Maimonides on the things which make a Torah scroll invalid - w/ Commentary

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Rabbi Yoseph Qafih, commentating on:
Maimonides, Hilkoth Sefer Torah 10:1

"…there are twenty things, any one of which would make a Torah scroll invalid, so that if one of them [ever] happened to be in it, lo, it has become like unto a codex of the codices with which they teach babes, and the [scroll] is devoid of holiness associated with a scroll of the Law, neither do they read it in public, which things
are these:
1) If it were written upon the hide of an unclean animal;
2) Where it was written upon the hide of a clean animal, but was not treated [with a gall-like substance];
3) Or, where it had been treated [with a gall-like substance], but was not done for the sake [and intent] of a book of the Law;
4) Where it had been written upon a place not fit for writing, e.g., with whole leather (gowil) on that side which was once attached to the flesh, and with split leather (kalaf) on that side where the hairs once grew;
5) Wherepart of it was written upon whole leather (gowil), and part of it upon split leather (kalaf);
6) Where it was written upon the thin, split leather known as doksustos[1];
7) Where it was written without ruled lines;
8) Where it was written without durable black [ink];
9)Where it was written in [any one of] the other languages, [besides Hebrew][2];
10) Where a gentile had written it, or [anyone] like unto him of those other [people] who are disqualified;
11) Where he had written [any of] the divine attributes [given for the names of G-
d] without the proper intent [given for such names];
12) Where even a single letter [making up a certain word] was missing;
13) Where he had added even a single, superfluous letter [to the scroll of the Law];
14) Where a certain letter touched another letter [of the Hebrew alphabet];
15) Where one of the letter's shape had been corrupted, until it could no longer be identified at all, or where it resembled a different letter – whether it were in the text of the writing itself, or by a hole [which appeared in the leather], or by a tear [which occurred in the leather], or by a smear;
16) Where he had either distanced one letter too far from another, or placed one
letter too close to another, so that one word appears as two words, or two words appear as one word;
17) Where he had changed the order of the sections [3];
18) Where he changed the arranged lines forming the poetic songs;
19) Where he had written the other texts [of scripture] as a poetic song[4];
20) Where he had sewn the sheets of parchment together without using the sinews of a clean animal. All other things, as a rule, do not hinder the validity [of the scroll]."

Rabbi Yoseph Qafih's Commentary (ibid., footnote # 8):

"The words of Rabbeinu (Maimonides) are plain that [a letter of the Hebrew alphabet] is not invalidated except when a letter touches another letter, in which case, the letter is not completely encircled by leather.[5] But if a letter touched itself in a place where its shape is not made entirely corrupt thereby, and [if] it does not resemble a different letter, it is [still] valid. For example: When the yod of the letter aleph is found clinging to its main body, [or] the heads of the letter shin [cling] one to another, and [other] similar things, so long as the shape of the letter has
not been altered, it is valid. And if it is a questionable matter, they bring a young child who is neither wise, nor unintelligent, just as it is explained in the Gemara (Menahoth 29b). So it is our custom to render valid anything similar to these cases, and even as a first resort they are [permitted] to read in a scroll of the Law
that has in it these joinings, and it is not necessary to amend it.

Look at the Questions & Responsa of Maharitz, ["Pe'ulath Sadiq,"] vol. III, responsum # 213, [who wrote] in the name of Rabbi Levi, the son of Habib (Haralbach), who quotes in turn from the Meiri in "Qiryath Sefer." [6] And even if the left leg of the letter he was found clinging to its rooftop, with [only] a slight joining and not a considerable one, so long as the shape of the letter he is [still] recognizable and a young child reads it as the letter he, it is valid. Likewise did Rabbi Shimon Bar Tzemach (the Tashbetz) write in the second volume [of his Questions & Responsa], section # 73. Moreover, even if the entire scroll was written from the start in this way, it is valid and does not require being amended. And he brings down proof from that which is written in [Tractate] Menahoth
[29b], that the more meticulous scribes would hang the [left] leg of the letter he. By this wording we learn that only as a first rule of thumb, being of a more superlative nature, was it stated, and not that it is indispensable.[7] Let him look there [for a more thorough discussion on this subject].

