Who is Writing Our Scroll?

We are currently honored to have Mr. Rephael Hirsch, Baal Koreh and Sofer STaM, who is working ambitiously on re-inking and restoring the two Sifrei Torah before the holiday of Shavuot. He will also disassemble, dispose in a special Shaimos the worn out wooden parts and will replace and install new Atzei Chaim rollers. He started working since the 12th Day of the Omer (April 14, 2015). He is hard at work as you are reading this.

Here is his card should anyone have any needs with Torah, Mezuzza or Tefillin:


If you are in need of a sofer for any Mezuzah, Tefillin, Megillah, Torah scrolls or other scrolls or religious items that you think could use a look at, feel free to visit Raphael's website: www.newjerseysofer.com 

Just a side note: Raphael Hirsch taught me how to read Half-Torah several years ago while attending Congregation Anshei Lubavich, where he is a regular Ba'al Koreh and the in-house Sofer, in charge of a half dozen Sifrei Torah, Mezuzzot and Tefillin. I practiced the Halftorah for the first time in my life at the Paterson minyan.

This photo shows one particular page that needs to be re-sewn.

Parchment used for the writing must be made from the skin of a kosher animal.

The Sofer mixes a special ink for the writing and prepares the actual writing utensil, a quill, usually from a turkey feather. He uses a reed instrument to scratch lines into the parchment in preparation for the writing. Once all the writing has been completed, the pieces of parchment are sewn together with thread made of animal veins. The finished scroll is attached to wooden rollers called Atzei Chaim. As seen in this photo, they are in desperate need of being replaced.

 

No instrument containing iron or steel may be used in the creation of a Torah scroll, because these metals are used to create instruments of war.

Inking/Letters

There is a special type of lettering that is used to write the Torah, tefillin, and mezuzah. While the writing looks like a form of Hebrew block letters, certain letters are embellished with crowns, called tagin. The Ashkenazi and Sephardi calligraphic styles vary somewhat, but each group may use the other's Torah. Greater variations in lettering existed a few hundred years ago. Torah scrolls written by Hasidic groups had swirls in certain letters, with each letter said to convey a mystical meaning. Today, there is greater standardization among Torah scrolls.

There are some places in the Torah where certain letters are larger or smaller than standard, or where the text is written in a different type of column. Each deviation from the norm carries a special meaning. For example, the "Song of the Sea" (Exodus 15:1-19), which describes the parting of the Sea of Reeds, consists of three interlocking columns. The two outer columns symbolize the sea parted on either side, with the middle column representing the children of Israel marching on dry ground. Visually, this sets the section apart from the surrounding columns. Such changes were instituted by the Masoretes scribes of the 7-9th centuries who standardized the biblical text to highlight the importance of certain passages. All of the writing and layout must be done exactly to specification in order for the scroll to be kosher.

Her'es a photo of Raphael touching up some letters:

Her'es a video of Raphael at work.