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.

Friday, November 26, 2004



Monday, August 23rd
Joel & I were inspired to find out when R' Mordechai was leaving for Israel, because we'd love it if he would act as the misader qidushin for our chupah. Wonder of wonders we hunted him down & found out that he would be in Boston until Sunday, when he would fly. After a hasty tête-à-tête, we decided to wed on Thursday night :D:D:D!!!
We sent out a mass e-mail, reaching out to friends & family, & came up with a list of about 25 guests, a location & a time!


Just as well I packed, my dress, ring, chupah & qlaf for our ketubah, eh?
So I thanked Shoshanah & Ben, said good-bye to the Big Apple & headed north to New Haven, where Adam & Maggie were waiting to welcome the Big News.

Researched miqva'ot in the Boston area & came up with this:
Daughters of Israel Mikvah, Brighton. The Daughters of Israel Mikvah is under the supervision of the Bostoner Rebbe.
Well, that sounded like it would be an amazing experience, going to the Bostoner Rebbe's miqveh...especially since one of my sofrim is a Bostoner rabbi, so I feel some connexion...
...then I found this on the site (an excerpt):

Weddings and Commitment Ceremonies:Pre-Wedding Rituals | Ritual Actions
Ceremony for Immersion
By Barbara Rosman Penzner and Amy Zweiback-Levenson

Now, as I immerse myself, I begin a new cycle, a cycle of rebirth and renewal of Your world and Your people Israel. I prepare for my new life and for the sanctification of that life through kiddushin , Your holy state of marriage.

Prayer Before Immersion

Our mothers Rebekah and Rachel were betrothed and began new lives at the gently flowing waters of the well(Gen. 24 and 29).

Our mother Yocheved gave life to her child Moses in the ever flowing waters of the Nile (Exod. 2).

Our sister Miriam danced for the saving of lives beside the overflowing water of the Sea of Reeds (Exod. 15).

Water is God's gift to living souls, to cleanse us, to purify us, to sustain us, and, to renew us.

As Moses and Aaron and the priests of Israel washed with cleansing waters before attending to God's service at the altar (Exod. 40), so do I now cleanse myself before Your altar of sanctification.

"I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean" (Ezek. 36:25).

As God separated the waters in the first creation (Gen. 1:6), so I ask that You surround me with protecting waters and separate out threatening waters.

"Deliver me, 0 God, for the waters have reached my neck...I have come into the watery depths; the flood sweeps me away" (Ps. 69:2-3).

As God cleansed the earth with the waters of the Great Flood, making it livable for a new generation (Gen. 8:8), so I pray for renewal and prepare myself for new life.

I am a well of living waters, a garden spring, a stream flowing from the heights of Lebanon (Song. 4:15).

U-sh'avtem mayim b'sason mimay'nei ha-y'shuah.

"Joyfully shall you draw water from the fountains of salvation" (Isa. 12:3).

I am now prepared
to shed the impurities of my earlier life,
to become one with another life,
to become a creator of new life,
to become a partner in sharing the joys of life,
to teach and to learn in the lessons of married life.

Barukh Atah, Y-H-V-H, Eloheynu, Melekh ha-olam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu al ha-t'vilah.

Blessed are You, Being-ness, our G@d, King of all time/space, who sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us concerning immersion.

I also found Mayyim Hayyim, a kosher miqveh who welcomes everyone & was a project facilitated by Anita Diamont.
I couldn't actually believe that we're going to get married!!! *Such* indescribable joy!
I have no words to truly express my feelings or to truly thank G@d. May G@d accept my inexpressable feelings as my thanks.



Sunday, August 22nd, continued
R' Dave & Muz wanted the space back, so I'm out as of this afternoon. Packed everything hurriedly. Had settled in quite well here in Manhattan, despite the car theft the general concrete-ness. I'm going to plant a larger garden when I get home. Still, I'll miss this place. After the car was all packed it was getting to be mincha, so searched all over the upper west side for a minyan, but everyone had held services at 2 I asked at Roma & the owner very nicely directed me to a minyan up around the corner where they did mincha/maariv with some learning in between for beyn hashmashot. I returned to Roma after davenen & thanked him by ordering too much pizza & eating it while reading a Jewish newspaper article about Madonna, the Kabbalah Centre, The Pope, Mel Gibson & his raison d'être, Emmerich as I watched the car parked across the street. I was to move to Ben & Shoshanah's tonight - he just moved from downtown. It made sense for him to move up by Columbia/JTS since that's where he's doing his Ph.D, & because he could get a huge 2-bedroom for less than the airing cupboard he'd been living in. Headed north & after some very confusing driving around, discovered them both in a restaurant getting a late bite. Very funked-out place. I wish kosher joints decorated like this. I had a glass of water.

We went back to their place & I noticed many security lights & cameras in the courtyard surrounding the double-locked front door. Even a tidy brick & glass security booth, full of 24-hour armed guards. This freaked me out a little, but he said, "No - cameras are *good*!" so I asked him if his very clean & well-secured building was dangerous to live in. He pointed across the street, to the Projects.

We all settled in to the as yet unfurnished flat, had a beer & talked again about the history & customs of Jewish magic as I acquainted myself with the cat. She had the tiniest mew I have ever heard :D
Benny & Shoshanah are wonderful people.

I had a hard time falling asleep that night because of all the yelling & loud music radiating from those dark, forbidding buildings on the other side of the road. More like on the other side of the *world*. What is the secret Torah that can only be found in the Projects?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004



Today's challenges have included the power failing (prohibiting me from writing, cooking, blogging or even knowing what time it is on this very dark day) & general body aches & pains from all the work. But much as I mention my fears & complaints, I don't want to come off sound like I'm kvetching: I'm really just noticing & naming everything in this adventure, including the barriers & abysses. I welcome them - not always as gracefully as I would like :) - along with all the many blessings that HaShem grants. So barukh HaShem!

It's days like these that steel my determination to live integrally (see "The Integral Urban House", by the Farallones Institute), off the grid, in community but also in compliance with G@d's plan for the Earth. Then today wouldn't have come to such a full stop. I could have had sufficient light & heat to continue my work without being dependent on the City of Vancouver. Joel & I are looking for a home to purchase, one day (when we've recovered from our poverty), to convert into an independent, integral house with a very small footprint. We're already making plans for chickens, goats, fruit, vegetables, fish & bees to grow around our home & look forward to tempting other Jews to join us in living in accordance with B'reyshit/Genesis 2:15..."& the Creator took the human & placed him in the Garden of Eden, to work it & to guard it." The words "to work" are "l'av'dah" & " & to guard" are "ul'sham'rah".

The shoresh, or root, of av'dah is Ayin-Vet-Dalet & also means "to serve", "to till" (soil), "to prepare", "to compel" or "to worship". Now then, one must be very careful to properly pronounce the Ayin with it's proper voice, for it is very easy to pronounce Ayin like an Alef. & this is serious, because Alef-Bet-Dalet is the shoresh denoting "to lose", "to ruin", "to destroy", "to perish" or "to commit suicide".
& which way are we directing the future of the Earth? The Creator commanded us to lovingly guide the soil in it's potential, but we are wasting it away.

The shoresh of sham'rah is Shin-Mem-Reysh & also means "to keep", "to watch over", "to reserve", "to be careful with" or "to preserve". Again, we must be careful how we write the Reysh in this word, because Reysh can be easily mistaken for a Dalet. & the meaning of the shoresh Shin-Mem-Dalet is "to destroy completely" or "to annihilate".
This is why we write the Dalet of "Echad", "One", the last word of the Sh'ma, very large. Because if we pronounced this Dalet as a Reysh, G@d forbid, the word would be "echar", which means "another", thus denying the unity of G@d.

My wish for all humans is this: that as we are *all* descendants of Adam, the first Earthling, that we remember our origins, the soil, the Adamah, & respect the commandments of the Source of all life. & may we be blessed to remember the words of the Holy One in Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) Rabah 4:6;
"Look at My creations, see how beautiful they are, how excellent. Make sure you do not ruin or destroy My world, for if you do there will be no on to repair it after you."

Ameyn v'Ameyn Selah!



To Joel as a comment on his blog at, "Fly, My Pretties, Fly!"


I relate heavily to your statement, "...the weave's denial of its cloth (not to mention the Loom) is the oldest idolatry in the book. We are all guilty as charged."
Yes, especially me, who has been so focused on re-making, re-newing, re-entering, that when others remind me of the ore from which I was wrought, I feel vulnerable.
To be real, you need to celebrate your own history, humble & tormented as it might be. What does it matter what others think; it's yours. Wear it gladly. You need to celebrate the history of your own parents & grandparents, too, even if they weren't the nicest people. It is the clay out of which you sprang; reject it & you reject yourself. Only bad can come of that. Cherish whatis yours. Protect it. Defend it. Never accept the evaluation of outsiders in regard to it. Refuse to be trivialised.
I honour your words & your work!"

Every origin is real & has value & will not desert you.



Rabbi, philosopher and early Kabalist. Cordovero was a student of Joseph Caro and a teacher of Isaac Luria. His classic Pardes Rimonim (Orchard of pomegranates) which he completed when he was just 27 (completed 1548), developed for the first time a Kabalistic system.

In the 27th section, Sefer HaOtiyot (The Book of Letters), he writes of the Remez (intimations, hints) of the 22 Otiyot as 22 separate realities. That when it comes to the Hebrew Alefbet, there is not such thing as merely "symbol", that the Kabalah teaches us the Holy Letters are higher & higher - or deeper & deeper - manifestations of realities.
There are 22 realities, one for each letter of the alefbet.
& that each letter is simply a body representing something higher. Because to be in this world, the physical world, everything & everyone must take on a levush, wear a physical garment. Angels, for example, when they leave the Creator & come to Earth with their missins, wear a lavush of light so they may do their work here.
The physical scroll of the Sefer Torah, made of skin & sinew & ink, is the lavush of Torah. That is how the stories & the wisdom stay manifested in this world, by taking the form of a Sefer. & Torah is the lavush of G@d.

The Garment, the Levush, is the P'shat/surface Torah learning. The stories, the literal acts.
The Body, the Guf, is the Remez/hints of deeper Torah learning. The everyday human practice of mitzvot.
The Soul, the Neshamah, is the Drush/interpretation of Torah learning. It is the soul of the text.
The Soul of the Soul, Neshamah shel Neshamah, is the Sod/mysteries of Torah learning. The secrets of the Letters conceal G@d.

The acronym for P'shat, Remez, Drush & Sod, is P-R-D-S. Pardes.

Monday, November 22, 2004



Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar was coming from his teacher's house in Migdal Eder. He was riding leisurely on his horse when a certain man met him on the way, who was exceedingly ugly. R' Shimon said to him, "Raka (simpleton), how ugly are the children of Abraham our father." The man replied, "What can I do? Speak to the Craftsman Who made me." R' Shimon immediately dismounted from his horse and bowed before the man and said, "I apologize to you, forgive me." He replied to him, "Not until you go to the Craftsman Who made me and say, "How ugly is the vessel which You have made." 
R' Shimon walked behind him for three miles. When the people in town heard of the arrival of R' Shimon, they came out to meet him and greeted him with the words, "Shalom aleicheym, Peace be unto you, rabbi." The other man said to them, "Who are you calling rabbi?" They answered, "The man who is walking behind you." He then exclaimed, "If this man is a rabbi, may there not be any more like him in Israel!" He told the people the whole story, and they begged him to forgive the rabbi, and he agreed, only on the condition that he never act in this manner again.

The story of R' Shimon Ben Elazar & the ugly man teaches us that it is better to be like a reed than a cedar. If you are like a reed, you can stay connected in your place but be blown around, rather than uprooted & smashed like an inflexible cedar. This exercise can gently improve your midot. By "allowing" the Holy One to process out your flaws, & letting other people correct you when you make mistakes, you become more fully your true Self.

This is why Sephardic & Mizrachi sofrim make their kulmusim, their pens for writing Sifrei Torah & other ST"M, out of reeds & not out of stiff wood. Sometimes you are at your strongest, & you stand more firmly in your own truth, when you are willing to bend just a little.



Each Letter of the Alefbet is an activator - each has it's own unique holy form & holy sound. Like a rope attached to a bell.

This is why today has been such a horrendous writing day. I'm working very slowly as my hand is sore & then I noticed something on the qlaf. A tiny black dot. It looked as though a dry chip of d'yo had flaked off from somewhere, so I carefull used the schpitz of my quill to try to lift it away. My quill having wet ink on it, I thought this bit of dry ink would stick easily & come off. But instead I wasn't as careful as I thought & ended up leaving a drop of ink on the parchment. This was bad. Each letter in a Sefer Torah must be written lishmah - for the sake of Heaven - & even a drop falling on the parchment without the proper intention constitures SHELO lishmah, so it must be erased before any further writing is done - you're not allowed to turn it into a letter.

So since I couldn't find my glass shard or any sandpaper to take it out with, I plugged in my handy electric eraser (we aren't allowed to use base metal on the qlaf). Once the mark was gone, I realised that I had accidentally smudged the previous letter, a Hey. I felt very discouraged because I don't have time to make mistakes on this Sefer. Mistakes are very time-consuming to correct. So I left it alone & made lunch.

After lunch I went through my notes taken while learning with my sofrim, hoping to find a way to just correct the smudge & not erase the whole letter. We are not allowed to form letters by scraping ink away from them (chok tachut), only by adding ink. But I thought I remembered some erasing/adding exceptions to the rules that I was taught, so I researched all my books.

Then I came upon some entries I made while studying RAMAK with R' Dov:
"Otiyot (Hebrew letters) are not just conventions or images or symbols of sound. They are Ruchaniyot (spirits) whose forms relate to their essential manifestation. They posess a Me'or Nechbad, a particular light, a spiritual reality. Qedushah, Holiness, rests within the form of each Ot (letter)."

So I stopped looking for the shortcut, which ultimately cost me a lot more time than just erasing the whole letter, & I went back to my desk. I felt much more at peace with the situation, so I took out the entire Hey & continued writing.

Sunday, November 21, 2004



Wowee, this weekend has been intense. This week was so full that Joel & I (yes, we *did* get married, on Yud Elul barukh haShem, but I haven't written past mid-August at this point, except my periodic current events updates, so I will get to that :) bentsched licht & davened at home, ate dinner, bentsched & went straight to sleep. We were exhausted. Shabbes morning, parshat Vayetze, Joel noticed a large Peh Sofit in the Sefer Torah he was gabbay-ing from, but I saw none in my chumash behind the mechitza.

In the evening we went to the opening of Pini's Cholov Yisrael pizza place, on our street. Practically the entire frum community turned out - I'm so grateful to live in a place where there's enough Jews to support many shuls, rabbis, classes, a few restaurants, mohels, sofrim ( I think there's 1 or 2 aside from me now - men), & yet, it's a small enough group of Jews that we can't ignore each other: we run into each other, cross each others' paths, live in each others' back pockets, & ultimately support each others' endeavours. Vancouver has beautiful Jews!

