With his long wispy beard, a black yarmulke stuck on the ba With his long wispy beard, a black yarmulke stuck on the back of his head and his faint air of distraction, Rabbi Saul ck of his head and his faint air of distraction, Rabbi Saul Teitelbaum could be a character out of a Sholem Aleichem talTeitelbaum could be a character out of a Sholem Aleichem tale of Jewish life in a Russian shtetl. But the services he e of Jewish life in a Russian shtetl. But the services he performs as an itinerant scribe are vital to the religious lperforms as an itinerant scribe are vital to the religious life of a modern-day suburban Jewish congregation. Teitelbaife of a modern-day suburban Jewish congregation. Teitelbaum 32, is one of a handful of men who travel around the counum 32, is one of a handful of men who travel around the country restoring and repairing the sacred Torah scrolls that artry restoring and repairing the sacred Torah scrolls that are the heart of the Jewish congregational worship. His work e the heart of the Jewish congregational worship. His work is vital because, according to Jewish law, if the scroll frois vital because, according to Jewish law, if the scroll from which the sabbath portion is read is defective - if, for im which the sabbath portion is read is defective - if, for instance, the Hebrew letters on the parchment scroll have begnstance, the Hebrew letters on the parchment scroll have begun to flake - the reading may lose its validity for the entiun to flake - the reading may lose its validity for the entire congregation. So, as he did recently at the Arlington-Fre congregation. So, as he did recently at the Arlington-Fairfax Jewish Congregation Teitelbaum unrolls the scrolls onairfax Jewish Congregation Teitelbaum unrolls the scrolls on a long table and goes through them word by word, checking f a long table and goes through them word by word, checking for flaws. The scrolls are inscribed with the first five boor flaws. The scrolls are inscribed with the first five books of the Bible - with its accounts of the origins and earloks of the Bible - with its accounts of the origins and earliest history of the Jews and the religious laws that have guiest history of the Jews and the religious laws that have guided their lives ever since. Religious laws are as much a ided their lives ever since. Religious laws are as much a part of Teitelbaum's life as the air he breathes, and they ppart of Teitelbaum's life as the air he breathes, and they prescribe the tools of his trade. The quill pen is cut from rescribe the tools of his trade. The quill pen is cut from the feather of a kosher fowl - "This one is turkey; I've usethe feather of a kosher fowl - "This one is turkey; I've used the same one for years," he says. The ink he uses is maded the same one for years," he says. The ink he uses is made in Israel, he explains, "from the goa nut, grown in India.. in Israel, he explains, "from the goa nut, grown in India...they make it into a powder and mix it with copperwood and g.they make it into a powder and mix it with copperwood and gum arabic and cook it together. Supposedly, it doesn't fadeum arabic and cook it together. Supposedly, it doesn't fade." As he answers a visitor's questions, Teitelbaum's eyes n." As he answers a visitor's questions, Teitelbaum's eyes never leave the unrolled Torah portion before him, his concenever leave the unrolled Torah portion before him, his concentration a quiet witness to the holiness of his task. Scanntration a quiet witness to the holiness of his task. Scanning the lines, he pauses here and there to retrace with his ing the lines, he pauses here and there to retrace with his quill a flawed Hebrew letter, a letter whose imperfections aquill a flawed Hebrew letter, a letter whose imperfections are so minute they are not seen by the untrained eye. From re so minute they are not seen by the untrained eye. From time to time he picks up a steel scalpel to scrape away a cotime to time he picks up a steel scalpel to scrape away a corpuscle of ink that has drained into the next letter. The lrpuscle of ink that has drained into the next letter. The law says that the letters must not touch each other. "The law says that the letters must not touch each other. "The law stipulates the number of columns in the Torah scroll, theaw stipulates the number of columns in the Torah scroll, the lines per column and the size and shape and spacing of each lines per column and the size and shape and spacing of each letter," explained Rabbi Marvin I. Bash, spiritual leader o letter," explained Rabbi Marvin I. Bash, spiritual leader of the Arlington-Fairfax congregation. The law makes other f the Arlington-Fairfax congregation. The law makes other demands. "You have to be very righteous" - Teitelbaum corredemands. "You have to be very righteous" - Teitelbaum corrected himself - "you have to try at least to be a righteous Jcted himself - "you have to try at least to be a righteous Jew" if you are a scribe dealing with the holy scriptures. ew" if you are a scribe dealing with the holy scriptures. And if there were one readily accessable, Teitelbaum would iAnd if there were one readily accessable, Teitelbaum would immerse himself in a mikvah, the Jewish ritual bath, for purimmerse himself in a mikvah, the Jewish ritual bath, for purification before beginning each task. The Torah is always hfication before beginning each task. The Torah is always hand-written in Hebrew on sheets of skin from a kosher animaland-written in Hebrew on sheets of skin from a kosher animal. The sheets are neatly stitched together with sinews to fo. The sheets are neatly stitched together with sinews to form the continuous scroll. That is all in the law. "It musrm the continuous scroll. That is all in the law. "It must be handwritten with the great spiritual intention that thet be handwritten with the great spiritual intention that the one writing the scroll does so in order to fulfill God's wi one writing the scroll does so in order to fulfill God's will and write His word," explained Bash as Teitelbaum paused ll and write His word," explained Bash as Teitelbaum paused to refill his tiny glass inkwell from a supply he keeps in ato refill his tiny glass inkwell from a supply he keeps in a pink plastic detergent bottle. He uses the little inkwell pink plastic detergent bottle. He uses the little inkwell, Teitelbaum says, to minimize the damage if, God forbid, th, Teitelbaum says, to minimize the damage if, God forbid, there should