I photographed this one (DR5-L8) because the first line of English at the top made me laugh: IT IS THE DUTY OF ALL JEWISH PEOPLE, TO BE INSPIRED — yes, this does correspond rather directly and unfortunately to the way a lot of Jewish leaders think.

The full English is IT IS THE DUTY OF ALL JEWISH PEOPLE, TO BE INSPIRED AND TO UNDERSTAND THAT ALTHOUGH MANY JEWISH PEOPLE ARE CITIZENS AND RESIDENTS OF MANY LANDS AND COUNTRIES, BUT MUCH BETTER IT WOULD BE TO LIVE IN THE LAND OF ISRAEL! In shouty capitals.

The rest of it’s in Yiddish. This side talks about how in Jerusalem, six hours after sunset, people gather to recite Tikkun Chatzot, mourning the destruction of the Temple (every night!), and exhorts New Yorkers to do the same. Wikipedia says “The Tikkun Chatzot is an individual service; a minyan is not needed for performing it, although some have the custom to recite it with a minyan. At midnight, one sits on the ground or a low stool, takes off his shoes, and reads from the prayer book.”

The other side talks about Shabbat, and kashrut, and family purity, and the importance of sending your children to Jewish schools, so not much new there. No date on this; twentieth-century sometime.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.

hatam_soferet: (esther)
( Jan. 26th, 2012 05:48 pm)

Dear everyone,

Thanks for all the emails. No-one else needs to send me the article about Hanna, okay? Yes I know her, yes I’ve seen the article(s), we’re good.

Hanna recently started her first complete sefer Torah; she works in Israel, which makes her braver than me, given how hard it is in Israel for women to do even comparatively ordinary things like riding the bus. Another female Torah scribe of my acquaintance in Israel keeps her head down because she’s afraid that if articles appear about her, she’ll become the target of misogynist hate crimes. So Hanna is being rather courageous, making her project all public. Good for her.

I’ve not met Hanna in person; my student Linda has, when they were working together on the Women’s Torah Project. We’ve corresponded, naturally. It’s great having colleagues.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.

Here’s a video featuring a very tiny totally kosher Torah scroll.

The video’s more concerned with the accoutrements, a little aron kodesh and the usual silver ornaments for a Torah scroll, than with the scroll itself. They’re made by Bezalel School-trained artist Shuki Freiman, and they are breathtakingly beautiful, utterly and completely. Seeing them is a treat. I’m just a bit sad that they don’t talk about the scroll; they just say that it’s less then five inches tall and written by a sofer in Bnei Brak. No close-ups.

Shabbat shalom! Hope you bought your sushi this week. I bought mine. California rolls, yay.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.

Been meaning to write about this since 2009…one of my colleagues in Israel asked the Masorti movement for their official position on lady scribes. Their response is here.

It’s in Hebrew, so I’m posting a summary of the main points:

* The Gemara and many major halakhic decisors say it’s a problem for women to write sifrei Torah, tefillin, and mezuzot.

* The Tur, the Rif, and the Rosh all say it’s a problem for women to write tefillin.
* But they don’t explicitly say it’s a problem for women to write Torahs.
* Neither does Masechet Sofrim.
* In fact Masechet Sofrim says if you may read Torah for the congregation, you may write.
* And our women may read.
* Therefore they may write Torahs.

Furthermore:

* People who are exempt from laying tefillin are invalid to write tefillin.
* Women are exempt from tefillin because it’s connected to talmud Torah.
* From which most people say women are exempt.
* But there are opinions saying otherwise, and also in our day, in Israel, we have ruled that women are not exempt from talmud Torah. The world has changed.
* So they are not exempt from laying tefillin either.

* And therefore they are totally kosher to write anything. QED.

I don’t buy this entirely.

Part of the halakhic philosophy of the Masorti movement is that if there’s a minority opinion, you can go with it, even if that opinion was ultimately rejected by Judaism as it developed. It’s totes fine to resurrect an opinion if it says something you want it to say. Another philosophical point is that “times have changed” is an absolutely valid reason for discarding something you don’t like. Once you have those two points on board, the above is sound reasoning and the answer unexceptionable – but getting those points on board takes a bit of work, and I don’t find them wholly convincing as I understand them. (I could also be missing the nuances. Feel free to explain in comments, if so.)

“Times have changed” is also part of contemporary Orthodoxy’s philosophy, but you have to work harder at using it as a justification for anything. “It’s not completely unprecedented, even though the majority eventually went against it,” likewise – if you can show that someone sometime did this thing, you’re much more justified in wanting to do it yourself, but that of itself isn’t an argument because you still have to deal with your inheritance – all the people who did something different subsequently. You can’t just write them off. This is why the above is desperately inadequate from an Orthodox perspective, and echoes in some form my own discomfort with it.

So if I don’t buy the above, but nonetheless I write sta”m – how do I justify it? I hear you asking, and I’m ‘fraid I’m not going to answer right now. I’m not so into the piece-by-piece incorporation of women into Jewish ritual life just at the moment. I could spend ages and ages coming up with contorted justifications for everything, but it’s an activity I find distasteful at present, so you’ll have to figure it out yourselves from the stuff on my site. Oh, and anyway, this was just a post about the Masorti thing, not a presentation of Jen’s Philosophy of Halakah. So yes – this is what the Masorti position in Israel is. Jolly jolly.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.

