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.

Friday, March 31, 2006


2 Nisan

I read this in a Westender Sarah Silverman interview as I waited to fly east for my latest teaching tour:

"My guess is that because we were all girls, there was no sense of any difference between the sexes, in that we weren't defined by any male peers in our household, so we defined ourselves freely."

This makes a lot of sense to me. I'm the youngest of 5 girls. I also went to an all-girls school from grade 6 on. There are definite advantages for girls when we are allowed to form an all-female social/peer group, particularly during adolescence when most of us get pulled off centre by the mere presence of males. Don't get me wrong, I love men, but girls need to learn how to grow into women who aren't threatened by each other's accomplishments & who have no desire to sabotage women's lives through competition or indirect aggression (the "other woman", for example). Strengthen the sisterhood!

Shabbat shalom!

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Thursday, March 30, 2006


Rosh Chodesh Nisan

This week's Parsha blog is over here at Radical Torah.

Chodesh tov! May everyone who reads this see a miracle this month!

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Rosh Chodesh Nisan

I think I met Tzadqi'el today. Or some other angel. Or Eliyahu Ha-Navi. I don't know.

Tzadqi'el is the angel of charity & justice, tzedeq meaning both those things in Hebrew. In our legends, angels or Elijah the Prophet is said to appear to people periodically to wake them up, test them, help them.

I was checking Torahs today at Beth Israel. There I was sitting at my iBook plunking away at the keyboard, totally hyperfocused on the report I was writing. A Sefer Torah lay next to me on the table. Suddenly, I sat bolt upright & spun around, only to find a very Orthodoxly dressed man - all in grey - walking up toward me. I was startled & put my hand to my chest, but I smiled. He smiled & apologized. It was ok.

"I'm from Israel!" he announced through his huge snowy beard, his black eyes sparkling.
"Oh, well, barukh ha-ba" I replied.

He came over, asking me in Hebrew if I spoke Hebrew & wondering what I was up to. I told him & he wanted to know how I learned. I explained & he seemed pleasantly surprised.

He was a shaliach for a charity organization, collecting money to help poor families in Israel make ends meet, on a worldwide trip. He'd just wandered into the synagogue & was hoping to meet the rabbi to ask for a donation. I offered to give him whatever I had in my wallet & he was very appreciative.

I had 2 quarters & no bills, so he suggested a cheque. It was then he asked for $150, because that's how much it took, on average, to feed one of the families relying on this charity for one week. I nearly choked, but tried to keep it to myself. I didn't want to seem ungracious. It's just that I live from hand to mouth, sofrut being a very modestly paid profession. On top of that, many of my clients don't pay me on time, which brings me tremendous stress. & here we are at the end of the month & I was only going to be able to pay the rent this week because of the work I was doing right then.

I explained this to him, but I felt kind of embarrassed about it. I mean, these people don't have enough to eat & they have children & here I was telling him that I couldn't afford to give him a donation so high. I offered $75, which is WAY more than I normally give in one shot. Normally I ask people begging outside stores if I can buy them food when I go in. & there's a blind girl who sits outside my bank who I try to help when I'm more flush. But that's just a few dollars worth here & there, it's not 150 bucks right before the rent & other bills are due. Like anyone, I have to keep my financial committments. He was very gentle, "How much you give," he gestured toward Heaven, "is for you."

I started trying to calculate what 20% of today's earnings would be, but I can't do math in my head when I'm tense.
"I know that all parnasa (financial support) comes from G@d, & I believe that everything we give to others Ha-Shem brings back to us. But having the emunah (faith) is so hard sometimes." He nodded. I must have sounded very strained, because he looked compassionately at me & smiled again, "ok, 100?"

I wrote a cheque for $100. He thanked me & gave me a tax-deductible receipt.
"What's your name?" I asked.
"Yehudah Shemesh."
I smiled broadly, because that means "Jew Sun" :D
What a great name!

"Are you married?" he asked
My eyes welled with tears. "We're separated."
He gave me a very generous blessing, which I will keep secret.
Then like a dream he & his smile disappeared as silently as they had come.

Giving charity is vitally important to society, whether we give of our time, our money, or our other resources. The point of it is not to drain us, but to keep our hearts open so that the flow of compassion comes through; so we can be a holy conduit for G@d. That's why it's a commandment.

In Judaism, everyone is required to give charity, even the poor. That keeps the movement of support going & our taking responsibility for each other alive.

& I was thinking: if my faith really was as strong as I wished it were, I would have just given him $150 & trusted that another cheque from a client would come in the mail tomorrow. Because G@d controls these things. But I didn't. & I recognized that this was a big stretch for me & that was ok. I had the opportunity to make a leap of faith today. But I didn't leap, I just jumped a little. To be honest, I'm still feeling a little guilty tonight, but it's mostly just because I hope one day I can be succesful enough to do this without pain. But I also recognize that this is a place where my faith is weaker than I would like: intellectually, I believe what I told this kind stranger today, but my heart felt too much fear & not enough emunah to let go & just give 100%. Instead, I gave only 66%. Which means that when I am in need, I might only get 66%. G@d willing, the Holy One will step in & compassionately provide the remaining 33%.

Turns out, I'll have about $30 left over after the rent is paid, so it's all good. Thank G@d.
& thank G@d also for this smiling stanger, Tzadqi'el, Eliyahu, Yehudah Shemesh, whoever he is; he did me the favour of raising my conciousness today & giving me the opportunity to do a good deed for others while I stretched a little past my own fears into deepening faith.

Addendum, March 30th:
Guess what? two cheques came in the mail this morning! That'll teach me! :D
I looked online for this charity hoping I could put the remaining $50 on my credit card, but no luck. Instead, I have decided to give blood when I return home from the teaching tour I'm about to go on. G@d is good & does good.

Addendum, April 7th:
I returned home today to find an envelope stuffed under the door containing 5 crisp $20 bills! The front of the envelope read in Hebrew: le-kavod: Aviel Shabat shalom - chag same'ach, "With respect: Aviel a peaceful Sabbath - joyful holiday". I have no idea what generous person managed to get into my building to pass me this gift & I will make no effort to find out. Anonymity is directly related to the highest levels of charity. May G@d bless the work of their hands. Shabbat shalom.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006


29 Adar I was gazing out the window of Beans this morning sipping my warm brew & listening to yet another unidentifiable female voice yearning for "the other" - & what struck me is that so often, "the other" we yearn for is ourselves.

It's sensual & it's hungry.

& this got me thinking again about Shekhinah. This day of full solar eclipse. Impending Rosh Chodesh Nisan.

We first see Her around 220 c.e. in the Mishnah, where Her name is interchangeable with Y-H-V-H & El@him to identify G@d.

