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.

Sunday, July 31, 2005



Tamuz 24

Fascinating thoughts by my yedid nefesh, Avi.

Saturday, July 30, 2005



Tamuz 23

After the Kid's Kallah play, which is always a fabulous way to spend Shabbat afternoon during this bi-annual Jew-Do (they had built a giant Merkavah & used it to travel through the sefirot, which was very clever & hilarious, but you really had to be there), I was mysteriously summoned to a gathering of women.

"Bat Qol" literally means "Daughter of a voice". Our Sages, of blessèd memory, taught that the Bat Qol, a voice from heaven, was frequently heard among the ancient Israelites. It became the only unequivocal means of communication betweenus & G@d after the Ru'ach Nevu'ah, Spirit of Prophecy, officially ceased.

I have an announcement to make: apparently, I am a BAT QOL. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term, it basically means "Voice of G@d". I think I'll put it on my business card: Aviel Barclay, Soferet & Bat Qol. Seriously, though, I & 9 other youngish women were invited to attend a private ceremony in recognition of women of vision. The title "Eyshet Chazon" is one a woman can earn later in her life through humble leadership & avodah. We witnessed the crowning of 4 new Eyshet Chazons today & 10 women recognised for the important life's work we are beginning which could serve to improve the lot of Jewish women everywhere. These were a new class of "junior Eyshet Chazon" as it were. The Bat Qol, they said, was a voice that came from out of nowhere & spoke the truth. So we 10 were the first initiates. The details of this women's ritual will remain between those of us who were honoured there, as will the names. But I must say that it is a real honour to have Jewish women of the eldering generation truly "see" us.

May our work be only for the sake of Heaven, & may it lead us & the whole Jewish People from strength to strength.

This evening was INTENSELY busy & frantic. The last Shabbes of Kallah is always wierd - everyone scurrying around trying to connect with those they didn't manage to & to share long sentimental good-byes with those they did.

I hid in our room & packed.
Shavu'ah tov.

Friday, July 29, 2005



Tamuz 22

The more I learn about intercession, the more I wonder whether I am truly ready for it. Perhaps I should just stick to my amulet practice...

Currently, when someone approaches me to write them an amulet, I sit with them privately (the door is cracked open when I sit alone with a man, & I have my husband's permission for this) in a neutral space. I spend time emptying myself before I meet with them so I can be my most receptive & so that I catch all the subtle things they show me unconsciously. They tell me what they (or whomever they are here for) need, or must separate from. When they are finished, I take out my quill & parchment & write what comes to me. Often it is a series of angel names, or names of G@d which are not prohibited from this use. Sometimes I don't even fully understand what I write. I just know that these are the letters which this person is meant to have with them. I surrender.

I also do not charge for this service. I simply ask that they bring with them a receipt showing they have made a donation to charity. We must keep the flow going, after all, mustn't we?

Toady's fourth & final class included looking at more intercessors in TaNaKH: Yehoshua (Joshua), Kaleb, & Elazar ben Aharon as well as those from other sources such as Choni the circe-maker. Granted, this last Melitz Yosher employed more than just prayer - he used sympathetic magic as well. But HaShem seems to have approved of his actions, otherwise we woudn't have so many stories of his "spell-casting" having happy endings.

We also learned of Sama'el, who attempts to block prayers for mercy & how sometimes the angels fight over who gets to bring a particular prayer to G@d, so it takes some time to get through...
...very amusing, methinks.

The time at which one attempts to intercede is of great importance. Friday beyn hashmashot, between the mincha & maariv prayers, is a miraculous time to tap into intercession/healing.

It's also very important to negotiate. "You are not a channel! You fight!" said our teacher. "G@d wants us to upset the system. Be anti-fatalist. Bargain. Ask for the best for the person or situation you are trying to help. Get clarity. Daven for everybody's teshuvah (repentence). Everthing in the future is negotiable. You don't have to take what you're given, even from G@d. You can upgrade."

Ameyn selah to that.
& Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, July 28, 2005



Tamuz 21

The job of a Melitz Yosher is to praise people. This will act as your ammunition when you go ask HaShem that things be different & G@d loves to hear praises about His/Her creations.

We studied a piece by Reb Zalman called "Interceding in a Pashute (simple) Way" & then took partners to do a "praising exercise". After we completed this exercise, the atmosphere in the room switched from heavy to light & happy. This could be a useful everyday trick...

We learned what R' Kahana said on the authority of R' Ishmael ben Yose about all this, which lead us back to the Yechezqel & Tehilim entries we looked at yesterday...

We should praise people to HaShem when we wish to help better their lives. Praise them for who they are - their qualities & deeds. In fact, make a list of at least 3 positive things to draw G@d's attention to.

We examined the writings of R' Levi Yitzchak, the great intercessor.

It is also important to watch your mouth - no lashon hara must ever pass your lips if you are going to use that same mouth to intercede on behalf of others. Everything you say will be tested or challenged. Be careful.

The more you incorporate this work into your life, the more clear your vision will be.

R' Chaim Vital on discernment: "Just because somebody (from Heaven) comes to you, question who they are - if they get angry, then don't listen to them. Remember that patience is not anger.

You may get a messageb, but it may come to test you. Thie message will be given to you according to your level of consciousness & understanding. So regardless of whether you are a 3-year-old receiving messages from Heaven or a 22-year-old, the content will be appropriate to your understanding.

Later in the class, we looked at Rebbe Nachman's Havey Moharan 277, & then the Shivtey Yisrael's writings on this subject.

Our teacher suggested we wear a "spiritual Shin button". For those of you unfamiliar with the Shin button, it is a common article spied at Elat Chayyim & the ALEPH Kallah. It is worn by a person who wishes to have quiet. To bring their private out into public, as it were. When one sees a person wearing one of these purple buttons with a great white letter Shin on it, one does not make contact with this person in anyway. No greetings, no touching, no eye. They are in retreat.
I've done it myself & it's actually a very restful way to experience community.

So, back to intercessory prayer:
It's important to see things from G@'d point of view ie, multiple side of a situation. & also realise that htis is "not about you"! You will be shown correctly what is fully going on when you approach the Heavenly courts to ask for permission to intercede.
You will need Divine permission to intercede for someone, but you don't need the permission of the person in question. It works like that in medicine, too...

Ask if you should attempt to intercede at all. Is this your job? Check. HaShem may wish to have another Melitz Yosher intercede on a situation & not you. Also, a Divine decree can be overturned, but not a Divine decree which has been accompanied by an oath...

Remember that you are not alone while you do this work.

Your abilities will develop as you practice & time passes. Persist in prayer for seeing/hearing better the Current World & the Next World. & just because you see something doesn't mean it's up to you to try to do something about it.

You also can't necessarily see the work you did.

Messages from G@d (be on the lookout for these) are always envelopped in love & hope. If your sight or the messages you receive are not open & loving, even when dire, then they are not from HaShem, but from the Sitra Achra (Other Side).

We then went on to study Sefer Ba'al Shem Tov, Amud HaTefilah 131, about how G@d is above time, how one must annihilate one's ego & work for the sake of the Shekhinah.

