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.
NY Times:

Is bibliophilia a religious impulse? You can’t walk into Sotheby’s exhibition space in Manhattan right now and not sense the devotion...

...The collection’s geographical scale is matched by its temporal breadth, which extends over a millennium...These are all books written in Hebrew or using Hebrew script, many of them rare or even unique. Most come from the earliest centuries of Hebrew printing in their places of origins and thus map out a history of the flourishing of Jewish communities around the world...

...There are extraordinary items on display here, including a Hebrew Bible handwritten in England in 1189 — the only dated Hebrew text from England before King Edward I expelled the Jews in 1290.

...There is also an exquisitely preserved edition of the Babylonian Talmud (1519-23) made by the Christian printer Daniel Bomberg in Venice, an edition created with the advice of a panel of scholars that codified many aspects of how the Talmud is displayed and printed...

...There is also a 12th-century scroll of the Hebrew Pentateuch that came from the Samaritans...

It's on display at Sotheby’s, 1334 York Avenue, at 72nd Street, Manhattan, until Thursday.

They're open 9-5.30 during the week.

I've been Horribly Sick all this week and don't anticipate being especially steady on my feet tomorrow. However, I plan to be in Manhattan on Tuesday; York Ave is RIGHT over on the East side about as far as you can go, and I ought to be there by 11.45.

Who's coming?

We discovered an error in [our] Sefer Torah this Shabbat. The error...involves a Tav that should be a Hay.

There are two aspects to dealing with this; the theoretical and the practical.

The theoretical side represents hours and hours of study. Before you go anywhere near fixing a Torah, you've got to know why this is a total disaster, for instance:

and you have to learn the several thousand other potential disasters that a sofer has to know how to avoid.

However, the practical side of a fix like this is actually very easy. It's a tiny bit of knife work and a tiny bit of ink work.

I've put in the hours and hours of study, and we live in a digital world. Suppose Esther lives hundreds of miles away from any sofer, and her Torah has this problem. She takes a picture of the problem in the Torah and emails it to me. I can look at it, and chances are I'll know how to fix it. If she knows how to use a knife and ink, I can send her something like this:*

and she can fix the problem. She can be my hands over hundreds of miles. If necessary, we could use a webcam, so that I can see exactly what she's doing.

Of course ideally Esther's community would have a fully-trained sofer. But in the real world, I think this could be the next best thing. It's better than reading from a non-kosher Torah, and it's better than having the Torah languish unused until a sofer happens to come to town.

I think this could happen. I could take a day and teach people how to use these:

and how NOT to use them (can you identify the things there that you must NEVER NEVER use on a Torah?).

In a day, someone is not going to learn all the rules about how to fix letters (what do you do with something like that thing to the right? do you need to do anything?), but I believe they can learn enough that they can make basic repairs under remote supervision.

One might say that letting half-trained people loose on Torahs is a dreadful idea, with unlimited potential for havoc to be unleashed. However, of course one would teach boundaries. Fences around tricky areas. When not to attempt something. The importance of not overestimating one's ability. And it might very well be better than the present state of affairs, where entirely untrained people attempt repairs that are quite horrifying.

* NOTE: Don't try this at home. This is not Torah writing. This is Times New Roman. It would not look quite like this on a Torah.


That's my vision. I reckon I can teach someone to do this in a day, if they've got some arts-and-crafts background. Anyone want to have a bit of a Manhattan guinea-pig day?

I've talked before about why no other dots in the Torah, and I keep saying I'll say more later. So here we go.

There are ten places in Torah where some letters have dots above them, variously styled puncta extraordinaria, nekudot, Extraordinary Points, or just "those dots in the Torah." For reference, the verses are: in Genesis, 16:5; 18:9; 19:33; 33:4; 37:12. In Numbers, 3:39; 9:10; 21:30; 29:15; in Deuteronomy, 29:28.


Dots here serve much the same function as lines like - do in Roman letters; to delete or to highlight. I might use an underline to point out something you wouldn't necessarily have noticed, thus:

Found ermine, deer hides damaged (Wikipedia example of cryptic crossword clue)

and I might use a strikeout to indicate that a word doesn't belong at all, but nonetheless it's saying telling you something.

