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 Soferet.com; 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.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

WOMEN WRITING

בס"ד
21 Sh'vat


This afternoon's session I facilitated with Andrea Silverstone, a woman I owe much to. So do countless women & men in both the Jewish community & the community at large. It was because of my meeting her almost 12 years ago at a Jewish Feminist Students' conference in Ottawa that I experienced a positive shift in my Jewish Woman consciousness. A move toward clarity. For that I will always be grateful & it was an honour to sit alongside her & speak on Jewish Feminist voices throughout our history.
The students are all out partying at Mark's Fiasco tonight, while I sit in my hotel room & write...

The students have been fantastic. I knew a lot of them already from having been the Program Directrix at UBC Hillel. It was great to catch up with friends & make new ones today. I also took the opportunity to daven at the downtown Chabad. Rabbi Biton is wonderful. He taught us that you can tell what your Mitzvah Meyuchedet (loosely: mission in life) is by noticing what commandment is most difficult for you to perform. Thus said The Rebbe: if the work of marriage, he said to a man having marital difficulties, is harder for you to do than other mitzvot, then that is exactly the work which G@d requires you to do in this life. My quill is calling me...

During my piece on the panel, I spoke about some of the sofrot who proceeded me, including:

Chulda Ha-Nevyiah (the Prophetess): she appears in the book of Melechim/Kings & according to Talmud Bavli Sanhedrin 22a's list of saintly Jewish women is represented by the letter Quf. During the reign on King Yoshiyahu/Josiah, the Kohen Gadol/High Priest (read Great G@d-Helper), discovered a Torah scroll opened to the section telling what terrible curses will befall the Jewish People if we didn't keep our side of the brit/covenant with G@d. He was, apparently, not familiar with this, so he & the king's own scribe brought it to Chulda to be authenticated. The story goes that they brought it to her because they were hoping that a female prophet would render a more compassionate directive than your run-of-the-mill male prophet, but another story claims that she was in fact a soferet, therefore was empowered to say whether or not this scroll was the first one ever written by Moshe Rabbeynu. She said it was, & that the kingdom was in deep doo-doo. However, she promised that since the king had immediately tried to right all the wrongs being done in the Land on discovering the scroll, that they wouldn't be overrun by their neighbours until after he had passed away, so he didn't have to watch the fall of Israel.

Ha-Soferet - see above link - appears both in the Book of Ezra & Nechemiyah. Her descendants are listed as some of those who returned to the Land from Babylonia with Ezra the Scribe. According to Rashi, Ibn Ezra & the like, she was a faithful servant of King Solomon, his copyist & not Jewish. Neither were her descendants. They were part of the ger toshav community, Gentiles who lived among us in the Land & who never converted. All they had to do was keep the 7 Noachide Laws.
Savina Teubal writes at great length in Sarah the Priestess: the First Matriarch of the Book of Genesis that female scribes were relatively common in that part of the world...

Rebbetzin Dulcie of Worms (12th C c.e.) was married to Rabbi Eliezer ben Yehudah, one of our greatest Ashkenazi commentators. She ran a business to support the whole family, made candles for their synagogue, lead women's services, translated religious books & prayers into the vernacular so as to further educate the women of her community & repaired Sifrei Torah at least by patching & sewing them. She & her daughters Belet & Chanah were murdered by two Soldiers of the Cross during the crusades.

Paula Bat Avraham Anavim of Rome (13th C c.e.) was from an old scribal family & her father acted as her agent.

Miriam bat Benayahu of San'a - see above link - (14th C c.e.), also from a scribal family in the Yemen, worked alongside her brothers Daveed & Yosef with their father to create over 400 volumes. Many of those books survived & now live in the Israel Museum of Jerusalem. One of the scrolls that Miriam wrote could well have been a Sefer Torah. The jury is still out. Kind of. I'm debating with them.

Chanah bat Menachem Zion of Cologne - see above link - (14th C c.e.) copied books of legal code & her work was endorsed by Meir of Rothenburg & R' Peretz.

Frommet of Arwyller (15th C c.e.) - I'm still learning about her. haven't turn up much yet but will persist. Her story deserves to be told.

Sarah bat Rav David Oppenheim of Prague (18th C c.e.) wrote a Megillat Esther which her father, the Av Bet Din, considered kosher, but referred the official legal decision to be made by a colleague so as to avoid the conflict of interest. He declared it unfit because of her gender.

