A second post about proofreading sifrei Torah

When proofreading a sefer Torah, it’s necessary to check the presence and kashrut of each individual letter. One way of doing this is a process involving a Reader and a Sofer: the Reader has the tikkun and a Sofer has the klaf. The Reader reads the letters from the tikkun one by one, and the Sofer checks them off.
In this process, the chances of erring by anticipating or misremembering – seeing what you think should be there rather than what is there – is reduced, since the text is now being handled as a string of individual letters, rather than as words. To reduce it even further, some people read the text backwards, so it really does become just a string of letters, with no room for anticipation at all.
There’s still chance for human error though – misspeaking, mishearing, losing the place, saying “hang on a minute” when marking an error and needing to re-establish the place afterwards, going too fast and missing bits, going too slow and wasting time. Plus, it still takes a long time, and paying someone to sit there and read letters is expensive.
This is why I had a friend write me a program which plays the part of the Reader. He called it the scribomatic, which I find vastly pleasing. I have the Torah text in my computer; I copy and paste in the portion of text I want to check, and the scribomatic reads the letters one by one.
A funny thing about checking the letters like this is that you completely lose track of where you are in the Torah.
When you’re writing, you say the words out loud as you’re going along. You’re going very slowly, so you might forget what was happening a few paragraphs before, but you know what’s happening in the part you’re writing.
When you hear the letters coming at you, one after the other, and you’re focusing on them as individual letters and not as words, as a string and not as a text, you don’t have that awareness. At least, I don’t. Try it with a friend and a lump of English sometime, see what you make of it. It’s very interesting, I think – yet another perspective on the Torah text that I wouldn’t have suspected was there.
And some pretty pictures on the same subject.

2 thoughts on “A second post about proofreading sifrei Torah

  1. keep these posts coming! this stuff rocks. that ‘scribomator’ sounds pretty neat and may be used as a great teaching tool for beginner hebrew students, is it something your friend would be willing to share?

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