April 8, 2024
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April 8, 2024
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Houston, We Have a Sefer Torah Problem

When a sofer writes a new sefer Torah, he must copy it from a very special and correct Torah or a special tikun. This is actually a halacha (see Keses HaSofer 4:5 and SA YD 274:2). These tikuns also recommend the best spacings in order to minimize stretched out letters and tightly written ones. They also tell the sofer which sections end with blank space for the rest of the line (called a pesucha), and which sections have nine spaces and then another word (called a stumah). All other sections are just written straight. The tikuns also tell the sofer which are the names of Hashem that need to be sanctified when they are written.


The H. Tikun

Six years ago, a high-tech, highly researched tikun for sofrim was released (by a reliable sofer) which we will call the H. Tikun. The H. Tikun was sold to sofrim for roughly $250. The problem is that the H. Tikun was error-ridden because it was written and corrected on a computer and as type-setters often experience, a correction in one place can yield problems in another place.

The H. Tikun was a veritable best-seller in the safrus market. In the words of a teenager, this tikun “crushed the market.” It became more popular, however, only in the past three years. In its first three years, not so many sofrim had used it.

The H. Tikun underwent a series of updates and tweaks for different formats. Each new edition, unfortunately, caused problems elsewhere. There were numerous editions of the H. Tikun released and each different edition has its own set of issues.

It must be realized and stressed that the sofer who wrote the H. Tikkun is an ehrliche Jew who wished to help klal Yisrael. Unfortunately, it has created a number of problems.


The Four Errors That Indicate The Use of the H. Tikun

One can determine whether a sofer used the H. Tikun in the writing of a specific Torah by looking at three areas. Each one of these areas of error would render that Torah pasul until it is fixed, but one must be concerned about two other errors as well (found in Parshas Mishpatim). These are the three areas of discovery, amongst a multitude of other issues, which indicate the use of the H. Tikun There are many other problems that can occur, depending upon which version of the H. Tikkun was used:

In Parshas Noach, Bereishis 8:11, there should be a pesucha written, and there is no parsha there at all. It should be written straight. Standard Torah 245 (some people have 3 extra – and the Yemenite has 280) with the vov on top of every amud – amudim Amud 10 – 42nd line.

In Parshas Vayelech, Devarim 31:13, there should be a pesucha there, but in the H. Tikun there is a stumah. “Vayomer Hashem” is at the end of the line—it should have been a pesucha and with the word “Hashem” starting the next line—which makes it erroneously into a stumah.

Vezos Habracha 33:12 normally should have – uvain ksaifov shachain. The next line should but in the H. Tikun it was bain ksaifov with a space, and then on the next line it states, “shachain uleyosef amar.” This creates an incorrect parsha.

Under Az Yashir there is a minhag cited in the Keses Hasofer (Siman 16:1) that the fifth full line under the shira should start with “vayavo’u.” In the H. Tikun it is found as the last word on the fourth line. This is not a pasul that renders a Torah invalid, but it is a means to identify that it was written according to the H. Tikun.


The Two Other Areas

If the Torah in question was written with an H. Tikun, then there are at least two other very pressing issues in Parshas Mishpatim. The One of the Names of Hashem, called “Elokim,” (spelled, of course, with a Hay instead of a Kuf) is written out. This spelling of Elokim also has another meaning which is secular and does not refer to Hashem. Because of this distinction, when a sofer writes this shem Hashem, he must be mekadaish it—sanctify it—to distinguish it from the secular meaning, by reciting a special formula.

The H. Tikun erroneously identifies two places where the word Elokim actually refers to judges or leaders and identifies it as the Name of Hashem. These are in Shemos 21:6 where it states, “his master shall bring him to the judges (NOT to Hashem), and “he shall bring him to the door or to the doorpost.” We see this again in the use of the word Elokim which is translated in context to mean, “other gods,” (Shmos 23:13), and not referring to Hashem.

These two errors are not detectable because they relate to the intent of the sofer, but if the H. Tikun was used, then there is a serious question as to how to rectify this Torah. The TaZ in YD 246:2 rules that although the Ramah seems to be lenient, the implication is that it is only in that specific case, but in all others the Torah would not be kosher and would require genizah. At this point each shul that has such a Torah should ask their own rav as to how to remediate the problem. There are two choices. A: Rewrite that yeriah, or B: Bring the Torah to a reputable Sefardic sofer who can perform an intact peeling (if the parchment could maintain it).


How Big Is the Problem?

The author of the H. Tikun reports that he has only sold some 3,000 copies of it. However, it is possible that there are both “bootleg” copies of the H. Tikun as well as photocopies. Since the average sofer writes a sefer Torah in six months, the number of Torahs currently with these errors can range from 6,000 to 12,000 or more.


The Rulings

Rav Moshe Shaul Klein, shlita, has written six rulings on this issue thus far.

  1. For the time being, sofrim should stop using the H. Tikun and only use the previously used Tshingel Tikun.
  2. A Sefer Torah that was known to be written with an H. Tikkun should be re-checked with a תור Duk 5.0 computer program (version Shvat 5781 or higher) for pesuchos and stumos. If, it is not known to have been written with an H. Tikkun, then there is no need to check it further.
  3. Regarding a Torah that underwent a computer check for missing and extra letters or words only once, they should also conduct a second check. [YH: It seems that this is because even the תור Duk 5.0 computer program employs 1990s OCR technology and will often miss the extra or missing letters.]
  4. Tefillin or mezuzos that were written with the H. Tikun, and were checked again with a different tikun and underwent correct halachic fixes are fine and do not need to be re-checked.
  5. In terms of the Holy Names—we have only been aware thus far of two such errors. [YH: It could be that because of the use of Print on Demand technology there may be more to come].
  6. If a magiah corrected [a different sofer’s Torah] using an H. Tikun, there is a concern that he fixed it up erroneously.

Stay tuned for part II which discusses the flaws of the current computer checking system.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

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