Scribe re­pairs Eas­ton syn­a­gogue’s holy scroll

Record Observer - - Religion - By CON­NIE CON­NOLLY cconnolly@ches­

EAS­TON — Ful­fill­ing a sa­cred and lit­eral obli­ga­tion to keep its word, Tem­ple B’nai Is­rael hired a worl­drenowned scribe to re­pair its 90-year-old To­rah scroll used in wor­ship ever y week.

Rabbi Moshe Druin, a world-renowned scribe, or sofer, ar­rived May 8 to be­gin a three-day restora­tion project in the so­cial hall of the syn­a­gogue in Eas­ton.

The restora­tion project is a com­mu­nity cel­e­bra­tion of sorts dur­ing Jewish Amer­i­can Her­itage Month dur­ing the month of May, now in its 11th year.

The To­rah is com­posed of the five books of Ge­n­e­sis through Deuteron­omy, oth­er­wise known as the law of Moses.

Rabbi Peter Hy­man, the spir­i­tual leader of the con­gre­ga­tion, is him­self a cal­lig­ra­pher and has taught the mem­bers to be pre­pared to have their sa­cred scroll re­stored ev­ery three to five years. “It’s the holi­est ob­ject we have. It needs to be pre­served,” Hy­man said. “It’s not cheap.”

“To­rah is the prized in­her­i­tance of the Jewish peo­ple,” Druin’s web­site, Sofer­on­, states. “It moves, mo­ti­vates, and unites us as a na­tion. For 3,000 years we have learned to live our lives through the teach­ings, guid­ance and mes­sage of To­rah.”

The rabbi’s ex­per­tise as a sofer is steeped in Jewish tra­di­tion and law. His work is se­ri­ous and ex­act­ing. Yet his ex­u­ber­ance is in­fec­tious as he weaves sto­ries and teach­ings into the ex­pla­na­tion of his work.

As Druin, who is based in North Mi­ami Beach, Fla., checks for tears and de­fects in the parch­ment scroll, he draws analo­gies be­tween the well-used To­rah and hu­man na­ture.

“Ev­ery let­ter has to be com­pletely in­tact,” Druin said. “If one let­ter is miss­ing, the scroll is not worth any­thing any­more. If it can’t be fixed, we have to bury it.

“The parch­ments are a mon­u­ment; they are ve­hi­cles for some­thing holy, just as the hu­man body is the ves­sel for the soul,” Druin said. “My job is to make sure we don’t bury To­rah.

“The To­rah isn’t a book and the scribe doesn’t write let­ters,” Druin said. “When was the last time you picked up a news­pa­per or a novel and kissed it? We hug To­rah, we kiss it and dance around the room with it. We love it.”

Druin first visu­ally sur­veyed the cowhide parch­ment to get a gen­eral idea of the work to be done. His job is to re­pair tears, check the seams, clean the scroll and ex­am­ine it to re­store any let­ters that have popped off.

The He­brew let­ters are inked on the “suede” side of the parch­ment, Hy­man said. All ma­te­ri­als must be kosher, even the an­i­mal gut used to stitch the sheets of parch­ment to­gether, as well as the ink and feather quill that yield to Druin’s deft touch.

Since the parch­ment is an­i­mal skin, “it needs to breathe. The more it’s aired out, the health­ier it is,” Druin said.

Most U.S. scrolls, about 80 to 90 per­cent, were writ­ten in Europe be­fore World War II, Druin said. “They have a lot of residue from the past.” By the style and ma­te­ri­als used, Druin could tell that the Tem­ple B’nai Is­rael To­rah was writ­ten in Poland.

The old­est scroll Druin has re­stored is a 750-yearold scroll in a Dal­las, Texas syn­a­gogue.

Druin learned his craft by ap­pren­tic­ing him­self to three other scribes. “You don’t go to school for this,” he said. It takes from three to five years to learn the skill as an ap­pren­tice sofer, as well as study­ing and be­com­ing an ex­pert in the 4,000 laws scribes must know.

One of Druin’s ac­com­plish­ments is that he is the only sofer in the world to have ap­pren­ticed his own fa­ther to be­come a scribe.

“I hap­pen to be an artist by na­ture,” draw­ing car­toons as a boy, Druin said. He used to doo­dle He­brew let­ters, too. “I fell in love with the shapes of He­brew let­ters,” he said.

Druin said the let­ters have to be en­graved in the mind, but even with years of prepa­ra­tion and prac­tice, “It was very scary to pick up a feather for the first time,” he said. “It’s not just art work, it’s holy work.

“It is a law (for a sofer) not to make mis­takes,” Druin said. “That’s why we are trained to be­come per­fect. Even to write God’s name, I can­not ever make a mis­take.”

Scribes write four types of doc­u­ments, in­clud­ing the To­rah scroll. They learn first to write the megillah, or the Book of Es­ther again and again, since it is the only sa­cred book that does not con­tain God’s name.

Gene Pal­matary, left, and Phyl­lis Hof­mann, one of the co­or­di­na­tors of the Methodist Women’s plant sale to ben­e­fit their schol­ar­ship fund.


Pro­fes­sional scribe Rabbi Moshe Druin and Rabbi Peter Hy­man pose with the sa­cred To­rah scroll Druin is restor­ing for the con­gre­ga­tion of Tem­ple B’nai Is­rael in Eas­ton.


Bai­ley Ge­orge, left, and brother Bent­ley, hid­ing be­hind his cam­ou­flage hat, at the plant sale and lun­cheon at Cen­tre­ville United Methodist.


Rabbi Moshe Druin uses tra­di­tional meth­ods and kosher ma­te­ri­als, in­clud­ing a feather quill and inkwell, to re­store sa­cred parch­ment scrolls.

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