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American Jewish Life

Collected Item: “Torah Reading in the forest”


Torah Reading in the forest


Three years ago, Marc, a close friend of mine and back neighbor, was preparing for his son’s bar mitzvah. Marc had never read the torah and it meant a lot to him to share the torah reading with his son. It was a double parsha week, too much for a bar mitzvah boy so it made for a natural split. I have taught bar mitzvah reading before so I volunteered to teach Marc and that made our friendship even stronger. He is musically inclined and had experience reading Hebrew so it was a smashing success.

Three years later, the Pandemic struck and the shuls shut down on the anniversary of Marc’s son’s bar mitzvah. He was devastated because he had subsequently learned the second parsha and had been scheduled to read the torah in shul that week. Since shul was closed, we went to our respective backyards at noon on Shabbat and sat divided by the stream that runs in between our yards. He read the torah that week and neighbors who heard the singing came and joined to listen, each family standing a safe distance apart from the next. Everyone was so thirsty for community and for services that, like the Pied Pier of Torah reading, we ended with a nice crowd.

Every week since then, he and I have met by the stream and have read the weekly parsha and haftarah together. We finished Shmot, Vayikra, and Bamidbar and are starting Devarim this week.

The experience has brought so much to my pandemic life and is now the highlight of my week. We spend hours every Shabbat afternoon in the forest between our homes reading and talking about the parsha, and he has since learned and mastered reading the haftarah.


Yisrael Frenkel

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The Breman Jewish Museum

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