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, June 14, 2006


18 Sivan

Caution: the following is long, dense, boring, disjointed & personal

I performed a public shinui ha-shem.

I changed my name on Sunday, May 28/Rosh Chodesh Sivan. The theme: renewal, revelation. My dear friend Shir-Yaakov performs a gorgeous niggun, a tune from the heart without words, composed by BZ for the New Moon of Sivan.

There is a traditional idea in Judaism that names are very powerful. That they define us & direct our destinies (see an example of name-as-role in the Torah here). So...change your name, change your fate.

Rosh HaShanah 16b reads: "R' Yitzchaq further said: Four things cancel the doom of a man; namely: charity, supplication, change of name and change of conduct."

B"H, I am now actively engaging in all 4 of these.

When someone is very sick &/or his/her life is in danger &/or s/he has suffered some misfortune (like in my case, a divorce from a man who insisted he was my Bashert), Jews invoke the Mi she-Berakh prayer in hopes that it will either change the outcome of a current crisis, or the destiny of the person who has met with a hardship. The Ashkenazi formula states, in part: "Just as his/her name has been changed, so may the evil decree passed on him/her be changed from justice to mercy, from death to life, from illness to a complete cure." From then on, this new name is used for all religious purposes, ie, being called up to the Torah, in a marriage contract or bill of divorce, on a tombstone, etc.

I added the letter Hey to the end of my name. But not just a Hey, a mapiq-Hey. Adding a Hey at the end of a noun “feminizes” it or allows it to be “fruitful” and reproductive. Mapiq in the Hey makes the Hey IMPREGNATED. Gramatically, the mapiq is placed in a word ending with Hey to indicate that the letter should be aspirated. I just couldn't figure out how to put the mapiq into the Hey using this font, so sorry, use your imagination...

The purpose of this change of name: to heal (reverse divine decree) & integrate my Divine Feminine (by "adding a womb") from now on. The opening of Aviel to Avielah.

We did it in Queen Elizabeth Park.
Some o' my posse:
Rebbetzin Michal, me, & Rebbetzin Meira under a very special young tree.

Some more:
Rebbetzin Meira, me, Rabbi Laura. Apparently, I decided to dress as a bed that day...

I wanted them to be part of my ritual declaration. Their relationships encouraged me. They were my role models. I wanted it to highlight the theme of renewal after destruction. In my case, the sanctuary destroyed was my home. I wanted to celebrate the sense of new life emerging from the ashes of the old.
I thanked them for their support during the past year, for helping me reach shore, and for coming to help me mark this passage. I created this opportunity to express gratitude to these women for the support & love & kindness they have shown me, even when my suffering was so great that I worried them & they did not give up on me through one of the darkest times of my life.

Hey is female. She has the easiest voice. The sound of Hey is only your out-breath, the exhalation of prana. It needs no effort, no motion of lips, tongue or mouth (Tanchuma Bereishis 16).
Her soft-sounding voice indicates the feminine form of a noun, as in yeled (boy) - yaldah (girl). The Sacred Name - Four-Letter Name of G@d - includes two instances of the letter Hey. They represent the Mother and the Daughter in the archetypal Family, Yud representing the Father and Vav the Son. By adding this Hey, my 2 Hebrew names now contain G@d's Four-Letter name.

Our spirit (ru'ach) lives in our breath (also ru'ach), is our breath. The Kabalah says that when two people are talking together and their faces are so close that they inhale each other's breath, they are sharing souls. According to Chasidut, our souls are too vast to inhabit our bodies; they penetrate & surround. Some call this an aura.

Hey represents Divine breath, revelation, & light, because the word or, “light”, is mentioned 5 times on the first day of creation (B'reyshit/Genesis 1:3-4), & since the gematria/numerical value of Hey is 5, they are related. This also corresponds on a physical level to the 5 fingers, the 5 senses, and the 5 dimensions.
On a spiritual level it corresponds to the 5 levels of soul:
Yechidah - oneness (with G@d)
Chayah - transcendence
Neshamah - mind
Ruach - emotions
Nefesh - instincts

According to Tehilim/Psalms 33:6, G@D created two worlds: "Bid'var HaShem shamayim na'asu uv'ru'ach piv kol tzeva'am" - "By the word of HaShem the heavens were made and by the breath of His mouth all their hosts". In the Talmud (Menachot 29b) it says that the “breath of His mouth” refers to the sound of the letter Hey - the outbreathing of Spirit.

This world was created with the letter Hey .
How do we know this? Because in the Torah, B'reyshit Parshat B'reyshit/Genesis 2:4 reads:
ד  אֵלֶּה תוֹלְדוֹת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְהָאָרֶץ, בְּהִבָּרְאָם:  בְּיוֹם, עֲשׂוֹת יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים--אֶרֶץ וְשָׁמָיִם.

