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.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


15 Adar - Shushan Purim

Ok, after my cheery Purim posts I'm going on a rant: I am filled with moral indignation at these late-night ads on TV for anonymous telephone hook-ups with strange girls. One after another, scantily-clad university-age women croon things like, "I never say no" & "I'll give you what you want, how you want it". Yet another suicide blonde purrs, "It isn't cheating if you do it on the phone". The words most repeated in these ads are "fun", "easy", "hot" & "free".

Never underestimate the power of a young girl ripping off her beer-soaked t-shirt, helping her escape the tyranny of self-respect. Women are not liberated or empowered by lifting up our shirts on a "Girls Gone Wild" video. We are degraded, because for those few moments our sole presence/purpose is to entertain men on the most base level. & besides, it trivializes sex.

Trivializing sex does not make you more powerful than sex or put you in control of sex. Don't fool yourself. People like to think they've evolved past the primal urges of our bodies, but the best anyone can hope for is to cultivate appropriate boundaries for these G@d-given, super-powerful sacred drives.

What happened to Women's Lib? Females of the world, please: we need to support the sisterhood by treating ourselves & each other respectfully. That means staying away from each other's men (or women, for that matter), behave modestly, don't be jealous & don't diss...

A good friend of mine was once telling me of her experiences at Wreck Beach - no link here, as it's Vancouver's most notorious clothing-optional area. She explained to me that it was "really neat" because since everyone was nude, it was like it made everyone's body asexual. She went on to say that group nakedness made people's genitals "nothing special". That everything was depersonalized. I thought that was really interesting. Never having gone to a nude beach (on purpose, that is - I'll write about my accidental visits another time!), I was fascinated to hear what she had to say. But I was left with questions: is it good for people's physical manifestation of their most holy potential to be rendered "nothing special"? Is that an improvement? Is it what we want for our bodies, our most private parts?

I agree with Billy Crystal's rant in When Harry Met Sally:

Harry: You realize of course that we could never be friends.
Sally: Why not?
Harry: What I'm saying is - and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form - is that men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.
Sally: That's not true. I have a number of men friends and there is no sex involved.
Harry: No you don't.
Sally: Yes I do.
Harry: No you don't.
Sally: Yes I do.
Harry: You only think you do.
Sally: You say I'm having sex with these men without my knowledge?
Harry: No, what I'm saying is they all WANT to have sex with you.
Sally: They do not.
Harry: Do too.
Sally: They do not.
Harry: Do too.
Sally: How do you know?
Harry: Because no man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.
Sally: So, you're saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?
Harry: No. You pretty much want to nail 'em too.
Sally: What if THEY don't want to have sex with YOU?
Harry: Doesn't matter because the sex thing is already out there so the friendship is ultimately doomed and that is the end of the story.
Sally: Well, I guess we're not going to be friends then.
Harry: I guess not.
Sally: That's too bad. You were the only person I knew in New York.

That's the FULL-FRONTAL TRUTH for you. The Torah commands us, in Parshat Mishpatim, Exodus/Sh'mot 23:7: “M’dvar sheqer tirchak ” to stay far away from a lie. This mitzvah is phrased much differently than the normally expected “Thou shall not lie.” Why did G@d use such words?  Rabbi David Ben Solomon Segal (the TaZ), in his Sefer Divrei Dovid says that we must stay far away from a lie because sometimes when you are telling the truth but you do so in a way which misleads, an untruth may come out of it. You are not allowed to deceive in subtle ways. & engaging in an emotionally intimate relationship to a depth that either interferes with your primary partnership or otherwise inspires inappropriate attraction for you to taste is a form of deception. Deception of self & deception of others. & that's when hearts get broken. I don't think that straight women & men can "just be close friends" without sex tapping at least one of you on the shoulder at some point. Married people can be particularly vulnerable to the sexual pull toward their opposite-sex friends, because the sad truth is that a spouse can seldom compete with someone new & strange. Someone whose expectations are freer & lower than those of a spouse.

Suffragettes, ladies of the Temperance movement & other such early Feminists believed in the value of modesty & preservation of the family unit. It's actually a valid Feminist choice to not have close friends of the opposite sex if at least one of you are married & you are both straight. Common knowledge & human experience dictates that it's really only a matter of time before you'll find yourself in a compromising situation. To risk this is tediously naive at best. So you might want to ask yourself what's really going on if you spend time with only one half of a couple if that half is the one sexually compatible with you...& whether you're 100% positive that your friend's beloved is really ok with this...or if s/he even knows...

The word for marriage in Hebrew is "qidushin", which means "holy, because exclusive". Sanctified. Keep your partnership holy by keeping its soft underbelly only for the two of you. Boundaries aren't limiting - they're liberating!

So the next time you poo-poo Hilkhot negi'ah or yichud (the laws of touching & being secluded), remember they are wiser than you think you are & are there to protect us all from hurting ourselves & others. So keep your clothes on, skip the physical contact & reserve your boundary-pushing sexuality for your spouse. Remember that adultery, physical or emotional, doesn't come with seat belts or airbags - & bring the Shekhinah home from exile by honouring your joint intimacy.

"Rosh Chodesh - New Moon" copyright A. Barclay. Liquitex on handmade paper.