Be apprised, [moreover], that in the ancient Torah scrolls of Yemen the leg of the letter qof was joined to its roof, and in this manner was [written] the scroll of the Law known as "Tam," which was in the village Qaryat al-Qabil.[8] All of the legs of the letter qof were joined to their roof. And so were the ancient scrolls of the Law in
Tunis and Tripoli made, just as Rabbi Shimon Bar Tzemach (the Tashbetz) wrote in a responsum, vol. I, [responsum] # 50. Look there, for he went to great lengths to prove that it is valid. And there, in responsum # 51, he brought evidence from the words of Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra that in this manner were [written] the scrolls of the Law in Spain . Wherefore, [such a scroll] is valid as a first resort.

Now it would seem that, also in our days, he that wishes to write a scroll of the Law wherein the legs of the letter qof are joining their roof, we have no authority to reprimand him, and it is valid to read in it as a first resort, just as Rabbi Shimon Bar Tzemach (the Tashbetz) has proven there, where they said in the Talmud, in
an Agaddah, in [Tractate] Shabbath 104a: 'What is the reason the leg of the qof is hanging?' It shouldn't be implied at all by such [a statement] that, [if made otherwise], it makes it invalid.[9] Look there [for a more thorough discussion on this subject]."


(הרמב"ם – הלכות ספר תורה, פרק י' משנה א)
נמצאת למד, שעשרים דברים הן שכל אחד מהן פוסל ספר תורה, ואם נעשה בו
אחד מהן הרי הוא כחומש מן החומשין שמלמדין בהן התינוקות, ואין בו קדושת
ספר תורה, ואין קורין בו ברבים ואלו הן: א) אם נכתב על עור בהמה טמאה.
ב) שנכתב על עור בהמה טהורה שאינו מעובד. ג) או שהיה מעובד שלא לשם ספר
תורה. ד) שנכתב שלא במקום כתיבה, על הגויל במקום בשר, ועל הקלף במקום
שער. ה) שנכתב מקצתו על הגויל ומקצתו על הקלף. ו) שנכתב על דוכסוסטוס.
ז) שנכתב בלא שרטוט. ח) שנכתב שלא בשחור העומד. ט) שנכתב בשאר לשונות.
י) שכתבו גוי וכיוצא בו משאר פסולין. יא) שכתב האזכרות בלא כונה. יב)
שחסר אפלו אות אחת. יג) שהוסיף אפלו אות אחת. יד) שנגעה אות באות. טו)
שנפסדה צורת אות אחת עד שלא תקרא כל עיקר, או תדמה לאות אחרת, בין
בעיקר הכתיבה, בין בנקב, בין בקרע, בין בטשטוש. טז) שהרחיק או הקריב
בין אות לאות, עד שתראה התבה כשתי תבות, או שתי תבות כתבה אחת. יז)
ששנה צורת הפרשיות. יח) ששנה צורת השירות. יט) שכתב בשאר הכתב כשירה.
כ) שתפר היריעות שלא בגידי טהורה. ושאר כל הדברים למצוה לא עכב.

