Tuesday, December 7, 2010

writing the ancient texts in the digital world

The upcoming week is a big one at our congregation. I am so pleased that we will be hosting a real Sofer a Torah scribe. This is one of two visits that Neil Yerman will be making to our community. The facts are that due to a generous donation from a congregant we were able with Neil’s assistance to find and restore a Torah for our community. This would bring us to three functioning Torah in our holy ark. The essence of his visit and his presence is to teach us this weekend what does it mean to be a scribe? How can we learn how to draw some of the Hebrew letters? What are some of the Jewish laws on writing a Torah? We will be addressing these questions over the course of the weekend. I am totally fired up about Neil’s  visit.
The interesting thing is to contrast his ancient art and sacred mitzvah of writing holy books with our emphasis on the digital world. We are all focused on creating the most effective container of information such as the kindle at Amazon or the IPAD at Apple which contains so much information. We can practically carry around our own libraries with us wherever we go!
I don’t see these two worlds in conflict with each other. There is enough room for both of them to survive and thrive. But I just don’t want to see us loose perspective and value in the ancient craft of writing holy books whether that is a purim megillah or a Torah or a mezuzah or tephillin. We need to slow down sometimes and savor the parchment  (yes,  I am aware of saving trees!). Maybe that is something we should  be thinking a lot more about in our lives. Slowing down and reading a book for insight and wisdom or just relaxation is a beautiful thing.
The digital world has no texture as compared to any book let alone a scroll. Life is all about the texture and the feel of what we do. It is not black or white but shades of grey.  That is my personal perspective. I would love to have an IPAD, but, not at the cost of giving up my books or writing a handwritten note with a fountain pen. These instruments of the non-digital world need to remain.   We need the texture of life and its tools as well.
Religion is all about the visual and those things we can touch with our hands and our talit(prayer shawl).  I would hate to confine God to digital programming.
More to come on writing and the religious texture.


Jennylalov said...

I agree with you 100%! My goodness how beautifully you have presented this thought! You are an artist at heart, Rabbi. There is nothing more wonderful than to snuggle up with the Bible and read it, holding the actual book. My Bible
is also a piece of my history. The highlighted areas tell where I needed to go to find help. I never wake up at night thinking to go to the computer to find scripture. I want to go to the actual book and hold it. It is COMFORT and history and the pages feel good between my fingers. I connect with God when I hold that book and read with my glasses on. A Bible is an art work inside and out as well as a HOLY book.

Lilaine Freeman said...

I couldn't agree with you more. The written word is far more "personal" when on paper in the form of a handwritten note. The "texture of life" and its tools need to remain! Writing should be fun and creative. It should be a time of expression and reflection. Writing a personal note to an elderly person would be a lovely gift...a gift of yourself. Yes, the digital world is full of information, but it cannot replace the act of handwriting a thoughtful and caring note. Let's revive the power of a heartspoken note to comfort, heal, encourage, and to just say "hello, I'm thinking of you."

As our lives get busier and faster-paced, the old-fashioned art of corresondence is sadly lost. So try to rediscover the joy of connecting with others through the simple act of putting pen to paper.