Several hundred years later, the Kabbalah has gendered & sexualized Her in a way to make Her G@d's wife/lover or daughter. A "female" whose identity exists because of her attachment to a "male". But aren't we talking about G@d here? Isn't G@d indivisible? Expansive?

A false hierarchy had been built into the spiritual to reflect social norms of the physical, thus limiting our concept & connexion to Shekhinah.

Now don't get me wrong, I appreciate the psycho-sexual imagery in many Kabbalistic texts as that is a real part of every adult's life & it's a valid way of expressing Divinity in our experience. Cleanliness isn't next to G@dliness, Eros is. But femaleness - & Shekhinah - is consistently resigned to the passive, reflective, helpless stereotype that is part of what women are still fighting today.

In a word, this is victimhood.

Can somebody please tell me what is so passive about pregnancy or giving birth?

B'reyshit/Genesis 1:2 tells us that, "'ach El@him merachefet al-p'nei ha-mayim." "...& the spirit/breath/wind (f) of G@d (the plural S/He) hovered (f) over the face of the waters." The verb & the noun are both female in this pasuq/verse & the Name of G@d here used is androgynous, like the first human was. Male & female He created them (verse 27). In the same pereq/chapter G@d appears as female, male & both.

Now, by jotting down these ideas, I am not attempting to negate the softness, the receptivity, or the compassion we find in femaleness. Far from it. I just don't like to see our nature & by extention that of the feminine face of G@d relegated to a role, given ultimate boundaries. Especially when we do not choose those boundaries.

I don't believe that either the feminine or the masculine archetypes are meant to stand wholly independent of each other; however they need not be defined by the other. We can honour uniqueness without depreciating any part of Creation's whole. G@d's unity.

If we stop stereotyping G@d as exclusively male, we will undermine sexism.

The Kabbalists' idea is that the Universe was created by G@d contracting G@dself to make room for us, like a pregnant body; they call it tzimtzum, concentration or condensation. A compassionate act (womb = rechem; compassion = rachamim) which means we are entirely made up of G@d, being supported & surrounded.

G@d is the Eym Ha-m'rachemet, Compassionate Mother. How is this not female?

Our tradition teaches us that each created being is a limb of the Shekhinah. Well, each of these beings also has at least one X chromosone.

We need some serious integration here, sisters!

Let's help bring Mosiach-consciousness by empowering the feminine without diminishing the masculine. Build a bridge between Eyn Sof - the Infinite or "nothing that is everything" - & Eyn Sof Or, the Infinite Light or "nothing that is something".

G@d is One.

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Monday, March 27, 2006


27 Adar

This morning I learned with R' David Mivasair & R' Schachar Orenstein Sefer B'nai Yisachar, a book of Kabbalah (not the Madonna kind) by R' Tzvi Elimelekh Dinov.

We read about the upcoming month of Nisan - the month of miracles - & how it is likened to a feminine (or receptive) skull. Better: an open mind. Yeah. Much better.

Speech changes the prevailing reality, he writes. Yetziyat Mitzrayim, the Exodus from Egypt, which began with the birth of Moshe Rabbeynu, didn't start until we called out to G@d.

When G@d is silent, we are afraid; when G@d speaks, justice is done.

R' Dinov also took the word "Pesach" (Passover) & divided it into two: Peh Sach. A mouth which speaks. Which is the primary mitzvah of the Pesach seder, to tell the story of our exodus, our birth as the people Israel.

He also wrote that sicha, or conversation, is linked with regel yamin, the right leg, & with skipping or leaping, which is what legs do & what pesach means: literally, that G@d harmlessly skipped or passed over our homes. Ba'al Peh.

Interestingly, the gematria for "Pesach" is identical to that of "Netzach" (often translated as "victory" or "perseverance"), the sphere of the right leg on the Tree of Life. 148 is their number.

In my own research later today I discovered that the number 148 also is shared with the Holy Name (please don't say this out loud) Ehiyeh Yah YHVH El@him. & with the B'nai El@him, which are the angels of Hod (glory or splendour) - the sphere opposite Netzach on the tree. Finally, the number 148 also represents moznayim, the scales of justice, & the modern Hebrew word for the astrological sign Libra.

It was at this point in my notes that I was inspired to write, "I reject a passive Feminine". It was all this Kabbalah talk. & a revelation to me, thank G@d.

The text went on to talk of the restoration after our exile. He used the metaphor of a sheep being sheared to express galut/exile. That we're afraid of galut because we aren't in control. We're afraid it will kill us. But it's just the sheep being shorn - not slaughtered - so do not fear. G@d had this all planned out from the beginning, even before the first word of the Torah. Soon we will be free, without our wool, but free nonetheless.

"So the next time something terrible happens to you, don't let it feel like it's the's just a bad haircut." Paraphrased from R' David.

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Sunday, March 26, 2006


27 Adar

I received an e-mail recently from a stranger asking whether I write (sofrut) while menstruating. The answer is no. I halt writing each month & then I go to miqveh before I resume work on Sifrei Torah, mezuzot & the like. Please don't scoff at me & tell me I'm not really a feminist because I do this, because it is a choice I made based on rabbinic guidance & my own sense of what's right & wrong.
Besides, it gives me time each month to do promotional work & drum up new gigs! & this is a priority, because to be honest, speaking & teaching pays better than sofrut :)
That's probably because in our tradition, we are told to make sure we under-pay scribes. Because if sofrim get rich, they'll stop working, we are told, & then what will happen?

So I was sitting in Pini's today, the cholov yisroel pizzeria in my neighbourhood, doing research - yes, they have WiFi! It's awesome! I have internet at home, but it's great to sit in Java Hut or Beans or Esquires with a coffee or at Pini's with a bit of nosh & do work there. It gets me out of the house & into the 'hood. Anyway, I was checking out Canadian Jews (found myself on Wiki) when I came across the weirdest blog. I'm not sure that it's actually authored by 80's pop heartthrob (& Canadian Jew) Corey Hart, but if it isn't, he should probably sue them, even though it's funny: Corey Hart Drives a Fiero.

I picked up some Pesach necessities - one cool thing I found was a capped toothbrush with kosher for passover toothpaste inside the handle! So cool! & I can use it after Pesach for travel!

I had a slice of pizza while I sat & worked, which was awesome, but I often feel conspicuous for not doing netilat yadayim (ritual hand washing) & making motzie (blessing on bread) when I eat pizza in public, because some rabbis say you shouldn't & others say it's questionable.

I have pizza angst.

I also went through a book I took out from the library, Jerusalem & the Holy Land, to get me ready for my sacred pilgrimage.

This evening I davened Arvit (evening prayers) at Beth HaMidrash, the Sephardi shul in the 'hood. It was very peaceful, which is good, as the ru'ach nevu'ah (spirit of prophecy) is said to visit at this time. We want to be able to hear it, don't we?

