Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Transporting a Torah Scroll

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

One is not supposed to transport a Torah scroll from its regular location to be used in another location for a single (or other temporary) use.[1] Indeed, one should not even remove a Torah from the synagogue sanctuary to be used in another room in the building if it is not normally done. It goes without saying, therefore, that one should not transport a Torah from the synagogue to a private home or campsite for temporary use.

The halachic authorities are especially strict with the halacha which forbids one to unnecessarily move a Torah from its permanent location. In fact, a congregation, regardless of it's size, is required to travel to a place where there is a Torah scroll to read from, rather than to have the Torah brought to them.[2]

Click here to read moreIn the event that an additional minyan is taking place in the women's section or other area in the immediate vicinity of the synagogue sanctuary, a number of authorities permit taking a Torah scroll to be used there rather than have them wait for the current minyan in the sanctuary to conclude.[3] Other authorities extend this leniency to permit taking a Torah scroll to any room in the synagogue, as long as it remains under the same roof – even for a single use.[4]

It is customary to exercise leniency and allow the movement of Torah scrolls on Simchat Torah. This is done in order for simultaneous Torah readings to take place, so that everyone will have the chance to receive an Aliya.[5] In synagogues of "shtieblach" style, where many rooms in the synagogue conduct services simultaneously, the synagogue should makes sure to have an Aron Kodesh and Torah scroll for each room, so that there will be no need to constantly move a single Torah from place to place. However, a Torah scroll may be moved without hesitation in order to satisfy issues of proper storage and security.[6]

Although one will notice that today there are mobile Aron Kodeshes which are built on wheels, the prohibition of unnecessarily moving a Torah from room to room applies even when the Aron Kodesh accompanies it.[7] Among the authorities who generally oppose transporting a Torah, there are those who allow it to be done on condition that a minyan accompanies the Torah back and forth.[8] Similarly, a regular minyan, which for whatever reason does not have their usual Torah scroll, may have one brought to them for even a single use.[9]

It is interesting to note that the Talmud records a custom that on Yom Kippur anyone who had their own Torah scroll would bring it to the Beit Hamikdash for reading.[10] The intention was not only to read the Torah, but also to allow people to "show off" their personal Torah scrolls. Based on this precedent, it has been suggested that the prohibition on transporting Torah scrolls applies only to Torahs which belong to a specific synagogue or to the community as a whole. According to this approach, an individual's private scroll is not subject to this prohibition and may be transported as needed.[11] Indeed, a Jewish king was required to write for himself two Torah scrolls, one of which was to accompany him at all times wherever he went.[12]

Much of that which was discussed above does not apply if a Torah is taken and prepared in a new location, a day or more in advance of the intended usage.[13] So too, a Torah should not be hurriedly returned to it's original location immediately after having been used, but rather it should remain in the new location for some time.[14] When a Torah is brought to a new location, although there may not be a proper Aron Kodesh in which to store it, one is required to ensure that the Torah is handled and stored in an honorable manner.[15] Whenever a Torah is transported it is customary to cover it with a Tallit.

There is a widespread custom to ensure that when a Torah must be transported from one place to another it will be used at least three times in its new location.[16] This is because when a Torah is used in one location at least three times, it is considered as if the location is a permanent one from the perspective of halacha. This is often the case regarding a shiva house, when a Torah is brought to be used during the prayer services taking place there. Nevertheless, a Torah may be brought to a shiva house even if it is scheduled to be used less than three times.[17]

Many authorities allow transporting a Torah for even a single use when it is needed for great Rabbis and other important people.[18] A Torah should not be transported for a single use for those who are ill or in jail unless there is a full minyan which is in need of it.[19] In the case of the Torah mandated reading of Parshat Zachor, however, it is permitted to bring a Torah to a different location for even that single use.[20]


[1] Zohar Vayechi 225:, cited in Piskei Teshuvot 135:23
[2] Maaseh Rav 129
[3] Eretz Tzvi 1:38
[4] Piskei Teshuvot 135 note 139, Minhag Yisrael Torah 135:8
[5] Minhag Yisrael Torah 135:8
[6] Tzitz Eliezer 11:16, Piskei Teshuvot 135:28
[7] Igrot Moshe Y.D. 2:91
[8] Kaf Hachaim 135:74
[9] Piskei Teshuvot 135:27
[10] Yoma 70a
[11] Kaf Hachaim 135:80, Tzitz Eliezer 18:6
[12] Devarim 17:18;Rashi, Sanhedrin 21b
[13] Rema O.C. 135:14
[14] Mishna Berura 135:49
[15] Kaf Hachaim 135:83
[16] Aruch Hashulchan 135:32, Minhag Yisrael Torah 135:7, Rivevot Ephraim 3:95:1
[17] Piskei Teshuvot 135:27, Rivevot Ephraim 5:219
[18] Mishna Berura 135:51
[19] Piskei Teshuvot 135:26
[20] Mishna Berura 135:46

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