BRONX—The gabbai, or sexton, of a synagogue in the Bronx admitted today in court that he provided steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs to shul members who were called to the Torah to perform hagbah--the lifting of the scroll.
The gabbai, Lanceman Armstrong, said that he had been supplying the drugs for the past five years.
“It began one Shabbos morning when I couldn’t find anyone willing to lift the Torah,” Armstrong confessed under oath. “It’s a big, heavy item that requires raising and unraveling to display at least three columns of text. Everyone I asked was afraid they would drop it, and dropping a Torah means the entire congregation must fast for forty days. I happened to have a few extra steroids from last week’s kiddush in my suit pocket, so I offered a pill to one guy if he would do hagbah. He told me, ‘Ordinarily I don’t believe in taking the Law into my own hands, but in this case I’ll make an exception.’ And that’s how it all started.”
Judge Bill E. Neder sentenced Armstrong to six months’ probation for doping synagogue members, but did not impose a sentence on any of those individuals who actually took the performance-enhancing drugs. He added that those who perform galilah, tying up the Torah after it has been lifted and lowered, perform a public service.
“Buckle up for safety,” the judge said. “It’s the Law.”
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