Dots are used similarly; here's a manuscript of Ketubot 14b. The text should be תנא קמא סבר כל פסול דקרו ליה ושתיק, and you can see how the scribe has started to write איזוהי א, from the phrase תנו רבנן איזוהי אלמנת עיסה later in the text. Realising he was in the wrong place, he's put dots over it (this is much quicker than erasing and redoing it), and continued in the right place:

Here's an example where the scribe was supposed to write רב נחמן בר יצחק אמר ראשון דמעיקרא משמע, but left out the word ראשון - realising this later, he put a dot where it should be, and wrote the missing word in the margin:

I know I've seen a manuscript where dots were being used to highlight particular letters, but I can't quite remember which one just now, so no picture of that one. These are mediaeval, not ancient, but mediaeval's easier to get pictures of - similar sorts of things do appear in ancient manuscripts, see for e.g. Emanuel Tov's Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, pp 56, 214.
more on this... )
Since I was posting at Jewschool anyway...

Torahs are supposed to be transported with the absolute maximum of utter respect, as befits something that symbolises the essence of a religion.

So, you're delivering a Torah. You're taking it as cabin baggage, since checked isn't very nice. There's only the one of you, since it's not economically feasible for a companion to come with you. You're waiting in the concourse and you need to use the bathroom. What do you do?

Here are the values in play: In an airport, checked baggage doesn't get treated especially well, and if you leave anything unattended, it is liable to be stolen or removed and exploded (and the airport will be evacuated and everyone's flights will be disrupted). Also, a Torah has to be treated with respect in transit. Specifically, it is Very Not Okay to take a Torah into the bathroom, even if it is wrapped up. You may also not treat it like any old package, unless there are safety reasons such as being afraid of thieves.

Posed with the question, one kid in Berkeley decided, "You find a Jew and ask them to look after it..."

Asked if a Jew was necessary, kid said no, her second choice would be a security person, but a Jew would be better.

More... )
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Nov. 28th, 2008 03:27 pm)
I have finished writing the Torah.

I have laid in supplies of ice-cream.

Shabbat shalom.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Nov. 26th, 2008 08:33 pm)

ויאכל תנובת שדי
ושמן מחלמיש צור
עם חלב כרים
עם חלב כליות חטה
וישמן ישרון ויבעט
ויטש אלוה עשהו
יקנאהו בזרים
יזבחו לשדים לא אלה
חדשים מקרב באו

Haazinu suck - skipped line

You see what I did?

This, my friends, is what is known as a Setback. It's also what's known as a Totally Classic Scribal Error That You Totally Should Have Avoided.

The bits with boxes drawn round them - אלוה is a Name of God, which means I can't erase it, and אלה is a Maybe Name of God, which I also can't erase in case it Is A Name of God.

I can fix it, it'll just involve some tedious erasing and some clever (but fiddly and somewhat fraught) knifework to avoid erasing the Divine Names. Blehhhhhh.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Nov. 13th, 2008 04:45 pm)
AyehNormally, words in the Torah look like this. Just the letters - no vowels, no musical notation, nothing. This week's reading is different: there are some DOTS.

But first I'm going to talk about why nothing other than the letters, cos I think it's interesting.

Put on an arch-traditional hat. Now you believe that the Torah was dictated by God, to Moses, on Mount Sinai. God gave Moses the letters; just the letters, nothing else. Later on, the masoretic system of twizzles and oojits (this is a highly technical term) was used in manuscripts so that the Jews would remember how to pronounce the Torah. But we invented those, and it isn't appropriate to add them to God's Torah. A row of letters can have different meanings, depending on how you pronounce it; the different meanings are part of the multi-layered message of the Torah. Vowels remove ambiguity and strip the Torah of meaning. So the Torah, our record of the ultimate divine communication to humankind, stays as it was given.

Now take off that hat and put on a historian's hat. This is making you focus on how the vowel signs weren't invented until a very long time after the alphabet evolved. Probably a lot of people didn't even get to hear about them until decades, or centuries, after they were invented. For a long, long time there would be a cultural awareness that letters basically don't - didn't - have extra marks. Certainly, after a while they are no longer newfangled, and the cultural memory of "vowels didn't used to exist at all" is gone, but add to this a cultural awareness that the sefer Torah is in some way connected to the security of continuity, and you can quite easily see why people might not be inclined to cover the Torah with these newfangled vowel things. It's been replaced by a cultural memory of "this is a text we don't change," with the instinctive corollary "we can't quite explain why, but it makes people feel really weird if we do it, and that's not good for a community."

