The Jewish Community of Grand Cayman is preparing to welcome two Torah scrolls to the island with a dedication ceremony on Sept. 9.
The Torah scroll is considered one of the Jewish people’s most sacred objects.
Rabbi Moshe Katz, co-director of the Chabad of the Cayman Islands, said he believes this is the first time such a ceremony will be held in Grand Cayman. “There will be a great celebration in the street with music celebrating the Torahs that are being brought to our synagogue,” Rabbi Katz said.
The Torah scrolls will arrive on the island unfinished, with a highly trained scribe writing in the last letters at the Diamonds International building on Harbour Drive in George Town at 5 p.m.
Following the completion of the scrolls, a procession with music and dancing will take place on the street between Cardinall Avenue and Fort Street at 6 p.m, followed by a gala dinner at Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort.
The Torah consists of the Five Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. A scribe writes out the roughly 600,000 handwritten letters in the books by hand. Since the slightest error makes the scroll unfit for use, it can take over a year to complete.
Rabbi Katz explained that the size of the scroll necessitates a second Torah. “Let’s say we read one portion out of one Torah and then we need to read a completely different portion, so we don’t want to have to scroll through the Torah and have everybody wait,” he said.
Not everyone who knows Hebrew can read from or understand the Torah, as the Torah is written without vowels.
“There’s also a tune that you’re supposed to chant the Torah with,” Rabbi Katz said. “Not everybody is familiar with the tune to chant it with.”
The lack of vowels and the importance of the rhythmic chant used to recite from the Torah stem from the belief that Moses learned both the written and oral Torah while he lived for 40 days on Mount Sinai. Oral tradition, therefore, is important to the ritualistic use of the scroll.
The Torah also exists in printed form, known as a Chumash.
“While the Rabbi reads the Torah portion on Shabbat from the Torah scroll, everyone in the synagogue follows along from inside the Chumash,” Rabbi Katz said.