What Can Writers Learn from a Modern Scribe of Ancient Scrolls?

Rabbi Danneman begins to write with his special quill.

Rabbi Danneman begins to write with his special quill.

By Michelle Hutchinson

“It takes one year of writing six hours per day, six days a week to complete a single Torah.” Those were the words of Rabbi Danneman at Temple Kol Emeth, in Marietta, GA, as he began to write a new Torah, the scrolled parchment containing the first five books of The Bible.

Do you devote that much time in a year to your writing? Of course, Rabbi Danneman doesn’t work six hours straight. He typically writes for two hours and then takes a break, but inscribing Torahs is not Rabbi Danneman’s only job. He is also an anesthetist at a local hospital and the father of four children. In his spare time (Really? He has spare time?), he likes to surf and ski.

Because the Hebrew letters in the Torah must conform to very precise rules and because one missing letter invalidates the scroll’s use as a Torah, Rabbi Danneman must concentrate intensely as he works. In fact, he says that he gets into a meditative state that is almost like being in another world when he writes.

The Torah is so holy that sofers (certified scribes, like Rabbi Danneman) must visit a mikvah, a ritual bath, to purify and cleanse themselves before they begin writing.

I admire Rabbi Danneman’s time management skills and his dedication and discipline, especially because Jewish law dictates that he must write with a special quill; no computers come into play in the preparation of the ancient scrolls.

Writers, how do you find time to practice your craft? Do you go through any rituals before you begin to write?

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