Netivat Sofrut: diary of a Soferet

Adventures of a female sofer learning to heal the world by doing Holy Work...writing a Sefer Torah

נחזיר את השכינה למקומה בצייון ובתבל כלה

"Let us restore the Divine In-Dwelling to Her Place in Zion & infuse Her spirit throughout the whole inhabited world."

So wherever we are, let us bring the Peace of G@d's Presence.

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Location: Vancouver/London, British Columbia/UK, Canada

SCRIBAL EVANGELIST As the only living certified Soferet (סופרת - female Jewish ritual scribe) & the first woman to practice sofrut (creation of sacred Hebrew texts) in over 200 years, I feel an obligation to blog about my experiences of The Work. I am also currently researching the foundation of a lost tradtion of women practicing this holy craft. For more on the services I provide, please see; Sofrut Nation. I am now available to engage with students, male or female, wishing to enter into the preliminary stage of learning sofrut. You are welcome to join me on this path. "Tzedeq, tzedeq tir'dof - Justice, justice you shall pursue." Devarim/Deuteronomy 16:20.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006



A version of the d'var Torah I gave over last Shabbes in St Paul:

Parshat No'ach

B'reyshit/Genesis 6:9 states:
אֵלֶּה, תּוֹלְדֹת נֹחַ--נֹחַ אִישׁ צַדִּיק תָּמִים הָיָה, בְּדֹרֹתָיו: אֶת-הָאֱלֹהִים, הִתְהַלֶּךְ-נֹחַ.
Eyleh tol'dot No'ach -- No'ach ish tzadiq tamim hayah, be-dorotav; et-ha-El@him, hit'halekh-No'ach
These are the generations of No'ach. No'ach was a man righteous and whole-hearted in his generation; No'ach walked with G@d.

& then B'reyshit/Genesis 7:1 goes on to say:
וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה לְנֹחַ, בֹּא-אַתָּה וְכָל-בֵּיתְךָ אֶל-הַתֵּבָה: כִּי-אֹתְךָ רָאִיתִי צַדִּיק לְפָנַי, בַּדּוֹר הַזֶּה.
Va-yomer Y-H-V-H le-No'ach, bo-atah ve-khol beytekha el-ha-teyvah; ki otakh ra'iti tzadiq le-fanai ba-dor hazeh
& G@d said to No'ach: 'Come you & all your house into the ark; for you have I seen righteous before Me in this generation'.

Both times No'ach's righteousness is mentioned in the Torah, this quality is awarded him only in comparison to the common standard of times in which he lived. G@d judged No'ach's behaviour as higher than the staus quo. He was the best that G@d had to work with, & he "walked with G@d", but his righteousness was not absolute.

Lucky for the planet, No'ach was "good enough". G@d could say, "he'll do".

The name No'ach is spelled with 2 letters in Hebrew: Nun (נ) & Chet (ח). The word nach, from the same root, can mean "at rest", "to be settled", or..."quiescent". This may give us a clue as to why G@d considered No'ach not fully righteous, but relatively righteous. He did fulfill to the letter each comandment given by G@d; but no more. No'ach may have only performed the bare minimum of what was required of him.


The bent Nun, which begins his name, denotes reliability.

Sometimes our souls, our neshamahs, are withdrawn & resigned, in a state of contraction like the resting Nun, while at other times it is active and exuberant like the erect Nun. When someone is inactive and immobile, his/her soul lies fallow, but when this person feels vibrant and motivated, his/her neshamah draws itself up to its full height.

No'ach was truly the Nun at rest.

The name as well as the pictograph of the letter Nun means "fish". This is notable because of No'ach's survival of the deluge; &, like a tzadiq (righteous person), is associated with water. Our tradition tells us that when a righteous person dies without a perfectly clean slate & they still have a little bad karma - I'm paraphrasing here - to remedy, they are reincarnated as a fish. Why? Because fish are very quiet & lead calm lives in the most comfortable medium - water.

Comfortable. Settled. Like No'ach.

The letter Nun has a gematrial value of 50. A word which also has a value of 50 is spelled Alef-Tet-Mem Sofit (אטם). If pronounced atam, this letter combination means "seal" or "shut" - filled up. If pronounced iteym, the meanins shifts to "sealed" or "water-tight". Etem is a seal or gasket.


Soferet Avielah's Torah
This is one of the words I wrote in a Sefer Torah. The middle letter is Chet, the way my sofer taught me to shape it.

The letter Chet's name reminds us of the word chatoteret, a hump or hunchback. Indeed, when Chet is written in an Ashkenazi/European Sefer Torah, it consists of two Zayins - or a Zayin (ז) & a Vav (ו), depending on the philosophical leanings of the scribe - joined by a peaked roof. This is where Chet gets its name, from chat - "distorted" or "curved". This is also where we get the words chatah & cheyt from - sin, transgression, miss, fail. When we don't shoot straight in our lives, we fall.

Our Sages draw a lesson from this construction; when one observes two people fighting, whether using verbal or actual weapons (Zayins) against each other, spare no effort to build a bridge and bring them together so they may join once again in friendship (Krias HaTorah).

Another flourish on this letter shows us the Zayin (bride) & her Vav (groom) held high on chairs in celebration of their wedding, the only bridge connecting them a hanky :)

The numerological value of the letter Chet is 8. Going beyond seven, the Shabbat, the number eight represents our ability to transcend our physical limitations. Eight symbolizes the metaphysical, the entrance of the Divine into our lives.

No'ach's name bears the gematria of 58 - which is the same as that of cheyn, grace. So much as this man may have helped save the inhabitants of the world from total destruction by doing as little as possible, he did, in the end, walk with G@d.

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Monday, October 30, 2006



The Temple of Aaron men's club was kind enough to present me with this collage they made of some of our Torah event's media coverage:
Soferet Collage 1

Soferet Collage 2
(I'm actually really surprised that the photographer got a good shot of me - I'm normally so animated & I move around so much that I'm horribly horribly UN-photogenic. So kudos to him!)

Sunday went beautifully, thank G@d. We started at 9am with all the children of the Jewish school, their parents, grandparents, & any other special people in their lives who they wanted to invite to share in the Torah-writing experience. It was gorgeous!

You know, hundreds of people lined up to rest their hand on mine as I wrote in this Torah. It was amazing. Some even cried.

It made me really think: I refused to practice sofrut until my teachers & rabbis gave me the go-ahead. Even though I'd learned it well with them & felt ready - ok, MORE than ready - to begin this sacred task I had yearned for since I was small, I knew it was wrong for me to call myself a soferet or to practice any of it until I was given permission by them to do so. Once I received my endorsement, then my work was finally kosher (if you accept sofrut from a woman, that is!).

& I chose my teachers carefully, & they me, because to seriously, positively change the world you have to change yourself. They still mentor & challenge me.

& when I first began to write, I have to admit, I was petrified. Who was I to interact with the holy letters in this way? Just because I was certified didn't mean I was an expert yet. It's like when you finish journalism school or are ordained as a minister - you're totally qualified, but you lack experience. You're a baby. & I was a baby soferet. & terrified of making any error, visible or invisible, even by accident. I felt the weight of all the Jews who might rely on me to provide for them what they needed. It was hard.

& yesterday I had the solemn privilege to witness other people's very intimate reactions to my writing a letter for them. The searing love I saw in their faces for this scroll, which some may not have even been able to read, was palpable. This is the Torah, Eytz Chayim Hee!

I am so lucky! Barukh Ha-Shem!

