Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hamas in Scripture

As Israel gets more and more entangled in what looks like a full blown war with Hamas, I got to the pasuk which mentions the very name of this terrorist group, when describing the world in the times of Noah. 

וַתִּשָּׁחֵת הָאָרֶץ לִפְנֵי הָאֱלהִים וַתִּמָּלֵא הָאָרֶץ חָמָס
"The world was filled with 'Hamas'" Genesis

What’s the translation of the scriptural word “Hamas”? Although I’ve studied the Torah many times, I realized that I didn’t really know the exact translation of this word. I knew it meant something bad, since this was the reason why G-d got angry at mankind and brought the great flood in the times of Noach.

The Artscroll Chumash translates “the earth became filled with robbery”, which is the understanding of Rashi, the main medieval commentary of the Torah. 

Interestingly, the other classic commentator of the Torah - Unkulos -goes in another direction and translates Chamas to mean  חטופין, kidnappers, meaning that the world was full of kidnappers. 

Some commentators relate this to the Bnei Elohim mentioned in the end of Parshat Bereishit, which kidnapped and married woman. But it's clear that Unkulos understands Hamas to mean not monetary robbery but kidnapping, which is a violent act. In fact, many other translations of the Torah mention that "the earth was filled with violence", possibly following the Unkulos' understanding. 

Now the Targum Yerushalmi, which is occasionally different than the Unkelos, seems to merge the explanations of Rashi and Onkelos. 

In other words, the Targum Yerushalmi understands that Hamas is an umbrella term that includes kidnapping and robbery. 

The Or Hachaim goes one step further, perhaps troubled by the fact that the Yerushlami derives two translations for one word. How is that possible? Hamas should either be kidnapping or robbery - how can this word refer to both? 

The Or Hachaim says that Hamas is the umbrella term for evil, in all its different manifestations:

It includes robbery, sexual misconduct, killing, idol worshipping and more. So according to this, Rashi, Unkulos and Targum Yerushlami actually all agree with what Hamas means. They simply struggle to choose one aspect that best represents evil. 

It's interesting to note that like in the times of Noach, when the earth got overrun by Hamas, today we seem to be living a very similar situation. The world today is full of Hamas ideology, be it Hamas itself or other violent ideologies like Al Qaeda, Isis and their kin. 

In the present war between Hamas and Israel, a very large portion of the world is siding with Hamas, be it by explicitly endorsing them or simply by failing to condone their violent ideology. In this sense, the world seems to be full of violent people or people who endorse violence. 

And this present day violent ideology, like in the times of Noach, is multi faceted: it's based on murder, robbery, dishonesty, sexual harassment and kidnappings.

Noach could only save his family by barricating himself in his ark. He publicly built his ark for many years so everyone could see and perhaps change their ways. Eventually only Noach's family got in the ark and got saved. 

How can we react to the modern day world which seems to be more and more full of Hamas and the people who support them? We have to build our ark, which is Israel. That's the only place where we can defend ourselves without relying in others. And like Noach was the last stand against evil, Israel today is the world's last stand against this evil, violent ideology of death that is taking over the world. 

PS: it's interesting to note that according to some, the flood in times of Noah never reached Israel - the holy land enjoys special protection. And many commentators say that this is why the olive branch brought to Noah came from Israel - Israel was the only place that survived. See below:

Thursday, May 15, 2014

My progress: Parshat Bereishit is done!

Today is BH a special day for me as I finished the first Parsha of my Sefer Torah - parshat Bereishit. I never thought I would actually start my own Torah but this is happening! It's important to celebrate this milestone. 

It took me a long time to write it, something like six months, as I have prioritized Daf Yomi but the most important thing is that the project is moving. Moving slow, but moving. 

I will post pictures of all the amudim soon. I BH had very few mistakes and typos - I guess that's one advantage of writing slow. In terms of the quality of my ktav, I'm still not 100% happy with the beauty of the letters, and I'm having difficulty perfecting my Tzadi. 

Also, I twice mispelled the word ויולד, omitting the second Vav. For some reason in my head, unconsciously, the right way to spell it is וילד, which sounds more like the right verb. But I'm wrong and I had to pay special attention at it since this word is recurring in the end of the Parsha. 