Wise words. This must be employed in the practice of sofrut as well.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005



Tamuz 20

Our Melitz Yosher class today consisted of reviewing the sources we learned yesterday, plus looking at the story in Breyshit/Genesis 18 where Avraham intercedes on behalf of the city of Sedom. Also, Tehilim/Psalm 106:23, Yishayahu/Isaiah 59:15-17 & 62:6, Yechezqel/Ezekiel 22:23-31, Esther 4:8, Zechariah chapters 1-3 & Tamud Bavli Masekhet Pesachim 119a. There's a lot of material to cover...

We were also asked to consider the following:
Why would I make a good intercessor?
Why would I make a bad intercessor?
Do teshuvah (repent) on the things that would make you a bad intercessor & pray that you are opened.

We closed with this chant (which I found on p454 of my sefard artscroll siddur, in the shabbes sh'ma):
"Emet ve-yatziv ve-nachon ve-qayam ve-yashar ve-ne'eman ve-ahuv ve-chaviv ve-nechmad ve-na'im ve-nora ve-adir umetuqan ve-tov ve-yafeh hadavar hazeh aleinu le-olam va'ed."

Tuesday, July 26, 2005



Tamuz 19

Breakfast alone, savouring the silence before the din of my upcoming class. Both the ALEPH Kallah & Elat Chayyim provide silent rooms for breakfast for those who are in a meditative space or simply which to take a leisurely path to re-entering the world each morning.

R' Daniel Siegel, who is now with his wife R' Hanah Tiferet living on beautiful Hornby Island, proposed that he have a tutorial with me. I'd love to share my knowledge of sofrut with him & told him so - he actually writes gittin (Jewish divorce decrees) already, so I'm happy to talk shop with him. I'm sure we can broaden general sofrut know-how that way.

The morning class I am scheduled to teach while here went very well on its first day - I have many eager students, kena hora, each beautiful, complex souls reaching out to the letters. I only pray I can be an appropriate conduit for the light of Torah to meet their needs.
Spirit buddy time :)
Meet the artist - checked the schedule of sign-ups
The afternoon class which I'm taking is entitled "Melitz Yosher". It was quite a trip. We began by sitting in a circle chanting a combination of "Shalom Aleikhem" ("...boahem leshalom, malachey hashalom, etc..."/"...come in peace, angels of peace, etc...") & the 4 angels ("...mimini Micha'el uvismoli Gavri'el, etc..."/"...on my right, Michael, & on my left, Gabriel, etc..."). Such a mamash holy sound I have never heard before. It was quite enchanting.
Next, we introduced ourselves by lineage. I chose to introduce myself by my paternal lineage since my Dad's ancestors were more compassionate than my mum's. So I called myself "Avi'el Teshuvah bat Aleqsander ben Asa'el". Traditionally, our ancestors have been called on to act as intercessors (which is why we invoke Avraham, Yitzchaq & Ya'aqov so frequently, as well as Sarah, Rivqah, Rachel & Leah, when we are asking G@d to have mercy upon us. We ask for special dispensations in the name of our kadmeynu, our progenitors. In their merit.
Our teacher, R' Ruth Gan Kagan, also suggested that we each invite personalities from TaNaKH or our lives & learning who we believe would make good intercessors. I chose to invite my Dad, alav hashalom, because he was so full of chesed/kindness. He used to pay the same wage to women as to men who worked for him when they did the same job. This was in the 60's & 70's, too. Also, when local Aboriginal People (Native Canadians) asked that he let them into the movies for free (he was a theatre manager) because they couldn't afford it, he did. When he retired, they made all sorts of traditional beautiful beaded jewellery for him as a thank you gift. In addition, I invited Chuldah HaNeviyah, the prophetess (because she was a compassionate woman & may have been a soferet), & the mystic Ramak, Rabbi Moshe Kordovero, who wrote possibly my favourite book on the kabalah of the Hebrew letters, Sefer Pardes Rimonim (The Book of the Orchard of Pomegranates).

We were also invited to tell why we were each in the group, why we believed we needed to cultivate this spiritual skill. Basically, my story is that from the time I was quite young, I just "knew" things. I would dream that someone was going to die & then within a couple of weeks came the death. My technicolour dreams have always held messages, which, when I ignored them, a car would come from out of nowhere & crash into me. I'm quite serious. Each time I have stepped off my derekh, my path of destiny, G@d has signalled me to take another direction. When I didn't, I would be hit by a car. I was then given time to think about my life & the choices I should make while I recuperated. This has happened several times, the last (hopefully "last" & not just "latest", G@d willing) being 3 years ago. I got very tired of it, so I have been very careful to listen & act as I am directed since then. That's why I'm a soferet s"m now.

The question we were all encouraged to explore is whether we ought to assume intercessor status? "Do I have the authority to broach a conversation with souls, angels or G@d?"

Rebbe Nachman said, if you try to do tov (good), ra (evil/broken-ness) will be present. Miniyot - opposition - is always to be expected. So spiritual protection is essential for this work. Don't spend time with people who make you feel uncomfortable. Rest. Have quiet. How do we know which obstacles mean to be a help or inspire us to try harder & which obstacles mean "STOP"? Use common sense.

We spent a good deal of the class in chevrutot (study partners) learning various traditional texts on intercessory prayer & the concept of Divine judgement, including Brakhot 58:1; Zohar 1:197, 1; Sanhedrin 38b; "The Gates of Light" by R' Yosef Gikatilla; part 2, chapter 6 of the Ramchal's (R' Moshe Chayim Luzzato) "Derekh HaShem" ("The Way of G@d"); various examples in TaNaKH & a lovely bit from Sefer Ba'al Shem Tov, Amud HaTefilah 131.

We examined the Qri'at Sh'ma Al-HaMitah, the prayers one says in bed before falling to sleep. R' Kagan clued us into the fact that any time you see something repeated 3 times in a siddur, you know it's a formula for protection. Say it 3 times. It's a goody. We looked at Pitum HaQetoret along with Psalms 91 & 121.

The hubby & I walked each other to the cheder ochel (dining area)...boy, the air is wet here. Over a dinner of stewed green beans, onions, tomatoes & chick peas, Joel & I related our long, full days to each other, B"H. As the meal wore on, it inspired me to change my M.O.: I have now officially decided that I will take me meals exclusively in the teachers' dining room, because I need some space from talmidim (students) outside of class & the only way to politely ensure this is seclusion. I really do need my down-time to mean I'm at rest & for class-related matters to be limited to class time...

Quote of the day: "There is a special place in Hell reserved for those who believe that being Jewish means following all of the Shulchan Arukh."
- Rav Adin Steinsaltz as told by Arthur Kurzweil

Monday, July 25, 2005



Tamuz 18

She is possibly one of the sweetest people I have ever encountered. We've been spending some close time together off & on the past few days. Today we were chatting at the official Kallah opening (which was hilarious, as usual, mostly due to R' Jack Gabriel's antics & Deb Kolodny's humour. I told Neilah that I'd grown up in BC & she countered with having grown up in Toronto. She smiled & shouted, "Canucks!" & we high-fived each other.
Turns out, after all my student were seated by me, I had the pleasure of welcoming 2 re-takers! One professional sculptor from Brazil & a Chicagoan who each took my class last Kallah, 2 years ago, & wanted to tiptoe through the midrash on the alefbet with me once again! :)

After this celebrations came the Teachers Ethics Meeting. This is a mandatory session which is both a "don't sleep with your students" reminder & a "watch out for all the students with personality disorders".
I'm always so grateful for these exercises. I am not practiced at dealing with inappropriate behaviour in a way that redirects the energy kindly.
R' Goldie Milgram gave an example of what sort of boundary-crossing behaviour had already been displayed at the registration table:
A student came retracing her steps looking for her water bottle (which they give away at Kallah with your name on it), but instead of her own, she came across the water bottle of a teacher who had left theirs behind.
"Oh, well if this teacher left their water bottle behind, then I guess I'm not such a bad person" she began. Then she went on, "I wonder how much I could get for this water bottle on eBay." She examined the bottle more closely & saw that it wasn't full. "Hey, if this teacher drank from their water bottle & then I drink from it, it would be ike we kissed."

