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diary of a sofer - part 31

Mordechai Pinchas Sofer

And so the writing continued...

The shel yad is one long piece of k'laf with 4 paragraphs. The shel rosh has the 4 paragraphs seperately.


After writing, one opens the batim to see how big to fold/roll the k'lafim. This I discovered is harder than it looks.
After preparation they are glued 'temporarily' shut and are supposed to open with a slight tap on the join point. Hah! Very very tough leather that required quite an amount of careful hammering with a scraper to lever them open and then a piece of wood placed inside to hold them open - even though the books picture all look like they open flat easily - they don't!

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The other big issue I encountered was holes. They were very small and some were blocked up with glue and paint and a couple didn't appear to be there at all. Again the books note that sometimes one may have to use a dril to open the holes - and indeed that was the case. What the books don't say is that using a hand drill is impossible (even though there are pictures that suggest you can) and it's pretty tough even with a hand held electric drill - so tough that a drill bit broke leading to much fun with my Israeli brother in law and his brother trying to get the severed drill bit out of the hole! Again the books don't mention that. However finally all holes were unblocked and I had to find a needle small enough to go through them.

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Turning back to the k'laf you then roll the shel yad, left to right till it forms a cylinder. This is held together by wrapping calf hairs around it - twisting the ends. Then a small piece of k'laf is wrapped round top to bottom and then more calf hair twisting.


The process for the four shel rosh sections is similar, though instead of forming a cylinder, these are rolled flat before calf's hair is added. I must admit that like with a mezuzah once the parchment is rolled and you cannot see the writing any more you feel kind of sad given all the effort you put into writing them nicely!

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And then they are placed into the compartments. Again in a specifiic order for the shel rosh, the order in which they appear in the Torah. The last section with the long calf hairs gets special treatment as the hairs need to be threaded through an even smaller hole at the base of the box part of the bayit so that they show through.


And then it's sewing the batim back together. Thanks to my trusty thimble to push the little needle through the tiny holes and pliers to pull it out the other end! And one certainly needs the pliers.

Special thanks to my son Aryeh for helping and for taking such great photos of folding and wrapping the k’laf, when I needed both hands free! More to come in the next diary...

Mordechai Pinchas

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