hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Mar. 22nd, 2009 07:42 pm)
Hebrew Name KeyringsThis is what I was doing this afternoon (clicky picture for bigger). The shul had a Lower East Side Nostalgia Fundraising Klezmer Concert Thingumajig, and I was being the Lower East Side Sofer stall, where people can get their Hebrew names written. I had a cracking time.

I do this writing-Hebrew-names thing a lot, and I rather enjoy it; names are easy, and people like them very much, so it's a very good investment-to-return ratio. I don't usually do it in my home shul, though, so today was a nice change; no travelling to speak of, and writing for people I actually know is nice also.

Normally I just write the names on parchment-look paper, but I had a Brilliant! Idea! in the form of keyrings, clear acrylic ones into which one slips the paper, and then it's cute and useful and all kinds of shiny. And my goodness they were flying off the shelf; from 12-3 I did 45 keyrings, as well as names-on-paper. I'd only brought about 35 keyrings with me, had to do the rest at home and mail them. People were buying them as afikoman gifts, which is very sweet.

I do feel a bit guilty for contributing to rampant consumerism - if Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is the thing, cutesy keyrings fail on the first step - no-one actually needs a cute keyring with their Hebrew name on it. So perhaps I should come up with something made of paper instead - a bookmark, or something - that is less wasteful of resources. Any bright ideas?
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Dec. 24th, 2007 10:18 am)
I said I'd blog that weekend in Detroit, and here it is. Delayed a bit, because I spent a week in bed with a beastly cold. This was not Shir Tikvah's fault; I spent an extremely comfortable weekend being very well looked-after.

This was a weekend about meeting with the congregation - they get to meet me, I get to meet them. I think this is a nice thing to do, if you're acquiring a Torah. It's often said that the 613th mitzvah is to write a sefer Torah; the Talmud adds that one is supposed to write a Torah even if he had inherited one. It's not sufficient that the previous generation wrote the Torah and passed it on, in the rabbis' view. The Torah has to be experienced at first-hand by every Jew, and the requirement to write one's own Torah symbolises this, the transmission of the living Judaism from generation to generation. In our days and in theirs, most people didn't have the resources to write a whole Torah of their own, so people generally commission a scribe to write their Torah, and do the mitzvah in partnership and by proxy.

Can one fulfil the mitzvah by buying a Torah off-the-shelf? ask the rabbis. If you can commission someone to write you a Torah for your mitzvah, logically you should just be able to buy a new Torah and that would do, right? And they say, well, there's no actual reason you can't do it that way, it's technically valid, but it's just not nice. The symbolism is terrible - we don't go into a shop and buy Judaism ready-made. We acquire Judaism by interaction, and so too we write Torahs with interaction.

Shir Tikvah are doing their main interactions with their Torah via Neil, but I think it's nice that I get to interact with them as well. It's nice for me to have a sense of where this Torah I'm writing is going to end up. Now while I'm writing I can picture it in its new home.

And its new home is very nice. The congregation is very diverse; its website says it's friendly, caring, pink and purple, and I can truthfully say I certainly noticed that. Shir Tikvah also pays a great deal of attention to detail. This struck me again and again - detail, detail, detail. I won't give examples; if you're a Shir Tikvahnik you'll be able to work out what I mean, and if you're not, you'll just have to visit and see.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Jul. 24th, 2006 09:07 pm)
Sunday: fun times with the girls on Drisha's high school program. Up close to the Torah (my Torah!), and then hands-on with quills and ink.

I had a particularly fine time with one young woman who sat looking despairing and (I think) was too shy to ask for assistance - I was informed by a group leader that she needed a helping hand, and so sat with her for ten minutes or so, and she got the hang of it quite beautifully. The way uncertainty, timidity and the expectation of certain failure changed into surprise and confidence and pride in her achievement...I love that.

They also asked who the first woman to write a Torah was, and I had to tell them, well, no-one knows because women in history haven't really had that much written down about them...but there is no record of a woman ever having written a whole Torah, so far as we know...they got awfully excited when they realised that the chunk of Torah in front of them is set to be the first! Bless :)
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Jun. 4th, 2006 10:51 pm)
We spent Shavuot in Waynesboro PA, at Capital Camps and Retreat Center, courtesy of the DC Minyan, who were having a Retreat there over the festival. It was very nice; the first night of the festival was an all-night learning jolly, and I managed to be reasonably coherent despite being on at 1am. I also met an LJ acquaintance, completely by chance, and talked to some interesting people.

There were some very lovely peaches. I haven't had a good peach for several years, they're nearly always picked before they're ripe, and then they rot before they ripen, or else are horribly stringy with no taste - but this one was delicious. I was very happy indeed about that.

Being a camp, there were lots of woods and things. We went for a nice walk in the woods, and found a merrily trinkling brook, and we paddled. (Upon relating this to one of the minyan people, they thought I meant in a canoe, so if you thought I meant in a canoe: we went wading. You see wading implies up to the waist, in my world. Paddling is what you do when you roll your trousers up.)
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Mar. 19th, 2006 06:00 pm)
This morning I was at Scarsdale Reform Temple. They were having a Yom Limmud (=learning day), and I was the Hands-on Hebrew exhibit.

Giving people the chance to have a try at real proper writing with a feather is such fun. I love how something so simple can mean so much to people, and more, that I get to be the one giving it! You know? I don't have much to give to comgregations by way of donations and so on, but I can give this.

Erev Shabbat I found alum! at last! I've been looking for it in all the supermarkets round about, and finally found it in the Foodtown in Kingsbridge. Even now I have a bunch of quills boiling in a solution of alum and salt. It's supposed to cure them - make them more hardwearing and less inclined to go soggy when wet. We shall see.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Mar. 2nd, 2006 09:25 pm)
Took Ansche Chesed's megillah down to Eichlers (Judaica place) in the city, to get it spell-checked by computer. They were sufficiently impressed that I am feeling rather good. Even the ultra-Orthodox-looking chappie, whom I would have expected to be disapproving, was very nice and said I had talent.

Thence to Ansche Chesed's Hebrew school (like Sunday school, a place where kids go after school to have religion drummed into them) to talk to them about How We Make Torahs. Learning from the tefillin wrap talk, I started by rolling out a Torah and letting them all come up close and look (but no touching!). Then they started asking questions which led nicely into the show-and-tell sofrut-materials part.

The rabbi thought he'd have a little joke with the kids. I'd explained about spellchecking by computer...

Rabbi: How can we tell that all the names of God are spelled correctly even without using a computer?*

Bright Kid: Because God would smite her?

good kid!

The rabbi also said it was nice to meet a sofer with a sense of humour. Which was nice.

And my grown-up student did her whole piece bang in tune today for the first time, which is such terrific progress.

* the Megillah does not contain any of the names of God
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