In December, I said, I was going to buy a Chumash in January. I only had a Tanakh and I wanted my own Chumash at home for studying. My non-Jewish readers might be a little bit confused. A Chumash is a book. It has the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Chumash is a derivative of the word for 5.) It’sin Hebrew and the lingua franca, in my case that’s English. There’s also commentary on what is going on. Since the first 5 books are divided into into a certain way as to be read weekky, there’s a section from Prophets with the weekly reading. It’s in the Chumash right after the weekly reading. The Tanakh is a much larger book, it’s the entire Hebrew Bible. T is for Torah or the first 5 books. N is for nevi’im which is prophets. Kh is ketuvim which is writings such as psalms, lamentations, proverbs.
But in January I had to catch up on some bills due to holiday spending so I told myself that I’d get a Chumash in February. Well, right at the end of January my service dog Max got an infected abcess on his paw. An expensive trip to the vet took precedent over the Chumash. Last week at Torah Study, I saw our synagogue librarian going through some books that I knew didn’t belong to the library. The bibliophile in me had to inquire about the books. Apparently they were for sale! They had been donated to the synagogue and while some were being kept for the library, others were being sold as a fundraiser. I started to page through them and my heart sank. The flyleaf said “From The Library of Betty Braver”
Betty (Batya) Braver was a well-respected and very much liked member of our community. She lost her battle with cancer last year and donated her Judaism library to the synagogue. Betty wasn’t just a member of the synagogue. Betty was gifted with the skill of being able to read from the Torah scroll. For those who don’t know, the scroll has no vowels or punctuation. Not only do you read it, you chant it and the musical notations are not in the scroll. Betty not only had this skill but she taught classes so others could learn. I was able to take one of the classes from her. The whole community mourned her passing.
In the box of books, I saw a Chumash! I was so excited! I was going to get a Chumash at a great price and one that was used by a wonderful person. The English calls this version version with commentary by Reb Aryeh Kaplan “The Living Torah”. And Betty’s memory will forever live at Temple Beth El, through her books, through those chant trope like, via her children, and through all the lives she touched. The people we love never go away for they live in our hearts.