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diary of a sofer - part 25

Mordechai Pinchas Sofer


Thus far, I have said little about the English of the text but it was that that led to the next idea. 5:17 reads “...and for all the world's beauty whose rainbow of colours was lost, replaced by only brown and gray and black.”  The Hebrew 'tsiv'oniyuto' just means 'it's colours'.  But the translation 'rainbow' led to the consideration of including a rainbow shaped tag on the word, that I had seen elsewhere. Rabbi Meyer - equating the idea of the rainbow with the story of Noah and the fact that this was a God would not destroy the earth ever again and as the Shoah was in many ways a destruction of humanity - felt that we should aim for a kind of 'broken' rainbow, and again several options were considered before settling on one final depiction.

Finally, in the Shema in T’fillin or M’ezuzot there is also a tradition of writing an oddly expanded or spread 'chet' in 'charah' (anger).  I had to go to Stamford Hill to get to the bottom of this one but it is found in a very negative context of God destroying the land if we don't keep the commandments.  One sofer I know felt that the ‘chet’ should be spread so that the 'charon af' should apply on the ‘resha'im’ (wicked ones) and bases this on Ba'al Haturim but I couldn't find any such reference. Another scribe I contacted through the web informed me that the Da'at K'doshim says it spread so that it in some way reduces God's potential anger.

To turn this negative anger into a positive I had a view to including it into the word 'porchim' (flourished) when the text talks about the establishment of Israel (6:10) - the complete reverse of its original context! Rabbi Meyer felt this was very powerful, because it attached a very specific message of hope in the darkness of the event

To create a tradition it was decided that at the siyyum (which would not be on Yom Hashoah itself) we would write the last 6 letters to represent the 6 million dead.  The last six letters appearing after the large 'mem' mentioned above.  A short time before Yom Hashoah in 5764 (2004) a siyyum was held in Brighton Synagogue. 

Right: Picture from the JC

Unlike other siyyumim, this was very much more subdued and more a time for reflection and learning.  The scroll received it’s first use in Brighton on Yom Hashoah as part of a special service devised by Rabbi Meyer.

No doubt other sofrim will find other meanings and ideas within the text over time for which they will wish to amend line contents, letter shapes, taggin etc but too many 'ideas' will perhaps detract.  One just hopes that the scribal 'traditions' set within this tikkun - all based firmly within halacha and established precedent - are retained through the generations and that the text itself likewise becomes a part of the liturgy to commemorate Yom Hashoah, a source of comfort though never, I suspect, a familiar friend.

Mordechai Pinchas

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