In this rithym it will take me a few years, perhaps six, to complete my Torah Scroll but as you see in the picture I'm young and patient. We will get there iiH. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Christie's sells a Chumash from 1400's for record price

The Chumash was sold for almost 4 million dollars, above the 2 million estimate. It is just like a Torah Scroll, but with vowelization, cantillation marks and Unkulus commentary on the side. Below you can read all the information:

Paris – The Department of Books and Manuscripts is pleased to announce the auction of an 
exceptional printed Torah (or Pentateuch: the first five books of the Bible) at their sale on 30 
April 2014. 

A major turning point in the history of printing in general and of Hebrew books in particular, 
this rare incunable, whose value is estimated at €1,000,000-1,500,000, will undoubtedly be the 
highlight of the sale. Printed in Hebrew in Bologna in January 1482, the volume represents the 
very first appearance in print of all five books of the Pentateuch as well as the first to which 
vocalisation and cantillation marks have been added. It is equally the first time that the printed 
Biblical text is accompanied by Rashi’s commentary and the paraphrase in Aramaic (Targum 
Onkelos). The significance of this edition is demonstrated by the fact that this format is still in use 
today when printing the Torah. 

Essential to reading and chanting the text of the Torah, the addition of vocalisation and 
cantillation marks represented a considerable challenge for 15th
 century printers. Abraham ben 
Hayyim of Pesaro was the first to overcome this technical difficulty during the printing of the 
present Pentateuch. Having overcome this first hurdle, he also had the talent and intelligence to 
frame the Biblical text with Rashi’s commentaries in order to facilitate the parallel study of the 
text. The majority of the copies were printed on vellum in accordance with the precepts of the 

The back of the present copy bears the signature of three 16th
 and 17th century censors, testifying to its presence in an Italian library until at least the mid 17th
century: Luigi da Bologna in 1599, Camillo Jaghel in 1613 and Renato da Modena in 1626. The censors had the task of examining and checking all books, both manuscript and printed, in order to authorise or ban ownership and distribution of the work: the text of the Rashi commentary here bears the marks of their work, having been erased or crossed out in a number of places. 

Over the last hundred years only two copies of this rare edition have come to auction: the first in 
1970, printed on vellum and complete, the second in 1998, printed on paper and missing eight 
pages. The Pentateuch to be presented next April is printed on vellum, complete (apart from the 
rear free end paper) and in exceptionally fresh condition. 

Two years after the sensational price realised at Christie’s Paris for a manuscript Mahzor in May 
2012, which set a world record for an illuminated Hebrew manuscript, this is now the second 
occasion on which the Department of Books and Manuscripts has presented a Hebrew book of 
outstanding significance, considered by many to stand alongside the Gutenberg Bible as one of 
the monuments of the history of printing. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Old Torah Scroll

Last week I was approached by a Christian Copt, who was offering this Torah Scroll for sale. 

This Torah was missing one Eitz Chayim and the ink was already fading away. All in all, the scroll was in not a grade state, and surely not Kosher. Note how it has been cut in the bottom margin, rendering it not Mukaf Gevil, which by itself enough to invalidate the whole scroll. 

The guy wanted 5000 dollars for it, which is an exhibits to amount of money to spend in a scroll that is not usable. Plus, there's a prohibition of purchasing a scroll like this because of the fear of encouraging others to steal scrolls intending to sell it back to jewish communities. 

Nowadays, many scrolls are inscribed with an invisible mark which allows experts to trace back the origin of the scroll but 150 year old scrolls like this one and difficult to trace and identify. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Yoma 70a - the miztva of "showing off" your Torah Scroll

Here's an interesting anecdote from the Daf Yomi of last month. In Yom Kippur, all (yes, all) the people that were in the temple for the day would bring their personal Torah Scrolls the day before to have a chance of reading from it on Yom Kippur day and displaying the beauty of their scroll. 

From this Gemara we see two important concepts of the Mitzva of writing your own Torah. 
1) you are supposed to use it, be it for learning or just for Krias Hatorah. It is not supposed to be a relic locked inside a safe. 
2) it's commendable to beautify it as much as a person can, so others will see it and appreciate it. This is often called in Halacha זה קלי ואנוויהו. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Mezuza Case in Ktav Ivri

This is an interesting Mezuza case - instead of the usual Shin Daled Yud (or in many cases, just the Shin), it has the equivalent letters in Ktav Ivri, also known as Paleo Hebrew.

