Tags: feminism

esther

Remind me not to do interviews, someone

I’m not going to link to the latest one, it’s just embarrassing. But.

I am the only soferet in Canada at the moment, yes, as far as I know. But only because the other Canadian sofrot are expatriate or dead. I am not proud of being the only soferet in Canada, okay? And I told him that and asked him very explicitly to mention the other Canadian sofrot. Zip.

Also, re understanding the text, yes I do understand it, as well as most Jews do. I should have said something gnomic like “No-one can fully understand the holy Torah,” but I was trying to explain that while most of the language is fairly straightforward, there are some words whose meaning is notoriously obscure and I wouldn’t claim to understand those.

And the bit about Torah-writing not being a religiously intense experience, what I said was that you can’t sustain a spiritual high for an entire year. There’s a difference. It’s not like Torah-writing is on the same level as stuffing envelopes.

Finally, baby-faced? Thumb-sucking? Thanks. I’m chubby and sometimes I bite my thumb if I’m thinking hard, yes, but apparently I’m coming over as infantile. Good to know.

I quit doing TV interviews a while back. I think I’m going to quit doing print interviews as well now.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.


This entry also appears at http://hatam-soferet.dreamwidth.org/793512.html. comment count unavailable people have commented there, and you're welcome to join them. I've disabled LJ comments for the time being because of excessive spam.
esther

NY Times article

My protege Linda features in the NY Times:

First, the synagogue sought out a female scribe, still a rarity in the Jewish world, in which the traditional understanding of Jewish law is that only devout Jewish men are allowed to be Torah scribes. Then, they decided to try to turn the idea of dedicating a word or phrase in the Torah from symbolic to concrete.

One thing I like very much is that it’s an article about Torah-writing–specifically, how such projects are funded–and it’s not an article about laydeez per se. Obviously I’m chuffed that Linda is in the Times, but I do like that the focus of the article isn’t about her femaleness; it’s about her scribiness. Thus we move onward.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.


This entry also appears at http://hatam-soferet.dreamwidth.org/734123.html. comment count unavailable people have commented there, and you're welcome to join them. I've disabled LJ comments for the time being because of excessive spam.
esther

Mazel tov Hanna

Dear everyone,

Thanks for all the emails. No-one else needs to send me the article about Hanna, okay? Yes I know her, yes I’ve seen the article(s), we’re good.

Hanna recently started her first complete sefer Torah; she works in Israel, which makes her braver than me, given how hard it is in Israel for women to do even comparatively ordinary things like riding the bus. Another female Torah scribe of my acquaintance in Israel keeps her head down because she’s afraid that if articles appear about her, she’ll become the target of misogynist hate crimes. So Hanna is being rather courageous, making her project all public. Good for her.

I’ve not met Hanna in person; my student Linda has, when they were working together on the Women’s Torah Project. We’ve corresponded, naturally. It’s great having colleagues.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.


This entry also appears at http://hatam-soferet.dreamwidth.org/699289.html. comment count unavailable people have commented there, and you're welcome to join them. I've disabled LJ comments for the time being because of excessive spam.
esther

Computer Engineer Tefillin Barbie

ceb1The original Tefillin Barbie was a 2006 model with a long denim skirt.* She’s getting increasingly difficult to find, but people are still buying Tefillin Barbies. So I’ve bought a dozen Computer Engineer Barbies to play with instead.

Computer Engineer Barbie wears leggings, which is a bit of a change from the frummie skirt. Still, I do know legging-wearing women who lay tefillin, even if it’s not my thing personally. So it’s ho and away for Definitely-Not-A-Rabbi Tefillin Barbie. She also wears a phone headset, which I’ve removed, because who wears a phone headset while they’re davening, for heaven’s sake? Finally, she has Bright Pink Glasses; please note the Very Correct Placement of the tefillin strap, behind her glasses.

ceb2She comes with a laptop and a smartphone; I’ve adjusted the laptop so that it shows a daf gemara from Hebrewbooks.org, and the smartphone so that it has shacharit.

