The Reading Table

The table on which the Torah is read is traditionally in the center of the synagogue so that the Torah is read among the people. Our reading table comes to us from a small shul in Winthrop, Massachusetts, the town where I grew up. Tifereth Abraham is where I first went to Hebrew school to learn the alef-beis, the letters of the Hebrew alphabet that form the words of Torah. Long ago I would see this reading table in the large foyer of the shul, where daily services took place.

In our search for the ritual objects needed for a synagogue, I remembered that table. One Shabbos in the time before we began Nehar Shalom, I went to daven at Tifereth Abraham, where I would always go when home in Winthrop. After the service, I sat down to eat with the congregation at the back of the shul, in the very place where I had learned the holy letters so long ago. I shared with those gathered at the table the vision of Nehar Shalom and of our need for a reading table.

There was a moment of silence and then my dear friend, Leon Schiff, who has lovingly cared for the old shul in her waning years, looked around at the others and asked if there was any reason not to donate the table to a new shul. All agreed that the table, no longer used, should be given to Nehar Shalom and be restored to its holy purpose. When I came to take the table to its new home, I said to Leon that some of the soul of Tifereth Abraham would continue in our shul.

He looked at me and said so poignantly, “That’s why we’re giving it to you.

Known affectionately as “the little shul,” Tifereth Abraham is down the street from Tifereth Israel, known as the “big shul.” We were blessed with the gift of our first Torah as a donation from Tifereth Israel. When the Torah is read in Nehar Shalom, the big shul and the little shul are joined in common purpose, the Torah from one read on the table from the other, and a legacy is renewed.

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