Ideally, the Mezuza case should be see through so the shem Shakai can be seen to all, however today most cases are not see-through. See more about the source of this custom here.

But I found this to be interesting because it reminded me of the connection between Mezuza and Ktav Ivri, which I worte about it when explaining the Mark of Cain (see here). In brief, the Mezuza of Mitzraim, which protected the Jews from the plagues, was actually one letter from the Ktav Ivri - the X (which is the Tav in today hebrew alphabet, a letter that means Tichie - you shall live. See alphabet below). The Jews painted this letter with blood of the Pesach sacrifice in their doorposts.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Column 1 of 217

I will be posting each column here, and I'm happy to hear feedback. In the third day, it's missing a few words, which I will complete soon. Also some blurbs of ink here and there, but all in all I'm happy I got to this first milestone.
Although in the picture it looks like everything it's slanted that's an illusion - if you zoom you can see the sirtut.
I had difficulty in the beginning but now my writing is going smooth, specially in the second half of the column. I perfected my Aleph in that section, which now is more straight (I want to avoid "wavy" Alephs; I prefer straight lines).
Shabbat Shalom

Thursday, October 3, 2013


A childhood friend of mine started this interesting Judaica website featuring Hebrew calligraphy works by his late grandfather. They have good prices and free shipping; here are two of my favorites.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Amazing Megillot #11: Megillah Case

I saw this magnificent Megilla case in the Mamila shop of Haddad Brothers, in Jerusalem. I have seen many cases, but this one is my all time favorite - the craftsmanship stands out, with many details and of course, a whopping high price of 192,000 shekels/55,000usd. It's unfortunate that my 11-lined Megillah is too fat to fit there!

My Sefer Torah #2

I didn't write much yet, but I decided to post anyways.

I'm a little rusty as I haven't done any Safrut in the past year, and contrary to my tutor's advice, I started from the very beginning. He argued that it would take me a bit of time to get used to writing a Torah and because of that I should leave the beginning for when I'm in top form, as people usually look at the beginning of a scroll more carefully and this would hide my learning curve.

But to me, this is like a journey. And the beginning will be difficult and far from perfect but if you think about it, everything in life is like that. So it felt right to start from Bereishis.

I had difficulty writing the large initial Bet in the right proportions. Ideally, it should be not only taller but also lower than the other letters. When I realized it wasn't low enough, it was too late, so I left it like that. Also, I was careful to make the four taggim in the large Bet (see here my post on this), a Minhag recorded in the Masechet Sofrim that is often times neglected. The Masechet Sofrim can be found as an appendium to the Talmud and it's one of the earliest compediums dealing exclusively with Safrut. I rarely see Sofrim doing these four Taggim but I've heard that Davidovici, the most revered Sofer of our time, does it too. I don't really know the reason behind these four Taggim, I would welcome suggestions

You can see that my writing is very thick (7mm), something I do in purpose. I think it's nicer and more ornate but it does causes me to think more about how to fit the lameds and long chafs without touching other lines. You can see I left a space in the second line - I wrote the Lamed of Elokim below it too tall. That's a problem.

I also have to fix the minor "blurps" in the works Le'or and Rokia.

Also my kulmus wasn't great, so it took me a long time to write this little segment. All in all, I at the same time a little dissapointed with the sluggish start but in the other hand happy with the overall look, which is at least nice and uniform.

I welcome any comments, positive or negative.

Monday, September 23, 2013

My Sefer Torah #1: Getting Started

This post is actually a follow-up to my post about how many lines my Torah will have.

I B"H managed to exchange the 42 lines klafim I had purchased for a special 48 lines klafim, a number which is favored by the Keset Hasofer and many others. Being that I live in Europe, it was really diificult to make the exchange, making me realize how difficult it is to get the gear needed to write a Torah - ink, kulmus, klaf and tikkun - from afar. It's interesting how the Safrut world is not yet in the information age and that most suppliers I dealt with didn't even have email - a cellphone is already unusual in these circles.

A notable exception is hasofer.com, run by Rabbi Moshe Flumenthal. I found his shop by chance in Jerusalem in my last trip to the city and from my experience, he was easy to reach, efficient and very helpful. I got ink, kulmusim and other basic supplies from him. But for the tikkun and klafim I have other sources and it was really hard to pull all together. But thank Gd all is set and I got started.

