Sunday, April 22, 2012

Writing on Red Gvil!

My posts are usually concise write-ups about Halacha discussions. This post is different - an open and honest account of my first time writing in Gevil parchement, opposed to the standard Klaf parchement used in all scrolls today. 

For quite a few months already, I have had this obsession of getting a Gvil to write on. It's really difficult to purchase one - I tried Mea Shearim safrut stores, Machon Gvil, fellow Sofrim, to no avail. I eventually saw Binyamin's posts about writing in a Yemnite-style red gvil and I asked him for assistance. He said he would send me a sample so I can have an idea, but being that he is a busy man, many months have passed and I gave up on it.

Just before Pessach I received this tube from the mail with a small but beautiful red gvil, a bottle of carbon ink, a very good reed and a note from Binyamin, excusing himself for the delay. No need to excuse - you made my day.

It turns out that the small piece of Gvil was perfect for a Menorah-shaped Lamnatzeach, which I spoke about in depth in my last post. As we have seen, this is a kabbalistic piece with a very specific connection to Sefirat Haomer, so the timing was perfect - I wrote it just before Pessach.

So I made the sirtut, evenly spaced and couldn't wait to start writing. Although I had a carbon-ink of my own - DioLanetzach - I wrote with Binyomin's ink as he advised me. After all, I know absolutly nothing about this parchement so I prefer not to take risks.

I start writing. The letters are all smudging and i can't get it right. I was sure I messed up this Gvil, which I waited so long to write on. But you will not believe what was my mistake - I'm even embarassed to admit. Well... being that I always wrote on klaf, I always instinctivaly take the klaf and start writing in the inside side - i don't even think. In my rush to get the Lamnatzeach ready, I did the stupiedest mistake possible - I wrote in the klaf-like side of the Gvil, which is the wrong one. I knew that. You must write in the outside layer, which in this klaf is super shiny and sooth. That's what I call starting with the left foot.

So I turn the gvil and must start doing all the sirtut again! Duh! But once I start writing - in the correct side - it all feels right. The ink flows well, the reed is steady and most importantly, the Gvil is unbelievably smooth and pleasant to write on. I couldn't stop thinking how cool it was to write in the way Moshe Rabbeinu wrote his Torah Scolls (yes, he used Gevil). The less strentgh you apply, the better is the result. As I had absolutly no training for writing in this way, I was learning as I was writing. It was similar to writing in Klaf but not the same. To illustrate the difference, it's like playing tennis in clay and then playing in a hard court. You must adjust your swing and many plays come out differently. In short:

  • The Gvil is very shiny and in my opinion, more beautiful than the Klaf. The redness of this Gvil gives that “deluxe” feeling that is hard to match.
  • The parchment is incredibly smooth. Perhaps because of how the leather treated, I’m not sure, but this feature really stands out.
  • Also, the actual writing must be done in a much more smooth way, almost like painting a canvas. You need simple, precise strokes and unlike the klaf, you rarely need to add ink in the letters or work on them too much.
  • I wrote with a thin bamboo reed and it was tricky to get the flow of the ink right. I eventually adapted and found my way, but again, the actual cutting of the reed differs from feather.
  • The letters dry in a matter of seconds, while in the Klaf it can take more than a few minutes.
  • The reed is not as sharp as a feather and the writing has a simpler look, with less details and strokes. For instance, I could only make simple, bare Taguin, as opposed to the usual Zayin-shaped Tagim.
  • Overall, I would say it’s easier to write in Gvil with a reed because the writing flows easier and you can write quicker.

It was late in the night already but I managed to finish the work. But I had one big mistake - I forgot the Yud of Elokim, one of the names of Hashem. Aside from that the symmetry of the Menorah wasn't perfect and I wanted to correct a few words to make it right.

But how do you erase a letter?? Hum.. scraping I thought. So I tried to scrape a small extra Tag I made by mistake and I immediatly see that this ruins the parchement and makes re-writing on it impossible. I email Binyomim and he says to erase with cottom-bud and water. Water! The #1 enemy of the Klaf is used to fix mistakes in the Gvil - intriguing. And by then I'm thankul I didn't use Dio Lanetzach, which is water resistant and therefore unusuble in Gevil! As mentioned in the Keset Hasofer, you are alowed to erase the Mem Sofit from the word Elokim and rewrite the forgotten Yud + a new Mem since this word is not a Shem if it has no Yud. The erasing was easy and re-writing is very easy and quick, unlike in Klaf which takes work and very much attention. Below, the pics I took before my corrections: