Giving is one of the greatest mitzvot Jews are required to perform- and if done in the general interest of the community- success and growth is likely the achievable outcome at the end. Before any significant result can be obtained, measurable progress from one level to another must be visibly ascertained to an extent. Most often, depending on whatever angle one tends to look at it- putting the community first is a powerful mentality that has helped put many Jewish congregations worldwide on the path of growth.
There are many sides to the aspect of giving, which makes it possible for everyone to be involved in the whole process. So ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you have nothing to give- there is definitely a way everyone can contribute to keep the Judaism circle active and performing.
So whether it means coming around to clean the synagogue, or any of the following range of input via service that can include:
- Donation of books and other Jewish-related materials
- Contribution for Shabbat meal and other festivals
- Supporting other emerging and growing synagogues
- Establishing a learning center
- Building a place of prayer for the community
- Giving out any form of Scholarships
- Participating actively in specific Jewish movement
The list goes on and on. So any of these are definitely different kinds of ways one can make an input in the general interest of the community. However, in this post, following the donation of a Sefer Torah- a synagogue can henceforth be able to call its members to the Aliyah on Shabbat and festivals.
Jews and Their Love For The Torah
Firstly, to understand this from a broader perception, let’s look at the following questions:
- What is this thing that represents the identity and heritage of the Jewish people?
- What is this thing that they have, which the other nations of the World do not have?
- What is this thing that unites all together, irrespective of the existing diverse communities of Jewish congregation?
The undisputed answer is the Torah that was handed to prophet Moshe (peace be upon him) on top of Mount Sinai, while the whole children of Israelite waited near the foot of the mountain. This historic event, celebrated today as the feast of Shavuot, witnessed the visitation of G-d to the earth in a smoke of thick cloud, amidst the rumbling of vibrating mountains. Almighty Father wanted to reveal Himself to the Hebrew people, and the product of this solemn gathering, which actually comprised of people from the past, present and the future, was the Torah (10 Commandment)
The Torah, till today and in the years ahead, will still have the following meanings with respect to how Jews understand the concept of life:
- Torah is the source of life
- Torah is the tree of life
- Torah is our way of life
Explaining this further- virtually everything done by a pious Jew, in terms of how to relate with both G-d and fellow humans is drawn from the Torah. No doubt, this is why the Torah is honored above every other thing by the Jews. Evidence of this can be seen from the following common Jewish customs:
- Building an ark where the Torah is always kept
- Kissing the Torah when the Torah is taken out of the ark and back into the ark
- Calling people to the Aliyah in honor of the Torah on Shabbat and during festivals
Without a people chosen by G-d there would be no Torah. And without the Torah, there would probably be no people known as Jews today.
A Sefer Torah Finds A New Home
When the news broke out in regards to a Sefer Torah moving from one Synagogue to another (permanently), it was viewed by many as a progressive step in the right direction. The Sefer Torah (a scroll containing the Pentateuch), which is usually hand-written appears to be the holiest book in Judaism. Coming in different sizes and prints- the Sefer Torah plays a very important role in the Jewish worship, and where it is not available; certain activities cannot be carried out.
On the 19th of June, all was set for the movement as a Sefer Torah finds another new home in Olam Yisrael Synagogue. Before noon, a handful of members of Beit Eri gathered in the Knesset to take part in the street procession. Everyone was in a good spirit filled with cheerfulness as the Sefer Torah was taken out of the ark to begin the journey to another location in Festac town. And so for the last time, they carried the Torah scroll, dancing in circles and moving around the synagogue in gladness as they bad farewell to the Sefer Torah.
Olam Yisrael Synagogue Gives the Sefer Torah A Rousing Welcome!!
After a couple of minutes on the road, we closed in on the entrance leading into the estate where the Knesset is located. During the Franklin-Miles tour to Jewish Nigeria, which ended at Lagos with a spectacular Shabbat in Adat Yisrael Synagogue, a seminar was held in this same Knesset. And just recently, it also hosted a 3-days event aimed at creating stronger bonds across Jewish Nigeria through the National Youth Shabbat movement. Yet, after today, another achievement would go into record for the Festac Synagogue.
Lined up in two different rows, members of Olam Yisrael Synagogue patiently waited form the arrival of the Sefer Torah.
Everyone including the Rosh (Doctor Nwosu) was standing outside the building when Eri ben Avraham (Rosh of Beit Eri) led a cheerful group of people through the gate. But before they got to the gate, they had extended the procession to a street in front and then turned around.
With smiling faces the Sefer Torah was welcomed to Olam Yisrael Synagogue. It was one of the happiest moment of the day as their voices echoed in the air around. Then all the members from the four synagogues present, which include:
- Beit Eri
- Olam Yisrael Synagogue,
- Adat Yisrael Synagogue and
- Igbo Jewish Community Synagogue, Ogidi
Started going round in circles and singing sweet Jewish melodies. They were singing about Y’rushalayim in excitement. They chorused the song together and suddenly broke into a great dance in front of the building.
One of the brothers, Yehudah Anigboka, was overwhelmed with uncontrollable happiness as he jumps repeatedly before handing over the Sefer Torah to another brother from Beit Eri. Then from him to Eri ben Avraham, who looked poised to hand over the Sefer Torah to Chanuk ben Avraham (rosh of Olam Yisrael Synagogue). Standing in front of doctor Nwosu, with the Sefer Torah held up- the final handover was about to happen. However, before receiving this great gift donated by Beit Eri, a Psalms for praise was recited in Ivrit.
