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.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

THE TRANSFORMATIVE CALL OF TISHA BE’AV 5766

BS"D
Tisha Be-Av


by Rabbi Itzchak Marmorstein - info@milayomit.com

Once again, we are approaching the fires of Tisha Be-Av.

That day of tears, the day of broken-ness.

The broken-ness of human conflict and error.

[As I write these words, Barak and Arafat are leaving the peace talks failing to find agreement on Jerusalem. I worry about the tears to come.]

Here we are six years later, the battle is raging in Israel, Lebanon and environs. And I pray that we find the way to true peace and harmony.

Why has it been so hard for so long?

Why so many tears in Israel?

The Torah states that at the inauguration of the Brit-Covenant, with Avraham G-d said, "Know that your descendants will be foreigners in a land that is not theirs for 400 years. They will be enslaved and oppressed...they will then leave with great wealth...The fourth generation will return here...To your descendants I have given this land." (Gen. 15:13-18)

In fulfillment of this divine promise the Israelites in the wilderness were about to carry their just-completed Tabernacle into the land, but fearful and anxious of the unknown, they approached Moshe to send men ahead to explore the land and bring back a report about the way ahead.

With divine consent the heads of the 12 tribes of Israel were sent to see what kind of land it is and to ascertain if it is טוֹבה-TOVA-Good or רעה-RAA-Evil.

The men returned 40 days later, on the afternoon of the 8th of Av.

כל העדה-Kol Ha’Edah-the entire community, gathered to hear their report. They began by briefly describing the good. "The land is indeed flowing with milk and honey”' and continued to speak badly about the land. “The land consumes its inhabitants. All the men we saw there were huge. We felt like tiny grasshoppers. That’s all that we were in their eyes" (Num. 13.27ff)

The Midrash recounts G-d’s reaction.

"You do not know what came out of your mouths."

'We felt like tiny grasshoppers'-that may be true

'That's all we were in their eyes'- on this I 'take offense'.

How do you know how I made you appear in their eyes?

Perhaps they saw you as Malachim- royalty, angels?...

I thought Le Tova- for good' and you thought Le Raa-- for the bad." (Sota 35a)

The fears of the tribal leaders immediately infected the people.

"The entire community raised a hubbub and began to shout. That night. the people wept" (Num. 14.1ff)

At that moment, Tisha Be’Av came into being!

"Said the Holy One Blessed Be He: 'they cried tears for no valid reason... this shall establish Bechiyah Le’dorot - weeping for generations". (Sota, 35a)

The Torah refers to the 10 tribal leaders who brought the bad report as עדה הרעה -EDAH HARA’A- The Evil Community, witnesses who testified to the רעה-RAA-the evil, the negative, and brought thereby the רעה-RAA-evil they feared, into their own community.

They assumed the inhabitants were רעה-RAA - evil. They assumed they would be enemies. They feared that the רעה-RAAof the other was so great that the טוֹב-TOV could not overcome it. Our leaders' רעה-RAA was fearing that the רעה-RAA of the other was too strong.

Their faithless tears seeded rivers of terrible tears.

On Tisha Be’Av we came to cry for the destruction of the First Temple.

And then on the same day for the Second Temple.

Tisha Be’Av 1492 was the final date for departure from Spain.

Germany signed the Alliance Treaty pitting itself against Russia and England on August 2nd 1914 - the Ninth of Av, 5764.

World War 1 led to World War 2.


Maaseh Avot Siman Lebanim - the actions of our ancestors are signposts for their children. I, as a child of Holocaust survivors, have been for most of my life deeply disturbed by the extent of רעה-RAA.

I soon learnt that the Torah teaches love.

Rabbi Akivah taught me and all of us : ואהבת לרעך כמוֹך -VE’AHAVTA LE’REYACHA KAMOCHA-And Love Your Neighbour As Yourself’ (Leviticus 19:18) is the Klal Gadol over-riding principle, of the Torah.

One Shabbat morning as I was meditating on these words I came to see what may be considered the Torah's teaching on the transformation of רעה-RAA.


The Torah itself is not written with any vowels or punctuation. The Masoretic tradition taught us how to traditionally pronounce the Scroll. The Kabbalah invites us always to look deeper.

The root of רעך-REYACHA-Your Neighbour (which in the Torah scroll is written lgr ) is רע Rey-Ah. It is the letters ר-Reish and ע-Ayin punctuated with a Tsere and a Patach. It can also refer to 'friend' and 'lover'. (This word also means 'idea, thought, meaning'.) I noticed for the first time (for me) that this very same two-letter root, whenpunctuated with a kametz is also the word רע-RAA-Evil, wickedness. The word spelled רע-Reish, Ayin can be 'neighbour, beloved friend' or 'evil'.

ואהבת לרעך כמוֹך-VE’HAVTA LE’REYECHA KAMOCHA -Love Your Neighbour As Yourself can also be read ואהבת לרעך כמוֹך-VE’AHAVTA LE’RAH-ACHA KAMOCHA-Love Your Negativity As Your Self.

One of the psychological mantras of the twentieth century has been 'love your shadow'. Earlier, the Baal Shem Tov alluded to this with the teaching that 'the reason we see wrong with someone else is because we have it in ourselves’.

To only see it in the other, in the outside and not in ourselves is a fundamental error. The spies - עדה הרעה-the EYDA HA’RA’AA - made this error. They stated that almost everything, except themselves, was wrong.

Perhaps the Torah is inviting us to honestly look inward first. To accept compassionately our own shortcoming, fears and insecurities. Not to project them on to others. As we love and accept our full humanity, we may be able to more clearly love and accept the other's full humanity as well.

In truth, there is no other.

We are all the children of Adam and Chava striving to return to the Garden. Let us learn to honestly look inward first. Accepting, and transforming our own inner רע -RAA.

3317 years later Tisha Be’Av approaches once more.

The first part of this transformation is effected by seeing that actually all is one. That we are all part of the human family and the human experience. The letter ע-Ayin-which means ‘eye’ and whose numeric value is 70 relates to the multiplicity, to the different things that we see. We therefore assume they are separate, different. True seeing in Hebrew is called ראה-RE’EH-See. It is written not with an ע-AYIN as in רעה-RAA-Evil, but with an א-ALEPH, the letter whose numeric is one and represents the unity of all life.

[Barak and Arafat leave Camp David with a sense of failure. For each the perceived רעה-RAA of the other is immovable.]

Rav Kook, the revered sage of our return taught that the path to reestablishing the Holy Temple, which was destroyed because of needless hatred, is for us to practice unconditional love - of ourselves and each other.

I pray that these words that Rav Kook wrote in 1908 come to fruition in our days: "The brotherly love of Itzchak and Ishmael will assert itself above all the confusion...Their love will overcome all and transform all to eternal light and compassion."

May all of us, children of Adam ve Chava, Avraham, Itzchak and Ishmael, be blessed to turn the 'bitter to sweet' and 'darkness to light'.

May this be our last Tisha Be’Av of tears.
Itzchak






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