Modi'in has been in the news in recent days with regard to community attitudes towards religious observance. On October 1, it was reported that a religious high school student was threatened with expulsion for bringing his tefillin to school (Tefillin? Not in this school) and again on October 20, another story appeared describing the heartbreak of a religious ten year old immigrant boy whose soccer teammates refused to play with him because he wore a kippa (Religious boy ousted from soccer practice).
This all came back to me as I read the following today. Maybe there is a connection. Maybe there is a lesson here for all of us.
Rabbi’s ruling: Torah falls; community must fast
Sacred scroll falls out of 12-year-old Modiin boy's hand during Simchat Torah celebrations. All adult male synagogue members must repent, says city's chief rabbi
Hila Shay Vazan
The Torah scroll that fell from the hands of a 12-year-old child during the traditional "hakafot" (circuit) celebrations at the Zechor Avraham Synagogue in Modiin, yielded a religious ruling by the city’s chief Rabbi David Lau.
The decree stated that all the community’s men will have to fast in repentance next Thursday.
Hakafot occur on the eve of Simchat Torah and entail opening the synagogue's ark and carrying the Torah scrolls around the synagogue seven times in circuits – while singing and dancing.
The incident took place last Tuesday in the heat of the hakafot; when dozens of worshippers began dancing with the Torah scrolls and passing them from one person to the next.
During one of the rounds, a scroll was handed to the 12-year-old son of one of the community’s veteran families.
All of a sudden, he bumped into something, stumbled and dropped the Torah.
This kind of incident is rare and thus, community members were obliged to turn to the chief rabbi for a religious ruling.
Halacha (Jewish Law) determines that if a Torah scroll drops, the public must fast.
The stunned community members turned to Rabbi Lau with a request to provide a ruling on the issue and the latter determined that “the heavens have shown the community that it must asses its ways because they most certainly committed some sort of sin.”
Moreover, the rabbis stated that they must “improve their deeds”.
Fast from sunrise to sunset
Rabbi Lau determined that since this case concerns a child above the age of 10 who carried a Torah, this is not a case of negligence but rather a violation and thus the incident is, “a call for the community to gather together and enhance the sacredness of their synagogue and Torah scroll.”
As mentioned, the rabbi determined at the end of his ruling that all the dozens of men in the community must fast next Thursday.
Their fast must be from sunrise to sunset and they must say penitential prayers at the synagogue. They must also gather together to study Torah and avoid speaking during the prayers and Torah reading.
“I am saddened that this happened to such a serious and responsible family,” said Rabbi Lau.
“This is a difficult feeling that is tough convey. But while this is not the child’s fault, the Halacha is interpreted and compels the community to fast,” he said.