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Saturday, March 25, 2006


26 Adar

It's official: I'm heading to Yerushalayim!

For all you Jew-bloggers in The Land, e-mail me if you want to meet up...

Barukh Ha-Shem, barukh Yah!
Barukh Atah Ad@nai, El@heynu melekh ha-olam, ha-tov ve-ha-meytiv.
Blessed are You, my Lord, our G@d, ruler over time & space, Who is good & does good.

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Friday, March 24, 2006


24 Adar

The original painting of this is now sold, B"H, but prints are still available.

The original of this painting is looking for a home, the last in the B'reyshit (Genesis) Series, which also includes this piece.

This Shabbes is Shabbat Ha-Chodesh, the Sabbath before the New Moon of the Jewish month Nisan. Nisan is the first month, a month of miracles - neys - as its name indicates. As we leave the old month of Adar next week, our month of pure joy, may we leap from joy to miracles.

The freedom of hostages released in Iraq. The drawing of passengers from the icy waters of a ferry disaster. Women who stuggle to finally escape marriages to men who treat them badly.

May The Holy One bless us with the miracle of new beginnings, a Genesis of sorts, & may they be solid, integral, kosher.
For the sake of Heaven.

Shabbat Shalom

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Thursday, March 23, 2006


24 Adar

Shalom rav - a great peace - to everyone!

Last summer I showed up, rather worse for wear after a cross-continental road trip in a tiny old car, at the 11th annual ALEPH Kallah this time held in Pennsylvania. As I wandered the common areas scanning for faces I only got to see every 2 years, I came upon a rabbi I knew. He was very glad to see me, & had the consciousness & respect to ask before he laid a hand on me, "Hey, Reb Aviel, do you shake? I don't even know."
I moved in. "I do", I whispered, "I just don't blog about it."

Smiling, we shook hands.

In the travels of our lives, if you & I ever meet & you happen to be male, please don't hug me. Even if you're gay. I'm sorry - it's not you, it's me; it's just that I don't hug strange men.

I am deeply grateful to be so warmly received by such a great many people: those who excitedly call out "Hey, Soferet! It's the Soferet!" out to me on the streets of Manhattan, those who come to events I'm hosting bearing gifts for me, & those who want to give me a big hug when we are introduced. So please don't get me wrong - I'm friendly, & I like hugs, only from women.

But if you offer your hand, I'll shake it. So watch out :)

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006


23 Adar

When "Fiddler on the Roof" came out in 1971, I was a little girl wandering around in the Fiesta, my Dad's movie theatre in Nanaimo. I watched that movie literally hundreds of times. After all, I wasn't in school yet, so why not watch a film about Jews of the Pale at the turn of the century over & over & over again?
Thanks to the brilliant, humanist directing of Norman Jewison & Chaim Topol being the true embodiment of Tevye the milkman, I am now a frum yid & a soferet to boot.

Thanks, guys :D

I memorized the whole movie & all of it's songs. I danced to it & acted it out. I loved Tevye. & I wanted to be like him when I grew up.
So imagine my surprise when I found this delightful internet quiz & discovered that I did not, in fact, grow up to be Tevye:

I am Chava!

Take the Fiddler on the Roof quiz at

Well, I *am* daughter #3 (of my mother's - #4 of my father's). & I admit to being a bit of a rebel. & I do read an awful lot. & not so great at folding fitted sheets. But other than that, I'm not so much like her, I didn't think. I'm obviously way too serious like her, too :b
Not to be outdone, I took it again, this time adopting the male gender. Who am I?

(drum roll...)

I am Tevye!

Take the Fiddler on the Roof quiz at

YAY! I can die happy now :D

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006


21 Adar

"Avinu Malkeynu" copyright A. Barclay. Lightfast inks & watercolours on acid-free watercolour paper. Text from
"Siddur Sim Shalom".

One of the requests made of G@d in the above piece is there there never be a "machloket" or disagreement between husband & wife. A lovely wish. May Ha-Shem grant us all the ability to resolve our disagreements with respect, ease & in the right time.

As for me, it turns out that my e-mail is once again acting frrreaky. In January my 'puter imploded & I lost a ton of unfiled messages in my Mail program. In February I got it kind of working, but have not recovered any of the lost e-mails. Now I find out that various people with hotmail accounts, accounts with a particular shul in Winnipeg & even messages from my own Mum are not getting through.
This is heavy badness. I need to communicate with family, friends & clients without publishing my phone number on the internet. So if you've tried to connect with me & it's been returned or you just haven't heard from me, please keep trying or leave me a comment here (just name & one-word subject, please - nothing explicit).

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Monday, March 20, 2006


20 Adar

I've added many more pictures of my work to the right-hand side-bar & increased the size & detail of several images as well, so please click away at them & at the Flickr pix as you wish. If you do, you'll also get to read old posts I wrote on various Parshiyot, Kabbalah & many sofrut experiences I've enjoyed.

BTW, if you're usign Explorer, my blog doesn't look the way it should. None of the Hebrew appears & the right-hand side-bars are awaaaaaaaaaaaay down at the bottom - so look there.

I was sickened to find out today that Barya & Dinah Rayzel Schacter-Shalomi, who are expecting their first child, as well as their guest Mobius narrowly escaped death or injury, thank G@d, when a home made bomb attached to their home failed to detonate over Shabbes. It's posted here.

Blessed is G@d who is good & who does good.

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Sunday, March 19, 2006


19 Adar

I had what I think is a chiddush (new idea) over Shabbat: the reason why Asherah sticks & trees were considered avodah zarah ("strange work" or idol worship) & why they needed to be destroyed is not because they represented a different small-d deity competing with G@d, but because this was meant to be representative of the feminine aspect of G@d separated out & the whole purpose of Creation & for Tiqun Olam is to re-unite the masculine & feminine aspects of G@d.

We weren't allowed to plant trees in the Beit Ha-Miqdash (Temple) courtyard because they represented Asherah. Not that all female energy is considered "bad" in Judaism, but because to put the feminine there - outside - would imply that only the masculine was in the Qodesh Qodashim (Holy of Holies), that only the male aspect was behind the curtain - inside. But the Kruvim (statues atop the lid of the Ark) themselves show us that there was both male & female in the most sacred physical space that G@d occupies, & that they embraced.

So it's not that appreciating of the feminine is wrong or that femaleness is lesser or that recognizing that G@d is half female is idol worship - indeed, the undermining of the Feminine is a chilul Ha-Shem (diminishment of G@d's Presence in the world) & to claim that G@d is exclusively masculine is also. It's that any human separation of G@d's unification is harmful to not only that person's soul, but to all of Creation. Either gender acknowledged in a vacuum is a misrepresentation of Divinity. The direction of the Universal flow is toward total yechidut - unification.

