to recognize the Jewish members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
In front of the standing-room-only crowd, Rabbi Shmuel Wolfman of Jerusalem completed the last letters of the scroll.
Guest speaker Rabbi Yissachar Frand pointed out that the last of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah is the precept for everyone to initiate the writing of a sefer Torah appropriately recognized as Jews the world over prepare to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot, which culminates with Simchat Torah the day when the last of the annual Torah portions is read and a new cycle of Torah reading begins. Happily, the Jewish members of the U.S. Armed Forces now have their own sefer Torah.
The Pentagon Chapel Torah Scroll was written through the initiative of Rabbi Andrew Cohen, who served as rabbi for the Pentagon Chapel until being recently assigned to Bolling Air Force Base. Rabbi Cohen noted in his address to the participants of the hachnassat sefer Torah at the Pentagon Chapel that a special worship service was held at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem for the welfare of all the world`s nations during the Festival of Sukkot.
The ceremony, he pointed out, included prayers by the Jewish spiritual leaders for blessings of peace, sustenance and goodness to flow to all of humankind, and the kohanim (priests) would offer 70 bulls to the Almighty on behalf of all the nations of the world.
In light of the bounty that flowed through the world in the merit of this service in ancient times, Rabbi Cohen said, the sages of the Talmud wrote:
If the nations would have known that it is through this Temple service that they received their blessings, they would have set up sentries all around Jerusalem so that no harm could ever befall her.
This dvar Torah was especially relevant in light of Israel`s current ostracism in the international arena.
Rabbi Cohen explained that as custodians of the Torah, the Jewish people have always enshrined the core values of social obligation and morally imperative behavior into daily living, and we have tried to exemplify and teach these beliefs and values and practices to all of humankind: to serve G-d with a joyous heart, to seek justice, love righteousness, to treat one another with honor and respect, to care for the disadvantaged, and to create an ordered and ethical civilization based upon justice and the rule of law, and the equality of all under the law.
Rabbi Cohen further said that this great nation is built upon the true and noble ideas of liberty. And we find no greater expression of these tenets than our ceremony here today. For today`s Torah dedication is in the heart of America`s military power, in the very site where the enemies of human dignity whose reprehensible conduct eschews this essential value of `love thy neighbor as thyself` perpetrated their horrific evils.
In this spot, where the plane struck on September 11, here we place our Torah. Here in this spot, where the enemies of humanity wrought their heinous atrocities, we choose to place our Torah not as a museum piece, not on display, but to be used in worship, honored with dignity, to guide, inspire and empower all peoples to the great cause of freedom.
Rabbi Cohen solicited the assistance of the Aleph Institute to finance the production of the aron kodesh and the writing of the sefer Torah. (The Aleph Institute is a Miami-based national non-profit Jewish organization devoted to Jews in the military and in prisons.)
The Aleph Institute obtained a donation for the aron kodesh and sefer Torah from the generous donor Yaakov Sopher.
In his remarks at the event, Rabbi Sholom Lipskar of the Aleph Institute stated: Today we celebrate in the seat of power of the world`s strongest and most benevolent nation ... the first sefer Torah ever to be written from start to finish and concluded at the Pentagon.
It is appropriate that a scion from the long and dignified ancestry of the Sopher family of rabbis and scribes has merited to fulfill the special historic mitzvah.
Rabbi Lipskar also took the opportunity to emphasize that freedom of religion is respected, practiced and acknowledge as one of the foundations of freedom in the Unted States and the civilized world, and that the destruction of the synagogues in Gaza by hate-filled Palestinian mobs was denounced on several occasions by President Bush.
In a special interview with The Jewish Press, Rabbi Cohen explained that he initiated the dedication of the aron kodesh and sefer Torah to accommodate the needs of Jewish servicemen and officials at the Pentagon.
Although the chapel is not used for minyanim on a regular basis, there are many instances of lockdown during these times when the U.S. is in the midst of a war, and during those instances the Jewish servicemen and officials at the Pentagon require a sefer Torah for the prayer services.
Rabbi Cohen, a follower of Karlin Stolin chassidism, studied at Ohr Sameach yeshiva in Israel. He continues to teach a weekly Torah class at the Pentagon Chapel.
The ark was skillfully produced by Palach Synagogue Furnishings in Israel. Rabbi Simcha Palach told The Jewish Press that the aron kodesh was produced by master artisans and consists of wood carvings of symbols of the Twelve Tribes and the Western Wall. The parochet (curtain) is inscribed with the words God Bless America.
The ark contains a vault which can hold two Torah scrolls, and its steel door is secured by a safe lock.
Ceremonial letter dedications were held with the participation of Chaplain (Ch.) Maj. Gen. Charles Baldwin, Ch. Brig. Gen. Douglas Carver, Ch. Capt. Arnold Resnicoff, former undersecretary of defense Dov S. Zakheim, Ch. Col. Richard Bower and Ch. Col. Kenneth Leinwand.
After the ceremony, rabbis, guests, chaplains, generals and military personnel gathered for a catered, glatt kosher celebratory meal a first for the Pentagon Executive Dining Room preceded by the National Anthem and accompanied by the Color Guard.
Rabbi Marvin Bash, clergy for the Pentagon Chaplain`s office, offered a blessing, which was followed by greetings from Rabbi Levi Shemtov, Chabad`s representative in Washington, and from Lloyd S. Rubin, president of the Aleph Institute.
Rabbi Yissachar Frand spoke eloquently, emphasizing the gratitude the Jewish people owe to the U.S. for the freedom to practice religion in peace and dignity. Rabbi Frand related his personal history as a survivor of the Holocaust whose father risked his life to save a sefer Torah from the Nazis.
After closing remarks by Rabbi Lipskar and Rabbi Cohen, Chaplain Col. Benson presented Rabbi Lipskar and Rabi and Mrs. Cohen with the United States flag that had previously been flown over the Pentagon as a testimony for the many blessings for good that Jewish people have done for peace.
That came two years ago