Tuesday, February 16, 2010

visit to the Lower East Side

I've proofread the sefer as far as Vayikra, and yesterday I took that half down to the Lower East Side, on the first stage of its journey to computer-checking.

This particular shop is an interesting sort of place to visit. It's piled to the ceiling with dusty merchandise - as you go in, tallit bags and talleisim tower precariously above you, you almost fall over a giant box containing giant rams' horns, on your right an extraordinary jumble of hanukiot, kiddush cups, dust, books, toys, dust, cardboard boxes, and mezuzah cases.

You go a little further into the shop so as to close the door. There isn't room for two people to pass each other, so you hope there's no-one else in there. If there is, you have to shuffle back out onto the street to let them out when they're done, then you can have your turn. You don't turn round, for fear your backpack will cause an avalanche.

A little further into the shop, you can see that this is really a Torah shop. A stack of broken Torah rollers lies to one side, for spare parts. A stack of shiny new rollers lurks near the ceiling, on top of a cabinet of dusty silverware, behind plastic-wrapped Torah crowns, a Sephardic Torah case, and other Torah adornments.

All other horizontal surfaces are covered with sifrei Torah in various states of repair or disrepair. Here a tiny, fading sefer that's on its way to Israel for some restoration work. Here a new sefer, fresh from the proofreader. Here a stack of writing samples. Here a nondescript sefer a hundred or so years old, in for repair.

Looking up from these, you see sifrei Torah - no mantles, no rollers, just the rolls of parchment - stacked up in the back, reaching in the dusty gloom to the ceiling. Are they en route anywhere? Or are they just waiting until someone wants a used sefer in a hurry? How long since they were used? How long will they lie there?

The half-sefer we have brought will go from here to Brooklyn, where the man with the scan resides. It won't go just yet; the month before Purim is a busy time for soferim, and likewise for proofreaders. But it'll get to them just after Purim. Yes, the siyum isn't until May, but scanning takes time, and it's good to work ahead of schedule.

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