The Yemenite Jews were known as the lost tribe of Israel. Driven out of Palestine, they roamed the desert for more than two centuries. But in 1949, Operation Magic Carpet airlifted nearly 50,000 Jews from Yemen to the newly formed nation of Israel. The plight of that Jewish community was discussed in detail at a University Chapel service on March 16, because a Torah scroll that once belonged to them was being donated to Regent by Barbara and Ken Larson.
The Larsons are on a God-ordained mission to place Torahs in academic institutions throughout North America. Regent’s scroll, which contains the handwritten text of the first five books of the Bible, was the 20th donated by their family.
Several years ago, the Larsons were told by author, teacher and speaker Josh McDowell that very few seminary professors who teach Hebrew have ever read from a Torah. “At that moment,” Ken Larson explains, “we knew God was speaking to us and saying, ‘You can do something about this.’ So that’s what we’ve tried to do. Ultimately, we purchased a collection of Torahs, and we are in the process of fulfilling that vision.”
Dr. Scott Carroll, a friend of the Larsons and an ancient-history scholar who has worked with more than 10,000 scrolls, was in attendance to speak about the origin of this special gift: “This mid-18th century Torah scroll originated in Yemen, was lovingly carried out by people racing for deliverance, and has, in God’s remarkable providence, come into your hands.”
“Each is different. Each has its own DNA … and is unique. Each represents the community to which it belonged [and] reflects a spiritual heritage that is inestimable.”
Carroll noted that, even under the pressures of Islam, the Jewish community would never leave behind a Torah to fall into the hands of unbelievers. “You will be the next caretakers of it for this next stage in its life,” he said. “Each is different. Each has its own DNA … and is unique. Each represents the community to which it belonged [and] reflects a spiritual heritage that is inestimable.”
“Our goal with this Torah,” Barbara Larson explains, “is that it will not be put away; that it will be used; it will be loved; it will be cared for; it will be shared and that it will bless your community here at Regent, but also bless the community at large. So we’re grateful to give this gift to you, and it is our privilege.”
“How marvelous this is; how wonderful. It is indeed a holy moment,” expressed Dr. Corné Bekker, dean of Regent’s School of Divinity. Bekker promised to fulfill the Larsons’ wish that the Torah be loved and cared for.
“We are grateful for this gift,” he said. “We will use it. We will treasure it. We will love it. We’ve made a commitment to make the Word of God the foundation for everything we do. And this gift continues that very important commitment that we’ve made.”
Before commending the Larsons for choosing to give their lives to blessing people and institutions in such a special way, Regent Founder, Chancellor and CEO Dr. M.G. “Pat” Robertson spoke about the historic significance of the Torah: “This scroll was written in 1750, before the establishment of the United States of America, before the Constitution. We will treasure this. It is a magnificent gift. And we thank you for your dedication; we thank you for your commitment.”
Several leaders from the local Jewish community were on hand for the Torah gifting ceremony inside the Regent/CBN Chapel, including Rosalin Mandelberg, senior rabbi of the Ohef Sholom Temple in Norfolk, Virginia. “It is indeed a celebration every time a Torah is dedicated,” she explained. “This stunning piece of our spiritual heritage demonstrates the meticulous care and sacrificial commitment of one faith community’s preservation of the biblical text.”
“We will use it. We will treasure it. We will love it. We’ve made a commitment to make the Word of God the foundation for everything we do.”
While the gifted Torah is no longer suitable for use in Jewish rituals, Mandelberg hopes it will inspire the Regent community: “We pray that as you use it in your classes, research and ministry, that you truly know its powerful testament to God’s faithfulness and the enduring power of God’s Word. Just as it has done for the Jewish people for generations, may the Torah inspire you to acts of love and kindness, [so] that our world might continue to be a better place because of your works.”
Learn more about enrolling at Regent’s School of Divinity by calling 800.373.5504 or visit regent.edu/divinity.