be a spill. If such a mishap should occur, he saere should be a spill. If such a mishap should occur, he says in response to a question, "The first thing you do is takys in response to a question, "The first thing you do is take two aspirin." Afterwards, when the spilled ink has dried e two aspirin." Afterwards, when the spilled ink has dried thoroughly, he would try to scrape off the blotch. If that thoroughly, he would try to scrape off the blotch. If that fails, the ruined portion would have to be cut out of the scfails, the ruined portion would have to be cut out of the scroll, and a replacement patched in. "Sometimes in the courroll, and a replacement patched in. "Sometimes in the course of writing the scroll, a word may be left out," explainedse of writing the scroll, a word may be left out," explained Bash. "We notice that in reading it. Then we have to call Bash. "We notice that in reading it. Then we have to call in the sopher (as the scribes is called in Hebrew) to make in the sopher (as the scribes is called in Hebrew) to make the correction." Even though, Bash, like all rabbis, knows the correction." Even though, Bash, like all rabbis, knows both the Torah and Biblical Hebrew, he says he can't make thboth the Torah and Biblical Hebrew, he says he can't make the repairs because he is not trained to do that. "And I don'e repairs because he is not trained to do that. "And I don't have the ink and the quill - those are things you can't jut have the ink and the quill - those are things you can't just go out and buy in any stationary store," he said. Teitest go out and buy in any stationary store," he said. Teitelbaum, who lives in the Hassidic Jewish community in Brooklylbaum, who lives in the Hassidic Jewish community in Brooklyn, N.Y., became a scribe after he finished his rabbinical stn, N.Y., became a scribe after he finished his rabbinical studies. "I was artistically inclined, and when I finished myudies. "I was artistically inclined, and when I finished my studies I took it up as a hobby," he said. There is no sc studies I took it up as a hobby," he said. There is no school for the training of scribes. "You go to other scribes hool for the training of scribes. "You go to other scribes and work as an apprentice until you get up and can go out onand work as an apprentice until you get up and can go out on your own," he said. While there may be as many as 50 men your own," he said. While there may be as many as 50 men with this skill in New York with its large Jewish concentratwith this skill in New York with its large Jewish concentration, there are few who, like Teitelbaum, are willing to travion, there are few who, like Teitelbaum, are willing to travel around the country to perform the service. "I've been hel around the country to perform the service. "I've been here 14 years and I only know of three that came through hereere 14 years and I only know of three that came through here," Bash said. While he is at a synogogue to work on the To," Bash said. While he is at a synogogue to work on the Torah scrolls, Teitelbaum may also be called upon by individuarah scrolls, Teitelbaum may also be called upon by individual members to touch up the smaller scroll in a mezuzah, or inl members to touch up the smaller scroll in a mezuzah, or in tefillin. A mezuzah is tiny containers affixed to the door tefillin. A mezuzah is tiny containers affixed to the doorpost of every faithful Jew that holds certain scripture passpost of every faithful Jew that holds certain scripture passages inside. Tefillin, made of leather, also contain certaiages inside. Tefillin, made of leather, also contain certain scriptural passages and are bound to the head and arm for n scriptural passages and are bound to the head and arm for use in private devotionals. In addition, some Jews may enguse in private devotionals. In addition, some Jews may engage the sopher to write the traditional ketubbah, or marriagage the sopher to write the traditional ketubbah, or marriage contract, or to embellish with fine calligraphy a printed e contract, or to embellish with fine calligraphy a printed one, Bash pointed out. "But a get, or Jewish bill of divorone, Bash pointed out. "But a get, or Jewish bill of divorce, must be done by the sopher since it must be much more acce, must be done by the sopher since it must be much more accurate [than the ketubbah] with names and witnesses," he addcurate [than the ketubbah] with names and witnesses," he added. For all its holiness, the life of an itinerant scribe ed. For all its holiness, the life of an itinerant scribe is not an easy one, or a source of many earthly rewards. His not an easy one, or a source of many earthly rewards. He relies largely on word of mouth for his business. "I do ne relies largely on word of mouth for his business. "I do not advertise; I don't think it would be ethical," he said. ot advertise; I don't think it would be ethical," he said. "If I were in another field - like selling Torah covers or A"If I were in another field - like selling Torah covers or Ark curtains" (the ark of the covenant is the place in the syrk curtains" (the ark of the covenant is the place in the synagogue in which torahs are kept) "then I might advertise. nagogue in which torahs are kept) "then I might advertise. But in this profession...." When he makes an engagement in But in this profession...." When he makes an engagement in an area, he will contact other congregations in the same arean area, he will contact other congregations in the same area to see if they need his services. He works 16 or 17 houra to see if they need his services. He workds 16 or 17 hous a day, and for a congregation like Arlington-Fairfax, whicrs a day, and for a congregation like Arlington-Fairfax, whih has five scrolls, he takes about four days to complete hisch has five scrolls, he takes about four days to complete hi work. "You really have to love it to do this work," he sas work. "You really have to love it to do this work," he sid. aid. CAPTION: Picture, Using steel scalpel and quill pen cut from the fea Picture, Using steel scalpel and quill pen cut from the feather of a kosher fowl, Rabbi Saul Teitelbaum removes minute ther of a kosher fowl, Rabbi Saul Teitelbaum removes minute imperfections in Torah scroll at the Arlington-Fairfax Jewisimperfections in Torah scroll at the Arlington-Fairfax Jewish Congregation in Arlington. By Fred Sweets - The Washingtoh Congregation in Arlington. By Fred Sweets - The Washington Post n Post