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.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

P'TIL TEKHELET

בס"ד


This take on Shelach Lekha by Sir Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of the UK, inspired me greatly this Shabbes. So much so that I ordered a set of Karaite tzitzit from here.

More later.

Shavu'ah tov!

3 Comments:

Anonymous shanna said...

I'm not quite seeing the connection that leads you davka to Karaite tzitzit...

7:08 PM  
Blogger Soferet said...

בס"ד
Each detail of tzitzit is represented by its proponents as the authentic way. This type of knot, that source of tekhelet, etc, so I feel compelled to explore this world of tzitzit for myself.

I believe I am obligated in this mitzvah, but how do I fulfill it? A woman like me, who did not grow up Orthodox, has much to learn.

As much as I believe in community practice standards, I reject the cookie-cutter stranglehold choking the life & imagination out some areas of Judaism.

All I want to do is seek G@d's face (Tehilim 27).

11:35 PM  
Blogger Yossi Barkley said...

WHO SAYS YOU HAVE TO BE ORTHODOX TO WEAR TZITZIT?

Yosef ben-Gavriel Barkley
©July 31, 2005 Jewish Outreach La-Olam

I’ve always worn my kippah when I’m out in the public on official Jewish business—whether I’m representing the Desert Council of the Anti-Defamation League or Jewish Outreach La-Olam, or when I’m volunteering for our local Jewish Federation or going to shul. Now, I feel that I should wear my talit katan—tzitzit. This change in attire has raised some eyebrows within the community. Not because I’m performing a mitzvah or that I’m inconsistently wearing my talit katan, but because I’m not Orthodox!

I could easily say that this offends me, but I’m actually proud to boast that it thrills me that I am breaking a stereotype. Why is it important for me to be proud of breaking a stereotype? The main reason is that the wearing of tzitzit does not uniquely belong to one group of Jews; rather, the wearing of tzitzit is a mitzvah that all Jewish men, by tradition, are commanded to perform. It’s in the Torah; it's that simple.

There were three benefits I derived from wearing tzitzit last Friday that I want to share with you.

First, I learned from my beloved rabbi, Jordan S. Ofseyer that my philosophical approach to practicing Judaism is in the same vein as the notable Jewish scholar Franz Rosenzweig. What an exhilarating discourse in history and philosophy I received from Rabbi Ofseyer over lunch, and what a compliment to have been compared to such an historic figure.

Second, I learned that my Orthodox friends thought it was “neat” that I was performing the mitzvah of wearing tzitzit, and that my non-Orthodox friends were concerned that people in general would think that I am Orthodox when I'm not. Their reaction is what spurred me to write this editorial.

Third, and most importantly for me, I learned a very interesting Kabbalist meaning behind the specific way the tzitzit are tied that is linked to something I had written earlier in my treatise, “Judaism, Kabbalah and Reincarnation, Part II.” In George Robinson’s book, Essential Judaism: A Complete Guide To Beliefs, Customs, and Rituals:

“The tzitzit are tied in a specific way: four threads doubled over, making eight threads, one thread longer than the others, wound around them and double-knotted, usually with the double knot followed by seven, eight, eleven and finally thirteen windings, leading to a total of five double knots, numbers that have a kabbalistic significance.”

The significance of the kabbalistic numbers he mentions in the development of the tzitzit is not foreign to me. I don’t understand the significance of all the numbers, but the ones I do understand are important from my family’s Kabbalist tradition. Let me explain going in reverse order of how tzitzit are made.

Five double knots are made because the number “5” has been assigned to Israel. The number “5” as you may recall in my treatise “Judaism, Kabbalah and Reincarnation, Part II,” represents Geburah and it is Israel’s covenantal destiny to bring Judgment and Justice to the Cosmos. When a Jew wears tzitzit, they are covering themselves with the armor of Justice that the Light of the Torah brings to the World. The wearing of tzitzit should not be superstitiously viewed as a talisman to ward off evil as many may believe; rather they should be viewed as real but mystical armor that concentrates the Light of the Torah which blinds negative energy in the Cosmos that we encounter in our daily lives.