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Blogger previous anon said...

first time to your blog
interesting reading
i agree with the halachik ideals and wish girls would wake up and see the truth
i had a question and in no way do i mean to insult /degrade you
is there any halachik issue with a sofer being female- such kavod hatorah or the like, would rav shtienman or the chazon ish or any famous rabbi approve?

i'm asking 'cause i honestly have no clue

11:31 a.m.  
Blogger Tzipporah said...

Wow, you really got ticked off! :)

I have to say I've struggled with this issue, because I DO trust my spouse and myself with our close friends of all sexes/genders, despite knowing that we are attracted to some of them. Or maybe "because I know" we are sexual beings, not despite knowing it.

A "close" friendship to me is one where you share your thoughts and feelings, get to rant, support each other, and have fun. Some of my closest friends live on the other side of the country, so the physical thing isn't an issue. But we also have close friends nearby, and since both my husband and I are honest with each other (in a semi-joking way) that we find someone attractive, it's a non-issue. We don't have to hide it, we don't have to dwell on it, it's just a recognition of a part of our selves.

That said, we are able to do this b/c we have a strong, strong committment to preserving the "kiddush" in our kiddushin - we reserve expressions of that creative force for each other, only.

3:54 p.m.  
Anonymous alissa said...

I had recently had a discussion about this with a woman who was part of the women's movement. I've noticed that the "next generation" of women seems to have taken the idea of control over our own bodies to mean showing it off and flaunting it.

We get ticked off when men think of us as sexual objects, yet "we" walk around wearing sweat pants that barely hit the pubic bone with the word "juicy" splashed across our ass. Add to that the belly tee that barely covers ribs 9&10 - what kind of message does that send?

A local news show was interviewing teenage boys and asking if seeing girls dressed like that turned them on (the anchor had the decency to use more appropriate language) - one boy said he was so used to it, it did nothing for him.

Which led to my question: what WILL do it for him?? Could that be one of the causes of the increase in bullying and violence among teens? They've become so numbed to their feelings by overexposure that they have to crank it up a notch (or twenty)?

Sorry. Now you've got me ranting!

5:15 p.m.  
Blogger Soferet said...

Shalom to you, Previous, & brakhah ha-bo'i. Welcome to my blog. I'm glad you find it interesting. No offense taken at your very valid question, so don't worry.
Kavod ha-Torah does not enter into the arguments about whether women can act as sofrim, in my experience of studying this issue. There is a question of obligation level, however. I don't know that Rav Shtienman or the Chazon Ish would accept sofrut written or repaired or even processed by observant Jewish women, but there is a minority opinion providing a small opening for women to write Sifrei Torah if you check out the Ber Heytav, Drisha, Tur, Rosh & Rif. So: huge rabbis, little opinion.

For any of my GLBTQ readers, dealing with anything other than straight people in here is beyond the scops of this blurb - sorry, Jeremy :(

Tzipporah - good to hear from you again! Yes, well, that's the brave road you've taken. Some people just completely stay away from those of the opposite sex entirely, which can be practiced as a conscious discipline or as a cop-out, depending on what one's intention is. We must all be wary of behavious which "take us out" of our Selves & encourage us to act like automatons.
Pretty much every married or otherwise monogamously partnered couple who I know acknowledge that one of the challenges to a long-term committed relationship is accidentally finding oneself attracted to someone other than your spouse. Oops! It happens. Because as you say, we're sexual beings. So much as most of us wouldn't want to experience those feelings, the odds are that eventually we will & the million dollar questions is this: What are you going to do about it? How are you going to behave? Will you continue to honour your couplehood's sacred-separateness? Because, well, you promised you would...
& as Ha-Rav Ha-Ga'on comedian Chris Rock says, "A man is as faithful as his options."
Anyway, I like what you have to say & agree wholeheartedly :)

Alissa - rant away! :D
The society we live in encourages women to emphasize our physical beauty over the beauty of our characters. While it's important to present oneself in a respectable way, instead this societal pressure leads to women spending our money to change ourselves, diminishing the expression of G@d in our bodies. We also are encouraged to focus more on pleasing men physically than pleasing G@d spiritually. We don't cultivate positive traits, & risk low self-esteem, since our value is in our lip gloss & not in our deeds. I once heard someone compliment a little girl on her looks. "What a pretty face!" the person exclaimed in front of her father, a religious Jew. "Yes, barukh Ha-Shem", he replied, "it must be all the mitzvahs she does."
May we all be blessed with the privilege of raising modest daughters, committed to doing G@d's will, & sons who share these values.
& I say this because men & boys also need to cover up :)
The responsibility can't be taken seriously if only one gender is bearing the "burden". There was an Orthodox rabbi who lived here once & in the summer he used to wear shorts. That isn't immodest in & of itself, but they were short enough that the way he would sit gave the world a show - something I discovered & then made sure I never sat or walked within a certain proximity of him. I didn't say anything to him, partly out of my own embarrassment & partly because his wife would be better to broach the subject with him. But also because, well, he's a rabbi, so doesn't he know the laws of modest dress better than I do?
Anyway, sometimes I'm patronized by people who assume I cover up because I'm oppressed by the Patriarchy. Ok, well, women are ;) but I am no more than the next women who makes her clothing choices of her own free will, ie it's a cleanly Feminist act to wear long skirts out of modesty if the woman herself made her own decision. So there.
Will I never shut up about this???

9:55 a.m.  
Blogger Soferet said...

Oh, & Previous, sorry but I forgot to mention that there's a wide body of Halakhic responsa indicating that the majority opinion accepts women-written Megillot Esther.

10:03 a.m.  

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