Unfortunately, any kind of open, loving, welcoming, ecstatic, inclusive, charismatic event will attract traumatised people with unhealthy boundaries. So we teachers were cautioned against the type of students who can suck the life out of you & still demand more.

The smikha ceremony this evening that Reb Zalman led for his eldest son, Sholom, was very moving & quite colourful. I just wish that Sholom didn't look so much like Steve Martin. It made it hard for me to focus on his very sincere drush on Tiqun Olam, because I was on the edge of my seat waiting for him to pull out a banjo & fluffy pink bunny ears & sing a bayou song about Torah.
Yes, I'm mischevous & irreverent but I generally keep it to myself.

I introduced myself & Joel to the lovely Lisa, another fummie who found herself at Kallah. She's a journalist who wrote a bit about me in an article here.
As we strolled her to her room that night & stood 'round the entrance to Hickory Hall, we made the acquaintance of Billy Yalowitz - The Jew with the Friendliest Name on the Planet. He had an ude. We were all suitably impressed.

Good night.

Sunday, July 24, 2005



17 Tamuz

Fasting was a unique experience today...

My ride with Magid Yizchak Buxbaum, his wife Carol - who is also an amazing magid (magedet?) - & Galeet Dardashti, a fabulous soprano full of beautiful Mizrachi song.

It seems that some people would like to see a further liberation of women into sofrut, beyond what may be allowable under the current Halakhah. They get very excited talking to me about the potential that could be unleashed, but I feel like this should be approached with caution. I absolutely believe that this is the time for women to be further included & empowered, but within certain traditional boundaries. So I want to be careful who I teach because I refuse to be responsible for the whole system of sofrut to unravel in this generation. Am I talking like I have a lot more influence, have a lot more power than I actually do? Probably. I'm not interested in keeping the knowledge of this sacred craft secret from women who are called by HaShem to do this work, but the Halakhah requires that whoever writes Sifrei Torah be shomer(et) mitzvot. This is very difficult for me, because I have a policy to not judge how other Jews practice, & turning a prospective student down who intentionally or habitually eats pork products (for example) could be construed as a negative judgement. It wouldn't be meant that way. But there has to be an integrity of life practice behind the sofrut practice. As in all things...

We drove out to Horowitz's farm & spent midday learning & listening. The place was so quiet & green. They had 60 acres & two gorgeous dogs & a hand-built fence with no nails, pegs or glue.

6 of us repaired to the barn to share our stories of how we were drawn close to G@d. I wept as I told the tale of how my Dad's sudden death when I was 16 left me feeling abandoned by HaShem & very, very angry. It was only when my writing hand was crushed by that car at 22 I realised that G@d was not going to let me off my derekh so easily. & it was only in this group, as I told my story, that I realised that G@d had in fact never abandoned me during that dark time, but that I was the one who had abandoned G@d...
Barukh HaSHem for this revelation!

My ride home with R' Sarah Leah Schley was really lovely. She's teaching a Zohar at Kallah & I'd love to be a fly on the wall of her class :)

The rest of the day was all a blur. I'm just so grateful to have made it here safely & soundly, im yirtzeh HaShem.

Shavu'ah tov.

Saturday, July 23, 2005



Shabbat July 23/16 Tamuz Parshat Pinchas

After davenen & lunch, I had a talk & a stroll with R' Naomi Steinberg, who is all sweetness & light, all the time. I floated on to a talk with Safa, the Kallah housing co-ordinatrix. We had a long, deep conversation about Americans of Iranian heritage (which she is) who really are just secular Americans & nothing to be afraid of. Innocent people of colour & innocent Muslims becoming second-class citizens, too. This Patriot Act extension is a frightening step toward a neo-fascist state which must be stopped.

Reb Zalman's lecture consisted of much Yiddish & Hebrew which he spoke to the graves of the Ba'al Shem Tov, the Maggid of Mezritch, Reb Nosson, Rebbe nachman of Bretzlov, & other tzaddiqim (saints) who shaped the future of Judaism in beautiful holy ways. He'd recently returned from a trip to Russia, you see, & had much to share about his experiences at the graves of these holy men.

He also recommended that we make our Judaism less racist, for example, we should delete instances in our liturgy where we basically say in Hebrew, "We have the Torah & the Goyim don't! Nahnah-nah-nahnah-nah!"
That is a direct quote.

All this was followed by yet another teacher meeting where we chose our "Spirit Buddies". These partners for the week are meant to help each other process the very intense & hectic experience which is Kallah. It works. We should all have Spirit Buddies in our everyday lives.

At shalosh seudos (the third meal of Shabbat), Reb Mordechai told his story about the first time he met the Dalai Lama. There was a gathering of holy people from all over the world, of every faith, & they came to Dharamsala to meet with the Dalai Lama & each other to learn & share. Toward the end of the week, all these priests, ministers, imams, etc were holding hands & praying in a circle, hearing the words of the Dalai Lama. He smiled & said, "Israel & Jews - very hard. Mordechai - very easy."
Naturally, R' Gafni was inspired to hand his kipah (yarmulke) to the Dalai Lama & say, "You think it's so easy? You try wearing this all the time."
So he did. All the rest of the time he spent teaching during this retreat, he wore R' Gafni's kipah. He got the message.
At the end of their time together, R' Gafni gave the Dalai Lama as a gift a tallis. He accepted it enthusiastically & wore it around, saying, "Look, I'm a Jewish Buddhist!"

Just before the birkat (blessing after the meal), Neila Carlebach told a story in the name of her late husband, R' Shlomo Carlebach z"l, about how Kozbi & Zimri were a new gilgul of Dinah & Sh'chem. & then later R' Akiva & Rachel, when they did tiqun. I'd never heard this drash before, & it left me thinking that they must not have completed their teshuvah, because his life was ended Romans skinning him alive.

Joel & I chatted with R' Mordechai after & he regaled us with tales of his jet-set teaching gigs. "Yer the next Jesus", I exclaimed, to which he answered, "Well, when that happens you know they'll just end up trying to crucify you."

& He had this wise thing to say about Competition: There's room for everybody.

Ameyn selah.



Friday, July 22/15 Tamuz

We were up & packed & out the door by 1pm, & I waved goodbye to Cleveland & its fascinating mix of architecture as we passed over the mighty Cuyahoga river, which, mercifully, was not on fire.

The trip from the southern shores of Lake Erie to the Appalatians was picturesque. We rolled into the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown at precisely 4:30pm, the latest I as a teacher was expected. We stumbled out of the car to registration, got to our room & settled in. Aaahh.