There were yummy little kids, oldsters...what a blessing!
One very elderly man came up to me on his turn - he must have been 100 years old if he was a day - & he looked me in the eye. Like, right through me.
& I asked him what his name was.
I was expecting "Max" or "Benny" or some other anglicized name for a gent of his generation. But he gave me his Hebrew name. He pronounced it proudly with his heavy Polish accent: "Barukh ben Chayim Pesach!"
& I was just held, transfixed, by this man's presence. He kept staring right through me & he repeated his Hebrew name: Barukh ben Chayim Pesach.
I was blown away.
Then he held my hand & we wrote a letter together.

I later learned that this man walked away from my writing table with tears in his eyes, saying, "I'm 95 years old & that was the most important thing I've ever done."

& this went on all day! What a great experience! I'm so blessed!
& there was a 6-month-old baby girl too! Her parents held her over the Torah & put her teeny delicate little pink hand on mine as I wrote, her eyes wide.

I must thank everyone at Temple of Aaron for making me feel like I was part of their family. They honoured me by trusting me with their Torah & really, with their hearts too. & I hope I brought to them whatever they needed from me. If, in the end, we've all drawn a little closer to Torah, & thereby a little closer to G@d, that is the greatest gift we can share.

I must say, the airport here has the coolest floors!
Jewy centre of the snowflake mosaic floor of Minneapolis-St Paul airport:
Soferet Jewy Snowflake Mosaic

All good things must come to an end, so I hopped my plane & headed north back home to Canada:
True North Soferet

& this is the fab view I had of Mount Ranier & the waxing moon on my layover at Sea-Tac:
Soferet View @ Sea-Tac
(if you click on the pic, you'll see it in all its stunning detail!)

& finally, the fertile Lower Mainland of Vancouver & our beautiful Georgia Strait:
Soferet Flying Home
Home sweet home!

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Sunday, October 29, 2006



Happened to find myself listed here (scroll down). Very odd. Nice, tho'.

Wish me luck for today - I'm leading a Siyum Sefer Torah where hundereds of men, women & childern will line up to watch me write letters in a Torah scroll for them. Pray that my hand survives such a holy celebration, please :)

Shavu'ah tov! A good week!
& don't forget to set your clocks back an hour!

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Saturday, October 28, 2006



This article appeared in the Pioneer Press this morning. I must thank Steve Scott, the paper's religion editor, & Craig Bork, the photographer, for their excellent work.

Little kids were coming up to me today at services & saying, "hey - HEY! I saw you in the paper this morning!" They were so cute. Since when do small children read the Saturday morning news? I spoke last night before Shabat dinner, just toward the end of services, to about 300 people (so I'm told). They were really good about my not using a microphone on Shabbat, & thank G@d I think I reached most everyone.

I've been staying with Rabbi & Mrs Konigsburg & I just adore them! They've been so kind. & as an extra blessing, they only live about a block from the synagogue, which makes all the difference in the world to me. This West Coast girl gets cold easily.

I did a little show & tell today with part of the Hebrew school & then later spoke on some letter-midrash. All in all, my patrons, students & audience have been very enthusiastic. People are very sweet in the Midwest, ken ayina hora.

& tonight after Shabbes I had the great honour of going to Rabbi & Mrs Raskas' home for dinner. They were really lovely hosts with a very sharp Judaism. I like them. We drank rye - which they call "VO" for some reason - neat & talked Jewy-feminist-Halakhah. They both have some great stories to share. He went to school with such luminaries as R' Harold Shulweiss & apparently "used to hang out with Kaplan". & no, not this Kaplan. THIS Kaplan.
I left with a fleece kippah embroidered with "Go Vikings!" in Hebrew...

Torah scribe has followed sacred calling to the letter
'Soferet' to help Temple of Aaron congregants fulfill commandment

Pioneer Press

The writing was on the wall when she saw "Fiddler on the Roof" as a 3-year-old.

Mesmerized by the Hebrew letters she saw in the movie, Avielah Barclay sensed a sacred calling that would not let her go, until decades later she became the only female Torah scribe in all of Judaism.

In a St. Paul synagogue this weekend, she will do what no Jewish woman before her has done for at least 250 years: inscribe letters in a Torah scroll, one of the holiest acts of Judaism.

"The Torah is the heart and soul of what the synagogue is all about,'' said Rabbi Randall Konigsburg of Temple of Aaron, celebrating its 50th year in its synagogue on Mississippi River Boulevard. "So our congregation is very excited about having her here."

They're not the least bit opposed, either, to having a female scribe — a soferet — put quill to scroll.

That hasn't been a universal response. Barclay, an Orthodox Jew from Vancouver, British Columbia, has been accused of heresy.

"Oh, yeah, but that's boring,'' she said. "People send me e-mails saying, 'You're going to burn in hell.'

"It's perfectly fine for people not to accept this, but I would rather people would engage in intellectual discussion with me.''

There will be plenty of that during Barclay's visit to Temple of Aaron this weekend. The highlight is Sunday, when she will help several hundred congregants fulfill a Jewish commandment by writing a letter in the Torah.

"That's a lot of letters to be written all at once in one day,'' said Barclay, 38.

Her apprenticeship as a scribe was more laborious — and painful.

She was a gemologist 15 years ago when a bicycle accident derailed her career. Her writing hand was crushed against her handlebars.

"I'm bionic now,'' she said, alluding to the pins and screws that keep her hand together.

A long period of recovery prompted a soul search that harked back to the movie house of her childhood.

"My dad used to manage movie theaters, and I would go with him during the day while my mom worked,'' Barclay said. "I must have seen 'Fiddler' a hundred times.

"When I saw the Hebrew letters, I very much had a sense they were sacred, even though I was only 3 or 4 years old. That followed me through my childhood.''


What followed was another long search: to find a mentor who would teach her the methodical and intricate craft of writing Torah.

Barclay couldn't find a sofer willing to risk his reputation by teaching a woman.

"They discussed it in the Talmud, whether a woman could write a Torah,'' said Rabbi Emeritus Bernard Raskas, who saw a magazine article about Barclay that prompted him to encourage Temple of Aaron to invite her to St. Paul.

"It's inconclusive. They don't rule either way. It's just a discussion. But I think the men just didn't want any women writing, that's all.''

Barclay nearly gave up.

"Until I got this e-mail one day,'' she said. "I wasn't going to open it. I thought it was from a Jewish dating service. But I looked at it, and it was from a sofer in Jerusalem.

"He said, 'I like your Web site. But I thought your calligraphy could use some work.' "

He agreed to teach her calligraphy. It took several years, and careful research by her home rabbi in Vancouver, to persuade the Jerusalem sofer to help Barclay complete a full apprenticeship as a soferet.

Since being certified three years ago, she has helped other synagogues complete a Siyum Sefer Torah, the restoration project like the one at Temple of Aaron this weekend. She has written the Book of Esther for congregations to use during Purim. And she is negotiating with some West Coast congregations to write an entire Torah, a process that can take up to two years.

Barclay also has discovered as many as 10 other women who were Torah scribes, but none more recent than the 18th century.

"I guess every 250 years, we've got to try to get another one,'' Konigsburg said.

Steve Scott may be reached at 651-228-5526 or sscott@pioneer

If you go

Avielah Barclay, Judaism's only female Torah scribe, will give a public talk after today's 6 p.m. Shabbat service at Temple of Aaron, 616 S. Mississippi River Blvd., St. Paul. She will speak about the meaning and mysticism of the Hebrew letters of the Torah.

Sacred ritual

On Sunday, Avielah Barclay will help several hundred congregants at Temple of Aaron fulfill a Jewish commandment by writing a letter in the Torah. In a ritual called Siyum Sefer Torah, the congregant literally holds the hand of the highly-trained scribe, who precisely guides the writing of the letter.