There are several reasons why the tzitzit end with “13” windings at the fifth double knot. There is a particular geometric progression of three numbers each having their own special mystical meaning within the symbolism of our Jewish tradition. The geometric progression is 13:26::26:52 (13X2 = 26, 26X2 = 52). The “13” windings of the tzitzit represent the eleven full tribes of Jacob our father, plus the two half-tribes of Joseph. Why is it important to count “13” tribes of Israel rather than the traditional twelve tribes?

The half-tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim are our father Joseph’s inheritance; and it is Ephraim the thirteenth descendant, who plays a critical redemptive role in Israel’s covenantal, cosmic destiny. It is the Patriarch Joseph and Joseph alone who represents the highest definition of an Ish, a soul who reaches a spiritual mastery beyond the communion experience of Noah and one who can direct its spiritual energy according to its own will. The term Ish is applied to Joseph a record "13" times— Torah Gen. 41:2,33,38; 42:30,33; 43:3,5,6,7,11,13; and 44:15,26—a direct correlation to the position of his son Ephraim, from whose tribe the Messiah ben-Yosef will come to trigger the Messianic Age ( Pesikta Rabbati, Piskas 35-37; Yalkut, Isa., §499).

When the Kabbalist says “we not only walk with G-d, we contain G-d,” we derive this expression from the double geometric progression 26::26, which is the Gematria of the Tetragrammation for the unspoken name of G-d (Yod = 10, Hey = 5, Vav = 6 and Hey = 5) that is pronounced “Adonai” in Jewish ritual. The talit katan and talit gadol become symbolically important in understanding this Kabbalist expression, “we not only walk with G-d, we contain G-d.” How is this?

The talit is a square piece of material armor: each corner having “5” double knots with windings between them that progressively culminate with “13” windings. When taken as a square, we arrive at the geometric progression “52” (13 X 4). Therefore, the unspoken name of G-d (“26”) is contained within “13” and “52” (13:26::26:52) of the geometric progression. Each half of the talit has two corners equating “26” windings (13 X 2), representing the Tetragrammation for “Adonai,” and the “10” double knots (5 X 2) representing the ten Sefirot of the Tree of Life. This is duplicated in the other half of the talit, representing divine mediation of the double “26” or the geometric progression 26::26. This double geometric progression represents the spatial co-existence of the Upper and Lower Worlds, as we learned in my treatise Judaism, Kabbalah and Reincarnation, Part II, they are "companioned."

When we gather the tzitzit and bring the four corners together in the form of two pairs from each half of the talit, we wind up with “20” (10 X 2) double knots plus the two paired corners of the tzitzit (20 + 2) to form the “22” paths that connect the letters that make up the Hebrew alphabet.

Therefore, the expression “we not only walk with G-d, we contain G-d” is accomplished by wrapping ourselves in the talit katan and especially the talit gadol (prayer shawl). We are able to say this because the numerical value of the tzitzit represent the unspoken name of G-d in the Upper and Lower Worlds (“26::26”), all the letters of the Hebrew alphabet and their combinations (the Torah) through the paths of the talit (“22”), the highest definition of the Ish (“13”), all the descendants of our father Israel (“13”), and the number of the Messiah ben-Yosef (“13”). This is why the talit is treated with such respect and reverence because it is the complete Kabbalistic symbol of our covenantal, cosmic destiny. Viewed in its proper perspective, the talit is one of the most powerful instruments of the expression of the Jewish faith.

The significance of the numerically progressive windings (7, then 8, then 11, then 13) on each tzitzit is unknown to me. But just thinking about what putting on a talit means for me now, whether it is a talit katan or talit gadol, is another amazing journey in understanding who I am and what I am.

B’shalom,

Yossi Barkley

10:06 AM  

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