Synopsis: Rabbi Kevin Hale joyfully practices the sacred craft of Torah restoration, bringing new life to scrolls saved in Czechoslovakia during the Shoah. As his scribal work takes him to communities now entrusted with the scrolls, he reflects on his own path to faith and practice – and the many ways to fulfill the final commandment in the Torah: to write the scroll itself.
Before this project I didn’t know much about the Torah – either the object itself or the traditions it represents. This is the first time I’ve made a film without a client or a deadline, so my camerawoman/editor Randi Cecchine and I had time to follow the story where it wanted to go. We became fascinated with the physical restoration process; with Rabbi Hale’s own spiritual journey; and with how these scrolls, saved from destruction, mean different things to different people. Rabbi Hale urged me to think about why this story drew me in, and I was moved when he called the work that Randi and I do a form of sacred craft. I’m pleased that Commandment 613 speaks to people of all faiths, perhaps helping them think about what they see as sacred in their own lives.
Miriam Lewin has made documentary shorts on topics ranging from housing discrimination in Georgia to the 50th anniversary of undergraduate coed singing at Yale. She also writes and produces radio programs on classical music. Miriam’s first career was in opera administration, and she manages the world’s oldest collection of opera supertitles.