Being visually impaired posed a challenge for bar mitzvah boy Moshe Brosh when it came to finding a suitable parashah for him to read.
His family, who live in Oxford, were worried that he would not be able to access the small text typical in most Sifrei Torah and were not sure how it was going to be possible for him to read from one, until a rabbi, Raphy Garson, discovered an ingenious solution.
The situation, he said, seemed “so hopeless” until he reached out to a network of over 400 rabbis in a WhatsApp group and discovered nearly 20 years ago a family in Geneva had had the same problem and had commissioned a Sefer Torah with font big enough for their son to read.
At first Rabbi Garson suggested Moshe “used a magnifying glass, based on a ruling from the former chief rabbi of Israel.
“But I was told his eyesight was so bad that even with a magnifying glass the font in the Sefer Torah would still be too small.”
Rabbi Garson explained: “I posted this question in the group and several hours later I received a phone call from one of the rabbis in Geneva.
“He said, ‘You are not going to believe what I am about to tell you. We had a situation very similar to this, a boy in my community with terrible eyesight was about to celebrate his bar mitzvah and the family decided we are going to try and commission a special Sefer Torah.’”
Rabbi Garson said: “He told me ‘there is no Sefer Torah like this in the entire world’.”
The rabbi from Geneva obtained a halachic ruling from a rabbi in Israel that allowed the entire scroll to be written in one standard size font but when it came to the text of the boy’s Torah portion, it was super-sized.
Rabbi Garson said: “I asked him what Torah portion it was and he said Parashat Noach. I fell off my chair. Because Moshe was about to celebrate his bar mitzvah with the same portion.”
The specially-made Sifrei Torah, brought in from Switzerland
Last December the family set about to get the Sefer Torah transported to the UK.
His mum Abigail told the JC: “We were just incredibly lucky that Rabbi Garson asked the question and someone came back with that answer. We knew we had to make it possible.”
The Sefer Torah was flown to England by its owner. “It landed at Manchester airport at 3pm on Friday,” Abigail explained. "I called a Chabad rabbi in Oxford to see if he could help and a group called Haverim arranged for its transportation to London. Because of Shabbat it was kept safe somewhere overnight.”
Moshe was delighted to be able to read from it, his mum said. “It was important to Moshe that he be able to read from the Sefer Torah just like his sister did and we felt like everything was working for him to do that.”
“He is a really confident boy and he doesn’t always feel like God is there for him in the small things of life but He was there for him in making his bar mitzvah and that was really great.”