May 2023

I have always been intrigued by the beautiful calligraphy of the scribes who wrote and still write Torah scrolls. I bring this up, because this month we will celebrate the holiday of Shavuot. The word shavuot means weeks and refers to the seven weeks between Passover and the holiday of Shavuot, when we received the Torah at Mount Sinai. A Torah is written on kosher animal skin attached to two wooden rods called atzei chayim, Trees of Life. It is written by hand with a handmade quill or reed. The quill is usually from a kosher turkey or goose. The sofer hand cuts the tip of the quill or reed and is used with specially made ink. Iron nibs may not be used on the quill to write a Torah, since it could pierce the parchment and also because it is a metal used to make instruments for death and war. I had read that if you make a mistake on any word that is not G-d’s name, you may use a blade made of ivory or wood to scrape it away. If the mistake is made while writing G-d’s name, that panel must be buried. There are 62 to 84 panels of parchment used to create a Torah scroll. There are 4,000 rules to know before scribing a Torah and 304,805 letters to calligraphy! The oldest Torah scroll found in its entirety is about 800 years old, and has been carbon dated to between 1155 and 1225. I was told 20 years ago by a visiting sofer that our small Torah was about 150 years old, and thanks to Pat Sher’s artistic eye, we think it may have been pieced together from 2 different Torah scrolls because of the way the letters are scribed. I would love to know its history. I’m not sure of the age of our large Torah, but it appears to be much younger than the small one. The larger Torah is written so beautifully and is such a pleasure to read from. Did you know that the 613th commandment is to write a Torah? I had the opportunity to fulfill that mitzvah when I had visited a synagogue which had commissioned a sofer to write a Torah for them. I made a donation and placed my hand on the sofer’s hand to write the letter tav on the new panel of parchment. It was an amazing experience. I learned that it can take a year or more to scribe a Torah and only a man, a sofer, was allowed to scribe a Torah. I’m happy to say that has changed.  In 2007, Jen Taylor Friedman, a soferet, is thought to be the first known woman to scribe a complete Torah. Since then many more women from around the world have studied everything needed to become a Soferet STaM, one who can scribe a Sefer Torah, Tefillin, and Mezuzah. Women have studied and chanted the words of Torah and now they are writing them with the love of Torah in their hearts and with the skill of their hands. There are many articles out there about women who have become sofrot. I’m including a couple of links that you might enjoy. Whether you are a sofer or a soferet scribing a Torah is a commitment of the heart, soul, and mind. I am in awe of all of them.

As New Year Dawns, Jewish Women Mark Milestones – The Forward

Ink of our Own: Women Who Scribe | Jewish Women’s Archive (

Women Who Write Torah – The Forward

Summer Shabbat Services will begin on June 30. Summer services are lay-led with help from me if you like. I’m happy to help you put together a service, chant Torah, and help with music. If this is something you are interested in, email me at and I will send out the dates that are available.