My Journey to Become a Sofer – Part 7 – My New Teacher

Teacher

TeacherI had finally found someone who it seemed would be able to help me in learning the necessary material to become a Sofer! He was a young man – not more than about 32-34 years old. He seemed focused and sincere. I had told him my story and that I was in need of lessons. We began a first lesson where he began by asking me to draw one of the letters of the Aleph Beit. Of course, I had never drawn a letter before (in the correct script) and simply gave it a try. He seemed relatively pleased, though I still wonder what that letter had looked like – all these years on!

We began working through the Mishnah Berurah. He asked me if I would prefer learning the laws of writing, or if I would prefer to get started with learning how the letters are actually written. I asked him to choose what he might feel better – though he could not advise. As a result, we began with the laws of writing (according to the order that it appears in the Shulchan Aruch). Years later, I reflect on that choice and realise what a mistake it was. The correct approach to take is to get started with one’s writing as soon as possible. There is no need to waste time learning the laws for writing Tefillin when one will inevitably start writing a Megillah first in any case! Once one is already involved in one’s writing and practising – one can move on to learning the laws for writing Tefillin and Mezuzot. Everything in its time – but be sure to make the best decision in the order to follow!

The laws for writing a Megillah are far easier to deal with. One does not have to be concerned with writing the Megillah in order (for example) much like one must be when writing Tefillin or Mezuzot. These are the all important laws of “KeSidran“. If one writes even one letter ahead of another, one may not return to correct or write a letter before that. Of course, if one has written the name of God somewhere (in the Mezuzah or Tefillin) one is in double jeopardy! Not only can one not erase a letter before that – or correct a letter before that, but one cannot even make an erasure up until the letter that needs correcting, then correct it, and then continue onwards – still now in order! One now has the serious prohibition of erasing God’s Name! Writing a Megillah, however, which does not include God’s Name means that if one does make a mistake, one can always erase wherever one may need to and re-write letters that need to be corrected. Let me just clarify this. One may never form a letter by erasing a part of it to cause the letter to be formed through the erasing. This is known as Chok Tochut – literally engraving (the letter) through hollowing it out so to speak. All letters must be written through the ink flowing from the Kulmus (quill). However, one may indeed erase a complete letter and then re-write it if an error is made. This law of erasing letters after they have been written does not apply to Mezuzot and Tefillin – which must be written in order (KeSidran).

Starting with the Megillah is then the first step. As a result, one can move on. Once one is already writing, one can spend part of one’s day learning the laws, and another part continuing with improving one’s writing. It cannot be stressed enough – that actual physical practise of writing the letters is imperative and takes hundreds of hours to get right! If one spends dozens of hours learning the other laws, while one can be already involved in one’s writing – one will be wasting time – during that time – that one could use to practise and actually get started with writing one’s first Megillah!

I would learn this big lesson some time later when I had realised, that though I had past the main examination with the Vaad Mishmeret Stam, my writing was just not up to standard! By that time, my teacher had already had enough of me and felt he could teach me no further – as I had already passed the examination. I was already a qualified Sofer.

This was my first lesson with my new teacher, and it was only one sign that I was on the wrong track in my learning. I did not realise this at the time, and continued my learning with him. I will share more in further posts as to the actual learning we did – so keep tuned. 

I just want to add one more point here. After the lesson, it seemed like we were on a path to learning and that he was ready to help. He had – in fact – not mentioned his charging me anything. I had understood he was there to help me in the sense of help. I had not known he was going to charge. As I have constantly noticed in the general Israeli society, the custom is to always be of help and then bill afterwards. If one really wants to get to the bottom of things, one has to establish a price before – a very hard thing to do in a society that believes that help comes first and money shouldn’t be everything – until the help is given and the money demanded – no matter how much is asked for.

In short, the lessons were going to cost, but due to the financial assistance I had received for lessons, I chose to use the money on these lessons. I had felt I would get what I needed from the young Sofer. I had asked him if he would take me through everything in order to become a successful Sofer, and he had answered in the affirmative. More on this later. The lessons were beginning. I was getting ready to learn and to move on to learning how to become a Sofer Mumcheh – and expert scribe!

For more on my journey, be sure to check out the posts that preceded this one, as well as finding out more about my current situation by visiting the Sponsor a Sofer page. Feel free to be in touch with me regarding where I am at, how things are going, and of course – if I can be of assistance to you in your own journey to become a Sofer!

Eliyahu 

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