I have noticed that since I have married & began covering my hair, more women in the frum community smile at me, greet me, perhaps take me more seriously, strike up conversations with me, are friendlier - so are their husbands, the rabbis. I suppose it doesn't hurt that I married a man who wears his tzitzits out & sports a beard, either. It's just now they know better where to place me in the spectrum of Jewish religious traditional observance & behaviour. I can't blame them for being confused by me before - a woman convinced her raison d'être was to write a Sefer Torah - anytime one breaks new ground, there may seem to be no boundaries, or perhaps no ideas where the new boundaries should lie. I know that eventually, people who care to interact with me will see that I want to perform this holy Work confined to all the same rules as male sofrim are. There is time.

I couldn't sleep last night, still leftover tension from the pigu'ot in Jerusalem & my poverty, but I rose early anyway & made my way to Richmond to give a demonstration to the Hebrew Sunday School at a Conservative synagogue there. The kids were awesome :) I showed them & their parents a Sefer that I was in the midst of correcting, so they could see the difference between the kosher parts & the pasul parts; showed them my tools & fixed a word in Ha'azinu in front of them. They all asked excellent questions & were just excited enough about all this that they were loud, but not so much that they missed even a minute detail of the Torah I was giving over. The rabbi periodically jumped in with things he wanted to draw their attention to, or relate to something else in their curriculum. I always appreciate when I'm teaching kids that someone more familiar with them direct the learning a bit. It's very important for the demo to go in the way most benefits the children, & I am not always the best judge of that. I really enjoyed hearing & watching the rabbi in action with the b'nai mitzvah class. He really is quite wonderful with them.

When I came home we made nachos & watched the Grey Cup. We were quite sad that the BC Lions lost to the Argos, but it was still a good game :)

After dinner I sat down & began to write a mezuzah. The writing is less than half the size of what I am accustomed to write in the Sefer Torah, yet must be executed with the same extreme care, with one exception: a mezuzah *must* be written in order, so if I make an error, that's it. It's finished. I am not allowed to correct, so I must begin writing another. So far, no mistakes, thank G@d, & may that continue. It's 22 lines long, so about the same length as half an amud (column) of Torah. I am being excrutiatingly careful with my spacing as well. & honestly, writing the Sh'ma was very intense, because I had to write 3 G@d-names in a row, verbally sanctifying each one. Thank G@d this process is difficult as it is gorgeous.
Shavu'ah tov!

Saturday, November 20, 2004



I want to extend a hand to all of you who have written me privately over the past few weeks to thank you for your words, your questions, your support & *most of all*, your patience. A documentary film crew shared my life this past while, so I have been unable to attend to much of the work I am accustomed to completing as a result. No, my Torah writing didn't suffer, much, I don't think, (this is what the documentary is about) but certainly replying to e-mails in a timely fashion has. So please accept my apologies here until I can make time to contact you & say so in person. In the meantime, I bless you that you had a beautiful Shabbes, wish you a Shavu'ah tov & look forward to connecting with you personally - as far as computers allow - very soon, bli neder.
Zei Gezunt

Wednesday, November 17, 2004



I have been diligently - & not so diligently - attempting to catch up on my blog update. Here it is November & I'm still writing about August, & being the anal-retentive person that I am, it causes me much chagrin to actually consider WRITING OUT OF ORDER, but today has been very special, so I must share now rather than whenever I get to it.

This morning I was learning after davenen with our new Rabbi, Schachar Ornstein, in the Shulchan Arukh Yoreh De'ah Reysh-Peh"Alef Hilkhot Sefer Torah. Now, this pasuq - Gimel - is the one famous for being used to prohibit women from writing Sifrei Torah. It reads, "A Sefer Torah which has been written by a Masur (a Jew who has turned away from Judaism to atheism), an Eved (slave), an Ishah (woman), a Qatan (boy under the age of 13 or girl under the age of 12), a Kuti (someone who is of doubltful Jewish status, like a Karaite or Samaritan), or a Yisra'el Momar (a Jew who has converted to another religion) - pasulin (these Sifrei Torah are disqualified from/unfit for use in public kria). Very simple & straight forward, no?

NO! If you just look at the *footnote* made by the Be'er Heytav, he speaks in the name of the Drisha (an Acharon, or later commentator), who spoke in the name of the Tur, the Ro"sh & the Ri"f (all Rishonim, or early commentators). He writes that the above pasuq which I just translated, these aforementioned great Rabbis understood to mean the prohibition extended to Tefilin (phylacteries). So if a woman made Tefilin, they could not be used for public prayer by a Jewish man. However, They considered a Sefer Torah written by a woman to be kosher.

R' Schachar & I were very excited to have stumbled upon this in shul today. We'd heard of it's existence, but neither of us had ever found it.

It's funny how some of our earliest leaders allowed women to write Sifrei Torah, accept aliyot, etc & some later leaders prohibited women from SO much public participation.

I'm interested in how that process unfolded & why...

Monday, November 15, 2004



The Alef-Bet as the Twenty-two Saintly Women:
Yoma 29a Table of Correspondences

Letter - Woman - Scripture

Alef - Sarah - Genesis 11:29-23:19

Bet - Rivqah - Genesis 24:15-25:25ff

Gimel - Rachel - Genesis 29:6-35:16

Dalet - Le'ah - Genesis 29:16-49:31

Hey - Yocheved - Exodus 2:1, 6:20; Numbers 26:59

Vav - Miriyam - Exodus 2:4-Numbers 20:1

Zayin - Mahlah - Numbers 27:1-7

Chet - No'ah - ibid.

Tet - Haglah - ibid.

Yud - Milkah - ibid.

Khaf - Tirtzah - ibid.

Lamed - Devorah - Judges 4:4-5:1ff

Mem - Manoah's wife - ibid. 13:2

Nun - Chanah - I Samuel 1:2-2:21

Samekh - Avigayil - ibid. 25:3-42

Ayin - the woman of Tekoa - II Samuel 14:2-20

Peh - the widow helped by Eliyahu - I Kings 17:9

Tzadi - the Shunamitess - II Kings 4:8-8:6

Quf - Chulda - II Kings 22:14, II Chronicles 34:24

Reysh - Naomi - Megilat Ruth

Shin - Yehosheva - II Kings 1:2, II Chronicles 22:11

Tav - Esther - Megilat Esther



"The secret to life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for your whole life. And the most important thing is - it must be something you cannot possibly do."



Sunday, August 22nd
My davenen this morning was bright & more loving. Shukling was more of a dance. Over breakfast I filed through all the cool stuff I'd done in NYC, like visit with Leslie (my kibbutz neighbour), meet her husband, see her round belly, check out the architecture of Grand Central Station, salivate over seforim at Westside Judaica, appreciate the funky mosaics & old pillars in various subway stations, connected with Chovevei Torah bocherim & ther wives, strolled through Central Park, met the new young group who call themselves "The Fruity Jews" (headed by Michaela Matt, Daniel Matt's daughter), passed out a ton of Womens' Torah Project brochures & spoke to many about same, poked around in a sofrei stam closet on the lower east side, explored shtieblakh, ate kosher organic venison & bison...
...& the things I never got to do like visit the Rebbe's qever, check out Seforim World or Beagle Eisen, hang out with Shuli, take Joel to the Eldridge St Synagogue, shop at Eichler's...
I really must find the following books which Benny recommended:
The Jewish Alchemists by Patai
The Secret Doctrine of the Kabalah by Leet
Mafte'ach Shlomo



I'm not saying you should buy this book or anything, & I don't work for these folks & I'm not doing a friend any favours, but it was good for a laugh:
I love when Jews put their perception of stereotypes of themselves & non-Jews out there for children ;+>

Sunday, November 14, 2004


This blog was entirely accidentally erased, so this space stands as a memorial to it & as a protest that there is no "undo" feature available.



