From Yeshiva University, a couple of useful reference sheets by R' Josh Flug:

Reading from a Sefer Torah That Contains an Error

Maintaining and Repairing an Invalid Sefer Torah.

This is jolly jolly good for two reasons: first, that he's collected up lots of useful source references and put them together neatly in an outline of the main opinions. Second, it's much better you should hear it from someone with more learning and experience and authority and suchlike than me. :) So print 'em out and take 'em away.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Mar. 2nd, 2009 05:55 am)
In the four-plus years I've lived in this city, I've never actually had to ditch professional obligations because of snow, but this morning I have a commitment to read Torah at the shul's morning minyan, and there is a respectably large amount of snow out there. I've heard of these quasi-mythical beasts called Snow Days, but I've never had to find out, at 6am, whether it Is One, and I don't actually know how it works.

That is to say, I can see from the internet that schools are closed, but does that mean minyan is cancelled? It's minyan! Minyan is about struggling to shul under adverse conditions in order to assemble ten people for morning prayers! Granted "adverse conditions" tends to mean "ugh it's too early for this" rather than "that's quite a lot of snow," but to my sleep-befuddled 6am brain, they seem equally adverse, and if exertion for the one is expected in the normal way of things, why not exertion for the other?

From the mighty scrapings and rumblings out there, I deduce that the main road is probably more or less clear (I can't see it from my windows), but on reflection, given the demographic of our morning minyan, it seems unlikely that a minyan's worth of people will be out there clearing the ground between their cars and the main road, or between their front doors and the place their ride usually collects them.

Which, I think, means I can go back to bed.
Tikkun for learning Megillat Esther, in large print for the partially sighted. 48pt bold type, 1.25 line spaced, 4Mb, .pdf file.

Scrolls for ritual readings don't have vowels or cantillation marks, so readers often use a book called a tikkun to prepare readings. A tikkun has the unadorned text on one side and the text with vowels and cantillation on the other side. However, the text is usually pretty small, much smaller than the letters in a scroll, and the vowels and cantillation smaller still, so preparing from a book may be a good deal harder than reading from the actual scroll.

I have a partially-sighted friend who wants to learn to read Megillah, so I made a large-print tikkun. I figure she's not the only such person in the world, so I'm putting it online for all. Here it is. Enjoy. Leave a comment if you find it useful.

Printing and binding 164 pages is annoying, so I have also made it available on, for $11.10 (cost of production).

Here are some resources for learning to chant Megillah:

Virtual Cantor - downloadable recordings of each chapter, and CD available

JOFA's Esther resources (mostly not free)

Mechon Mamre's Esther tikkun. When you mouseover words, the vowels and cantillation appear. The text resizes well.

Thanks to Gabriel Wasserman for proofreading.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Feb. 7th, 2009 11:17 pm)
I have two PDF files. One has pages numbered 1, 3, 5... and one has pages numbered 2, 4, 6... I want to merge them so that the pages go 1, 2, 3... that is, merge two PDFs by taking alternate pages from the two files.

Having done that, I then want to reorder the document, so that instead of going 1, 2, 3... it goes ...3, 2, 1.

In lieu of me fiddling around on Google for hours, can anyone suggest a way of getting this done efficiently? I imagine there is a pdf-fiddling utility that does this, I just don't know which, and one of you lot might.

If you do, please tell. You will be helping someone partially-sighted access Megillah reading. Do it for her, if you wouldn't for me.

ETA: I can do part two by printing from Acrobat to Distiller in reverse order (thanks AW!). If I do that first, I only need to merge the two files and they'll already be backwardsed. But I still need to merge them. Both files are 80+ pages, so doing that by hand is a last resort.
A tikkun for reading the Torah is a book which has the text with all the twiddles on one side, and the text as it appears in the Torah, sans twiddles, on the other side.

Lion of Zion has a post today* about a fifteenth-century tikkun in manuscript. Needless to say, this is made of awesome, and you should all go and look at it because well gosh.

