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Mordechai Pinchas Sofer
Completing the Birmingham torah

When a torah is finished it marks a great accomplishment and mitsvah and will be marked by communal festivities known as a siyyum hatorah (completion of the torah). Various customs have developed over the years and indeed new customs will spring up all the time.  The customs below are culled in part from the Sefer Chinnuch Sefer Torah as found in the book, the 613th commandment with a few modern interpolations.

Amidst song and dance the new sefer torah covered by a chupa (canopy - usually a tallit suspended by four poles) is brought to the synagogue. 
Various people could be selected to carry the new torah, the donor, the rabbi, the scribe, a kohen or levi (to symbolise the  process when King David bought the Ark into the Temple).  The person (or persons - one could organise a relay of sorts within reason) granted the honour should be called up:
Ya'amod [insert Hebrew name], mechubad bekavod hatorah (arise........who is honoured to give honour to the torah).
At the entrance to the synagogue a person holding one, three (symbolising kadosh kadosh kadosh (holy holy holy [is the Lord of Hosts) or kohanim, levi'im and yisraelim, or torah, avodah (service) and gemilut chassidim (good deeds)) or indeed all of the sifrey torah greet the new torah and excerpt it towards the ark.
If not all the sifrey torah are out the remainder are removed from the ark. 
The shema is chanted.
All the sifrey torah encircle the bimah (platform) and the new sefer torah is then opened and laid on a surface for completion.
Traditionally the 18 last letters are completed (symbolising the word chai - life)  18 people could therefore be called for the honour each completing a letter.  These people are usually either major donors towards the cost of the scroll and/or people that the congregation wish to honour because of special service.  However any number of letters may be written (more or less).
The scribe and other writers should wash their hands and recite the bracha (blessing)...al netilat yadayim.
There are various ways of completing the letters.  If the person feels confident and have practiced then they may be able to write the letter themselves.  More often the person will hold the arm of the scribe as he completes the letter on their behalf acting as their agent.  Some scribes will draw the outline of the letters and then people may fill in the outline or have the scribe fill it in whilst they hold his arm.  The very last letter may be completed by the rabbi or the major donor.
Before 'writing' each person must say:
Hareyni ani kotev (kotevet) leshem k’dushat sefer torah (behold I am writing for the sake of the holiness of the sefer torah).  There are no specific brachot for the writing or completion of a scroll as the mitsvah is similar to those of sukkah and shofar.  One does not say a blessing wen one has made a sukkah, but rather when one has dwelt in it.  One does not say a blessing having made a shofar out of a rams horn, rather only when blows it.  The mitsvah is bound up with the use of a torah (for which there are specific blessings) not merely its writing.
A nice touch is for each letter to be written with a newly cut quill and for those who received the honour to receive the quill along with a teudah (certificate) commemorating the occasion.
As each letter is written the scribe sounds it out (as is the case with all letters).  One very nice minhag (custom) I saw for the first time recently had  children parading round the synagogue with 18 giant letters as each letter was called out one child rose with their golden letter and walked round.
One of those responsible for the checking of the torah (it should have been read through by three rabbis) might then wish to declare publicly that the scroll is now fit for public use.
The last portion of the torah is then read (without a blessing).  An alternative would be to read a section containing Deut:31:19 which contains the commandment to write a scroll.  However one must wait until the ink is dry before rolling back to this place - an excuse for the singing of more songs.
On completion of the reading all should chant chazak chazak v’nitchazek (be strong be strong and we will be strengthened)
The donor or rabbi then recites the shehecheyanu blessing which thanks God for keeping us alive to see this event.
The prayer yedid nefesh is sung.
A special prayer then can be made for the donors or contributors to the mitsvah and their families.
The shofar is sounded
A sermon, d'var torah or programme takes place followed by a seudat mitsvah, a special meal marking the occasion.
Most importantly the celebrations should be joyous as if we were receiving torah from Mount Sinai.

Mordechai Pinchas

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