Shabat, August 21st
After my ethics & Halakhah tantrum last night, I felt better in the morning after the sleep. But nothing has changed. I felt surly, so I wore my nightgown & flip-flops to Darchei Noam for services. Nobody would ever know it's a nightgown - it's a beautiful, simple dress that Kyla brought home for me from Islamabad. So I just look very tsenu'ah (modest/hidden) in it.
As is customary with synagogues, guests from out of town are offered aliyot, the opportunity to approach the Sefer Torah & bless the readings. A woman approached me & offered me an aliyah, but I smiled & refused. I thanked her very much, but I was hoping that Joel would be offered an aliyah & I didn't want to minimise his chances. Besides, I felt wierd accepting an aliyah after all these years of not performing gabbai duties or leading services. Funny. I'll write a Torah, but I won't read from one - publicly, at least. Actually, it isn't that. It's just that I don't feel comfortable doing that in front of men. Darchei Noam has a mechitzah, a separation between the men & women, which I deem essential to prayer, but they allow both men & women up on the bimah at the same time for the Torah reading. Meet The *New* Modern Orthodoxy. Joel wasn't offered an aliyah after all, & later he told me he wished I'd taken the opportunity, since there are no Orthodox shuls at home which do this. Oh well, next time.
There were snacks at the qidush & we hung around for a while, but nobody greeted or even noticed us. We made lunch back at the flat. Then I took a nap. Struggling with gender/sexual orientation/calling makes me very tired.
debates, conversations, wonderings
another nap
that's all



Still later, Friday August 20th
Shabbes potluck in Riverside Park with Qol Zimrah - dancing, singing, privately damning other Jews, my brothers & sisters, for their expectations of me. I don't understand what's so difficult to get: the only difference between me & a male sofer is just that - he's male. I am no more liberal than the next Modern Orthodox woman or sofer, so why is it that because I am a woman *and* a sofer that so many people think I have no boundaries, no ideals, no sense of what's appropriate. Just because I've gate crashed the sofer boys' club doesn't mean that I'm any less strict about my practice than other sofrim.

The night was beautiful & still & black in the park under the trees lit only by the skyline of the Jersey shore. Many of us wore white to greet the Shabat & there were Jewish angels everywhere. Pink & ruby dove wings. Messengers. Shoshanah, Benny, Shir-Yaakov, Limor...
We gathered on the lawn, took off our shoes & davened Qabalat Shabat in the deep grass, facing up the hill to the city. There was tremendous passion & sincerity in our prayer. All these 20-somethings asking G@d to help us bring peace, balance, justice, love, healing to the Earth.

We served ourselves up dinner, all our smiling faces shining. So many seekers. So many open people. Including myself. Strangers making friends. Shir-Yaakov lead zmirot & invited everyone to dance for the Chatan & Kallah, so the shiny smiles made circles & we hora'ed so fast I lost my breath & almost my balance. It's so wonderful that strangers can be so happy for each other, just because we all hail from the same tribe.

The evening was all a joyful blur until I encountered someone who suggested I come teach his group of followers in Israel. I was enthusiastic until he made it clear that they wanted to learn sofrut specifically, & that they intended to write a Sefer Torah. "& you know who in our group is the most excited about writing a Sefer Torah? Our Non-Jew."
My eyes glazed over. All I could say was, ""
But inside I was shouting.

According to Jewish Law, if a person wishes to learn sofrut, that person (male or female) *must* be a shomer/et mitzvot Jew. There is no compromising on this. This is part of living an integral, G@d-centred life. It's inappropriate for a Jew who eats treyf (unkosher) or breaks Shabat or doesn't keep the laws of family purity to write a Sefer Torah, as these laws are all contained within the Torah (as are numerous others) & one must have approriate kavanah, intention, to do this work. This mitzvah must be done for the sake of Heaven, so a Jew who does not make life choices based on awe for G@d cannot properly fulfill this task. In fact, if such a Jew were to write a Sefer Torah, we are instructed to burn it.

The same goes for a non-Jew. This Work is not the job of a non-Jew to perform. Non-Jews have other Work to do for G@d that is not for Jews to perform.

I am so tired of people approaching *me* to give them what they want. This man who propositioned me knew that he could never get an Orthodox male sofer to teach his group of followers anything at all about sofrut in, like, a bajillion years. So he asked me. Why? Does he not assume that I will guard the Laws as carefully as a man?

It's like when I have gay & lesbian couples ask me to write them a ketubah (Jewish wedding contract). I am sympathetic to their wanting an official union & a ritual to celebrate that. & I'm happy I live in a country where GLBTQQ folks can legally partner, with all the same rights as straight people. But there is no room in Jewish Law, to my knowledge, for a Halakhically recognizable marriage between anyone but a Jewish man & a Jewish woman. So what can I do? I don't feel I can provide the service they seek, because I recognise that I am bound by these Laws. & yet, I don't want to upset anyone - G@d knows it's already hard enough to be a Jew, practicing or not, even in North America. But to be a queer Jew is *so* challenging (as my queer Jewish acquaintances tell me). One of my sofrim who mentored me, Dov (a Chasidic rabbi), told me that when it comes to making a living, there's nothing wrong with making art for someone even if they intend to use it in this way. So don't call it a ketubah, he said. Don't word it exactly the same way as a traditional text. There's nothing wrong with that.

& yet, that sounds so patronising to me somehow. I mean no disrespect to our queer brothers & sisters, but I also don't see where I can fit in to their vision & still remain loyal to Jewish Law, as I understand it. I walked home frustrated & angry. How does one say "no" gently & respectfully?

I threw myself on the bed & cried myself to sleep...

...Shabat shalom



Why do so many people assume - wrongly - that because I am a woman breaking new ground that I must not have any boundaries?

Sunday, November 07, 2004



On the Sabbath the tortures of Gehenna (Hell) cease for a day, & the spirits that are punished there & the demons that punish them are set free to roam the world until the Sabbath ends. But not all return to the place of punishment on time; some lag behind until dawn & seek ways to cause turmoil in the world once the sanctity of the Sabbath has been lifted.

In one town there was a scribe who was writing a Torah. This Torah was to be used the first time in a newly built synagogue. The scribe lived in fear of not completing the Torah in time for Simhat Torah, when the Torah reading begins anew with the first verses of Genesis. So it was that as soon as the Sabbath had ended & the havdalah prayers had been said, even though the rabbi had warned him to refrain from working, this scribe hurried to his desk. He was in such a hurry, in fact, that he failed to recite Psalm 91, which protects against the dangers of demons.

The scribe worked like a demon himself until midnight, but then his eyes grew bleary, & he knew that he must stop, for if he made a mistake he would have to write the Torah all over again. & as he reluctantly went to sleep, the scribe wished that someone would help him complete his work, so that the Torah would be ready on time.

Now every wish is overheard, either by an angel or a demon. & in this case it was a demon on its way back to Gehenna who overheard the scribe's wish & decided to fulfill it at once.

