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.

My Photo
Location: Vancouver/London, British Columbia/UK, Canada

SCRIBAL EVANGELIST As the only living certified Soferet (סופרת - female Jewish ritual scribe) & the first woman to practice sofrut (creation of sacred Hebrew texts) in over 200 years, I feel an obligation to blog about my experiences of The Work. I am also currently researching the foundation of a lost tradtion of women practicing this holy craft. For more on the services I provide, please see; Sofrut Nation. I am now available to engage with students, male or female, wishing to enter into the preliminary stage of learning sofrut. You are welcome to join me on this path. "Tzedeq, tzedeq tir'dof - Justice, justice you shall pursue." Devarim/Deuteronomy 16:20.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


Tamuz 3

Filled with terror at the prospect of trying to download 2 weeks worth of e-mails into my inbox, & the dire consequences of that act (total computer meltdown), I have finally re-obtained the secret URL, password & handshake necessary to access my squirrel mail online.

Over 2,500 unread messages.
This is the first time in my life I've prayed for junk mail.

Since this will take me some time, I'll leave you with 10 blog posts I've selected for poularity & content for your viewing pleasure:

1. History of women in sofrut (as I have researched & understand it)
2. Summer '06 teaching in Jerusalem
3. Some sofrut basics
4. Written on & about my last birthday
5. Gender, mitzvot & permissive folks
6. Preparing kosher deer parchment
7. Miraculous story about tzedaqah
8. Some correspondence between me & the sofer stam who certified me
9. Childbirth amulet I'm grateful to've had the opportunity to write
10. Magical Torah repair

Wish me luck.
Pray for the safe & quick return of Gil'ad Shalit still held captive in Gaza & for the soul of Eliyahu Asheri murdered by Hamas.
Shabbat Shleymut.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Tamuz 2

Soferet's Psychedelic Sefer Torah
"The Light of Torah" Copyright A. Barclay

In response to the flaming I have received over my wearing tzitzit, I'm posting a general idea I have about the "equal but different" treatment of the genders within traditional Judaism.

I can't speak for all women, obviously, but I speak for myself & many other Orthodox feminists when I say that women don't want to COMPETE with the men, we just want to feel welcome in our synagogues & in our religion.

Women are integral members of the Jewish community. Without women & our children there would BE no community - so we must feel welcome. Otherwise, if the women don't feel welcome, that feeling will be sensed by the children & this will negatively affect the survival of the community, G@d forbid. Look at how many people we've already lost.

Daughters should have a sense of joy growing up Jewish!

Just because Jews do this or that, that doesn't make it Jewish or Judaism - we are cautioned against adopting the practices of others in the way we worship G@d - in fact, it's a mitzvah. So it is the responsibility of our rabbis & other community leaders to separate cultural traditional practices adopted from the dominant cultures we have lived under from what we understand the Torah's message to women is.

Rabbis, are you writing books giving legal rulings based on the conditions you wish to create? Your intentions may be right, you may be attempting to prevent us from accidentally sinning, but the result of your actions is wrong. You are excluding your mothers, your sisters, your partners, the mothers of your children - we are the larger part of the community.

That which deprives Jewish women of the ability to choose our place within Judaism will either drive us away or underground or serve to suffocate the beautifully sincere expression of cleaving to The One which we yearn for. & sometimes, but not always, that expression of seeking holy intimacy with G@d will take the form of performing mitzvot which we have been freed from by our Sages. Those wishing to uncover & do Ha-Shem's will for them should be allowed to do so unfettered. In fact, they should be applauded.

If each of us focused on ourselves & whether we were on our Path, we wouldn't spend so much time criticizing or attempting to control others. Torah is about light, folks.

That's all.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Rosh Chodesh Tamuz 1

I picked up some Radzhiner tzitzit from Tree of Life in Seattle on my drive up from Portland. (**Maggid Sarah, you could get some ritual items through them!**)

Tzitzit is a mitzvah that, by reliable rabbinic opinions, may be performed by women & I've been seriously researching it & soul-searching it for a long time now. Partly thanks to Danya Ruttenberg & her very cool instructions on how to make a girl-shaped talit qatan.

In fact, when I just went back to check for links to my previous ruminations on tzitzit, I found that I was writing about this exactly a year ago here, here, & here!

My obsssesssion continued into September, but for some reason that link no workie...

