Page 26 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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16
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
S A N C T IT Y OF T O R A H SCROLLS
Now let us return to the Pentagon and its question about
Sefer
Torahs
in Korea. I t is clear that a printed or a pho tographed
Sefer
Torah
is unusable fo r sacred ritual purpose. When p eop le are
called up to the T o rah on the Sabbath, this is a ritual use. T h e y are
reciting blessings, and Jewish law is very much concerned about
gratuitous blessings, blessings recited when not requ ired
(Bero’cho
Vvatolo).
T h e question from the Pentagon comes down, then, to
this: May the blessings be recited over a printed (o r pho to­
graphed ) Torah? In answer, let me cite Joseph Messas who is
Rabbi in Marakesh, Morocco. In his book o f responsa,
Mayim
Chayim,
he was asked almost exactly the same question which the
Pentagon asked me. It happened at a seashore resort that a
Chazan conducted services using a prin ted Bible. H e called
peop le up and had them recite the blessings over it. N ow Joseph
Messas was asked this question: Did this Chazan do the righ t
thing? Messas says: “ I have some manuscript responsa o f the
rabbis o f Marakesh o f two centuries ago. T h e question which was
asked them two centuries ago was about a caravan crossing the
Sahara. A group o f Jews had a large caravan crossing the Sahara.
T h e re were ten o f them, a
minyan,
a quorum fo r worship. Every
ounce o f weight had to be carried on camelback. T h e y knew that
they had no room fo r a regular
Sefer Torah.
T h e jou rn ey would
take them fou r weeks across the desert. T h e r e would be fou r
Sabbaths. T h e y asked: M ight they read and call peop le up to the
Torah , using a prin ted Bible, which was all they had room fo r on
camelback on this four-week trek?” Messas says that the rabbis in
this manuscript answered, “ You should read, lest the T o ra h read ­
ing be neglected or forgo tten among you, but you may not p ro ­
nounce the regu lar blessings.” So the answer to our question was
that O rthodox Chaplains may certainly use the reduced T o rah
and call peop le up, but they may not recite blessings in vain. For
the Conservative and Re fo rm , to whom the technical necessity o f
the blessing is not so important, they are fre e to use it w ithout
restriction. So now an op in ion o f Joseph Messas based upon the
manuscript o f the rabbis o f Marakesh is in the archives o f the
Pentagon! Th is is a somewhat picturesque example o f the m od ­
ern use o f the responsa literature. My collection is be ing used all
the time fo r a great variety o f questions.