It is a huge honor to have a Torah dedicated in one's name, as my partner recently did for his father on the yartzeit, or anniversary, of his death.  The Torah is commissioned, and it takes about a year to complete. The Sefer, or scribe, writes it entirely by hand.  He saves the last 5 lines or so by outlining the shape of each letter, each to be filled in by the invited guests who then share the honor of giving the Torah by "writing" a letter.
A New Torah
Only very skilled people would attempt to actually write a letter. By holding the end of the quill, or even just touching it and then handing it back to the sefer, one is considered to have participated the same as if they had actually written the letter themselves.
One mistake and the entire project becomes unfit for use. Each letter is carefully checked when written by the sefer, and then checked again when read each Shabbos during the coming year by the congregation. The scroll must be kosher for use, and each letter must be perfect in shape, size, density and clarity.
I don't know if it was the hand that wrote the Torah or the glasses that check the work that caught my eye here.
The entire community participates. There must have been 2-300 people there, and each beamed with pride and excitement.
Ok, I edited out the distracting background.  Even so, all I remember seeing were these three very old-world gentlemen, very happy and very exceited about what they were doing.
I know Michael very well. Rarely do I see a look like this on his face.
Showing Zaidy which letter will be his to write.
Being just 13, Yossi was finally able to participate. I had never met him before, but he glowed from ear to ear all day long.
Phil was so nervous, and the sefer did an unbelievable job of reassuring him that he would do it right. The honor of the last letter in the Torah, the "L", or Lamed in the last word, Israel, is saved for him.  Everyone gathered around, eager to look at the writing of the last letter. A 35mm Skopar makes it look as if they are bending in from every corner of the room.
But back to our story. The look in the sefer's face speaks volumes to me. I LOVE the look in his face, blurry, and blurry-eyed, after a years work. It's out of focus, but it suggests the way I feel when I've read for hours. In this case,  600,000-plus letters, each written by hand. He's done, but only with this Torah.
The day was very moving, and it was an honor to participate. Getting the pictures back was a great thrill, and finding what I thought were great visual opportunities was even more exciting.
Each picture was taken with a Leica M6 and either a Summicron 90mm f/2 or a Voigtlander 35mm f/2,5 Skopar lens.
Film used was Kodak T400CN for the monochrome shots, and Kodak Supra for the color shots.
Lighting was natural, provided by the large picture window opposite the table, and my "rock steady" hand :)
Natural lighting resulted in shooting wide open most of the time, providing the narrow depth of field, especially evident in this picture.
I decided black and white (albeit C-41 process T400CN) would suit the moment, and I arrived early to park myself in front of the table
Kodak T400CN has a natural sepia tone to it. I Photoshop'ed many of the pictures to pure black and white. Some I felt worked better in the brown tones.
Several have suggested the missing pen tip weakens the moment. To me, the detail is the faces and the Torah, not the actual instance of the writing. Let me know your thoughts.
I like the Norman Rockwell-ish suggestion of this picture. Ok, so it would never be on the cover of Saturday Evening Post, I still like it.
I left the sefers face alone and sharpened the balance somewhat. While I of course wish this moment was tack sharp, I do find it suggestive of what I imagine the sefer must have been feeling just then.
Probably my favorite of the series. Very intense.
Please click on each picture. They look MUCH better as full screen images.
By this point in the afternoon, I had switched from black and white to color, in anticipation of the community's walking of the new Torah down to the shul
all photographs (C) 2003
all rights are reserved.