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Safer Torah ownership

Rabbi David SperlingSivan 28, 5777
70
Question
My mother z”l donated Torah in memory of my father to our local Hebrew Day School. The school is closing and I (the daughter) want to take it and give it to my local shul. Is it mine to take and then give to the shul? Thank you-
Answer
Shalom, Thank you for your question. Firstly let me say how nice it is to see your concern that the Sefer Torah your family donated should be continually used by the community. May it be a continual blessing for the memory of your father. Next – if a dispute exists as to the ownership of the Torah, then we cannot offer any opinions without hearing both sides of the dispute. If this is the case, then we can only suggest turning to a Bet Din who can adjudicate the issue. Further – ideally, the best thing to happen would be for your family and Day School to together agree on what to do with the Torah. Avoiding dispute is always the best thing to do. Lastly – there exists an argument in Jewish law as to the status of a Torah donated to a synagogue. Does the ownership stay with the donor or the synagogue? This issue will also depend on the conditions and stipulations made at the time of the donation. But even if no conditions where made, the ownership is a matter of debate. (See http://businesshalacha.com/en/newsletter/taking-back-torah for a good english summary of the positions). See Shulchan Aruch Orech Haim 153,20. Because of this debate, and not knowing what conditions were made when the Torah was donated (and many other issues – such as who paid the insurance over the years? What say did the family have over the use of scroll? Etc etc), it is impossible to give you a clear answer. Hopefully you will be able to come to a agreeable arrangement with the school which will keep the scroll in use, and provide a blessing for all involved. Blessings.
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