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.

Monday, June 07, 2004



I was spending time with a good friend a few weeks ago, who will be making aliyah (immigrating to Israel) soon. After a fine time at the bat mitzvah in our synagogue, Shaarey Tefilah, we went & hung out at another friend's in our little shtetl. It's so great to have so many Jews in the neighbourhood :) We talked & ate ice cream & joked around & it was really a fabulous Shabbat afternoon.

We all walked together up to the women's shiur being held at Rebbetzin Rosenblatt's home. I'm often so exhausted by my focus on the Sefer during the week that I don't often attend these gatherings, but I miss them. I miss learning Torah with other women. Women of every age & experience. Aside from meeting with R' Singer every week, I haven't made much time for learning anything outside of my constant review of sofrut. I used to make time to learn Torah - & not anything sofrut related - for at least an hour per day, but now this Sefer draws so much of my energy. Joel & I have promised to learn Torah between Mincha (afternoon prayers) & Ma'ariv (evening prayers) each day after we're marrried, so I'm very excited about that! It'll be so good to have him as a chevruta as well as my partner in life :)

So the shiur, the talk, was really good. There was a woman from out of town, renowned for her Torah knowledge, who spoke. It was really refreshing to get her perspective on keeping close to G@d. Afterwards it was really terrific to visit with so many women from all over Vancouver that I hardly see, because I'm either at my own shul or in Seattle for Shabbat. & there's always tasty treats!

Over the snack table a woman confronted me. I don't think she actually thought it was a confrontation, it's just her way. But every single interaction I've ever had with her (is that emphatic enough?) has felt to me like a thinly veiled challenge. Interesting, because I don't feel threatened by fights...
So as we munched over the food she phrased her question in the form of a statement, as she does. She told me that she'd been talking to another sofer who lives here in Vancouver & asked him what he thought of a woman writing a Sefer Torah. Now, he is a Vizhnitzer Chasid, I understand, so part of a very observant & deep tradition which I have much respect for. Apparently he answered her that from his understanding of the Halakhah, as long as a woman were to observe miqveh (ritual immersion) while writing a Sefer, that he really didn't see any problem with it. I thanked her for sharing their conversation with me.
"So as long as you're going to the Miqveh every day, it's fine." she repeated pointedly. This was her question-in-a-statement.
"I do visit the miqveh after my period to remove the tum'ah (ritual impurity) of nidah (menstrual separation) each month, but I don't go every day. Her eyebrow raised.
"The Halakhah as stated in "Liqutei Sifrei STaM" ("How to Write STaM Books", roughly) is that it is considered "nachon" - "right" or "correct" - to immerse in a miqveh every day, but it is not a requirement. For some sofrim this is the custom, but not for others. As my sofer who mentored me does not, then I do not. One must, however, bathe very thoroughly before sitting down to write if one does not immerse. Most of the sofrim I know follow this minhag (practice)."
She listened & seemed satisfied.

I actually already knew this. My very close friend Michal Mivasair had a similar conversation with him many months ago & shared the pleasing conclusion. She & I were both happily surprised that a sofer coming from his more traditional perspective was accepting of me as a colleague. Just goes to show - mustn't make assumptions about people. Just let them open up & show themselves to you.

I didn't tell her I already knew what he thought. I think it's really important to be present with people & sometimes that means to just be open to what's important to them. What she doesn't know is that I'm even careful to not touch the qlaf or any of my sofrut tools or materials while I'm in nidah (menstruating). This is the reason that a kosher Sefer Torah cannot take on any sort of tum'ah, even though all the materials which make it up can. Because each person who comes into contact with each item used in the creation of a Sefer Torah must not only be in a state of Taharah (ritual purity), but must make a verbal declaration focusing his (yes, he is always male) intention appropriately so he can manufacture the supplies. At each stage, the slaughter of the animal, the preparation of the qlaf (parchment), the mixing of the ink, the twisting of the gid...all the way up to the sofer, who also must perform this task with a body & heart as full of The Holy One as is possible for that particular person. Once this is accomplished, it doesn't matter what kind of impurity or uncleanness the Sefer contacts, it's elevated state remains intact.

Such is the painstaking process of building something precious that will last forever. Whether it is a baby or a marriage or the perpetuation of G@d's word, its creative process must be entered into with joy & awe & love.


Blogger Jay said...

Hey, Aviel. I thought I'd add a comment just to show someone is reading. :)

I hadn't heard that the "other" sofer was accepting of your work. Very cool. Have you spoken with him?

10:17 a.m.  

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