Women in Sheffield get up close to the Torah
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Thursday 15th March 2018

A crowd of women of all different ages crowded round the Torah, looking intently, leaning over in to the see the text.  You could be forgiven for thinking this is a Women's minyan...it's not!  It was a Sunday morning at Kingfield Synagogue in Sheffield.  The event was attended by over twenty women who all attended because they wanted to get close to "Your Torah".   

Similar to many of the women in our community, I had never seen a Torah scroll up close, the text, the parchment.  Something that I incorporate into my life every single day, I had no idea what it was actually like.  During the course of a conversation, I asked Rabbi Golomb if it would be possible to take a sefer Torah from the ark to take a closer look; he responded it would be a 'worthwhile endeavour'.  Enthused, I suggested it we open it to the (female members of the) community.  Gentlemen have many opportunities with the many aliyot afforded at the weekly minyanim, but for some of us, this could be a very exciting opportunity.  

On the morning, we all crowded into the Kingfield Reception Room, settled down to the customary coffee and cake, and eagerly anticipated the start of this session.  Rabbi Golomb provided us with some notes on how a sefer Torah is made, the order of the letters, how the vellum (parchment) comes from (usually) a cow, especially to be made into a Torah.  The group was enthralled, and many questions were asked, sparking tangential lines of discussion.  The most important question of the day - just how long is the Torah?  Sadly, it's not as long as a football pitch, but Rabbi Golomb calculated it would probably go round the perimeter of the shul!    

Once we had suitable watered and fed ourselves, and had been clued-up a little on the background, we all went into the shul to experience it, the Real Deal, the Torah itself.  Rabbi Golomb invited me to take a sefer out of the ark.  Wow, was I excited!  Grinning from ear to ear, and shaking a little with nervousness, I picked it up, and carried it to the bimah.  Passing it to anyone who wanted, the Torah made it's way round the group of women, some too in awe to have a hold.   

Laying it on the bimah, we removed the bells and decorations, the mantel (the cover) and then the gartel.  Opening it, the Rabbi explained that we were allowed to touch it, feel the texture of parchment, the ink.  As the session progressed, the women moved closer in; the magnetic pull of the Torah is too much to resist.  For some, like myself, it was the first time that they had been that close to a sefer Torah, had actually touched it.  It was exhilarating! 

I – proverbially – skipped home that day, and felt uplifted in the following days.  What an experience it was, and I am so grateful to Rabbi Golomb that he was able to facilitate it for us, as well as to Frada, our dear President, who helped in the arrangements and the refreshments - thank you!  In the coming days, and even into the following weeks, I received compliments on how good the session was, and if I would be arranging anything else.  Some of this even came from the men!  Well, I'm open to suggestions, and would love to do more, so watch this space...