Thursday, August 1, 2019

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

A Fine Example Of Bad Writing


Hi Yonah, 

I don’t think we’ve met. I got your name from R_____ who I know from sharing community in L_____. I’m a rabbi serving a congregation in N_____.

A member of our shul asked me about klaf that we sell in our synagogue gift shop. It looked funky to me, but I don’t have expertise in this area so I reached out to one of your colleagues. She told me that it’s not kosher. I’m attaching a picture of the klaf in case you can shed any light on where these come from.

In any event, nice to connect with you and thanks for your help.


Good evening -- in these very fortuitous moments of searching for distraction at the last moments of a tsom!

It's a very good thing you noticed something strange about this mezuzah. You were of course right. This mezuzah is ludicrous. In fact it makes me curious about who could have possibly written it. If it is true that handwriting contains hints as to the soul of the writer, I would venture to guess that this was written by a murderous clown in a sewer.

Bad style is one thing. But here the letters are so deformed as to actually be other letters (e.g. vavs to yods) or just as often nonsense markings which are not letters at all. Don't take my word for it. Looking at it again, you will see a regular substitution of "x" for alef and "n" for reish, not to mention a backwards "c" for one particular mem sofith which... I'm searching for words and can only say this: it will not do.

And what is that final letter?

The person who wrote this did so on what appears to be qelaf cut specially for a mezuzah, which only raises further chilling questions of access. Whatever information you can hunt down about who sold this to your community, when, and how, will be worth gathering.

Wishing you well,

Bad mezuzot are out there! Trust your instincts and ask about anything that looks funny to you. Ask someone who's not currently selling you something! It does not matter how traditional or observant the scribe appears to be, or for that matter may genuinely be in the ritual aspects of their lives. Fraud and predatory practices abound in every profession where the service provider has a skill set they know their client is not able to evaluate. This is true for car mechanics and soferei STA"M alike.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Shiur Reminder

Join me Sundays at 6 p.m. for rationalist, improbably-Darda'i-influenced Gemara learning, armed with a veritable zoo of dictionaries and zero English translations. Currently tackling the 9th pereq of Berakhoth, because we are secure enough in our Vulcan serenity to engage the wilder side of Talmud.

Torah Upkeep at Beth Jacob Synagogue

Together with the head gabbai, Philip Price

I'm pleased to be on call at Beth Jacob Synagogue to touch up their sifrei Torah as needed. This Torah scroll, nicknamed "Little Red" by the congregation, is actually in great condition, especially for its age. But once in awhile some degradation is noticeable. In this case, a single letter shin had eroded rather dramatically.

Because the Torah is up-to-date in its repair/kashruth status, it's fast and easy to quickly apply a touch of ink. I never charge for this -- it's a pleasure to be able to serve the community, and encourage continuous small-scale engagement with STA"M upkeep. The alternative, which is rare, large-scale overhaul, is expensive and generally not as effective.

Little Red drying off

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Little Mezuzoth

Two 6 cm mezuzoth I wrote today and photographed using the worst quality camera possible, alas. You can still see some stretching creeping in as I'm not yet used to the size, but I plan to master it.