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Rabbi Meir said, “When I came to Rabbi Yishmael, he said to me, ‘My son, what work do you do?’ I said to him, ‘I am a Sofer (scribe).’ He said to me, ‘My son, be careful with your work, because your work is the work of Heaven. Maybe you will leave out a letter, or add an unnecessary additional letter. Consequently, you will destroy the entire world!'” (Gemara Eiruvin 13)
SOFRUT – IN YOUR HOME SOME WAY!
Every observant Jewish family has mezuzot on the doorposts of their home. It is a positive mitzvah (commandment) from the Torah [Deuteronomy 6:9 and 11:20]. All observant Jewish men wear Tefillin (phylacteries) on their arm and head every day (except for Shabbat and holidays.) This too is a mitzvah from the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:8 and 11:18). The Torah is the basic text of the law of God for the Jewish people. It is read from the original scroll (not a printed book) every Monday, Thursday, Shabbat, on holidays and other important days (such as fast days etc.) On the festival of Purim, the miraculous story of Purim is read in front of the entire community – from a kosher Megillah – a scroll which contains the story of Purim. Their are other very notable texts used in the Jewish world, including a document of divorce.
All these documents must be written by a Jewish scribe, in order to be kosher for the purposes they are intended. The laws are highly complex. It takes hundreds upon hundreds of hours of diligent study and effort in learning to write – to be able to write the beautiful 22/27 letters of the Jewish alphabet – in Hebrew – the Aleph Beit.
In addition to the actual laws and art in writing, the scribe must be a God fearing man. Did you know that there are many scribes who are well learned in the kavanot (intentions) of writing God’s name. In fact, they focus their intentions every time they write it. Many scribes immerse in a mikvah (a ritual pool for purity) before writing the Name of God – and who excluding this, will immerse every single morning in any case – sun or shade, summer or winter, heat or cold, rain or snow! In fact, to be a Sofer means to be prepared to perform perhaps the holiest work possible. It can only be that one completely dedicated to God, his Torah and the Jewish people – will be prepared to work through the necessary material and lifestyle – in order to qualify as a Sofer.
Of course, there are always to be found those who can write beautifully without knowing the laws. In such circumstances, it is impossible that the document written will actually be kosher – no matter how beautiful it looks! The observer looking at the text will never know!
THE PATH TO BECOMING A SOFER
What is the path to becoming a Sofer? What are some of its most important laws? In the upcoming posts, I’m going to be sharing more about this beautiful profession. Readers to my blog will see how it is that every single person in the Jewish world benefits in some way from the work of a Sofer. It is an honourable profession of the highest kind! We’ll see how important it is to value the work done by the Sofer. We’ll see how important it is to value that the actual costs in purchasing the various documents written by the Sofer are far from the true value of the work done.
Most of all, I’m going to be sharing my own journey into becoming a Sofer. As I write this, I must let my readers know something… I am grateful to have obtained certification for having mastered the laws allowing me to write. However, my writing is still not of an acceptable standard. There are a few out-standing things I am still in need of learning. I am hoping to be able to afford the necessary expenses to complete my studies. As my own current circumstances do not allow me the freedom to complete my studies, I have decided to share my story here. I hope it excites you enough to want to take part so that I can complete my learning totally.
I hope you’ll enjoy the journey with me!