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, November 01, 2006



You can see the kindness in this man's face, can't you?
Rabbi Avi Weiss @ Soferet Synagogue
This man is a great, great rabbi. His whole life has been about social justice, while remaining within the boundaries of Orthodox Judaism. He has much admiration from me. Google him & see how he not only acts on behalf of all Jews but non-Jews & those who have left this world as well...

We were very lucky to have R' Weiss visit us at Shaarey Tefilah last night. He was a great alternative to sitting inside our homes, praying that no teenagers drunk on their first beer were going to inadvertently turn our neighbourhoods to ash with their wanton shooting off of roman candles & various other fireworks...
...for such is Hallowe'en in Canada.

I hadn't met with R' Weiss in, oh, 5 years or so. It was the Decemer after 9/11, my first ever trip to New York, & the World Trade Centre site was still smoking. The air was heavy with its citizens' breath & the skeleton of the devastated buildings were mapped out on each person's face as I passed them in the street.

& I was meeting with R' Weiss to beg for his help to take one step closer in finalizing my sofrut education, a journey I had already been on most of my life.

I won't do his message justice here, but he spoke of "positive Judaism" - a Judaism not defined by what you're against. Denominationally, most Jews seem to choose their camp based on what they cannot tolerate, rather than embracing what they believe is good & right (according to R' Weiss). He strongly encouraged us to avoid negative inspiration, as it doesn't last & deeply poisons us.

He spoke of the war with Lebanon/Hizbullah this summer. He was there, too, as I was. I have tremendous respect for R' Weiss, because he is a firm, yet gentle Zionist; his Zionism is founded on Torah & not on fear or xenophobia. Israel, he said, is surrounded by terrorists. True, we have signed peace accords with Egypt, peace agreements with Jordan - but it's a cold peace. He spoke about how the whole of the Jewish People have a covenental relationship with G@d & the Land; ie, we do our part & G@d will do G@d's part. Some Jews forget this, that the Land is a gift in exchange for fulfilling our half of the deal G@d struck with us. It's a priviledge to posess &/or to live in the Land & not a right. The only thing G@d promises us in the Torah, said R' Weiss, is that the Jewish People will never be extinguished. We are eternal. However, if we don't do our part, then we will not possess or be able to live in the Land. The State of Israel is not eternal. It is an opportunity.

& how do we support the current State of Israel in actualizing the final redemption?
We can visit. We can say tehilim. We can do mitzvot. We can pray. We can give tzedaqah. We can learn Torah.
We have to constantly earn the reward, or it will be taken from us, G@d forbid.

B'reyshit/Genesis 3:9, Parshat B'reyshit:
וַיִּקְרָא יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים, אֶל-הָאָדָם; וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ, אַיֶּכָּה. 9
Va-yiqra Y-H-V-H El@qim, el-ha-adam; va-yomer lo ayekah
& the L@RD G@d called unto the earthling, & said to him: 'Where are you?'

R' Weiss said that G@d wasn't asking literally, "I can't see you, where did you go?". Of course he knew where Adam & Chavah (Eve) had hidden themselves - & why. G@d's question was more like, "Something has changed with our relationship, on your end - where are you at with us?" G@d wanted to hear His creations explain what was different for them, from their point of view.
& he said that each day when we pray, we're answering G@d's question for G@d & for ourselves as well - where are you - I'm here - I'm here...
...don't go...please...

Teshuvah is the answer to the question "where are you?"
My eyes filled with tears when he said this.
Soferet Learning at the Feet of Rabbi Avi Weiss
As you can see. I'm cradling my newest scroll here as I absorb as much of R' Weiss' wisdom as I can.
My Hebrew name is Avielah T'shuvah. T'shuvah is a name commonly given to girls born on Rosh Ha-Shanah, as I was.
It's the feminine future construct of a word whose root can mean return, respond, repent, she is constantly in flux & re-paving her way toward her true self, to where G@d wants her. So naturally, this touched me deeply & has altered my prayer experience. I bless R' Weiss for that gift.

After his inspiring talk I showed him my latest Megilah & he said it was beautiful. I thanked him because R' Ross Singer, my Rav, had consulted with R' Weiss (& other Orthodox rabbis) about me & sofrut & greatly helped me due to his influence. I owe him a lot, as do the women scribes coming after me.

Suffice to say, I want to be like him when I grow up. Except for that being a man & a rabbi part. But you get my drift. We all have an ethical obligation to stand for something outside of ourselves. With G@d's help I'm turning my life's work into work for others' lives.

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Blogger Avrum68 said...

The Rav does sport the kinda look some of us want in a rabbi.

Ah...nice to see the ol' ST. Although rumors are flyin' Aviel...they're flyin'. Will it be around by summer?

God willing I'll live to see the day where Vancouver has one shul, many services. That would be a beautiful day.

4:03 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have some intimate knowledge of R. Weiss, and I deeply respect him on many issues, and find him a desirable model to emulate in many ways. However, my own feeling is that one ought not whitewash things. (This is not to contradict your own impressions, just to add another set to help people get a fuller picture.)

He is not a gentle Zionist by any means. (Kach posters hang in his shul, a fact which makes me deeply ambivalent about davening there.) I also think there's a certain amount of fear in his Zionism (he talks about the Holocaust quite a bit), and it's not clear to me what he thinks the content of "fulfilling our part of the bargain" are in terms of living in the land, but I suspect he thinks that certain violent acts towards certain indigenous peoples might be. Minimally, I haven't heard much from him as regards imperatives to push to heal some of the very ugly wounds in Israeli society -- which of course doesn't mean he doesn't care about them, but rather that he doesn't seem to feel they are as imperative as certain other things.

Also, his active social justice work has been pretty circumscribed by his parochial interest in Jews. (This is not necessarily negative, just a fact.) This also blinds him to the social justice issues facing certain groups when such issues on their face seem to be at odds with his perception of Jews' short-term interests.

This is all meant to deepen and complicated the picture, not to tarnish it. And in keeping with the imperative le-saiyeim be-shevah, allow me to reiterate just how much respect I have for most of his moral intuitions, and how awed I am by his genuine love for so many human beings.

6:53 p.m.  
Blogger Soferet said...

Hey, Avrum!
Thanks for commenting. Agreed.
I don't think I'll answer your question publicly, but I'd love to chat with/see you & A anytime. How can we connect? Skype? AIM?

Ameyn to your wish - sounds like you're pining for Moshiach ;)

& just like Moshiach, we gotta make room for it & usher it in...

2:42 p.m.  
Blogger Soferet said...

Thanks for your respectful comments & insight, anon.

I've visited both R' Weiss' home, shul & yeshivah, however I never noticed any Kach posters. Of course, I take your word for it that they hang there, & share your feelings about davening in a place where the Kahanist message is accepted. Had I ever seen such things, I would probably not have used the words "gentle Zionism" in this post.

Based just on what I've heard him speak on over the years, my impression of what he thinks "our part of the bargain" is has to do with performing mitzvot & being good Jews through the exercise of ethical monotheism. Never heard or suspected him of encouraging or supporting or participating in "certain violent acts". I must respectfully disagree with you, however, on the "indigenous peoples" comment. Everyone who currently lives in Israel is traceable back to some other place.

I do appreciate your sharing here & "deepening the picture", for sure. Thanks!

3:13 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Avielah, honey,
You never ever cease to amaze me...I just love reading your posts...And boy, was it EVER cool to see you, Alissa and Morey on here!!!!
Missing you all,

11:37 a.m.  

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