(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
The moon and the lunar calendar feature prominently in the Torah and Judaism with the new lunar month celebrated every month and the dates of Jewish holidays being determined in accordance with the lunar cycle. But now, efforts are afoot to have the Torah feature prominently on the moon.
In a somewhat quixotic project, French-Israeli entrepreneur Haim Aouizerate wants to send a fully functional, albeit tiny, Torah scroll to the moon by unmanned spacecraft financed by crowd-funded payments for every letter in the scroll.
The plan is to have the Torah hitch a ride on one of the competitors in the Google Lunar XPRIZE, which has challenged private development teams to land a robot on the moon by December 31, 2016, or any other private initiative to land on the moon.
There are some 18 teams who have entered the XPRIZE competition, seeking the $20 million prize, five of which received interim “Milestone Prizes” totaling $5.25m. in January for having obtained certain objectives and achievements thus far.
The Torah on the Moon (TOTM) project seeks to create an extremely small but kosher Torah scroll that would be fit for use in Jewish services; create a specially made capsule to house and protect it; and have the capsule transported to the moon by one of the XPRIZE teams.
TOTM has sought the advice of the Zomet Institute, which deals with the interaction of Jewish law and technology, to ensure that sending a Torah scroll into space, and hopefully the moon where it most likely will never be read unless any extra-terrestrial life forms fluent in ancient Hebrew stop by, does not violate Jewish law.
According to the institute, the Torah scroll will indeed be kosher for use and sending it out of its earthly confines does not violate any of the precepts or commandments laid down in it.
Though TOTM states that it is a for-profit entity, organizers say the project will donate a portion of the proceeds, amounting to several hundred thousand dollars, to non-profit groups that promote and facilitate education in Israel and around the world, according to a spokesperson for the initiative.
The entire project could cost upwards of $6m., which is to be raised almost entirely from funds received by the sale of every single letter in the Torah – 304,805 in total. Each letter is being sold for $18.
If there is a failure to launch for any reason, 80 percent of the purchase price will be refunded. However, if the Torah is successfully launched but gets lost in space and does not reach the moon no refund will be granted.
TOTM said the idea behind sending a Torah to the moon is to ”celebrate the ancient book’s innumerable contributions to morality, justice, education, culture, arts and sciences, as well as to refocus society on the core values it contains.”
According to Aouizerate, along with the blessings of modernity have come “a loss of respect for the written word.” He says that the purpose of the mission is “to reconnect people of all faiths with their identities, values, and roots by allowing the Torah, the world’s oldest code of conduct and law, to take center stage in a way previously thought unimaginable: a one-way, crowd-funded trip to the Moon.”
Asked if the money could not be better spent here on Earth, a spokesman for TOTM argued that it was a declarative undertaking to proclaim the values and heritage of the Torah from on high and to bring the Torah and its message to humanity back into focus.