Sunday, November 14, 2010

Aviva's Guides / Last Set of Letters

It always helps to have a scribe who is also a computer whiz!  Aviva Yael - the most recent member to join the group - has created  wonderful step-by-step guides for each letter and graphed practice paper that matches the size of our klaf.  She emailed copies to each of us - I will attach them to the blog as soon as she shows me how to do that :)

Meanwhile, we have been proceeding with weekly classes with Rabbi Fasman.  Tomorrow night we will complete the aleph-bet.  Among the last four letters will be that magical "peh" with the secret "bet" embedded inside.

Then it will be practice practice practice, after which we will reconvene in a few weeks for Rabbi Fasman to check our writing and instruct us on other Megillah-writing matters, like margins, sewing the klaf, etc.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What a Difference Dyo Makes

What a difference it is using the real tools, including dyo - sofer's ink.

At Rabbi Fasman's idirection, we put down our familiar cartridge calligrpahy pens and started using the plastic nibs we will be writing the Megillah with, and the dipping ink.

I realize now that there was no way we could have succeeded on our own without a teacher.

Thank you, Rabbi Mark Fasman, for a great class and for agreeing to see us through.

After inspiring us with the awesomeness of the project, Rabbi Fasman reviewed some general rules/techniques of writing a Meggillah and taught some basic strokes and five letters (bet, resh, cof sofit, cof, samech). It was like learning them for the first time, but it all flowed easily and "made sense." The computer learning was an ok prelude, but nothing like the real thing.  Leah Horowitz videotaped most of the session.

Trying now to schedule our next class.

Also, welcome to our newest scribe, Susie Fredman, who brings our number to 12.  Soon we will have a writer for each of the columns on our klaf - not that daunting to think about being responsible for one column and not the "gantza megillah!"

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A teacher!

After taking a semi-break over the summer, we are resuming our training - this time with a teacher! By sheer happenstance, I learned that Rabbi Fasman (Shaarei Tzedek) studied Sofrut in Jerusalem and has written his own Megillah. He was excited about our project and has agreed to teach us the STA"M alphabet . . . and more, as we progress. At our first session with him (Tuesday, August 31, 2010, at 7:30pm my house), he will review with us the letters we already learned (bet, resh, kaf, samech, mem sofit, daled, heh, vav, tof, peh), check our writing, and, time permitting, move on to the next few letters.  Meanwhile, practice, practice, practice.

I also want to introduce two new members of the group: Leslie Kastner and Andrea Ginsburg.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

First Class in STA"M

So we are on our way.  Due to a change in circumstances, we decided to proceed to learn STA"M by means of the step-by-step lessons found at

This is a fantastic website for all things related to sofrut.

I am still hopeful that we will find an experienced sofer to teach us the technical skills needed for the project in person, as we continue to learn the halachic aspects of sofrut with Rabbi Shafner, but meanwhile we are off to a good start.  For the scribes of the group who were not there last night, we worked on letters bet, resh, kof, samech, and mem sofeet. We are following the order of learning the letters recommended by Rav Eliezer Adam at his website.

We will meet again Wednesday evening, June 30 (7:30, my house, unless people want to meet somewhere else). Between now and then, we will each work on our own on the next five letters in the series: daled, heh, vav, tof, peh. At our joint session on June 30, we will review the first ten letter we worked on and proceed with the next five. It was a special treat to have master calligrapher Lynda Cohen join us last night :)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Link to Keset HaSofer Chapter 28 in Hebrew

Here is a link to Keset HaSofer Chapter 28 in Hebrew.

If anyone finds any errors or rough spots in my English translation, please please let me know.  Thank you!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

First Class in STA"M - Finally

Our first class in STA"M will be on Monday, June 21, 2010, at 8:00 pm at my home - 7100 Cambridge Ave. - with Pamela Barmash.  I have the equipment we will need - ink, plastic nibs (some new ones just purchased on our trip to Israel), ink bottles (also just acquired in Israel - from my brother, who is an antiques collector and who cleaned up some old bottles to look like new - they belonged to our mother, z"l, who was a wonderful English calligrapher), paper, rulers. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Link to My New English Translation of Keset HaSofer 28

Copy and paste this web address in your browser window:

Monday, April 19, 2010

How Does Our Klaf Measure Up?

I took all the relevant measurement of our klaf so that I could order the printed text to use as a guide, as noted in the previous blog entry.

Our klaf is comprised of four separate pieces that will eventually be sewn together. The first three pieces are scored with four columns each, for a total of 12. Theses columns are each 16 cm wide and cm 28 cm high. There is a space of 2 cm between the columns. Each column is scored for 28 lines of writing; each such line is .5 cm high with a .5 cm space between the lines. The fourth sheet begins with a clumn that is a bit wider - 19 cm - and that is scored for the names of the ten sons of Hamen, which are written in their own column. There are three additional columns scored on this piece that are each 12 cm wide.

The printed guide is rather expensive, but I know we need one. Happily, before ordering it, I discovered that Bais Abraham's Megillah, which happens to be at our house now (since Purim, when Jack read it at the house for some people who couldn't make it to shul), has the exact same format, so I will xerox it and we will have our own guide at a fraction of the cost.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Nibs and Guides

Today I purchased from the sofer in Israel who sold us the klaf, 10 plastic nibs -- plastic and not metal as using metal, a material from which weapons are made, for writing a Megillah is frowned upon.

More importantly, I learned from the sofer just how beginning scribes write a Megillah. Pages of a printed Megillah are purchased with the text printed in the exact size and format, column by column, line for line, to match the scored klaf. The sribe then places the sheet on the klaf and copies it line by line, folding the sheet as he -- or in our case, she -- writes each line. The sheets even have fold lines on them.

Becasue I do not have the measurements of the width and length of the columns and of the width of the lines on our klaf, I could not order the sheets now, but will do so once I return home from Israel and take the measurements. I will order sheets for a "HaMelech" format - where each column begins with the word "HaMelech."

I also learend that there are two STA"M scripts, Ashkenaz and Sefardi, with the Sefardi script being simpler, so that will be the one we use.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


As I make this first entry to the blog, the St. Louis Women's Megillah Writing Project is already underway. This project is the joint venture of approximately ten Orthodox women in St. Louis, Missouri, to write a complete, and of course Kosher, Megillat Esther. Most of us are already calligraphers (to varying degrees), but none of us know STA"M at this point.

Steps taken to date:
Identifying the women who hope to participate.
Purchasing our klaf (from a sofer in Israel).
Learning as a group, with Rabbi Hyim Shafner, some of the halachot of
writing a Megillah.
Finding someone local to teach us STA"M, and the practical halachot of
writing a Megillah.
Purchasing ink, gid (sinew thread used to sew the parchment pieces
together), and parchment scraps for practicing.

We hope to begin actual classes in STA"M in a few weeks, and we hope to have a finished Megillah, with God's help, in time for Purim 2012. After some research, I thought that this might be the first Megillah written by Orthodox women in modern times, but I was recently told that a group of Orthodox women in Nachlaot, Jerusalem, have written one -- something to be checked out.

I hope to blog the process from here on in, step by step, with photos too. We have documented on video, the classes with Rabbi Shafner, and when I get to be a more experienced blogger, I will incorporate clips into this blog.

As part of this project, I have translated into English Chapter 28 of Keset HaSofer, the chapter that deals with the laws of writing (and sewing) a Megillah. Now to figure out how to attach it to this blog . . . . I hope to eventually collect here translations of the Shulchan Aruch, the Rambam, and other primary sources on the topic, as well as of the Lishkat Hasofer, a commentary on Chapter 28 of Keset Hasofer.