I'm not sure how long I've been reading Netivat Sofrut, Aviel Barclay's "diary of a soferet." It's been a part of the landscape of my blogosphere for ages. Once upon a time her blog's tagline reminded readers that if we hadn't said the bracha for Torah study yet today we should do so before reading, since we were guaranteed to encounter some Torah on her pages. I think that was the first thing about Aviel that made me want to know her.
Many of her posts stay with me long after their posting date. Like Derekh Sofrut, which tells the story of her journey to this work. And Hardcore teen sofrut, which includes a wonderful anecdote about a sleeveless dress and preconceptions relating to modesty. And Hamotzi Lechem Min Ha-Aretz, a story about wheat and bread and Torah. In the sidebar of her blog, Aviel describes herself as a "scribal evangelist," writing,
As the only living certified Soferet (סופרת - female Jewish ritual scribe) & the first woman to practice sofrut (creation of sacred Hebrew texts) in over 200 years, I feel an obligation to blog about my experiences of The Work.
Today I had the profound pleasure of making our online relationship into an in-person one! We met at Uncommon Grounds in Saratoga Springs, a delightful indie coffeeshop complete with painted hammered-tin ceilings, shiny art, and a zillion different coffee drinks chalked in rainbow colors on a set of enormous blackboards. We spent two hours there, completely oblivious to the passage of time.
We talked about her life, and mine; about the work that brought her out here (speaking at Skidmore, and the chance to stay with Rabbi Linda Motzkin and Rabbi Jonathan Rubenstein, both of whom I met briefly); about what I've been up to (hospital chaplaincy) and what she's been up to (curing deer skins into usable form -- expect a blog post from her about that soon.) We talked about the preconceptions liberal Jews tend to have about Orthodox Jews, and vice versa; about interfaith dialogue and friendships; about rabbis and imams and teachers and students; about what we learn in relationships; about the joys of davvening in a variety of Jewish settings.
I felt like I'd known her for years. Of course, I had; I just didn't know what she looked like or sounded like, or what it would feel like to sit across a table from her and talk. It's too bad Vancouver is so far from western Massachusetts; something tells me we'd have regular dates for coffee, study, and conversation if we didn't live on opposite ends of the continent. Well -- there's always the internet, and I feel blessed to have Aviel in my life in any context.