Roanoke Synagogue Gets Present For Hanukkah

Roanoke, VA - A Roanoke synagogue brings in a specialist to repair a century old torah in time for Hanukkah.

Wednesday at sundown marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights.

It is one of that religion's holiest times and for Beth Israel Synagogue in Roanoke and it comes as one of their holiest texts gets a much-needed makeover.

The torah is one of six the synagogue uses during their services which has been out of commission for the past year.

That's when Rabbi Fabian Werbin was reading from a torah; nearby a scribe following along, as one always does, to make sure what is being read is actually supposed to be written on the scroll.

"I was reading the text on a Saturday morning and I found out that one letter was wrong. Big piece of the letter was missing so therefore it became a different letter so it needed to be fixed," said Werbin.

The problems can be caused by a number of different things over the years.

"Humidity. Weather may cause it... weather, use. Also the age of the scroll makes it look and feel like you have to check it a be repaired," said Werbin.

Employing a routine that is literally rehearsed until the time of need, Rabbi Werbin assembled a team that would spend month after month pouring over the scroll, looking for issues that need to be fixed.

The issues make the religious power of the text useless.

"In this case a letter came off but according to Jewish law it's a mistake. This torah cannot be used," said Werbin.

After months of preparation, a traveling rabbi, educated in the fine art of torah restoration, made his way to town for a long day of repairs.

"We are happy. It's kind of like a new gift. You know, the synagogue we consider we have six torah scrolls but we can only use five of them. So now we have like a new torah scroll. It's like a gift for our congregation," said Werbin.

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