Earlier this week, Lenore Weiss wrote about Rabbi Levi Selwyn and Torah “Koshering.” Her most recent collection, Two Places, is now available. She is blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council’s Visiting Scribe series.
I was moved by Rabbi Selwyn’s explanation of Torah “Koshering” at Temple B’nai Israel in Monroe, Louisiana, and followed up with several questions.
Lenore Weiss: It must be a wondrous experience to repair the living words of the Torah. I see you as a “computer tech” who knows how the system operates and fits together. You understand the entire “motherboard,” working to repair parchment, letters, whatever the Torah asks of you.
Rabbi Levi Selwyn: That’s a great analogy. Physically — yes. However the depth to the meaning of the Torah is infinite, so that’s a work in progress.
LW: I’m wondering how you approach each Torah, unscrolling the parchment for that first time to evaluate what it needs. Does the scroll speak to you in some way?
RLS: When I get to a place I am always excited to see what this Torah is going to have for me that day. Many times I open up the Torah I gasp — oh, I love this Torah, and that is usually when the script of the Torah is beautiful. Some of the very old Torahs have such beautiful writing. As I look through the Torahs I really take notice of all the details from the type of parchment to the stitching at the back of it and the re-enforced parchment behind the stitching. I browse through and try to notice how the letters are holding up and what they might need to keep them from deteriorating and by the time I get to the end or rather the beginning — I feel like I know this Torah and I am ready to repair it and make it good and Kosher.
LW: How does it feel to be the conservator of these scrolls?
RLS: I know that before I leave a Torah, it has to be in the best shape possible and that all my repairs must be done according to the laws of Safrut. It takes many hours of concentrated work. When I’m back on the plane I go through my head many times to be sure that I did not leave anything out.
LW: How many states/synagogues have you helped in this way?
RLS: I’ve been to about ten states and many congregations in each state. I couldn’t give you a precise number unless I beat through my calendar. However, between us here at Sofer On Site, we have probably done the entire states a few times over and in a few countries.
Read more of Lenore Weiss’s work here.
- Essential Torah: A Complete Guide to the Five Books of Moses by George Robinson
- The Torah: A Women’s Commentary edited by Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Andrea L Weiss
- The Everyday Torah by Rabbi Bradley Shavit Arson
- Text Messages: A Torah Commentary For Teens edited by Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin