This week, instead of telling you about someone who had dreams in the Torah, I am going to tell you about someone who had dreamed about a Sefer Torah!

In the video version of this message, I am standing in front our open ark right by our largest Sefer Torah. It towers over the other scrolls in our ark.

I would like to share with you the special history behind this scroll.

A number of years ago, when Russia was still under communist rule, there was a man who lived in the town of Chernowitz. He wanted to identify as a Jew, but at that time, the practice of the Jewish religion was forbidden. He applied to make Aliya to Israel. This took great self-sacrifice and he lost his job. Eventually, after much hardship, he managed to obtain permission to leave Russia and go to Israel.

When he arrived in Israel, he wanted to do something to vividly demonstrate his newfound freedom to be a Jew and to express his identity without fear of discrimination or persecution. At the same time, he wanted to give a message to his family showing what Judaism meant to him.

He decided that when he could, he would buy the largest Sefer Torah he could possibly find. And, please G-d, one day, it would be used at his grandson’s Bar Mitzvah. At that stage, his son wasn’t even married! That man was Boris Jaraj. In due course, he found his Sefer Torah and bought it. His son, Roman Jaraj grew up, married Orly Bitran, and eventually Dean, the grandson he had longed for, was born.

On 3rd February 2001, the Bar Mitzvah of Dean Jaraj took place at St. John’s Wood shul. I remember the excitement in the community when the Sefer Torah arrived.

For Boris, the reading from the Sefer Torah that Shabbat was the fulfilment of a promise and a dream. Since then, that giant Sefer Torah has been kept in our ark, taken out on only on special occasions – not least, because it is very difficult to lift! The one occasion in the year when we regularly take it out is on Yom Kippur at Mincha. Although it is a challenge to lift such a large Sefer, especially if you are fasting, nevertheless, the significance of this Sefer Torah is such that there are always people who are ready to rise to this challenge.

This Shabbat we will be using the Sefer Torah again. It is the Bar Mitzvah of Joshua Bitran, Boris Jaraj’s daughter-in-law’s nephew. I have no doubt that the honour of reading from such a Sefer Torah will be an inspiration to Joshua on his special day. Mazal Tov to Joshua and his family and Shabbat Shalom to you all.