This demon tried to enter by slipping beneath the front door, but because the text of the mezuzah, which the scribe had written himself, was flawless, it could not. Then the demon circled the house, searching for an open window, & at last it found one that was open just a crack. But that was enough for the demon, who quickly slipped inside & hastened to the scribe's desk, where the incomplete Torah lay open.

The demon picked up the scribe's pen, dipped it in the ink, & began to write. It copied the text at a great speed, for the demon knew it by heart, because demons are as familiar with the Laws as are the angels. & before very long the demon had filled up that page of the parchment & had started on the next. Soon that page was filled as well, & the demon, lost in the task, continued to write long into the night, until a great many folios of the parchment had been written, & only one page still remained.

The demon hunted for more parchment, but not a scrap was to be found. & the demon, in a frenzy to complete the task before being forced to return to Gehenna at dawn, hastened to the bed of the scribe & began to strip the skin off the man's back, despite his howls of pain, then continued to scribble away on it until the task was done.

Germany; Fifteenth Century
An excerpt from "Lilith's Cave: Jewish Tales of the Supernatural" as selected & retold by Howard Schwartz



Later on, Friday August 20th...
Prepping for Shabbes was a joy today. I don't know why it isn't more often. Possibly the simplicity of the digs. R' Dave's place, a one-bedroom flat near Riverside Park, contained all that was needed, either by accident or design. I want to express once again how totally generous he was in allowing me to stay there in his abscence. After weeks being a literal, not just a proverbial, wandering Jew, there was a safe silence & a stable privacy that this place brought to me, which was seriously lacking after sleeping in the open car in parking lots & camping haphazardly. Who knew that such peace & quiet could be so easily found on Manhattan Island?
When I look back on those days spent in R' Dave's flat, I feel nothing but gratitude & remember nothing but goodness. May he have ten times the goodness he did me come back to him! The soft sky-lit bathroom, cosy kitchen, the warm dark wood, downy bed, the flat level desk I worked on with such pleasure, open 5th-floor deck, my new friend the betta fish & the books...oh, *all* the books!!!
I miss that place. & will be eternally grateful for R' Dave for allowing me access to it & its treasures. It was, for a very short time, well & truly my home.
Thank you, R' Chayim David...
You are a blessing.
I prepared food for the outdoor potluck Qabalat Shabat I was going to attend in the Park, bentsched licht & proceeded on with the holy Seventh Day...

Saturday, November 06, 2004



Friday, August 20th
The highlight of my day today was a chat on the phone with Dr. Eric Ray, internationally renowned sofer ST"M & all-round nice guy.
He'd written a kids' book I'm a big fan of called "Sofer: The Story of a Torah Scroll". Check it out at
He is such a treasure - possibly the most knowlegable scibe on the planet, an expert in dating Sifrie Torah based on their materials & styles - so it was a real privilege to speak with him. He'd just come out of hospital, so we didn't speak for too long, but we both had wanted to speak with each other for some time. I wanted to speak with him because he's one of my heroes & he wanted to speak with me because he'd heard there was a soferet out there & wanted to reach out.
I'm really glad we did. R' Kevin Hale put us in touch (he's the Reconstructionist sofer I mentioned in an earlier writing). He'd been one of Dr. Ray's students. R' Kevin related to me what unbelievable knowledge Dr Ray had & how he shared it unselfishly. What a terrific teacher & mentor he was, & how very kind.
When I called, I got his wife, Lali. I told her that R' Kevin had passed their number along to me because Dr. Ray wanted to talk to me. "Oh, just a moment - Eric, it's that female scribe!" :) Dr. Ray was extremely pleasant to speak with. He asked me all kinds of questions about what I had learned with my sofer & we shared a little info. He also cautioned me not to buy any d'yo (ink) coming out of Brooklyn right now, because there were some unscrupulous sofrim adding very much soot to their recipes & not steeping the ink properly or long enough. All this was in an attempt to produce more faster & profit further. But this ink was far inferior to that which is made properly (& with the proper intention), so he wanted to make sure that I didn't buy any while I was there. I thanksd him very much for his advice & he asked me to please keep in touch. I was secretly hoping he'd invite me to his home so I could meet him & Lali, as R' Kevin had hinted he might. Oh well.

Can you imagine? Sofrim who want to get rich off selling an inferior product to be used in this most holy occupation.



Thursday August 19th
Where is the Talmud reference to women being obligated in all positive non time bound mitzvot? This supports females acting as sofrot of Sifrei Torah. I *MUST* FIND THIS!
R' Dave was later helping me with his Bar Ilan CD to find some sources...Qitzur Pisqey HaRosh for one - a book written in the name of Rabbeynu Asher by his son, the Tur. Both Rishonim & both open to women writing.
I returned to West Side Judaica to drool over the seforim I couldn't afford.
I headed to A-1 Sofrei Stam on the Lower East Side - I was *so* nervous going in there. & Of course I had to get buzzed in. Not like in Israel where one can waltz in (unless one is female). What met my eyes was astounding. 2 older men, dressed in black & white like their Torahs, were peering over their beards at their work. They were helpful, in their disregard of my presence :) they didn't seem to care that I was there or not, which actually gave me a modicum of privacy to peer at thier establishment without being molested by their being attentive. They were both friendly, in their gruff Olde Country way. Occasioanlly one would shout to the other a question in Yiddish, which I barely understood, like, "Itzik, I don't like the way you made this Tzadi - come look at what you did!" I got a real kick out of them in their terribly messy business, not unlike my own workspace, nor unlike *my* sofer's studio...
There were shelves crammed with all manner of tools & materials, & every square inch of horizontal work space was taken up by piles of partially-finished projects, drawers overflowing with tefilin straps like a child fat black crayon scribbles & jumbles of gid wildly dancing over the flat & rapelling down the sides of the crowded furniture.
They chiefly buy old Sifrei to refurbish there, then re-sell them once they're kosher again. Alon even makes their own rollers!
They were very busy, but did answer all my questions about their business, services & supplies. I thanksed them heartily, took a couple of business cards, & wished them a good Shabbes.
I was exhausted! It gets SO HOT here! I completely ran out of energy, it all having been sweat out of my pores, so even theough there was a bunch of other cool stuff I wanted to do while on the Lower East Side for only the second time in my life (like check out the Eldridge St shul & scope out the shtieblakh), I just stumbled back to the subway :(
Chatted with Shuli & then later Rachel over the phone as I lazed & recovered on the patio, enclosed in the city brick & withdrawing from the hot, tired world of my Self.
My thoughts have been moving further in the direction of self-denial, contemplation, serving others. In previous blogues, I have sometimes considered, sometimes fretted over, why people don't understand me, what they take me for, how they will think of me. But all that energy of mine (& I have plenty, thank G@d) would be better spent in further prayer, additional work, retreat & service.



Wednesday, August 18th
"Israel's Chief Sephardic Rabbi has declared that "women may be great Talmudists (gedolei hador) & they may serve as arbiters of the law (morei hora'ah) & as teachers of Torah & practical halakhah, because the authority for these positions flows from the individual's talents.""
I hope his attitude catches on. In the mean time my mystic practice reminds me that gender difference can make *all* the difference to some people. Strict discipline in diet, solitude, spiritual growth, sacrifice and sexuality I pray will help women gain independence and empowerment through mysticism, & that these disciplines, taken on voluntaritly as an expression of love for the Creator, will be remembered as hugely relevant today.



