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diary of a sofer - part 10

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Mordechai Pinchas Sofer

Purim at Harlow Reform Synagogue this year was a real event and I had my work cut out. Having completed almost all the writing, sewn the y’riot together and fixed them to the specially made ets chayim, I was due to complete the last two words comprising seven letters.

Left: Picture from the Jewish Chronicle
of the
Siyyum.

the last 7 letters

Above right: the last seven letters of the megillah l’chol zar’o (to all his (Moredchai’s) descendents))

I cut a special swan’s quill for the occasion and even left the barbs on so it looked good in any photos - one normally removes them, otherwise, as Vivian says, they tickle your nose when you’re writing.

Seven individuals were called to the bimah (3 selected beforehand and 4 by drawing lots - very apt for Purim I thought!). After reciting their intention to write for the sake of the holiness of the megillah, they each held my hand as I sang out the letters and wrote on their behalf - as their agent. I had guessed this wasn’t going to be easy - I was right. I also discovered that swan quills are too soft: I should have stuck with turkey and never mind the showmanship. Still the seven letters were completed to the appropriate standard, the last one, vav, in front of Vivian, my teacher, and after what must have been the umpteenth shehecheyanu of the evening (and after the ink had had a bit of time to dry) we unrolled the megillah fully for all too see (a general tradition before reading, not just for new megillot) held up by half a dozen strapping men.

After that we dedicated the beautifully made cover a lady called Ellen had lovingly crafted from some exquisite material with a real Persian feel to it. The megillah was then read for the first time, in a variety of silly voices by some clown in a jester’s hat who bore an uncanny resemblance to the sofer chappy who only moments before had been deadly serious and petrified that he was going to make a mistake. Purim, of course, is the only festival that allows you to do this, as it refreshes the parts other chagim cannot reach.

Unrolling the megillah

The scroll unrolled, showing the full 16 amudim in the Harlow megillah, 28 lines per column.  Click on the picture above to go through to a page with a short video clip of the event.

The Harlow community rose to the occasion with loads of friends helping the evening run smoothly and everyone having a good time making the siyyum (completion) a real simcha (joyous occassion). And then suddenly it was over and I returned pleasantly tired (a euphemism for completely exhausted) to find an empty space on my desk where a the megillah had lain in various stages of completion since the previous Purim. It was very strange to l have left it behind.

One could argue that having completed the megillah I could now throw away my ‘L’ plates, so to speak, and happily describe myself as a sofer. However there is so much to learn and the nuances of the halachah so extensive that one could just as easily argue that even the master scribe remains apprentice forever. In the end, I don’t think it matters as long as you enjoy what you are doing and the communities benefit.

Mordechai Pinchas

For more info about Harlow Reform Synagogue visit their website - they were the first RSGB congregation to go on-line!

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