Here you can see my safrus "cage". Until now I didn't write with an inclined table but I'm testing it, hoping it will be better for my back. Let's see.

It's interesting to note how many times there's the word Elokim in the first page of the Tikkun, while the four letter Shem doesn't appear at all - see image below. That fits with the concept that the world was created with Middat HaDin, which is represented by Elokim.

Here is my "keset", or base, that I adapted from Parker. The ink is obviously not from them; I use Nahari. Next time I will post more of my writing. Chag Sameach.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

How many lines should my Torah Scroll Have?

So after some 4 years in the waiting, the stars seemed to have aligned for me and I have the time, place and yishuv hada'as to start writing my own Sefer Torah.

I met my Jerusalem-based tutor, who is also a klafim maker, and asked him for some yerios to get started. He asked, "so what size do you want and how many lines?", making me realize I had no idea of this key technicality. He told me the standard sizes are 45cm, 48cm or 50cm long klaf and since the table I use for writing is rather small I went for the smaller option, 45cm.

When I got back home in Europe, I realized I still needed a tikkun. And that's when things got really complicated.

Everyone I asked told me to call a Rabbi in Bnei Brak who's the authoritative tikkun-maker today, and I had a very interesting conversation with him. It turns out that until some 30 years ago, Sofrim didn't really have a good tikkun to copy from. They either used Chumashim, old codices like the Berdichev Codice or another Sefer Torah, until the renowed Sofer Davidovich took on himself to write a Tikkun for others to copy from, arranging all the Torah in Amudim of 42 lines. Now that's the important piece of information - 42 lines. In this arrangement, Davidovich's tikkun had 245 columns ("amudim"), and after some feedback from fellow Sofrim, who said that the lines where too "cramped", Davidovich made a longer, spaced up version of 247 Amudim.

Just a side point, it's important not to underestimate Davidovich's work - it was not easy to make the tikkun. In these days there was no PC and Davidovich had to arrange everything in his mind as he wrote - a work of a genius. And there are many rules to follow, for instance, we have a Mesora that some columns of the Torah must start with specific words - ביה שמו is the acronym for such columns (see in the right the column of "Yehuda Ata" which is one of these columns). Davidovich also followed the Minhag of starting all other columns with words containing a Vav as their first letter ("Vavei Amudim" - similar concept to the Hamelech Megillot) - further restricting the arrangement of the letters in the columns.

From then on, the 42-lined Tikkun became the standard tikkun all Sofrim used. For that reason, I understood why the Tikkun of 45cm I purchased from my tutor was also made for a 42 lines tikkun - this is virtually the case in all modern Sefer Torahs you will see.

This Rabbi told me that around five years ago, a Sofer asked him if he could supply him with an unusual 48 lines tikkun. He answered he only had the standard 42 lines arrangement but with the help of the computer and his experience, he could make a new one, although that would take time and money. The Sofer accepted it and because of him, now you can get a newer, more mehudar tikkun of 48 lines from this tikkun-maker. In other words, until five years ago there was no tikkun other than the 42 lines in the market for Ashkenazi scribes.

But why is the 48-lined tikkun better? Is it more Mehudar after all?

If you research deeper, you will realize that in Halacha, the 42 lined Tikkun is subject to debate. The most authoritative Sefer in Safrut, the Keset Hasofer, says (13:6):

(The Sofrim) have a custom of using (a tikkun) of not less than 48 lines and some say 42 lines and not more than 60 (...)

He comments further that the source is the Masechet Sofrim, an appendice to the Talmud, which says that the Amud should have at least 42 lines like the number of travels of the Hebrews in the desert. However, the Rambam (here), Tur and Rosh all say, based on the same source, that ideally the Amud should have no less than 48 lines and the Keset Hasofer concludes that they must have had a different version of this Masechet Sofrim, a very likely possibility as this Masechta is full of variant readings. But all in all, that's the reason why the new 48-lined tikkun this Rabbi has now is more mehudar.

The Keset Hasofer concludes that if it's possible one should write with at least 48 lines rather than 42. If it's too difficult, it's ok to write in 42 lines.

