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.

Thursday, March 31, 2005



I recently reviewed a fascinating documentary which was originally released in the Spring of 2000. It was broadcast on several channels here in Canada, including multiple runs on CBC & Vision Television (the same channel which will be running a documentary of my life's journey later this year - more on that later).

This film, Quest for the Lost Tribes, features colourful director Simcha Jacobovici brandishing Sefer Yeshayahu (the Book of Isaiah) on his epic 4-year Asia-Africa trek to discover the Lost Tribes of Israel. & he found them. Every single one. & it was so easy ;+>

Included in his encounters is a conversation with Mousakhel Pathan - a Taliban organiser - whose famly has always lit oil lamps on Friday nights to ask for blessing & for forgiveness. They have cities of refuge & call themselves Bani Israel. Descendants of Afghan ben Qish ben Sha'ul hamelekh - a grandson of King Saul, where we receive the name Afghanistan.

For supporting media of the latest tribe to be recognised & granted permission to make aliyah, thereby bringing us ever closer to the brink of Messianic Consciousness, check this out. Here are a people who have lived in India on the Burma border (not Myanmar, but that's another story) for countless generations, yet they have Semitic DNA.

I think one of the reasons why this film flies is because what the world identifies as "Jewish" is quite narrow. Even Jews are desensitised to the fact that we can come in every shape & colour after an over 3,500 year history of conversion, intermarriage, rape & wandering amongst the nations. I hear this complaint from Sefardi (Iberian/North African) & Mizrachi (Middle Eastern) Jewish friends of mine all the time. Where did the Exodus occur? Egypt. Where did the Purim story take place? Iraq. My pal Loolwa is an authority on this. Why do we always expect jews to have a classic Ashkenazi look? Why does that image dominate & suffocate other Jewish looks, music, food, prayer, etc?

What has been lost is our sensitivity to things not western. We don't accept other Jews' traditions, or even how they look! Why? Because they don't resemble those of Europeans! Askenazi Judaism is very Europeanised - more that we Ashkenazim are willing to admit (ok, I'm Ashkefard, but you get my drift). I can bet that a couple of milennia ago we weren't all singing the Aleynu to the tune of "Itsy Bitsy Spider"...

I hope that this slow process of co-operative recognition is the beginning of a new beginning for Am Yisra'el (the Jewish People). That in order to realise who we are we have to be blessed with the revelation of what that is.

As for The End of Time - this requires living in a perpetual state of high tension, so start your deep breathing practice now

Wednesday, March 30, 2005



"Why don't people stick with their G@d? It's what they have."