Anyway, Danya's posts inspired me to make a black talit qatan out of an organic cotton tank top with Karaite fringes last year. That was the step I took, apparently necessary for me. Today I took another:

That would be my new cotton (organic again, of course) tank from MEC after I split it up the sides, prepared holes & tied on the techelet. Oh, yeah, & my yoga stuff & barbells as well :)

It was a very quiet, meditative evening, sewing & tying, saying the blessing. Not unlike an evening I spent almost 9 years ago (when I was first being mentored in sofrut) in my room on Kibbutz in Israel. I'd spent chol ha-mo'ed Sukot at the Carlebach Moshav with Alex & Dave. We helped the good folks there set up for their annual music & craft festival & then soaked it all in. My purchases included a tie-dyed talit qatan which came with its fringes untied. So on my return to Kfar Ha-Nasi, after the end of the holiday on an evening when I wasn't too exhausted from working the soil, I sat cross-legged on my bunk freshly showered to tie each knot & make each twist. Friends came, sat on the floor, watched, talked & asked questions. Leslie, Aaron, Amy, Shoshannah, Ilana, BJ...
...I only knew what to do because the talit came with a copy of tzitzit tying instructions from the First Jewish Catalogue (thanks, R' Strassfeld).

I wore those tzitzit - which were white wool, with no tekhelet - every Shabbes. The Kibbutznikim had no idea what to do with me, but I believe I was a more humble, conscious Jew for observing this mitzvah. I have no idea where my psychedelic smock is now, with so many moves & changes since then, but may this mitzvah work on me now as I walk the path of soul-making.

Chodesh tov!

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Monday, June 26, 2006


30 Sivan/Rosh Chodesh Tamuz

Mum's healing is coming along, B"H. Internet is online, but my Mail software not so much. I thank all my clients, potential clients, & loved ones for your patience...
Segulah for protection, parnasa, clarity, direction, peace & a calm spirit. if only I could come up with one for a sick laptop!
Chodesh tov, everyone - a good month - & Jewish ladies out there, don't forget to take today & tomorrow off!

[Addendum = Explanation of Hamsa Segulah:
The hand (a trace of my own, broken & disabled hand) represents agency & protection.
At the tips of the fingers (right to left), Alef, Reysh, Gimel, Mem, Nun:
The Alef is for Uri'el, "G@d is my light".
The Reysh is for Rafa'el, "G@d is my healer".
The Gimel is for Gavri'el, "G@d is my strength".
The Mem is for Mikha'el, "who is like G@d".
The Nun is for Neri'el, "G@d is my candle/soul".
These names spell "Argaman", the "royal purple" commanded by Ha-Shem to use in the Mishkan/Tabernacle & the Miqdash/Temple.
Inside the fingers (right to left) classifications of angels:
Chayyot = living forces
Qedoshim = holy ones
Ofanim = wheels (think Yehezkel/Ezekiel & his visions)
Keruvim = out-reaching; the angels atop the cover for the Aron Qodesh/Holy Ark
Serafim = ones who burn without being consumed
Arching over the top of the palm:
"Parnasah mey-kesef tahor" = financial support from money earned in a kosher & permissable way
Filling the inside of the palm:
Dalet = gematria is 4, signifying the 4-letter name of G@d
Dalet Mem = Dam is blood, signifying health, vitality, energy, life, the shani (Royal Scarlet) of the Mishkan & Miqdash
Dalet Mem Mem = Damam means to be at rest, clear
Dalet Mem Mem Hey = Demamah is calm, still, peaceful]

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Friday, June 23, 2006


27 Sivan

Sorry - couldn't resisit using this line from an old Platinum Blonde tune for the post title.
Erev Shabbes, late afternoon, so not much time to make a quick post of the update-kind...

1) Mum still can't see out of the eye they operated on, so please keep your good vibes coming.

2) After looking after Mum & then attending to a Torah emergency in Oregon, I found that on my return home yesterday that neither the phone nor the e-mail had been working. Have since served sharp words with salt over ice to offending parties. Phone is online, internet is not (I'm at a coffee house right now).

3) Poor old computer is so overworked that it decided to return to all the default preferences on my software & forget my passwords, including for Mail. & I can't access my e-mail online because the only place I'd saved said passwords was in Mail. My bad. Once internet is online at home, must track down server-dude to help restore Mail access. I shudder to think of all the e-mails that will be angrily staring at me from my inbox once this is rectified, & how much business I will have lost from this mysterious communications glitch. G@d is chuckling.

4) Note to self: check planetary alignment.

5) There are profoundly holy Yidden in Portland who I would do well to emulate. Maybe then I would take myself a little less seriously, please G@d...

