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, January 31, 2006


2 Sh'vat

"Be careful not to confuse beauty with perfection"
- Rabbi Dr Louis Sutker, commenting on my anguish over the imperfect letters I had just written as he cooked dinner tonight for his wife Charlotte & me.
He made an excellent point. He reminded me that the whole point of writing the word of G@d is to read it & learn from it. That it didn't have to be physically faultless to be employed & enjoyed. We could take a lesson from that in so many facets of our lives. As I considered the broad application of his words, thoughts ran through my head such as "forest, not trees!" & "soul, not body!" so as to not get caught up in the details, as I am want to do, to the point of losing sight of the Big Picture sometimes.

What a relief that G@d is in charge of both...

As I pondered all this, I fiddled with my wedding band, now worn on my right index finger where Joel originally placed it under our candle-lit chupah, as I have lost 30 pounds & it no longer stays on my left ring finger.
There are so many things we would have to courage to do if we weren't so afraid of being imperfect. But that is exactly what we are - perfectly imperfect. & there is truth & beauty in that holy creation.

We can each tell our own tale of the wholeness of a broken heart.

Monday, January 30, 2006


Rosh Chodesh Sh'vat

The letter 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 (also ru'ach), is our breath. The Kabalah 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 Chasidism, our souls are too vast to inhabit our bodies; they penetrate and surround them.

G@D created two worlds: this one with the letter Hey ("Bid'var HaShem shamayim na'asu uv'ru'ach piv kol tzeva'am" - "By the word of HaShem the heavens were made and by the breath of His mouth all their hosts" 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).

Yesterday, during Shabbes announcements, Rabbi Harry Brechner here at my home shul in Victoria taught us that we must never get discouraged when things look hopeless - that shalom is actually the natural state of the Earth & all who inhabit it, & that no matter what, we will achieve peace - because there is no other choice.
With each calamity we are brought closer.
May shalom reign!

Monday, January 23, 2006


23 Tevet

This is a time for me to reconcile/apologize/listen/open/accept/own/identify/persist/love.

Especially love.

I've always believed that our dreams are one of the innumerable ways that G@d tries to send us messages. Our tradition teaches us that dreams represent a commonly accessible level of prophesy. So I am moved to respond.

The night of January 6-7 I dreamt:
I was in a bedroom with a ceiling so low I had to sit. The wallpaper was old, beige & tan with sprigs of tiny pinky-red flowers on it. There were cobwebs up above my head in the corner I was sitting on one hip in. I had a feather duster, with which I gently whisked away the webs & dust. I was concerned I might be disturbing a spider's home & get bitten. Next to me on the floor was a queen sized bed covered with a messy solid bright blue comforter. Directly above that was a window covered with curtains the exact same colour of blue. I looked up & saw that a huge wave, stories high & the same colour blue again, towered up above me & came crashing down, flooding everything. I was afraid, but survived.

Dream Jan 12-13:
I had overwatered my cactus, the one my Dad bought for me at the Elk Lake Garden Centre on August 14th, 1975, the day we moved from Nanaimo to Victoria. The soil was wet - it was regular dirt as in real lif e& not cactus dirt - which holds more water than the sandy cactus variety. The branches which grow out of the base of the cactus (who I named "Major" the day we took him home. I liked the word - I'd heard it a lot from watching M*A*S*H as a kid). It was soggy because I'd accidentally overwatered it. I'd thought I was taking good care of it by giving it so much attention, but it turns out it didn't need exactly what I'd been doing for it. The bottom of the branches were too waterlogged to remain healthy & attached to the root. So they fell away in my hands. I felt so terrible. I really thought I'd been doing the right thing. But I'd innocently damaged the branches to the point where I'd lost them. This was an emergency. Luckily, as I dug down, the roots of the main trunk were kind of moist, but stable & fine. I breathed a sigh of relief. My naive clumsiness hadn't killed the whole thing & with a little re-education & new kind of care everything was going to be ok.
...& all I heard was "my full rose weeps sweet milk for you"

Dream January 20 - 21
I was wearing baggy orange pants. I had a new job. It had something to do with water, maybe on a boat, but I don't remember seeing a boat in the dream. But there was wetness. I was unsure whether I was doing well at this job & my confidence was shaken. I walked into a funky cafe-diner-restaurant & sat & ate with my nephew. It had orange walls & large mirrors & a black & white tile floor. We sat on high, chrome retro stools at a round table. They were all red vinyl on top. He was kind & encouraging to me. I felt somewhat comforted. I went to the bathroom & when I looked in the mirror, my hair had turned white. At the very bottom right of my hair there were thin horizonal/semicircular stripes, one each of black, pink & green. My eyes were huge & dark. They were still green, as they are in real life, but darker & my irises were fully dialated. So they were totally receptive.

Any comments before I record my interpretations?

Wish me a safe trip, as I'm leaving to teach in Florida in a couple of hours...

