I had worked my way through the Shulchan Aruch and Mishnah Berurah Chapter 32, paragraphs 1-36. Together with my teacher, we had read every part, discussed the basics (I point out clearly – the basics) of the Halachah and gone through the questions in the booklet of questions mentioned in my previous post.
Interestingly enough, while learning, I had noticed a rather nice looking book on his table. It seemed to always be there. Being someone who goes crazy around books, I guess like someone with an addiction for smoking (or other dangerous narcotics), if I see a book that looks beautiful and I know the value it can provide, I have to get my hands on it! I still have a wish list of I-don’t-know-how-many books on it – which I have compiled, hoping one day to able to afford them! People speak about their bucket-list of things they need to do before they leave this world, and really, I have my bucket-list of books that I simply must obtain and read! Bear in mind, these are not the latest novels to hit the shelves making mega millions in revenue. My must-have books are the kind that go back hundreds of years and more. Some have been printed for the first time in tens of years and even hundreds of years and I often long to get hold of them to read them!
Books are the gateway to all one’s basic knowledge in life. Interestingly – they are made of letters… Something that a Sofer would come to understand! Letters are the very way in which all of the infinite knowledge of life is taught to us while we exist in this world. Here, through the combination of the same 22 letters (Hebrew) or 26 (English) mixing in different ways, different messages will be shared. The same letters that someone will read and study to become a doctor, will be the same letters another will read to become a lawyer. What makes them different is how the letters combine to convey the message. But still – the letters are still the same – just 22 or 26 of them! The more the writer knows, the easier it is for him/her to combine these letters into meaningful words and sentences to assist the reader in understanding what he already knows!
So – here was this book which I took a peak into. In it, I found some wonderful resources and asked my teacher about the book. He explained that it was in fact written by his teacher, and yes indeed – I noticed his qualification as being a Sofer which was given by the same Rabbi! Impressive – I thought. At the time, the book was out of print and it was in fact impossible to get hold of, but after some serious investigation, I eventually obtained a copy. Now – the book is available everywhere again and easy for anyone to get hold of if they want it.
I noticed that there was part of another major work written inside this book. This was the Keset HaSofer – a work written by Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried, the author of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch. The Chatam Sofer says that anyone claiming to be a Sofer who is not fully conversant with everything written in the Keset HaSofer should not be writing in the first place (my own wording)! One should not purchase one’s Mezuzot etc. from a Sofer not knowledgeable in this work. It is in fact a golden work in the understanding of Sofrut. In today’s times, we are fortunate to have the work known as “Mishnat HaSofer” written by Rabbi Yaakov Meir Shtern – offering a comprehensive commentary to understanding the Keset HaSofer. This is in fact my second golden book of recommendation.
When I asked about the Keset HaSofer, my teacher did not seem all that interested in it, and in fact we never got to learn it. As far as he was concerned, learning the Shulchan Aruch with Mishnah Berurah was all the examination required and so this is what we learned. I was to find out later (when being tested) that walking into the oral examination without knowledge of this book would have scored me a 0! Good thing I took the initiative to obtain the work and study it on my own! I was quite surprised that my teacher had not taught me the work. I also wondered how he had managed to get through the exam without knowing it.
I was to later find out that my teacher had in fact not written the examination for the Vaad Mishmeret Stam and had only obtained his Semichah from the Rabbi who wrote the book. When I had asked him as to why he had not gone ahead with what I would assume to be the correct course of action, he had told me that since everyone already knew him, he did not feel it necessary. Well… whatever the case, had I not had a love for books and purchased the book and studied it, I would not have been prepared for that final exam.
It’s not of course the exam that was important. It’s the knowledge. How can one become a Sofer without studying the Keset HaSofer?! Indeed! How can any Sofer teacher leave it out?! The bottom line is that becoming a Sofer in the fullest sense of the word is not about studying a bit here and a bit there. It’s about studying everything there is that one can get one’s hands onto! When I share more about my next teacher after these lessons were finished – you’ll see what I mean!
Stayed tuned for the next exciting part to my journey to becoming a Sofer, where I will share more about how I was taught to write and the direction taken from there…
Thanks for keeping up with my journey. For those wishing to help me as I still continue to get my writing right, and obtain the necessary equipment, please see my Sponsor a Sofer page and do make a donation. If you have enjoyed reading any of these posts, and want to help me in return, your assistance will be greatly appreciated! If you feel ready – why not become a regular member of the site and be a part of our lives as we strive to pay our bills as we settle in the Land of Israel!
Speak to you soon!