This, by the way, is an example of how different kinds of Jews can use different language to articulate the same values. Communally, we have a vague kind of instinct that vowels in the Torah aren't good. How we explain that varies, but the practical result is the same; no vowels.

Elav with dotsHere's our dotty verse - Genesis 18:9, where some angels disguised as random travellers have arrived at Avraham's tent during siesta time, and he's bounded out to meet them with abundant hospitality. And: ויאמרו אליו איה שרה אשתך ויאמר הנה באהל

Vayomeru elav, ayei Sarah ishtekha? vayomer, hineh baohel - They [the angels] said to him [Avraham], where is Sarah your wife? And he said, see: in the tent.

Now, the commentators point out that angels are from God, and therefore they know perfectly well that Sarah is in the tent. Why on earth do they ask Avraham where Sarah is?

Because that's a polite way of starting a conversation, they explain. You know - "Hey, Avraham? How're you? What's up with Sarah?" Okay, that's an acceptable answer.

Now, you can see that three letters of elav - to him - aleph, yud, and vav - have dots over them. What does that spell? Ayo. What's the very next word? Ayeh. Ayeh is a word that means "where is she?" Ayo is a word that means "where is he?"

We explain that just like they said "Ayeh," they also said "Ayo." Just like the angels chatted with Avraham and inquired after his wife, they also chatted with Sarah and inquired after her husband.

Which is cute, and a nice extra window into the story. But the rabbis use it to illustrate a point of good manners: when one visits somewhere, they say, one should inquire after the hostess as well as after the host.

Nice for itself, but also awesome for what it's doing with the text. This particular part of the Torah is high on action and low on mitzvot. You can read the text just as an interesting story, and that's nice, but when you mouseover the dots and get the parenthetical storylet, and its associated mitzvahlet of polite behaviour, it stops being just a nice story that you listen to in shul, and turns into an extra thread in the weave that binds Torah, Judaism, and human relationships. This neatly illustrates the idea that the Torah contains more than just the plain text.

If we had vowels, we wouldn't notice the dots. I already suggested that vowels remove ambiguity and take away some of the Torah's layers of meaning. Dots are a hint that there is even more meaning there than we thought, and it would be a pity if we forgot to notice that.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Oct. 22nd, 2008 08:50 pm)
Want to hear about my Simchat Torah? I got to dance with my friend Hillel.

He really loves Torahs, which suits me just fine. On Shemini Atzeret afternoon, Hillel helped me change the Torah covers - they take off their special white High Holy dresses and go back into their workaday velvets - and on Simchat Torah I got to dance with Torah on one arm and Hillel on the other. I think that was probably the best bit of my Succot. It was great.

The rest of the time: mostly logistics; I'm Torah Girl at my shul, and it's my job to make sure the Torahs are all a) rolled to the right places b) in the right locations. Making sure the lightest Torahs are upstairs for the dancing, but also that the ones we actually read from are accessible and not mixed up, and that the Holocaust ones are in the right place for the memorial service, and so on, and so forth; quite a lot of work. Definitely had sore feet by the end of it all.

Hillel is five, by the way. Just in case you'd got all disappointed thinking I'd gone and got coupled up.
Here's how to take an aliyah:

Touch the fringes of the tallit to the Torah, where the reader shows you.
Kiss the fringes.
Roll the Torah closed and say the blessings.
Roll the Torah open again and listen to the reading.
The reader will point to the end of the reading. Touch the fringes to that place.
Kiss the fringes again.
Roll the Torah closed and say the blessings.

The thing is that getting an aliyah is an honour, and often enough honours mean dressing up. And for a lot of people, dressing up means lipstick.

Kiss the fringes.

It sometimes happens that lipstick gets left on the fringes.

Touch the fringes to that place.

And accordingly it sometimes happens that lipstick gets transferred to the Torah.

Lipstick, being greasy, is really difficult to get out of a Torah. And it looks pretty awful; the holy Torah smeared with lipstick as if it were a coffee cup.

Just be careful, is all. Use kissproof lipstick, or take a different fringe for the second set of blessings. Don't get lipstick on the Torah.

...however you want to spell it; the places in Torah where the received tradition says we write one thing and read another.

I'm sure there are squillions of scholarly theories regarding these, knocking about. I've not read them. This is strictly experiential, from a scribal perspective. There is a gigantic table of them under the cut.