- E. L. Doctorow, novelist

Tuesday, March 29, 2005



Enjoy this update after you read the earlier post:
First of all, I believe that minhag can basically "change" Halakhah in many different instances, but it will never be  defined that way.  The rabbis will find some formalistic way to justify that it was indeed Halakhic all along.  For example, regarding this Minhag for women to not say brakhot when they are in niddah, the Magen Avraham suggests that a woman can just say amen to other people's brakhot during that time.  I am sure I do not need to explain to you the stretch of this attempt to justify a practice.  What I respect is that I believe he is doing it to justify the practice of women.  I don't think he is trying to keep women from saying brakhot.  After all, it's just a minhag, not Halakhah.  He is rather trying to smooth out this odd statement of the Rama that reflects an existing minhag . 
Regarding the second question of what is Halakhah, that was actually the last research project.  I looked into the idea of multiple truths in halakhah.  Obviously, different people have different ideas, but I will try tro explain a few approaches on one foot.  Rav Moshe Feinstein believed there is one truth that theoretically could be understood in Halakhah (meaning that there is actually one right answer to every question), but that that truth is not accessible to us, so our job is to try to reach the truth through honest intellectual pursuit, and to be consistent, thereby allowing the possibility that we could be working within the "right" framework.  So his explanation of "Eilu Ve-eilu divrei Elokim Hayyim," the famous statement in the Talmud that the words of Hillel and Shammai (and others) are all the words of the living G@d, is only in this limited context. 
I don't know if I can quote the other approaches by name, but there are those who believe that every opinion that meets intellectual scrutiny is valid, and that G@d intentionally created a system with multiple truths.  This approach is limited, however, by the idea that if an actual mistake was made, that is retroactively not a valid option.  Rabbi Clapper (I think) from Harvard Hillel (I think) wrote a really interesting article (that I didn't actually read) about this crazy case that I will tell you about.  (I may not get it all exactly right...)  We learn in one place in the Talmud that if the Sanhedrin makes a decision, none of the rabbis there may go back to his town and poskin the opposite.  They may teach another opinion, but as an invalid Halakhic option.  They may also not act against the voted Halakhah, by punishment of death.  Elsewhere in the Talmud we learn that a rabbi who knows the Sanhedrin is mistaken on a point, he must do what he knows is right (perhaps distinguished in the first case by the fact that there there are differences of interpretation, but here he feels confident that there is a true mistake).  As a result, the possibility arises that there could be a case in which if the rabbi opposes the Sanhedrin and behaves against it, he will be killed, but if he goes with them and it turns out that they are all transgressing a punishable by death law, he could be killed for that.  I may not be getting it exactly right, but that is the gist (on one foot). 
The point is that there are some things that are simply wrong.  How are they determined?  Good question.  But for example, perhaps someone didn't have all the information, and we realize that he was missing a critical element of the Halakhah.  In the realm of minhag, there is an idea of "minhag taut"-- a "mistaken minhag."  I can't remember if he exactly uses that phrase, but Rav Ovadiah Yosef basically says that about several customs that originated from this "baraita de Niddah" that got us started on this discussion.  It is not clear in his teshuvot that he is aware that the customs come from this sectarian source (which may be none other than a remnant of the traditions of Beit Shammai), but when he is asked by someone if they have to follow their minhag that when in Niddah a woman has to be in a separate bedroom with separate bedding and clothing for her niddah time, and her family can't benefit from any of her works during that time (ie. she can't cook them dinner, etc.) and on and on and on, he totally rejects this minhag as against Torah (and thus they can stop without an anullment of vows that is required usually to stop a minhag-- this was the question asked of him).
Beyond these two examples, I don't know what exactly defines Halakhah.  There is clearly an element of what the community is ready for, but then you have such different communities, and that too ends up being a really fuzzy line.  In the minhag class, the teacher kept asking whether via minhag, the practice of women reading Torah for men could become Halakhah over time.  I never fully understood how, if it could be Halakhic in the future, it isn't now, but clearly there is some sort of element of communal acceptance (it turns out that Rav Henkin raises exactly this point, saying that it may be that in 50 years these Torah readings will be "accepted" and will then be "Halakhic.") .  The question is (phrased in my own terms), if a minhag creates a practice that is then later justified formally through Halakhic language, since the language is that it was truly Halakhic, surely it was Halakhic all along, and we just never knew!  But that's just my own thought. 
For me there are two questions about how we approach the search for p'sak.  One is whether or not your understanding is comprehensible to the world of Halakhic authorities.   The other is whether or not you yourself are working within a consistent framework.  Are you yourself trying to get at G@d's truth?  My hevruta is very into saying that we are all just doing what we want anyway, and implying that my choice to wear pants [around women] or to not cover all my hair or whatever is really about my own personal comfort, and not at all about fearing G@d.  But when I am engrossed in the struggle of trying to undersatnd the Halakhah in order to understand how I believe I can dress or whatever, that is when I feel closest to G@d.  That is when I am most living in tension of my own reality and my commitment to behave according to what G@d wants from me.  I think taking the "frummest" approach to dress and everything else can be sort of a cop out, when done in lieu of immersing yoursenf in trying to understand Torah, and that is a loss.
What I can articulate best about the Halakhic approach is my own conclusion, which is that I believe the idea is to approach inquiry with rigour, intellectual honesty, and Yirat Shamayim (fear of Heaven).  When I want to, for example, permit something that most believe to be forbidden, I need to be particularly careful in my research that I am really trying to understand the sources and what they are saying and what is behind them, with a consciousness that if I am "fooling" myself through clever readings I need to answer not just to the Halakhic world, but to a G@d who allows for multiple truths , but only for those who are seeking truth. This is also why it is so important, when possible, to have a rabbi (or similarly educated individual) who has a much more solid understanding of the vast Rabbinic literature, as well as someone to keep me in check when I am dealing with questions that are too personal to answer objectively.  The flip side of that is that it has to be a rabbi who you know and trust and who know you, because p'sak Halakhah is not entirely objecitve. 
An example:  Until recently, I didn't know exactly how I felt about the Shira Hadash style minyan (where women read Torah for men).  I knew there was a way to Halakhically justify it, but I also think there are Halakhic ways to justify just about everything, and who is little old me to know if this is really intended.  So I went to an evening at Yedidya, where thay had Rav Henkin and Professor Rabbi Daniel Sperber speak on the topic.  Henkin is against.  Sperber wrote the most authoritative teshuvah for.  I was not so impressed with Rav Henkin's arguments, which are complicated so I won't go into them now, but I can tell you what I thought was impressive about R' Prof. Sperber.  First of all, he is not part of a world that wants these Torah readings.  He is a rabbi of a shul that would never allow for such a thing.  But he read about the issue, and he read Rav Henkin's arguments against, and moved by an intellectual discomfort of what was written, he felt compelled to write a response, because he believes the readings are both Halakhic and potentially valuable in today's world.  The way he read the sources I found so compelling, and I felt that he was showing how the tradition has really important values that have been stifled in our time for a variety of sociological reasons, and that these losses are really bad for the Jewish people today.  For example, he sites a Gemara about how in the days of the Temple, they allowed women to put their hands on the korbanot ("smicha") because, even though it was forbidden to them, it provided them with "Nachat Ruach" ("spiritual comfort).  A later example of this is regarding the minhag of women not entering a shul in niddah.  Those who forbid it actually permit it on high holidays for basically the same reason - that it would be too sad for them to not be able to be there when everyone else is.  As R' Prof. Sperber argues, when they are willing to bend the Halakhah in cases that are clearly forbidden, shouldn't they in cases where there is clear permissiveness in the Talmud? (and to add something that may not be exactly the way he said it, in a world where public ritual participation is quite important to spiritual growth for many modern women in a way it wasn't in the past, all the more so is it impotrant!). 
He also brings a proof from showing that in every case in the Talmud (except maybe one, he says), when the Talmud says something is Halakhically permitted but not recommended for some specific reason (as is the case with women reading Torah for men and "K'vod Hatzibbur"), it is not taken as Halakhah, but rather, as a recommended practice for now, with the understanding that there will be different realities in the future.  I believe this is part of the beauty of the nuance of Rabbinic sources.  I was so moved by his speech, not because of his permissiveness in this one issue, but rather, because I know he is extremely knowledgeble, and he has a very compelling understanding of the Halakhic system, intellectually and morally.  He sees the beauty in the system that I know is there but I feel is sometimes hidden in contemporary Halakhah (largely because of a fear of modernity and feminism).  I believe that if 300 years ago a group of women wanted to get together and read from a sefer Torah, it would not have met with the kind of hostility that women's Torah readings met however many decades ago.  It may have just been seen as pious. 
What is Halakhah?  Good question.  In our transient and post-Modern world, there is no clear answer to that question. In a world where everyone is out to deligitimize everyone else, we have no choice but to follow our conscience regarding what seems compelling to us - where we feel G@d is.  I personally feel that since most of the Jewish world is confused (I can't speak for the non-Jewish world) as to where is the true word of G@d, there msut be some point to that. So I try very hard to respect that any system may be right, while I go with the one that seems most "right" to me.  All that said, part of what is compelling to me about the Modern Orthodox model of, say, Rabbi Berman et al. (as opposed to, shall we call it, "popular Modern orthodox practice") is the idea of constantly pursuing truth.  I don't see as much meaning in the idea that if there is a kula (leniency) -- go for it.  That's just me personally.  When I researched the idea of multiple truths in the Talmud, I felt very strongly that there is an idea of multiple truths and respect for differing opinions, but always in the context of each rabbi/person pursuing truth.  (ie. in the passages of Eilu v'eilu that I mentioned above, it says they are all the words of the living G@d and the Halakhah is like Hillel, and if you have a tradition like Shammai, you can follow that, but you can't take just the leniencies of both or the stringencies of both (it tells you what you are if you do both, but I can't remember, and I am really trying to get to some kind of conclusion here). 
The holiness, for me, is in pursuing truth in the sources, while accepting the approaches that allow me to observe the Torah in both fear and love. 

Monday, March 28, 2005



"Rav Soloveitchik, my teacher, always used to say: 'If you know [Jewish law], then you don't need ordination; and if you don't know, then ordination won't make a difference.'"

- Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Strikovski, a teacher at the Mahanayim Yeshiva and Pardes Institute

To read about this Jerusalem Post article on the burgeoning trend toward Orthodox Rabbinic ordination for women, click here.

Sunday, March 27, 2005



Does it bother anybody else that there are Google ads with Christian content on some of the pages at Jewish

Saturday, March 26, 2005



The following is the comment I left on the very thoughtful post made last week by The Barefoot Jewess:

"Thank you, Barefoot, for this post. It is very inspiring & humbling at the same time. Your words remind me of the Ishbitz, who wrote of the mitzvah me'uchedet. The one mitzvah each of us has to perform for G@d before our time is up. G@d both chooses us for this task & innately qualifies us, whether or not we are aware. & sometimes, sometimes our ambitions are identical with G@d's plan for us, B"H!
Your presence on the blogosphere is a brakhah. Thank you."

