Otzar HaStam of Tzfat

November 13th 2013

If you’re looking for something out of the ordinary but spiritually significant to do on a Bar Mitzvah or family tour of Israel, make sure the Otzar HaStam Visitors’ Center appears on your itinerary. Founded in 2010 in a northern neighborhood of Tzfat, the Otzar HaStam’s multimillion-dollar Visitors’ Center was designed to introduce visitors to the craft of writing sacred Hebrew parchments and to educate about the laws and customs that surround the use of handcrafted parchments.

These traditions constitute the work of the highly trained Jewish ritual scribe, called a Sofer Stam in Hebrew. These skilled craftsmen inscribe Hebrew letters with extraordinary care and precision on mezuzot, which are placed in decorative cases and hung on doorposts; tefillin, which are worn during prayer; and Torah scrolls, which are prominently displayed and chanted in synagogues.

The exhibit here features a number of high-tech multimedia displays and is highly interactive. You’ll participate in activities such a Scribe’s Workshop and a competitive, simulated game show that gives everyone a chance to show off what they’ve learned about the work of the Sofer Stam. Family members of all ages will learn about mystical, Kabbalistic secrets embedded in the ancient Hebrew letters through four audiovisual presentations. You’ll be assisted in identifying the Hebrew letters of your name and connecting them to your personality.

All members of your group will have a chance to try writing with a quill on a piece of kosher parchment in the same way the Sofar Stam does. A special lighted table will assist you in drawing the letters accurately, even if you don’t know how to write in Hebrew. As you write, a large plasma screen will display the results of your efforts. A trained Sofer Stam will be on-hand to assist.

As you journey through the five sections of the Visitors’ Center, you’ll learn fascinating secrets of Hebrew letters and become much more familiar with the ancient Jewish tradition of the scribe. You’ll leave your tour of Otzar HaStam with a good understanding of the history of Jewish scribes, the significance of their work in Jewish ritual practice and you will have seen a live Sofer Stam write a Torah scroll with a quill and ink.