“Raise a shout for Adonai, all the earth; worship Adonai in gladness; come into His presence with shouts of joy. Acknowledge that Adonai is Elohim; He made us and we are His, His people, the flock He tends. Enter His gate with praise, His courts with acclamation. Praise Him! Bless Him Name! For Elohim Is good, His steadfast love is eternal; His faithfulness is for all generations.” Psalms 100
Photo Gallery 1
Exciting scenes of Jubilation during the arrival of the Sefer Torah and after the Sefer Torah was handed over to Olam Yisrael Synagogue.
This historic moment is believed by many to have ushered in another level of Judaism in Nigeria. As other Synagogues around the country without any form of Sefer Torah remain hopeful of achieving a similar thing either through donation or outright purchase as the case may be.
24 Blasts Of The Shofar As The Sefer Torah Finally Enters Into The Synagogue
Once again, the dancing resumed but this time around led by Doctor Nwosu as he carried the Sefer Torah around the compound, before entering into the building. The little children were not left out in the whole fun as everyone was completely thrown into a festive mood. The little boys led the way followed by the rosh, while others trailed behind as they made their way through the men’s doorway entrance. It was no doubt a historic entry- one that has moved the Knesset from one level into another level of spirituality and growth.
The arrival of the Sefer Torah was greeted with 24 blasts of the shofar. Yitzhak ben Peniel (Chazzan, Igbo Jewish Community Synagogue) sounded the Shofar as the marching crowd enters the Shul. To welcome the scroll, a portion of the Torah was read from the kumash by Harim ben Chukwuemeka Obi (Chazzan, Beit Eri).
Before the Torah was finally placed into the ark, the little male children all gathered around the podium, with their hands placed on the sacred scroll. After which Harim carried the Sefer Torah towards the ark, and then handed it over to Doctor Nwosu who finally placed the scroll into the resting place.
The Way Forward- Proposed by Two Speakers During The Event
Although it wasn’t a day of too many talking; but the few words said by two of speakers proposed a practical way forward for the Jews in Lagos State. Just before the Sefer Torah was placed inside the ark, the audience listened to what the two leaders present had to briefly say.
Chanuk ben Avraham was the first to speak, and he began by expressing his joy and gratitude to HASHEM for the historic event. Filled with smiles as he spoke, he recounted the history of Judaism in Lagos State. As one of the founding fathers and a dedicated student of Torah, he also talked about the supremacy of Hashem in controlling and directing the affairs of all mankind.
One of his favorite quotes of the day was that “if you bend your own will to do what HASHEM commands, then He will also bend someone else’s will to your own favor.”
The second speaker was the principal donor of the Sefer Torah, which is not the first time he has performed this great zadakah to a Knesset without the sacred scroll. Only a few weeks ago, we all did gathered to witness the celebration of love as Eri wedded Tamar in one of the most colorful Jewish wedding of our time.
Here is a summary of some of the things he mentioned in his speech:
- He highlighted some of the issues and challenges currently being faced by Jews in the state.
- The importance of a strong unity and cooperation between all the Jewish congregations in the entire Lagos environment.
- The Torah is indeed the source of everything. He recounted his early encounter with Doctor Nwoso who repeatedly told him to study the Torah on several occasions he met him for advice and directions on certain matters.
- Also, he warned seriously about Jews embarking on lashon hara and rather encouraged peaceful resolution of whatever differences anybody has against his fellow brother or sister.
- Keeping Shabbat accordingly comes with a reward from the Almighty Father. This can be achieved by striving to remember and prepare oneself and the family ahead of every weekly Shabbat.
Finally, speaking specifically to the host synagogue- he advised every member to endeavor to contribute, at least to any extent they can (which is how a typical community is designed to function), instead of leaving the bulk of the load for only one person or group of persons.
A Feast In Honor Of The Guests By The Host Synagogue
Shortly before the end of the whole occasion, everyone (including guests and members of the host synagogue) were treated to a good meal in celebration of this historic day. According to the host- he described the entertainment planned for the guest as a preliminary one. He hinted that in the coming weeks ahead, there will be a bigger banquet to mark the event properly.
The Kiddush prayer was said in Ivrit by Harim, after which we all went out to wash our hands, and then return back to our tables. Next, it was time to bless the challah (bread), which was done by Harim and then the broken bread distributed in trays by Shimon (chazzan of Olam Yisrael Synagogue and president of the Lagos Youth Movement). The children stole the show during the brikat Hamazon as they sang on top of their sweet tiny voices which echoed all over the place.
Photo Gallery II
The Next Level: As Members Of The Knesset Can Now Perform Aliyah To The Torah
It is customary to call members of a Jewish congregation to the bimah for the reading of portions of the Torah weekly parashat during Shabbat and other festivals (also on Mondays and Thursdays, when there is a minyan around). But unfortunately for a good number of synagogues in Jewish Nigeria (without any form of Sefer Torah), this experience is automatically missing when they gather for worship. The Aliyah represents a spiritual process and elevation, as well as blessings portion receivable for the individual called up to the bimah.
This is the reason the Sefer Torah donation to Olam Yisrael Synagogue has eventually elevated the congregation to the Next spiritual level. And as mentioned by Chanuk ben Avraham, during his speech that “something is about to happen which will bring an unprecedented progress for the entire Jews in Nigeria.” This is achievable if everyone strives to buildup more spiritual momentum, showing support to the course of Judaism, and then ensuring that every congregation has a Sefer Torah in the near future to allow them be able to perform and practice accordingly as required by the principles of the Jewish religion.
Upcoming Stories On Jewish Nigeria:
- Celebration of the Feast of Shavuot in Lagos
- Ebonyi State Youth Shabbat
- National Youth Shabbat in Akwaibom State (Southern Nigeria)
- Kulanu Across the Globe
- National Youth Seminar