This Barbie comes with a chunky pink wristwatch, but I’ve tossed that, because the time shown on the watch is 10.59, and this Barbie would totally be at work by 10.59. Unless it was Rosh Chodesh and a public holiday, maybe, and her minyan had had the longest Hallel ever, but as your basic everyday thing, Computer Engineer Tefillin Barbie’s going to be done davening by 8, maybe 8.30, and off to the office. She probably arrives ten minutes early so that she can eat the granola she keeps stashed in her desk drawer. Except on Tuesdays, when the old guys at shul have breakfast with herring and bagels; she stays for that because the old guys are pretty awesome and she likes herring.

*For those new to the saga, all Barbies are Mattel dolls, fitted out by me with tallit and tefillin. Media links here at wikipedia. They’re available for purchase at my Etsy store.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.


This entry also appears at http://hatam-soferet.dreamwidth.org/682656.html. comment count unavailable people have commented there, and you're welcome to join them. I've disabled LJ comments for the time being because of excessive spam.
esther

student love

I love RG.

RG has been coming to Apprentice with a Sofer on Tuesday nights.

She doesn’t count herself as valid to work on a sefer Torah (because she holds that men and women have different halakhic capabilities) so every time we do a new thing, she asks me “Can I do this? Can I do that?”

I love this. It’s so un-awkward. It makes it so easy to emphasise “Some people can’t do everything. It’s okay to be one of those people. There’s plenty you can do anyway. And no-one’s judging you.”

Cheers, RG!

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.


This entry also appears at http://hatam-soferet.dreamwidth.org/671061.html. people have commented there, and you're welcome to join them. I've disabled LJ comments for the time being because of excessive spam.
esther

your student doesn’t finish her first sefer Torah every day

My beloved student Julie has been writing a Torah in San Francisco at the Contemporary Jewish Museum for the past year, and once she’d finished writing (yay) it came time to sew it together and have a bit of an Event.

So I went out there to help with the sewing and to be part of the Event, because your student doesn’t finish her first sefer Torah every day. I mean wow, seriously.

And I learned…that sewing a Torah together is a lot more fun when there’s two of you doing it. (Here’s a description of sewing a Torah.) It’s pretty fun anyway, but it’s even better when shared.

First we took awls and punched holes down the edges.

Then we took burnishers and folded over one edge.

Then we sorted all the sheets into order.

Then we each took part of the pile

laid two sheets right sides together (this is Sewing 101)

checked that they were the CORRECT two sheets (this is Sewing 101 section 1.1.1)

cut lengths of gid

threaded needles

tied knots

and SEWED

and SEWED

and SEWED

knotted off the threads

cut them

smoothed the seams

and rolled the new sheet up

and continued

and the rolls grew and grew and grew!

until there was a whole Torah

just sitting there

where before there had been a pile of sheets of parchment.

Pretty magical eh?

The museum isn’t a shul. It doesn’t have Torah readings. But don’t you think it’s awfully sad to write a whole Torah and then not have it read from? Julie did, and so did the museum. So they arranged for the Torah to visit Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, and on Shabbat we read from it.

Now, the funny thing is, that you write a Torah, and everyone involved is all, whoop-de-hey! amazingcakes! spiffettydoo!, but once you’re reading from it, it’s just like any other Torah. Kind of like pouring water into a lake. The water you’re pouring may be terribly special to you, but once you pour it into the lake, it’s part of the lake, and it doesn’t matter that once it was your special water. It becomes essentially anonymous, just part of the greater body.

No-one would know, to look at it, unless you told them that it was your special Torah. It acquires a life of its own, independent of you (it’s not a mixed metaphor if you start a new paragraph, right?). It’s rather beautiful, in a funny sort of way.

Julie looking slightly surprised, rather relieved, and altogether joyful to have written a Torah.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.


