Canadian Jen Taylor-Friedman is one of just a few dozen female Torah scribes around the world, and she’s visiting Austin to help Congregation Agudas Achim write its new Torah scroll. The Torah is the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, and Taylor-Friedman says Jewish communities read from it several times a week.
“Like any other object, with enough use and enough people loving it over time, it wears out,” Taylor-Friedman says. “Every few decades a community will commission a new scroll.”
The writing of Torah scrolls was traditionally restricted to men, but some congregations have opened this role to women.
“When you write letters in a Torah scroll, those letters will outlast you and they’ll outlast your grandchildren,” Taylor-Friedman says.
A scroll can last hundreds of years. There are 304,805 letters in a scroll.
“Jewish tradition says that if you write even just one letter in a Torah scroll it counts the same as if you’d written the whole Torah yourself,” Taylor-Friedman says. She helps congregants be part of their community’s new scroll by guiding them through the creation of one letter.
“They can go away knowing that not only have they had a spiritual experience of their own, but they’re contributing to the spiritual experience of the people who’ll come after them,” she says.
Written by Molly Smith.