Readers of the Lost ScrollBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
Yoshiyahu was only eight years old when he became king. When he was 18, he decided that it was time again to have repairs made in the Temple. He told the Kohanim (priests) to collect money and give it to the workmen, as had been done in the time of King Yoash. Chilkiah, the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) told Shafan the Sofer (scribe) that he found a Torah scroll in the Temple. Shafan brought it to the king and read from it, which terrified Yoshiyahu, who tore his clothes. The king instructed his servants to ask a prophet about what they just read. He was concerned that G-d must be angry with the nation for not following what he had heard read from the Torah.
The king’s men went to Chulda the prophetess. (They had hoped that a woman prophet might give them a better reply than Jeremiah. Sadly, this was not to be the case.) Chulda said that G-d was going to bring evil upon Judah for being unfaithful to Him. Regarding what the king read, because he softened his heart and tore his clothes, G-d will listen to him, so that he would not witness the destruction in his lifetime. The messengers returned this information to the king.
The question must be asked: What’s so shocking about finding a Torah scroll in the Temple? Several explanations are given. One is that his wicked predecessors (Achaz, Menashe, Amon) destroyed Torahs. Private owners no doubt hid theirs, so Yoshiyahu may never have seen one. Another answer is that the Navi doesn’t say they found “A Torah,” it says they found “THE Torah.” What’s “THE Torah?” The original manuscript, as it were, that Moses wrote down and from which all later Torah scrolls were copied. (This would be as important and interesting a find as, say, King David’s tefillin or Aaron’s staff.) In any case, the Torah appears to have been rolled to the Tochacha, the Rebuke in parshas Ki Savo (Deuteronomy chapter 28), which was not taken as a good sign.