Blessings for a beautiful Shabbes Qodesh to you.
ps - look for the large letter Samekh in "va-yahaS" (stilled) Numbers 13:31 & large letter Yud beginning "Yigdal-na" (be great, please) in Numbers 14:17 of this week's parsha. You'll only find the first large letter if you're using a Chasidic Sefer, but the second large letter is universally found in all Sifrei.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006


19 Sivan

I'm taking my Mum in for eye surgery this morning. Please pray for it to go easily & fully restore her vision. Her name's Karryn Barclay, daughter of Muriel. Bless you.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006


18 Sivan

Caution: the following is long, dense, boring, disjointed & personal

I performed a public shinui ha-shem.

I changed my name on Sunday, May 28/Rosh Chodesh Sivan. The theme: renewal, revelation. My dear friend Shir-Yaakov performs a gorgeous niggun, a tune from the heart without words, composed by BZ for the New Moon of Sivan.

There is a traditional idea in Judaism that names are very powerful. That they define us & direct our destinies (see an example of name-as-role in the Torah here). So...change your name, change your fate.

Rosh HaShanah 16b reads: "R' Yitzchaq further said: Four things cancel the doom of a man; namely: charity, supplication, change of name and change of conduct."

B"H, I am now actively engaging in all 4 of these.

When someone is very sick &/or his/her life is in danger &/or s/he has suffered some misfortune (like in my case, a divorce from a man who insisted he was my Bashert), Jews invoke the Mi she-Berakh prayer in hopes that it will either change the outcome of a current crisis, or the destiny of the person who has met with a hardship. The Ashkenazi formula states, in part: "Just as his/her name has been changed, so may the evil decree passed on him/her be changed from justice to mercy, from death to life, from illness to a complete cure." From then on, this new name is used for all religious purposes, ie, being called up to the Torah, in a marriage contract or bill of divorce, on a tombstone, etc.

I added the letter Hey to the end of my name. But not just a Hey, a mapiq-Hey. Adding a Hey at the end of a noun “feminizes” it or allows it to be “fruitful” and reproductive. Mapiq in the Hey makes the Hey IMPREGNATED. Gramatically, the mapiq is placed in a word ending with Hey to indicate that the letter should be aspirated. I just couldn't figure out how to put the mapiq into the Hey using this font, so sorry, use your imagination...

The purpose of this change of name: to heal (reverse divine decree) & integrate my Divine Feminine (by "adding a womb") from now on. The opening of Aviel to Avielah.

We did it in Queen Elizabeth Park.
Some o' my posse:
Rebbetzin Michal, me, & Rebbetzin Meira under a very special young tree.

Some more:
Rebbetzin Meira, me, Rabbi Laura. Apparently, I decided to dress as a bed that day...

I wanted them to be part of my ritual declaration. Their relationships encouraged me. They were my role models. I wanted it to highlight the theme of renewal after destruction. In my case, the sanctuary destroyed was my home. I wanted to celebrate the sense of new life emerging from the ashes of the old.
I thanked them for their support during the past year, for helping me reach shore, and for coming to help me mark this passage. I created this opportunity to express gratitude to these women for the support & love & kindness they have shown me, even when my suffering was so great that I worried them & they did not give up on me through one of the darkest times of my life.

Hey is female. She 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).
Her soft-sounding voice indicates the feminine form of a noun, as in yeled (boy) - yaldah (girl). The Sacred Name - Four-Letter Name of G@d - includes two instances of the letter Hey. They represent the Mother and the Daughter in the archetypal Family, Yud representing the Father and Vav the Son. By adding this Hey, my 2 Hebrew names now contain G@d's Four-Letter name.

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 that they inhale each other's breath, they are sharing souls. According to Chasidut, our souls are too vast to inhabit our bodies; they penetrate & surround. Some call this an aura.

Hey represents Divine breath, revelation, & light, because the word or, “light”, is mentioned 5 times on the first day of creation (B'reyshit/Genesis 1:3-4), & since the gematria/numerical value of Hey is 5, they are related. This also corresponds on a physical level to the 5 fingers, the 5 senses, and the 5 dimensions.
On a spiritual level it corresponds to the 5 levels of soul:
Yechidah - oneness (with G@d)
Chayah - transcendence
Neshamah - mind
Ruach - emotions
Nefesh - instincts

According to Tehilim/Psalms 33:6, G@D created two worlds: "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". In the Talmud (Menachot 29b) it says that the “breath of His mouth” refers to the sound of the letter Hey - the outbreathing of Spirit.