As with other news articles about me featured here, I'm going to make some comments & corrections when I have a minute - for now I'm so pleased to be here in St Paul with the Jews at Temple of Aaron! Stay tuned :)

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Thursday, October 26, 2006



On my way here today as scholar-in-residence for their Siyum Shabbaton. I'm really excited to meet Rabbi Raskas, who is one of the people responsible for bringing me in, & a well-known & well-loved theologian, rabbi & community leader. What an honour, barukh Ha-Shem!

Actually, I'm always happy to meet & connect with more Yidden, so cheers to that :)

This is the full certificate which I made for Temple of Aaron to be given all those people who will be participating with me in completing their Sefer Torah:
Soferet Temple of Aaron Certificate

I really appreciate the opportunity to do some artwork occasionally & not only sofrut - grateful as I am that I can make my living at sofrut, thank G@d.
This was much fun!

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006



This is a very short, very cool bit about the Hebrew letters from the Chazon Ish, as given over by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, one of my fave ravs.
Enjoy the mp3.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006



A St. Paul synagogue will celebrate its jubilee with a visit from a pioneering Torah scribe.
Pamela Miller, Star Tribune

When Avielah Barclay leans over a Torah scroll and slowly shapes the elaborate Hebrew letters, she's not thinking about being the only female soferet -- certified Jewish sacred-text scribe -- in the world.
She's thinking about beauty.

"From the time I was 3, I've been drawn to the alefbet [the Hebrew alphabet]," said the Vancouver, British Columbia, artist. "My dad ran a movie theater, so I saw 'Fiddler on the Roof' a few times and was stunned by these gorgeous letters. I wanted to be as close to them as possible."

From then on, Barclay, 38, knew she wanted to be a soferet.

She'll share her story, skills and passion for the sacred texts next weekend at Temple of Aaron, a 100-year-old congregation that is celebrating its 50th year in St. Paul's Highland Park neighborhood, said Rabbi Randall Konigsburg.

Jewish law does not ban female scribes, but long tradition holds that they should be male, said Bernard Raskas, Temple of Aaron's rabbi laureate.

At 82, Raskas has witnessed much of the synagogue's history and decades of dramatic events in the history of the Jewish people. Barclay's pioneering role is important because it weds tradition and innovation, he said.

"She sure knows her stuff," Raskas said. "After she decided she wanted to be a scribe, she tried to get training and kept hearing no, no, no, because she is a woman. When she finally found a sofer [a male scribe] in Israel willing to teach her, he said it was only on condition that she never reveal his name, never touch him, and work in a room with open windows and doors." The teacher wanted to be sure that there could be no suggestion of impropriety, he said.

Barclay has learned "the thousand rules" that govern proper creation of a Torah, Raskas said. On Sunday, she'll oversee a private ceremony in which hundreds of synagogue members will shape a Hebrew letter in the Torah, guided by Barclay's gifted hand in what she calls "a very careful and difficult process."

Said Raskas: "There's a commandment [in Deuteronomy] that says every Jew has to write a Torah. Of course that's impossible, so in the 12th century, Maimonides [the great Sephardic rabbi and scholar] ruled that if you write one letter, you have fulfilled the commandment."

Konigsburg said the siyum sefer ceremony, as it is called, "is very moving."I've seen people weep with emotion when the sofer guides their hand through the shaping of the Torah letter" because it connects them with their faith and ancestors, he said.

The scroll they'll work on will bear a new cover "lovingly crafted" by Sam Rafowitz, an 81-year-old Holocaust survivor, in memory of his family, Konigsburg said.

When the ceremony is over, "the Torah will be kosher and we will celebrate," Barclay said. And she will have shared her passion for what she calls "art with intention."

Going where she's welcome

Although Barclay knows of no other female Torah scribes now living, her research has led her to suspect that there have been a few scattered through history.

"When I was certified to do this three years ago, there was no record of any other female Torah scribe," she said. "But I've found that there were possibly up to 10 women who did this before me, including one in Yemen in the 1400s and in Rome before that. Sometimes they were rabbis' wives."

It's important for her to identify predecessors, she said, "because if I can show there were others, we can open it up even more to other women."

Although acceptance is growing, many Orthodox Jews still balk at the idea of a woman doing the sacred work, she said.

"Some say it wouldn't be kosher for a man to use a Torah written out by a woman," she said. "I get many e-mails or objections on my blog [at]. That's the way mainstream Judaism has gone for centuries, and as an Orthodox Jew, I acknowledge that. But there is a minority opinion that says it's perfectly kosher.

"I'm not upset about people objecting, and they don't have to hire me," she said. "But views differ, and many are willing to accept me."

Since being certified, she's talked about her work or overseen Torah rededication projects at many synagogues in the United States and Canada.

Barclay's early fascination with the Hebrew alphabet stayed with her through an early career as a gemologist. But in her 20s, during a period of healing after her writing hand was crushed in a biking accident, she had what she calls "an epiphany" that she should pursue her dream of being a soferet.

"Then it took me 10 years to find the teacher who finally took me," she said. "It's been a slow process to get where I am, but that I can do it at all is a huge blessing."

She does her work with the healed hand, which still bears scars from the accident and surgery, she said.

Shortly after she was certified, Barclay was asked by her Vancouver synagogue to write out the Book of Esther, and since then, her work and reputation have grown.

"I do feel like I'm at a pivotal point in Jewish history, for both women and all of us," she said. "People tell me that my story and work have affected them in a positive way, and that's a wonderful thing to hear."

Soferet Temple of Aaron Logo
Temple of Aaron's Jubilee logo, which I jazzed up a little for them :)
It was great fun & I'm really looking forward to this weekend!

There are a few comments & corrections I'm going to make on this article as soon as I have a minute. Nothing drastic - the reporter was totally lovely to talk with & I think she wrote this really nicely - but there's the odd thing that isn't quite right in the article that I'll write about in the addendum I always put at the end of stories about me.
When I have a minute!

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Monday, October 23, 2006



Sefer B'reyshit/Genesis 1:14-18 reads:

יד וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים, יְהִי מְאֹרֹת בִּרְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמַיִם, לְהַבְדִּיל, בֵּין הַיּוֹם וּבֵין הַלָּיְלָה; וְהָיוּ לְאֹתֹת וּלְמוֹעֲדִים, וּלְיָמִים וְשָׁנִים. 14
& G@d said: 'Let there be lights in the firmament of the Heaven to part the day from the night; & let them be for signs, & for seasons, & for days and years;
טו וְהָיוּ לִמְאוֹרֹת בִּרְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמַיִם, לְהָאִיר עַל-הָאָרֶץ; וַיְהִי-כֵן. 15
& let them be for lights in the firmament of the Heaven to give light upon the Earth.' And it was so.
טז וַיַּעַשׂ אֱלֹהִים, אֶת-שְׁנֵי הַמְּאֹרֹת הַגְּדֹלִים: אֶת-הַמָּאוֹר הַגָּדֹל, לְמֶמְשֶׁלֶת הַיּוֹם, וְאֶת-הַמָּאוֹר הַקָּטֹן לְמֶמְשֶׁלֶת הַלַּיְלָה, וְאֵת הַכּוֹכָבִים. 16
& G@d made the two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, & the lesser light to rule the night; & the stars.
יז וַיִּתֵּן אֹתָם אֱלֹהִים, בִּרְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמָיִם, לְהָאִיר, עַל-הָאָרֶץ. 17
& G@d set them in the firmament of the Heaven to give light upon the Earth,
יח וְלִמְשֹׁל, בַּיּוֹם וּבַלַּיְלָה, וּלְהַבְדִּיל, בֵּין הָאוֹר וּבֵין הַחֹשֶׁךְ; וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים, כִּי-טוֹב. 18
& to rule over the day & night, & to divide the light from the darkness; & G@d saw that it was good.

