Sunday, January 10, 2010

Proofreading, part 26

Backtracking a bit to the experience of writing.

I talked about producing letters as not necessarily being writing. Specifically, embossing (the process of creating a shape by pressing up from the other side) isn't really writing.

We might say: ah, but Braille is created by embossing, and today there are lots of people for whom writing in Braille is experientially the same as writing. So why couldn't you emboss letters and make a Torah for the blind? At any rate, a Braille Torah?

Leaving the technical difficulties aside (rolling an embossed document into a scroll is asking for trouble), it's an interesting proposal.

There's a case recorded - I forget the reference, I'll look it up if anyone cares deeply – where a guy with no hands wrote a Torah with the pen held in his teeth, and the Torah was ruled invalid, because holding the pen in one's teeth is not what most people perceive experientially as writing.

The guy had written a whole Torah, remember. That's a hell of a lot of work - I mean, it takes me a whole year, and I've got two perfectly good hands. He's written a whole Torah with the pen in his teeth, and he's got no hands - I would speculate that the rabbi who ruled his Torah invalid felt like a real heel. You couldn't be any kind of decent person and feel really sorry that you've got to say “um, no actually” to this person who's put in so much effort and so badly wants to be part of the community and it isn't their fault they can't participate through this activity.

But you've got to, and I think that's also the case for Braille Torahs. Holding the pen in one's teeth, or writing Braille, is definitely some people's experience of writing, but that doesn't mean it's the cultural experience of writing, and it seems that that's what matters here.

Ramifications of this attitude tomorrow.

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