Check out what she wrote, & the other comments, too.
Shavu'ah tov.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005




"The Rambam rules that "every single Jewish male" has a Biblical mitzvah to write a Sefer Torah (Laws of Sefer Torah, chap. 7, law 1). The obvious inference is that women are excluded from the mitzvah. Indeed, the Rambam leaves no possible doubt as to his intention by specifically recording in the Sefer HaMitzvot that mitzvah 18 (the mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah) is not applicable to women (Sefer HaMitzvot, conclusion of section on positive commandments).
Yet no reason is presented for the exclusion of women from the mitzvah. Writing and possessing a Sefer Torah is not comparable to, for example, the mitzvah of tefillin, which is not observed on Shabbat, holidays, or at night. Women are exempt from tefillin because they are not required to perform mitzvot which must be observed only within a specific time reference. The mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah, however, has no time dimension. It may be observed at any and all times. If so, why are women excluded from the mitzvah?
The Shagot Aryeh (responsum 35) outlines three possible reasons for the exclusion of women and then challenges the validity of each of them.

1. Rabbenu Asher ruled that learning Torah is the purpose of the mitzvah of
writing a Sefer Torah. Since women are exempt from the mitzvah of learning
Torah, there is no reason to obligate them to write a Sefer Torah.
2. Women are exempt from performing many of the mitzvot. Since the Sefer Torah
includes all of the mitzvot, they should not be obligated to write a Sefer
Torah. (In other words, why require them to write something that they are
not commanded to observe?)
3. A woman may not serve as a scribe to write a Sefer Torah. Since women cannot
perform the writing process, they should be excluded from the mitzvah.

The Shagot Aryeh refutes each of these points with the following arguments:

1. Women are required to learn the mitzvot applicable to them. Indeed, it has
been Halachically decided that they may voluntarily assume the obligation to
chant the Birchat HaTorah. As a result, they certainly are involved in the
mitzvah of learning Torah and should be mandated to write a Sefer Torah.
2. The logical extension of the reasoning that women are exempt from writing a
Sefer Torah because they are not required to perform certain mitzvot would
also exempt most Jewish men from the mitzvah. Many mitzvot are only
applicable to kohanim or to a kohen gadol. Some mitzvot relate only to
kings. Are non-kohanim exempt from writing a Sefer Torah simply because it
contains mitzvot that they are not commanded to observe?
3. Although women may not write mezuzot, they are required to have mezuzot on
their doorposts. Just as exemption from the writing process does not exclude
them from the mitzvah of mezuzot, it should not exclude them in the case of a
Sefer Torah.