Interestingly, the Rambam also reveals that when he wrote his own Sefer Torah, he wrote in Amudim of 51 lines, which is within the ideal 48-60 bracket of how many lines a column should have. For this very reason, the Yemenite Jews to this day write their Torah with tikkunim of 51 lines in line with their custom of following all of the Rambam's rulings.

The truth is that the vast majority of old Sifrei Torahs have at least 48 lines or more (the recently discovered Bologna Torah has 48 lines, see on the right a 70-lines Torah, see here for 58 and see here for 55-lined examples); only the modern ones have the prevalent 42 that is the standard today.

My million dollar question is why Davidovich decided to write his Tikkun speicfically with 42 lines when he could have chosen to write with 48 or more lines. I don't know the answer to this question but one thing is for sure, the current 42-lines tikkun has 247 columns while a 48 lines tikkun has 213 or so - the extra columns of the 42 tikkun is extra money for the klafim-makers so perhaps they lobbied for this. Just a conspiracy theory...

Coming back to my case, I was thinking to give back the few yeriot of 42 lines I bought and make a special order of the unusal 48 lines klafim. I will only write one Sefer Torah and why not do it in the most Mehudar way?

My priority is to have the best, smoothest klaf possible - that's also a hiddur. When writing my 11-lined Megillah I got one bad yeria and it's really torture to write in bad klaf. If I make a special order for 48-lines klaf, I was afraid that since I couldn't pick and choose - special order means that the klaf is made to measure - I would surely get a few bad yerios without having the luxury of rejecting them. However if I went for a standard size, I could look around and be picky. So in one hand you have the hiddur of 48 lines without a guarantee of top klaf and in the other you have a 42 lines tikkun with a guarantee that you can always get the best klaf. Quite a paradox.

After another chat with my tutor, I learned that when making a special order you can request another hiddur - that the klaf should be "made without a tnai" i.e. that the person making this klaf has in mind that the klaf will be used for a Sefer Torah, and not for the lesser kedushot of Mezuza and Tefillin (normally he has in mind a condition - "tnai" - that he is making it for whatever purpose the sofer chooses - either for Torah or Tefillin or Mezuza).

So what did I decide? I will return the few yerios of 42 lines I got and make the special order for 48 lines klaf, taking a chance with the quality of the klaf. Maximum I will throw a few yerios away. Like this I have two extra hiddurim, 48 lines and klaf without tnai.

I will see in the coming weeks if all has worked out and if I end up receiving the new klaf. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Eiruvin 64: Torah Scroll's Amulet Power

I found this interesting custom, mentioned in the Talmud in this week's Daf Yomi cycle:
R. Aba and R. Menasiya: One who takes possession of the property of a convert [who died without heirs] should buy a Sefer Torah [with some of the money. People will envy him, for he profited without toil. The Mitzvah will protect him from Ayin ha'Ra'ah];

Rav Sheshes: The same applies even to one who married a woman with property. (He may use her property. He should buy a Sefer Torah with some of the profits);
Rava: The same applies even to one who profited from a business venture;
Rav Papa: The same applies even to [smaller profits that come easily, e.g.] one who found a lost object [in a case that he may keep it].
Version #1 (our text) (Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak): Even writing Tefilin will protect him. (end of Version #1)
Rav Chanin or R. Chanina: He learns from "va'Yidar Yisrael Neder..." (Bnei Yisrael vowed to be Makdish spoils that they will take from the nation that was about to fight them.) source

            It emerges from this Gemara that the Torah Scroll seems to have some sort of amulet power which will protect the person who got this money from envy. Rav Nachman Bar Yitzchak goes a step further and says that not only a Torah Scroll, which is used in public and seen by all, protects the person; even a Tefillin, which is private and usually hidden from the eyes of the public will protect the person's newfound fortune against Evil Eye (ayin harah).