This puts me in mind of Asher Scharfstein, co-founder of Ktav Publishing.

His son Sol writes** "In 1947 my father had a brainstorm and assembled the first-of-its-kind Torah-reading text, entitled Tikkun Torah. This was an immediate success. This Tikkun, 60 years later, has gone through innumerable editions and has helped train tens of thousands of Torah readers."

Asked if he knew where his father got the idea, Sol said "I don't know...he just had the idea and he did it." Had he seen such a thing in manuscript? Had it occurred to him spontaneously? We don't know. In any case, the Scharfstein narrative is that this was the first time anyone had bothered to do it in print. Isn't that interesting?

--Obviously this post needs pictures of both the 15th-century manuscript and the first edition of Tikkun Torah, and possibly of the Simanim as well, being an example of what happens when you add computer typesetting to the mix. One of these days I'll hunt them up, you wait and see. Until then, this'll have to suffice. It's still interesting.--

* Hat tip to Manuscript Boy.
** You can read this in the front of Sol Scharfstein's The Five Books of Moses, an Easy-To-Read Torah Translation, published (of course) by Ktav.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Mar. 21st, 2008 12:35 pm)
Well, that was fun.

I sewed a paper plate and cup, and plastic cutlery, to a tablemat, and pinned it to a waistcoat. That is, I went as the Shulhan Arukh (the major law code whose title means Set Table).

I went to CSAIR in the evening - that's the local Conservative shul. I'd thought about going into the city, to Hadar's reading, but CSAIR's my community at the moment, and that won out, overall. There was a lot of noise, so it probably wasn't a very kosher reading for someone sitting at the back, but I was being one of the checkers, which means standing right next to the reader anyway, so I heard the whole thing. Some jolly good readers, two of whom are tiny wee things - one of them looks as though she's about ten years old, but she's presumably older than that; she was very good. Pizza bagels afterwards, yay.

Morning, got up at stupid o'clock to read at CSAIR's early reading. Only hardcore people get up for stupid o'clock readings, so this one was much more kosher. Also some jolly good readers. I like leyning, but I also like listening to leyning done well; it's like when people read foreign poetry, it just sounds nice. One doesn't hear it very often - too often people who can read well also read self-importantly. Competent but modest readers are rare gems. So anyway, there was one reader like that at the early reading, which was very much a treat.

Then zooming to the subway and downtown to Drisha's reading, since they're my community too. Also with one reader in particular who combines competence with modesty, exceedingly pleasant to listen to. And a couple of first-time readers, who are generally entirely precious, and all in all a very nice reading.

And I got to use my regel, yay, and we read from the megillah I wrote four years ago, and I read the bit about Esther writing. Esther's the only named woman in the Bible who writes, and when I wrote my first Torah I added Esther to my Hebrew name, feeling some sort of resonance with that. So it was particularly pleasing to read ve-tikhtov Esther.

Yummy food afterwards, and passing out fortune hamentaschen (i.e. fortune cookies, but with Yiddish proverbs and rabbinic aphorisms inside, and folded into the triangular Purim-cookie shape instead of the Chinese fortune-cookie shape), which were a smash hit, hurrah. Worth the fiddliness of making them for the fun of sharing them.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Sep. 12th, 2007 01:21 pm)
Following the departure of our cantor, I'm now the person who's responsible for making sure all the Torahs in our shul are rolled to the right places at the right times. This morning, rolling for tomorrow's readings, I found that two of the Torahs had broken seams right in the middle of the readings. So, being the resourceful soferet that I am, I whipped out my Torah thread and sewed them up. How good is that? :)

I'm also learning a bit of the reading for the second day. There's a special tune for the High Holy days, which I learned last year teaching my student Sarah (may-she-rest-in-peace). It is much more ponderous and almost-mournful than the regular tune, and it's very odd: no matter how high in my range I place it, the heavy nature of the melody is giving me a headache. This fits the solemn nature of the day.

