The Infamous Sofer Table
When I first learned safrut I bought myself a second hand table. The reason was simple, it was cheap, I was just getting started, and someone had one on Jerusalem-reuse-it. Actually it was a drafting table, but… essentially the same thing. That table has served me well for four years. Through learning to be a sofer to actually being a sofer. It served me well right up until the compression fittings gave out while I was writing a pair of Tefillin. Fortunately the Tefillin didn’t suffer in a way that I could easily fix, but my back suffered greatly from new angles I was forced to write at.
The solution seemed simple enough, buy a new table. One should just be able to pop into Ikea or at least a Meah Shearim iteration thereof and pick one of these things up right? You would think that with all of the sofrim and all of the instant sofer courses, that there would be a heavy market for these tables. You might think that and oh you would be so very mistaken.
Knowing that my current table was dying the slow death that second hand furniture does, I started trying to acquire a new table three months ago. What an odyssey it has been. There is a single caveat, I wasn’t willing to pay two-three times it’s worth. I could have easily picked one up for 3000-5000shek. However, owing once again to Chareidi culture and it’s love for monoplies, there is only one(you heard that right) manufacturer of sofer tables in this country, and they sell them for 900-1000 shek(if you can get them to sell you one).
Enter my second problem. I don’t live on a moshav I live in Jerusalem where the aforementioned monopoly loving Chareidm have decided that there should only be one distributor. You know we wouldn’t want to harm anyone’s parnassah through the crazy capitalist convention of free trade and competition now would we(don’t get me started then on the instant sofer courses). So that means dealing with him or someone he deals with(now we are getting to the source of the price gouging).
I finally track down someone who claims he is able to do get me one at a price that isn’t too crazy, just 1600 shek. I take the evening off from my seder limmud(already not a happy camper) and trek to his store, where he is not sure how long it will take to arrange it, nor is he sure of the pricing, and oh wouldn’t I like to buy this nifty magnetic light thing for my as yet unpurchased table, for which(the light) he also doesn’t know the prices. I’m supposed to shoot him an email and remind him.
Table break down occurs, I still have two tefillin orders, several mezzuzah orders and a megillah order I have to fill. So I write to him saying I don’t care about the nifty light, but really need the table. 48hrs no response. I hear a rumor(yes I am chasing rumors at this point) that there is a guy who builds furniture next to the Bookstore Next to the Mir(yes that is the name of the book store), that can get me one. Trek over there, talk to the guy, and fifteen minutes later walk out with receipt and knowledge that my table will arrive the very next day. Get home, and the guy with the nifty light has left a message, he is just about to order me the table she should have it in two to three days, I call him and tell him to either not make the order or cancel it, since I hadn’t heard from him in 48hrs and it was an emergency I sought alternate relief. He’s mad, tells me he special ordered it just for me two days ago(despite his message indicating something different) and thus tries to convince me I need two, and still doesn’t know the prices on the nifty light thing.
Here’s the real kicker, I can get Schedule II narcotics, legally and without a perscription within 20 minutes of getting up off the couch, and that is only because of the walk. I have had a harder time getting this table then I did of getting codeine(which was accidental by the way, apparently the pharmacist thought it the best thing to treat a cough).