Last week when we read Parshat B'reyshit, we again witnessed the birth of Creation. Humankind was, much like children when first born, placed in a garden, protected from the elements of the outside world. All our physical comforts were taken care of without any effort on our part, & we had G@d, the sun, moon & stars to watch over & guide us.

Much like being born into your family with your father, mother (the 2 large luminaries) & older sibs (stars) to welcome & care for you. This is one of the ways I read these verses in Genesis, because of my own family & my personal origins. I was lucky enough to be the last born into a clan of Mum, Dad, & many older sisters. They, along with G@d, began my narrative & I owe them all much for being "the light upon the Earth" for me.

I want to talk about ha-ma'or ha-gadol le-memshelet ha-yom..., the great light to govern the day...because for me, this great light was my dad, Alex. & at this time in the Jewish calendar, when we finish our annual Torah reading cycle & begin it all over again, is when he was suddenly called to the next world. This sentimental d'var Torah I write in his honour.

I inheirited much from Dad. I have not only his sirname, but his eyes, his freckles, his lower lip & his feet all on my own female version of his small frame. He gifted me with his disparate ancestry from the Yekke, Nusach Venezia, & John McIntosh. I also owe him for his goofy sense of humour, love of all movies, & the ability to take any leftovers that happen to be in the fridge at the end of the week & make a comforting, tasty soup that every one loves & demands the recipe for.

Dad used to manage movie theatres, & until I was in school I spent my days with him at work while Mum was out at her job. I drew pictures in the projection booth, befriended the cleaning ladies, & played in the parking lot in between shows when it was empty. I also watched the same movies over & over every day, subsisting on popcorn, Twizzlers & Orange Crush. At the end of each film's run, he used to carefully cut the people & animals out of the movie posters & give them to me to play with. It was Heaven.

If I hadn't sat, completely transfixed, through "Fiddler on the Roof" hundreds of times in 1972, I would not now be an Orthodox Jewish soferet.
& if he hadn't brought rolls of paper home from the theatre for me to draw & write on, I would never have "written my first Torah scroll" as a preschooler.

Dad retired from management when I was 6 years old. He was almost 60 when I was born, & decided to go back to being a movie projectionist in the evenings as he had been in the 1940's. & yes, if you've ever seen "Cinema Paradiso", that was our life.
With his days free, he walked the dog, did the shopping, cooked our meals & generally minded the house. When we were sick, he was the one who brought us home from school & took care of us with his famous soups.

I consider my dad to be "a great light", because he was just a regular man, very unassuming, who was kind to people, & quietly brought justice. The whole time he was in management, from the 1940's to the 1970's, he used to pay his female employees the same as his male employees. He would make sure elderly people had jobs, if they needed one. He used to help aspiring actors like Bruno Gerussi by giving access to & attention in the auditorium while it was closed to the public. & he used to make one night per week free admission to the movies for the Aboriginal Canadians in our community. When he retired, they gave him beautiful beaded Native jewellery to thank him, which Mum still has. Even Chief Dan George thought well of him.

He was also very generous. When Mum & Dad returned from their trip to the UK in 1977, I remember someone asking what he'd bought for himself, & him remarking, "Everything I bought was for other people. This was the only thing I bought for myself" & with that he produced a leverage-type bottle opener with the shield of Scotland on the handle.
(By the way, I haven't been able to find this for several months, so if you borrowed it or mistakenly took it with you somewhere, please please bring it back. It means a lot to me)

But only our family & very close friends know these things about him, because he was also a modest man. & for all the good things I inheirited from him, there are other good things I did not & am still learning from him these decades after his death. From him (& from Mum) I learned how to run a home, that it's important to dance a little in the kitchen while you make dinner, & when enough is enough. I'm still learning to be patient, to improve my listening skills & reach out to my local community.

Dad was the memshala, from the same root as le-memshelet, of our home. He was, quietly, the boss. The buck stopped with him, but he was gentle about it. He was also the mashal, again from the same root, which means 'to speak in parables', or 'to give an example'. He was a great joker & story teller who was fond of singing & playing music with people. Especially Hoagy Carmichael.

The Ramban teaches that the great light mentioned in Genesis, whether we're literally talking about the sun here or the Great Daddy Energy, causes growth & nurturance. Fathers, like the sun, if they shine brightly they can provide their families with security, build a structure from within which spouse & children can receive the special energy that only fathers can gift. A sustaining influence that, as vital as mothers are, is a different kind of care that only a man can give the children in his household.

I struggled with G@d for years over Dad's death, but my process kept leading me back to the same ha-ma'or ha-gadol le-memshelet ha-yom... each day we are grown in all our ways by the great light. Being a good father is one of the most challenging relationships a man can have. So many people have fathers who, for whatever reason, cannot care for them well. But I'm not one of those people. Having a good dad is one of the greatest blessings a child can have, a vital, nourishing source for growth. & I had that. I have no business resenting G@d for having my dad around for such a short time, especially when other people get not-so-great-dads for their entire lifetime. & his influence on me is still with me, encouraging me by the examples he set to grow into a better person. So I have every reason to feel gratitude - & thank G@d.

Over 400 people came to his memorial service. We held it in his last movie theatre. Many people spontaneously stood & told wonderful stories about how my dad had helped them, or cheered them up, or took them out for a drink & advice. Stories I would never have known otherwise, because his life was mostly over by the time I was born. Stories which confirmed what I already knew: Dad was a mensch.

Father's Day, 2006:
Dad at Rest
May each spark our loved ones, our teachers, bring into the world be perpetuated in every moment by we who are left behind to continue the work. Or gadol.

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Sunday, October 22, 2006



The letter Hey (ה) has a gematrial/numerological value of 5. It's the 5th letter of the Hebrew alefbet.

Hey has the easiest voice. The sound of Hey is only your out-breath, the exhalation of prana. It needs no effort, no motion of lips, tongue or mouth (Tanchuma Bereishis 16).

Our spirit (ru'ach) lives in our breath (ru'ach), is our breath. The Kabbalah says that when two people are talking together and their faces are so close they inhale the other's breath, they are sharing souls. According to Hasidism, our souls are too vast to inhabit our bodies; they penetrate and surround them.

Hey is female. Her soft-sounding voice indicates the feminine form of a noun, as in yeled (boy) - yaldah (girl). The two Heys in The Four-Letter Name represent the Mother and the Daughter in the archetypal Family, Yud (י) representing the Father and Vav (ו) the Son.

G@D created two worlds; this one with the letter Hey:
בִּדְבַר יְהוָה, שָׁמַיִם נַעֲשׂוּ; וּבְרוּחַ פִּיו, כָּל-צְבָאָם. 6
Bid'var HaShem shamayim na'asu uv'ru'ach piv kol tzeva'am
By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.
- Psalms 33:6

Why? Our traditions tell us that this world is like the letter Hey, easy to fall out the bottom. Also like this world there is always a tiny space, which allows another entrance. This is t'shuvah, repentance (Menachos 29b). This teaches us to leave a small opening in our hearts to let others back in when they have hurt us and wish to be forgiven (Tomer Devorah 1:7).
It also serves us by making room for forgiving ourselves...

Hey is made up of two other letters. First there is a Dalet (ד), then there is a Yud (י) in the lower left hand corner of the Dalet's space. Yud, the hand (yad) has the power to open the Dalet, door (delet) to the path of returning to G@d, our Source. The point of the Yud must be separate from the roof, but not further than the thickness of the roof. This Yud leans inward to the space, so the Hey won't resemble a Taf (ת).