On the basis of the preceding analysis, the Shagot Aryeh concludes that there is no logical foundation for the Rambam's exemption of women from the mitzvah.
R. Yosef Dov Ber Soloveitchik (Responsa Beit Halevi, no. 6) suggests that women are excluded from the mitzvah simply because they are not obligated to learn Torah. The fact that women need to learn the mitzvot applicable to them does not place them in the same category as men. Indeed, there is a major qualitative distinction differentiating the role of women and men in Torah study.
Men are mandated to learn even the mitzvot that they are not required to observe. This means that a man who is not a kohen, and therefore not obligated to observe the laws pertaining to kohanim, is still required to learn the Torah and mitzvot of kohanim. Torah learning is all-inclusive and prevails even in instances where observances are not required. Men are mandated to learn all of the mitzvot of the Torah. Women, however, have no obligation to learn those mitzvot which are not applicable for practical observance. As a result, their scope of Torah learning is quite limited. Since the purpose of the mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah is not the observance of mitzvot but the learning of Torah, women, with their limited obligations, are exempt from the mitzvah. Men, however, are directly involved in all mitzvot - because of their mandate to learn all facets of Torah.
The Beit Halevi in his commentary on the Pentateuch (Parshat Mishpatim) delineates a further fine distinction between the obligations of men and women in the sphere of Torah study. He notes that Torah education has a twofold aim: the pursuit of Torah knowledge as a means to better observance of commandments and as an end in itself.
An elaboration of this distinction is as follows: To be a good Jew - to carefully and scrupulously follow the dictates of our religion - it is necessary to be well acquainted with many of its laws and customs. Indeed, it is written that an ignoramus cannot be a pious person. This is quite understandable, for a person who is ignorant of Judaism certainly cannot know whether he is doing something right or wrong. It is, moreover, practically impossible to observe the Shabbat if one is ignorant of the intricate, detailed laws of this holy day. Thus, Torah study serves as the vehicle to stimulate the observance of mitzvot. Women are involved in this facet of Torah study.
Yet there is another important aspect to the study of Torah - the obligation to study Torah for its own sake. This aspect of Torah education is not a means of observing commandments but a mitzvah in itself. Just as kashrut and putting on tefillin are commandments, so too is the study of Torah. This obligation is incumbent upon all Jewish men, including those who consider themselves grand masters in all aspects of the Law. Even a person who feels that he knows the entire Torah is still obligated to learn Torah. The Talmud portrays this concept when it relates that a tanna asked whether someone who was well versed in all aspects of the Torah was free from the obligation to study it. The answer presented was that if one could find a period of time which was neither a part of the day nor a portion of the night, only then would he be absolved of all requirements to learn Torah (Menachot 99b).
It is interesting to note that there is a great practical difference between the two approaches to the study of Torah. If Torah study weren't simply a means of acquiring the technical knowledge necessary for an observant Jew, then it would, perhaps, be possible to free oneself from the obligation to learn by retaining the services of a scholar who could outline everything one needed to know. However, since men must study Torah for its own sake, doing this would not be valid. Just as the rabbi's act of putting on tefillin or observing Shabbat does not in any way free others from these mitzvot, so too the rabbi's intense scholarship does not in any way affect the requirement of others to spend a portion of their time learning Torah. Thus the role of men in the mitzvah of Torah study is categorically different from the role of women. Women are merely involved in Torah laws applicable for their own observance. They are concerned with the end product of practical, applied Torah, but men are involved in the process of learning Torah for its own sake.
This extension of the Beit Halevi's theory may be utilized as an additional rationale for exempting women from the mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah. According to Rabbenu Asher, the purpose of the mitzvah is to learn Torah. Women may be involved in learning practical Torah concepts but have no mitzvah to continue learning those ideas that they already have mastered for the observance of mitzvot. Thus, even [in] regard to specific mitzvot that women are required to observe, such as kashrut or Shabbat, they are not charged with a mitzvah to engage in the profundities of the concepts. In other words, Torah study per se is not within their mandated scope. Thus, they are limited even in regard to the mitzvot that are applicable to them. Since the purpose of the mitzvah is the process of learning Torah, however, it is understandable why they are exempt.
There is a third solution to the problem of why women were excluded from the mitzvah of writing and possessing a Sefer Torah.
Rabbenu Asher notes that the purpose of the mitzvah of having a Sefer Torah is to learn Torah. In other words, the Sefer Torah is to be used as a text to facilitate Torah study. Yet a careful reading of the Biblical mandate suggests a nuance generally not noted by the commentaries. The Bible at no time states that the purpose is to learn Torah. The Scripture, rather, says: "and teach it to the Children of Israel" (Deuteronomy 31:19). Indeed, the Bible says that when Moshe Rabbenu completed the Torah, "he taught it to the Children of Israel" (Deuteronomy 31:22). Thus, the purpose of the mitzvah is not to learn Torah but to teach Torah. The Sefer Torah was to be a text that would facilitate the teaching of Torah to Kelal Yisrael. The Talmud (Kiddushin 29b) specifically states that women are exempt from the mitzvah of teaching Torah. As a result, it is clear why women are exempt from the mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah. The Sefer Torah was to be an aid in teaching Torah, and since women are not involved in this facet of Torah study, they are not mandated to write a Sefer Torah.
This formulation provides a clear distinction between the purposes of the royal Sefer Torah required of a king and the Sefer Torah mandated for the ordinary Jew. The latter may have been for teaching Torah, while the former was for learning Torah.
Somewhat of a source for this theory is the following Halachah. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayyim 150:1) rules that members of a community may be coerced to acquire a Sefer Torah, Nevi'im, and Ketuvim. The Magen Avraham (ibid.) notes that in our day there is also an obligation for a community to obtain a Talmud. The Ba'er Heitev (ibid.) reports this latter Halachah and contends that the reason is that the Talmud would facilitate anyone who wishes to learn Torah. Yet a close reading of the Magen Avraham reveals quite a different orientation. The Magen Avraham does not state that the purpose of the acquisition of a Talmud is to learn Torah or to facilitate such learning. Regarding the requirement to obtain Ketuvim the Magen Avraham notes that the purpose was so that anyone who desired might learn therein, yet of the suggestion to acquire a Talmud, the Magen Avraham says: Lelamed bahem leketanim ulegedolim, which literally means, "To teach with them to children and to adults." In other words, the purpose of the Talmud was not to learn Torah but to teach Torah. Indeed, the Mishnah Berurah (ibid.) quotes the exact terminology of the Magen Avraham.
Perhaps the theory presented is the basis for such a ruling. The mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah was for the purpose of providing a tool for the teaching of Torah. As religious texts took the place of Sifrei Torah, they too were to be utilized for purposes of teaching rather than learning Torah.
This position also generates new insights into the basic formulation of the mitzvah.
Moshe is traditionally referred to as Rabbenu - "our Rebbe" - our teacher. This suggests that his foremost role as a leader was that as a teacher of Torah. It is for this reason, perhaps, that he instituted Keri'at HaTorah (Rambam, op. cit.). It was a vehicle to perpetuate his role after his death. No longer would Kelal Yisrael need to depend upon one man. Every community would have an opportunity to manifest public Torah study. But was it not sufficient to ritualize a Torah study session during prayers? The necessity of using a Sefer Torah suggests that a Sefer Torah plays a unique role in Torah study.
The Talmud (Sotah 37a) contends that for each mitzvah there were four covenants relating to the following four integral aspects of mitzvot: to learn (lilmod), to teach (lelamed), to guard (lishmor), and to observe (la'asot). Commentating on this citation, the Brisker Rav (R. Yitzchak Ze'ev Soloveitchik, Bible - Parshat Devorim) notes that the third aspect requires definition. What, he asks, is the distinction between guarding Torah and observing Torah? Since the latter clause relates to both positive and negative commandments, guarding Torah must have a specific application. The Brisker Rav suggests that the commitment "to guard Torah" (lishmor) refers to the need to preserve the purity of the Mesorah. It is, Therefore, an obligation not only to learn Torah and observe Torah and mitzvot but also to sustain the purity of the transmission of Torah.
This then may be the key to the establishment of Keri'at HaTorah and an additional reason for the mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah. The Midrash notes that Moshe Rabbenu wrote thirteen Sifrei Torah on the day of his death. Each of the twelve tribes was given a Sefer Torah, and the thirteenth was placed in the Ark, so that if an attempt were made to falsify the Torah, the Sefer Torah in the Sanctuary could be brought out (to validate the issue) (Midrash Rabbah, Deuteronomy, parashah 9, Vayelech). Thus Moshe Rabbenu was acutely concerned with preserving the accuracy and authenticity of the Torah (see Rambam, op. cit., that Moshe Rabbenu ordained Keri'at HaTorah).
It may, therefore, be conjectured that Keri'at HaTorah was established not merely as a format for the public teaching of Torah but specifically to emphasize the purity and accuracy of Torah as exemplified by the Sefer Torah. The teaching of Torah must be based upon Torat Moshe - the Sefer Torah itself - to preserve Torah for future generations.
The original format must not be falsified. It must be preserved intact. Thus, Keri'at HaTorah was an ordinance to sustain the purity of the Mesorah. For this reason, perhaps, the sages did not enact the usual format of a berachah for Keri'at HaTorah. The ritual phrase Asher kiddishanu bemitzvotav ("which You sanctified us with Your mitzvot") is not chanted before Keri'at HaTorah because the public Torah reading is not a specific mitzvah but a means of sustaining the totality of the Torah itself.
Since every Jew is potentially a teacher of Torah, every Jew was required to possess a personal Sefer Torah. Thus every Jew had a reminder that the teachings of Torah should be in accord with the content of the Sefer Torah.
Thus, the 613th mitzvah symbolizes the basic tenets of our faith. It symbolizes an appreciation of kedushah, a reenactment of the climate of Sinai, a means of learning, teaching, guarding, and of course, through all, observing Torah itself.


The Beit Halevi's theory (op. cit.) that men are obliged to learn even mitzvot that they are not required to observe, while women are only mandated to acquire knowledge that facilitates the performance of obligatory mitzvot, is noted by a number of Halachic authorities (see, for example, R. Shlomo Ganzfried, Lishkat HaSofer 1: note 3). The Avnei Nezer also presents this view, but adds an interesting nuance to the concept. He contends that since it is almost impossible to observe mitzvot without practical knowledge, the acquisition of such knowledge is categorized as the commencement of the performance of the mitzvah, rather than as a part of the general principle of learning Torah. Thus, for women the process of learning is, in reality, an integral aspect of the observance. Hence, they are not involved in the general mitzvah of learning Torah (Responsa Avnei Nezer, Yoreh De'ah, part II, 352)."

-- from The 613th Commandment: An Analysis of the Mitzvah to Write a Sefer Torah by Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen

Tuesday, March 22, 2005



An Orthodox Rebbetzin who I have learned much from & for whom I have unlimited respect is working on a project in Jerusalem. She is researching the minhag (tradition) quoted in the Ramah (R' Me'ir ben Todros HaLevi Abulafia of Spain 1180-1244) which says that women should not enter a beit kneset (synagogue) or touch a Sefer Torah or say G@d's name when she is in niddah (menstrual separation). Obviously I am fascinated by this, for the following reasons:

- If a woman came to shul 2 weeks on & 2 weeks off, that would tip her community off as to when she was in niddah. If she were a married woman, would this be considered appropriately tsenu'ah (modest/private) for everyone to know when she & her husband were able to be intimate, whether she was pregnant, etc?

