The Torah Project – A Legacy for Solel’s Future

by Roselyn Allen, November 26, 2020

As our 50th anniversary approaches in 2023, Solel will finally kickoff our celebrations with an event for our long awaited Torah project on December 13th. We are blessed with a very generous principle donation by Jerry Willis who has expressed his wish for a legacy for Solel which can be appreciated by our entire congregation. Torah is the greatest legacy of the Jewish people, and we are so pleased to have the privilege of writing our own.

Promotional materials will soon be available with a chart to sponsor letters, words, names, verses, chapters, books and so on. So I have been considering what meaningful way I can donate to the new Torah – how do I want to be represented? Perhaps my musings can give you some ideas as well.

There are 304,805 letters in the Torah. If I buy individual letters, perhaps I should get one letter for each of the members of my family, or the first letter of my first Torah portion. Could I take a letter from numerology?

Shall I choose a word? Something representing my favorite holiday, a food, an animal, a part of nature? Can I buy my child’s name, a parents’, a favourite place?

What about a phrase or a verse? Free your heart from hatred. (Leviticus 19:17). One of the 613 mitzvot? The commandment to write Torah?

Do I want to write my son’s Bar Mitzvah portion? My favorite chapter (Genesis 34, on which the book the Red Tent was based)?

Could my siblings and I buy a book in honour of our parents, grandparents?

Whatever I decide, I will fulfill the commandment to write Torah, I will have become a physical part of Solel’s history, and contribute to the spirit of our congregation.

Solel has brought me closer to Torah than I ever could have been in my previous life. Before becoming a member at Solel, the closest I ever came to a physical Torah in my Conservative upbringing was when I was 5. My uncle’s clothing store was on the same block, behind my house and I would go shopping by myself. Everyone knew me – I could go in and the shop girls (that’s what they were called in the 1970s) would come and help me pick whatever I wanted and put it on my mother’s bill. I had chosen the cutest little white pants suit – It had blue polka dots, but the collar was blue with white polka dots.

I wore that suit to photo day at school and then wore it to shul on Shabbat morning. Mr. Cohen was our cantor and our gabbai and our shammas…and he couldn’t see very well. With my short haircut and my lovely suit in the unisex ‘70s, he told me to go and open the Ark before the Torah reading – something I’d only ever seen boys do. I was thrilled. I felt guilty – I wasn’t a boy. But I was a rebel – and I did it. I was there, next to all the Torahs at once.

Of course everyone else knew I was a girl, but no one wanted to embarrass Mr. Cohen. I always wore a dress to services after that for some reason.

Young Roz Allen

The author, in her white suit with blue collar.

Anyway, after that I didn’t have a bat mitzvah – because a girl wasn’t allowed to chant or touch the Torah in my congregation. What was the point?

So it wasn’t until I got to Solel, when I joined the Reform movement, that I had my first Aliyah. I got to touch the Torah and see the whole thing rolled out each Simchat Torah. And then, the year my son, Maks was Bar Mitzvah, we were asked to chant the last verse and the first for Simchat Torah. I’d never chanted before but I was up for a challenge. And I’ve been honoured to chant when called upon ever since.

So, as Solel has brought me closer to Torah, I am so pleased that we are embarking on this Torah writing as part of our Sacred Spaces project for our 50th anniversary. Our goal is to have every congregant participate. I hope you have as much of a sentimental journey reflecting on the meaning of Torah in your life as I have been.

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