Sunday, January 22, 2006


22 Tevet

Tonight after Shabbes I went up to Az-Zawiyya mosque for a big interfaith love-in with prayers & food & friends. One of the great women I met is an animator on this.
Afterwards a bunch of us hit The Grind & talked about our father Abraham & how hugely kind he was. May we all emulate him. We also traded notes on haircovering & I regaled them with my tales of having made a weekend-long vision quest atop Mount Sinai 8 years ago this week.

Shavu'ah tov - a good week to you.

Just to clarify, I was at the new Az-Zawiyya mosque on E 66th St here in Vancouver, not at the Az-Zawiyya al Qadiriyya mosque in Yerushalayim :)

Friday, January 20, 2006


20 Tevet

As we move from Parshat Vayechi, the last portion in the book of B'reyshit/Genesis, & its lessons in giving others the benefit of the doubt, we move into Parshat Sh'mot, the first portion in the book of Sh'mot/Exodus & its call to expansiveness. One cannot move through the tight places if one is not willing to be directed out, just as one cannot be born into the wide world without the crushing journey through the birth canal. There must be giving & forgiving of ourselves & others to achieve unity between souls & G@d. Otherwise, the Israelites could not fully live up to our name, Ivri = Hebrew, From Avraham Avinu's grandfather Eveyr, the boundary-crosser.

The close connexion between these two parsiyot is deeply significant, as it points us towards taking steps in a process of t'shuvah, the repentance response.

As part of my own persoanl process of t'shuvah, I'm currently reading the classic "Love is Letting Go of Fear", by Gerald G. Jampolsky. It has got me thinking very carefully about what "fear" means, the subtle forms it can take, & how to recognize when it is providing a barrier rather than a boundary.

"...The fence for the Torah is Yirat Shamayim/Fear (Awe) of Heaven. However, just as there is no need for a fence around an empty field, so Yirah without Torah knowledge is worthless. In the Sages' words (Shabbat 31b), "It's a pity when one builds a door for an apartment, but has no apartment."
- Rabbi Chayim of Volozhin z"l, "Ru'ach Chayim" commentary on Pirkei Avot 1:1

"...Just remember, when you're in union, you don't have to fear that you'll be drained...."
- Jalaluddin Rumi, "You Are the Only Student You Have" Mathnawi V:3195-3219

"...You're here, there's nothing I fear..."
- Celine Dion, "My Heart Will Go On"

I apologize profusely for the Celine Dion reference. It's just that our culture places upon the Lover the expectations that can only be fulfilled by G@d. It's just too much for a mortal to bear. We must dedicate ourselves to trusting in the Divine & allow our nearest & dearest to be fully human.

& on that note, see this fine example of Canadian Torah on this week's Parshah & the learning behind suffering as a means to draw closer to The Holy One.

Shabbat Shleymut

Thursday, January 19, 2006


20 Tevet

Below is the sister image to one one previously posted:


"Inside Breyshit" copyright A. Barclay

Speaking of tearing apart, there was another bomb in Israel today. Joel is ok, so I offer my deep gratitiude to Ha-Rachaman, The Merciful One.
Thank G@d nobody was murdered, but remember the injured & pray for them.

I spent the better part of today in Richmond, repairing a Sefer Torah. It was missing several of the qlaf (parchment) reinforcers at the top & bottom of the backs of the seams, so I went to great lengths cutting new ones to match the size & shape of the existing ones. There were also a couple of tiny holes I patched as well as a really small tear at the top of a yeri'ah (sheet of parchment) which I sealed up so that it wouldn't worsen. A stitch in time, after all...

After doing the stain removal, I packed up & headed home in the dark Pacific Coast rain.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


19 Tevet

One of my very most favourite of days. But my most fave when it falls on the Winter Solstice.
Around that time I sold this:


"Outside Breyshit" copyright A. Barclay; watercolour & ink on 300lb cold pressed Arches 100% cotton acid-free archival paper

The first word in the Torah has six letters. I painted a scene of each of the six days of Creation in behind each of the letters. On each successive day G@d made further differentiations & boundaries, separating holy out of holy out of holy.

Tehilim/Psalm 118:24: "This is the day that Yah has made, we will rejoice & be glad in it."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


18 Tevet

I've been reading even more than usual lately. The Vancouver Public Library has become my second home as I nose through Thicht Naht Han, Rav Adin Steinsaltz, Jalaludin Rumi, Baba Hari Dass & Thomas Moore.

Also, I can go there with my mommy-type friends & hang out with them in the kiddie play area :)

In regards to difficulties I am currently facing (hence all the extra reading & soul-searching), I received these heartening words from a rabbi I highly respect:

"What may or may not be crumbling is external circumstances into which you have invested enormous amounts of love, effort and kavannah [focused intention].
What will not and cannot crumble is the Tzelem Elohim [image of G@d] of your neshama [soul], your inherent dignity as a human being, and your capacity for creative and postive action in even the most utterly sh!tty and hurtful and disorienting circumstances. You have been betrayed, but you cannot be made less than a child of the El Hai V'Kayam [Eternally Living G@d]."