This world was created with the letter Hey .
How do we know this? Because in the Torah, B'reyshit Parshat B'reyshit/Genesis 2:4 reads:
ד  אֵלֶּה תוֹלְדוֹת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְהָאָרֶץ, בְּהִבָּרְאָם:  בְּיוֹם, עֲשׂוֹת יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים--אֶרֶץ וְשָׁמָיִם.

Eyleh toldot ha'shamayim v'ha'aretz b'hibaram b'yom asot Y-H-V-H eloqim eretz v'shamayim:

"These are the begettings/generations of the heavens and the earth: their being created at the time of Y-H-V-H, G@D's making of earth and heaven:"

In a Sefer Torah, this Hey must be written very small in the word "b'hibaram". Always. Or that Torah Scroll isn't kosher. See the tiny Hey in this Sefer I'm repairing?
(middle column, 12th line from the top, just under that second left-hand indent, fifth word from the right)

Some interpret this verse to read, "...b'Hey baram...", in other words, "...the begettings/generations of the heavens and the earth with Hey were created..."
Because of this interpretation, explaining why that particular Hey must be written as such, 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 teshuvah, 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).

Another interpretation goes like this: because the letter Hey is one of those which symbolizes G@D - an abbreviation of both the Four-letter Name "Y-H-V-H" and "HaShem", according to midrash, before the Creation G@D was...
...that's it.
All there was was G@D and G@D was all there was. So in order to make room for us, The Holy One had to contract. The word our tradition uses here is "tzimtzum". Like a mother's body making room for a growing baby. So the Hey in the word meaning "they were created" inspired this midrash which teaches us about G@D's loving process.

So in keeping with Hey's breath, the Womb-symbolism, association with Creation & G@d's expansive kindness, my name now wears a Hey containing a mapiq - that infinitely small point of beginning. The seed.
I chose to add this Hey deliberately to invoke the Hey that G@d added to both AbraHam's (B'reyshit/Genesis 17: 5-6) & SaraH's (B'reyshit/Genesis 17: 15-16) names as a part of their B'rit, which made them their true selves & caused them to be fertile. A Hey is a force for childbirth. The Chida (who, by the way, was one of the Acharonim who permitted women to write Megillot Esther, as illustrated here) wrote in Ohr Hatorah, Vayishlach 250a that a segulah, a way of adding merit to have children, was to carry a silver Hey. This is based on B'reyshit/Genesis 47:23 where it says, Hey lachem zerah - "Here is seed for you". The Hey is considered to be a special strength from heaven, the strength of Malkhut, the abode of the Shekhinah.

This is about re-covenanting.
& I dearly wish for a willing, capable, loving partner I can make & raise children with.

A Hey-suffix after place names indicates movement towards that noun. Like if you catch the bus to Efrat, the sign on the bus stop reads "Efratah" - towards Efrat. G@d is a place, called HaMaqom. By this device I want to remind myself to always move towards G@d, by constantly working to reveal my true self & purpose in G@d's plan.

So, why Sivan? & why the New Moon? Exodus/Shemot 19:1 tells us, "In the third month after the Exodus of the Jewish People from Egypt, on that very day, they came to the Desert of Sinai". Our tradition identifies "that very day" as Rosh Chodesh Sivan. The beginning of a new covenant, or rather, a renewal of the old one, between me & Ha-Shem. & Rosh Chodesh is a Jewish women's day if ever there was one. I wanted to wait until after the get, because I didn't want my new name on the bill of divorce. Besides, I had to go through *that* ritual in order for me to become the New Me (whch is a lot like Old Me, just improved ;D). & let's face it, you can't be born until you die. & I wanted to be re-born in time to accept the Torah on Shavu'ot...

So I've gone from Aviel Teshuvah to Avielah Teshuvah. Aviel PLUS!
Hey is also related to teshuvah, repentance/response/answer/return/becoming. She is formed from the letters Dalet and Yud, Dalet being the delet, the door, & Yud is a hand, a yad. Using this hand to open the door of the heart is an image of the Shekhinah dwelling within the believer, as the Hey, the "window". You know the expression that when G@d closes a door somewhere He always opens a window? This is a picture of teshuvah - returning to God by means of the transforming power of the Spirit.

A well-known rabbi once privately advised me: take caution with the sofrut work. Bring my feminine presence to what I do.
Doing everything exactly the same way as a male sofer, as I do (except for going to the miqveh at night), wasn't quite right - "Don't let it [the work] make you a eunuch" he said. I really took that to heart. So much so that I teared up.