But the way things have been translated & interpreted through the generations, well, this is how it comes across. It's damaged all the Abrahamic faiths. Time to heal that & thereby move a little closer to a planet of shalom.

"Ve-ne'emar ve-hayah Ad@nai le-melekh al kol ha-aretz, be-yom ha-hu yihiyeh Ad@nai echad u-shemo echad."
"& it is said my Lord will be King over all the world, & on that day my Lord will be One & his name One."
- Zechariah 14:9

note: has NO entry for Shekhinah! Boo!

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Saturday, March 18, 2006


19 Adar

Shalom rav - a great peace - to everyone!

I spent part of Shabbes at the home of some very dear friends & it was perfectly lovely, barukh ha-Shem. I was the only Orthodox Jew there, as I tend to spread myself over denominations like peanut butter :)

After a wonderful meal followed by bentsching (singing the grace after meals), one of the guests began to compare "the way the Orthodox bentsch" rather unfavourably to how we had just thanked G@d for our bounteous Shabbes dinner. "The Orthodox" speed-mumble their prayers with no joy or conscious intention, "The Orthodox" don't educate their women, "The Orthodox" don't enjoy communal fellowship like us, "The Orthodox" this & "The Orthodox" that", hello? I'm sitting right here!

To their credit, our hosts attempted to direct the conversation: "When you speak about Orthodoxy, you're referring to your grandfather..."
"...& not, for example, to me." I added.
"That's right - she's Orthodox." another chimed in.
At that point my mind went elsewhere, not unlike what Dustin Hoffman's character's mind did in The Graduate.

I thought about the countless examples I could give of the joy, fellowship, & commitment to G@d I have experienced in Orthodox circles, but I didn't. Partly because I would have come off defensive & partly because I didn't want to embarrass the speaker. Not in the spirit of Shabbes...& besides it's just so tedious to have to listen to Jews criticize each other behind our backs (yawn)

I believe one of the ways we can express our gratitude for the brit (covenant) of Shabbat is to not practice sinat chinam (causeless hatred) towards out fellow Jews, regardless of our opinions on their choices.

I wanted to get out of there, so I did. There's no place like home...
...Auntie Em! Auntie Em! There were flying monkeys!

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Friday, March 17, 2006


17 Adar


Qeset Ha-Sofer se'if bet:bet pg. yud-gimel states (again, my loose translation & side comments):

The skins must be processed lishma [for the sake of Heaven] this means that when you put them into the lime, which is the beginning the processing, you say "these skins I am processing for the sake of Sefer Torah & that is why I am putting them into the lime" & them you put them immediately into the lime.

The lime creates an altered ph balance - kills bacteria, reduces the acid, loosens the hairs, makes a very alkaline environment. In Talmudic times they used a solution which was made acidic by dog dung. That's why the wife of a tanner could be granted a get & have her ketubah paid to her, if she couldn't stand his reek. Tanneries were located out of town & downwind in those times.

Question that came up in my telephone chevruta: Doesn't fleshing deserve to be considered as part of the process? Shouldn't the membrane & fat & flesh that you have to scrape away at the beginning of the tanning process be done lishma? Is this not the beginning of raising these holy sparks? Why not state "Hineyeni ani me'aberet et ha-or ha-zeh le-sheym kedushat Sefer Torah"?

& since the beginning of the processing is lishma, then also the work that comes after like smoothing, flattening/stretching them [the skins] & scraping/sanding them - all of them after the beginning of the processing are dragged along with it, [ie they follow that initial statement of intent & they don't necessarily require their own statement of intention]. In any case it's right that with all of there acts subsequent that you say that you're performing them lishma at the beginning when you put the skins in the water so they'll be kosher for processing you also say that you're putting them in lishma, so it's proper that you speak your intent over each step of the way, bidieyved [after the fact] as long as you did it at the very beginning then that's still acceptable. But if you didn't put in the lime lishma & even if all the rest of the processing was done lishma, it's not mutar - it's not permitted. You can't use them for this work.

This is a lovely link about gevil, which is not qlaf (parchment), but another kind of processed skin that some rule is the only kosher way to go. Click on the links there, too - it's really cool! & the wallpaper is really pretty, too!

For a pic of a large childbirth amulet I wrote on qlaf, look here.

To see me holding up a blank yeri'ah, a sheet, of Sefer Torah qlaf to a glass brick window, go here.

& click here for an image of lamplight streaming through blank Megilat Esther parchment.

Have a gorgeous Shabbes Qodesh!

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Thursday, March 16, 2006


16 Adar

Today's post is my scribal commentary on the Parsha, which is over at Radical Torah. So go there. But not before you comment on this pretty picture:
"Grid Amulet" copyright A. Barclay. Ink on paper.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006


15 Adar - Shushan Purim

Ok, after my cheery Purim posts I'm going on a rant: I am filled with moral indignation at these late-night ads on TV for anonymous telephone hook-ups with strange girls. One after another, scantily-clad university-age women croon things like, "I never say no" & "I'll give you what you want, how you want it". Yet another suicide blonde purrs, "It isn't cheating if you do it on the phone". The words most repeated in these ads are "fun", "easy", "hot" & "free".

Never underestimate the power of a young girl ripping off her beer-soaked t-shirt, helping her escape the tyranny of self-respect. Women are not liberated or empowered by lifting up our shirts on a "Girls Gone Wild" video. We are degraded, because for those few moments our sole presence/purpose is to entertain men on the most base level. & besides, it trivializes sex.

Trivializing sex does not make you more powerful than sex or put you in control of sex. Don't fool yourself. People like to think they've evolved past the primal urges of our bodies, but the best anyone can hope for is to cultivate appropriate boundaries for these G@d-given, super-powerful sacred drives.

What happened to Women's Lib? Females of the world, please: we need to support the sisterhood by treating ourselves & each other respectfully. That means staying away from each other's men (or women, for that matter), behave modestly, don't be jealous & don't diss...

A good friend of mine was once telling me of her experiences at Wreck Beach - no link here, as it's Vancouver's most notorious clothing-optional area. She explained to me that it was "really neat" because since everyone was nude, it was like it made everyone's body asexual. She went on to say that group nakedness made people's genitals "nothing special". That everything was depersonalized. I thought that was really interesting. Never having gone to a nude beach (on purpose, that is - I'll write about my accidental visits another time!), I was fascinated to hear what she had to say. But I was left with questions: is it good for people's physical manifestation of their most holy potential to be rendered "nothing special"? Is that an improvement? Is it what we want for our bodies, our most private parts?