Eyleh toldot ha'shamayim v'ha'aretz b'hibaram b'yom asot Y-H-V-H eloqim eretz v'shamayim:

"These are the begettings/generations of the heavens and the earth: their being created at the time of Y-H-V-H, G@D's making of earth and heaven:"

In a Sefer Torah, this Hey must be written very small in the word "b'hibaram". Always. Or that Torah Scroll isn't kosher. See the tiny Hey in this Sefer I'm repairing?
(middle column, 12th line from the top, just under that second left-hand indent, fifth word from the right)

Some interpret this verse to read, "...b'Hey baram...", in other words, "...the begettings/generations of the heavens and the earth with Hey were created..."
Because of this interpretation, explaining why that particular Hey must be written as such, our traditions tell us that this world is like the letter Hey, easy to fall out the bottom. Also like this world there is always a tiny space, which allows another entrance. This is teshuvah, repentance (Menachos 29b). This teaches us to leave a small opening in our hearts to let others back in when they have hurt us and wish to be forgiven (Tomer Devorah 1:7).

Another interpretation goes like this: because the letter Hey is one of those which symbolizes G@D - an abbreviation of both the Four-letter Name "Y-H-V-H" and "HaShem", according to midrash, before the Creation G@D was...
...that's it.
All there was was G@D and G@D was all there was. So in order to make room for us, The Holy One had to contract. The word our tradition uses here is "tzimtzum". Like a mother's body making room for a growing baby. So the Hey in the word meaning "they were created" inspired this midrash which teaches us about G@D's loving process.

So in keeping with Hey's breath, the Womb-symbolism, association with Creation & G@d's expansive kindness, my name now wears a Hey containing a mapiq - that infinitely small point of beginning. The seed.
I chose to add this Hey deliberately to invoke the Hey that G@d added to both AbraHam's (B'reyshit/Genesis 17: 5-6) & SaraH's (B'reyshit/Genesis 17: 15-16) names as a part of their B'rit, which made them their true selves & caused them to be fertile. A Hey is a force for childbirth. The Chida (who, by the way, was one of the Acharonim who permitted women to write Megillot Esther, as illustrated here) wrote in Ohr Hatorah, Vayishlach 250a that a segulah, a way of adding merit to have children, was to carry a silver Hey. This is based on B'reyshit/Genesis 47:23 where it says, Hey lachem zerah - "Here is seed for you". The Hey is considered to be a special strength from heaven, the strength of Malkhut, the abode of the Shekhinah.

This is about re-covenanting.
& I dearly wish for a willing, capable, loving partner I can make & raise children with.

A Hey-suffix after place names indicates movement towards that noun. Like if you catch the bus to Efrat, the sign on the bus stop reads "Efratah" - towards Efrat. G@d is a place, called HaMaqom. By this device I want to remind myself to always move towards G@d, by constantly working to reveal my true self & purpose in G@d's plan.

So, why Sivan? & why the New Moon? Exodus/Shemot 19:1 tells us, "In the third month after the Exodus of the Jewish People from Egypt, on that very day, they came to the Desert of Sinai". Our tradition identifies "that very day" as Rosh Chodesh Sivan. The beginning of a new covenant, or rather, a renewal of the old one, between me & Ha-Shem. & Rosh Chodesh is a Jewish women's day if ever there was one. I wanted to wait until after the get, because I didn't want my new name on the bill of divorce. Besides, I had to go through *that* ritual in order for me to become the New Me (whch is a lot like Old Me, just improved ;D). & let's face it, you can't be born until you die. & I wanted to be re-born in time to accept the Torah on Shavu'ot...

So I've gone from Aviel Teshuvah to Avielah Teshuvah. Aviel PLUS!
Hey is also related to teshuvah, repentance/response/answer/return/becoming. She is formed from the letters Dalet and Yud, Dalet being the delet, the door, & Yud is a hand, a yad. Using this hand to open the door of the heart is an image of the Shekhinah dwelling within the believer, as the Hey, the "window". You know the expression that when G@d closes a door somewhere He always opens a window? This is a picture of teshuvah - returning to God by means of the transforming power of the Spirit.

A well-known rabbi once privately advised me: take caution with the sofrut work. Bring my feminine presence to what I do.
Doing everything exactly the same way as a male sofer, as I do (except for going to the miqveh at night), wasn't quite right - "Don't let it [the work] make you a eunuch" he said. I really took that to heart. So much so that I teared up.

We all gathered under the tree & shared. Then R' Laura declared the following, which she wrote especially for this occasion:

Our sages of blessed memory teach that changing one’s name can even change the course of a heavenly decree.