We just saw a miniature letter Hey yesterday in B'reyshit Parshat B'reyshit/Genesis 2:4 -
ד אֵלֶּה תוֹלְדוֹת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְהָאָרֶץ, בְּהִבָּרְאָם: בְּיוֹם, עֲשׂוֹת יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים--אֶרֶץ וְשָׁמָיִם. 4
Eyleh toldot ha'shamayim v'ha'aretz be-hibaram b'yom asot Y-H-V-H Eloqim eretz v'shamayim:
These are the generations/begettings of the Heavens and of the Earth when they were created, at the time of Y-H-V-H, G@D's making of earth and heaven:

The Hey is small in "be-hibaram" because the letter Hey is one of those which symbolizes G@D - an abbreviation of both the Four-letter Name "Y-H-V-H" and "HaShem". And according to midrash, before the creation G@D was...that's it. All there was was G@D and G@D was all there was. So in order to make room for us, The Holy One had to contract. The word our tradition uses here is "tzimtzum". Like a mother's body making room for a growing baby. The child, like us & all of Creation, is of its mother, but different. The mother contains & sustains her child, but must constantly be altering the status quo to achieve this. So the Hey in the word meaning "they were created" inspired this midrash which teaches us about G@D's process.

Shavu'ah Tov - a good week - & Chodesh Tov - a good new month to everyone.

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Friday, October 20, 2006



There has been a photo going around on the internet which, altho' very popular & rather funny (in a good way), I find counter-productive to Feminist Judaism. As someone who is committed to Orthodox Feminist Judaism, I spoke out against in on Jewschool:

I'm going to have to agree with Cole, Jabotinsky & RM.

I welcome any opportunity for discussion about women in non-trad roles.
Although this took a great deal of time & skill to make, I find it offensive.

My concern is Jen's deliberate choice of Barbie iconography, given the associations. Most women of our generation (the over-30s) find Barbie to denote "trivial". Barbie is a cultural shorthand for plastic, superficial, brainless, and demeaning. It's the ultimate non-feminist icon.

This image says to me that basically feminist Jx women are bimbos just "playing" real Jews & that feminist Jx women who CHALLENGE tradition for the love of Torah, are really playthings. Either the women or the traditions.

So since I'm sure that Jen's intention here was NOT to trivialize feminist women in Judaism, perhaps it could have been better thought out.

Shabbat Shalom!

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

אוי גיב מיי אונד העיים וואו דער בופלוקסען געיים


Oy gib me und heym voo der buffloxen gaym...
That would be Yiddish for "Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam..."


I'd like to talk about home in this post in relation to this week's Parsha, B'REYSHIT! Yes, this Shabbat we being the cycle of reading the Torah all over again. We got a preview on Simchat Torah, which was Sunday, when we read the very end of the scroll & the rolled it back to the beginning again & read some more!

We had a women's reading at Shaarey Tefilah. It was awesome. The men even let us use the newest Sefer, which is totally kosher & has beautiful writing :)

So Sefer B'reyshit parshat B'reyshit/the Book of Genesis 1:1 begins thus:
בְּרֵאשִׁית, בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים, אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ.

B'reyshit bara eloqim eyt hashamayim v'eyt ha'aretz:
"At the beginning of G@D's creating of the heavens and the earth:"
Soferet Enlarged Letter Bet in Genesis
This is the Sefer I'm currently cleaning & restoring. It was written after 1800. You can tell this because the first letter, Bet (ב) sports 4 crowns, called taggin or ketarim.

As with many, but not all, s'farim/holy books, the first letter is often enlarged. However, here also is an example of an action taken from the next world, by G@D. The act of creation warrants a large Bet. According to Rabbi Chayim Dovid Halevy, z"l, a great Kabbalist & the former Chief Sefardi Rabbi of Tel Aviv, any time we see an enlarged letter anywhere in our canon (TaNaKH), we are to understand that G@d has disturbed the staus quo with great chesed, kindness, & ahavah, love.

Because the letter Bet carries the gematrial value of 2, it reveals to us the Divine creative mother-father energy within it, beginning the whole universe.

So, why was the world created with the letter Bet? Just as Bet is closed on three sides and open only in front, so you are not permitted to investigate what is above (the Heavens) and what is below (the deep), what is before (the six days of creation) and what is (to happen) after (the world’s existence) - you are permitted only from the time the world was created and thereafter (the world we live in) [Genesis Rabbah 1:10. This may refer either to space or to time, or to both space and time. See Tosafot on Talmud Bavli Hag 11b, s.v. yakhol].

Some say that the Torah begins with the letter Bet to make the statement that the force that G@d used to initiate Creation was Binah - with understanding the world was created. Binah is in the world of Yetzirah, the formative dimention of "just Being". IS-ness. The letter Bet also begins Briyah, the world of knowledge whose world is creative.

Reish Lakish taught that The Holy One made a deal with the rest of Creation, that if Israel accepts the Torah, you will continue to exist; if not, I will return you to nothingness (Shabbos 88a). How do we know this? Because the first word in the Torah is an acronym: "Barishonah Ra'ah Elohim Shey'qab'lu Yisra'el Torah" - "From the start, G@D saw that Israel would accept the Torah" (Baal HaTurim).

In Judaism, G@d has many names, allowing us to attempt to express all the holy qualities of the Creator. One of those names begins with a letter Bet. Bat Qol, which literally means "Daughter of a Voice", but can also mean "Voice from Heaven", "echo", "Divine inspiration" or even "prophesy".

Just as with a ketubah, the traditional Jewish wedding contract, we begin this with a letter Bet which is often enlarged (but not always - that depends on the calligrapher). But we may have a similar situation here that requires a large Bet in a ketubah for the same reasons as in a Torah. Many Jewish couples today enter their first marriage without their virginity. There have been intimate relationships & home-building exercises, most often with people who now dwell in the past. Assuming these experiences have been dealt with, grown from & their lessons integrated into wisdom, there is no need to revisit them after the marriage begins. All that came before, like lovers, homes, experiences, relationships...were only to bring each member of the wedding couple to this point & need only be included in the wedded relationship in their appropriate place. It's not that they get wiped away, or made to magically disappear. But from that large Bet which begins the building of this new, committed home, like the large Bet, the Bayit or "home" for all of Creation, we walk forward together & leave the rest behind.

...where seldom is heard a discouraging word...

Focused kavanah, intention, & great care must be taken with the shape and the length of the Bet when you are writing it. If it appears more round than square, then it could be mistaken for a Khaf (כ). If it is narrower than it is tall it may look like a Nun (נ).

Happy writing!

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006



Somebody, who I'm sure had the best of intentions, used plenty of Sello tape along the edge of the parchment here to tightly secure it to the roller.
Please don't ever do this. Seriously. Call your local sofer instead.
Soferet request: DON'T TAPE YOUR TORAH!
To get a really good look at the tape (which is clear), click on the image & selected the largest available size at my Flickr page. The tape isn't the white patches pictured here - that's more parchment added after the Torah was originally written (over the drill-holes & knots, I might say). The tape is around the edges of those patches.

& at least they are parchment patches - until I got the tape off, I wasn't sure - it looked like interfacing (stitch witchery).

The problem with this is that any kind of tape will make the Torah scroll unfit for use because of the unkosher animal hooves & other bits used in glue manufacture. Mister Ed does not belong slathered on your Sefer.

Another problem is that the residue left behind, even when completely removed, will discolour the parchment over time (if it hasn't already).
So...pleasePleasePLEASE don't ever do this. It may seem like a good idea at the time, but it's actually always a bad idea.