There are two of these in Torah. Euphemisms are easily understood - at some point, we decided that certain words were too rude to be read out loud in shul, so we substituted politer ones. From a scribal perspective, that's the end of the story, but it does raise the wider question of why it's okay to pretend the Torah says something it doesn't. I mean, we spend so much time insisting that every word is deeply significant; how is it okay to make these changes?

These are super-easy to understand. I've done most of them myself, except that when I do them they're errors to be corrected. When you write, you're looking at what you're writing, and holding the words in your head. Most people do that by saying the phrase to themselves, so it's easy enough to mix up lo-with-a-vav with lo-with-an-aleph. People with snapshot memories are at an advantage here, I suppose. I've listed six of these.

Missing yud - vav instead of yud-vav
I could have listed these as homophones, I suppose, but they're very specific - all instances where the word should finish yud-vav, with the sound "v," and have been written without the yud. This is understandable: you might have had "v" in your brain, and attached "vav" to that thought, and written that. This happens 13 times.

Hey instead of vav
Sometimes a hey at the end of a word carries the "o" sound, like in Shlomo (שלמה). So things like בְּעִירוֹ, which ought to have a vav on the end, could have בעירה substituted for them relatively easily, since they'd be homophones. I don't understand why this substitution might happen when the vav carries the "u" sound, though, unless the two used to sound the same. Anyway, there are seven of these.

Missing vav
There are plenty of places in Torah - words like חדש - which could perfectly plausibly be spelled with an extra vav, חודש. Rabbinic Judaism takes it for granted that whatever these may have been on Sinai, we've completely lost the tradition for when that happens, so we just do the best we can. We're not talking about those missing vavs here. These ones are stranger. There are three of these.

A yud where a vav ought to be, or a vav where a yud ought to be
There's a reason scribes are cautioned to be very careful about making their vavs sufficiently long and their yuds sufficiently short, and this is it. This is the most common sort of difference, there are 18 of them.

Jen hasn't the faintest

We insist that Torah is copied very carefully, from a copy, and proofread before use, and we insist that a Torah with a single error is removed from use until the error is fixed. I suspect this is basically how the text has managed to stay in pretty good shape over time. We don't have similar rules for the rest of the Bible, and those texts are far more corrupt. Apart from the euphemisms, the craziest Torah gets is a rogue letter here and there. Prophets and Writings have whole words doing crazy things, up to and including not even being there any more (so you write nothing, but read a word). This is a very nice example of how texts get more corrupt if you are less careful about their transmission.

The Rogue Letters themselves, under a cut because it's a 51-line table )

hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Nov. 23rd, 2007 01:31 pm)
GidIt's Parshat Vayishlach again, everyone! In which Jacob wrestles with the Mysterious Personage. You remember the story? Jacob is rather jolly worried about meeting up with Esav after twenty-odd years apart, given the circumstances under which they parted (i.e. Jacob running away because Esav was planning to kill him). So he spends the night alone in the wilderness, having sent everyone else on ahead - maybe not the most sensible thing to do, strategically, but anyway - and a Mysterious Personage wrestles with him all night, and Wrenches his Thigh. Dawn comes up, and the Mysterious Personage says cripes, time I was off (rather like the trolls in The Hobbit), and Jacob is left bemused and limping. And so the Israelites refrain from eating the nerve in the thigh - the gid ha-nashe - to this day.

So, this week is the ideal time for the post about Sewing, because gid is something scribes run into quite a lot. Scribal gid - "sinew" - is tendons; animal tendons, of course, not people ones, spun with glue.

New sheets of parchment come as single sheets, not as one big roll, and one sews them together after they've been written. People ask incredulously "Do you sew them together yourself?" I don't understand whence the incredulity, honestly - is it part of the Brave New culture which doesn't mend but buys new? Yes, one sews them together oneself. Much easier than sewing on a button, and in any case, compared to how much work the writing is, the sewing's a breeze.

awlBefore sewing, I make the holes for the stitches with an awl, rather like a shoemaker would. The stitches go through twelve holes, one for each tribe of Israel. They make eleven stitches, one for each allotted tribal portion in the Land of Israel. The tribe of Levi, the priests, did not have land of their own; they lived throughout the country, uniting the other tribes by creating a holy presence all through the land. So too the thread moves from stitch to stitch, uniting them together in a seam, uniting the sheets of writing together as a scroll. Without the seams, the Torah is fractured, Israel is divided, even if all the words are there.

