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; 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.

Monday, June 27, 2005



The tumtum (one with no discernable external sexual characteristics, from the Hebrew root meaning "sealed" or "closed" or "water-tight") is obligated by Jewish law to observe all mitzvot as they apply to men, even those mitzvot from which women are exempt. So, for example, "he" must don tefilin.
(se the Pri Megadim, Orach Chaim 39:1 & Mishnah Berurah 38:10)

However, see that the Minchat Chinuch rules that tefilin written by a tumtum are not kosher to be used.

So they have to wear 'em, as long as they did not write 'em...

How can you obligate a person or group of people in a mitzvah & yet not allow them to produce the object through which the mitzvah is performed?

[much head-shaking]


Blogger ClooJew said...

To quote the great poseik, Tom Jones, lulei demistafina: "It's not unusual."

Often when you have a situation of safek, you have to take the chumros of both sides. No one said life was fair.

But I'm guessing that the Minchas Chinuch then rules that women can not be soferot. Correct?

10:08 a.m.  
Blogger Soferet said...

LOL - thank you for quoting HaRav HaGa'on Yonas, ClooJew ;+>

The Rambam has a list of mitzvot which are
"hechreciot" (necessary), printed at the end of the positive commandments of Sefer Hamitzvot. He states there that women are not required to write a Sefer Torah, although men are obligated (mitzvah

The Sha'agat Aryeh (#35) questions the source of the Rambam that we are exempt from writing a Sefer Torah. He suggests that it is possible that we are required to write a Sefer but are technically invalidated from writing one. If the mitzvah is just to own a torah, it is possible that we are required to own one, but we may not be able to write one considered kosher for everyone to use. If the mitzvah is to write a Torah, it seems contradictory that we could be obligated in a mitzvah that we cannot fulfill due to a technical difference of opinion. (Minchat Chinuch #613).

The Shach in Yoreh De'ah (281/6) cites an interpretation of the Rif and the Rosh that women may write a Sefer Torah, which he finds inconclusive.

So just as women are obligated in mezuzah but are prohibited from writing them by some rabbis & not others, so there are many opinions on women & Sifrei Torah.

It's a tough call. & you're rigt - nobody ever said life was fair. But if it were, G@d wouldn't need us all to incarnate here...

10:43 a.m.  
Blogger Soferet said...

For the place where I accept the issue to officially stand at this point, look here.
Very important :)

10:52 a.m.  
Anonymous Lavlar said...

Can I assume you got my follow-up email? I am anxiously awaiting a reply.

I see you've modified your reading of the Shach and Sha'agat Aryeh... but that's still not exactly what the Shach says...

12:45 a.m.  
Blogger Soferet said...

No, haven't changed my reading. My understanding of the Halakhot I have learned & am learning are based on chevrutot I have with my rabbis & sofrim, where the content of the site which you referred to in your e-mail to me is not. If you'd like to discuss what you found on, best to contact Rabbi Fern Feldman, who is on Kadima's Women's Torah Project committee.

12:58 a.m.  
Anonymous Jen said...

Well, mezuzot and women are another example, right? Tosafot discuss that. Their conclusion is basically "yeah, funny old world."

5:17 a.m.  
Blogger Soferet said...

Right, you'll notice that they just left it at that. They didn't pursue a just resolution of the matter through sound linguistic principles and contextual exegesis. Why can we not continue the conversation where they left off? Halakhah, is after all, a journey, a way of moving...

11:00 a.m.  
Anonymous Lavlar said...

To quote the great posek, Bruce Hornsby, "That's just the way it is" (hat tip, cloojew)

The reason Tosafot don't "pursue a just resolution of the matter..." Is because there is really no maneuvering room. The Beraita of Rav Hamnuna (Gittin 45b) equates Teffilin and Mezuzot (and invalidates Mezuzot written by women) based on a "Hekesh" --one of the strongest exegetical attributes that exist.

A Drasha in the Gemara based on a Hekesh is considered as if it is explicitly written into the text of the Torah (see Rashi on Sanhedrin 73a s.v. "hekesha hu"). Hekesh is even relied upon in cases of capital punishment (as opposed to Kal VeChomer, which -- although very powerful as a logical argument -- can never be invoked to impose a death penalty).

Rav Hamnuna's statement is clear and stands unopposed. It is accepted as Halacha by all the codifiers.

It is indeed a strange Halacha. But that doesn't diminish it's relevance.

5:51 a.m.  

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