So I did manage to get all the adhesive residue off both the parchment & the wood, thank G@d. It created a fair bit of dust, which is bad for the parchment - it grinds in & wears away the letters - unless you are careful to remove it properly. Laying clean, acid-free paper over the letter helps, but there's always some parchment or sawdust that finds its way onto the face of the Torah. DON'T BLOW! Not even gently. You'd be surprised at how much spit hits a Torah just from people reading it, so blowing is a no-no. Instead, I use a blower-bulb &/or an extremely soft goat-hair brush. Soft, because even hair can scratch the letters & goat, because they're kosher, man!

It's really handy that I'm also a professional artist & was a gemmologist before I was lead to sofrut - I came equipped with the knowledge of how to use many tools. I even owned some. I can't tell you how relieved I was when I figured out how to use some of my gemological tools (blower-bulb, diamond tweezers, loupe, etc) in sofrut! They were really expensive, so it wasn't a waste after all!

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, October 16, 2006



Sofrutastic home office space, complete with stereo, Megillah, & random artwork.
Soferet work space
Thank G@d I have such a well-lit, airy space to work in.
Now to catch up on all my overdue projects...

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Sunday, October 15, 2006



My good friends Morey & Alissa stayed over with me for the weekend, our last 2 days of Sukot. It was so great having their company. Offering to be a host is an important service to perform - & enjoyable, when you share your home space with creative folks like these:
Holiday message for Soferet
This is how they left a message for me when I was asleep, to let me know where they would be when I woke up. We aren't allowed to write on Shabbat or Jewish holidays, you see, so they went to tremendous, hilarious & highly artistic lengths to catch my attention when I emerged from my room.
Of course, I didn't notice it until they came home & showed it to me :(
I don't notice anything for at least an hour after I wake up.
But they're awesome anyway...

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Friday, October 06, 2006



My sukah last night:
Night shot Soferet sukah
Just thrown in a couple of blankets & some steamy cocoa & you're good to go!

The wall on the right needs to be re-hung for this to be kosher. There are a lot of opinions & rules, typical of Judaism, about what makes a kosher sukah. My favourite is this: the word "sukah" - סכה - illustrates the wall combinations considered kosher for a valid sukah.

The first letter, Samekh, represents a fully enclosed 4-walled structure (assuming there is a door!). The second, Khaf, teaches us that a 3-walled sukah is acceptable. Finally, the last letter, Hey, shows that 2 walls plus a partial third also makes for a mitzvah-filled sukah. That's why I have to re-attach that far right part of the hanging under the bamboo...

Shabbat shalom, Chag same'ach, gut-shabbes gut-yontif!

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Thursday, October 05, 2006



My friend Kim, her daughter Shula & I went on a field trip today to Home Despot (not a typo!). I'd been checking around my local Canadian Tire (because they're more than just tires!!!) off & on the past couple of weeks as the patio & garden stuff went on sale, hoping to find a bargain on sukah (that would be "tabernacle" to you Christians) building materials. But no luck. So I caved & went to the Big Box American Chain Store Which Is Destroying The Earth.

A mitzvah, after all, is a mitzvah...

& thanks to my good friends & neighbours - & their car - I built my sukah today!
Soferet Sukah
I know, it needs a little more schach for the roof, but that can be remedied before the Chag starts tomorrow night. "Chag", by the way, is often used to mean "Jewish Holiday", but actually means "pilgrimage" & comes from the same etymological root as the Arabic word "Hajj".

Its frame & part of the roof is of bamboo tied together with jute & ivy. There are Jerusalem artichoke stalks on the roof. I harvested my organic garden for the autumn & tossed the inedible greens up there. The hangings for the ushpizin & ushpizot, the prophets we invite as guests into the sukah each night for dinner, are old ones that I collaborated on with a local Bukharan Jewish judaica dealer years ago.

Cozy, isn't it?

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006



I've made many allusions in my previous writings to the "invisible" things a properly trained sofer/et, Jewish ritual scribe, will perform during the process of writing a Sefer Torah (or mezuzah or...)
To learn what they all are, you really do have to apprentice with a licensed scribe.
To learn what some of them are (because I'm not going to give the whole game away), you can read this blog :)

There are many blessings said & declarations of intention made at crucial points in the creating of these religious writings. One of them is:

This prayer is pronounced by the sofer before he sews the yeri'ot, sheets of parchment, together:
הריני מחבר ותפירה לספר תורה זאת לשם קדושת ספר תורה
Blessing said before the sofer sews the first & last yeri'ot to the rollers:
הריני חרש עצים לספר תורה זאת לשם קדושת ספר תורה

The idea is to have the intention in your sewing to complete the holiness of the Sefer Torah. This is one of the reasons why I don't write or correct before I go to a miqveh.

Interested in learning more? Check out Sofrut Nation.

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006



For Sifrei Torah written since about 1860:

42 lines per amud, column
248 amudim, columns (approximately)
With the exception of 6 amudim, all begin with the letter Vav, ו
3 - 5 amudim per yeri'ah, sheet of parchment
50 - 62 yeri'ot, parchment sheets, per scroll

The 42 lines refer to the number of stops we made on our desert journey, from Egypt to the Land of Israel, as summarized in Be-midbar/Numbers 33:1 - 49 (text taken from Mechon-Mamre:

