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diary of a sofer - part 9

Mordechai Pinchas Sofer
Practice amud

Having gathered all the material, I sat down to start writing the megillah. I actually began the day after Purim, which gave me exactly one year to complete the task. A clean ruled y’riah lay before me, and I was absolutely petrified.

Before starting I washed my hands, reciting the b’racha, wrote amalek and expressed the phrase that I would say every time that I commenced work: Ani kotev l’shem k’dushat megillah.

Above: The first 5 lines of my practice megillah.
Below: The first two lines of the real thing

Starting the megillah

(I am writing for the sake of the holiness of the megillah)

Two yeriot

The first letter out of the way without any mishaps, I could continue on.

Writing is slow work with constant reference to thetikkun (copyist’s guide) and the need to ensure that your concentration is as sharp as your quill. Nonetheless, the pitfalls for the sofer are many:

Dittographic errors, made by writing the same letter or word twice;

Haplographic errors, made by omitting one or two identical letters or words that rightfully follow each other;

Homoioletic errors, made by omitting a few words or lines because they appear further on in the passages. The scribe’s eye picks up on the repeated words and, as a result, fails to include the words in between; and finally,

Above: A couple of completed y'riot

Below: The final y'riah with the ten
 sons of Haman

The ten sons of Haman

The Extremely-stupid-o-graphic error of getting eight and a half lines down a particular amud before realising, to one’s horror, that ‘hey- I’m not that far into the story surely’ and discovering with a cold chill that went straight through me that I had been copying column 10 in the place where column 9 was supposed to go! This is quite easy to do with a megillah as almost all the columns start with the word hamelech (the king).

That particular error cost me a fair amount of time and some money for a replacement piece of k’laf that matched as best one could the original skins. The surprisingly few mistakes I had made up to that point were on individual letters and easily scraped out with a sharp piece of glass but this was a whopper of a boo-boo which taught me a valuable lesson about concentration and not to work too late at night.**

Amud 9 close up

The first 5 lines of amud 9 one year on. The real thing written on k’laf - much better than
the practice one above - I hope - but at least now in the right place!

Anyway, last issue I mentioned that I took the work to UK No 1 scribe. At that stage it was two completed y’riot (containing 8 amudim). The overall verdict...

.... ‘he has a good hand’! More importantly the letter forms were kasher and notwithstanding the need for improvement, all was going well!

Mordechai Pinchas 

**Scribes are forbidden by the writer ofKeset Hasofer (the inkwell of the scribe) to work too late (ie past midnight) because they will not have a fitting level of kavannah (concentration/intention).

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