HE Pentagon, home of the U.S. military establishment since 1943, last month became the home of a Sefer Torah (Torah Scroll). "Never in the history of the Pentagon has this happened," said Pentagon Chaplain (Capt.) Andrew Cohen who came from nearby Bolling Air Force Base.
Rabbi Sholom D. Lipskar of The Shul of Bal Harbor, Fla., and founding chairman of the Aleph Institute which organized the event, led the dedication of the Torah in the Pentagon chapel. Aleph is a Lubavitch organization that serves Jews in the military all over the world.
The Torah was placed in an ornate Israeli-built Aron Kodesh (holy ark) whose steel cabinet is secured by a safe lock.
The ark with the holy scroll rests on the very spot where the terrorists crashed the plane on 9/11.
"Torah is perceived as a source of power and strength," Rabbi Lipskar said. "We bring the Torah to this chapel, a holy place in the Pentagon, itself a center of power."
Pentagon Chaplain (Col.) Ralph G. Benson said that in the Pentagon chapel "people of many faiths practice faith. The idea is that ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’ might become a reality."
Dozens of personnel from all branches of the military watched in fascination as the scribe, Rabbi Shmuel Wolfman of Jerusalem, touched up the final letters of the scroll.
"The Torah is the source of all monotheistic faiths," said Dov Zakheim, former under secretary of defense and currently vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton. "That’s where we all began."
Rabbi Jacob Goldstein, the New York chaplain of the Secret Service, also came to the celebration. He had returned the day before from hurricane-stricken New Orleans where he served for three weeks in a tent city at the airport.
Hank Sopher, a prominent New York real estate magnate and owner of Quik Park garages, sponsored the writing of the Pentagon Torah. It takes almost a year for a scribe to handwrite with a goose quill the 304,805 letters on the parchment scroll.
There is a total of three Sopher Sefer Torahs. In the past two years Hank Sopher sponsored two other Torahs, which Rabbi Wolfman also wrote. One was for The Shul of Bal Harbor, and the other for the Chasam Sopher Synagogue on Clinton Street on the Lower East Side.
"There is no better way for Jews to express their gratitude to America," Sopher said, "than to place a Torah in the Pentagon, which has preserved our freedom."