א אֵלֶּה מַסְעֵי בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֲשֶׁר יָצְאוּ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם--לְצִבְאֹתָם: בְּיַד-מֹשֶׁה, וְאַהֲרֹן. 1
These are the stages of the children of Israel, by which they went forth out of the land of Egypt by their hosts under the hand of Moses and Aaron.
ב וַיִּכְתֹּב מֹשֶׁה אֶת-מוֹצָאֵיהֶם, לְמַסְעֵיהֶם--עַל-פִּי יְהוָה; וְאֵלֶּה מַסְעֵיהֶם, לְמוֹצָאֵיהֶם. 2
And Moses wrote their goings forth, stage by stage, by the commandment of the LORD; and these are their stages at their goings forth.
ג וַיִּסְעוּ מֵרַעְמְסֵס בַּחֹדֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן, בַּחֲמִשָּׁה עָשָׂר יוֹם לַחֹדֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן: מִמָּחֳרַת הַפֶּסַח, יָצְאוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּיָד רָמָה--לְעֵינֵי, כָּל-מִצְרָיִם. 3
And they journeyed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the morrow after the passover the children of Israel went out with a high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians,
ד וּמִצְרַיִם מְקַבְּרִים, אֵת אֲשֶׁר הִכָּה יְהוָה בָּהֶם--כָּל-בְּכוֹר; וּבֵאלֹהֵיהֶם, עָשָׂה יְהוָה שְׁפָטִים. 4
while the Egyptians were burying them that the LORD had smitten among them, even all their first-born; upon their gods also the LORD executed judgments.
ה וַיִּסְעוּ בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, מֵרַעְמְסֵס; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בְּסֻכֹּת. 5
And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses, and pitched in Succoth.
ו וַיִּסְעוּ, מִסֻּכֹּת; וַיַּחֲנוּ בְאֵתָם, אֲשֶׁר בִּקְצֵה הַמִּדְבָּר. 6
And they journeyed from Succoth, and pitched in Etham, which is in the edge of the wilderness.
ז וַיִּסְעוּ, מֵאֵתָם, וַיָּשָׁב עַל-פִּי הַחִירֹת, אֲשֶׁר עַל-פְּנֵי בַּעַל צְפוֹן; וַיַּחֲנוּ, לִפְנֵי מִגְדֹּל. 7
And they journeyed from Etham, and turned back unto Pihahiroth, which is before Baal-zephon; and they pitched before Migdol.
ח וַיִּסְעוּ מִפְּנֵי הַחִירֹת, וַיַּעַבְרוּ בְתוֹךְ-הַיָּם הַמִּדְבָּרָה; וַיֵּלְכוּ דֶּרֶךְ שְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים, בְּמִדְבַּר אֵתָם, וַיַּחֲנוּ, בְּמָרָה. 8
And they journeyed from Penehahiroth, and passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness; and they went three days' journey in the wilderness of Etham, and pitched in Marah.
ט וַיִּסְעוּ, מִמָּרָה, וַיָּבֹאוּ, אֵילִמָה; וּבְאֵילִם שְׁתֵּים עֶשְׂרֵה עֵינֹת מַיִם, וְשִׁבְעִים תְּמָרִים--וַיַּחֲנוּ-שָׁם. 9
And they journeyed from Marah, and came unto Elim; and in Elim were twelve springs of water, and threescore and ten palm-trees; and they pitched there.
י וַיִּסְעוּ, מֵאֵילִם; וַיַּחֲנוּ, עַל-יַם-סוּף. 10
And they journeyed from Elim, and pitched by the Red Sea.
יא וַיִּסְעוּ, מִיַּם-סוּף; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בְּמִדְבַּר-סִין. 11
And they journeyed from the Red Sea, and pitched in the wilderness of Sin.
יב וַיִּסְעוּ, מִמִּדְבַּר-סִין; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בְּדָפְקָה. 12
And they journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, and pitched in Dophkah.
יג וַיִּסְעוּ, מִדָּפְקָה; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בְּאָלוּשׁ. 13
And they journeyed from Dophkah, and pitched in Alush.
יד וַיִּסְעוּ, מֵאָלוּשׁ; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בִּרְפִידִם, וְלֹא-הָיָה שָׁם מַיִם לָעָם, לִשְׁתּוֹת. 14
And they journeyed from Alush, and pitched in Rephidim, where was no water for the people to drink.
טו וַיִּסְעוּ, מֵרְפִידִם; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בְּמִדְבַּר סִינָי. 15
And they journeyed from Rephidim, and pitched in the wilderness of Sinai.
טז וַיִּסְעוּ, מִמִּדְבַּר סִינָי; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בְּקִבְרֹת הַתַּאֲוָה. 16
And they journeyed from the wilderness of Sinai, and pitched in Kibroth-hattaavah.
יז וַיִּסְעוּ, מִקִּבְרֹת הַתַּאֲוָה; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בַּחֲצֵרֹת. 17
And they journeyed from Kibroth-hattaavah, and pitched in Hazeroth.
יח וַיִּסְעוּ, מֵחֲצֵרֹת; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בְּרִתְמָה. 18
And they journeyed from Hazeroth, and pitched in Rithmah.
יט וַיִּסְעוּ, מֵרִתְמָה; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בְּרִמֹּן פָּרֶץ. 19
And they journeyed from Rithmah, and pitched in Rimmon-perez.
כ וַיִּסְעוּ, מֵרִמֹּן פָּרֶץ; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בְּלִבְנָה. 20
And they journeyed from Rimmon-perez, and pitched in Libnah.
כא וַיִּסְעוּ, מִלִּבְנָה; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בְּרִסָּה. 21
And they journeyed from Libnah, and pitched in Rissah.
כב וַיִּסְעוּ, מֵרִסָּה; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בִּקְהֵלָתָה. 22
And they journeyed from Rissah, and pitched in Kehelah.
כג וַיִּסְעוּ, מִקְּהֵלָתָה; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בְּהַר-שָׁפֶר. 23
And they journeyed from Kehelah, and pitched in mount Shepher.
כד וַיִּסְעוּ, מֵהַר-שָׁפֶר; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בַּחֲרָדָה. 24
And they journeyed from mount Shepher, and pitched in Haradah.
כה וַיִּסְעוּ, מֵחֲרָדָה; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בְּמַקְהֵלֹת. 25
And they journeyed from Haradah, and pitched in Makheloth.
כו וַיִּסְעוּ, מִמַּקְהֵלֹת; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בְּתָחַת. 26
And they journeyed from Makheloth, and pitched in Tahath.
כז וַיִּסְעוּ, מִתָּחַת; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בְּתָרַח. 27
And they journeyed from Tahath, and pitched in Terah.
כח וַיִּסְעוּ, מִתָּרַח; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בְּמִתְקָה. 28
And they journeyed from Terah, and pitched in Mithkah.
כט וַיִּסְעוּ, מִמִּתְקָה; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בְּחַשְׁמֹנָה. 29
And they journeyed from Mithkah, and pitched in Hashmonah.
ל וַיִּסְעוּ, מֵחַשְׁמֹנָה; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בְּמֹסֵרוֹת. 30
And they journeyed from Hashmonah, and pitched in Moseroth.
לא וַיִּסְעוּ, מִמֹּסֵרוֹת; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בִּבְנֵי יַעֲקָן. 31
And they journeyed from Moseroth, and pitched in Bene-jaakan.
לב וַיִּסְעוּ, מִבְּנֵי יַעֲקָן; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בְּחֹר הַגִּדְגָּד. 32
And they journeyed from Bene-jaakan, and pitched in Hor-haggidgad.
לג וַיִּסְעוּ, מֵחֹר הַגִּדְגָּד; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בְּיָטְבָתָה. 33
And they journeyed from Hor-haggidgad, and pitched in Jotbah.
לד וַיִּסְעוּ, מִיָּטְבָתָה; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בְּעַבְרֹנָה. 34
And they journeyed from Jotbah, and pitched in Abronah.
לה וַיִּסְעוּ, מֵעַבְרֹנָה; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בְּעֶצְיֹן גָּבֶר. 35
And they journeyed from Abronah, and pitched in Ezion-geber.
לו וַיִּסְעוּ, מֵעֶצְיֹן גָּבֶר; וַיַּחֲנוּ בְמִדְבַּר-צִן, הִוא קָדֵשׁ. 36
And they journeyed from Ezion-geber, and pitched in the wilderness of Zin--the same is Kadesh.
לז וַיִּסְעוּ, מִקָּדֵשׁ; וַיַּחֲנוּ בְּהֹר הָהָר, בִּקְצֵה אֶרֶץ אֱדוֹם. 37
And they journeyed from Kadesh, and pitched in mount Hor, in the edge of the land of Edom.--
לח וַיַּעַל אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן אֶל-הֹר הָהָר, עַל-פִּי יְהוָה--וַיָּמָת שָׁם: בִּשְׁנַת הָאַרְבָּעִים, לְצֵאת בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַחֲמִישִׁי, בְּאֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ. 38
And Aaron the priest went up into mount Hor at the commandment of the LORD, and died there, in the fortieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fifth month, on the first day of the month.
לט וְאַהֲרֹן, בֶּן-שָׁלֹשׁ וְעֶשְׂרִים וּמְאַת שָׁנָה, בְּמֹתוֹ, בְּהֹר הָהָר. {ס} 39
And Aaron was a hundred and twenty and three years old when he died in mount Hor. {S}
מ וַיִּשְׁמַע, הַכְּנַעֲנִי מֶלֶךְ עֲרָד, וְהוּא-יֹשֵׁב בַּנֶּגֶב, בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן--בְּבֹא, בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. 40
And the Canaanite, the king of Arad, who dwelt in the South in the land of Canaan, heard of the coming of the children of Israel.--
מא וַיִּסְעוּ, מֵהֹר הָהָר; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בְּצַלְמֹנָה. 41
And they journeyed from mount Hor, and pitched in Zalmonah.
מב וַיִּסְעוּ, מִצַּלְמֹנָה; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בְּפוּנֹן. 42
And they journeyed from Zalmonah, and pitched in Punon.
מג וַיִּסְעוּ, מִפּוּנֹן; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בְּאֹבֹת. 43
And they journeyed from Punon, and pitched in Oboth.
מד וַיִּסְעוּ, מֵאֹבֹת; וַיַּחֲנוּ בְּעִיֵּי הָעֲבָרִים, בִּגְבוּל מוֹאָב. 44
And they journeyed from Oboth, and pitched in Ije-abarim, in the border of Moab.
מה וַיִּסְעוּ, מֵעִיִּים; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בְּדִיבֹן גָּד. 45 And they journeyed from Ijim, and pitched in Dibon-gad.
מו וַיִּסְעוּ, מִדִּיבֹן גָּד; וַיַּחֲנוּ, בְּעַלְמֹן דִּבְלָתָיְמָה. 46
And they journeyed from Dibon-gad, and pitched in Almon-diblathaim.
מז וַיִּסְעוּ, מֵעַלְמֹן דִּבְלָתָיְמָה; וַיַּחֲנוּ בְּהָרֵי הָעֲבָרִים, לִפְנֵי נְבוֹ. 47
And they journeyed from Almon-diblathaim, and pitched in the mountains of Abarim, in front of Nebo.
מח וַיִּסְעוּ, מֵהָרֵי הָעֲבָרִים; וַיַּחֲנוּ בְּעַרְבֹת מוֹאָב, עַל יַרְדֵּן יְרֵחוֹ. 48
And they journeyed from the mountains of Abarim, and pitched in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho.
מט וַיַּחֲנוּ עַל-הַיַּרְדֵּן מִבֵּית הַיְשִׁמֹת, עַד אָבֵל הַשִּׁטִּים, בְּעַרְבֹת, מוֹאָב. {ס} 49
And they pitched by the Jordan, from Beth-jeshimoth even unto Abel-shittim in the plains of Moab. {S}

