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Jen Taylor Friedman
La vie soferet – proofreading with accomplices 
2nd-Aug-2010 11:30 pm

Well, that was fun. An afternoon at Hadar working with one of my accomplices apprentices on Elementary Proofreading.

No, I don’t really have apprentices. Just the occasional afternoon teaching here and there; the sort of thing that I would do more of if I had apprentices. Anyway, we were doing some sheets of a sefer that needed proofreading. It was the soferet’s first Torah work, I think, and the client, for doubtless good and valid reasons, had decided not to have a computer check.

The computer check, you remember, is the one that super-reliably checks that you’ve got all the letters in place – no missing vavs or extra yuds or homophones or accidental switches. Lacking that, apprentice and self have to do that job, which means checking each letter, several times, against the tikkun.

Me, I have my lovely scribomatic program to help me with that, but Apprentice hasn’t bought a copy of it (yet), so I was taking her through the old-fashioned method, reading each letter off the tikkun and checking it that way. First I read and she checked; then we swapped places and I checked while she read. We marked in pencil everything that seemed to need attention, and compared notes afterwards.

It’s very easy, when proofreading someone else’s work, to get into one of those superior “dear me, my daughter-in-law has dust on top of her bookshelves!” mindsets. Proofreading is an inherently critical process – it’s your job to look for mistakes – and accordingly I’m trying to get into the habit of, if I’m criticising, to turn it into a lesson – not “this is bad” but “here is how to improve this.” “This is pasul,” sometimes, but not “therefore you suck,” rather “here is how to make it kosher.” I didn’t have anyone to do that for me, so if I do it for other people, the world is a better place, right? So I was trying to model that for Apprentice, and I’ll also be sending an email version (with photographs) to the Soferet.

Apprentice is taking some sheets home with her to work on, and we’ll meet again and look them over in a few weeks’ time. The first thing she needs to do is do the Thing with the Tikkun; this is relatively easy. The more subtle details – is this kosher, is that kosher, what about this detail – she’ll have a go at, and we’ll meet again in a few weeks and see how she got on. If she was a full-time apprentice she’d do that with me checking in pretty often; as is, we’ll have to save all the checkups until we next meet.

Anyway, after several hours, I needed to leave the Apprentice and go buy shoes – my sandals are falling to bits on my feet, not good – but the Apprentice didn’t want to start driving to Boston in rush hour. So – we were at Yeshivat Hadar – I cast about the beit midrash, and propositioned a likely-looking person – one of those people whom you rather suspect would get a kick out of being asked to help – and left the pair of them sitting and doing the Thing with the Tikkun.

This pleased me rather. There’s me, with a fair bit of experience, leaving Apprentice, who has a little bit of experience, working with Yeshiva Girl, who has no experience fixing Torahs but can perfectly well read letters from a tikkun. And she’ll ask questions of Apprentice, who asks questions of me, and everyone moves up a step.

Except me because I didn’t find any sandals, but hey, can’t have everything.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.

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