How to Ship a Torah

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A new congregation in Savannah, Georgia was looking forward to celebrating the high holidays together for the first time, but they needed something pretty important: a Torah.

They contacted our museum to arrange a loan. I had shipped items from our collection before, but I was curious if any special precautions needed to be taken with a sacred artifact like a Torah. Was there any specific ritual? Did it need to receive the Traveler’s Prayer before shipping?

Like most people of my generation, when a question like this arises, I first turn to Google. I typed “shipping a Torah” in the search bar. Nothing.  I then consulted with my co-worker, who also happens to be a rabbi, and together we determined with the proper packing the Torah would be safe in the hands of shipping professionals, gentle handling required, but no prayers necessary. So I took the Torah measurements and called FedEx, to find a proper box and get this special delivery underway.

“How about a golf bag box?” The service representative asked. I admitted to him I wasn’t exactly sure how tall or wide a golf bag was but after he gave me the dimensions it seemed to be the best solution to this unusual problem.

I strapped on my Jewish educator cap and walked into the local FedEx with a 41” long Torah in my arms. I carefully squeezed through the doorway and immediately got the attention of the staff and customers in the room.

“How can I help you?” a tall man with a slight Southern accent asked.

I told him I needed a golf bag box, packing materials and a lot of shipping insurance.

“What is it exactly you are trying to ship?”

This could have gone two ways. The first would have been simple enough – I could have just said, it’s a museum artifact.  But remember, I had my educator cap on, so I began to explain what a Torah: that it was a scroll containing the five books of Moses, carefully handwritten by a scribe on sheets of parchment sewn together. I told him it was a sacred object that is read from each week in Jewish congregations and contains the story and laws of the Jewish people.

Posted on October 3, 2012
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