I think I'm going to keep him around :)

Monday, January 16, 2006


17 Tevet

I voted today. The federal election isn't until next Monday, but I'm going to be teaching in Florida, so I went to the advance polling this afternoon. I feel kind of ripped off because we only just had an election last year, but there's been another scandal & one thing led to another.

The first thing I noticed was that my local voting place was the Ukranian Catholic Centre. There was a huge gold crucifix in there. It's a meeting hall, not a church, but still. I believe Canadians are entitled to vote in religiously neutral spaces, or at least spaces devoid of religious symbols. Well, I didn't have to pray in there (against Jewish Law), just vote, so whatever...

As I opened my ballot to search for the party & rep I was going to vote for, I noticed the the top person listed was running for the Marijuana Party. & that his middle name was Dionysius.

Welcome to Canada.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


15 Tevet

Golda Meir once said, "Every civilization finds it necessary to negotiate compromises with its own values."
I wonder why? & how one can rationalize doing so.

If one cannot define oneself by the espousal & practice of stable, consistent values, then what does that mean? What does that say about that individual?

If a person says one thing & then does another, our tradition calls this vanity & Talmud Bavli Sanhedrin 89b states, "Such is the punishment of a liar - even when he speaks the truth, no-one listens to him."

The letter Reysh in not awarded with a tag, a crown, as we learn that the letter Reysh represents the rasha, the "evil" - or better, "broken" - one, who refuses to repair himself & chooses to continue on in his selfish ways.

So much more could be said about this.

Saturday, January 14, 2006


15 Tevet

Last week I was waiting for a client to come over to pick up an illuminated maftir piece I made for them when I caught a slice of Valerie Pringle's "Test of Faith" on Vision TV. Her guests included Douglas Rushkoff, Prof. Rachael Turkienicz, Adrienne Gold & Rabbi Elyse Goldstein.

The Professor & the Rabbi are minor celebrities here in Canada. I've been a huge fan of R' Goldstein since I first saw "Half the Kingdom" 15 years ago & since seeing Dr. Turkienicz in "Judaism: A Quest for Meaning" (no good link, sorry) in '98. We need more women like them. Heck, we need more Jews like them, period.

Rushkoff claimed that Judaism is a means by which we "get over" religion. That G@d has taken away the idols & such & created a void for us to use in order for people to interact with each other, connect with the Earth & so on. He suggested we restore beit midrash in the space of increasing abstraction.

Dr. Turkienicz asserted his writings as being anti-Zionist & saying Judaism is meaningless & suggested to him that he needs to focus his argument.

R' Goldstein stated that she thought his view was simplistic.

Ms. Gold (labelled only as "Orthodox Jew" by the subtitle on the screen) said he was emotionally off course, had no sense of what his next direction might be & that he had factored G@d out of the equation.

It was fascinating for me to catch these few minutes of televised gender collision - he was very constructional & they were very practical. Each time he made a conceptual statement they would counter with real-life examples which disproved his ideas in concrete ways.

Women are very powerful. & scary sometimes. Reality check.
That's Shekhinah for you :}

Friday, January 13, 2006


13 Tevet


Autumn 2004: The last line of Sefer B'reyshit/the Book of Genesis, Parshat Vayechi; followed by the first lines of Sefer Sh'mot/the Book of Exodus, Parshat Sh'mot. Held to my desk by the qeset (inkwell) I purchased in Me'ah She'arim.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


12 Tevet

Now it's his turn.
Nesiyah tovah.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


12 Tevet

I happen to be a huge fan of the Power Puff Girls & in an internet flurry came across this web site. & which Power Puff cartoon character am I?

Which PPG are you?

My first question, which lead me to take the test, was what is the Torah of Super-Herodom?
My second question, on getting my results, was how in the heck did I not turn out being Mojo-Jojo?

Sunday, January 08, 2006



9th of Tevet

Irving Layton is dead. Leonard Cohen, who was one of his pall bearers & proteges, spoke of this man who inspired his own art with great affection.

"There is Irving Layton, & then there are the rest of us", he said. "He is our greatest poet, our greatest champion of poetry".

Another great Canadian, another great Jew, we say goodbye to. A controversial man who grew up in the same Montreal slums as Mordecai Richler. A man who shocked the puritanical public out of its slumber with his free sexual prophecies on paper. & no wonder. He had been born "naturally circumcised", without a foreskin, a traditional mark of the Messiah.

Instead of saving the World, however, he grew up to transform Western social consciousness & artistic expression, almost winning a Nobel Prize for Literature.

"...there is no pain in the graveyard...rejoice...rejoice..."

Good night, Irving. Sleep well.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006



3 Tevet

I'm offering ShalhevetYah, my popular Hebrew Calligraphy & Midrash correspondence course for $200 during the month of January, down from $250.

That's all.

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