Tuesday, August 17th
When I'm dead (in the right time, but not before Moshiach, G@d willing) I hope that my critics will be fewer & that in this process of learning & writing I display a combination of courage, willpower and impassioned faith that inspires others to draw nearer to G@d; that I don't leave anyone with the impression that I do what I do for self-aggrandisement.
Drisha - Jofa -
At the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance offices I was greeted like a celebrity. I just came by to drop off more Womens Torah Project brochures for Kadima, but they kept me there for a bit, their smiling, enthusiastic faces so welcome :) The secretary there was *awesome*. I promised to send them some Halakhic sources for this work.
Drisha was the opposite - they were in newer quarters than 2 years ago when I came - very sleek & chic & cold & hard & mod. All mint & chrome. & a ghost town. NO one was there. You could hear a pin drop. I walked in, no security, & wrote a note about the brochures & left them in plain sight on the reception desk. I searched the entire floor, every place, & there wasn't a soul.



STILL August 16th...
Drive into NYC with R' Dave, cruising through New Paltz, a cute little town with a community oriented, earthy flare if I ever did see one. It was a gorgeous, sweet day. Althought the country is where my heart is, I was happy to be heading back to Manhattan. I had never spent any time east during the summers (well, *very* east, like Europe or the Middle East, but not North America), so was very cautious about how humid my work environment was. NY State wasn't as bad as Iowa, for sure, but R' Dave had air conditioning in his apartment, which was a help.
I remember last year while writing the Megilat Esther for Shaarey Tefilah that each time I cooked a meal the qlaf would curl up & of course I would panic. Even with all the windows & doors open, plus the kitchen & bathroom fans on, making dinner would still curl the parchment. It was fine, barukh haShem, but it didn't look good to me, & of course I delivered the Megilah in perfect shape. Even though it's more humid here than that, the Sefer qlaf does not curl. Probably just because the pieces are larger. Thank G@d.
I called Shuli from R' Dave's phone - it was great to hear her voice. I sure do hope we can see each other during what little time I have left in the USA.
Nissin & Sarah cme over to R' Dave's & we visited - I really like them a lot. I feel so lucky being brought into the same orbits as there special people. Also, I met a very holy man tonight named Dudi. He told truly wonderful, hilarious stories about his adventures in trusting G@d. I admire him very much for that & could benefit by emulating his acts of release. When he heard what I do for my living, he paused & looked extremely thoughtful. Really went far "in", if you know what I mean. I quietly said that reading & hearing the Torah is a community, not an individual, obligation & women are members of the community. So what would a woman not be equally obligated to write Sifrei Torah. "Maybe I should say a brakhah. This is the first time I've seen a soferet."
I was deeply humbled & looked at my shoes, blushing.



Monday, August 16th
Elat Chayyim mornings are pleasantly disorienting as time spent in a nunnery.
Pages 204 - 206 in Tamar Ross' book are haunting me.
By the time I have completed this Sefer Torah, I want to have achieved independence and empowerment through the embrace of the 613th commandment, in the literal & mystic sense. I want to have claimed a direct, intimate personal relationship with G@d, which is within the grasp of all people, by doing the Work which I believe is mine to complete. I want to have defended the traditions of a moderate Orthodox Jewish stance in a society dominated by atheism & religious extremism, where fear & hate have gained unprecedented power and influence. I want to have helped heal the world & my own soul by obedience to HaMaqom.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004



Sunday, August 15th
Some of the most precious moments I experienced thanks to this Blueberry Jam have been the crisp wet early mornings & their pale light. It's so quiet & still, it makes me feel more human, more of the Earth, more "adam". To steal softly around the silver dew, past Jay & his clipboard (always up latest & earliest) & be first to the honeybucket, all the while KEEPING SHABBES...
I think the whole camp gathered in Pete's kitchen & scarfed down stacks of home-made pancakes. Except me (not kosher), but they sure smelled good. & it was really warm & happy in there that morning, so I hung out a bit. The secular Israelis were there - the ones I made friends with over the course of the weekend (see? I told you ;+>) - & we made sure we'd catch each other later, before we all left, so we could visit some more. I spent hours talking with them both, but in particular the young woman who was a poet. I really enjoyed meeting her & found her pov & experience very intriguing & she really drew me in.
But enough of all that - off to the Amherst Chabad looking for a morning minyan :)
There was none...only a completely unlocked & open old brick house, with a Sefer Torah & everything, & not a sign of a soul. It was spooky. I didn't know what to do, as I was in Chabad House, but also clearly in somebody's home. I went outside & checked out the grounds. Just debris. Everywhere. Like everyone left in a hurry.
There was a noise in the crumbling brick garage, a ways off from the house. I peered in a broken panel of glass in the door & saw nothng but more debris - lawn furniture, a sukah, bicycles...but I did notice an animal hair caught on the frame, so I backed away.
On my return to the car, the most adorable baby raccoon poked his fluffy head out of the hole & had just poked mine through. I made gentle sounds at him I got into the car so he felt safe to come out & be on his way, which he did.
That's exactly when a huge young family of Lubavitchers appeared from the house - where all those small children had materialised from I have no idea. They were very kind. The husband afforded directions to the other rabbi's home who I wanted to connect with & the wife offered me food, since Amherst, although full of Jews, is not exactly full of kosher food. But I still had left over from shopping in NY & I was on my way back there, so I thanked her & assured her that everything was ok & thank G@d for Coleman coolers.
R' Chaim Edelman, this "other" Chabad rabbi, was great. Showed up at his door & talked with him re the organic kosher co-op intentional community of shomerim which he's been trying to start in the wilds of Massachusetts. What he & several other Lubavitch families are wanting to do is almost identical to that which Joel & I wish to engage in. The concept of a bunch of Jews living out on an organic farm & living with respect of G@d's laws & being self-sufficient as well as selling our blessed excess product sounds like Shomayim to us. Since up until now we've only heard about un-observant Jews who are interested in co-housing, or observant jews aho don't want to farm, or who want to farm but not do organic, etc...well, this was a jackpot & we wanted to trade names, data, ideas, etc. Joel wants to put together "The Whole Mishkan Catalogue" so that Jews all over can help each other realise the dream of stewardship of the Earth, partnership with G@d as we raise our families & do The Work.
Anyway, it was quite enlightening. Who knows how or when R' Edelman will figure into our future plans...
On the way back to the Catskills, I searched for my ancestors' graves in the old farming villages of Grooms Corners & Vischer's Ferry. People who left Europe in the mid-1700's to do there what Joel & I want to do in *our* home. They fed their children from working this land. Their children were United Empire Loyalists & left the US for Canada after the Revolutionary War. I could find no specific info on where they were buried before the trip, so I was dismayed at just HOW MANY old cemeteries there were to explore. I never found my 4x great-grandparents. Perhaps next time. I only found clouds of vicious mosquitos rising from the bushy uncut grass at each gravesite to steal my blood.
I was stunned at how flat & green that area of the Mohawk River Valley is. & I was stunned & saddened that Grooms Corners has become little more than a cookie-cutter townhouse sprawl with a gas station & Qwik-E-Mart. The farms are gone.
Arrived at Elat Chayyim late & hung out with Dave, Muz & some of the other workstudy crowd. It was nice & quiet. & fun when we saw what a skilled actor R' Dave was :)
Time wore on & we tired of our warm company with each other, so I was shown to a room (yay! a bed!) & slept all night with the window open so I could hear the insects transmit their wisdom.