We all gathered under the tree & shared. Then R' Laura declared the following, which she wrote especially for this occasion:

Our sages of blessed memory teach that changing one’s name can even change the course of a heavenly decree.

When a person has undergone trials and challenges that have changed her outer status, and stimulated her inner growth, it is as if she has become a new person. She has the opportunity to leave behind what was decreed for the person she used to be – and look forward to the blessings due to the person she has become.

In accordance with this teaching, Aviel is today changing her name to Avielah. Old decrees are no longer valid. Justice shall be replaced by mercy. Fear shall be replaced by joy. Worry shall be replaced by peace. This shall be the lot of Avielah.

O Holy One of Blessing, in the name of all the sacred names mentioned in the Torah, and in the name of the angels, messengers of healing and salvation, send blessings of joy and peace to Avielah on all her forward journeys forever and ever. And let’s say “AMEN!”

...& a resounding A-MEYN went up :D

We then headed to the miqveh, where more women joined us. It was hot like a jacuzzi! Alone in this warm stone pool I gently performed 5 immersions for the letter Hey, four more to make 9, then 3 more to make 12 in total. I let myself melt into the mayim chayim, the living waters. The women all blessed me & I said a Shehechiyanu, thanking G@d for preserving me & bringing me to experience & fully live this moment.

Then it was back to my place for dinner. Kosher organic South Asian is one of my specialties. We feasted & drank wine & celebrated the hope & promise for this milestone & also just generally visited & caught up with each other, 'til late late late :)

Thus is the re-birthday of אביאלה תשובה.
Alef-Bet-Yud-Alef-Lamed-Hey, Tav-Shin-Vav-Bet-Hey.

Ana Eyli aseh oti k'li lesh'lichitekha.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

כּוֹסִי רְוָיָה

17 Sivan

Good news! I'm now officially a member of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance's Speakers Bureau!
Just one more blessing to add to my list :)
G@d is good.

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Monday, June 12, 2006


16 Sivan

In addition to my very long list of kind people in this post, I have many more blessings to thank G@d for:

My apartment: it's in "the shtetl", near all the Orthodox synagogues, kosher organic groceries & pizza, a cinema & coffeeshops, has a great fenced patio (perfect for a sukah) & garden where I grow herbs & veggies. & my landlord is the best - he rents to me below market rate because he knows I'm poor, he makes sure the dryer duct is cleaned & the smoke alarm checked each year & is always responsive.

Israel: I'll be living in Jerusalem for 5 weeks this summer, where I've found an apartment to share with 2 other women. I'll be teaching at Pardes for 3 weeks, plus one day at the Conservative Yeshivah. I'm flying on points. I get to re-connect with all my dear friends in the Land & make some very special pilgrimmages.

My city: I can walk or bike (in a long skirt) anywhere I need to go, but when I wish to go farther afield, like to the woods or back to Victoria, the public transit here is great. This is also just a totally stunning city.

My health: definitely getting back on track as I walk through this journey of mending after fracture.

My career: I'm booked for teaching, writing & repair both locally & abroad until after Simchat Torah. Also, my film was recently honoured by the Yorkton Short Film Festival as Best Documentary Biography.

SO...aside from not actively engaging in that super-sacred relationship we call marriage with a nice Orthodox Jewish man, kosi revaya - my cup overflows.

G@d is taking care of me, B"H.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006


12 Sivan

Over the past while, I have faced many challenges including professional difficulties with my main client, divorce, my home synagogue being torn apart by politics, as well as other family issues. These have significantly affected my work & my health, however, through all of this - which isn't over! - so many friends & family, colleagues, students & other clients have given of themselves very generously. You may see your name on this list & wonder why you appear, if you don't think you did much. Or you may have reached out to me during a time when I was unable to respond, or was unreliable. But I'm very grateful to each of you for the strength you've loaned me, am humbled by your graciousness, inspired by your wisdom & thank you for your patience. You truly are my community (even though you are all over the world) & I hope to learn how to emulate your kindness.