StitchesNote: This is custom, not law. Technically, there is no given number of stitches to be used in the seam, provided there are some at the top, middle, and bottom. I like the above interpretation, so that is how I am making my seams, but a seam with a different number of stitches is not invalid. It is important to be clear about the distinction between custom and law.

The stitches are essential, and just as holy as the letters. It follows that just as there is a special declaration of intent to be made before writing, there is one to be made before sewing. One has to be conscious of doing the job specially for this particular Scroll - it's not just any old sewing, any old scroll - it's THE sewing, THE scroll. Accordingly, there's a custom to use a gold needle, because gold is the metal of kingship, and other metals are mundane at best, and at worst associated with harmful things like war and commerce.

SeamAnd after all that build-up, the seam itself is just an ordinary (if large) running stitch. You sew wrong side out, just like you would any sewing, you knot the thread and do a backstitch at either end, like any sewing, and afterwards you turn it right side out and press the seam, like any sewing. Except you use a bookbinder's tool, called a bone folder, not an iron.

Et voila!

So what about the gid ha-nashe?

Gid in Hebrew means a number of things. "Stringy bits," basically - "gid" as a non-specialist term includes tendons and ligaments, also veins, arteries, and nerves.

Keset ha-Sofer, our friend the scribes' rulebook, says that one shouldn't use the gid ha-nashe, the sciatic nerve, to sew Torahs, since we are forbidden to eat the sciatic nerve, and we don't make Torahs out of things we're forbidden to eat (note: this is law, and not just custom).

There's also a practical aspect: nerves just don't make good thread. Tendons and ligaments make the best thread because they have oodles of collagen in them. Collagen is fairly bouncy stretchy stuff even when it's dried out, so tendons are good and flexible and make a good thread. Veins, arteries, and nerves aren't built like that, so when the component cells die the strings go brittle, and wouldn't be much use for sewing.

Along similar lines, if one doesn't have any gid for sewing, and it's a real emergency, one may use thread. The author of the Keset ha-Sofer says it's better to use flax thread than silk thread, because of the principle that we don't make Torahs out of things we're forbidden to eat, and silk is made from worms, which aren't kosher. The silk itself isn't exactly non-kosher, but it's apparently a bit too inherently wormy for his liking. But he's Ashkenazi - living in Europe. You occasionally see Torahs from China sewn with silk - perhaps greater familiarity with silk gave them a different perspective.

Something a bit different to think about during this week's reading!
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Jun. 6th, 2007 10:06 am)
Torah Cleaning at Temple Beth David yesterday. Me, a bag of cleaning tools, and about eighty willing congregants, cleaning their Torahs with sponges, erasers, sandpaper, and vodka.

Continuing the metaphor of Torah repair for Life, I think cleaning a Torah gives people an interesting extra perspective - it shows that Torahs are, as it were, only human. Admitting that Torahs need cleaning just like anything else, and furthermore having ordinary people help with the cleaning, I think helps people own holiness. It's easy to get used to thinking of holiness as something which gets trotted out in shul once a week, and Judaism along with it - something which happens for a couple of hours on a Saturday morning. Performing an everyday task on a holy object is a powerful demonstration of the less familiar concept of mixing sacred and mundane. Reversing the details, we can transfer the concept: mix mundane and sacred. Judaism is structured so that one can bring tastes of the sacred into more or less any part of one's daily activities: bringing cleaning to Torah shows us that we can bring Torah to cleaning - awareness of the Divine Awesomeness out of those two hours in temple on Shabbat morning, and into the rest of the week.

At least, I hope that's what they got out of it :)
Yes, a soferet is like a swordfish.

If I work on a Torah for someone, it's as if I cooked swordfish in their kitchen. They can no longer share resources with Orthodox or non-egalitarian Conservative groups. If I cook swordfish* and I'm hosting Orthodox guests, it is an appalling desecration of trust not to tell them about it. If I repair a Torah and then let Orthodox congregations use it, it is likewise an appalling desecration of trust. If we want respect, as Jews or as human beings, we have to give respect, and part of that is accepting that other Jews' rule systems are valid despite being different from ours.

Before I work with any client, I make sure they're aware of this. People must know that if they hire me to work on their Torahs, it's like making swordfish in their kitchen. If they want to hold open the option of sharing their food, or their Torahs, with people who are more traditional, they must not cook swordfish and they must not employ me to work on their Torahs.