When a person has undergone trials and challenges that have changed her outer status, and stimulated her inner growth, it is as if she has become a new person. She has the opportunity to leave behind what was decreed for the person she used to be – and look forward to the blessings due to the person she has become.

In accordance with this teaching, Aviel is today changing her name to Avielah. Old decrees are no longer valid. Justice shall be replaced by mercy. Fear shall be replaced by joy. Worry shall be replaced by peace. This shall be the lot of Avielah.

O Holy One of Blessing, in the name of all the sacred names mentioned in the Torah, and in the name of the angels, messengers of healing and salvation, send blessings of joy and peace to Avielah on all her forward journeys forever and ever. And let’s say “AMEN!”

...& a resounding A-MEYN went up :D

We then headed to the miqveh, where more women joined us. It was hot like a jacuzzi! Alone in this warm stone pool I gently performed 5 immersions for the letter Hey, four more to make 9, then 3 more to make 12 in total. I let myself melt into the mayim chayim, the living waters. The women all blessed me & I said a Shehechiyanu, thanking G@d for preserving me & bringing me to experience & fully live this moment.

Then it was back to my place for dinner. Kosher organic South Asian is one of my specialties. We feasted & drank wine & celebrated the hope & promise for this milestone & also just generally visited & caught up with each other, 'til late late late :)

Thus is the re-birthday of אביאלה תשובה.
Alef-Bet-Yud-Alef-Lamed-Hey, Tav-Shin-Vav-Bet-Hey.

Ana Eyli aseh oti k'li lesh'lichitekha.

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Blogger Poor Mad Peter said...

Mazel Tov, Avielah.

4:01 a.m.  
Blogger Soferet said...

Thanks, Peter :)

4:16 a.m.  
Anonymous Rachel said...

What a wonderful story. I loved seeing the pictures, and hearing your musings about your new name. May it bring you many blessings!

6:37 a.m.  
Blogger Talmida said...

Mazel tov, Avielah! It may have been long and personal, but it was no where near boring. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Trying for a mappiq:


7:01 a.m.  
Blogger Soferet said...

Ameyn, Rachel! & thanks. I'm glad you liked the pix.
Talmida, anyone who manages to read through such a crazy-long post deserves a cookie. Here, you, Rachel & Peter might find this interesting: how to pronounce mapiq-Hey.
That's so funny - in my e-mail from your comment the mapiq is inside the Hey, but here on the blog it's before my name entirely...computers, man.

9:01 a.m.  
Blogger Carly said...

Aviel -- thanks for continuing to share your story, even during hard times. Seeing how you process the world through your unique Jewish lens is just amazing.

2:46 p.m.  
Blogger Carly said...

Oops, I meant Avielah! אביאלה

2:47 p.m.  
Blogger Soferet said...

I'm pretty Jewy, ain't I?
hey, Carly, did you check out the link I posted in the above comment for Peter, Talmida & Rachel? You might find it of interest too (if you don't already know it inside & out). It demonstrates how to pronounce mapiq-Hey & uses Elahh, one of the Aramaic/Feminine names for G@d, as an example.
So this would mean that I have gone from "Aviel" (my father is G@d) to "Avielahh" (my father is the G@ddess).

3:01 p.m.  
Blogger Evenewra said...

Yasher Koach!

6:07 p.m.  
Blogger Evenewra said...

Yasher Koach!

6:08 p.m.  
Blogger Soferet said...


5:28 p.m.  
Anonymous Cee said...


Your recent posts have continually moved me to tears. Your strength and courage are inspirational and I hope for, pray for, wish for and want for every bit of pain you've experienced to turn into blessings...
SH'YE'ANU KOL MISHALOT LIBECH :0)...May all the wishes deep in your heart be granted. Love you!

11:51 p.m.  
Blogger Soferet said...

Thank you, Cee, I struggle for words which can accurately express my pain/passion, & I'm always so grateful for friends like you who "get" me.

& as we read in the Torah this week, "Eyl na refah na lah"...ameyn ve-ameyn selah to your blessing for me :}

Love you too!

1:15 a.m.  
Blogger Emily said...

Beautiful Avielah, the post, the name, everything! What a breath of fresh air and renewal it seems to be! I love the idea of changing your name as you begin a new chapter, it makes sense. And I've been intrigued with the letter Hey since you wrote about it awhile back; it obviously has alot of meaning for you which is appropriate in so many ways. Much love and many blessings to you.

(by the way, you didn't look like bedding!)

8:52 p.m.  
Blogger Regina Clare Jane said...

Avielah! I love it! This is so wonderful. You give me such hope for women to retain their femininity and feel empowered and empowering at the same time. I think that is what you are doing, Avielah, through your life- empowering all of us. Thank you!

7:08 a.m.  

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