As Rabbi Kevin Hale opened a scroll with the Torah printed on it, his eyes scanned all 304,805 Hebrew letters as he looked for imperfections.
“Periodically, every generation or two, there’s a little work that’s needed,” said Hale, a Jewish scribe from Northampton, Mass.
He said the scroll he examined April 29 at the Spirit of Fort Hood Chapel didn’t need much work in terms of rewriting letters and patching up torn parchment paper.
While scrolls are meant to last for hundreds of years, Hale estimated the Fort Hood scroll is only about 30 years old.
Fort Hood’s Jewish congregation meets 7 p.m. Fridays and other times during the year at the Garrison Chaplain’s office.
Capt. Karyn Berger, a Fort Hood chaplain/rabbi, said she uses the Torah scroll during major Jewish holidays.
Hale said the scroll, which lists the five books of Moses in its original Hebrew, is comprised of 50 to 60 pieces of parchment sewn together and made from the skin of Kosher animals.
“Every Jewish community has at least one Torah scroll,” Hale said. “Of the 304,805 letters, we need to know that they’re all there and accounted for and correct; otherwise the Torah wouldn’t be Kosher, which just means proper/fit for use.”
Berger said she commissioned Hale to inspect the scroll using a grant from the Army’s Chief of Chaplains Office.
“Kevin is here because I trust him and he is a man of incredible integrity and that’s incredibly important when it comes to these scrolls,” said Berger, adding it’s the first time the scroll has been inspected since it was made.
Hale said it’s important for Torahs to be examined anytime a congregation suspects it is getting worn out.
“Torahs are our most sacred object,” Hale said. “We, since time immemorial, have copied those books in the original Hebrew, by hand, following the most ancient methods and with great love.”