It was so beautiful to be slowly re-meeting other who I have the privilege to connect with so seldomly. Reb Mordechai, Naomi, Saul, Anne, Nancy...we have here, in the words of R' Shlomo z"l, a Holy Chevre every two years. A kallah, a gathering of Yidden representative of the full kaleidescope of Jewish thought & practice. What a blessing!

On our way to dinner we crossed paths with Barya, R' Zalman Schachter-Shalomi's son who went to Oberlin with Joel, & his bride of 1 month, Dinah Rayzel. He's a big man, like his father, & was dressed in his fine Shabbes shtreiml & caftan. When he & Joel caught sight of each other, they practically hurled themselves together. It had been 4 years since Barya had ensconced himself at yeshivat Bat Ayin & the two had not seen each other nor met each other's new wives. I was so pleased to finally make to connexion with the two of them. Very bright lights in both their eyes...their babies will have amazing eyes, im yirtzeh haShem...

After dinner there was a teacher meeting facilitated by Yofiyah. It consisted of making noises at each other as an intimate way to get to know one another in our own special way. Our unique sound is our gift, she said. I sat with R' Laura Duhan Kaplan, the new rabbi at Or Shalom, & we sighed groaned & chanted our way through the exercise. It was really funny. Folks had a good time.

Yitzchak Buxbaum, a published maggid of renown, told R' Shlomo's story about where his nigun for "Gut Shabbes" came from. It was 1938 & R' Shlomo was a boy in Austria. The Nazis had taken over & every Jew in his town was afraid. There was a curfew on the Jewish community that prohibited them from being outside of their homes after dark & before dawn, yet each male Jew would sneak into the local rabbi's home just before dawn to daven Shachrit, pray the morning blessings, & then sneak home; then do the same for mincha/ma'ariv, the afternoon & evening prayers. They were so dedicated that they risked their lives twice a day just to come together for communal prayer. Since the town rabbi was R' Shlomo's father, he & his twin brother, now leading his own community in Ste-Agathe, were ready to let people in every morning at 5 o'clock.

There was a Jew in the town who they called "Mosheleh Gut-Shabbes". Each time as Mosheleh Gut Shabbes entered the rabbi's home he would greet & say goodbye to each person by lovingly singing "Gut Shabbes" to them, even if it wasn't Shabbes because he loved Shabbes so much. In fact, he made a point of singing each word of Torah he shared with anyone, his soul was so full of joy.
As the Jews in this town became more & more afraid as the occupation's oppression grew, each time they met their davening, their prayers, became more rushed. They were so afraid about making it home without getting caught that they would zoom through their prayers & then leave.
One Friday night, Mosheleh Gut Shabbes stopped everyone. He said wait. You can't do this. You're davening down. Our prayers must always go up. So they invited him to lead Qabalat Shabbat, the Friday night prayers welcoming the Shabbes & he did. He davened with the highest, most loving, pure intention. & then it was time to do qidush & he asked that the windows be opened. Nobody wanted to do it. They were afraid that someone would hear & that they'd all be taken away. But Mosheleh Gut Shabbes stood there with the cup of wine in his hand & said look: you just have to open the windows. Qidush is the time when we witness that G@d created the world. We have a responsibility to testify to this, to celebrate the Shabbes. Open the windows.
They did.
Mosheleh Gut Shabbes recited qidush with the windows open & nothing bad happened.
Not so long afterward, Mosheleh Gut Shabbes managed to get fake passports for him & his family as well as train tickets to England. They were going to escape. As the train pulled away, Mosheleh Gut Shabbes leaned out the window, quietly waving & singing "gut Shabbes, gut Shabbes...gut Shabbes, gut Shabbes..."
His wife said stop it. They'll hear you. But Mosheleh Gut Shabbes said it's all right - I just want to say goodbye. So he went on, "gut Shabbes, gut Shabbes..."
The Nazis in the train station heard & recognised him. They dragged him off the train & beat him to death in front of his wife & children.
Many years later, R' Shlomo met with Mosheleh Gut Shabbes' son & taught his dead father's nigun to him. Because the son was too young to remember himself. & R' Shlomo also said to him, whenever you daven, remember to daven up - like your father.
& remember that whenever you tell a story, make sure it ends going up. This is what R' Shlomo always did with his stories. Even stories about the Holocaust. He always made sure that they went up.

Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, July 21, 2005




Barukh HaShem, Joel is safely arrived after his lonely 16-hour drive & is now sleeping the dust of the American High Plains off his eyelids. When he wakes we will drive to Cleveland & stay with the incomparable Jill Rosenberg, a good friend of Joel's from Oberlin.

Much later...

When we arrived at our destination, a silver Honda kept circling & honking at us. I am always very suspicious of anti-social behaviour, so when this man drove up & down the block glaring at us I urged Jill to help us get our things out of the car & safely inside. Maybe it was Joel's kipah that set them off. I get stared at a lot more since I got married, seeing as I'm seen out in public with a man easily identifiable as a Jew. Since we didn't arrive until after 3am, we had a short but hilarious visit, including taking a boo at Jill's comedic greeting cards she designed for a living. The Torah of Carlton Cards, hmm...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005



13 Tamuz

The car was still not running (the part they ordered was the wrong one), so I am flying to our next destination to meet a commitment I already had to reschedule because of our car trouble. Poor Joel will have to drive all night to meet me tomorrow so we can continue on our trek east to the UPJ for the ALEPH KALLAH.

We sure are getting a lot of mileage out of our tefilat haderekh...

Tuesday, July 19, 2005



12 Tamuz.

Just another sweaty, high-altitude day in Fort Collins. I still cannot access my e-mail & my web guy is in Egypt or Paris or Thailand or some such place...but I seem to be able to access my blog, so I will be posting the last week retroactively...

Monday, July 18, 2005



The car is still not fixed. Parts must be ordered from faraway places because Ford has thoughtlessly discontinued the ones we need for our 20-year-old car. At least there is a sheltie-border collie cross to play with here in the house of Charna, the holy Maggid :)
The Torah of car repair I'm not so good at. The Torah of playing fetch in the back yard, tho' is quite another matter...

Reb Zalman called me to have yichud today, barukh haShem. He wanted to meet me, talk & give me a brakhah. This was a shehechiyanu day, full of gratitude to G@d that I lived to meet this moment with full consciousness.

I am still processing the intense encounter I experienced with this Sage (with my husband present, natch), so I will write about it later on. There is much to share...

Sunday, July 17, 2005



Trucking east on I-80 listening to All Things Must Pass it occurred to me that this sincerely devotional chant to the Divine denies access to Jews careful of how they address The Holy One. & why should that be? Just alter some of the nomenclature & we have a perfectly serviceable Chasidic tune...