I agree with Billy Crystal's rant in When Harry Met Sally:

Harry: You realize of course that we could never be friends.
Sally: Why not?
Harry: What I'm saying is - and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form - is that men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.
Sally: That's not true. I have a number of men friends and there is no sex involved.
Harry: No you don't.
Sally: Yes I do.
Harry: No you don't.
Sally: Yes I do.
Harry: You only think you do.
Sally: You say I'm having sex with these men without my knowledge?
Harry: No, what I'm saying is they all WANT to have sex with you.
Sally: They do not.
Harry: Do too.
Sally: They do not.
Harry: Do too.
Sally: How do you know?
Harry: Because no man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.
Sally: So, you're saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?
Harry: No. You pretty much want to nail 'em too.
Sally: What if THEY don't want to have sex with YOU?
Harry: Doesn't matter because the sex thing is already out there so the friendship is ultimately doomed and that is the end of the story.
Sally: Well, I guess we're not going to be friends then.
Harry: I guess not.
Sally: That's too bad. You were the only person I knew in New York.

That's the FULL-FRONTAL TRUTH for you. The Torah commands us, in Parshat Mishpatim, Exodus/Sh'mot 23:7: “M’dvar sheqer tirchak ” to stay far away from a lie. This mitzvah is phrased much differently than the normally expected “Thou shall not lie.” Why did G@d use such words?  Rabbi David Ben Solomon Segal (the TaZ), in his Sefer Divrei Dovid says that we must stay far away from a lie because sometimes when you are telling the truth but you do so in a way which misleads, an untruth may come out of it. You are not allowed to deceive in subtle ways. & engaging in an emotionally intimate relationship to a depth that either interferes with your primary partnership or otherwise inspires inappropriate attraction for you to taste is a form of deception. Deception of self & deception of others. & that's when hearts get broken. I don't think that straight women & men can "just be close friends" without sex tapping at least one of you on the shoulder at some point. Married people can be particularly vulnerable to the sexual pull toward their opposite-sex friends, because the sad truth is that a spouse can seldom compete with someone new & strange. Someone whose expectations are freer & lower than those of a spouse.

Suffragettes, ladies of the Temperance movement & other such early Feminists believed in the value of modesty & preservation of the family unit. It's actually a valid Feminist choice to not have close friends of the opposite sex if at least one of you are married & you are both straight. Common knowledge & human experience dictates that it's really only a matter of time before you'll find yourself in a compromising situation. To risk this is tediously naive at best. So you might want to ask yourself what's really going on if you spend time with only one half of a couple if that half is the one sexually compatible with you...& whether you're 100% positive that your friend's beloved is really ok with this...or if s/he even knows...

The word for marriage in Hebrew is "qidushin", which means "holy, because exclusive". Sanctified. Keep your partnership holy by keeping its soft underbelly only for the two of you. Boundaries aren't limiting - they're liberating!

So the next time you poo-poo Hilkhot negi'ah or yichud (the laws of touching & being secluded), remember they are wiser than you think you are & are there to protect us all from hurting ourselves & others. So keep your clothes on, skip the physical contact & reserve your boundary-pushing sexuality for your spouse. Remember that adultery, physical or emotional, doesn't come with seat belts or airbags - & bring the Shekhinah home from exile by honouring your joint intimacy.

"Rosh Chodesh - New Moon" copyright A. Barclay. Liquitex on handmade paper.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006


15 Adar - Purim!

This year my fast went pretty well, thank G@d, & I headed to synagogue dressed in my uniform from the private school I went to for 7 years in Victoria. Not bad that it fits, considering my 20th high school reunion is coming up in to follow!

Originally I was going to go as The Witch of Endor (her real Hebrew name is "Ba'alat Ov" - a medium - from "Eyn Dor" - which means "fountain of generation" Freudian!) - I got this idea from IMing with Alisha - but then I caved & put on my kilt, tie & knee-socks. The shortest skirt I've worn in years, but it still conforms to the minimum length standards from modest religious dress.

We had another simultaneous women's & men's reading, & this year the rabbi automatically handed the scroll that I wrote over to us. We drew the accordion wall & chanted our mitzvah away...

Then we got into the food, but mostly we drank ourselves silly, finishing off all the Frangelico, Baileys (both hekashered), Finlandia, Etrog liqueur & most of the Crown Royal. We sat in a circle 'til the wee hours, handed out out mishlo'ah manot & laughed our heads off.

Thank G@d for this holiday!

Purim 2005...
On Ta'anit Esther I davened at shul, did tachanun (which I love - the long one) then sat to starve, correcting letters in the last Megilah I wrote (smudgey black male fingerprints from last year) distracted from hunger by my anal-retentiveness. On the way home from shul I picked up some extra break-fast goodies from Pini's, the kosher Pizzeria down the block. I bought special groggers full of candy for Kya & Joel as a prezzie. I also did some Shabat prep as I listened to NPR, as she's staying for the weekend.

For the Megilah reading & party, Joel & I donned each others' wedding clothes. He got laughs - he looks pretty in a dress & veil, but just can't fill one like I can :)
I got laughs too, but dirty looks as well, due to the pants & the tzitzit. One of my good friends, Morey, said, "I didn't recognise you because you were wearing pants!"

Mincha was at shul followed by the Megilah reading, which was cool because the men & women fought over who got to use the Megilat Esther that I wrote. I leyned pereq Yud (chapter 10) as usual, & the blessing. After that came Ma'ariv & FOOD!
Oh, yeah, & we got shikkered ;)

The next day there were just as many costumes, children & noisemakers - & we found out just how good a bartender our new rabbi is! Holy moly those drinks were strong - but very very good :D

Memories of Purim 2004
The Shabbes before Purim I gave a lecture at Shaarey Tefilah, speaking about the Megilah & the laws allowing women to write them; sofrut in general; Shulchan Arukh on diney/laws of writing Megilah in specific. Alissa had all my tools mounted on a board hanging on the wall behind where I stood. This was prepared before Shabbes so I could gesture to them & answer questions without having to handle any muktzeh.

I showed up at shul the night of the Megilah reading dressed as a modest version of Janice from the Muppet Show. All it took was a floppy hat, hugely long fake eyelashes & a little lipstick :D
Joel went as The Gay Agenda. Basically a grim reaper with a rainbow scythe. It was tongue in cheek...
You could totally tell what age group people were from, depending on whether they recognised who I was supposed to be.

This Purim was quite magical, as I sat completing the last pasuq in front of everybody in the synagogue as R' Ross spoke about the long journey involved in my becoming a certified soferet & the satisfaction he felt from having done so much work to help me there. & not just me, but eventually other women.

I sewed the last yer'iah to the rest of the scroll, then stood up & made a short (because we were all starving & even tho' this was my first Megilat Esther, the evening wasn't about me!) speech of gratitude to R' Ross, Singer, our president, Dr. Cliff Ungar, & our board. I also profusely thanked Naomi Voss & Alissa Altman for all the work they did promoting & researching & writing for this Project - they had even staffed a table at the the JOFA conference to spread the word about the groundbreaking work we were doing with women's roles & Halakhah at Shaarey Tefilah.