Shabat, August 13th
The laid-back ease of the Blueberry Jam & the friendliness of the folks here have finally helped unwind me from the tensions I built up on the road & encountered at Elat Chayyim. It's also given me a chance to think. Every spare moment I spend reading, in-putting, so I don't always allow myself the time & the space to process.

I consider myself equally obligated as any male Jew to write a Sefer Torah with yirat Shomayim & this is a religiously authentic drive to perform the 613th mitzvah in the service of G@d. My motivation is not mishum yoharah (religious exhibitionism). & I am not attempting to ignore or undermine halakhic authority, as we have halakhic permission for women to write Sifrei Torah. & what is Judaism, after all, without the Halakhic process?



Friday, August 12th
"Expanding the Palace of Torah: Orthodoxy & Feminism" by Tamar Ross p236 para 2 & 3! THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!
I spent lunch on the phone with R' Neal, my wonderful friend in Swampscott. Such a sense of humour this man has :)
A long drive to the Berkshires ensued after my prayer, learning & writing this morning. More weekend traffic & summer construction meant I only got to Worthington about a half-hour before candle lighting time. It was a rush to wash, set up camp & cook so I could settle in for the 2004 Blueberry Jam.
Joel's cousin Jay & his wife Laura put on this small folk music festival each summer in a blueberry field in Massachusetts. People come in from all over the US (& now Canada!) to play & sing & hang out all weekend.
There were some not-kosher-keepng Jews there, so when we did qidush we offered the wine to them, but they turned us down. That's ok. They'll get to like us before the weekend is up. I enjoy how subversive love is ;+>
A great bonfire was set in the fire pit, so many of us gathered 'round to meet & eat. Although I would never do such a thing myself on Shabat, when non-Jews make fires of their own volition, I like to benefit. The evening ended with happy, tipsy & hilarious Jam-mers, armed with guitars & banjos, strumming out everything from Ozzy Osbourne to Def Leppard with a veangence.
Gotta love Gen-Xers!



Thursday, August 11th
Davenen silent & peaceful. Thank G@d.
Confirmed addresses for Manhattan Women's Torah Project brochure drop-offs (Drisha, B'nai Jeshurun, Edah, Jofa)...
Walked all around & the upper west side ones had moved to various places - EDAH to Jersey. But I got them in the end.
Got groceries @ Gary Null's Whole Foods - & I'm reading a book he wrote in the 70's. R' Dave has an unbelieveable variety of books - everything from Talmud Bavli to comics. I have tremendous respect for this man :)
I moved the car, because that's what you do in New York City. The Car Dance. This bi-weekly exercise make me so crazy I want to become Amish. Except for the being Christian part.


"And in general, this is an important rule in the struggle of ideas: we should not immediately feel obliged to refute any idea that comes to contradict something in the Torah, but rather we should build the palace of Torah above it. In so doing we reach a more exalted level, and through this exaltation the ideas are clarified. And thereafter, when we are not pressured by anything, we can confidently also fight on the Torah's behalf."
- Rabbi Avraham Yitzchaq Kook, Iggerot HaReayah I, 163-164

I'm deep into this womens' learning book



Wednesday, August 11th
Wrote first thing in the morning - a few small errors hinted to me to slow down & focus & breathe.
But it's so difficult somethimes. I miss Joel.
Leslie called & we had a great chat on the phone. It's so terrific to speak to her again after all these years. We get very wrapped up in our own lives, don't we? What can the Hebrew letters teach me about that?
I called R' Kevin Hale later & we spoke for a bit. It was good. I'm relieved to have a handful of quasi-colleagues around the world. I say "quasi" because I don't know any of them very well, or what their religious or even sofrut practice is, but they are equally rejected by the establishment as I am. They are men, but they are Reconstructionist, Conservative, Reform. I am Orthodox, but I am a woman. That is my only "flaw".

how many letters in a bottle of ink - oprm?



Tuesday, August 10th
The big adventure I planned today was a visit to A & Y Sofrei Stam on the lower east side. I found them in the yellow pages. I can't wait to go! I've missed being able to browse sofer supply stores, even though it's always stressful due to the "don't-ask-don't-tell" situation I pray for. But seriously, I'm SO excited! I'm already having fantasies of pre-cut, pre-scored mezuzah blanks...I'm such a sofrut nerd!

Later in the day I continued researching this mysterious - & perhaps NOT so mysterious woman in Na"KH: HaSoferet.
Ezra 2:55 states: "The children of Solomon's slaves: The children of Sotai, the children of HaSoferet, the children of Peruda."
("B'nei avdi Shelomoh b'nei-Sotai b'nei-HaSoferet b'nei-Peruda:")
Apparently, these descendants of Solomon's slaves lived among the Jews, but never converted (see RAMBAM, Melachim 6:1)
Nechemyah 7:57 records: "The children of Solomon's slaves: the children of Sotai, the children of Soferet, the children of Perida." ("B'nei avdi Shlomoh b'nei-Sotai b'nei-Soferet b'nei-Perida.")
The oldest physical scrolls we have found yet of either of these book? Ezra 14:23-48 *only* was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran.

Insane...hop on a plane...

I hung out at West Side Judaica that night & tried to find the Drisha's commentaries on the Tur in an affordable format - no dice. It's really hard to do all this research on my own, having *no* money & living in Vancouver. I can't afford to buy the books I need & the people who own them in my town won't lend them to me.
So I returned to the flat & read about the Essenes & Qumran & the scrolls online outside in the city-glow.



Monday August 9th
Pizza with Bena & Gustavo at their place was terrific last night. It had been a year since I'd seen them & it was so great to catch up & share their space, even briefly. They're so wonderful, I wish we lived closer. I'd love to explore Bena's Halifax.
I'm so grateful to Dave for the use of his apartment.
Napping on a real bed was *heaven*.
Doing laundry was equally as pleasurable, in its Zen way.
I have begun "Rereading the Rabbis" by Dr Judith Hauptman.
I wrote & wrote. All the driving gave my arm a rest from the pain of work, but it's starting to return. I set up my laptop outside on the spacious patio & hunt for wireless internet hubs. As I scan, I notice the flies. Nasty, brutish New York Flies. GIANT FLIES with grey racing stripes rubbing their greedy paws.
In the evening I went out to explore the neighborhood, scope out kosher food, etc, & just get oriented. My body has missed the exercise. The sharp popping & cracking sounds of Joel walking on stray bubble wrap startle me to tears after my experience in Israel left me fearful. Still more PTSD to deal with after all :(



Sunday. Today was definitely spent in first gear. It was a nice break after the furious amount of writing I had to make up for from being on the road, & slowly being discovered by seekers at Elat Chayyim who wanted to share more & more of my time, barukh haShem & keyn eyna hora, of course.

Dave got smikha, rabbinic ordination, from Reb Mordechai this morning. I was exhausted last night after Havdalah, when I first laid eyes on the document I was to copy out, glaring at me from Reb Mordechai's desktop. I wrote it out in cursive Hebrew by hand & then laid out the final work with pencil on veggie parchment which I happened to be travelling with - you never can be sure when you might need to suddenly write out a holy document for somebody :)
& I was thrilled to have been asked by Reb Mordechai to write out what amounts to an excellent friends marriage contract with his Judaism.
There must have been 60 of us in that yurt, all encircling Dave as Reb Mordechai invoked the Tur, the Rosh, & so many of our Chazal (Sages of blessed memeory) & praised Dave's character & Torah learning & life. It was such a powerful ritual, the likes of which I may never yet have seen, nor can commit to this blog. The beauty & sincerity of the love in that round room gushed out the windows & doors...kosi we sang & blessed our friend & leader as the Rabbi laid hands on him & conferred upon him his hard-earned authority. He danced with blinding joy as we circled & sang him, so many souls connecting in truth - I saw the Otiyot join him! What a privilege to have written the holy words of this document, & what a privilege to be present for such a secret celebration, & what a privilege to simply know of this deeply lovingly intimate soul.

