Rabbi Moshe Liberow, a Jewish scribe (Sofer) from Colorado Springs, explains the work of a scribe and tools of the trade at Chabad Center of Snohomish County in Lynnwood on Sept. 10. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Rabbi Moshe Liberow, a Jewish scribe (Sofer) from Colorado Springs, explains the work of a scribe and tools of the trade at Chabad Center of Snohomish County in Lynnwood on Sept. 10. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Keeping the Mezuzah kosher

A Jewish scribe visits the Chabad Center to lead a workshop on how holy items are made.

LYNNWOOD — In observant Jewish homes, a cylindrical religious case is posted in the doorway.

It’s a Mezuzah, a source of blessing. Inside is sacred scripture from the Torah written on a parchment scroll.

“It reminds us of what values we have,” Rabbi Berel Paltiel of the Chabad Center of Snohomish County.

The text on the parchment includes this phrase: “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.”

Rabbi Moshe Liberow, a Jewish scribe from Colorado Springs, recently visited the Chabad Center to lead a workshop on how holy items are made “and the significance it plays in our lives.”

The Mezuzah “protects us in and out of the house — your family and loved ones,” Liberow said.

Mezuzahs must be checked twice in seven years to ensure they remain kosher.

That means they are acceptable by Jewish law, Paltiel said.

Liberow also described the work of a scribe, a person who transcribes by hand each letter of Judaism’s sacred texts, including the Torah.

“Everything is tradition,” he said.

Writing each character of sacred texts in the Hebrew alphabet takes heart, mind, concentration and sacredness of preparation, Liberow said.

Texts are written on cowhide that has undergone special preparation, including two months of drying, stretching and sanding to ensure it will be smooth to write on. This process also ensures durability.

Sacred texts are written with special black ink that is waterproof and doesn’t fade over the years.

Liberow held up a piece of parchment with sacred text inscribed on it 150 years ago. “Look at the sharpness of the ink,” he said.

The texts are written using a quill from turkey or goose feathers. The quill’s point has to be sharpened every hour or two.

It’s the same writing instrument that was used in the writing of the Declaration of Independence, he said.

The Hebrew characters used to transcribe holy texts have to be precise. “If a scribe is writing in a Mezuzah and misses a letter “it is unfortunately history,” Liberow said.

All the text to that point has to be erased. In cases when God’s name has been written, the text can’t be corrected.

So he proceeds with special care. One recent transcription of 713 characters took him three hours.

Kip Panebianco, of Stanwood, said it was a special occasion to have the scribe come to the Chabad Center.

It’s a religious commandment to have the Mezuzah at a doorpost at home, and a reminder of God’s commandments, he said.

Renee Debaste, of Edmonds, said she’s in the process of converting to Judaism. Liberow’s visit was “a phenomenal opportunity,” she said.

“I’m learning to read Hebrew,” she said. “I know how special and meaningful every letter is.”

Helen Grossman, of Lynnwood, said she is a regular attendee at the Chabad Center. She said her grandfather was a scribe in Europe.

Every Friday night, she said, she lights the Shabbat candles and her husband blesses the wine and bread to symbolize the onset of the Jewish Sabbath, which begins at sundown.

“I keep learning many things by coming here,” she said.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

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