The Work of Repair (and Repentance)

The Jewschool group blog has a new contributor named HatamSoferet, or Torah scribe.  She is the first woman known to have completed writing a kosher Torah and the creator of T’fillen Barbie (see below). Reflecting on the busy month of Ellul which transitions us to the High Holy Days — esp. busy for Torah scrolls repairers —  she wisely notes:

I find repair work to be a lot more taxing than writing from scratch. I can write all day quite happily, but repairing all day leaves me wilting, exhausted, and consuming quite startling amounts of chocolate. It’s a physical strain and it’s a mental strain; more of the latter than the former.

When you write, you sit down and words flow, letter after letter, and fill the page slowly but surely. Sure, you have to concentrate, but you’re going with the stream. When you repair, you have to focus in on every single letter, one after the other, and examine it minutely for potential problems, since even one broken letter invalidates the sefer Torah – and there are 304805 of them. It’s intense, intense work.

Well, it occurs to me that this is a metaphor for Life. Merrily going along writing (or living, as it might be) is relatively simple, although you don’t necessarily know what it’s going to look like in twenty years’ time – but if your job is to go through from one end to the other, find every little thing which isn’t right, and repair it, well, that’s a whole lot harder.

Nonetheless, the message of the season is precisely that – check things over, find the bits which are broken, and repair them.

Check out her website for all you wanted to know about scribing Torah.


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