Let me paraphrase the email: 'We were doing some house cleaning today and it seems we have an extra Torah here. Oh, by the way, we are looking for its owners. Any ideas on who that might be?'
Now do you understand why I had to write this post? I think the inexplicably present Torah is comparable to coming home one day and noticing a cow in your backyard. At first you probably wonder if you always had the cow and then you wonder when it showed up and why you don't remember it. Finally, after you rack your brains and cannot remember acquiring a cow, you begin to question how the damn thing got there in the first place. In other words, on an absurdity scale of one to ten, this is about a twenty.
I can't possibly be the only one wondering ...
- Who the heck pays the extremely hefty price for a Torah and then inadvertently leaves it somewhere
- Or did the mysterious absent-minded Torah owners forget about it?
- Have they never sat around the Yom Kippur table and found themselves asking each other: 'Remember that Torah we commissioned? Do you remember where we left it? Did we leave it in the trunk of the car? I could have sworn I got it back from the Mandels after their Simcha Torah party. It's not downstairs with the Sukkah decorations is it?'
- Why haven't they noticed it missing? It's not like the average Torah is small or compact. It's not like they come in "pocket size". And most require the strength of a grown man to schlep around.
- Have they been on an opium-induced travel spree of biblical proportions? That would at least explain why they haven't sent out an All Points Bulletin for such a valuable item.
- Are they locked in an Turkish prison? That would explain a lot too -- I've seen "Midnight Express"
- And why is the synagogue just noticing now that there is an unaccounted for Torah among its belongings? Doesn't anyone monitor the shul's Torah situation? Heaven knows they get used regularly enough. Considering the number of times a year someone in the synagogue reaches for a Torah, you would think it wouldn't have to be inventory day to notice it.
- Was it stashed in the basement parking lot after a wild bar mitzvah party? There's a lot of junk just sitting down there -- I noticed it last week en route to the Youth Minyan Megillah Reading. I think I saw a grocery store shopping cart, so why not a Torah scroll? Maybe that's how the Torah scroll arrived in the first place ... via shopping cart. Hmmmmm.
- Did travelling Torah thieves leave it behind while making a run for the border? And if so, what border? There aren't a lot of easy travel options from Israel -- and probably none that would let you pass with a Torah.
It is no small thing to commission a Torah. First there is the monetary cost. I checked. They start at about 85,000 nis (US$25,000) and go up from there. Next, there is parchment selection as well as finding the best scribe to write it. Checking the scribe's credentials could take months. Then there is the proofreading -- can you imagine writing a whole Torah just to find an error in Bereshit? Each Torah is written by hand and takes at least eight months to complete -- and there is no room for anything but perfection. The review process alone takes months. It is a Torah after all.
And let's not get started on the cover and the ornamentation.
So how does such a situation arise?
After much thought I have decided to claim it if no one shows up in the next few days. At least I would keep an eye on it and be mindful of its great religious value. I would even take it out once a week and adjust the scrolls for the parshat shavua. And while I am incredibly forgetful these days I am pretty sure I would be able to remember something as important as where I last set it down. It would be right next to the cow in my backyard.