My sweet L@rd
Hm, my L@rd
Hm, my L@rd

I really want to see You
Really want to be with You
Really want to see You, L@rd
But it takes so long, my L@rd

My sweet L@rd
Hm, my L@rd
Hm, my L@rd

I really want to know You
Really want to go with You
Really want to show You, L@rd
That it won't take long, my L@rd (hallelu-qah)

My sweet L@rd (hallelu-qah)
Hm, my L@rd (hallelu-qah)
My sweet L@rd (hallelu-qah)

I really want to see You
Really want to see You
Really want to see You, L@rd
Really want to see You, L@rd
But it takes so long, my L@rd (hallelu-qah)

My sweet L@rd (hallelu-qah)
Hm, my L@rd (hallelu-qah)
My, my, my L@rd (hallelu-qah)

I really want to know You (hallelu-qah)
Really want to go with You (hallelu-qah)
Really want to show You, L@rd (aaah)
That it won't take long, my L@rd (hallelu-qah)

Hmm (hallelu-qah)
My sweet L@rd (hallelu-qah)
My, my, L@rd (hallelu-qah)

Hm, my L@rd (Ad@nai)
My, my, my L@rd (Eloqeynu)
Oh hm, my sweet L@rd (Shalom, Shalom)
Oh-uuh-uh (Ehyeh, Ehyeh)

Now, I really want to see You (HaMaqom)
Really want to be with You (QEl-Elyon)
Really want to see You, L@rd (aaah)
But it takes so long, my L@rd (hallelu-qah)

Hm, my L@rd (hallelu-qah)
My, my, my L@rd (QEl-Shaddai)
My sweet L@rd (QEl-Qinai)
My sweet L@rd (Ro'i, Ro'i)
My L@rd (Shalom, Shalom)
Hm, hm (HaDavar)
Hm, hm (Shekhinah)
Hm, hm (Tzeva'ot)
Hm, hm (Borenu)
My sweet L@rd (Eyn Sof)
My sweet L@rd (HaShem Shammah)
My, my, my L@rd (Tzur Yisra'el)
My, my, my, my L@rd (Chei Ha'Olamim)
My sweet L@rd (Shalom, Shalom)

(QEl Rachum)
My sweet L@rd (Yah, Yah)
My sweet L@rd (Ehyeh, Ehyeh)
My L@rd (Shalom, Shalom) the way, we have since had even more car trouble, & are now stuck in Colorado slowly being re-disempowered. No money, no e-mail, but a holy Maggid to host us, barukh haShem. Please pray for us...

Saturday, July 16, 2005



I've finally started reading R' Shmuley Boteach's book, on my 11-month wedding anniversary. Trying to find the connexion between the Torah of intimate human relationship & the Torah of intimate sofrut relationship. :)

Friday, July 15, 2005



& the ancient scrolls were right under my nose when I hiked all through there. Imagine that.

Shabbat shalom!



I noticed a while back while learning that the red cord Joshua ("saviour") tells Rachav ("wide" or "width") to suspend from her window so that the Israelite soldiers know to spare her family is referred to in the Torah as " hu shani..." - a "red hope".

Otherwise popularly known as "the red bendel". What is the shoresh/etymology of "bendel"? It means "ribbon" in Yiddish.

Further to this post, are amulets considered practical Kabalah? Do they work? Rav Yitzchak Ginsburg had this to say:

"Amulets are on the border between practical Kabbalah and an external manifestation of Kabbalah, such as name calculation. There is a source for amulets in the Torah. When a great sage writes Holy Names, (without pronouncing them) on parchment and puts it into a container which is worn by the recipient, it can possess healing and spiritual powers. At the beginning of the Ba'al Shem Tov's life, since he was a healer, he used amulets. Sometimes the amulet works because of the faith of the recipient in the spiritual power of the amulet. At the end of his life, the Ba'al Shem Tov never wrote the Names of God, only his own signature, Yisrael ben Sara or Yisrael ben Eliezer. This was the ultimate amulet given by the Ba'al Shem Tov.

We know that the Rebbe of Lubavitch gave dollars to people for the sake of charity. He gave an actual physical gift, but it was connected to the spiritual mitzvah ("commandment") of charity, in the merit of which blessings could be effected. The Sages teach us that whoever receives a coin from the hands of Job (a tzaddik) receives a blessing. This is the source in the Talmud that receiving a coin from a great tzaddik brings with it a blessing. Thus we see that there are amulets that are permissible. The determining factor is the righteousness and intentions of the person giving the amulet."

Yet, I travel with a siddur, a chumash, a volume of Zohar & a Lubavitch Tefilat Haderekh (traveler's prayer) which I recite as we set out on each day's journey & our car stilll breaks down. So either my soul is so rotten that these have no effect or I'm actually avoiding a much worse fate than being temporarily stranded on the eastern Washington/Oregon border...
Food for thought...
May The Merciful One show the greatest mercy.

Shabbat Shalom

Thursday, July 14, 2005



Well, I've been trying really hard to be zen about this situation (or should I say "Hassidic"?) & look on the bright side.
After the car breaking down mysteriously a few times in the past 2 weeks, we finally poured out last cent into our poor '86 Escort hatchback so we could get it roadworthy for this cross-continental road trip.
Or so we thought.
It started giving us some trouble over White Pass, but luckily we made it to Richland, landing in the waiting arms of Mishpachat Bensussen.

They're awesome folks - we stayed with them in May for a week while I fixed their Sifrei Torah.

Luckily for us, one of the family is a real car man, so he took a looksee. Turns out the multi-point inspection we paid Minit-Tune to perform was a joke. They said the car was fine for a 10,000 mile road trip, did not replace the things they said they had (like the totally bunged-up air filter) & let us go on our way.

So here we sit, waiting for a part to come in from Seattle tomorrow (because our car is so old that nobody out here in Golus stocks such things any longer), watching our trip schedule go down the drain. Barukh HaShem we have enough time still to race across the continent & make it on time for me to teach at the ALEPH KALLAH, & we know we'll be spending Shabbes with a wonderful family in whose kosher home we are totally welcome. But this is very stressful.

If you want to become rich, don't go into sofrut.

& then I hear about Netanya. & get news about the latest disengagement craziness. & I read about the blessèd Dr Benny Meilik. & I thank G@d that the worst thing in Joel's & my life right now is waiting for a part for our car to come in from Seattle.

& that we're actually really lucky.

Thank G@d.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005



There's a groovy old man who hangs out on the bench outside of Starbucks (mach shemo) at 6th Ave & Capitol Way in Olympia. He sports very long white hair & a beard under his thick spectacles. He sits in his denim duds & smiles & offers young women flowers, hoping for a bit of change in exchange. I was walking by his perch last night on my way to meet David, my father-in-law, when he extended two velvety blood-coloured daliahs & a daisy to me.

The last time I encountered him, he sweetly challenged the honour of both David & Joel, that they would walk me down the street without flowers. David responded immediately by buying me a tearose, which was lovely. Joel, not to be shown up by his dad, purchased a second one, saying, "She's my wife!"
I'm such a lucky girl!

Fast forward back to last night: "I'm sorry, I don't have any US cash - I'm Canadian", I protested.
"That's ok", he grinned.
"I'm meeting my father-in-law for dinner - I'll get him to give you something."
"How long will you be?"
"An hour?"
"Will you still be here?"
"Maybe I will...maybe I won't...", he was still looking amused.
"I thanked him for the blooms. "What's your name?" I asked.
He offered his hand. "Moses."
I shook it & smiled back. "It's good to meet you, Moses."
I toddled off feeing as though I had just encountered the ru'ach nevu'ah.

Olympia is truly a magickal place...

Tuesday, July 12, 2005



Fixing another Torah today, B"H. I feel so exhilarated when I correct G@d's 4-letter name! Because there is nothing *but* G@d. G@d's being-name, YHVH, its ineffable IS-ness, is threaded through the entirety of Creation. So each time I add ink to make whole these letters, I sense a deep tiqun not "just" of The Name, but of everything.

