Sefer Hatorah Hapatuach- The Open Scroll

Sep 5, 2001

This is an ambitious Simchat Torah educational experience which we started in 5760 in Havurat Tel Aviv. We unroll the entire Sefer Torah and send the children of the congregation from station to station from Bereshit to vZot haBracha, reading selected passages and learning the structure of the Five Books. Planning before the event is crucial!
You will need:

  • A Sefer Torah
  • Quite a few tables (exact number is up to you to calculate)
  • A long roll of paper or disposable tablecloth and tape
  • Washing cup and bowl, towels
  • Yads for each child (torah pointers shaped like a hand – instructions follow)
  • Signs for each station
  • Pieces of velvet ribbon or other nice cloth for holding or moving the scroll without handling it
  • List of Stations keyed to appropriate column in the Torah (suggested list attached)
  • 3 or 4 Tikkunim

First calculate the length of your Torah. If your Torah’s columns match the standard Tikkun (Tikkun L’kor’im, Ktav Press, every column except the first begins with a vav) layout, you have it easy. Just measure the width of a column of text along with the white space on one side of it and multiply by 245. If it doesn’t match the standard, your calculation is more complicated, but you still shouldn’t have to unroll the whole scroll just to measure. Use the standard tikkun as a guide and figure out how many columns of your torah make 10 columns (pages) in the standard version. Then multiply this number by (24.5 times (width of a column plus white space)).
Our Torah is 36.5 meters (120 feet) long.
Now you have to figure out how many tables you need – Length of Torah/length of table = number of tables. Line them up in a long straight line, hopefully in a covered space, protected from weather. We are lucky. We have a long covered breezeway in the school where we meet. More on the breeze later.
Roll out a disposable tablecloth or roll of paper over the tables to protect the Torah. Tape it down if wind is a problem.
In the meantime, you should have prepared the stations and enlisted members of the congregation to man them. You will need about 32 participants, as follows:

  • One Fearless Leader
  • One or Two teachers for Station 1
  • 3 or 4 Rovers
  • One person for each station 2 – 28

Station 1. Kavod HaTorah This is a discussion and class led by one or two adults, after the Sefer is brought out of the Ark and while the kids are waiting for everything to get set up. It should cover the concept of Kavod HaTorah, and history, customs, and rules for the Torah. The children should learn not to touch the parchment directly. We also taught about the letters that get crowns (see station 18), and learned about the parchment and the writing. At the end of the class, the teachers should divide the kids up into groups of two or three and send them to the next station. The teachers can then function as rovers.
Station 2. Hand washing – Ceremonial, but kids with really dirty hands should be sent in to wash with soap.
Station 3. Give out the yads. Our improvisation here was to photocopy the actual silver yad from our Torah, cut it out and glue it to a stick. It came out pretty neat, but making fancier yads could also be a pre-holiday activity for kids.
Station 4. Say the bracha before reading the Torah.
Stations 5- 28.24 verses from the Torah. Each verse should have an adult next to it who knows how to read it, preferably with proper incantation. Place the people at regular intervals before carefully unrolling the Sefer Torah. They should each have a piece of cloth – a length of velvet ribbon is good – to hold the scroll or move it without touching it directly. This is especially important if you are outside like we were and wind is a problem. While setting up, you will need 3 or 4 experienced Torah readers to act as rovers and, equipped with tikkuns, teach the incantation to the verse readers at the stations. Everyone after Bereshit has plenty of time to learn their verse. The rovers will also help place people and find the proper locations.
All set? OK, Go! Space the groups about 2 minutes apart and start them at Bereshit. Make sure there are no traffic jams. At the end of the line, we gathered up all the kids for the traditional blessing under the tallit with the reading of V’zot haBracha. Don’t leave the sefer unrolled and unattended. You can start rolling carefully from Bereshit, once all the groups have passed.
Please write me and let me know how this went in your congregations, and what hints and suggestions you have for improving the experience. Happy Simchat Torah.
Charlie Yawitz
7 Alexander Yanai Street Apt. 1
Tel Aviv, Israel