What is a Sofer (Scribe)?
A sofer (Hebrew for “scribe”) is the specially trained craftsman who writes the holy texts onto parchment using the traditional form of Hebrew calligraphy. In addition to writing, the sofer might spend significant time checking existing texts to ensure that they were properly made and have not been damaged over time.
What Does a Sofer Create?
A scribe is also known as a sofer STaM, which is an acronym for sefer Torah, tefillin and mezuzah, the three sacred items that the sofer writes most often. In addition, a sofer might write Megillah scrolls to be used on Purim, getdocuments to be used in Jewish divorce and other specialized Judaica items.
Read more about Jewish calligraphy here.
What Are the Tools of the Scribe?
All of the sacred items that the scribe creates are written on klaf, specially prepared parchment from a kosher animal.
There are a number of inks available to the scribe, all of them made from kosher materials, and all of them jet black.
Ashkenazi scribes use quills made from bird feathers, and some of their Sephardic counterparts favor pens made from reeds.
How Does One Become a Sofer?
There are thousands of details that go into creating kosher STaM, and the scribe must be proficient in them all. Thus, in addition to training his hand to create work that is beautiful and pleasing to the eye, he must study the intricate details that go into making that work holy and valid for mitzvah use. Since the difference between kosher and non-kosher scrolls may not be apparent to the human eye, it is important that the scribe be a G‑d-fearing individual who can be trusted with this sacred task. Candidates traditionally learn the craft under the tutelage of an established scribe.