Then, well, the men took turns reading it & we all stuffed ourselves & got drunk.
The next day the men read from the old Megilah while the women read from mine simultaneously. I chanted chapter 10 & the blessing aftr the reading. Then we went to R' Ross & Emily's for the seudah...R' Ross made us all "machines", his specialty shooter from college, which involves 2 different kinds of liquor & a t-shirt. Delicious! Don't ask.

R' Ross' original article about women writing Megilah is posted in the Edah Journal.

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Monday, March 13, 2006


14 Adar - Erev Purim

An easy fast!

There's an old joke that goes like this: "What is the theme of every Jewish holiday? 'They tried to kill us, we won, now let's eat!'"
This weekend, one of R' Ross Singer's shiurim addressed the idea that we Jews rejoice in the death of those who oppress us - that we are in fact not allowed to do that.

PLEASE, by all means click on the links, because they contain the hebrew text & a *way* better English translation than I have here - & it's just a great site in general :)

Megillat Esther 9:1 - 2, 5

1: Now in the 12th month, which is the month of Adar, on the 13th day of the same, when the King's commandment & his decree drew near to be put in execution, in the day that the enemies of the Jews hoped to have rule over them; whereas it was turned to the contrary, that the Jews had rule over them that hated them.

2: The Jews gathered themselves together in their cities throughout all the provinces of the king Achashverosh, to lay hand on such as sought their hurt; & no man could withstand them; for fear of them was fallen upon all the peoples...

5: & the Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, & with slaughter & destruction, & did what they would unto them that hated them.

Megillat Esther 9:17 - 19

17: On the 13th day of the month Adar, & on the 14th of the same they rested, & made it a day of feasting & gladness.

18: But the Jews that were in Shushan assembled together on the 13th day thereof & on the 14th thereof, & on the 15th day of the same they rested, & made it a day of feasting & gladness.

19: Therefore do the Jews of the villages, that dwell in the unwalled towns, make the 4th day of the month Adar a day of gladness & feasting, & a good day, & of sending portions to one another.

Megillat Esther 9:20 - 23

20: & Mordechai wrote these things, & sent letters unto all the Jews that were in all the provinces of the king Achashverosh, both nigh & far.

21: To enjoin them that hey should keep the 14th day of the month of Adar, & the 15th day of the same, yearly;

22: the days wherein the Jews had rest from their enemies, & the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to gladness, & from mourning into a good day; that they should make them days of feasting & gladness, & of sending portions to one another, & gifts for the poor.

23: & the Jews took upon them to do as they had begun, & as Mordechai had written unto them;

Sefer Devarim/Deuteronomy 16:10 - 14

10: & thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto the LORD thy G@d after the measure of the freewill-offering of thy hand, which thou shalt give, according as the LORD thy G@d blesseth thee.

11: & thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy G@d, thou, & thy son, & thy daughter, & they man-servant, & thy maid-servant, & the Levite that is within thy gates, & the stranger, & the fatherless, & the widow, that are in the midst of thee, in the place which the LORD thy G@d shall choose to cause His name to dwell there.

12: & thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt; & thou shalt observe & do these statues.

13: Thou shalt keep the feast of the Tabernacles seven days, after thou hast gathered in from thy threshing-floor & from thy winepress.

14: & thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou & thy son, & thy daughter, & thy man-servant, & thy maid-servant, & the Levite, & the stranger, & the fatherless, & the widow, that are within thy gates.

Megillat Esther 9:29 - 31

29: Then Esther the queen, the daughter of Abihail, & Mordechai the Jew, wrote down all the acts of power, to confirm this second letter of Purim.

30: & he sent letters unto all the Jews, to the hundred twenty & seven provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, with words of peace & truth;

31: to confirm these days of Purim in their appointed times, according as Mordechai the Jew & Esther the queen had enjoined them, & as they had ordained for themselves & for their seed, the matters of the fastings & their cry.

Also, what did the King & Haman do to celebrate their decision to annihilate all Jewry? They feasted! This was a pretty normal thing to throw a party & indulge. So when we feast, in order to thank G@d for the goodness S/He has provided for us, we are expected to express that gratitude, but not to go so far as to celebrate the death of anyone, even those who would have wished us dead. There is a midrash on when we crossed the Red Sea about how we sang once we were safely on the other side & the Egyptians were drowned. The angels also broke into song, but G@d stopped them saying," can't you see that my creations are being destroyed? The Egyptians did not oppress you, so you have no cause to celebrate, but they oppressed the Israelites for hundreds of years."
These passages clearly illustrate that the important thing is, don't sit down to a seudah (celebratory meal) until *everybody* can sit down to it. This is one of the mitzvahs of Purim.
In a patriarchy, who needs the most help? The people who are not connected to an adult male land-holder. The Levite has no land. The orphan & the widow have no way of supporting themselves. The stranger is outside of the framework of the society as well. Over & over G@d reminds us to take care of others less fortunate, to include them in our social network & loan them our resources. Give them access to everything we enjoy.

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Sunday, March 12, 2006


14 Adar

This appeared on the front page of yesterday's Shabbat Tefilagram:

Zachor: Then and Now

This Shabbat's designation as Shabbat Zachor and its special maftir portion about Amalek call us to remember how the people of Amalek treated us as we left Mitzrayim, how they attacked our vulnerability. We read about these events in part to prepare us for Purim, for our antagonist Haman descends from Amalek.

In the past, under Rabbi Singer's leadership, our community has been outspoken about the situation for Jews in modern-day Iran, and how it eerily parallels the Persia of Mordechai and Esther. In fact, Canadian Jewish News declared Rabbi Singer's consciousness-raising three-day fast as one of the Jewish highlights of the year. In a similar vein this year, I received the following message from Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz, head of the Rabbinical Council of Canada, concerning Iranian President Ahmadinejad and the cunrrent Iranian regime:

- Ahmadinejad was one of the leaders of the Iran Hostage Crisis at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in November 1979.

- Ahmadinejad had a hand in international assassinations, including a 1989 assassination of an exiled Kurdish leader.

- Addressing a cabinet meeting held to discuss the rapidly deteriorating situation at the Tehran Stock Exchange, he told the cabinet that, "If we were to hang two or three persons, the problems with the stock exchange would be solved for ever."

- He is committed to destroying Israel: "Our dear Imam (referring to Ayatollah Khomeini) said that the occupying regime must be wiped off the map, and this was a very wise statement."

- He denies the Holocaust: "They have invented a myth that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions and the prophets. The West has given more significance to the myth of the genocide of the Jews, even more significant than God, religion, and the prophets."

- And now he is working on a nuclear bomb! This man must be stopped. On Purim, March 14th, we will read the Megillah in front of the Iranian embassy to remind this modern-day Haman that we will not stop until he is silenced. Please encourage others around the world to gather in front of Iranian embassies around the world on Purim as well.

