Women and Safrut: Can a Woman Be a Scribe?
By Ross Singer
from the JOFA Journal, Winter 2006 Tevet 5766
sofer: scribe (m)
sofer STa”M: scribe of texts of Torah scrolls, tefillin and mezuzot
soferet: scribe (f)
safrut: scribal arts
Our synagogue’s Megillat Esther was extremely faded and worn. For the past few years we had been borrowing a megillah from a nearby shul. Upon learning of this situation, a female member of our synagogue and student of safrut (scribal arts) was offering to restore our scroll. I did not know what the classic sources said about women writing and repairing megillot, and I was relieved that the condition of the scroll precluded the necessity of an immediate response to her offer. However, our conversation got me thinking: Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a megillah penned by one of our own congregants? Furthermore, to have a woman write it would fit with our community’s openness to exploring untried halakhic options for women’s participation in synagogue life. With this in mind, I began researching the issue of women and safrut and uncovered a considerable amount of fascinating material.
Perhaps most striking was the discovery that my very question regarding the status of women writing a Megillat Esther had been asked previously l’ma’aseh (in an actual case). Sarah, daughter of renowned head of the Beit Din of Prague, Rabbi David Oppenheim, (1664-1736)1 wrote a Megillat Esther and the question arose as to the possibility of reading from it on Purim. The deliberation over this actual megillah, as well as many other theoretical discussions, provided rich material containing varied positions on women’s status vis-à-vis safrut. I am grateful to JOFA for providing me with this forum in which I can share a brief sketch of what my research uncovered….
See the full article here in the JOFA Journal: Women as scribes