These names appear in no particular order, forgive me if your name does not yet appear (or if I haven't included your full name) & I reserve the right to continue to add people as they come to mind:

Chuck Kelso & Shelley Kelso-Rothschild
Rabbi David Mivasair & Rebbetzin Michal Mivasair
Christobel MacDonald
Rabbi Laura Duhan-Kaplan
Lorri Feldman & Alex Duncan
Rabbi Schachar Orenstein & Rebbetzin Meira Alper-Orenstein
Michael Benarroch & Kim Bailey
Rabbi & Rebbetzin Solomon Maimon
Max & Leona Pinsky
Rabbi Richard & Rebbetzin Sharon Toban
Rory Richards
Rabbi Benzaqueyn, Sofer
Debby Fenson
Rabbi Dr Louis Sutker & Rebbetzin Charlotte Atlung-Sutker
Shaul & Florence Wachsstock
Rabbis Harry & RaeAnn Brechner
Izzy Pludwinski, Sofer
Rabbi Ross & Rebbetzin Emily Singer
Vivian & Jeffrey Claman
Rabbis Seth Goldstein & Yohanna Kineberg
Josie Cohen & Dan Wolfson
Rabbi Dr Neal & Rebbetzin Carole Rose
Jeremy Rothschild
Rabbi Ilan & Rebbetzin Dina Acoca
Robert & Rachel Miller
Rabbi Yonah Reiss
Naomi Voss & Michael Potter
Rebbetzin Cirelle Rosenblatt
Jordan Stratford & Zandra Gutierrez
Rabbi Dov Linzer
Alisha Hess-Haber
Rabbis Linda Motzkin & Jonathan Rubenstein
Cigal Shene
Rabbi Daniel Seigel
Shir-Yaacov Feinstein-Feit
Rabbi Claudio Kaiser-Blueth
Ben Newman
Rabbi Moshe & Rebbetzin Rivy Kletenik
Alissa & Morey Altman
Rabbi Neal Loevinger
Rachel Barenblat
Rabbi Victor Reinstein
Fred Nudel & Jeanette Cohen
Rabbi Shimon Brand & Rebbetzin Amy Schechter
Kim & Jay Zipursky
Rabbi Kevin Hale, Sofer
Odeyah Hoffman
Rabbi Yossi Benarroch
Baila Lazarus
Karen Volk
Mark Weintraub
Gilan Israel
Leora Israel & Ariel Zellman
Ron Eichler & Chelsea Caldwell
Dan Sieradski
Jen Taylor-Friedman
Abba & Karen Brodt
Rabia Kurd
Jay Rothschild
Tabassum Firoz
Danya Ruttenberg
Imam Fode Drame
Peter & Joyce Fergus-Moore
Alan Morinis
Betina Rae
Dr Marcy Schwartzman
Tamsin Charles
Dr Dena Bloomenthal
Andrea Silverstone
Nancy Katz
Corrinne Wilansky
Yehuda Miklaf & Maurene Fritz
Davin Rothschild & Ashley Daniels
Penny Shima Glanz
Betty & Bob Thunder
Shani Shahal
Lisa Alcalay Klug
Regina Green
Eric & Lisa Hartman
Shelley Rivkin & Glenn Bullard
Ariel Becker
Evgenya Shkolnik
Avrum Nadigel
Annie Barwin
Hal & Donna Decter
Mia Kalef
Dr Brenda Mason
Maya Bleiler-Bennett
Arwen Kuttner
Holly Taya Shere
Estheriesa Laye
Adam Franklin-Lyons
Larisse Cohen
Aimee Promislow
Evelyn Neaman
Byron Alley
Sara Glesby
Josa & Noah Sarna
Camille Joseph
Simon Montagu
Robyn Fisher
Leah Levi
Rosalie & Efraim Eisen
Leslie Phillips
Lynda Rosenberg

&, indirectly:
The Comedy Network
Rabbi Moshe Chayim Luzzatto
Vision TV
Rav Bachya ben Yosef ibn Paquda
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

I intend (slowly, as I can afford) to give charity in each of your names, bli neder, so please feel free to suggest to me where you would like the small amount I can spare to go. This will provide me with the priviledge of doing the mitzvah of tzedaqah & the opportunity to "run to do a mitzvah" as we are commanded to do. & as this will take some time, to honour each of you, it will ensure I am in the process of performing mitzvot for some time to come.

With G@d's help, one day I will again have the opportunity to write an entire Sefer Torah, to be a beneficial partner & blessed to be a good mother. But if I am never able to realize these very dear dreams, G@d forbid, then you have still succeeded in making me feel very loved.

So, thank you all.

[Addendum: Donations to the following charities have been requested from folks on the list -
Vancouver Jewish Family Service Agency housing, Ahavat Olam Rabbi's discretionary fund, Shaarey Tefilah Rabbi's discretionary fund, Calgary Jewish Family Service, ALEPH's Yesod Foundation: the Reb Zalman Legacy Project, Hadassah, To'enet Rabbanit Program (women's court advocacy) at Midreshet Lindenbaum, New Israel Fund of Canada, Autism Society Canada - Societe canadienne de l'autisme, the Seattle Kollel, Melanoma research, BC Children's Hospital, Bustan.

Other suggestions -
The "Canadian Association of Sofrot", giving granola bars (with a smile) instead of money to homeless people who ask for change, the Soferet Chivas Fund... ;) ]

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006


11 Sivan

I found this today - a great article on feminist theory, women's expressed art-creativity being identified as our sexuality by the male audience, & the struggle to be defined outside of our effect on straight men. Well worth the read...

I also came across this. Thank you, Regina, for your care & kindness.

When I lit my Shabbat candles last Friday night, the one on the right, the "zachor" (remembrance) one, went out right away. It wouldn't catch fire. Just a dud :(

I skipped both the evening & morning services, davening at home & postponing the "coming out" of my hair until the women's shiur on Shabbes afternoon which, it so happened, I was giving.

I didn't know that I would end up teaching 48 hours after our get, as the Thursday appointment in Seattle was only made Tuesday. But I didn't feel right about cancelling - it would have left the organizer of this fab Vancouver Jewish women's tradition in the lerch & I didn't want to do that to her. I decided instead to risk giving a potentially mediocre teaching, even though all the women of my community deserve better. But they are just that - a community. Which means I don't have to be perfect in front of them, even when I'm filling a leadership role, thank G@d.

So when the time came I left the house, bare-headed & bare-fingered, & made my way the 4 blocks to Vivian's where this week's gathering was being held. Thank G@d all the Orthodox Jews live close together...


I began with an apology to everyone: that the actual talk I had spent some time preparing was about this week's parsha & what it has to say about how G@d doesn't always give us what we want, or what we think we need, & that we must have faith that G@d always fills our actual needs. That our state of lack is our own construction. But that I wasn't going to give over this talk to them because I had accepted a get from my now ex-husband this week & I just couldn't share the teachings I'd prepared without getting upset. Because then it would just become a big therapy session (they all laughed at this, as my voice broke) & that's not what they came for! :)

What I did give over to these patient women was something along these lines:
Tomorrow (Sunday, May 28th) would be Rosh Chodesh Sivan & the 45th day of the Omer. There's a Biblical woman who corresponds to each day of the Omer & the one who represents day 45 is our mother Rachel. Her life illustrated Tiferet shebeMalkhut, the trait of compassion within the sphere of Majesty. To learn more about her, read Sefer B'reyshit/Genesis 29-32 & Yermiyahu/Jeremiah 31:15-17.

Rachel - whose name means "ewe" - was infertile most of her life, & begged her husband Ya'aqov to give her children. He snapped at her that only G@d could grant her request, that he was doing all he could. She offered her servant Bilhah to Ya'aqov as a pilegesh (concubine in English, but this literally means "half-wife": p'lag ishah), in order to adopt the children of that union as her own. This was a common practice under the Code of Hammurabi in Persia at that time. Bilhah births Dan ("judgement") & Naftali ("my struggle").

In desperation, Rachel even traded her night with Ya'aqov to her sister Le'ah - whose name means "weary" - in exchange for some mandrake root, a rare local aphrodisiac. That night, traditionally the night before we were to receive the Torah in the future, Le'ah & Ya'aqov conceived Yissachar ("reward"). Their 5th son on Shavu'ot.

Finally, The Holy One has compassion on Rachel &, the Torah tells us, opened her womb. The Hebrew word for womb is "rechem"; for compassion, "rachamim". She bears Yosef ("G@d increases") & later Benyamin ("son of the right hand", ie good luck) before she died from childbirth near Beit-Lechem (Bethlehem, "House of Bread").

According to Aycha Rabbah, the Great Lamentation, & to Kabbalah, Rachel our Mother guards all her children in exile. She represents Malkhut, the sphere of the here-&-now, the time & place of the Shekhinah; the channel of Creation.
Rachel exemplifies the rachamim - compassion - of the Shekhinah, G@d's enveloping feminine presence, for us...Tiferet she-be-Malkhut. A balance.

It is said that with each Jew who makes Aliyah, who returns to live in the Land, Rachel is built up. The consciousness of the Land causing the ingathering of the exiles is a reconstruction of Rachel.

We are most like Rachel when we model in our own lives the way we want to see all people treated.
Shabbat Shalom...

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006


10 Sivan

I remember reading the Bible when I was 7 years old. I was one of those nerdy kids who would do that in their spare time - read the Bible, read encyclopaedias. In fact, that's how I taught myself the Hebrew Alefbet. Studying the letters & drawing them out from the "H" volume of our New Book of Knowledge set.

We're now in Sefer B'midbar. "In the Wilderness", as the English translation of my childhood read. I recall so many instances where the Israelites complained to Moses & cried out to G@d. There was no water. There was no food. They were lost.
I remember wondering how anyone could complain about being in the wilderness. I would love to live in the wilderness. It was the best place on Earth.
I'm a native British Columbian, so my idea of "wilderness" was forests of huge pine, spruce, cedar & fir. Streams, moss, mushrooms & flowers. There was salmon to catch, roots to dig & berries to harvest. Lakes to swim in. I envisioned the Israelites having something of a Grizzly Adams experience.

It wasn't until I was older that I realized that "wilderness" in the Middle East means "desert".
Ah. Now I see their problem.

The letters of midbar, Mem-Dalet-Bet-Reysh, means pasture-ground, waste-land, prairie. Midbari means "barren, arid, wild", while midbariyut means "desolation".
But the gematria of midbar is 246, which is the same as that of "vision", "sight" or "aspect", mar'ah (as in mar'it ayin). Mirror.

The morning before the get I ran a bath for myself in the beautiful & huge clawfoot tub that came with my room at the B&B in Olympia. As the room filled with steam, the antique mirror magically revealed the shape of a joyful, heady, freely dancing woman.
From the left:

From the right:

From straight on:

I have no idea how she got there. But there she was.
Like the Israelites, as we journey through life's midbarim, may we remember that there are resources to be found; & when they aren't apparent, may we be granted the faith that we can rely on G@d.

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Monday, June 05, 2006


9 Sivan

After the shiva time I took to grieve our marriage & after my trip to teach in Winnipeg over Shavu'ot, I'm going to catch up here a little.

The rabbis were very kind to me, inviting me to sit close while the get was written so I could learn more. "Here, you're a soferet, how do you erase?" they asked. These were black-hat/Ultra-Orthodox/Charedi men, treating me very gently through a process I never wanted & acknowledging my education & profession, even though in their world a woman would never do the work I perform. There was some business small talk about letters & tools & why the Hey has to be written in bold in the get between us (my ex went for a walk). I'll probably never write a get, as the sofer must be appointed by the husband to act as his agent & I doubt that I can act as a man's agent in this instance according to Halakhah. But I appreciated their acknowledgement & care very much. The Seattle Va'ad are good people.

The act of ritual divorce is too intimate to record here. In some ways, more intimate than the act of ritual marriage.

After it was all over, all the rabbis & the sofer wished me all the best, asked how I was getting home & if I was ok (I'd silently wept the whole two hours, stopping only to face my ex in the ritual). One rabbi brought me home so his wife could feed me juice & cookies while he taught me the Ben Ish Chai's gematria on the Alefbet. He just wanted to cheer me up a bit. He succeeded. I left with an invitation to stay with them for Shabbes any time & some cool "new" things to teach others, B"H.

I then was welcomed into another of the attending rabbis' homes for dinner with his family. Their kids were all over me, which proved to be very grounding, thank G@d. They were serious about offering me comfort & drawing my attention to the bright future I have. All in all, I was much better rested & cared for than I had expected on this trip. I had taught in Olympia the day before & the Reconstructionist community there put me up in a gorgeous Victorian B&B. The private bathroom even had a clawfoot tub! I loved learning with them, too - the kids were great, there was a Muslim family who came to learn Hebrew calligraphy, the adult ed presentation in the evening was wonderful...I met with all kinds of beautiful souls. All these things served to strengthen & prepare me, B"H.

G@d is taking good care of me :}

As I drove north in the night, back to my now officially companionless home in Canada, I chanted the Wayfarer's Prayer for protection along the way. Three times I sang Sh'mot/Exodus 23:20 to the tune my ex wrote for us:

  הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי שֹׁלֵחַ מַלְאָךְ, לְפָנֶיךָ, לִשְׁמָרְךָ, בַּדָּרֶךְ; וְלַהֲבִיאֲךָ, אֶל-הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר הֲכִנֹתִי.

Behold, I send an angel before thee, to keep thee by the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.
Hineyh Anokhi sholey'ach malakh lefanekha lish'marekha ba-derekh, ve-lahaviyakha el ha-maqom asher ha-khinoti

...Ve-lahaviyakha...& to guide you...the word inside our wedding rings which will never be worn again.

May I somehow remain on the derekh, the path where G@d puts me, with joyful acceptance.

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