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diary of a sofer - part 8

Mordechai Pinchas Sofer

It was like an Aladdinís cave. Packed into every nook and cranny were parts of scrolls, some large, some small, some Sefardi (veilish) some Beyt Yoseph, some Beyt Ari and one Yemenite scroll written not on kílaf but on leather.

Black sack full of torah bits

On the floor of the room was a pile of Atsey Chayim - wooden rollers. When working on a Torah, the first thing one does is remove these as they make handling difficult and surprisingly one does have to be quite physical moving the rolled up scrolls around and they arenít as delicate as people think.

This immediately cast my mind back to my sewing lesson with Vivian. When I was younger my late auntie Reggie had taught me how to knit. However, I never dreamt that I would have to learn to sew! Sewing sofer-style, however is a bit different.

For a start, one uses giddin (spun sinews from a kosher animal), from the thigh or the heel and secondly you are using a gold or silver plated needle (no base metals - remember!) This stuff is pretty tough and it is quite an effort to pull it through the parchment. This is doubly hard on the last sheet that is attached in three places to the ets chayim. I tried to make a diagram of what I was doing for the future (Iím no sailor and very bad with knots) and to be honest this is something Iím will have to do a few times before it sinks in.

But Iím digressing. We also visited UK no. 1 scribe on that day. Ostensibly it was to see a gizmo he had made to help cut quills at a consistent angle, get Vivian to make him some wooden bits for his gizmo and also for Vivian to see whether a scroll he had been given to look at by a community was kasher.

Pile of atsey chayim

However, the most surreal thing were the black bins liners that were chock full of parts of Sefer Torah that he would use to create a new one. The photo of the 'Bamidbar' bag opposite is one example. How did he know which bits were which and which he had so that he could match up? He kept it in his head!

Matching up scrolls is easier nowadays as for the last century plus they have been written largely to the same format, as the table below te shows.

Sefer Torah statistics
Piles of scrolls

However I tagged along with my megillah for some serious appraisal - aha the megillah - you though Iíd forgotten about that didnít you? But what did he think? Find out next time!

Mordechai Pinchas 

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