The sun shined bright upon Kew Gardens Hills on the morning of the second day of Shavuos, Monday, June 6, the perfect setting for a one-of-a-kind hachnasas sefer Torah dedication. As I opened my house door shortly after 8 a.m., I was greeted by friends and family of Chaim Shimon (Michael) and Tziporah Rachel (Shari) Vatch, joining in a festive Torah procession to Khal Degel Israel. A typical Torah procession often includes a lavish music truck and torches held by children. But the scene on my block was pure hartzig singing, apropos for a Yom Tov that embraces the essence of accepting Torah as our own.
With the new Torah clenched in their hands under a rolling chupah, the joyous entourage departed the Vatch residence on 68th Avenue and proceeded to 147th Street and then down 69th Avenue to Main Street. Men, women, and children stretched down the blocks, singing classic tunes often heard during hakafos on Simchas Torah. The group rejoiced with a special passion for the unique simchah this Shavuos. The crowd was met at the shul by more community members eager to partake in the mitzvah of welcoming a new Torah scroll. Soon, the other sifrei Torah from inside the beis ha’k’neses were brought out to welcome the new addition. Together, the gathering entered the beis midrash for continued song and dance; what a wonderful way to start the Yom Tov davening. Of course, pekalech were on hand for the kids. Rav David Z. Sheinfeld shlita, rav of the k’hilah, evoked a divine presence leading the recitation of LaM’natzei’ach that concluded the ceremony.
During the Friday night drashah, Rav Sheinfeld spoke of the awesomeness of having a hachnasas sefer Torah take place on Shavuos and mentioned an existing precedent. It is common for such dedications to take place ahead of Shavuos, and there have been notable instances of the event transpiring on Shavuos itself. In recent years, a Lakewood k’hilah inaugurated a Torah on the first night of Shavuos just after davening, moments after entering the chag. In 2011, the Sanz chasidic sect of Brooklyn held a Torah dedication on the first day of Shavuos. In 2016, the Bobov chasidus, based in London, held a similar Shavuos day dedication.
Back in Queens, when the new Torah was brought out for leining, the congregants again burst out in song as the holy parchment was going to be read from for the very first time with brachos. This moment was treasured by all. In lieu of a conventional seudah, participants enjoyed a gala milchig kiddush, including blintzes, yogurt parfait, and, of course, an array of cheesecake options.
The Torah was donated in memory of Mr. Vatch’s mother, Chana Sheindel bas R’ Yehoshua Meir a”h, as well as his grandparents R’ Yehoshua Meir ben R’ Shimon z”l, Tovah Tziporah bas R’ Chayim Tzvi a”h, Chanoch ben R’ Yosef HaLevi z”l, Chayah bas R’ Avraham a”h, and Mrs. Vatch’s grandparents Adil ben R’ Avraham z”l, Baila bas R’ Chayim HaLevi a”h, Meir ben R’ Leib z”l, and Feige Malkah bas R’ Shmuel a”h. Appreciation is extended to P.O. Gorman and his team at the NYPD’s Community Affairs unit out of the local 107th police precinct for ensuring safety.
By Shabsie Saphirstein