Thursday, October 29, 2009

Quills, part 10


Having established that a feather from a kosher bird is not the only permitted tool for writing - reeds, metal and so forth being permitted - the question arises: well, why's it have to be a kosher bird then? The answer, essentially, is "it's just icky to use non-kosher things on Torahs, for heaven's sake."

This makes total sense, except that icky is hard to articulate in the language of halakha. It's not logical, not conveniently legal - but it's a very real visceral reaction which is hard to ignore completely. Thus one gets an interesting division between authorities: one side saying a feather from a non-kosher bird invalidates the writing, and one side saying it doesn't matter in the least what you write with, you can write with a porcupine quill if you feel like it.

Actually I tried making a pen from a porcupine quill, once. Porcupine quills, you may be interested to know, aren't hollow like bird quills, they're full of funny spongy stuff. The spongy stuff is hard to shape and sort of crumbly, but it supports the hard outside. If you scrape away all the spongy stuff, the outside isn't strong enough to write with. If you leave the spongy stuff, it's like writing with a very bad marker.

Porcupine quills: best left as decoration.

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