Patience, consistency, dedication. Look up any of those words in the dictionary, and you could easily see a picture of Richard Epstein, amateur Torah scribe.
The member of the Chabad Shul of Potomac, Maryland, recently penned the entire Torah (that's 304,805 letters) by hand using a feather quill on parchment made from sheepskin, the Washington Post reported.
It took Epstein about eight years from start to finish. A professional can pen a Torah in about a year, according to Chabad.org.
The accomplishment was lauded by his Chabad, which held a Grand Torah Celebration on Sunday to honor Epstein's work.
One mistake can invalidate the text, making accuracy far more important than speed, according to HaSoferet.com. Mistakes — if noticed — can be corrected, provided the mistake doesn't involve God's name, according to Epstein, who starred in a short documentary about his endeavor.
Epstein, who is also an author and professor, told the Washington Post that he feels as if the "Torah wrote me, more than I wrote the Torah — that it really shaped me."
Via the Washington Post:
That painstaking process helped him appreciate the biblical precepts in a way he never had before, he said. Following a Jewish tradition, he spoke each word and then each letter in that word aloud before he wrote it. He found that he was thinking more deeply about the familiar stories and even dreaming about the passages he had penned that day.
In the documentary, Epstein said, "A lot of the things we think we can’t do, really they are possible for us if we try it out and see if we can do it and learn and find a teacher, and help us with it, and work at it, and little by little, you can do more than you think you can do."
Epstein's journey wasn't made completely alone. He trained as an apprentice for about a year, and began by writing other religious texts, including the Book of Esther, before he began on the Torah. He sent photocopied pages to a Rabbi who checked Epstein's work on a regular basis.
As for why Epstein took on such a monumental task, he told the Washington Post, “I felt I wanted to be closer to God, and I felt, ‘What better way to be closer to God than the gift that he made to the Jewish people?'"
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