It is more humbling to write G@d's name, but more inspiring to heal it.

I sat in the sanctuary facing the Aron Qodesh, meditating on The Name. Breathing it.
Inhale: Yud
Exhale: Hey
Inhale: Vav
All is One.

So much sewing today, my fingertips were raw by lunchtime :(

Wow, I am *so* tired today...

The Red Rose tea box advertises the Noah's ark animal figurines you can collect with purchase. I looked at the pictures of the animals & noticed their positions as follows:

Male elephant: striding, head up, trunk extended
Female elephant: standing, head & trunk down
Male zebra: standing, head up
Female zebra: lying, head up
Male rhinoceros: standing head up
Female rhinoceros: standing, head down
Goose: sitting, head to the side
Gander: standing, head down
Ram: standing, head up
Ewe: standing, head down
Rooster: standing, head up
Chicken: sitting, head up
Lion: lying, head up
Lioness: lying, head down

Why do all the female ones (with the exception of the goose) have to be submissive or less active? This is a contradiction, especially for the lioness - the females do all the hunting as the lions snooze all day. Does Wade have some kind of hidden agenda for its porcelain figurines? Males don't constantly hunt & fight & females are not constantly in whelp...although you might not know that if you look at some of the fascinating & creative ways Halakhah is formulated ;+>

After lunch I mused about how people keep their whole lives on their hard drives & that when the world comes crashing in we'll have so much to let go of. But we Jews, we keep our Torah on skin. It will be with us forever...

Can you imagine someone having the entire Torah tattooed on their body?!? Gives a whole new definition for "Living Torah"...

Monday, July 11, 2005



Noach ben Lamakh

B'reyshit, 8:5-22; 9: 20-21...Parshat No'ach

I don't think Noach intercedes until pasuq 20 when he builds the altar & makes the sacrifice. Before that he is just making observations about the environment through the raven the dove.

What worked?
Olah = that which ascends. We must ascend to G@d to intercede.
R' Chaim Potok in JPS's Eytz chayim: Torah & Commentary, (bold is mine) "Noah's Sacrifice & G@d's Resopnse (vv. 20 - 22)
Noah builds an altar & brings burnt offerings on his own initiative. Now that the earth has been purged of its evil, sacrifice symbolizes the restoration of harmony between G@d & humankind.
20. burnt offerings. The Hebrew word for olah means, literally, "that which ascends". It refers to sacrifices that, except for the hide, must be consumed entirely by fire on the altar. No part of them may be eaten by the worshipper, whereas both priest & worshipper partake of the sacrifices known as z'vachim (see Deut 12:27)

Shoresh of Ayin-Lamed-Hey = to go up; rise; lift; flourish; excel; cost; move away; elevated; sublime; exalted; extolled; ascent (updated July 12)

Shoresh of Zayin-Vet-Chet =

1. How does Noach know that there is a problem?
G@d told him he was going to destroy all flesh because it had corrupted itself.

2. What is his reaction?
Noach obeyed G@d's command to build the Teyvah (Tav-Vet-Hey)

3. If he decides to intercede, is he doing anything to prepare himself?
The Torah does not say.

4. How does he go about interceding?
Noach voluntarily builds a mizbeyach & offers an olah from each group of tahor animal & bird.

5. What does he say?
The Torah doesn't say.

6. What does he do?
See #4 above.

7. When does he stop?
When G@d responds in the positive.

8. What is the outcome of his intercession?
G@d promises to never wipe out virtually all life again using nature as a tool, provided that we accept His re-ordering of the new society ie when He gives permission to eat meat but puts a blood prohibition on it, & officially prohibits murder. For posterity he puts a rainbow in the sky to seal the covenant.

9. What can you learn from these stories about the qualities an intercessor needs?
- Obedience to & acceptance of G@d. To be (comparatively) righteous/blameless. I say comparatively because Noach was only "righteous in his generation", so perhaps he was the best of what was left on earth, but not ideal - the only thing G@d had to work with, so he did His best with what he had. You will note that he did not intercede on the Earth's behalf when G@d told him He would destroy everything. He waited until after the horror had been executed on all beings except those who had inhabited is teyvah to ask G@d to never do that again & thank Him for making an exception for them. He may have cloistered himself & his family from the Earth's lawlessness, but he simply withdrew from the world & did not try to change it. Therefore, G@d had to intervene. We can learn from this that we have a responsibility to be activists ie we cannot stand by the blood of our brother...G@d wants us to participate in struggling with our own tendencies & to bring about Tiqun Olam *with* Him...this is why I agree with Rebbe Yochanan's interpretation rather than Reish Lakish's (Talmud Bavli Sanhedrin 108a). HAD Noach been better than average, he could have fought to corruption, but because he was a beynoni he could only cloister himself & remain in his integrity that way.
- "Walking with G@d" (Gen 5:24; Gen 6:9)
- To shape the agency of your own salvation (ie build your own ark rather than wait for G@d to save you through Divine intervention)
- Does one need to be older/married/a parent to truly intercede?

10. What of these qualities can you find in yourself?
Voluntary offering/negotiating. Occasional submission...

STATEMENT: What more can we expect from the world's first intercessor? If nobody has yet acted as one, then Noach has only his own instincts to follow & no example...

Sunday, July 10, 2005




I shared the grief of many of my Torah-scribe colleagues Friday. Even somebody who didn't know me thought to send an e-mail about R' Dr Ray's death just to make sure I knew. So thoughtful. The Sofrut Community is strong & kind even to outsiders like me, barukh HaShem.

I haven't yet heard back from anyone about how the funeral was, but I was there in spirit. We're all so devastated to have lost him, like a beloved grandfather...

May his soul find rest.

"And will he not come again?
And will he not come again?
 No, no, he is dead;
 Go to thy death-bed,
He never will come again.
His beard was as white as snow
All flaxen was his poll,
 He is gone, he is gone,
 And we cast away moan:
God ha’ mercy on his soul!"

Opheliah, Shakespeare's Hamlet

Saturday, July 09, 2005



M'et YHVH hayatah zot hi niflat b'eyneynu.
This is G@d's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
Tehilim/Psalms 118:23


Shavu'ah tov

Friday, July 08, 2005



I am very sorry to announce this news. Rabbi Dr Eric Ray z"l, the world's foremost sofer st"m, has passed to the next world.

R' Dr Ray died in his New York hospital bed this morning on Rosh Chodesh Tamuz, Parshat Chukat, after a very long battle to remain attached to Olam HaZeh.

I truly wish I could express my admiration for his life & work by assisting somehow at his funeral in Great Neck on Sunday, when the kli which was home to his holy neshamah will be interred. But I will have to wait to pay my respects when I am in New York in August.

I am desperately sad to know we have lost such a treasure as R' Dr Ray, z"l. As his life was indeed a blessing to countless people, so will his memory be.

May his students take up his mantle & persevere with his work, finishing his book & passing on the trove of knowledge he possessed. G@d willing, may none of our sofrut traditions pass away with him.

Please pray for his widow, Lali (Margalit Motliya bat Beillah), who is very ill.

His passing is a tremendous loss for us all. His funeral will begin at 1 PM, burial to follow on Long Island. Shivah will be observed for him until Friday.

