1. What is "sofrut"?
Sofrut is the practice of sacred Jewish ritual scribal writing. The items which fall under the definition of sofrut have an acronym, "ST"M", which includes Sifrei Torah, Tefilin, Mezuzot and Megillah scrolls. A male Jewish religious scribe is called a "sofer", while a female Jewish religious scribe is called a "soferet".
2. How does one become a sofer or soferet?
If a Jewish man wishes to become a sofer, he can apprentice with a sofer & learn under him or go to the Vaad Mishmereth STaM in B'nai B'raq, Israel, where he can learn in a class full of other men and achieve certification. If a Jewish woman wishes to become a soferet, she must apprentice privately with a sofer, if she can find one who will teach her. Alternatively, she can apprentice with me if she wishes to become fully certified, as no male scribes are currently certifying women.
3. How long does learning to become a sofer or soferet take?
It takes anywhere from a year to as long as it takes to learn the laws well and how to properly write the letters, among other things.
4. How many rules are there in the practice of sofrut?
Approximately 4,000, roughly 150 of which govern the shapes of the letters and how to write them.
5. How many letters are there in a Torah scroll?
Although there is a Midrash - a story used to teach about Judaism - stating that there are 600,000 letters in each Sefer Torah, there are actually 304,805 letters.
6. What is a Sefer Torah made from?
Sifrei Torah are made from especially prepared skins and sinews of kosher animals, written on with special sofrut ink with a pen made either from a kosher bird feather or made from a reed.
7. How long does it take to write a Sefer Torah?
Depending on the sofer or soferet and his/her experience and skill, it can take anywhere from six months up to two years to write a Sefer Torah, but it usually takes twelve to eighteen months. A Torah which is written over a period of time as short as six months, although less expensive, will be less beautiful and harder to read than a Torah which the scribe has taken the appropriate time and care with.
8. How do you prepare yourself physically and spiritually before you write?
I clean my body thoroughly, then immerse myself in a miqveh (ritual bath) the evening before I resume work each month. In the morning, I again wash my body thoroughly, dress, offer prayers, then begin my work with the intention of performing it for the sake of Heaven.
9. Who accepts you as a valid scribe?
Happily, my first commission as a certified soferet came from my own synagogue - an Orthodox one - for which I wrote a Megillat Esther. Although no Orthodox communities have ever invited me to write or repair a Sefer Torah for them due to my gender, I have been lucky enough to work for and with every single denomination of Judaism in my full capacity as scribe, teacher and mentor.
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