Here's some treats from the Hida (Hayim Yosef David Azulai, late 18th century, Mediterranean regions), his sofrut tips known as Torat Ha-Shelamim. These are from chapter 18.

8. The quill should be made from a reed, not from a feather.

Which was, and still is, a Sephardic practice. He's Sephardi, which would explain that.

9. When the quill is ready for writing, he should put its tip in his mouth and roll it around in his spit (rir). He should say: Just as this spit is pure before it leaves the mouth, so shall this quill be pure when I write the holy Torah with it. This is because rir has the same numerical value as kadosh (holy).

I don't write with reeds, myself, but I'd guess they work better if you soak them a bit before use, hence this custom. But isn't that interesting.

10. When he dips into the ink he says: Just as this quill is pure, so shall this ink be pure and holy when I write the holy Torah with it.

17. It is proper for the scribe to immerse himself fourteen times. Once to cause the stink to go away (le-ha-avir ha-zohama), and thirteen times to interleave the three Names Ehyeh, Havaya, Adonai.

which each have four letters, twelve in all, so thirteen interleaves. Havaya is another way of saying Tetragrammaton.

18. It is fitting for the scribe to immerse every day.

19. The scribe must sanctify himself by not eating meat during the week.

21. If possible, he should wear tefillin all day - Rashi and Rabeinu Tam or Shimusha Rabba.

22. Whilst writing, he should not touch any place which is covered and if he does he must wash at once, and he should not have trivial conversations (sihat hullin).

You could read this two ways - must he refrain from chitchat whilst writing, or when he's on his way to wash? The first makes more immediate sense, but the second emphasises the relationship between Torah and conceptually clean hands.

23. The appropriate time to write is from morning till noon.

Because he lived in countries where they take siestas, I'd imagine. And after the siesta it's getting dark already.

24. He should have a special place, into which no male Gentile, female Gentile, or even woman, may enter.

Interesting that he differentiates between male and female Gentiles, isn't it? Might be because if he just said Gentile you might think he was talking about visitors but cleaning ladies are okay, and he wants to emphasise that it's all Gentiles - but he doesn't say what's wrong with them. Would they fail to appreciate that he mustn't be jostled or bothered? Or does he think they're intrinsically unsuitable to approach Torah?

29. When he writes the holy Names which may not be erased [list; omitted here], he should say: I am writing in the name of sanctity. When he writes the Tetragrammaton, he should say, in trembling: Behold, I am writing the Great Name in the name of its own sanctity.

30. He should stand up and say: In the name of unification of the Holy One Blessed be He and his Shekhinah, etc, and mean, in the Name of Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey.

(The omitted ones are not really very different from my current practice, except for 28 which is just really really long.)


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February 2017

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