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.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Rosh Chodesh Nisan

I think I met Tzadqi'el today. Or some other angel. Or Eliyahu Ha-Navi. I don't know.

Tzadqi'el is the angel of charity & justice, tzedeq meaning both those things in Hebrew. In our legends, angels or Elijah the Prophet is said to appear to people periodically to wake them up, test them, help them.

I was checking Torahs today at Beth Israel. There I was sitting at my iBook plunking away at the keyboard, totally hyperfocused on the report I was writing. A Sefer Torah lay next to me on the table. Suddenly, I sat bolt upright & spun around, only to find a very Orthodoxly dressed man - all in grey - walking up toward me. I was startled & put my hand to my chest, but I smiled. He smiled & apologized. It was ok.

"I'm from Israel!" he announced through his huge snowy beard, his black eyes sparkling.
"Oh, well, barukh ha-ba" I replied.

He came over, asking me in Hebrew if I spoke Hebrew & wondering what I was up to. I told him & he wanted to know how I learned. I explained & he seemed pleasantly surprised.

He was a shaliach for a charity organization, collecting money to help poor families in Israel make ends meet, on a worldwide trip. He'd just wandered into the synagogue & was hoping to meet the rabbi to ask for a donation. I offered to give him whatever I had in my wallet & he was very appreciative.

I had 2 quarters & no bills, so he suggested a cheque. It was then he asked for $150, because that's how much it took, on average, to feed one of the families relying on this charity for one week. I nearly choked, but tried to keep it to myself. I didn't want to seem ungracious. It's just that I live from hand to mouth, sofrut being a very modestly paid profession. On top of that, many of my clients don't pay me on time, which brings me tremendous stress. & here we are at the end of the month & I was only going to be able to pay the rent this week because of the work I was doing right then.

I explained this to him, but I felt kind of embarrassed about it. I mean, these people don't have enough to eat & they have children & here I was telling him that I couldn't afford to give him a donation so high. I offered $75, which is WAY more than I normally give in one shot. Normally I ask people begging outside stores if I can buy them food when I go in. & there's a blind girl who sits outside my bank who I try to help when I'm more flush. But that's just a few dollars worth here & there, it's not 150 bucks right before the rent & other bills are due. Like anyone, I have to keep my financial committments. He was very gentle, "How much you give," he gestured toward Heaven, "is for you."

I started trying to calculate what 20% of today's earnings would be, but I can't do math in my head when I'm tense.
"I know that all parnasa (financial support) comes from G@d, & I believe that everything we give to others Ha-Shem brings back to us. But having the emunah (faith) is so hard sometimes." He nodded. I must have sounded very strained, because he looked compassionately at me & smiled again, "ok, 100?"

I wrote a cheque for $100. He thanked me & gave me a tax-deductible receipt.
"What's your name?" I asked.
"Yehudah Shemesh."
I smiled broadly, because that means "Jew Sun" :D
What a great name!

"Are you married?" he asked
My eyes welled with tears. "We're separated."
He gave me a very generous blessing, which I will keep secret.
Then like a dream he & his smile disappeared as silently as they had come.

Giving charity is vitally important to society, whether we give of our time, our money, or our other resources. The point of it is not to drain us, but to keep our hearts open so that the flow of compassion comes through; so we can be a holy conduit for G@d. That's why it's a commandment.

In Judaism, everyone is required to give charity, even the poor. That keeps the movement of support going & our taking responsibility for each other alive.

& I was thinking: if my faith really was as strong as I wished it were, I would have just given him $150 & trusted that another cheque from a client would come in the mail tomorrow. Because G@d controls these things. But I didn't. & I recognized that this was a big stretch for me & that was ok. I had the opportunity to make a leap of faith today. But I didn't leap, I just jumped a little. To be honest, I'm still feeling a little guilty tonight, but it's mostly just because I hope one day I can be succesful enough to do this without pain. But I also recognize that this is a place where my faith is weaker than I would like: intellectually, I believe what I told this kind stranger today, but my heart felt too much fear & not enough emunah to let go & just give 100%. Instead, I gave only 66%. Which means that when I am in need, I might only get 66%. G@d willing, the Holy One will step in & compassionately provide the remaining 33%.

Turns out, I'll have about $30 left over after the rent is paid, so it's all good. Thank G@d.
& thank G@d also for this smiling stanger, Tzadqi'el, Eliyahu, Yehudah Shemesh, whoever he is; he did me the favour of raising my conciousness today & giving me the opportunity to do a good deed for others while I stretched a little past my own fears into deepening faith.

Addendum, March 30th:
Guess what? two cheques came in the mail this morning! That'll teach me! :D
I looked online for this charity hoping I could put the remaining $50 on my credit card, but no luck. Instead, I have decided to give blood when I return home from the teaching tour I'm about to go on. G@d is good & does good.

Addendum, April 7th:
I returned home today to find an envelope stuffed under the door containing 5 crisp $20 bills! The front of the envelope read in Hebrew: le-kavod: Aviel Shabat shalom - chag same'ach, "With respect: Aviel a peaceful Sabbath - joyful holiday". I have no idea what generous person managed to get into my building to pass me this gift & I will make no effort to find out. Anonymity is directly related to the highest levels of charity. May G@d bless the work of their hands. Shabbat shalom.

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Blogger Regina said...

What a story, Aviel! At first I found myself thinking, "That's so much money!" but then I started thinking about how easily $150 floats in and out of my pocket for what really are non-essentials. I have been so blessed in my life and I have to thank you, Aviel, for blogging about this... now, the next time an angel approaches me, I will do my best to give what he asks of me- and to have emunah.

11:35 a.m.  
Blogger Peter said...

I am impressed with the generosity of his blessing. There is power in that moment. You will be Provided for.

8:09 a.m.  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


I used to know a real-life Eliyahu story of a friend of mine, but now i can't even remember which friend it was, much less how the story went...

2:44 p.m.  
Blogger Simcha Daniel Burstyn שמחה דניאל בורשטיין said...

רבי עקיבא אומר...מעשר סיג לעושר
Rabbi Akiva says: Ma'aser is a protection for wealth...

BTW, how much for a Megilla?

12:21 p.m.  
Blogger Soferet said...

Regina - remember that any of us could encounter angels at any time :) Not just Abraham & Jacob.

Peter - yes, it was a deeply powerful experience without its intensity being too heavy. Ameyn to your last sentence here.

Steg - I've missed you around the blog. Welcome back. I love to hear stories, so if you ever remember...

Daniel - nice site, really beautiful. Thanks for the R' Akiva quote :)
My Megillot vary - check this out & e-mail me.

12:23 a.m.  

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