- All Jews are considered to be in a spiritually impure state because of tamei meit (the tuma'a of a dead body). Why? Because even indirect contact with a corpse damages one's spirituality and places one in the most severe state of ritual impurity. As this tuma'a is easily spread & there is no way of keeping track of who is tamei & who isn't anymore, then it is supposed we all have it. To rid oneself of tamei meit required a unique purification process which we cannot perform today for lack of a red heifer, but that's another story. Since a Sefer Torah is not mekabel tuma'a (cannot be made impure), & since men are not considered tahor (pure) nowadays anyway, tuma'a (impurity) from women should not be an issue. That being said, I would like to state here that I do not so much as handle the qlaf (parchment) of the Sefer Torah I am writing while I am a niddah, as I understand that a complete Sefer which is kosher isn't mekabel tuma'a & my Sefer is not yet complete. I will write about sofrut & nidut in another post.

- If a woman cannot utter G@d's name when she is a niddah, then how can she fulfil her daily obligation to pray or even say the blessing on visiting the miqveh or when eating for that matter?

So, according to Rabbi Dr Daniel Sperber, this idea comes from a source that was quoted in writings for centuries, but that was only "discovered" in the late 1800's. The Sectarian text also says a lot of things that directly contradict the Rabbis (eg. a man can become impure by walking in a woman's footprints or by hearing her voice; a Niddah needs to have separate dishes, sheets, clothing, as well as her own room, & nobody can eat her cooking or benefit from her work [these two latter I'm sure being the reason that text never caught on]). The text then says, "Eilu Vi'eilu divrei Elokim chayim, v'halakhah k'beit Shammai b'chol makom" or, basically, that the law always follows Shammai, everywhere, and it is exactly the opposite of a source we have saying that the Halakhah always goes according to Hillel & not Shammai!

Many of the customs mentioned in the source, called "Baraita d' Masechet Niddah", are brought as Halakhah, but are later strongly rejected by other rabbis. Rav Ovadia Yosef, for instance, has a couple of Teshuvot where he is answering about people who have these customs who want to stop them, & Rav Yosef comes out very strongly that the sources are clearly against the Torah. My friend goes on to say, "I am really curious if he knew about the original source or if he just deduced it from the fact that it so clearly is [against Torah -- A.B.]. Anyway, it is really really interesting."

I have been told often by Jewish revisionists that later rabbis can never & do never dispute what earlier rabbis have stated. However, the more I learn Torah the more I see examples of this practice. Like how some people keep quoting the baraita to me about not allowing women to write Sifrei Torah, & yet there are Rishonim & Acharonim who permit it. Instead of making a valid argument to support their take on Judaism, they introduce false information at their convenience to quiet my voice & avoid having a meaningful debate. Judaism is not "pat". It deserves better from each of us than to bully another Jew into giving up their own unique insights & wisdom.

I am so interested in later rabbinic authorities coming out against earlier ones & how that has served to affect the way various Jewish communities live their Judaism. Can our paying attention to all rabbinic voices possibly help our tradition become more expansive while still remaining within the bounds of G@d's expectations of us as a community & as individuals?

I have full faith that we can rise to the challenge of supporting each individual Jew's dignity & place in our community, while still preserving not only the dignity of the community at large but also the ability to fulfill G@d's mitzvot with appropriate kavanah.

UPDATE, March 23rd

On women in niddah attending synagogue or saying G@d's name:

- Tzitzit Eliezer, Vol. 6 # 8 permits women in niddah to study Torah (a blessing must be said before engaging in the study of Torah).
- According to The Remah, Orach Chayim 88:1, when a woman is in niddah, she can enter a shul, pray & recite all blessings.
- The Mishnah Berurah states in 88:5 that a woman should not wait 40 days after the birth of a son or 80 after the birth of a daughter to enter a synagogue, as this practice has no basis in Jewish Law. It goes on to say in 88:6 that the consensus of later rabbis obligates women to pray & recite all brakhot while in niddah.
- A woman in niddah may pray at the Kotel (Western Wall) according to Yabiah Omer Vol. 5, Yoreh De'ah, # 27.
- The Magen Avraham 282:6 cites tractate Sofrim in obligating women to listen to the Torah reading on Shabbat. The Birkey Yosef, Orach Chayim 282:7 finds support for this view in the Tur, Orach Chayim 417.
Both men & women should look at the Sefer Torah when it is raised, because it is meritorious to see the letters of the Torah itself (Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chayim 134:2 & Mishnah Berurah 134:11)
- It is the tradition of Sephardic women to say the blessing on immersion before she enters the miqveh, with her head & body still covered (See Shulchan Arukh, Yoreh De'ah 220, Chokhmat Adam 121:14, Ben Ish Chai, Shanah Rishonah, Parshat Sh'mini, ch. 4 note 22.
- HaGaon Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach points out that even after giving birth a woman must light candles for Shabbat & recite the blessing.

On men hearing the words of women in niddah:

- Yabiah Omer, Vol. 1, # 15, rules that a man may listen to his wife sing when she is a niddah. See also the Be'er Sheva's opinion cited by the Ba'er Heytev, Even HaEzer 21:4.
- According to Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chayim 75:3 & Mishnah Berurah; Shevet HaLevi, Vol. 4, Orach Chayim, #14; Otzar HaPoskim 22:10; Kaf HaChayim, Orach Chayim 689:13, a man may listen to a woman speak in public or private.

On a niddah's cooking:

- A woman in niddah may separate challah & recite the appropriate blessing according to Rambam's Hilkhot Bikurim 5:12, Magen Avraham 263:6 & Remah, Orach Chayim 88.

UPDATE, March 24th

My Rebbitzen friend commented to me:
"In answer to your questions, they are exactly the point.  The text that says these things seems to be a sectarian text-- either a remnant from the followers of Shammai, or pehaps more likely a later invention entirely.  My question for my research is how on earth these customs found their way into our tradition in light of the questions you raised.  In our class we have been addressing the question of whether or not a minhag can override halacha.  Our teacher claims that ultimately it can't.  I am exploring whether or not this is an example where it does.  I will keep you posted."

UPDATE, March 25th

Various meanings for the shoresh, the root, "nadad" (Nun-Dalet-Dalet), from which the word "niddah" derives:

Monday, March 21, 2005



Alisha, Blogtrix Extrordinaire of the blog formally known as Spinach, Almonds & Sharp Pointy Teeth, asked me to spread the word about this mitzvah we can all do for Purim. & it's not too late, so run to do this mitzvah:

"Many of my friends and acquaintances have heard me talk about my dear friend in Israel, Adina, and her family there, and her husband Ben-Yishai, and his family there...and about his brother, Gavriel Hoter, yz"b, hy"d, who was murdered in Yeshivat Otniel along with three other students in December of 2002.

Since that time, their family has been both beneficiaries and contributors to the Terror Victims Association/Almagor. This organization, like many others, helps victims and their families; however, there are two things which make TVA unique. First, they have been in operation since long before the intense violence of the last few years. In fact, they have been operating since 1986 and continue to give assistance to those who were struck that long ago. Second, the organization was founded by and continues to be largely supported by the efforts of victims and their families. In that way, people whose lives have been damaged by terror can heal through the mutual support of others who know their pain.