This entry also appears at http://hatam-soferet.dreamwidth.org/649885.html. comment count unavailable people have commented there, and you're welcome to join them. I've disabled LJ comments for the time being because of excessive spam.
esther

cheers for readers!

Wow, you people are the best. Following a post containing some uncertainty about the availability of wool tank tops and cotton tzitzit (the one for the stringent, the other for the allergic-to-wool), Rebecca links us to a wool tank top, which even has wider shoulder pieces rather than spaghetti straps, to please both the large-chested AND the Mishnah Berurah – and the marvellous Yellow Hobbit, Jew With Spinning Wheel, is buying cotton in order to spin cotton tzitzit. Sign up here for your cotton tzitzit!

Talk about efficient. You people are IT. This should be a good omen for the year ahead. Shabbat shalom and happy new year, all.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.

esther

Making Your Own Girl-Shaped Tallit Katan

Girl-shaped tallit katan

Girl-shaped tallit katan

I couldn’t get to Limmud this year because of the snow closing all the airports. This is one of the sessions I would have given.
Wearing tzitzit under your clothes isn’t just something men do, but commercially-available tallitot katanot are definitely man-shaped. Bring a strappy top and come learn how to make a tallit katan that fits your body. Sewing skills not necessary.

Basically we’re going to go through the steps detailed in Danya’s classic post: take a strappy top, turn it into a four-cornered garment by removing stitches, make holes in it, and attach tzitzit.

(Translation for speakers of American English: strappy top is what you call a tank top.)

We’re assuming that you want to wear tzitzit, and that you’ve got over your “but that’s a MAN’s thing!!!” wibbles. People are welcome to discuss their wibbles, but that’s not the focus of the session, so I’m not providing sources on that here. Email me if you want sources.

Strappy top: fits under girl clothes, and is not a man’s garment.

Now, the Mishnah Berurah (16:1) says that the shoulder parts should be wide, and davka shouldn’t be straps: ויעשה הכתפים של הטלית-קטן רחבים כדי שיהיו נכרים ויהיה עליהם תורת בגד ולא שם רצועות. He seems to be saying that anything with shoulder-straps is not a garment and therefore doesn’t qualify for tzitzit. I rather think that, certainly in women’s clothing, the statements is a garment and has shoulder straps are not mutually exclusive, and therefore it’s probably okay to make a girl tallit katan out of a strappy top.

So, strappy top.

  • I don’t believe you can buy wool/linen blend strappy tops, but just in case: don’t buy a wool/linen blend.
  • Some say you shouldn’t put tzitzit on cotton or certain types of synthetics; if you’re of that camp, buy a mostly-wool top (Good luck with that. You might have to make one). If you’re not of that camp, go right ahead with your cotton or synthetic top. If you’re not sure, ask your rabbi or your google or read this and make a decision that’s consonant with your other values.
  • Some say there’s a minimum size for a tallit katan. Others don’t. Women’s clothes are generally smaller than men’s clothes; compare childrens’ sizes of tallit katan, which apparently hold that it’s all relative to the body size. You might care to find out which way your community holds on the minimum size for a woman’s tallit katan.

cece's tzitzis
Turning into four-cornered garment: slitting the seams 51% up the side.

  • The straps don’t count as part of the 51% reckoning.
  • Either rip the stitches or just CHOP THEM ALL OFF, WAHEY.
  • Optional sewing part: hemming the edges and putting in a few stitches to stop the seam tearing any further.

Reinforcing the corners:

  • With sewing, like a buttonhole, to stop the holes ripping open.
  • If the holes rip open, it’s still ok to wear, but it’s shvach.
  • I find that the armpit part goes yucky long before the corners start ripping, so I tend to skip this step. Then again, if I wore the tzitzis hanging out more often, they’d catch on things, in which case reinforced corners would be a good idea.
  • You can also reinforce the corners with awesome things like a certain JTS rabbi does.

