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.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006



This is the small, lower sanctuary that I'm currently working in. I'm restoring Sifrei for a local Conservative shul during the day & working on my other sofrut projects in the evenings. Isn't this pretty?
Soferet's synagogue work space
No rest for the wicked!

Later today I continued my experimentation in d'yo (sofrut ink) stain removal. I already knew some, but learned an awful lot more this summer from Yehuda Miklaf, my Jerusalem bookbinder/conservator friend, & Jack Thompson, his colleague in Portland. Uber-conservation-idols they are. I'm lucky to have access to them.

I've experimented with both fabrics (my clothes & silk or cotton art cloths) & parchments/skins (q'laf, gevil & chamois scraps). I've noted that with most fabrics, they can be placed stain face-down on paper towels (recycled ones, please). Then I gently sponge the back of the stain with rubbing/denatured alcohol or rub detergent - liquid soap is easier on the fabric than hardened soap - into the stain until it disappears. I rinse it thoroughly & then launder the fabric.

Because d'yo is water soluable, if you catch it quickly enough then flush cold water through it will usually release the pigments. If not, I do the above.

Another method that works well is to soak the stained fabric in warm sudsy water with 1 - 4 tablespoons of household ammonia (the type with no added colour or fragrance) per litre of water. You might have to let it sit overnight. When it looks like the ink has disolved, rinse it thoroughly & wash in the hottest water safe for that fabric, with fabric safe/oxygenated bleach.

If you're strictly Orthodox like I am about using kosher soap in the house (because all cooking, eating, food-serving utensils & table cloths & napkins, etc, should be washed without unkosher animal fats, please), then if you need to get stains out of the fabric of a Torah mantle or belt, it's no problem. & if you can't find it kosher, you can always make it yourself. There are plenty of recipes for vegetable based soaps at Miller Soap (she's the mom of a friend of mine).

Be sure to test whether the stained cloth is colourfast before you do anything creative with it, too.
Who knew the Soferet was such a hausfrau? Yes, I wash, dry, scrub, cook...I even do windows!

Now none of the above can be used successfully on parchment, as there's just too much water involved. Kosher solvents can be used (like colourless vodka with no added flavour or anything) or kerosene, but NOT BY THEMSELVES! Quite a few people who do Sefer Torah repair do this & it's really bad for the skin over the long-term. I was shocked by what they told me they did. You actually need to cook your solvent up with other ingredients for it to be appropriate for use with kosher parchment, but that's for people willing to "go all the way" with their sofrut study.

I took the sukah down today :(
The ushpizin & ushpizot hangings are soaking in the laundry machine, the Jerusalem artichoke stalks, ivy & jute decomposing on my compost & the bamboo planted in the garden as trellising.

I'm still hanging onto my lulav & etrog, tho'...

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Blogger avrum68 said...

Ah Aviel...I read your blog for your unintended quirks/quarks of Jewish Vancouver. Love it. And if you take requests, it'd be great if you can include more pixs of where you spend your time in Vancouver.

7:15 a.m.  
Blogger Soferet said...

Hey there, Avrum :D
Will do.
Miss you out west here.

9:41 a.m.  
Blogger MiriyaB (Becca) said...

Sukkah hangings + laundry machine? What's that???

Just kidding...though I am feeling a little guilty that the fabric hangings (Indian batik, with celtic interlace designs, from a store in Brattleboro, VT) that we use for our sukkah walls haven't been washed for the past few years. Then again, we only use them for Sukkot...and the heavens cooperate by raining on them each time, often quite copiously, so surely that must count for something?

Mike and I impressed (confused?) our friend the American U. Hillel rabbi by having actually taken down our sukkah the day after chag ended: "You're kidding, right?" was his response. (Okay, we were so speedy in part because I knew it was going to rain the next day...and we didn't put the table & pieces of wood away [have to store them at a neighbors' place next door] for a few days after that, but still! It's a lot better than we have done in the past.)

10:35 p.m.  

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