For Purim, TVA is sending mishlochei manot to families in their care. They have produced very nice cards which, upon sponsorship of one such basket ($20), one may send to a friend in lieu of or in addition to actual mishloach manot. As Ben-Yishai is currently in the US, I have a pile of these cards. If anyone is interested in sponsoring TVA's m"m, please let me know as soon as possible.

Please tell me how many cards you would like and your address. If you tell me before shabbat hopefully that will give you enough time to send them out to your own friends before Purim. Alternatively, if you would like me to write in your name and your friends' names and mail them directly, please tell me their names and addresses.

The links are Gavriel and TVA. I'll recommend the CD that the Hoter family produced in his memory, available on the site (or through me). The money from that goes to a traveling midrasha that they set up to teach the midot that he embodied.

Chag Purim Sameach!

Sunday, March 20, 2005



G@d doesn't actually "bring forth bread from the Earth". There are no bread-bushes. We know that it is our G@d-given ingenuity which enables us to take the gift of wheat & turn it into bread. Indeed, this is exactly the intention G@d had when gifting us with a simple, basic material: for us to get to know it, learn to tend it, & transform it into something good for us. So it is with Torah.

There was a man who lived alone in the mountains, secluded from civilization. To survive he sewed wheat & ate the wheatberries raw.

One day, out of curiosity, he wandered down into the valley below & was taken in by those who dwelled there. They brought him bread to eat. He asked, "What is this?"
"Bread," they replied, "to eat."
He tried some & liked it. "What is bread made from?" he asked.
"Wheat", they answered.

The next day his hosts brought him cakes baked with oil. He enjoyed these & asked what they were made from.
They said, "Wheat."

In the evening they brought him pastry made with honey for him to eat. Again it tasted very good to him so he asked what they were made from & his hosts told him, "Wheat".

"I am the master of all of these", he declared, "for I eat their essence: wheat!"

Because of his narrow view, he knew nothing of the delightful potential which lay in his raw wheatberries, nor would he ever explore it. So it is with the person who understands a principle of Torah, but who refuses to embrace all the delicacies which can be derived from the divergence from the principle.

The Midrash says that the first question we will be asked before we are allowed to enter the Gates of Heaven is:
"Did you enjoy the world I made for you? Did you really learn Torah?"

Shavu'ah tov.

Saturday, March 19, 2005




Vayiqra parshat Vayiqra/Leviticus 1:1

"Vayiqra el-Moshe vay'dabeyr Y-H-V-H eylav meyohel mo'eyd leymor."

"And He called to Moshe - HaShem spoke to him from the Tent of Appointment, saying:"

"...called..." - according to an ancient regulation, the last letter of the word "Vayiqra" is in miniature. The Sacred Text was in ancient times written in a continuous row of letters, without any division between the words. When the last letter of a word was the same as the first letter of the next, as is here the case, one character would often serve for both (Luzzatoo). When at a later time both letters were written out, one of them was in smaller size to show that it did not originally occur in the Text - an illustration of the profound reverence with which the Sacred Text was guarded by the Sofrim/Scribes.

Still others search for a deeper meaning. Why is this particular letter of this particular word written so? The use of the word "call" indicates that G@D wished to speak to Moshe, and purposefully called him. G@D's prophesy to Bil'am (Bemidbar/Numbers 23:16), however, is introduced by "vayiqar", without an Alef, a word that has two connotations: chance (miq'reh) and spiritual contamination (as in I Shmu'el/Samuel 20:26). This implies that, while G@D had a reason to speak to Bil'am, he did not do so with enthusiasm. The small Alef used in this word makes it appear like the word used for Bil'am. The Ba'al HaTurim tells us that when G@D was dictating the Torah to Moshe Rabeynu/our Teacher on Mount Sinai, G@D chose the word "Vayiqra" to indicate that G@D had specifically selected Moshe Rabeynu/our Teacher to lead us and to show what an intimate relationship they possessed. Moshe Rabeynu/our Teacher, being "The Most Modest Man in All The World" as the Torah tells us (that's quite a thing to be able to boast about - I wonder how he dealt with writing that down?), was reluctant to enscribe this, preferring instead to write "Vayiqar" - which means "He happened by" - to suggest a coincidence in his relationship to G@D rather than his chosen-ness. That is why the Alef is so small, to express the humility of Moshe Rabeynu.

This smallness, ironically, actually serves to give prominence to the letter as if it were a separate word, ie: "Vayiqar Alef...". The word "Alef" means, among other things, "to teach", thus implying that no one should learn always to be "small" and humble. No one was better qualified to teach this lesson than Moshe Rabbeynu/our Teacher because he was not only the greatest of all prophets, but also the humblest person who ever lived (R' Bunam of P'schish'cha).

& in all the generations since, whether for reasons of humility or otherwise, there are always Jews who struggle with their chosen-ness as B'nai Yisra'el.

Shavu'ah tov!

