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I have read from many different Sifrei Torah as a Ba'al Kri'ah during the past approx. 30 years. Each Torah is unique, as B"H, it should be. Every sofer has a slightly different writing style, even when there are strict rules for writing each letter, each word, and the spacing of each word.

I have been considering writing a book that focuses on the interaction between the writer and the reader of Sifrei Torah. I'd like to get an overview, preferably from those that are or have been Sofrim, if a Sofer thinks about those that will eventually read his work?

Is he diligent in making the letters clearer, larger, darker? Does he carefully space the letters do that it is easy to read? I noticed some sofrim love to stretch out some letters. Some do it often; others rarely do this. (I will probably post a separate question on this custom.) Some make wide columns; others narrower.

I have listed just a few examples. In general, I am curious if Sofrim consider any of these factors as being important to the Ba'alei Kri'ah or not.

  • When I took a course in safrut at YU the teacher said we certainly should consider the baalei keriyah. He suggested that shuls send baalei keriyah to look at a text before purchasing it (or presumably at the sofer's past work). – Ze'ev Felsen Aug 27 '15 at 16:15
  • @Ze'evFelsen Very interesting. I live close to YU. Would you recall the teacher's name? Perhaps, he's still around? I may want to interview him. I like his attitude. In my shul, we have several Sifrei Torah that were (re)constructed by several sofrim. I manage with these while reading, but, sometimes, the change in the middle of an aliyah becomes a bit disturbing. – DanF Aug 27 '15 at 16:18
  • Rabbi Shneid. He lives in Monsey and came in once per week to teach his course at nights. – Ze'ev Felsen Aug 27 '15 at 16:26
  • The name sounds very familiar. If he was there in the late 70's - about 1990, I probably met him. If that's whom I think he is, he must be about 80 years old, now, if he's still alive. – DanF Aug 27 '15 at 16:29
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From personal experience, here's what the Sofer thinks about, while writing:

  • It's Lishma - and watch out for names of Hashem that need individual attention to become Lishma.

  • Don't smudge, it's wet ink all around!

  • Is there enough ink to finish the word? Don't drip when refilling the quill. Double check that you didn't overfill and risk a flood.

  • Don't miss words or letters; check they align up with those above in the Tikun, as a safeguard.

    • That said, I would occasionaly write more words per line, if there was a Parshah break nearby. I prefer less stretching and more white space between Parshiot.
  • Keep an eye on the spacing; you have to reach the end of the line perfectly. Are there any stretchable letters close to the end of the line?

    • Shall we stretch these last few words or squeeze them and get another one in?

Occasionally you will gain an amazing insight into Pshat of a Posuk, as you are dealing with it on a letter-by-letter basis. Unfortunately - in my case - I didn't dare interrupt to write these down, for fear of getting distracted, and thus have forgotten all of these insights.

Before I started writing I had the idea of making it more user friendly by somehow differentiating letters/words so that it would lessen reading / laining mistakes (as this Sefer Torah was written for personal use.)

But I quickly discovered that Safrus (despite individual handwriting) is too rigid to allow for a systematic cheating system.

  • Are you a Sofer? If so, I am doing a "research project" on sofrim's jobs. Would you be interested in my interviewing you, or emailing you some questions offline? – DanF Jul 12 '17 at 16:26
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    @DanF - I'm not a sofer, though I did write myself a Sefer Torah. Haven't touched a quill in many years. – Danny Schoemann Jul 13 '17 at 11:27
  • You could write every Sin slightly different from how you write a Shin. You could stretch a bit Bet, Kaf and Pei when they open a word without a Dagesh. Aim to put Etnachtas on the end of a line. Write letters with a Dagesh a bit thicker. Etc. There is Shtick you could do, the question is should you. – Double AA Dec 21 '17 at 18:27
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I'm not sure how to answer this question for anyone but myself.

The barest minimum requirement for writing a sefer torah is that it be legible. The ink must be black, and the traditional fonts pretty much require all the letters to be very bold. In that sense the sofer does not have to worry about usability because halacha and minhag do the worrying for him. He only has to worry about halacha :)

Stretching letters is not a matter of custom, but one of practicality. Halacha requires the columns be justified. Microsoft Word handles justifies text by widening spaces between words and letters. You can't do this in a sefer torah, so the sofer stretches letters instead. Good tikkunim minimize the number of "short" lines that require stretched letters, and good sofrim regulate their ksav so that the stretching is less noticeable. While some people (myself among them) think that stretched letters add something aesthetic to the calligraphy, Halacha considers stretched and cramped writing a lower quality ksav.

Personally, as a bal kriah I do think about making other baalei kriahs' lives easier when I write but I have only ever written one scroll for a shul and it wasn't a sefer torah.

  • I believe, Gershon, hinted to me on a previous question, that you are a Sofer. I appreciate your opinion and candid answer. If you know of any other Sofrim whom I may be able to contact, let me know. I think it would make for an interesting interview / discussion. – DanF Jul 23 '14 at 2:59
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    While some people (myself among them) think that stretched letters add something aesthetic to the calligraphy, Halacha considers stretched and cramped writing a lower quality ksav. I don't care much for the stretched letters. I think it's harder to read when they are there, as I tend to seek out where the next word is. Ba'alei Kri'ah tend to read by trope "groups" - at least I do. So, I feel the less stretching there is, the easier it is to read. – DanF Jul 23 '14 at 3:01

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