Tags: la vie soferet

esther

Networking

Rachel 1 wants a soferet to do some repair on a Torah in Boston. So Rachel 1 asks her friend Rachel 2 to ask her soferet friend Rachel 3, in LA, whether she knows anyone in Boston. Rachel 3 asks me. I introduce Rachel 3 to Rachel 4, soferet in Boston. Rachel 4 writes to Rachels 1, 2, and 3, copying me in on the conversation. “Hi, Rachel, Rachel, and Rachel…”

I try to think of a way to bring Rachel 5, the Third Soferet Rachel, into the loop, but can’t quite swing it. And there is Rachel 6, the Fourth Soferet Rachel, but she is in Brazil, which is a long way from Boston.

This is officially Getting Silly. We have three Soferet Lindas, four Soferet Rachels…

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.


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esther

Mezuzot

This will be no surprise to anyone ever, but Montreal in winter is COLD. I went outside after a shower the other day, and my hair FROZE. With actual ice in it.

Unrelatedly, here is a picture of a mezuzah I wrote today:

Available here.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.


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esther

From Sotheby’s

Sotheby’s has gigantic Judaica auctions every so often, and they often put the items on public display right before the auction. If you time your visit right, it’s almost as good as a museum (except that unlike a museum, it’s only open for three days, and then it’s over). Last time I was there, I saw these tops for Torah rollers. </p>

(You get how these work, yes? They go on top of things like broom handles, to which are attached the Torah.)

DEAR LITTLE CARVED LIONS WITH BOGGLY EYES! In little lion houses!

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.


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esther

ICK

Something you do not need to see when you open tefillin: BUGS.

The vacated exoskeletons of bugs, I grant you (note the hole in the centre one where the bug burst its way out), but still, ick. At least a dozen of them.

Perhaps surprisingly, the klafim were ok, once I’d brushed the crumbled bugs out of the folds (ick).

I’m swapping out the batim, though. Ick.

Fortunately this was a donated set so I have no idea whose head was wearing all those bugs. Not something I would want to know.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.


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esther

on planning rituals

I write Torah scrolls for congregations, and part of my job is working closely with the congregation to make appropriate programming. Such as, for instance, an opening ritual.

A good ritual starts by speaking to who the community is, and inspires them with a vision of who they want to be. My job as the consulting scribe is to come up with Torah-related ideas that will make that connection.

The clergy and lay leaders have some idea of both ends (you hope), but since I’m not part of the community, I don’t. A meeting with the Torah committee to plan the ritual can be rather intimidating, because it’s my job to figure out, in an hour, what sorts of things they are likely to find familiar, relevant, exciting, and inspirational, and to present those in ways which will fit into the logistical and emotional parameters of ritual.

They have classes on this stuff in rabbinical school, you know. I could ace one of those classes.

Well, so. This is a community that’s celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, its jubilee year. It recently-ish (within communal memory) moved into a shiny new building, and walked the Torah scrolls from the old building to the new. The dedication is right after Simchat Torah.

Elements that got thrown into the mixing bowl, when talking with clergy and lay leaders:

* Children (or perhaps adult bat mitzvah class, convert class, etc) bringing the blank parchment sheets into the sanctuary
* 42 sheets, for the 42 journeys made by the Israelites, and the 42 lines per column. The rabbi has a dvar Torah connecting the 42 journeys to the poem Ana b’koach.
* Collecting turkey feathers from local turkeys beforehand; a quill-cutting moment
* There are pre-writing kavvanot which include Ana b’koach. A kavannah moment.
* Another pre-writing thing is vidui. Since we will just have had Yom Kippur, Ashamnu will be fresh in people’s minds. A solemn moment.
* Blank sheets, Book of Life, fresh starts (see “Jubilee”). Journeys (see “New building”).
* Having six different people write the letters of the first word, images projected onto screen
* Having those people share a minute or two each of their stories
* Talking about the symbolism of each letter, matching that up with their stories
* Having the kids sing alphabet and Torah songs
* Having cards and envelopes under each chair and getting people to write about what their Torah journey this year might be; cards to be sent to participants after the completion ceremony

Yes, that’s not a complete list of every possible element of an opening ritual. That would be cumbersome. This is a good starting list, tailored to this community. Now the clergy and Torah committee will figure out how they’d like to put all this together, and we’ll go from there.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.


