Netivat Sofrut: diary of a Soferet

Adventures of a female sofer learning to heal the world by doing Holy Work...writing a Sefer Torah

נחזיר את השכינה למקומה בצייון ובתבל כלה

"Let us restore the Divine In-Dwelling to Her Place in Zion & infuse Her spirit throughout the whole inhabited world."

So wherever we are, let us bring the Peace of G@d's Presence.

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Location: Vancouver/London, British Columbia/UK, Canada

SCRIBAL EVANGELIST As the only living certified Soferet (סופרת - female Jewish ritual scribe) & the first woman to practice sofrut (creation of sacred Hebrew texts) in over 200 years, I feel an obligation to blog about my experiences of The Work. I am also currently researching the foundation of a lost tradtion of women practicing this holy craft. For more on the services I provide, please see Soferet.com; Sofrut Nation. I am now available to engage with students, male or female, wishing to enter into the preliminary stage of learning sofrut. You are welcome to join me on this path. "Tzedeq, tzedeq tir'dof - Justice, justice you shall pursue." Devarim/Deuteronomy 16:20.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

NAPOLÉON BONAPARTE'S 234th BIRTHDAY

B"H


Friday, August 15th

I peer across my companions to catch a glimpse or the curve of the Israeli coastline traced in yellow light against the abysmal black of the Mediterranean. What does the Land hold for me now?
As the 747 touches down all her occupants break into applause & cheering. Such widespread gratitude for the completion of a safe journey I have never heard. I smile & feel relieved.
I make my way to exit the aeroplane & am hit by a wall of humidity. 28 degrees celsius & 85% humidity. Wow. Toto, we aren't in Vancouver anymore...
The trolley take us from the tarmac to the Terminal. I read the backlit words over the main door, "Welcome to Israel - Brukhim HaBayim L'Yisra'el" & tear up. "Brukhim". Blessed are you who enter...
Customs was quite hilarious. The girl asked me why I was coming to Israel. Remembering the confused relaxation of my El Al baggage security guy, I told her. "I'm coming to learn with my sofer - I want to be a soferet st"m."
"What?", incredulous look. I repeated myself & she curled her lips into an almost imperceptible - I don't know what it was. Like she thought I was joking. "OK," she said to me with a 'you're just too weird for me to talk to & you need to get away from me right now' look on her face. She returned my passport & waved me on dismissively, "Just go."
I changed money & found a sherut bound for Jerusalem. The sun had just come up. It was already scorching.
The journey from Ben Gurion to Jerusalem was akin to Mister Toad's Wild Ride at Disneyland. They have the weirdest billboards here! The driver was a kind, fatherly man in his 50's who brought me straight to my door. "Kama?" I asked ("How much?").
"Arbayim." ("Forty [sheqalim].") Yikes. Still, it's much cheaper than a cab.
My landlord was waiting in the front of the driveway wrapped in his tallis & tefilin attending to his sidur. My sherut driver indicated that somebody looked like they were waiting for me. He looked up. "Aviel?" I smiled & followed him down the drive.
"Wait here." he pointed & I stopped in my tracks obediently. I stood & inhaled the summer morning. A few moments later his wife came out.
She took me through the flat, a one-bedroom jobbie with a large mirpeset (balcony). She was very helpful & made sure I understood that I could call either of them anytime. I was surprised to find that they're both New Yorkers & then equally surprised at my surprise. I settled in.
I called a girlfriend, who wasn't returning to Vancouver for a couple of days, to see if we could hang out before Shabbes. I walked in the roasting dry heat (because I'm not taking any buses while I'm here) to her meet at the Tachanat Hamarkazeet (Central Bus Station). Getting in there is like passing security at an airport: questions, searches & x-rays. It was great to see her after so long. We hugged & she let me use some of her e-mail time (finally an internet connexion!) & we caught up enthusiastically about our lives & loves. We left the netcafé each holding a qafeh barad - SO yummy!
We walked to the Old City together - as she was staying at Heritage House in the Rova - all the while I was remarking at how much things were exactly the same as when I left 5 years ago & how the things that *were* different were REALLY DIFFERENT! Wow. Or as they say in Israel, "Wau."