Tzom kal - an easy fast - to everyone tomorrow!

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Saturday, March 11, 2006


12 Adar

Judaism is a provocative religion. & thank G@d. The holy Shabbes that ended this evening was one of the most transformative I have experienced in quite some time. Barukh Ha-Shem.

Below is the last 22 lines of Mishlei/Proverbs, sentiments praising the inestimable value of a good woman in one's home. It's called "Ayshet Chayil", "Woman of Valour", after the first 2 words. It is traditionally sung by Jewish husbands to their wives each Friday night as a part of the ritual leading up to dinner, expressing his appreciation for all the good she brings him: food, sex, companionship, being his ezer k'negdo - "helpmate opposite him". Joel wrote a gorgeously touching tune for me to these verses, which inspired me to make the effort to achieve valourous womanhood & wifehood in our home. I made this piece back in...1999. Yeah. It's all lightfast inks on watercolour paper & is about 8" x 10". & it's for sale.


Such a beautiful way to start the Shabbat. & this Shabbat was literally wondrous! First of all, R' Ross Singer was in town, his last stop on a two-week trip across North America applying for jobs as his Jerusalem Fellowship is up this summer. We would all love to have him back here in Vancouver, like, crazy-a lot. But really we all love him & his wife Emily so much that we just want them to be in the right place at the right time for them & their kids. They're all so precious.

The "trouble" with Shabbat is that because I can't write or blog for 25 hours, I can't always recall all the beauty & magic that goes on sufficiently to write about it & really get my experience across here.

All I can really say is that we came together as a community this Friday & Saturday. We jived! Shaarey Tefilah used to be, IMHO, the best place to daven & the best place to learn in the whole Lower Mainland. But due to my own unfortunate personal circumstances & due to the synagogue community having gone through a political implosion, I haven't gone in about 3 months. I've attended other Orthodox shuls instead, but I've really missed "the good old days" at Shaarey Tefilah. It's still my home community & I've decided to start going again, but it hasn't been what it could be. In fact, a few months ago I had to make a "I'm going to make a scene if you don't hand me that Torah" face at one of the men. He wasn't going to give the women the Sefer Torah so we could carry it through our section, which is one of the really important & positive things about the shul. There were only 6 of us, so I guess he didn't think that was enough to give it over, but I insisted. He reluctantly handed it over to me & I carried it high among the women so we could all touch it & then returned it to him at the bimah. I have no idea what the sudden change was about, but you can be sure that as long as I am in the congregation, women will have that much access to the Sefer Torah.

Anyway - excuse the major tangent - last night & today it was like nothing bad had ever happened. The pews were crowded with smiling faces, we stirred up great ru'ach/spirit with our prayer & song - we even danced! We used to dance every Friday night, the women & men in separate circles, the children wherever they pleased. It was such a pure expression of joy, an offering to G@d of gratitude for the Shabbat. But we haven't danced in more than a year & a half. To return to that last night broke my heart, it was so beautiful, & because this is what we used to have & it's gone. I miss it.

I sat at the "rabbi table" for dinner, with R' Schachar & R' Ross & we caught up. Jerusalem & Vancouver are too far apart for good friends to dwell in.

& today, too, the davening was sweet & R' Ross' shiurim - like last night's - were engaging. About integrity with G@d & oneself & one's neighbour. Ethics. Between last night & today I saw & visited with probably 50 people who I have missed & who missed me. It's been intensely emotional to re-connect. Beautiful. Thank G@d.

A small group of us were invited to the home where R' Ross was staying for shalosh seudos, the third meal of Shabbat, where we relaxed & hung out, talked like real human people & had a few l'chayims (just like at dinner & lunch!).

My simple, loving experiences over this Shabbat Zachor - the Shabbat of remembering to blot out Amaleyq - reminds me of Yehezkel/Ezekiel 11:19: "And I will give them a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in them; and I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh". Ultimately, the heart of humanity will not be made tender flesh by the Holy One until Messianic times, but I believe it will not be a sudden act of G@d, more like a journey. The global process has already begun & for me personally, I have on occasion had experiences which soften the stone in my own heart. Today was one of those days. I still have a ways to go, but thank G@d.

Shavu'ah tov - godt voch - a good week...

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Friday, March 10, 2006


10 Adar

Three times today (ok, technically it was yesterday, but whatever), from three different people who don't even know each other, in three different conversations, I was told:
"When G@d closes a door, somewhere he opens a window."
So what if it's a Hollywood nun quote from the Sound of Music? It's true!
& it's today's theme.

As we approach Purim, & in keeping with the theme of intermingled Persian & Jewish history, this gives a historical thumbnail sketch of the area from which Queen Esther & Mordechai sprang.

& this is a sample of my cursive Hebrew calligraphy, which shares some shapes with Arabic:

May we all be blessed with a beautiful Shabbes!

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Thursday, March 09, 2006


9 Adar


Copyright A. Barclay. Mezuzah cases hand carved from red & yellow cedar, gold or silver leafed.

Tonight's (yesterday evening, March 8th) telephone chevruta/study session with my student (very loosely translated) partially covered the following:
Qeset Ha-Sofer se'if Bet siman Alef (pg Yud-Bet in Liqutey Sifrei ST"M):

"It's written that in order that the Torah of Ha-Shem be in your mouth, we drash/explain from this that one does not write Sifrei Torah Tefilin & Mezuzot except on skins of animals & birds that are kosher & the hairs [used in in Tefilin] & the gidin/processed viscera are not kosher unless it comes from these animals.

...& even though it's from the n'veylot/animals which died from being pierced [my note: with an arrow or spear - the modern equivalnet would be a bullet] & not ritually slaughtered, this is a category of animals that wouldn't be kosher to eat but ok for us to use in sofrut.
...& the castrated - these are all kosher not for eating but for the purposes of writing. As long as it doesn't come from anything except the species that are permitted for your mouth, excluding all the tamei/unkosher animals that are not ok to eat.
We don't write on the skin of a fish, even if it's a tahor/pure fish, because of the foulness that doesn't cease even when you process it.
The skin of a shlil/fetus is considered the best for this purpose & it is the choicest & after this the skin of a fowl & after this the skin of a chayah/beast (or sheep or goats) & a beheymah/domesticated animal (or cattle)...then a neveylah."

Lishkat Ha-Sofer confirms that we can only write st"m on the skin of animals which we would be allowed to eat if they were slaughtered - Maseket Shabbat daf Quf"Chet tos' Dalet"Hey is our source.

Mishnat Ha-Sofer comments on the Qeset Ha-Sofer's word "veho hamuvhar" in Bet:Alef: The shlil (fetus or embryo of a kosher animal) skin that we use is the best for this purpose because it's never done an aveyra/sinned - in other words, it's a virgin :) - & because it has never seen the light of day it doesn't receive din/judgement.

