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diary of a sofer - part 26

Mordechai Pinchas Sofer

One of the best things about being a sofer is being able to meet nice people in communities up and down the land and  they don't come any nicer than the small Edinburgh progressive community. Though I have fixed several sifrey torah over the last few years these have been scrolls already in the possession of the particular community. 

Edinburgh however are a small group who did  not have their own scroll and so approached me, stumbing across my site through google. This presented me with my first foray into buying and selling - needing to source an appropriate torah in terms of size, quality and cost.

First attempts didn't turn up much as many were heavy and too expensive. Then one surfaced. It was some 150 plus years old and needed a lot of work, particulary in Vayikra where much of the text had faded/lifted requiring considerable rewriting. However unlike may second - hand Sifrey Torah which are patchworks made up from many scribes work this one was the work of one scribe, well written and small and light enough for nearly anyone in the community, young and old to do hagba'ah (elevation) with.  With careful restoration it would be a wonderful Torah for an emerging congregation and well worth the effort.

After a number of months work, the scroll was ready. During this time I had suggested the community hold a siyyum (completion ceremony) and Gordon, the organiser had started planning and making arrangments, to which I was able to contribute.

Finally the day came and the night before I was due to fly to Edinburgh along with the now repaired Torah. We had agreed that it would have its own seat as putting in the hold would be awful - we've all seen programmes about baggage handlers not quite taking as much care as we think they are.

On the day, however the check-in staff found the whole concept a bit difficult to grasp. I and the torah were earmarked to be in seats in different parts of the plane. I patiently  explained that even if it was in a protective bag that puported to be a collapsable high backed chair it was very valuable from both a spiritual as well as financial point of view and how it wouldn't be leaving my side. She immediately left my side to seek a supervisor.

Returning she punched a few keys on her terminal, glumly announced 'that's not right' and left my side again. Returning she announced some measure of success and said proudly 'oh, it's like a cello!'

'It's not much like a cello', I replied 'but if it helps me get on the plane then it's exactly like a cello'.

Grasping my two adjacent seat boarding passes. I rushed to the departure gate -  well rushed as fast as anyone carrying a Torah in a collapsable high backed chair bag can - and boarded.  Manouvering down the isle I was eventually confronted by a little Japanese gentleman sitting quietly in seat 9F - the Torah's window seat! (Now that I think about it, I’m not sure why the Torah got the window seat). Both the

Torah and the man had boarding passes with 9F.

Right: The Edinburgh Torah
Above left: A cello
Very easy to confuse the two, so look carefully.

Attracting a passing stewardess, I explained the problem and she virtually sprinted from my side to go off to see her supervisor. Standing waiting in the narrow aisle, dodging other passengers, I silently cursed myself for not pointlng out that it was not quite exactly like a cello.

Eventually she returned and the rather puzzled small Japanese gentleman was despatched to another seat.  I sat down in 9E relieved and carefully strapped the Torah into the window seat and finally relaxed, well as much as one can relax sitting next to a Torah on an aircraft.

The chap in 9D turned round to me and said,  'That was interesting.  What's in the bag?'

'Well', I sighed, 'it's kind of like a cello....'

Mordechai Pinchas

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