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Is the Torah a Snoozer?

Thoughts from scribe-in-residence Julie Seltzer on what she's writing, her process, and the experience of writing a Torah on public view.

“Is it ever boring, writing all day?”


boring:

  • “Dull, tiresome, tedious.”
  • “Mind-numbing, monotonous."
[also: “The act or process of making or enlarging a hole.”]

When I was training with Jen Taylor Friedman, I happened to be working at her studio when a local reporter visited. He asked what her favorite and least favorite sections of Torah were. At the time, I was writing a certain extremely repetitive panel of torah. When I say repetitive, I mean, repetitive. I mean when I say repetitive, I mean, repetitive. The section is Numbers 7:12-7:83. It consists of the same paragraph repeated twelve times over, but with the names of different people inserted at the beginning and end of each paragraph.

Given that this was the panel I was currently writing, I immediately knew how I’d answer the question (I can’t remember how Jen responded. Jen?). I would say that my favorite–that’s right, my favorite–section was possibly the most tiresome, dull, mind-numbing, monotonous section of the Torah. Save for the intro and conclusion, a passage that repeats twelve times in a row.

What on earth was I thinking?? Well, at the time I thought, "what better opportunity to practice the letters than to write the same thing over and over again?" With each subsequent paragraph, my writing got faster and more consistent. By the end, my spacing was verging on acceptable. And my mind was surprisingly intact, perhaps in some kind of meditative state. And I experienced a little flitter of excitement as each new name was revealed. Sometimes it’s the little things in life that bring so much joy.

But jump ahead about a year, and I find myself writing that very same section for a second time. This time around, things are a little different. With over half a Torah under my belt, and having just come out of writing another beautifully repetitive section of Torah that describes in painstaking detail the making of the mishkan*, I was looking forward to some exciting narrative. Or at least, some narrative. Just a little bit of a story. Instead, I find myself in that previously all-time-favorite, The Twelve.

Ah, life.
The ups, the downs.
But mostly, I gather, the steady. The every day. The same-old, same-old. Kind of like the weather in the Bay Area.

So, to answer the question: No, I’m not bored. However, I am in the desert. Word has it I’ll be here for a while…like forty years or so. But that’s ok, life is all about the journey, including those long stretches with nothing remarkable in sight. And Torah, as I’ve heard, is a tree of life…


*God’s desert dwelling-place

2 comments:

Jen Taylor Friedman said...

I remember that day! We both gave the same answer, but to different ends of the question - you said you loved Naso, and I said it drove me nuts.

Julie Seltzer said...

That's right! Now I remember. I think I'd answer more like you now...