Challenge: Over 1,000 congregants gathered for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services. All 1,000+ worshippers want to be able to touch or kiss the Torah during the Hakafah. We have only two aisles in the Fred Kavli theater in Thousand Oaks where we worship, and those aisles go up the sides of the theater. Too much of a balagan (craziness) when Torah scrolls are carried up the aisles because of the lack of space in those side aisles.
Idea: Have you ever seen a concert when the musician on the stage turns around, leans back, falls into the up-stretched arms of the crowd? It is called “crowd surfing“. Sometimes it looks like this.
Solution: What if the Torah went crowd surfing?
This year, after removing the Torah scrolls from the ark, we had congregant honorees carry two scrolls, one up each of the aisles. Then…
Introducing Torah Surfing (TM): Before the Torah service we explained the following:
Since we have so many congregants who want to honor Torah by touching it or kissing it, and since we only have two aisles down the sides, we want to introduce Torah surfing. After we remove Torah scrolls from the Ark and sing the appropriate prayers, we will send two scrolls up the side aisles, and two scrolls up the center of the crowd. If Torah comes to you, hold it like you would a baby. Use clean hands (and a pure heart); adults only hold it. Using all necessary means, do NOT drop the Torah (which results in a 40 day daytime fast for this whole community; or instead, expect to quadruple your High Holy Day pledge). Go slowly so that everyone has a chance to kiss Torah, using either their tzitzit, their machzor (prayerbook) or their CLEAN hand. Ushers will be at the back of the sanctuary space to receive the Torah scrolls and bring them back to the bimah.
The Result? Check out this video by Michael Kaplan (Torah Surfing (TM) may be seen midway through are pictures/video). Worshippers lovingly carried Torah, held it alot, and stretched out so others could get to touch/kiss the Torah. It was freilich (happy, joyous) and meshugenah (crazy). And it increased Ahavat Torah (the love of Torah).