For a retrospective on R' Dr Ray's life & accomplishments, please look here, here, here, here, & here.

Barukh Dayan Emet.



UPDATED March 19th 2006!


April 24 06. Palo Alto. Vision TV, Canada's interfaith channel: my first documentary, "Soferet: A Special Scribe" will be shown at Kol Emeth


April 5 06. Vision TV, Canada's interfaith channel: my first documentary, "Soferet: A Special Scribe" produced by Reel Time Images & premiered in November, & will be available for the International Film Festival circuit this year! The DVD will be released for sale on April 5th of 06.
April 5 06. Second screening on Vision TV at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. Pacific.
April 6 06. Repeats on at 11 p.m. ET/ 8 p.m. Pacific.


CBC Radio One "On the Coast" with Priya Ramu - TBA
The Voicemobile with Joyce the Voice, Rebbe of the Radio - Autumn 06


March 30 - April 5 06. Saratoga Springs NY. Skidmore College Departments of Religion, Philosophy & Women's Studies.
May 06. Victoria BC. Congregation Emanu-El. TBA
May 06. Nanaimo BC. Central Vancouver Island Jewish Community. TBA
May 06. Courtney BC. Comox Valley Jewish Community.
June 06. Winnipeg MB. Shaarey Zedek Synagogue. TBA.
July 06. Camp Ramah. TBA.

Check back here for more updates and details, soon!

Book News:

Featured in the latest edition of The Quotable Jewish Woman by Elaine Bernstein-Partnow!


Read and participate on my blog (mazal tov! you found it!) & on Radical Torah

Have a most beautiful Shabbes!

Thursday, July 07, 2005



Blood & smoke & glass & chaos. Now a pigu'a in Old Blighty. The Clash's lyrics are creepily apt for such barbaric acts of murder.
Barukh HaShem that Jen & Marc are safe & sound.
Thank G@d they didn't target Live 8 or the Olympic celebrations. May G@d shelter the dead & wounded under the wings of the Shekhinah & provide comfort for all their loved ones.

Now, where's that instant karma?



I caught this here today. It's a pretty good article, I think, but there are some errors which I have noted at the end of this post which I have brought to the attention of the journalist & will include in a letter to the editor - please read those.

Female scribe writes Torah for Seattle synagogue

Pacific Correspondent

VANCOUVER — Aviel Barclay, a Vancouver-based artist, calligrapher and the world’s first known certified soferet – or female Torah scribe – is writing a sefer Torah for a synagogue in nearby Seattle, Wash.

Barclay, who trained with a Jerusalem-based sofer, is completing the Torah for Kadima, an 80-family progressive congregation formed in 1978 that currently lacks a scroll of its own.

You could say that Barclay, 36, became a soferet by accident. Originally a gemologist, she was riding her bicycle to work in her native Victoria one day in 1991 when the door of a parked car opened unexpectedly, sending her bouncing and sliding down a long hill. The accident crushed her right hand.

“The hand healed well, but there’s permanent nerve damage and the hand gets cold and tired easily,” Barclay says

She was unable to work as a gemologist and she started selling jewelry. She also had to learn to write all over again.

One day, while doing her handwriting exercises, she remembered her love as a child for the Hebrew aleph-bet.

“I began to think about writing Torahs,” she says. “I wasn’t sure if it was something that women could do, so I started to do some research. I couldn’t find a reference to a woman having done it, but neither could I find anything specifically forbidding the practice.”

(Commentators are divided on the issue, with Orthodox ones generally holding that the Talmud doesn’t allow women to write a Torah for ritual use.)

After deciding to go ahead, Barclay began to look for an experienced sofer who would be willing to teach her.

“I called sofrim all over the world, but I couldn’t find anyone who would take me as a student,” she says. “Just the fact that I was female was enough for all of them to reject me.”

Barclay continued to sell jewelry and practise Hebrew calligraphy. In 1996, she got an e-mail out of the blue from a sofer in Jerusalem asking if she wanted a teacher. She jumped at the rabbi’s offer and immediately began a correspondence course with him in calligraphy.

The rabbi (who wishes to remain anonymous) said it “might be possible” for him to teach her Torah writing if they met and if they hit it off. He also insisted that she live an observant life and keep their arrangement confidential.

Right away Barclay asked herself, “How do I get to Israel?”

In 1997, she got there via the now-defunct Project Oren, which combined a stay on a kibbutz with ulpan and a drawing and painting course.

She learned to write megillot from her teacher, but in 1998, she ran out of money and had to return to Victoria.

“I spent the next five years in purgatory, trying to earn enough money to get back to Israel and continue learning with my teacher,” she says. ‘“But I just wasn’t able to do it.”

Her luck changed in January 2003 when she received a call from Kadima.

“They wanted their own Torah and they wanted a woman to write it for them,” Barclay says.

She agreed to do it, but first she wanted to return to Israel to finish her training. Kadima agreed to pay Barclay’s tuition and living expenses.

She returned to Canada, moved to Vancouver and began to write the Torah.

“The work is going slowly and I don’t know when I’m going to finish,” she says. “It puts a lot of strain on my hand. But I’ve finished Genesis and I’m part way through Exodus.’

Wendy Graff, of Kadima’s Woman’s Torah Project, said the shul “could have gotten a Torah for less money. But once we realized that a woman had never scribed a Torah, I knew I could never look at one the same way again.”

So far, according to the Woman’s Torah Project website, $33,881 (US) has been raised from 300 donors in 30 states to meet the $60,000 cost of the project.

Barclay says she knows of no other woman who has written a sefer Torah.

“But I’m not doing this for the attention,” she says. “I’ve been careful to make sure I’m doing it for the right reasons, not for ego gratification.”

In addition to writing Kadima’s Torah, Barclay repairs other Torahs in Vancouver and Victoria and checks them for flaws. She is also preparing to visit small communities in eastern Washington to do repair work on their Torahs. And this summer, she’s going on a eastern U.S. teaching tour.

A member of Vancouver’s Congregation Shaarey Tefillah, which is affiliated with the Union for Traditional Judaism, Barclay is married to composer and musician Joel Rothschild.

With files from JTA

My corrections for Mr Caulfield:

"She jumped at the rabbi’s offer and immediately began a correspondence course with him in calligraphy."
My sofer is not a rabbi.  My second trip to Israel when I finished my training, there was a rabbi-sofer who taught me some, but my main Teacher who certified me is not.

"The rabbi (who wishes to remain anonymous) said it “might be possible” for him to teach her Torah writing if they met and if they hit it off. He also insisted that she live an observant life and keep their arrangement confidential."
I'm concerned that the "hit it off" stipulation might sound a bit like a casting couch.  I'm sure you did not mean to imply that anything inappropriate happened between me & my teacher, but it sounds a bit like this to me.  Also, I was already a committed mitzvah-observant Jew before he & I ever had contact, & I did not become one in order to learn sofrut.

"She returned to Canada, moved to Vancouver and began to write the Torah." 
I was already living in Vancouver before Kadima ever approached me.

"But I’ve finished Genesis and I’m part way through Exodus."
I have only written the last few chapters of Genesis, the very beginning of Exodus, & some of Deuteronomy.

"Barclay says she knows of no other woman who has written a sefer Torah." 
But I did mention to you that there is one woman who may have & that I am currently researching her.

