Yesterday, Rabbi Corey showed me something kind of cool that he discovered while cleaning his office a few weeks ago. It’s apparently part of the original rollers or staves (Atzei Chaim/עצי היים in Hebrew) from the České Budějovice Torah Scroll.
Peninsula Sinai Congregation was originally allocated two Torah Scrolls in 1970, one from the Czech town of Olomouc (MST #740) and one from the town of České Budějovice (MST #685) by the London-based Memorial Scrolls Trust. These two scrolls came from a collection from a collection of 1541 Scrolls purchased from the Czechoslovak State authorities in 1964. Many of those scrolls had plaques affixed to the staves when the collection arrived in London in 1964.
Scroll #740 was re-allocated to its ancestral hometown of Olomouc in 2017 by the Trust, and in partnership with Peninsula Sinai Congregation, was returned to Olomouc in October of that year, where it remains in use today.
Scroll #685 remains at Peninsula Sinai Congregation where it is also in regular use.
Over time, the two Czech scrolls had their עצי היים replaced. In fact, when Peninsula Sinai arranged to return one of their scrolls to Olomouc there was some doubt as to which scroll was which. Their provenance was eventually verified by Rabbi Moshe Druin from Sofer on Site. Rabbi Druin traveled to Cherry Hill, NJ where a second scroll from Olomouc was housed. Comparing the scribal art of that scroll with the scrolls at Peninsula Sinai, we were able to conclusively determine which scroll was which.
Note the Hebrew letters Mem and Bet carved into the stave? We are not exactly sure what they mean? Perhaps they are someone’s initials? Perhaps they were placed there by the original Scribe/Sofer, or after the fact by someone else? Perhaps they represent Hebrew Numerology for the number 42?