All non-traditional scribes have this responsibility. We MUST make sure our clients know what they're getting into. That their Torahs will be considered pasul by the traditional end of the Jewish spectrum, and that giving those people such a Torah to use for Torah reading is a terrible, terrible thing to do, just as it's a terrible thing to sneak pork to Jews who don't eat pork. Our clients may choose to support us and so forfeit sharing resources with those who don't agree, just like they do with their kitchens, but we must ensure that they are making an informed decision.

In my experience, even really learned people don't necessarily know that a soferet is like a swordfish. We cannot ever assume that our clients have already made their decision just because they are talking to us, even if they are learned. We must not ever assume it. We must be explicit, each and every time. I am like unto a swordfish, said the soferet.

Rabbi Yishmael said to Rabbi Meir that as a sofer he had the potential to destroy the entire world. We have the potential to destroy trust, and the responsibility not to. In this, a soferet is considerably more dangerous than a swordfish.

* Not that I do cook swordfish. But if I did.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Aug. 19th, 2006 09:41 pm)
On Shabbat, one may not carry objects in the public domain, but if a building is on fire, certain things may be carried into the public domain to save them. Holy books are one of the things which may be carried; you can carry a sefer Torah out of a burning building on Shabbat although you may not carry Harry Potter.

The Talmud asks, what constitutes a holy book? Is a translation of Torah holy enough that one may break Shabbat to carry it out of a burning building? What about one written in impermanent ink? Transliterated? Perhaps only Torah and Prophets, but not that frivolous section, the Writings?

Read all about it! )

Is this good for the Jews? Discuss.

* You can look this up in the Beit Yosef, if you feel inclined. OH334.
** from a search on Bar-Ilan's database; if you happen to know a Rashba expert who knows the answer, do please tell me about it.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( May. 15th, 2006 10:12 pm)
The other Huge Work thing I've been doing of late, and am still doing, is re-lettering a sad Torah. It's normal for the letters in Torahs to crack and flake over time; you hope that it will happen over a couple of centuries rather than a couple of decades. When this happens, you just rewrite the flaky bit and all is well. Like this letter nun: it's flaked a bit, but you colour in the flaked part, and it's kosher again. (There's more to it than that; please don't try this at home unless you know what all the other bits are.)


Sometimes, perhaps owing to bad parchment, or bad ink, or being kept in poor conditions, flaking gets REALLY BAD:

really sad letters

Normally, this would signal Time To Buy A New Torah. But this congregation is emotionally attached to this one, and is willing to pay to have it fixed, thus:

less sad letters

It's not an economical decision; it's more than likely that they'll all fall off again a few years from now, and the cost of repair is easily as much as the cost of buying a second-hand sefer. If your sefer looks like this, start shopping for a replacement.

Anyway, this is what I'm doing at the moment.

And for good measure, an example of what happens on Bad Ink Days. The shin in the middle of the third row started out like a normal sort of shin, just a bit blobby, like the one in the top row...but then it spread itself out and decided not to be a shin any more. I shall fix it by scraping the letter off with a scalpel and rewriting.

blobby shin

hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Apr. 10th, 2006 09:32 pm)
Today Mar Gavriel came round, and we sewed his megillah of Shir ha-Shirim.* We put reinforcments on it, too. I wouldn't normally put reinforcements on a megillah, especially not one which is only about ten inches high - it doesn't need it - but it's awfully cute.

Reinforcements are the things you see on the back of a sefer Torah, at the tops and bottoms of the seams. Next time you see someone holding the Torah up, snatch a look at the back; you see the things which look like Band-Aids? Those are reinforcements. They're little pieces of parchment cut to size and glued on.** They're the first line of defence against seams tearing - sort of like having a button at the top of a zipper; if there's a sudden jerk, the button might pop open, but the zipper will hopefully stay put. Same with a seam. You hope that if the Torah gets jerked (maybe it rolls off the amud, maybe hagbah overbalances), the reinforcement will hold, or at least absorb most of the shock, and stop the seam coming undone.

I also cleaned things. My RSI is playing up; cleaning is hard when certain usage of certain tendons is liable to cause pain. But things are cleaner than they were, and Pesach is on the way.

* which is part of the Pesach liturgy; normally people just read it out of a Bible, but if you're either very hardcore or very cool, you read it from a scroll.

** with kosher glue, people! Not with tape! And if you're missing a reinforcement, get it fixed. And if you really can't get it fixed, at least use archival tape, which won't stain and can be removed without damage.