October 31st, 2010
01:09 AM ET
From CNN's Dan Gilgoff:
A Torah that was stolen from an Arizona synagogue on Monday has been returned after a Craigslist ad offered a $500 reward for the scrolls, the synagogue's rabbi said Saturday.
"The hardest thing to figure out is what this person was expecting to do with it," said Rabbi Reuven Mann, who leads the synagogue in Phoenix. "There is a market for people that buy and sell Torahs, but it has do be done legitimately."
A member of Mann's congregation, Young Israel of Phoenix, posted the Craigslist ad Tuesday, a day after the Torah - which the rabbi says is valued around $35,000 - was discovered missing in an apparent theft.
"I thought that the person who took it didn't know what they were doing," said Sam Saks, who placed the ad, noting that a prayer shawl and tefillin - boxes containing scripture that some Jewish men wear during prayer - were also missing.
"The Torah itself was a big enough heist," Saks said. "If you've already stolen a Lexus, why would you take an ashtray?"
"Reward - Torah scroll, Hebrew - $500" his ad said, "...no questions asked."
The ad included pictures of Torahs - which contain the first five books of the Bible inscribed by hand - in case someone had found the congregation's scroll but didn't know what it was.
Saks said he received an e-mail response later Tuesday, from a woman who claimed to have found the Torah in a Phoenix trash can.
When the woman did not immediately agree to return the Torah, Saks e-mailed her a message from Mann and the congregation's president explaining its significance and asking to get it back in time for Friday night services.
"The trick was to let the person know we were not interested in legal action and that we just wanted to the Torah back," said Saks, who is an attorney.
Saks asked her to meet him at the synagogue on Friday afternoon. She showed up Friday morning instead, dropping off a garbage bag containing the Torah, in the same condition as before, the prayer shawl and the tefillin.
The congregation's president, Farley Weiss, said that he has asked Phoenix police not to press charges. "The explanation that this woman gave us is that she had nothing to do with the crime," Weiss told CNN.
The Phoenix Police Department did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday night.
Saks declined to share the woman's e-mail address, saying he promised to maintain her anonymity.
She has not yet claimed the reward.
"We may not share the same religion," Saks said the woman, who described herself as a Christian, wrote to him in an e-mail Saturday night. "I believe there is a higher power and believe that there is a right and wrong."
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