Cutting holes:

  • They’re supposed to be two etzbaot from each side. 5cm gives you a bit extra to allow for stretching and such.

hannahstzitzitTying tzitzit:

  • There are about a billion squillion explanatory videos, blog posts, photos and websites out there explaining how to do it. Here’s the Jewish Catalog version.
  • When pulling halakha off the internet, often a good idea to compare several independent sources and make sure they’re all saying the same thing.
  • Remember to say leshem mitzvat tzitzit, that you’re doing this for the purpose of the mitzvah of tzitzit.

Girl Clothing:

  • There is a stringency to have the tzitzit be the same colour as the garment, but Ashkenazim (dunno about non-Ashkenazim) don’t bother with it any more. Still, girls’ clothes tend to be colour-co-ordinated, so if you like dyeing things, you might consider it, like this Hadar fellow has.

The order’s important. First make the four corners, then attach the tzitzit. Not the other way round.

On wearing them – depending how you view womanhood and tallit katan and the intersection of same, you may or may not want to be making a bracha when you put the things on. Again, ask your rabbi, ask your google, ask your friends.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.

esther

Israeli Masorti responsum on sofrot

Been meaning to write about this since 2009…one of my colleagues in Israel asked the Masorti movement for their official position on lady scribes. Their response is here.

It’s in Hebrew, so I’m posting a summary of the main points:

* The Gemara and many major halakhic decisors say it’s a problem for women to write sifrei Torah, tefillin, and mezuzot.

* The Tur, the Rif, and the Rosh all say it’s a problem for women to write tefillin.
* But they don’t explicitly say it’s a problem for women to write Torahs.
* Neither does Masechet Sofrim.
* In fact Masechet Sofrim says if you may read Torah for the congregation, you may write.
* And our women may read.
* Therefore they may write Torahs.

Furthermore:

* People who are exempt from laying tefillin are invalid to write tefillin.
* Women are exempt from tefillin because it’s connected to talmud Torah.
* From which most people say women are exempt.
* But there are opinions saying otherwise, and also in our day, in Israel, we have ruled that women are not exempt from talmud Torah. The world has changed.
* So they are not exempt from laying tefillin either.

* And therefore they are totally kosher to write anything. QED.

I don’t buy this entirely.

Part of the halakhic philosophy of the Masorti movement is that if there’s a minority opinion, you can go with it, even if that opinion was ultimately rejected by Judaism as it developed. It’s totes fine to resurrect an opinion if it says something you want it to say. Another philosophical point is that “times have changed” is an absolutely valid reason for discarding something you don’t like. Once you have those two points on board, the above is sound reasoning and the answer unexceptionable – but getting those points on board takes a bit of work, and I don’t find them wholly convincing as I understand them. (I could also be missing the nuances. Feel free to explain in comments, if so.)

“Times have changed” is also part of contemporary Orthodoxy’s philosophy, but you have to work harder at using it as a justification for anything. “It’s not completely unprecedented, even though the majority eventually went against it,” likewise – if you can show that someone sometime did this thing, you’re much more justified in wanting to do it yourself, but that of itself isn’t an argument because you still have to deal with your inheritance – all the people who did something different subsequently. You can’t just write them off. This is why the above is desperately inadequate from an Orthodox perspective, and echoes in some form my own discomfort with it.

So if I don’t buy the above, but nonetheless I write sta”m – how do I justify it? I hear you asking, and I’m ‘fraid I’m not going to answer right now. I’m not so into the piece-by-piece incorporation of women into Jewish ritual life just at the moment. I could spend ages and ages coming up with contorted justifications for everything, but it’s an activity I find distasteful at present, so you’ll have to figure it out yourselves from the stuff on my site. Oh, and anyway, this was just a post about the Masorti thing, not a presentation of Jen’s Philosophy of Halakah. So yes – this is what the Masorti position in Israel is. Jolly jolly.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.