"Barclay repairs other Torahs in Vancouver and Victoria and checks them for flaws. She is also preparing to visit small communities in eastern Washington to do repair work on their Torahs. And this summer, she’s going on a eastern U.S. teaching tour." 
I've repaired Sifrei Torah all over BC & Washington - the Washington State tour happened in May.  Also, the tour I'm preparing to go on is across the US & Canada.

Thank G@d for Blogs, eh?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005



1. This blog's raison d'être is to express almost everything that I think about Judaism in general, sofrut in specific. The "almost" part is important because some parts of Torah I feel private about or not sufficiently educated in & will not comment on in this venue. However, I look for Torah in every experience that I have, & this may find its way into my blog, so be warned :)

2. I will discuss specific issues I am processing or have overcome while developing my path or general events that are important personally & professionally like assisting other women in gaining certification, further training, or ?who knows?. I believe very strongly in Jews sharing Torah together.

3. I will try to maintain a balance between Halakhic issues, politics, humour, & personal matters. Since my work is inseperably intertwined with my life, my blog might appear a bit corporate at times, but this is essentially a personal account. I reserve the right to post on any topic, though, as a mamash great Rebbe once said: "life happens".

4. I wish my journalling here to reflect a transparent experience for my readers. As I am not a "blog purist", I reserve the right to edit or delete the contents of my blog. Having said this, I will do this only to:
- correct spelling errors
- add or update links & posts (which will be labelled as such)
- remove highly offensive material like cursing, dirty talk or other abusive speech, including that which does not further the discussion
- remove advertisements, spam, lashon hara (gossip) & motzey shem ra (lies)

5. Even though all the uncredited content of this blog is my own, I freely acknowledge that I am influenced by others. If I do not know who to credit for an idea, image, or quote, etc, that I use in this blog, then I will say so.

6. If I find out I am mistaken on an issue, I will add an update to the post or comments once I have a chance to properly research the topic regardless of how old it is. I am also not so web- or blog-savvy, as I write with a feather on skin for a living, so I ask for your patience while I learn & experiment. I am human just like you, so please show compassion & give me the benefit of the doubt.

7. The views expressed within this site are mine. Although I am an Orthodox Jew, I do not represent Orthodox Judaism. As I am not a rabbi, I do not pretend to have authority beyond my smichat sofrut & I do not give p'sak Halakhah (Jewish legal rulings). Please remember that I am just a soferet trying to make a living, a beynoni (average person) like many of you out there.


8. As I have a very full life, sometimes it takes me time to get around to posting something I have written. In those cases I either post "in the present" & add the date of the piece at the top of it, or I post it "retroactively" by altering the date when I publish the post, depending on the content, etc.

9. Since I'm your average Gen-Xer who wasn't raised Orthodox, don't be surprised if I randomly rattle off phrases like "...the Chassidut of Jackie Chan..."

Addendum PLUS+

10. a nod to Little Green Footballs: "Comments are open and unmoderated, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Little Green Footballs. Obscene, abusive, silly, or annoying remarks may be deleted, but the fact that particular comments remain on the site in no way constitutes an endorsement of their views by Little Green Footballs." Or, in my case, Netivat Sofrut...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


בס"ד rivulets gathering in pools of dyo here & here & here.

Monday, July 04, 2005



Was up chatting with my fine Jerusalemite friend Gilan on ICQ in the wee hours this morning. I have discovered some motzey shem ra (lies) being told about me, so was unable to sleep & am currently seeking the advice of those wiser than I in how to deal with it, if at all...
...may the souls doing this harm find peace within themselves. Ameyn.

During our IM-session, Gilan turned me onto this.
The mind boggles...

Sunday, July 03, 2005



My mentor's reaction to the latest example of work I sent him:

"i am impressed with the improvement of the consistency of the wriitng. i am seeing a much more even texture which adds a lot to the quality of the page. i would still like to see better letters - stronger ayins in particular...

looking at your letters overall a strange thought came to me. there is a certain Sephardi feel to your letters - I am wondering if perhaps you don't have a more natural tendency to the Sephardi STaM script. i don't quite know what to tell you to do with this information - in an ideal world i would introduce you to a Sephardi Sofer and ask him to teach you some letters and see how it goes. but i don't know any Sephardi sofrim, (let alone one who might be willing to teach a woman) - but it still might be something to keep in the back of your mind and should an opportunity come up be ready to try it out."

My reply:
"I really appreciate hearing from you. Thanks for your e-mail.
I'm also grateful for your crit of my latest work. I agree with you, I am still struggling with Ayin. Don't blame yourself, tho', I probably just have some kind of deep, fraudulent, kabbalistic flaw in the cloth my soul is woven from...
I am so intrigued at your sense of the Sefardi flavour of my letters. Maybe this is a throwback to my Italian Jewish great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother. I would love to learn Sefardi script better, but you're right, there's a gender problem. I am the problem, apparently."

I am friendly with a Moroccan sofer st"m in Efrat...I wonder if he would consider me?

Saturday, July 02, 2005



At each Shabbes dinner, we pick cards to help us focus on the week ahead, where we are right now in our lives, & the direction we are taking. My wonderful friends, R' David & Michal Mivasair, pick an angel card after they light. Our Rabbi & Rebbetzin, Schachar & Meira, pass 2 sets of cards around the Shabbes table in between qidush & motzi, one Hebrew angel card & another set, with gorgeous images of angels depicted throughout the history of Western art.

Joel & I have come to our own "angel card minhag":
We & our guests each pick an angel card & a pasuq card. The angel cards are just the regular angel cards that everyone seems to have a set of, the ones that come in the small pink cardboard box that have one word calligraphed on the back with a naive drawing of an angel depicting the word.
The pasuq cards were invented by R' Schachar. They have, in Ashkenazi Torah script, a sentence from somewhere in TaNaKH on one side & then the same on the other, but with the vowels & an English translation & transliteration.

Last week, I got Tehilim/Psalms 107:13: "Vayizaku el YHVH batsar lahem mim'tsukoteyhem yoshi-em", or "They cried out to G@d in their distress; from their anguish G@d delivered them" plus the word "Love".

This Shabbat I drew Tehilim/Psalms 124:7: "Nafshenu k'tsipor niml'ta mipakh yokshim hapakh nishbar va-anakhnu nimlatnu", or "Our soul escaped as a bird out of the fowler's snare; the snare is broken & we escaped" plus the word "Delight".

I think someone is watching over me, Barukh HaShem.

Friday, July 01, 2005



In honour of my nation's 138th birthday, I have changed the colour scheme of my blog to a patriotic red & white :D

We watched the festivities take place in Ottawa on Pariament Hill. Quite grand. The day opened with an enormous African-Canadian opera diva with an equally enormous orange 'fro singing our national anthem in both languages. Then there was a whole bunch of very passionate First Nations People's chanting & drumming. A huge old man's head would float out between acts & entertain us with amusing stories told in his joual accent, then the Prime Minister accepted our original flag (kept in Belgium the past 40 years!) on behalf of Canadians to be safely kept in the Peace Tower.

Then Joel & I had brunch & generally got ready for Shabbes. An old friend (another Joel!) is spending the Holy Shabbat with us, so there will be more blessing in our home this Parshat Korach...

Shabbat Shalom!

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