We chatted about the current political situation as well. She won't buy from Arabs & she doesn't feel safe around them. That made me really sad to hear her express that in no uncertain terms. I said nothing. I understand why she feels the way she does & there's nothing I can say respectfully to it that will make a positive difference to her. I know things are very different here than in Vancouver. Maybe all of us Jews & Muslims in the Diaspora will have to show 'em all how to Share the Land (cue Guess Who rock anthem).
It was really indescribable to return to the Old City. But my heart was not open to it - I could sense that. Perhaps I'm just so wrapped up in my mundane conversations that I'm closed to what's holy around me. I don't know. Maybe I brought too much of Vancouver with me & didn't empty out my neshamah (soul) sufficiently. I dropped her off at Heritage House so she could ready for Shabbes & her davenen at the Wall & dinner chez Rabbi Hanoch Teller & his family (18 children!). He's the author of inspiration Jewish stories of faith & a teacher at some of the yeshivot (seminaries) here. We were met by one of the young Haredi "sentries" at the gate, a yeshivah girl covered from her neck down, cuffs buttoned, opaque stockings. My friend & I hugged & wished each other a Shabbat Shalom. She asked me to kiss the Wall for her.
I made it to the Kotel. The awe & privilege of my being here did sink deeper into my heart, but I was still feeling bombarded with how Jerusalem in so many ways is just like any other city, anywhere. & I didn't like that feeling. I approached the Wall & found "my spot", adopted 6 years ago. I stood with my toes touching her stones, my hands perched on a small shelf made by the wear of the rock. I kissed the wall once for me, once for my girlfriend & once for Joel. I let the people who love me & helped bring me to this time & place flow through my mind & heart in no particular order: Fern, Joel, Susan, Neal, Jeff, Scott, Mum, Dad, Wendy, Rainer...all the people who blessed me at the ALEPH Kallah & wished me well. I wept on the stones of the holy Wall.
On my walk home I overshot. I had my map book in my purse, but did I look at it? - NO! That would be too sensible. I used to live here. I know this neighbourhood. I don't need to consult a map. Everything looks familiar...& the sun is going down! I finally took it out & looked - I was WAY too far south! Serves me right for being such a guy about asking for directions...
I burst into my flat & anxiously lit my Shabbat candles in the *nick* of time.
After my pause of relief & grounded meditation, I went to the bathroom. Altho' some are of the opinion that it's breaking Shabbat to even remove a hair from one's head, I am not. Provided I don't use hot water, my Shabbat will remain intact. I'm willing to risk an icy stream (as I hadn't put on the dood [water heater]) to rid myself of this thick tacky layer of desert dust glued to my body with sweat. I rip off my clothes. There are blisters all over my feet & blood in my left sock. I've also worn a hole in my right one. I take the most satisfying cold shower of my life. So refreshing after daze of travel & heat.
It was a beautiful, wholesome meal, satisfyingly Mediterranean à la "Zorba the Greek": grape juice, bread, feta, olives & the creamiest choumous *ever* covered in sesame seeds & tons of zatar. What a blessing.
I poured myself a glass of water from the litre I'd placed in the fridge. It tasted of bones. I'd forgotten they way Israeli water tastes, the unnerving flavour of millennia of life & death for this Land which so many of us righteously claim as our own but which ultimately belongs to G@d. & G@d will decide, in the end, & there will be no more killing. Ameyn selah.
I finished my Shabbat evening meal & bentsched (said the grace after meals). Thanks, G@d :)
All the strange sounds kept me too suspicious to sleep. Were they stray cats? The lizards which my landlady warned me about? Men with murder in their eyes? G@d forbid. I became acutely aware that I have no outside view of the only door from anywhere in my flat - just a solid thin slab of olive wood with no peep-hole. The iron gate is locked, but I still hear weird scrabbling sounds & sometimes the flat vibrates with whatever is taking issue with its outside walls.
Sleep finally claimed me at 4:30.

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