You are invited for a short and interesting visit to the ‘Silver Tree’ Torah scroll handles workshop in Kfar Chabad.
The request received at the IDF’s Torah Scroll Lab was unconventional: to fix a Torah scroll that arrived in mysterious ways from an Arab state and to renew its Torah scroll handles that had worn out. The Torah scroll was scheduled to be inaugurated in a secret base in a confidential location a month later.
“I didn’t get too many details about the mysterious Torah scroll,” Yonah Iluz recalls, who served as one of the lab’s employees, “but I worked on it, almost without a stop. I went over all the letters and then went on to prepare the Torah scroll handles, which gave a new look to the Torah scroll newly restored. We did a fast and professional job and, exactly at the end of the month, it was transferred to its destination.”
In Dad’s carpentry shop
Iluz (32), born in Jerusalem, produces Torah scroll handles. His love for the trade, he says, began at an early age: “My father had a small carpentry shop in the Mea She’arim neighborhood. In vacations, I would spend time in the workshop, playing with the wood, trying to build charity boxes, building and taking apart.” His parents bought him a carpentry kit, and the hobby has since become professional.
The experience he gained with woodwork led him, while serving in the IDF’s Torah Scrolls Lab, to produce Torah scroll handles, along with ‘Stam’ repairs, a profession he learned at yeshiva.
Torah scrolls from Arab states
At the Torah Scrolls Lab he was revealed to a fascinating world. “We would receive ancient Torah scrolls from Europe that survived the Holocaust. Some came from Arab countries. Combat bases were usually given priority. I have often thought about the merit of repairing Torah scrolls that are transferred to places where much protection is needed from above.”
For the past six years, he has been creating Torah scroll handles for Israel and the rest of the world. “The Torah scroll handles are meant to protect the scroll,” he explains. “The handles need to be strong, so they can support a scroll that weighs quite a bit. When you raise the Torah scroll, the handles need to support its weight.”
The world’s most expensive wood
About his work, he says: “It’s a job with the highest level of satisfaction. The feeling can’t be described, when you see a prestigious Torah scroll, with Torah scroll handles you have worked on yourself.” Iluz tells about requests from people who wish to inaugurate a Torah scroll in the memory of their parents OBM, or other loved ones, and feel that it’s very important for the Torah scroll handles to be beautiful and impressive. The external beauty will also determine how much the scroll will be used. “When the Gabay see a beautiful Torah scroll, he will use it more often,” he says with a smile.
He also receives unconventional requests. “There was a client who asked me to make the Torah scroll handles from the most expensive wood in the world. It took me a while to research this request, and finally I found a wood called ‘Ebony’. It exists in African countries and is usually used to build upscale musical instruments. It’s a very dark tree with bright combinations. There are countries where cutting down the tree is banned. After a great deal of effort, I managed to purchase this wood at a high price. I made the Torah scroll handles out of the wood to the customer’s satisfaction.”