Not So Frequently Asked Questions

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


In the gallery, visitors can leave me questions. Many of the questions are about how to deal with mistakes, or about the letters, or offers to help with proofreading (thank you!). Some of the questions are more unusual, and I thought I’d answer a few here.

Are you related to Stephanie Seltzer?
I doubt it. I’m often the second Seltzer people meet. It’s the kind of name that’s unusual enough that people think we’re all related, but common enough that we’re not.
Sidenote: Someone else asked me this again over Rosh Hashanah. I’m curious to know, who is this Stephanie Seltzer?

What is your favorite toy?
One toy that I really enjoy is that wooden paddle with a rubber ball attached to it with a string that you bounce up and down. Another toy that I have enjoyed playing with is the remote car, the kind that you operate from afar. Do these still exist? Also, kitchen toys.

In Kabbalah, is Metatron a teacher of Moses?
Excellent and deep question! I don’t know how much the person who asked this question knew just how interesting this connection between Metatron and Moses is.

First, some background. While many of us have heard of Moses, Metatron is a bit more obscure. Metatron is an angel, and while he does not appear anywhere in the Torah, I did read about Metatron back when I was writing Genesis, in connection to a person named Hanoch, who does appear in the torah.

In a genealogical section (Genesis, Chapter 5), the Torah uses curious language regarding this man called Hanoch. Whereas all the other characters simply die, Hanoch is reported as “no longer, for God took him.” I was curious about this language, and learned that kabbalistically, Hanoch is associated with the angel Metatron, who was – get this – the celestial scribe!
Metatron is named as the celestial scribe in the Talmud, because he was sitting down (whereas the other angels must stand in the presence of God). The explanation for his “rude” behavior is that he was writing; as I can testify, it’s hard to write while standing up.

Moses is most well-known for taking the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt, but he was also the very first (human) scribe: tradition tells us that he copied down the first Torah, which he received directly from God. Since Metatron was the heavenly scribe, and Moses was an earthly scribe with an inside connection, it stands to reason that the two may have connected on one plane of existence or another. I like the suggestion that Metatron was the scribe teacher of Moses. Someone had to show him how to write the letters!

Is a son to always carry the sins of his father?
Wow, that’s an intense one. The Torah does say that God visits “the sin of the fathers upon the children.” But the Torah also says that “fathers shall not be put to death for children, neither shall the children be put to death for fathers; every man…for his own sin.” Maybe it means that children inherit some unsavory traits from their parents, and it’s each generation’s responsibility to transform these traits, little by little making the world a better and better place.

Can you use a green pencell instead of a fedder to wrote Hebrew?
While you can write Hebrew with the pen of your choice, the Torah can only be written with black ink. However, I don’t have to use a "fedder". I could use a reed, or even a plastic nib. I find "fedders" to be quite good though. I think I know where you got the idea of the green "pencell". It’s in the display case. I use the green "pencell" to mark where I’ve made errors. I make a green mark on the copy of torah that I’m copying from, so that I can easily find the errors later when I go back to correct them.

The woman is man future?
Not me, no, I don’t think so.

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