Friday, March 18, 2005



Name Meaning Letter Value

Alef first; chief (aLUF) 1

Bet house (bayit) 2

Gimel camel (gaMAL); g'MOL (nurturance) 3

Dalet door (delet) 4

Hey window 5

Vav hook 6

Zayin weapon 7

Chet life-force (chaiYUT) 8

Tet serpent 9

Yud hand (yad) 10

Khaf palm of hand (kaPAH) 20

Lamed ox-goad; learn; teach (laMAD; liMED) 30

Mem waves of water (MAyim) 40

Nun perpetuation (yeNON) 50

Samekh prop; support (seMEKH; saMAKH) 60

Ayin eye 70

Peh mouth 80

Tzaddi upright one 90

Quf monkey; ape (qof) 100

Reysh inherit; head (rosh) 200

Shin molar; tine; tusk; ivory (sheyn) 300

Tav sign; mark; music note 400

Khaf sofit open hand 500

Mem sofit still water 600

Nun sofit tadpole 700

Peh sofit open mouth 800

Tzaddi sofit accepted upright one 900

Thursday, March 17, 2005



The Sages said to R’ Joshua ben Levi: Today some young children came to the house of study and told us things [about the Hebrew alphabet, which they had just learned] the likes of which had not been said even in the days of Joshua son of Nun:
Alef bet means “Learn wisdom (alef binah).”
Gimel dalet means “Be kind to the poor (gemol dallim).” Why is the foot of the gimel stretched toward the base of the dalet? Because it is the way of the benevolent to run after the poor (to help them out).
And why is the foot of the dalet stretched toward the gimel? Because the poor must make himself available to the benevolent.
And why is the face of the dalet aveted from the gimel? Because help must be given in secrecy, so that the poor will not be humiliated by the presence of the giver.
Hey and vav are two letters that form (part of) the (Ineffable) Name of the Holy One...
Zayin, het, tet, yud, kaf, lammed: If you act thus (as commanded), the Holy One will sustain (zan) you, be gracious (han) to you, show goodness (metiv) to you, give you a heritage (yerushah), and bind a crown (keter) about your head in the world-to-come (le’olam ha’ba).
The open mem and the closed (final) mem signify that one utterance (in Scripture) may be open and another may be closed (esoteric) [and inquiry into it may be forbidden].
The bent nun and the upright (final) nun mean that those who are faithful (ne’eman) when bent with suffering (in this world) will be made upright (in the world-to-come).
Samekh and ayin stand for “Uphold the poor (semokh aniyyim).” (Others say: The two letters stand for “Devise {aseh} mnemonics {simmanim} in Scripture and thus commit it to memory.”)
The bent peh and the (final) open peh signify that there are times when the mouth (peh) should be open and times when it should stay closed.
The bent tzaddi and the erect (final) tzaddi signify that while in this world the righteous (tzaddik/tzodeket) is bent down, in the world-to-come s/he will be enabled to stand erect.
Kuf signifies “holy (kadosh).” Reysh signifies “wicked (rasha).”
Why is the face of the kuf averted from the reysh? Because The Holy One says, “I cannot bear looking at the wicked.”
And why is the upper tip on the crown over the kuf turned toward the reysh? Because the Holy One says: If the wicked (rasha) repents, I will bind a crown over his/her head like the crown over the kuf.
Shin stands for “falsehood (sheqer),” and tav for “truth (emet)”. Why do the letters of sheqer in the alphabet closely follow one another, while the letters in emet are far apart [the alef at the beginning, the mem in the middle and the tav at the end]? Because falsehoods follow close upon one another, while truth is encountered only at intervals far apart.
And why does sheqer stand on one leg [the long stroke of kuf, the second letter of sheqer, extends below the line, so the word looks as if it is standing on one leg], while emet is made up of letters which have (solid) bricklike bases [both the alef and the tav rest on two legs, while the mem has a horizontal bar at its base]? Because truth stands firmly; falsehood does not [B. Shab 104a].

Wednesday, March 16, 2005



If you didn't catch last night's episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, you absolutely MUST download it here & catch what he did with a New York Post article about NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's recent diplomatic trip to Israel...

I will write an update on my current Megilat Esther soon.

Saturday, March 12, 2005



So, it's late here & I'm really swamped with work, but I just *had* to share this with all of you.

What do you make of it? Do tell!

Thursday, March 10, 2005



Altho' I have several potentially controversial posts seething beneath my skin these daze (not a typo), they need a little more time to simmer. Instead I will use this post with its obscure Beatles reference to apologise to all you good-natured readers out there who have bothered to comment on my blog & who have not received any responding comment from me. I know this makes me not the most popular kid in the blogosphere, but I trust you understand that my silence is because I am overwhelmed with juggling work, the media & my new husband (not to mention that I'm sponsoring his immigration to Canada, which is a whole other *planet* of burocracy...& I can't believe I'm a Canuck & I can't spell THAT word correctly!). Anyway, I intend to get to them all, so thank you for your patience & please keep reading & commenting!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005



I have noticed that "comic books" have gradually, over the past twenty years, become more of an acceptable mainstream interest for adults. Okay, let me rephrase that: they used to be pathetically geeky & now they're COOL, even SOPHISTICATED. I am reminded of this each time I waltz into a Chapters or other mass-consumption bookstore & spy a wall of Manga in the "Art" section. Long gone are the days when I would spend a Sunday browsing through the misunderstood world of illustrated stories at Island Fantasy in Victoria. You don't have to hide your dirty little secret any longer - you can purchase comics in public now & skip the plain brown wrapper, as they are considered high art.

I have many fave graphic novels (that's what they call comics for grown-ups...if you don't believe me then read this) gracing my bookshelves interspersed with Rav Adin Steinsaltz et al, including Chester Brown's Louis Riel, Berni Wrightson's Frankenstein & Jon J Muth's Dracula: A Symphony in Moonlight and Nightmares (for which there are no images available on the web, if you can believe it, but you could look here).

But I have two Jewish favorites: the first is Greenberg the Vampire by DeMatteis & Badger, a rollicking ride through the world of secular-Jewish-fiction-author-by-day-guiltridden-vampire-by-night Oscar Greenberg. In his story we meet such characters as Lilith, who has been stalking him since birth; his Bubbe, who has been casting ancient Jewish protection spells to shield him; his funky live-in non-Jewish girlfriend (who accidentally transformed him into a vampire) & his shlumpy nephew. The rabbi in the story is totally disempowered.
The second is Fagin the Jew by comic legend Will Eisner. In this work he examines the (probable socially acceptable at the time) veiled anti-Semitism in Dickens' Oliver Twist!. One of the things I appreciate about his thoughtful portrayal of Moses Fagin à la Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Tom Stoppard), is that he researches the struggle for acceptance/assimilation Jews were faced with in a country obssessed with class distinction & yet which made a better home for them than anywhere else in Europe. Eisner also looks into his own past of less-than-shining portrayals of African-American superhero sidekicks & honestly admits that even a politically & socially sensitive Jew like himself can be blinded by his country to trends in racial stereotype.

They're all good reads - even the Rav Steinsaltz volumes ;+>

Tuesday, March 08, 2005



I just accidentally discovered these two sites, & they are unbelievable! If you have to ask why they are sublime examples of humankind made b'tzelem Eloqim (in the image of G@d), then you need to stop reading this blog & look deeply into your soul ;+>

For The National Terror Alert Status

For The Superfluous Blogger

Viva the human spirit!

Monday, March 07, 2005



Last night Joel & I went to the Ridge for the animation festival (yes, I know this blog is supposed to be about sofrut, but more than that it's about my life trying to find Torah in everything). Wowee. It was really something. The opener, Bill Plympton's Guard Dog, was the funniest thing I'd seen in ages. I can see why it was nominated for an Oscar. I have a terrible weakness for Bill's art anyway - I've been following his work since the mid-80's (I know I'm dating myself & I don't care) & he is one of my faves.

The rest of the films were really quite dark. Probably the best one of the lot, both because of its social comment & its technical execution, was Fallen Art. You can see it here.

Not part of the animation fest but a crazy piece of art is this thing which Kyla sent us. Quite hilarious & extraordinarily blue...

Now onto the dollies. These I discovered while browsing Miriam's blog. I agree with her - we have to make a concerted effort to make Barbie a permanent part of museum archives & not a living, active part of how our children learn to play & dress & act. At the same time, tsnius can be pushed too far, IMHO, & is often done so as a means of opressing women. So we have a tightrope to walk. What's new? Kol ha-Olam kulo gesher tsar me'od...

Well, I don't think I've ever put so many links into a post. I must not have much interesting to say today. Well, it's still early...

Sunday, March 06, 2005



My sweet friend & Joel's magid colleague, Shir-Yaakov, made Haaretz. Check out this link. He's the Chasid on the right.
I miss his presence & energy very much. He's one of the few sofrim who consider me authentic in my skills & kavanah. His music is amazing. You would not believe how magical it is when he leads bentsching. & his artists' soul is deep & wide, so big your whole house could fall in...
I send him every blessing in Yerushalayim.

