As many of you know, there are 613 commandments in the Torah.  Many incorrectly believe that there are only ten.  The Torah is filled with hundreds of rules that are meant to guide us through our lives.  This week, right before we welcome the new year, the Torah teaches us the 613th commandment.  “And now, write for yourselves this song, and teach it to the Children of Israel. Place it into their mouths, in order that this song will be for Me as a witness for the children of Israel.” (Deuteronomy 31:19).  From this verse, we are taught that the 613th commandment obligates each of us to write a Torah scroll.

Writing a Torah scroll is no simple task.  It is an artform, requiring years of training, incredible patience and skill and great wisdom.  Very few people have the knowledge needed to become a sofer – a Torah scribe.  So without this knowledge, how do we fulfill this 613th commandment?   Some would argue that you can do so by being part of a community that commissions a sofer to write a new Torah.  A few of you have done just this and actually met with the sofer and wrote a letter in the Torah with his guidance.  But, most of us have never had this  opportunity.

If you take time to look at a list of the 613 commandments, you will see that many of them obligate us or forbid us to do things that are no longer a part of our lives.  Because of this, many in the liberal Jewish world argue that the majority of the commandments no longer apply to our lives.  I have no problem saying this about many of the commandments, but not the 613th.

We all must write our own Torah scroll.

The fact is, we do it each and every day.  It does not require extensive training, a steady hand or a creative eye.   It does not require putting ink to parchment.  Every day, simply by waking up, we begin a new page in our personal Torah.  Every moment of the day, the experiences of a month, the adventures of a year form our own unique Torah.

Torah is not simply the adventures of Abraham and Moses and the Israelites.  “Torah” means teaching.  We learn from the stories of our ancestors.  At the same time, we learn from every day that we are blessed with.

As we pause to reflect upon our lives this Rosh HaShanah, please take time to reflect upon your own personal Torah that you have written in your heart and your mind.  It is there, available to you year round, but often overlooked except for the Days of Awe.  And it has much to teach you about yourself and the people who fill your life.  Our own personal story can teach us and give us insight.  It can also teach others.  It is invaluable.  It is, like the Torah scrolls that sit in the ark, holy.

This Rosh HaShanah, my wish for us all is that we take the time to “read” our own Torahs.  Allow your life to inspire you.  Some of the “pages” will be more difficult to read than others – but appreciate that every “page” is sacred.  As we move forward into the new year, I hope that each of us appreciates that blank parchment that lies in front of us – Torah yet to be written.  We have the power to fill this parchment with an incredible story. With Gd’s help and the strength of family, friends and our synagogue community we will!  And in doing so, we will continue to fulfill the 613th commandment by creating Torahs that inspire both ourselves the those we share our lives with.

My family and I wish each of you a Shanah Tovah, a happy New Year filled with love, joy and learning.


  1. Every Jew should write his/her own Torah.
    It only becomes an art form when the writer puts his/her own mark on the letters. The skill of a Torah scribe is appreciated.
    No one can or should replace the traditional Torah scribe.
    However,…. lol
    Writing your own Torah doesn’t require spending years perfecting the little crowns placed on Hebrew letters.
    It only requires some practice writing letters, then carefully copying each word one at at time. One should figure out how to say each word too while writing it. This isn’t hard to figure out because there are many references on the internet,…etc which show how to pronounce each letter/word. The only other issue what to write it on?
    A skin parchment? Paper?
    Start out with paper, write a few lines, then decide. The important thing is it start.

    In conclusion, I can see no reason not to start copying the Torah myself. I invite all those who read this to ask the following questions about writing your own:

    If not now, when?
    If not me, who?

    (Love that verse)

    • Thanks for your reply.

      While it might seem easy, writing a Torah is a true art form…Certainly any good calligrapher could sit down and copy letters – but that would not make a kosher (legitimate) Torah. It must be written on special animal parchment, written with the ritual writing instruments and ink and spaced just so. The kavannah (intention) that is placed into the words by the writer is also extremely important. All of that being said – your idea sounds like a great exercise!

      • A great exercise indeed. One could almost be persuaded to believe that was the original intent.

        “Everybody want to be a bodybuilder, but don’t nobody want to lift no heavy ass weight.” -Ronnie Coleman

  2. Thank you…..Ive been fighting my identity as a Christian since having had the miracle of redemption in 1980. Yah gave us Yeshua and Ruach Hachodesh (spelling) and I want my “testament” to be written for my family based on the “torah” presented by this renewed relation I have with Yah through Yeshua.
    More recently in my life say the past year or so I’ve kept away from the Christian system and grossly misinterpreted “Word” of Yah. It is His Word that created and that same Word that dwells in me by the same Spirit that hovered above the waters and is helping me to write that Testament in and by and through the Sprit of His Word that resides in my heart of flesh.

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