The mother of Azariyah of Tawuq (Daquq) was well known as "the female copyist" in Iraq, but I don't have a time period for her. But whenever her son is mentioned in literature, he is referred to as his mother's son while there is nary a word mentioned about his father.

Random Polish sofrot - yes, I actually learned this from Jen back in December (?). Apparently there was a Polish Sefer Torah factory where women were employed to write the Sifrei Torah a couple of hundred years ago & consequently, most Orthodox synagogues in London England will not use Torahs of Polish origin lest they are woman-written.

...& there were others...

So there we go. The establishment of a female sofrut tradition is beginning, B"H.
BTW, some of these links need fixing, so I'll reserve the right to do that later...

Later this afternoon I went to a student presentation on Judaism & ecology. It was fab.

Met a Jew from Iran after Havdalah, so there was much talk about Islam, Palestinians & related culture, language & politics.

Shavu'ah tov!

[Addendum: in between Ha-Soferet & Rebbetzin Dulcie of Worms, I forgot to include this rebbetzin soferet who I have been trying to learn more about, but have been as yet unsuccessful.]


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10 Comments:

Blogger Regina Clare Jane said...

Thanks, Aviel- the amount of history in all aspects of Judaism is mind-blowing to me. I was so happy to read about these women who struggled to build bridges and pave roads for the rest of us. I was familiar with Rebbetzin Dulcie of Worms from a book called 'The Recieving" by Rabbi Tirazah Firestone. Excellent book...

1:22 PM  
Blogger Soferet said...

בס"ד
Yes, it's a pretty good read...

6:50 PM  
Anonymous Carly said...

Have you read "Sisters at Sinai" by R. Jill Hammer? She's written a beautiful midrash about Chuldah and her story. The book also has new midrashim on many of the women that you mention.

7:34 AM  
Blogger Soferet said...

בס"ד
Hi there, Carly - & brakhah ha-ba'a.

You know what? I've had the priviledge of meeting R' Jill on a few occasions & quite like her, but I have never read this book. It's on my list (the long one %D). I'll have a look for it & be in contact with her - since we have overlapping interests it would be great to hve a conversation.

Have you read R' Gershon Winkler's "The Magic of the Ordinary" or David Aaron's "The Spell of the Sensuous"? I find you blog very interesting, BTW, & thought I'd tell you that I was born on Mabon AND Rosh HaShanah :)

9:15 AM  
Anonymous Carly said...

I have indeed read Gershon Winkler's book, but I had not heard of David Aarons. Thanks for the tip. I'll add it to my long list! ;)

I'm an avid reader of your blog, but I usually read it on my palm pilot, so I don't often think to comment!

6:37 AM  
Blogger Soferet said...

בס"ד
David Aaron's book is a work of informal Jewish Pantheism - or should I say Chassidut ;) - which "gets you back to The Garden", as it were. Enjoy!

BTW, there was a large group of Jewitches who gathered at the 2003 ALEPH Kallah in Bellingham, including people like Holly Shere & who have since been named Batei Qol.

Shabbat Shalom!

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Carly said...

Jewish Pantheism? Now I have to read this book. I am the leader of a group which is primarily pantheistic -- I make them same "panentheistic" for me!

I actually know of Holly. I recently applied to the Kohenet Institute and hope to be a part of the first class of Kohenetot. I'd considered attending Kallah, but just wasn't able to do so.

Shabbat Shalom!

5:55 PM  
Blogger Soferet said...

בס"ד
Holly is totally cool & does tremedous work with Jewish women's ritual :)

As far as the pantheism/Chasidut reference, when I wrote that I was thinking specifically of the chapter entitled "Sha'ar Ha-Yichud Ve-Ha-Emunah" (the Gate of Unity & Faith) in Tanya. It goes like this:

"...the Ari, of blessed memory,...said that even in completely inanimate matter, such as stones or earth or water, there is a soul & spiritual life-force - that is, the enclothing of the "Letters of Speech" of the Ten Utterances which give life & existence to inanimate matter that it might arise out of the naught & nothingness which preceeded the Six Days of Creation...

8:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey, I don't get it. why are the people your writing a torah for saying it's the first one written by a woman when it probably isn't?

11:09 PM  
Blogger Soferet said...

בס"ד
I don't know why, Anon, sorry. All I can say for myself is that I have never made that claim & I'm not responsible for any of their claims or PR.

11:12 PM  

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