Saturday, March 05, 2005



Date: Tue Mar 1, 2005 1:48:21 PM US/Pacific
Subject: The Torah

Your desire to write a Torah is not being done for the
sake of heaven but for the sake of Femminism ,you are
just further desecrating Torah and Judaism like the
liberal branches of dying Judaism you represent .If
you really wanted to express G-Ds will in this world
through the talent of art that you have then do it on
canvas ,not desecrating the Holy letters of the Torah
.The good news is your Torah is not Kosher so it will
go down in history with the rest of the make believe
Judaisms you represent .Ironically this is the day of
the completion of the Shas hundreds of thousands of
Torah true Jews are celebrating and they,re wifes are
happy and content with they,re big families G-D has
blessed them with .I really pity women like you who
need to find these abberations of Judaism to express
they,re spirtuality .The real sanctification of G-Ds
name and Torah would be you saying you were wrong and
hiring a real scribe to write the Sefer Torah with the
money you fraudulan! tly collected .Repent or pay the
price of Hashems wrath.

Yeah, I get it. They have dominated this practice throughout our history, & since their monopoly is now threatened by me & a growing number of women learning sofrut, they will intimidate me back into my box labelled "Woman's role", a box built & named by men a very long time ago. I'm sorry, but I would have found a Halakhic challenge far more interesting. This vitriol just sounds to me like a Jewish version of fundamentalist Christianity. Especially that last sentence...
Anyway, my loyal husband took care of it for me. He's a champion antler-waver :D


CENSORED, shalom. You do not know my wife,
therefore you do not know whether she acts lishma or
not. I strongly recommend that you consult with your
Rav regarding the advisability of such lashon, which
seems to me presumptuous and aggressive. You have my
permission to share my email with him. And, in any
case, I respectfully request that you never speak to
or of my wife in this manner again.
May we each and all merit to perform haShem's mitzvot
with clear guidance and pure intent, that our children
may see Moshiach in their days.

Blessings to you and yours,
Joel Rothschild

Ameyn, hubby!

Friday, March 04, 2005



"It doesn't matter what stream of Judaism you belong to, as long as you're ashamed of it."

- Rabbi David Hartman, of the Shalom Hartman Institute
I'll have to add him to my list of heroes...
Gut Shabbes

Thursday, March 03, 2005


Originally uploaded by soferet.

Well, we made it home. The 5-hour drive from Joel's old home to our new one was pretty good, considering this is the worst cold I've had since the Carter Administration. & I'm using that reference as a courtesy to my American readers. I used to have no Americans in my life - even up until 10 years ago, there weren't really any, except ones who were Canadian citizens living in Canada (read: draft dogers). But in the past 7 years, whoa. Now my life is *full* of Americans - I'm even married to one! Am I going on too long about this? Sorry, I just still find it quite disorienting spending so much time in the USA...I just never thought my life would be quite like this & I'm still getting used to it.

Besides, if I'd said, "The worst cold I've had since the Trudeau government", that would just be confusing to my fellow Canucks, as he was in power from before I was born until I was in grade 11! (Apologies to Joe Clark. Joe Who? ;+>)

Anyway, we stopped in Tacoma (see lyrics for "South Tacoma Way" by Neko Case) & then in to see Fern & Scott in Seattle while Joel tried to find his certificate of birth (for immigration to Canada). It was really good to see them. & Elisha. & Isis the rottweiler & her "mommy".

It was much longer than the drive down, because we had a 4-hour stop in Olympia to watch the Academy Awards with Joel's dad at the Capitol Theatre. It was such a hoot! They have all these framed original 1950's magazine ads in the ladies' room - you know the tyope of old cinema, the kind with the restroom lounge. We don't lounge near toilets anymore, it seems.

I suspect that I might be writing a bit crazy still, because of this awful cold...

Anyway, once we got home I could actually take the homeopathic cold remedy (salt) which I'd been longing for! YAY! I won't be killing acres of trees to wipe my nose anymore!

So I've been sleeping much better now & feeling better, too. B"H.

I'm able to better focus on the Megilah now, & much to my delight, I received the March Opus newsletter & their gouache is on sale! & I got 2 coupons for "anything" at Loomis , so I'll be in to pick up the rest of the supplies I need for the painting & gold leafing & other finishing touches.

In the meantime, I'm going to further research the holy name "Shadai"...

Shabbat shalom

Wednesday, March 02, 2005


Originally uploaded by soferet.

See what I was just writing about fame & how it's a bad thing? In the last day since that "J" article hit the JTA, I have had requests from various papers around the world for "good colour photographs" of me "working on the Torah" to ice their articles on me. No interviews. Just a demand for eye candy. & also a threatening e-mail, warning me of HaShem's wrath.
Maybe I should just go back to wood carving...

Tuesday, March 01, 2005



First Megilat Esther.jpg

Winter 2003: Writing the very first words ("And it was in the days of Achashverosh...") of the Megilat Esther for Shaarey Tefilah. I'm leaning on a sheet of paper so as not to touch the qlaf & reading from a tiqun to ensure everything is written properly. In front of me lie rolls of qlaf & my book on sofrut, Liqutey Sifrei ST"M.
(photo credit: Chana Joffe-Walt)

& yes, you can see some hair in this snap, but I wasn't married yet, so if you don't like it, don't look.

I am still working on my second Megilah, this one illustrated, but between this case of the blues & a terrible cold (my girlfriend Maya's baby sneezed on my chin last week), I have been having a restless, sluggish, unproductive day. So I switched from writing to painting today. That was an adventure.

In Vancouver there are about a bazillion art supply stores, my favourite being Opus. But we are not in Vancouver right now. We are visiting Joel's family in Washington State, a little working holiday, & we are functionally away from civilization. I did not bring gouache with me, my preferred medium for decorating parchment, as I didn't know when we left home that I was coming down with a cold. This cold has thrown me for a loop & I can't maintain the necessary intention to properly form the letters, so - painting...

Joel's brother Jeremy & I headed into "town" & we started at Artists' Edge (no gouache, but a funky sharpener for rectangular pencils), then we went to JoAnn's (I hate big-box stores because they are one of the things which are destroying the planet, but I *really* needed gouache. They had none), & finally to Michael's (gouache). Success! Not only did they have gouache, but they had a full line of Bob Ross paint brushes, which I've never seen in Canada.

You remember Bob Ross? The gentle, funky Viet Nam vet with the 'fro who taught America how to paint oil landscapes on PBS? I loved those shows.
"Now we're gonna make a little tree down here by the brook. Look at that. What a nice little fella. Happy tree. Now let's just give him a little snow to wear..."

Anyway, I own plenty of high-quality paint brushes, but when I saw that there was one called a "Wildlife Finisher", I couldn't resisit but fight off an imaginary animal in the aisle. "Take that! & that!"

This cold has stoned me or something. (in a Van Morrison way)
& no kosher cold medicine out here in the tulies, so I'll just have to get over it the old fashioned way.
Anyway, we are now back & I am painting. Yay!
I hope this post makes sense, because I am REALLY sick!

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