On Monday, a scribe in Reno began writing Hebrew letters on a parchment scroll in a manner handed down from the time of Moses.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth,” the scribe wrote.

They were the first words of the first Sefer Torah to be inscribed in northern Nevada. A Sefer Torah is a hand-written scroll of the first five books of Moses, from Genesis to Deuteronomy, and takes as long as a year to complete.

“It’s painstaking work; it must be exact and every letter must be kosher,” said Rabbi Moshe Liberow, a sofer, or scribe, from Colorado Springs, Colo. “There are 304,805 letters in 245 columns and all must be perfect. There are about 5,000 laws on how to write a Torah.”

The scroll will be sent to Israel for completion and will be returned to Reno in about a year. It will be dedicated as the Torah for the local Chabad, a community of Orthodox Jews. The inscribing of the Torah came at a celebration of the third birthday of three children: Moshe, Chana and Rochel Cunin.

The triplets were born to Rabbi Mendel and Sarah Cunin, the leaders of the Chabad of Northern Nevada. At the celebration at Bartley Ranch Park’s events center, Moshe had his hair cut for the first time. The ritual signifies that when a boy turns 3 years old, he begins a new stage of development as a Jew, his father said.

Moshe then ceremonially licked drops of honey placed on Hebrew letters, an act that signified “learning how sweet are the words of the Torah,” his father said.

For their third birthday, Moshe’s sisters celebrated their first Sabbath candle-lighting on Friday. Cunin said he hopes his children will become educators and bring light to the world.

The guests exclaimed, “Mazeltov!” which means “Congratulations, happiness to all,” and community members came to the scribe to participate in the writing of the Torah.

Harvey Lerner, the triplets’ maternal grandfather, said the community rejoices at the beginning the project.

“It’s wonderful to participate in the writing of the Torah,” he said. “Ultimately, it is the community’s Torah.”

Liberow said the writing of the scroll is not just important to Jews, but to everyone.

“Torah means instruction,” he said. “It is a blessing, a showing of a blessing. It unites all humanity.”

He said another Chabad scribe will finish the document, writing with a turkey quill on more than 60 sheets of parchment made from cowhide. When complete, the finished scroll will be as long as half a football field.

The Torah then will be checked and double-checked to make sure every word, every letter, every stroke is perfect.

“But if there is a mistake found, it can be corrected,” Liberow said. “One tiny mistake won’t invalidate all of the work. It can be fixed. God is strict, but he is not cruel.”

Although the holy book is written for the local Chabad, it is not exclusive to orthodox Jews, Rabbi Cunin said.

“We consider every Jew in northern Nevada as part of our community,” he said. “Everyone is welcome, all of the time.”