This eBay item makes me want to cry.

It’s advertising a “Torah Scroll 400 Years Old Approx 10.8 Feet Long” and you can see from the picture that something’s seriously, seriously wrong.

People have been selling pieces of sifrei Torah on eBay for years. They get old sifrei Torah, hack them into pieces, and sell the pieces to goodness-knows-who on eBay. (Not that this is anything new; Jews have been buying and selling talisman pieces of holy books for centuries. But just cos it’s an old custom doesn’t mean we have to respect it.) I used to cruise eBay with some regularity looking at them, but I don’t do that any more because it makes me too sad. Poor little lonely pieces of a Torah scroll being sold off as artwork or curios, ugh.

This one makes me even sadder, though. Not only are the poor pieces of Torah chopped up and being sold on eBay, they’ve been sewn to other pieces, arbitrarily and sideways, and attached to a (single) roller, to make it resemble, vaguely, a sefer Torah. Foreign writing on parchment and rolled up! That’s a Torah, right?

Imagine some hero of yours died. Let’s say my Queen died. It’d be really horribly distasteful if parts of her body were removed and sold on eBay for mementoes, wouldn’t it? And yet there are people in the world who would buy such a thing, and you know it.

Now imagine if several body parts were stitched together – say, a finger, a rib, six inches of skin from the calf, and a lock of hair – to make a Royal Queen Dolly Relic. Maybe attached to a lightbulb, so it’s a Royal Queen Dolly Relic Table Lamp. As a good Brit and decent human being, I find that mental exercise pretty freaking distressing on so many levels.

This business with the poor mutilated sefer Torah is something like that. It’s tacky and violent and it horrifies me and makes me sad. At least with the single sheets you can sort of hope it’s going to be bought by some well-meaning if ignorant, bookish, manuscript-loving Jew who will treat it like Torah — here, you can’t even hope that, because it’s no longer even sheets of Torah, it’s sheets of Torah sewn together into a Royal Queen Dolly Relic Table Lamp that ought to horrify any Jew who sees it.

It says that the seller is in Ramat Gan. Trading in body parts is probably illegal in Israel, but trading in mutilated Torah parts probably isn’t. There are legitimate reasons for buying and selling parts of sifrei Torah, after all.

Indeed, we are supposed to redeem captive sifrei Torah, to prevent ghastliness like this, but not if so doing would simply encourage the Torah pirate to keep going. Perhaps buying up all their stock would be a good thing because then they could have a decent burial, but equally it might encourage them to mutilate more sifrei Torah in the hopes of more money, and if that’s so, we aren’t supposed to buy back the captive Torahs, we’re just supposed to be sad.

As Kohelet says, there is nothing new under the sun, and the only thing you can do is keep on living as best you can regardless, but please, people — don’t encourage this sort of thing. As you wouldn’t buy parts of human beings, don’t buy parts of sifrei Torah.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.

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MarGavriel points us to a little Agnon story. A story appropriate for the season:

סיפר לי ר’ אהרן פריימן ז”ל משמו של ר’ אליהו פלנסר ז”ל. ר’ איציק אייכל וחבריו מצאו להם נכרית אחת שבישלה להם לתשעה באב. שבאותו הדור קשה היה ליהודי בברלין למצוא תבשיל בתשעה באב. היו קוראים לאותה נוכרית הגויה של תשעה באב. Aaron Freiman, of blessed memory, told me the following in the name of Elijah Palnser, of blessed memory. Itzik Eichel and his friends found themselves a certain gentile woman who would cook for them on the Ninth of Av. For in those days, it was difficult for a Jew in Berlin to find food on the Ninth of Av. They used to call that gentile woman “di tishebov goyte”.
ערב תשעה באב באו והודיעו לר’ איציק אייכל שהגויה של תשעה באב מתה. אמר להם לחבריו, חברי בואו ואומר לכם, אי אפשר שבין היום למחר נמצא ערלית אחרת שתבשל לנו לתשעה באב, אם כן מאחר שמתה הגויה של תשעה באב נתענה בתשעה באב זה עם כל ישראל על חורבן ירושלים. One year, on the eve of the Ninth of Av, Itzik Eichel was informed that the Tishebov Goyte had died. He said to his friends: “My friends, come and let me tell you something. Between today and tomorrow, it is not going to be possible for us to find another gentile woman who will cook for us on the Ninth of Av. Since this is so, for the Tishebov Goyte has died, let us fast on the Ninth of Av this year, and mourn, together with all Israel, over the destruction of Jerusalem.”

תכריך של סיפורים, ע’ 159
trans. MarGavriel

It seems to me interesting that the non-Jewish woman is in the role of Jerusalem.

I wonder – what do you make of this? Especially those of you who have studied Agnon in college and so forth. It is so short that it cannot be so simple, it seems to me, but I do not have literary-analysis tools to explore it.

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.

hatam_soferet: (esther)
( Apr. 19th, 2010 02:28 pm)

I wrote this bit today. Very appropriate. I don’t plan it this way, you know.

When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. He shall say: “Hear, O Israel, today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them. For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”

Mirrored from hasoferet.com.

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