How to Ship a Torah

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.

“So … is it okay if I touch it?” he asked.

I smiled and replied “Yes, people have been touching Torahs for thousands of years”

The Torah made it safely to Savannah

He went beyond his normal service duties and helped me carefully wrap and pack the Torah securely into the box. We decided to list the Torah under Fine Arts and insured the package using its declared value. I thanked him immensely for his help.

The Torah made its way to Savannah, arriving safely within the next two days to the delight of the community – and now, I can officially add “Torah Shipping” to my resume.  So if you by chance have found this post by Googling “shipping a Torah”, please send me an e-mail and I’d be happy to share what I’ve learned!

Questions about shipping golf clubs? You may be best to try someone else.

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