Thoughts from scribe-in-residence Julie Seltzer on what she's writing, her process, and the experience of writing a Torah on public view.
Well, folks – I have reached the halfway mark.
Since I’m not writing the Torah entirely in order, I actually wrote the “halfway mark” some time ago. Of course, there are multiple ways of counting “half.” By the verse. By the words. The letters. By time. Effort. While a computer count would give us different halfway points, the Talmud names דרש דרש “And Moses did inquire” (Lev. 10:16) as the Torah’s middle words, and the letter “vav” in the word גחון “belly” (Lev. 11:42) as the middle letter. This middle “vav” is enlarged in the torah, depicted here in the form of matzah. Both are beautiful mythic midway points. The two middle words are the same word, meaning “interpret.” And the “vav” is a connector letter, meaning “and.”
“Halfway” is a way of marking time and space. In some ways, marking “half” is mechanical, like the way * we mark time according to our clocks. In what way am I halfway finished the Torah? The same way as the “day” is “half” over?
I learned something interesting over the holiday of Shavuot. Our tradition explains that we are obligated to study, splitting our study into thirds: 1/3 Written Law, 1/3 Oral Law, and 1/3 Gemara (interpretive methods of study). But this does not necessarily mean an equal time split. It might take 99% of one’s study time to begin to understand just one mystical concept.
Similarly, the relative power of our experiences does not necessarily correlate to time or distance. One moment in time might contain within it 99% of meaning in one’s life. Perhaps this is a way to understand revelation at Mt. Sinai.
So, am I halfway complete with the Torah, or do I have halfway to go? Depends how you look at it!
*this star represents the halfway point of the blog entry, by number of characters, not including this footnote. And while we’re counting halves, find out the halfway point between your location and the museum on this website: meetways.com. Don't Let Zeno's Paradox stop you from visiting!