Relatedly, insofar as the season's theme is healing and repentance, cleaning is proving cathartic, and I think it delightfully symbolic that my first acquisition as a single woman should be a stepladder.

At this time of year, one is also supposed to attempt to mend breeches breaches with one's fellows. I expect I have some breaches I ought to be working on, but honestly right now I'm having enough trouble stabilising all my internal breaches; in order to hold together, most of the available energy for repentance and forgiveness is directed within. I hope that if anyone has any burning issues with me, they'll compromise enough to let me know about it, because this is the time for cooling issues but this year I haven't much energy over for identifying them.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Jun. 19th, 2007 07:09 pm)
Warning: this post is only going to make sense if you know how to chant Torah.

Third aliyah of Korach - Numbers 16:30. Korach and chums have been bitching about how Moses and Aaron have all the power, and Moses is setting up a test: we'll both burn incense to God, and if the earth opens up and swallows you, then we'll know I was right.

Look at the trop. Look at what it does - you hardly ever get that sort of repetition in a mappach clause. Musically, it's step-up, bounce-down, bounce-up, bounce-down, bounce-up, settle-down, quiver - doesn't that sound like an earthquake to you? I liked that. Like the mesorah is making a little joke. Nice.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Sep. 13th, 2006 10:20 pm)
More restoring Torah today. All I can say about that is: crikey Moses it takes it out of you. Fixing lettering is hard work; much more so than writing. At least, after six hours of writing I'm happy and perky, and after six hours of lettering I'm mainlining chocolate just to stay vertical.

On a different note, you remember the student I raved about the other day? Well, today she invented musical notation (for those to whom that doesn't mean much: the collection of lines and tadpoles you see in front of musicians) whilst trying to find a way to write down the music so that she could remember it. I mean really, how awesome is that?

But it does mean I'm back awfully late and awfully tired, which doesn't lead to very interesting blogging. Sorry, folks. Come back next week, when the various Torahs which need fixing will have been fixed, and normal service will with any luck be restored.

Oh, my sister is in town. This is Good.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Sep. 7th, 2006 01:48 pm)
Dang, my student S is amazing.

Music doesn't come easily to her. But she learned a Torah portion...and another Torah portion...and now she's been asked to read on Yom Kippur, which means learning a whole new tune, but she's determined...AND, and, she's doing this simultaneously with chemotherapy. Chemo UTTERLY wipes one out, but she's still learning this Torah portion.

Amazing. What a terrific person.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Aug. 22nd, 2006 11:47 am)
Yesterday I...
a) wrote column 63
b) went into the city to teach my current Torah reading student
c) worked with Sofrut I
d) went swimming

Regarding a), that means the Torah is 15% done.
Regarding b), I observe that when I teach adult women, they have a tremendous lack of self-confidence, which has an extremely marked effect on what they do. If they believe they can do it - it sounds fine. If they give up halfway through, it immediately sounds distinctly less good. A funny thing.
Regarding c), Sofrut I is working through Mishnat Soferim now - the Mishnah Berurah's version of how the letters ought to be formed. As we go, we're noting how MB differs from Keset about these things. Sofrut I also involves pizza and, this week, cake, which is super :)
Regarding d), splosh!

Today I am attempting to write column 64, but have had a Bad Quill morning. I think that Really Bad Quill days are a direct consequence of Blunt Knife days, but sometimes a knife doesn't feel very blunt so one doesn't notice, and just puts it down to poor cutting. So I took a break. The break is now over. Toodle-pip.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Apr. 20th, 2006 10:51 pm)
And in other news, on Wednesday I read the Song of the Sea,* and it was super-fun. You know how sometimes you're doing something performancy, and you just have the feeling it's going well? Like that. I'd forgotten that everyone stands for that bit, so when I paused just prior to launching into the grand parts, I saw everyone getting to their feet, and sort of thought 'gosh, look...this had better be good hadn't it...'