I think I ate up enough soul food for a month...& certainly this will visit me in the future.

Today was pack-it-up & move it out day, so that left me free to cruise the grounds alone & then spend the afternoon lazing on a picnic table in the shade with Shir-Yaakov, Joel, Shoshanah, Benny & Dave. Benny & I had great conversations about kabalah as it extends into & influences Jewish magical practice & superstition. We traded analyses of various old books we'd each studied on the subject (he's doing his doctorate at JTS/Columbia on it) & he told me some crazy stories about demonology books written by ancient rabbis which live in the JTS rare book room. I came away with a list of places in Williamsburg where I could find excellent seforim.
There's nothing like taking a day to relax, truly connect with similar souls & comiserate with chipmunks.
Dave was good enough to stay at Elat Chayyim & give me the keys to his flat on the upper west side, so I would have a quiet, private place to work & rest in Manhattan, barukh haShem.

When it was time to go there was just quiet, & an emptiness that so soon after meeting these gorgeous souls that I would be separating from them without the opportunity to fully connect, but I did leave with the knowledge that I would touch them again. G@d willing, soon.

Monday, November 01, 2004



There was much dancing, singing & merrymaking that Shabbes evening. After it began to quiet, & the majority had wound down, we - about 20 of us - younger than most, began to celebrate the Shabat in a more traditional way. We sang so many Shabbes zmirot with such a feeling of love & gratitude & community! & then our bentschen (grace after meals) was lead by Shir-Yaakov - so unbelieveably beautiful. Never in my life have I experienced such heartpiercing passion in thanking G@d for our food. Barukh haShem!

Shabat, August 7th
Woke late & davened on my own, away from the other groups, as I feel very much an outsider here.
After qidush I explored the grounds more broadly than I had the opportunity earlier.
Chazan Motti Fuchs & I kept running into each other. We'd stop whatever we were doing, wherever we were going & trade smiles & stories enthusiastically. I think I spent the greatest portion of my Shabbes, off & on, conversing with him. He was quite wonderful.
& what a voice :)
I think I have more to learn from him.



Friday, August 6th, Parte Deux
Later in the afternoon there were so many failings of the people & place, such contraction & sadness. So much pain hurled from one to an innocent other, soiling bystanders. It broke my heart to see such a stirring.
That night, over our huge & beautiful Shabbes meal, R' Mordechai told a tale of love, of renewal, of hospitality & of release that inspired all present & that I hope taught a gentle lesson to those who move in directions opposite.
There were many smiling faces floating above white garments & glasses of wine this night. Generous laughter & kind acts throughout. Perhaps a tiqun, a healing, can be made.

Good Shabbes, good Yontif



Friday, August 6th
Froze out in the tent. A rather large furred creature was creeping into the shadows as I approached the main building in the middle of the night. I found it difficult to sleep in on the ground after so many whip lashes & so much bending over the Sefer. I woke to the powerful hypnotic chant of Shefa Gold leading Shachrit. We had blintzes for breakfast - I thought of Mum & how much she would enjoy these - I remained sitting alone. Charna introduced herself to me - it was she & her shulkids who raised over $200 for the Womens' Torah Project. People are starting to realize who I am & strangers are approaching to welcome me into Elat Chayyim & wish me shalom. I washed & davenned again. I tried to call Bena & Gustavo in NYC. There is something unnatural going on with that pay phone by the dining hall. I set up in the small dining room & worked on the Sefer - I missed writing SO much over the last several days of endless driving across the continent. There were bubbles in the d'yo (ink) I'd never encountered, & when they hang under the tip of my kulmus they pop at contact with the qlaf & smudge the letters. This must be from being sealed for so long & getting jostled around in the car. It was a hard re-beginning today, that's for sure. Rayzl with intense brown eyes, sable hair & a velvet voice came to me. She asked about my work, the Project, this journey. She was enormously gracious & kind & made me feel very warmly welcomed. She made signs for the doors of the room so I would not be disturbed & invitations were exchanged. I appreciated this, as I didn't want to take up anyone else's space, since I was paying only to stay there & eat & was not part of any program. I continued working with my difficult ink, thinking, "every letter I write today is one I do not have to write tomorrow..."



Thursday, August 5th
We cleared out of the yoga studio before the 7am class & I performed my ablutions & prayers before the silent breakfast.

Afterwards I completed the new sample of my work for Florida in the small dining room. I was sharing the space with Hayah Gafni by her invitation, so it was a good vibe in that room. We shared about words & letters & writing, then hit the hot tub. It was so good, after days in the car, to unwind behind the curtains & just enjoy the warmth without men trapesing in & out.

I napped in the car during the afternoon classes. I was going to set up the tent & sleep there, but once I got there it began to rain a warm Catskills summer rain. I sat in the car with the windows rolled down & listened to it beat G@d's secrets on the metal. Then I fell asleep, I was so exhausted. I woke bleary 2 hours later & roused myself by reading the vanity plates in the parking lot. I was amused at "PROP ART" from Illinois being parked next to "HERE I M" from New York. & a bumper sticker declaring, "You don't have to believe everything you think". Fascinating what people bring with them to Elat Chayyim, & along all their journeys how they use their voices.

At dinner Ken suggested Shavu'ot (June 12th, 2005) as a completion date for the Sefer. I thought that was a brilliant idea, so that is my new goal. I've been aiming for late spring, but didn't have a particular date in mind. I need an exact point from which I can work backwards from, otherwise it's very difficult for me to achieve. Vagueness is my mortal enemy. I am Virgo. Hear me plan.

Walk in the dusk waterfall miqveh



Wednesday, Augusy 4th
By 9am I woke, showered, davened, visited with Amy over breakfast til 10 (Shimon was on the phone). As I said goodbye to them both & thanked them heartily, R' Shimon reminded me that I had the responsibility of not only breaking new ground for women, but *to make a living at it*, otherwise all my work & struggles would be next to meaningless. He invited me to speak at Oberlin next spring & I accepted.
At 11am I checked the hit counter & e-mail @ the Oberlin Con(servatory).
Poughkeepsie. I'm heading towards Poughkeepsie & I cannot for the life of me pronounce this name.
There was MUCH highway construction & waiting, it being the summer, so the trip took a good 5 hours longer today than anticipated. I sang in the car. The sun tipped itself down a Catskills slope & then ensued adventures in the dark getting directions from people in Accord who couldn't pronounce the name of my destination but were very nice & helpful.
10pm Elat Chayyim!
Stumbled upon Hayah Gafni on my way through the centre. She was writing away on her laptop, but we took a few minutes to catch up briefly & enthusiastically. It was really terrific to see her & catch some of that light again.
Shoshanah, one of R' Mordechai's maggidim, Joel's cohorts & a Reconstructionist rabbinical student, is really something. A very highly luminous character.
& I FINALLY met Shir-Yaaqov! *please* check out his blog!
There were so many bright smiling tired happy young shiny faces to greet, so many souls to connect with - what a brakhah!
It was very late by the time all the introductions had been made, the car had a new home & I was exhausted - too much to erect the tent. A bunch of us slept in Yoga moadon.

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