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esther

A Torah Named George – from the Torah repair mines

This is why we call him George. Who signs Torahs?

This is why we call him George. Who signs Torahs?


You’re not supposed to write your name on the back of a sefer Torah, just in case you were wondering.
Blue ink.

Blue ink.


What *is* this? And what is it doing scribbled on the back of a sefer torah?
Say what?

Say what?


By the way, if anyone can decipher these, I’d be delighted to hear about it. I really do wonder what they’re doing there.
I hate not being able to read people's writing!

I hate not being able to read people's writing!


At least they used pencil on the front…
Same again...

Same again...


Got rid of all these with erasers and knifework. But took pictures, for posterity. Hullo, posterity!

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.


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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!

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esther

eeny weeny torah scroll fun

Here’s a video featuring a very tiny totally kosher Torah scroll.

The video’s more concerned with the accoutrements, a little aron kodesh and the usual silver ornaments for a Torah scroll, than with the scroll itself. They’re made by Bezalel School-trained artist Shuki Freiman, and they are breathtakingly beautiful, utterly and completely. Seeing them is a treat. I’m just a bit sad that they don’t talk about the scroll; they just say that it’s less then five inches tall and written by a sofer in Bnei Brak. No close-ups.

Shabbat shalom! Hope you bought your sushi this week. I bought mine. California rolls, yay.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.


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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.


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esther

A megillah case

case

This Purim, I was commissioned to write a megillah for the Abramson Center for Jewish Life, and not just create a megillah, but also a case for it to live in. The Center’s rabbi asked if I could make a design that drew on the Center’s existing artwork, and that’s what you see above.

The Abramson Center has stained-glass windows by the artist Mordechai Rosenstein. I used elements from the Book of Numbers window, pictured here.

Why Numbers? Well, the book of Esther is quite interested in numbers, have you ever noticed? Listen up when you hear it this year – you’ll see. Also, in Numbers, the Israelites complain about המן, which is part of the Purim narrative also.

More seriously, the Shabbat before Purim is known as Shabbat Zachor, because it is on this Shabbat that we remember what Amalek did to the Israelites in the wilderness. The Amalek story is also brought up in the Book of Numbers, in Balaam’s oracle: Amalek was the first among the nations, but its end is utter destruction – and the future of Amalek is (albeit obscurely) what the Purim story is about.

So it is appropriate that the Megillah case draws its colouring and background elements, these energetic stripes of oranges, green, and purple, with white accents, from the Book of Numbers window.

The letters are inspired by another Mordechai Rosenstein piece at the Abramson Center, pictured here, where they spell out והדרת פני זקן – honour the elderly.

What are the letters on the Megillah case spelling out?

The Numbers window depicts an amphora, and on Purim an amphora means one thing – wine. The rabbinic dictum is that one should drink עד דלא ידע – until he can no longer distinguish between “Blessed be Mordechai” and “Cursed be Haman.”

The Megillah case takes the words ברוך מרדכי and ארור המן, and adds the pairing “Blessed be Esther” and “Cursed be Zeresh” from the piyut Shoshanat Yaakov – and then mixes all the letters up, all over the case, until it’s all jumbled and scrambled and עד דלא ידע indeed.

The word translated “honour,” above, has the Hebrew root הדר, which we know in another context, הידר מצוה – hidur mitzvah, beautifying or honouring a mitzvah. This Megillah and its case were donated in memory of Eugene Winston, by Ira, Flaura, Andrew, and Zachary Winston, and they will have the satisfaction every year of knowing that the Center’s Megillah reading is beautified in Eugene’s honour. We wish them joy.

case

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.