Almost 200 expected for March 27 gathering
By Ben Tinsley
DALLAS — The enthusiasm in Dr. Don Bernstein’s voice was evident Sunday night as he discussed “the Hineini Torah Project” he and his wife Charlotte launched with a financial donation to Congregation Ohev Shalom.
The master scribe is expected to complete this new Sefer Torah at a ceremony beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 27, at the home of Ivan and Melanie Sacks in the 6700 block of Hyacinth Lane.
After the inscription is complete, it will be delivered by parade procession — dancing and singing — to Congregation Ohev Shalom, 6821 McCallum Blvd.
“It finally just hit home this weekend as we were making all the plans — the Torah will be here in three days,” Dr. Bernstein said Sunday. “We will get it by Purim, Tuesday or Wednesday. It’s very exciting for us right now.”
Dr. Bernstein practiced medicine for 50 years and retired from his medical career this past year. He and his wife — longtime members of the synagogue — believed that providing the Torah was the right thing to do.
“My wife and I felt it was time to give back — it was good timing for us to do this kind of thing,” Dr. Bernstein said. “So we will dedicate the Torah and are very excited about it. It’s the blueprint God gave us for our lives.”
Rabbi Aryeh Rodin of Congregation Ohev Shalom said as many as 200 people are expected to attend the dedication. From the home where the dedication takes place, all in attendance will walk to the synagogue in a parade procession.
“It’s a very exciting thing,” the rabbi said. “The Torah is the most precious gift we have ever received and to dedicate one is a tremendous opportunity. The Bernsteins have been tremendous with their generosity.”
In literature distributed about the dedication, Rabbi Rodin explained the origins of the Torah project title.
“Our holy Torah records that when our Patriarchs, Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov, were challenged to rise to the occasion and perform majestic feats they answered with the Hebrew word ‘Hineini’ — ‘I am prepared to do what Hashem wants,’” Rabbi Rodin wrote.
The rabbi said this response of “Hineini” should reverberate from generation to generation and be the battle cry as people face personal opportunities to come closer and bring others closer to serving Hashem.
Rabbi Rodin said the new Torah — only the third to be dedicated in the synagogue’s history — would be flown in from New York.
Dr. Bernstein said this is an exciting time and his entire family is coming in from New York and beyond to attend the dedication.
The idea of the Torah arose during a discussion Dr. Bernstein had with his wife.
“We were talking about what we could do and suddenly she says, ‘How about getting a Torah? We need one.’” Dr. Bernstein said. “I was kind of shocked but very happy and pleased and excited. I turned to her and said, ‘Yes.’ ”
However, Dr. Bernstein wanted to emphasize the simplicity of his role in this matter — all things considered.
“It just takes a big check,” he said with a chuckle. (A Torah scroll can cost many thousands of dollars, plus hundreds more to ship it overnight.) “It is quite an endeavor and we were very fortunate to be able to do that.”
Rabbi Rodin agreed that attending this dedication would be a chance like few others.
“It’s the opportunity to participate in the Torah — the most precious gift the Jewish people have ever received,” the rabbi said.
Dr. Ian Neeland, president of the shul, said the last Torah was dedicated roughly 10 years ago.
“This is a very rare occurrence in a synagogue,” Dr. Neeland said. “… It’s a linchpin in building the shul and shows our growth and our commitment to expanding. … Also, it is an opportunity for the community to participate in both finishing and dedicating the Torah — and also dedicate it to honor loved ones.”
Marcy Rhoads, head of projects for the shul, said the last of the 613 mitzvos is the responsibility of each person to write their own Sefer Torah.
“Our sages explain that one who fulfills this mitzvah, it is as if they received the Torah at Mount Sinai,” Rhoads explained in an email. “Our sages also explain that if a person is unable to write their own Sefer Torah, they can fulfill this obligation by participating and contributing to a community Sefer Torah campaign.”
Rhoads said the Bernsteins, one of the founding members of Ohev Shalom, decided to fulfill this mitzvah by commissioning a Torah and allowing the congregation to participate.
Rhoads said the Bernsteins brought in a sofer, or Torah scribe, to write it, a process that typically takes a year.
“Then right before it is ready we set up a big celebration to finish it,” Rhoads said. “The scribe will come to Dallas and he will finish the Torah in front of all of us. … Then after we will carry the Torah from the home where it was finished and take it under a portable chuppah — like a wedding — all the way to the synagogue.”
And that will be quite a procession, Rhoads said.
“We hired a DJ who will be on a truck and we will dance with our new Torah all the way there,” she said. “The kids will have flags and candy and there will be refreshments also. It will be a very happy occasion and a very nice celebration for the entire community.”