Or ha'of (skin of chicken) in any case you need to look at which side you would write upon, whether on the feather side or the flesh side.

In the hierarchy of which skins are preferable, the last in the list is the neveylah - even among all the different kinds of neveylot there is a hierarchy.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006


8 Adar & International Women's Day

OMG, they've come out with Reese's cookies! I'm in Heaven...if they're kosher...
(sorry - consumerist brain freeze)

This is my latest painting. It's a gift for a new baby named No'ach Daveed & the text is from the Sefardi shiron:


Copyright A. Barclay. Lightfast watercolour & ink on Arches 400lb rough acid-free watercolour paper.

R' Schachar told me about the plan to chant the Megilah outside of the Iranian Embassy in Montreal this Purim & inviting other Jewish groups to do that across the country! Why? 'Cause it's cool! & because the whole story of Esther happened in Iran. & besides, who knows? Maybe this could improve Jewish/Muslim or Canadian/Iranian relations, this reaching out & recognizing our common experience. Even today, Queen Esther - wife of Xerxes I a.k.a Achashverosh - is regarded as a heroine in Persian culture, even though she was a Jew.

So speaking of heroes, R' Ross Singer is coming for a visit this weekend! That's right, the rabbi who did the most for my career & the bulk of Jewish Legal research enabling me to step into sofrut knowing my work & that of future Jewish women would be supported by a minority Halakhic opinion will be back in Vancouver as scholar-in-residence for our Shabbaton. YAY!

I am going to be ALL over that shul come Friday...

For a sample of R' Ross' writings, check here & here.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006


7 Adar

This isn't the best picture of my work, nor the most recent, but it shows an old version of some of the scripts I write. All my lettering & spacing has imporved since I wrote this out:


India ink on paper (Mississippi Fred - the type you were asking about is second from the top)

While updating this today, found myself trying to figure out how I can create opportunities for other people - Jewish women in particular - as I continue to promote myself. Helping others takes the immodesty out of being a media whore ;)

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Monday, March 06, 2006


6 Adar

"Hashkiveynu" Copyright A. Barclay. Lightfast inks on natural vegetable parchment.

As of March 1st, 2006, a new business policy is in effect to facillitate smoother transactions for all my clients. This will reduce the time & cost of sofrut & other Judaica items, which is totally exciting. If you wish to have an order processed, please send your money order or certified cheque to:

A. Barclay
c/o Congregation Shaarey Tefilah
785 West 16th Ave
Vancouver BC
V5Z 1S8

Orders may be paid in either of two ways:
Full payment up front, or
a 50% non-refundable deposit accompanied by a 50% cheque for the balance post-dated for 30 days before the item is due.
Watch for Visa, Mastercard & PayPal details, coming soon!
Addendum: please click on the PayPal button below or between the right side-bars to make purchases

I welcome any questions you may have & I look forward to offering you more efficient service in the future.

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Sunday, March 05, 2006


6 Adar

On the 30th of Av last year, I watched a documentary called One Day in September. It happened to be September 4th, the secular anniversary of the "Black September" slaughter of 11 Israeli Olympians at the 1972 Munich Games.

I don't remember the events of that Labour Day very clearly, as I wasn't quite 4 years old, but I do remember a lot of frowns & crossed brows on the TV & adults being even more preoccupied with the news than usual. I was still of an age where I found the news interminably boring, but anything involving Jews caught my attention.

This 1999 documentary, featuring interviews with the one surviving terrorist (the Mossad never found him, but some film makers did), was truly sickening. Don't watch it if you are prone to nightmares, as the subject matter is disturbing on a visceral level.

I went to see Munich, one of tonight's Best Picture nominees, back in December with my buds Ariel & Leora & the gang. I enjoyed it, but then I "nest" with all movies I watch & take something positive away with me. Why could I never be a film critic?

Because my Dad was a cinema manager & projectionist for Famous Players, I spent my childhood in some of these theatres, like this one & this one. He used to say, "There are no bad movies, just some movies are better than others".

Oscar night was always a big event in our family. We'd have dinner on trays while glued to the TV all night. With my Dad running the theatre, Mum selling tickets & my big sisters behind the candy bar, we'd seen ALL the movies each year & had our opinions. Where was I? Usually wandering about generally getting into trouble. In some of the smaller towns we lived in, Dad spent Academy Award night at the local TV or radio station commenting on the results during the breaks.

I often wonder how he would have enjoyed & what he would have thought of the films being made today, decades after his death. The tradition continues in our family, with my nephew Jeremy managing the Capitol 6 Theatre in Victoria, on the site of the old Capitol which Dad used to manage in the 1950's.

The early 70's was an odd time - even I could tell that, as young as I was. With crazy movies like Deliverance, streakers being all the rage & popular music being all about easy, haphazard, drug-enhanced sexual encounters. The same period saw the Yom Kipur War, numerous plane hijackings & the murder of the Israeli atheletes.

I think Munich's soundtrack, costumes & set design reflected the way the world was becoming unhinged at that point in history. I'm not sure whether Spielberg was intending to re-open dialogue or raise consciousness with the way he shaped this film. It didn't win its 2006 Best Picture of the Year nomination, but if nothing else the memory of those Olympians, Israel's best & brightest stars, should never be allowed to fade.

May it be only for a blessing.

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Saturday, March 04, 2006


5 Adar

Well, with all the work I've been taking on & all the social engagements I've been enjoying, I managed to miss the entire Chutzpah! Festival this year. I would have really loved to catch Rain Pryor's show. We're the same age & I remember watching her TV show years ago. I've always found what she had to say about bigotry intensely real. Obviously, to rely on myths & stereotypes when judging a situation or person is glaring misconduct, but Rain lives this every day, because her father (the late Richard Pryor whose death I predicted from a premonition/dream I had while in NYC last December) was black & her mother is Jewish.

From lives like those of Rain Pryor, if not from our own, we can be aware of some unfortunate truths:
if you're not white, you're theoretically disempowered
if you're not Christian you're theoretically disempowered
if you're not male, you're theoretically disempowered
if you don't speak English, you're theoretically disempowered

I say "theoretically" because it really depends on where you are in the world & what you want to achieve in your life: whether you have access to the appropriate resources to enable you. For example, to be a Jew in Israel is a fine thing to be (unless you're that joker who set off firecrakers in the church in Nazareth - what's your problem, dude?), but being a Jew in Pakistan? Not so much...

Anyway, I believe we all have a responsibility, & this is a Torah principle as well, to not oppress others & to hear the voice of those who are made to suffer. It's our job to right the wrongs being done to them, before G@d shouts, "Don't make me come down there!"

Shavu'ah tov!

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