There are few jobs as meticulous as that of a sofer, the pious and certified Jew who spends a good year or more writing the Torah, the holy Jewish text. Sure, doctors aren't supposed to make mistakes, but if they do, their catastrophes aren't always interred forever--unlike the one-mistake-and-its-disqualified Torah scroll. You may find it hard to believe that in Idaho, an international melting pot of racial, ethnic and religious culture, there has never before been a Torah written--until recently. That could be because there are no local sofers. Or because there isn't a demand for the pronto mass-production of Torahs here. But as Boise's Jewish community grows and the state gradually sheds its stymied cultural reputation of spuds and white separatists, at least one someone has deemed a new Torah necessary. That someone is Rabbi Mendel Lifshitz of the Chabad Jewish Center, an orthodox congregation relatively new to the Treasure Valley.
In the most slender sense, the word "Torah" refers to the Five Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. And "Torah" can also be used for the entire Jewish bible, the scripture sometimes called the Old Testament. But overall, the Torah is the centerpiece of Jewish life and the most sacred article in the Jewish faith.
In case you missed the parade down Main Street or Gov. Kempthorne's speech to the crowd at the Capitol steps, the state of Idaho reach a milestone on September 25, when the sofer, called in from New York, completed the last two lines of the first Torah ever written in Idaho.
This is a landmark occasion of culture and history for the magnificent body of work that is written according to a specific tradition more than 3,000 years old. The sofer must labor with quill on parchment and he can't write even one letter by heart; he must have a second, kosher scroll opened at all times and must pronounce every word out loud before copying it. And if any mistakes occur, the Torah is disqualified and buried and the scribe must begin again.
To honor the momentous event, Chabad orchestrated a communitywide celebration and dozens of people piled into the Alexander House to watch the sofer finish his job. Some lucky spectators even assisted the sofer by handing him the quill in between letters, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most Idahoans. After the work was completed, people ran through the streets, dancing the Hora to a festive klezmer band, noshing on authentic New York bakery pastries delivered by the rapping rabbi who made the schlep. The festivities were a smash.