By Benzion Kaplan
Just over a year ago, after 10-year old Aaron Sholom Tepfer of Cedarhurst was suddenly niftar, his Yeshiva Darchei Torah classmate and friend Yitzy Berko came up with an idea: Why not commission the writing of a new sefer Torah l’zecher nishmaso? When completed, the Torah would be housed in the aron kodesh of the junior high school, where it would be used by the boys in their minyan for many years to come.
The then-sixth grader was undaunted by the size of the task or its cost. He made a quick calculation: If 1,000 families would donate an average of $54 each, he could reach his goal. Yitzy broached his idea with Rav Avrohom Bender, a rebbi and s’gan menahel, who relayed it to his father, Rav Yaakov Bender, the roshhayeshivah, who enthusiastically encouraged the young boy to launch a campaign.
With the help of his father, Mr. Ariel Berko, Rav Avrohom Bender, and hundreds of donors, Yitzy Berko’s dream came to fruition last Sunday, as hundreds of friends, relatives, and community members joined this special hachnasas sefer Torah.
The event began at the Tepfer home with the inscription of the final letters of the seferTorah. For three hours, a stream of people—most of whom had never met Aaron Sholom but were impacted by the stories of his remarkable life—arrived to take part in this mitzvah. A book filled with many of those stories and lessons for life was published in honor of the occasion.
The procession with the new sefer Torah then shifted to Heyson Road in Far Rockaway, outside the building that had housed Yeshiva Darchei Torah’s elementary school for the duration of the construction of its new complex and where Aaron Sholom learned Torah from his devoted rebbeim. Most of the westbound lanes of Seagirt Boulevard were closed by the police to vehicular traffic as hundreds of people danced and sang, slowly and joyously escorting the sefer Torah to its new home in Yeshiva Darchei Torah.
At the seudas mitzvah, the assembled were treated to words of chizuk and remembrance from Rav Yaakov Feitman, rav of Khal Bais Yehuda Tzvi in Cedarhurst; Rav Yaakov Bender, rosh hayeshiva; Mr. Tuli Tepfer, Aaron Sholom’s father; and Yitzy Berko. The eldest son of the Skverer Rebbe, Rav Aaron Mendel Twersky, also spoke briefly, having traveled from New Square with his brother Rav Yitzchok for the occasion. Rav Avrohom Bender, who invested his heart and soul into the campaign and the day’s events, served as emcee.
Following the seudah, the bachurim of Beis Medrash Heichal Dovid arrived in the Diamond Bais Medrash for additional leibidige dancing and singing with the seferTorah, capping a day that was an intense combination of remembrance and emotion and glorious kavod haTorah.