(פירוש הרב יוסף קאפח)
דברי רבנו ברורים שאינו נפסל אלא בנגיעת אות באות שהרי אין האות מוקפת
גויל, אבל אם נגעה האות בעצמה במקום שאינה נפסדת צורתה לגמרי ואינה
נדמית לאות אחרת כשר, כגון שנדבקה יוד האלף לגופו, ראשי השין זה לזה,
וכדומה כל שלא נשתנתה צורת האות כשר. ואם ספק מיתינן תינוק דלא חכים
ולא טפש כדאיתא בגמ' מנחות כ"ט ב'. וכך הוא מנהגינו להכשיר בכל כיוצא
בזה, ואפילו לכתחלה קוראין בס"ת שיש בו דבוקים כאלה ואין צריך לתקנו
ועיין שו"ת מהרי"ץ ח"ג סי' רי"ג בשם הרלב"ח בשם המאירי בקרת ספר.
ואפילו אם נדבקה רגל ההא השמאלית לגגה דבוק דק ולא עבה כל שניכרת צורתה
הא ותינוק קורא אותה הא כשר. וכן כתב התשב"ץ ח"ב סי' ע"ג, ואפילו כל
הספר כולו כתוב מלכתחלה כך כשר ואין צריך לתקנו ומביא ראיה מהא דמנחות
דספרי דוקאני תלו לכרעיה דהא, משמע מהאי לישנא דלמצוה מן המובחר בלבד
אתאמר ולא לעכובי. ע"ש. ודע כי בספרי תימן העתיקים היתה רגל הקוף דבוקה
לגגה וכך היה ס"ת המכונה "תם" שהיה בכפר קריה' אלקאבל. היו כל רגלי
הקופין דבוקין לגגן. וכך היו ספרי תורה העתיקים של טוניס וטראבלוס
וכמ"ש התשב"ץ בתשובה ח"א נ. ע"ש שהאריך להוכיח שכשר, ושם בסי' נ"א
הוכיח מדברי הראב"ע שכך היו ספרי תורה בספרד, וא"כ כשר הוא לכתחלה.
ונראה דגם בימינו מי שירצה לכתוב ס"ת שרגל הקופין שלו דבוקין לגגן אין
בידינו למחות בידו וכשר לקרות בו לכתחילה. וכפי שהוכיח התשב"ץ שמה
שאמרו בתחמוד באגדה בשבת ק"ד, א': מ"ט תליא כרעא דקוף, אין במשמעו
לפסול כלל ע"ש.


[1] According to Maimonides, the doksustos is that leather, when split down its centre, is closest to the side where the hairs once grew. The kalaf, on the other hand, is that leather closest to the side of the flesh.
[2] Formerly, it was permitted to write the Torah in either the Greek or Hebrew languages. After the war with Rome , the Sages prohibited writing the Torah in Greek.
[3] That is, he made a Closed section where an Open section should have been made, or vice-versa.
[4] That is, in arranged lines.
[5] Menahoth 29a
[6] In that responsum, Maharitz quotes almost entirely verbatim from Rabbi Levi, the son of Habib (Haralbach), without interjecting his own opinion, or mentioning the practice which was common in Yemen with regard to letters of this kind. Although he mentions the Meiri who wrote, "… only when [a letter] joined another letter [is it considered invalid], but if it were joining itself, so long as its shape was not corrupted, it is [still] valid," Maharitz concludes there with the words of Rabbi Levi, the son of Habib, by saying: "… At any rate, Haralbach arrives at the conclusion that [such a letter that joined itself] requires correcting." Still, the
custom of Yemen was well-known by all, and Maharitz goes on to mention the aleph in a different responsum. (See: "Pe'ulath Sadiq," vol. I, responsum # 100). Rabbi Amram Qorah also writes about the custom in his "Sa'arath Teman," pg. 93, saying that, in Yemen, they did not disqualify Torah scrolls written in this way, and that the
aleph was often made without a yod at its upper shaft. Rather, its yod appeared simply as a dot which joined the roof of the aleph.
Likewise, the leg of the letter qof was made touching its roof, a practice seen also in ancient Hebrew scripts (more notably, the Aleppo Codex), although in the Shulhan Arukh, Orah Hayim, section #
32, item # 18, Maran rules that such letters are invalid. Following after the edicts of Maran, Rabbi David Mishreqi, in his Questions & Responsa "Ravid Hazahav," responsums # 1, and # 12, and # 20, disqualified letters written in this way. In practice, however, the men of his synagogue (al-Ousta) continued to make use of Torah scrolls that had the aforementioned letters written in the traditional Yemenite fashion.
[7] The entire teaching is based after an exegesis on Isaiah 26:4.
[8] This particular scroll of the Law was also renowned for its special sanctity.
[9] Which opinion also seems to be that of Maimonides, contrary to the ruling brought down in the Shulhan Arukh, Orah Hayim, section #32, item # 18

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