your student doesn’t finish her first sefer Torah every day

My beloved student Julie has been writing a Torah in San Francisco at the Contemporary Jewish Museum for the past year, and once she’d finished writing (yay) it came time to sew it together and have a bit of an Event.

So I went out there to help with the sewing and to be part of the Event, because your student doesn’t finish her first sefer Torah every day. I mean wow, seriously.

And I learned…that sewing a Torah together is a lot more fun when there’s two of you doing it. (Here’s a description of sewing a Torah.) It’s pretty fun anyway, but it’s even better when shared.

First we took awls and punched holes down the edges.

Then we took burnishers and folded over one edge.

Then we sorted all the sheets into order.

Then we each took part of the pile

laid two sheets right sides together (this is Sewing 101)

checked that they were the CORRECT two sheets (this is Sewing 101 section 1.1.1)

cut lengths of gid

threaded needles

tied knots




knotted off the threads

cut them

smoothed the seams

and rolled the new sheet up

and continued

and the rolls grew and grew and grew!

until there was a whole Torah

just sitting there

where before there had been a pile of sheets of parchment.

Pretty magical eh?

The museum isn’t a shul. It doesn’t have Torah readings. But don’t you think it’s awfully sad to write a whole Torah and then not have it read from? Julie did, and so did the museum. So they arranged for the Torah to visit Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, and on Shabbat we read from it.

Now, the funny thing is, that you write a Torah, and everyone involved is all, whoop-de-hey! amazingcakes! spiffettydoo!, but once you’re reading from it, it’s just like any other Torah. Kind of like pouring water into a lake. The water you’re pouring may be terribly special to you, but once you pour it into the lake, it’s part of the lake, and it doesn’t matter that once it was your special water. It becomes essentially anonymous, just part of the greater body.

No-one would know, to look at it, unless you told them that it was your special Torah. It acquires a life of its own, independent of you (it’s not a mixed metaphor if you start a new paragraph, right?). It’s rather beautiful, in a funny sort of way.

Julie looking slightly surprised, rather relieved, and altogether joyful to have written a Torah.


  1. Bob
    Posted April 8, 2011 at 22:46 | Permalink

    Mazal Tov to Julie, and to you, her teacher, on this wonderful accomplishment.

  2. Bob
    Posted April 20, 2011 at 21:05 | Permalink

    The even funnier thing is you write a great post about a wonderful accomplishment, and only one person comments about it… me…twice!!

  3. jen
    Posted May 17, 2011 at 16:00 | Permalink

    I believe people are reading, all the same…

  4. Beth B
    Posted May 11, 2011 at 23:28 | Permalink

    I was the first to read from the Torah you scribed for Dorshei Emet in Montreal, on Shavuot after the dedication ceremony. It was NOT just like any other Torah. It was so beautiful and I cried as I read.

  5. jen
    Posted May 17, 2011 at 15:59 | Permalink

    Awww. You’re too sweet. I hope you didn’t get tears on the Torah!

  6. Caroline
    Posted September 16, 2011 at 19:44 | Permalink

    I was there when we read from Julie’s new torah, and it was a little like hearing any torah read, but also a little bit not like it. It was extra special, and exciting.

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