* which, unlike for instance the Ten Commandments, doesn't play a huge part in Christian-based cultural traditions, so if you were wondering - we take it a bit more seriously. F'r instance, we stand up when it's read, like we do for the Ten Biggies.
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
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Feb. 27th, 2006 09:52 pm)
This morning was wicked cold, so much so that when someone dropped her coffee on the platform this morning, it had turned into a streak of iced coffee by the time her train had pulled out. In this kind of weather I read accounts of Antarctic explorations; those chaps went around without scarves in negative Farenheit and complained that it was too hot when the temperature approached freezing-point.* I survived the walk to Sinai Free by tying my coat collar up around my ears using my scarf (ahah!), and hung over the heater in the studio thawing before starting work. Fraid I'll never be a polar explorer.

Work: more lettering this poor flaky Torah. Exodus had several columns which were nothing but flakes (a healthy high-fibre way to start the day, no?), and they took about an hour apiece to fix. Only Genesis left to do, though, and it's not quite as bad as Exodus. The scroll didn't like the heater, it started to complain and curl up at the edges. Tough cookies, I was freezing without the heater, so I kept it flat by viciously rolling it up.

Thence to teaching: my grown-up student is coming along nicely. She mentioned that she would like to read at her son's bar mitzvah, but didn't think she could do a whole aliyah. She showed me the shortest aliyah, and insisted that it was beyond her, so I made her go through it, and she discovered that actually she probably could do it after all. I get rather a lot of pleasure when my students grow wings like that. Worth staying late for.

Home - to carpets! in all directions!

* South - Shackleton's abortive expedition to cross the Antarctic, which turned into a camping-trip on ice floes, pitching tents on the ice and going about in minimal amounts of clothing. Yet to come is the incredible bit where they all get home safely.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Feb. 17th, 2006 12:26 am)
Gevalt...fixing lettering really takes it out of you. I fixed the Book of Numbers today, and about half of Leviticus, and I was wiped out even before I'd started my evening's teaching. Which, I'm pleased to say, is coming along very nicely. It's so weird to be being a singing teacher - I thought I was just teaching Torah reading, but she needs some singing technique before she can do it respectably, so we're learning singing technique as well. I haven't had a singing lesson for years.

I didn't make it to supper at the T-Ws, but got there in time to hang out, which was nice anyway. On the way home some people got into a fight in the front of the train, so we had to wait for simply ages at 207th st waiting for the police to arrive and extract the participants. It sounded as though the worst weapon featured was a stick - not nearly as alarming as some of the things you hear.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Feb. 13th, 2006 10:02 pm)
When I'm at home in the warm, working on writing, and thinking about how immensely boring the subway ride to the Upper West is, I forget just how tremendously satisfying teaching is. So I think poo, I'm teaching tonight, don't wanna go out, poo, but of course I have to, this is life when you have jobs, and once we get started I remember oh right, I like teaching.

My Monday-Thursday grown-up student is coming along nicely. We're working more on singing technique than trop; her problem is not so much figuring out how to use trop, but how to sing it in tune. A long long time ago, when I was young enough that singing lessons came into the parental budget,* my singing teacher used a lot of physical metaphors to get me singing properly - things like miming throwing a ball or stretching elastic, ha-mevin yavin - and I'm finding that they work a treat with this student. I tried them with my Sunday-Wednesday bat mitzvah student, and she didn't really take to them, which makes me think that possibly one needs to be grown-up before the benefits overcome the embarrassing dorky feeling.

It's way way cool how you can sing a phrase that goes E-D-E way out of tune if you think about it as three separate notes, but completely in tune by picturing it as a long straight thing with a wiggle in it. Same with merkha tevir, which in my mind is like nothing so much as someone slipping on a banana skin, it leaps up and then falls into a descending legato curve which finishes by righting itself to its starting position.


* Thank you, parents.


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