These "Vav Torahs", aka Vav Ha-Amud Sifrei, are a reference to the connexion between G@d & Creation. The letter Vav has the gematrial value of 6 & is the 6th letter of the Alefbet. The name "Vav" means "hook", & pictographically this letter looks like a hook or a tent peg (see above).

So, why do some Torah scrolls - particularly the ones written since 1860ish - begin all but 6 of their columns with this letter?
I recall an excited rabbi asking me about the first Torah I was about to start writing, 3 years ago: "Can it be a Vav-Torah?"
"Sure", I smiled.

So there I was learning with my sofer the laws of laying out a Torah. A rabbinic opinion we learned forbade anyone from writing a Vav-Torah.
"But wait a second, almost all Torahs I've ever seen are vav-Torahs" I remarked, puzzled. My sofer admonished me. I needed to be more patient & keep learning.

Apparently, the reason why it was forbidden to write Sifrei Torah whose columns began with Vav, was because nobody had done it yet. I know that doesn't make sense on the surface, but it went like this:
Because nobody had written a Vav-Torah before, there was no existing scribe's guide to how to write one properly. One of the laws of writing a Torah states that you have to copy from either a guide (known as a Tiqun le-Sofrim) or from another Torah. Therefore, each time somebody tried to write a Vav-Torah, the lines came out very unevenly - scrunched & stretched rather than even - so the resulting scroll was always:
1) hard to read
2) ugly
3) taking the chance that the Torah you are writing will be either of the above is not paying appropriate respect to the work
4) the proper holy intention had not been foremost in the mind of the scribe because he was obssessing about his Vavs

However, some scribes were determined to write a Vav-Torah. So somebody kept doing it until he got it right.
& now most modern Sifrei Torah are laid out this way.

Why were they so obsssesssed?
Vav's number, 6, reminds us of the 6 days of Creation. That we, Humankind, were created on the 6th day. That we work 6 days, rest on Shabbat, then begin the holy cycle again. That there will be 6 millenia between Creation & the appearance of Moshiach (that means we only have 233 years left, folks!)...

The Maharal teaches us that the number six indicates physical completion: as our world was finished in six days and as each individual object has six sides: above, below, right, left, front and back.
Vav is a conjunction, a link. He comes to us in the shape of a hook, which is the function he fulfills and what his name means. The presence of Vav at the beginning of a verse in the Torah indicates continuity with the previous text ("V'eyleh sh'mot b'nai Yisra'el..." - "And these are the names of the children of Israel..."). Vav's absence means we are beginning a new subject. Vav has the power to unite anything.
So...a Vav-Torah illustrates the midrash, story or legend, that the Torah was given to Moses as one long utterance. So each column reads: "...AND x...AND...y...AND..."
In fact, the middle letter of the Torah is the Vav in the word gachon, belly (& the vav is written enlarged for this reason), Va-yiqra/Leviticus 11:42!
כֹּל הוֹלֵךְ עַל-גָּחוֹן וְכֹל הוֹלֵךְ עַל-אַרְבַּע, עַד כָּל-מַרְבֵּה רַגְלַיִם, לְכָל-הַשֶּׁרֶץ, הַשֹּׁרֵץ עַל-הָאָרֶץ--לֹא תֹאכְלוּם, כִּי-שֶׁקֶץ הֵם. 42 Whatsoever goeth upon the belly, and whatsoever goeth upon all fours, or whatsoever hath many feet, even all swarming things that swarm upon the earth, them ye shall not eat; for they are a detestable thing.

Gorgeous :)

Also, a Vav/hook at the top of each amud/column is a beautiful reference to the body of the holy Mishkan, the Tabernacle.
Sh'mot/Exodus 27:9 - 10 reads:
ט וְעָשִׂיתָ, אֵת חֲצַר הַמִּשְׁכָּן--לִפְאַת נֶגֶב-תֵּימָנָה קְלָעִים לֶחָצֵר שֵׁשׁ מָשְׁזָר, מֵאָה בָאַמָּה אֹרֶךְ, לַפֵּאָה, הָאֶחָת. 9
And thou shalt make the court of the tabernacle: for the south side southward there shall be hangings for the court of fine twined linen a hundred cubits long for one side.
י וְעַמֻּדָיו עֶשְׂרִים, וְאַדְנֵיהֶם עֶשְׂרִים נְחֹשֶׁת; וָוֵי הָעַמֻּדִים וַחֲשֻׁקֵיהֶם, כָּסֶף. 10
And the pillars thereof shall be twenty, and their sockets twenty, of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver.
יא וְכֵן לִפְאַת צָפוֹן בָּאֹרֶךְ, קְלָעִים מֵאָה אֹרֶךְ; וְעַמֻּדָו עֶשְׂרִים, וְאַדְנֵיהֶם עֶשְׂרִים נְחֹשֶׁת, וָוֵי הָעַמֻּדִים וַחֲשֻׁקֵיהֶם, כָּסֶף. 11
And likewise for the north side in length there shall be hangings a hundred cubits long, and the pillars thereof twenty, and their sockets twenty, of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets of silver.

This beautifully expresses the building of our Sacred Space for the In-Dwelling of G@d's Presence, the Shekhinah (Mishkan & Shekhinah come from the same root, Sh-K-N, meaning to dwell intimately). The yeri'ot, sheets of parchment, are likened to the woven curtains of the tent. They are hung from Vavs, silver hooks, on the amudim, columns/posts, which are the foundation. Torah is the foundation.

We hook ourselves to Torah by hooking the text to the skin, the curtains to the posts, creating a spiritual home in the world.

[Addendum: I apologize for neglecting to cite the source for a Sefer Torah with 42 lines per column reflecting our 42 stops in the desert. It's Talmud Bavli Soferim 2:6.
Sifrei Torah with 60, 72 or 98 lines per column were justified by the word "60" in Be-midbar/Numbers 1:46; the 72 elders in Numbers 11:16 (but there's actually only 70, but there are purportedly 72 names of G@d, so maybe that's it); & the 98 curses & warnings of Devarim/Deuteronomy 27:28.]

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