           This is Rashi's understanding of the Talmud and it is quite puzzling. It's novel to say that the Torah Scroll and Tefillin have amulet-like powers and we actually only find this in the laws of Mezuza, which has the unique feature of protecting one's house. But that's a priori unique to Mezuza (see here a long and interesting achademic dissertation about that), and Rashi seems to somehow extend this property to Torah Scrolls and Tefillin as well. 
           The Meiri interprets this piece slightly different, ignoring the Evil Eye issue in his usual rationalistic approach to things. In his opinion, the person who  inherited money should use part of it for a Miztva solely so he shouldn't forget that this money is not his nor a result of his skills; it came to him because Hashem granted him this good fortune and the Torah Scroll (or Tefillin) will remind him that. According to this, the Gemara mentioned Sefer Torah and Tefillin solely as an example of a physical Mitzva which can remind the person about this important lesson.
          Now we get the last and most dissonant interpretation - the Maharsha. He doesn't understand why according to Rashi/Meiri, the Talmud writes that one should be "koneh" (buy) a Sefer Torah whereas when speaking about the Tefillin, the Gemara writes that one can even "kosev" (write) a Tefillin. The Maharsha says this doesn't makes sense - if anything, there's a clear Miztva of writing a Torah Scroll yourself opposed to Tefillin which doesn't necessarily needs to be written personally. Based on a differing manuscript of the Talmud, the Maharsha says that the Gemara means to say that only a Torah Scroll will be effective in protecting one's wealth. Period. The Tefillin will not. The proper understanding of the piece of Gemara which speaks about Tefillin is radically different:  
Version #2 (Maharsha's preferred text) (Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak): The same applies even to one who profits from writing Tefilin [in spite of Chachamim's prayer that scribes not get rich. He should attribute this to Hash-m, and buy a Sefer Torah].

        In other words, the Gemara in this version never said that even a Tefillin will protect you. The Gemara is talking about a specific case - a scribe who manages to make a lot of money from a pair of Tefillin.   

    Tuesday, May 14, 2013

    Auction Sefer Torah

    Nice recent story from a friend:

    "Since we mainly hear negative things that the internet produces, please read the following true story that happened to me over the last few days - it involves a rare Mitzvah that I have B'H managed to be mekayem - and the Mitzvah came our way ......thanks to the internet!
    I recently came across an "on-line" auction taking place in Berlin and whilst viewing the various lots to be auctioned - I saw one particular lot that gave me a big shock!
    I saw a picture of a sefer toireh that had been taken 'upside-down' and could see that the sefer was open to Parshas VeZois Habrucheh and the description of the auction was: 19th Century Jewish Scroll in very good condition. Size 98 Centimeters (they did not even know exactly what type of Jewish scroll it was (they may have thought that it was some type of megilloh) and had pictured it upside-down!).
    The Auction of this lot was fixed for Saturday. I could not believe my eyes - a Sefer Toireh of circa 200 years old to be sold on a Shabbos in Berlin?!
    I phoned up the Auction House and told them that I was interested in purchasing this lot but since I was an Orthodox Jew and  Orthodox Jews must not do business on the Sabbath, could they please assist me by moving the Auction date of this lot to Friday or any other day of the week - excluding Shabbos. They said that they would discuss it with the Auction House owner but did not believe that he would agree to move an Auction due to 'my religious problem'.
    I received a call back a day later telling me that the owner did not agree to move the auction date but if I wanted to, they would accept a bid from me in advance of the Auction which would be submitted by the Auctioneer on my behalf on Shabbos.
    They told me that the minimum that the Seller was looking to achieve was circa 5.000 EUR (including Auction commission). I was also told that the Owner of the "scroll" was a Goy - a dealer in Antiques. I immediately had a Shaaloh - was I allowed to submit a bid before Shabbos for a Sefer Toireh that was to be sold on a Shabbos?
    The Shaaloh was presented to Rav Padwa and he paskened that in order to be Matzil a Sefer Toireh - one was allowed to put in a bid before Shabbos as Hatzolas Sefer Toireh Midei Nochri was allowed via a chilul shabbos deRabonnon (mekach uMemker al yedei Nochri)
    I decided to speak again to the Auctioneer and asked him more details about the Sefer Toireh - the Seller did not want to provide any more information but they had tested the wood and silver atzei chaim and it was dated from the 19th Century. I understood that this was possibly a sefer toireh that a goy had stolen from a Shul on Kristallnacht and it had been hidden in the Goy's family for the last 75 years+ - but was already over 100 years old before Kristallnacht.
    I discussed this with my shutef and we decided that since it was 'bashert' that this goy was silly enough to have placed the sefer in an auction on shabbos - hopefully no Jew would buy it and if it was left unsold - we would be able to buy it at a cheaper price.
    B'H - our calculation of what would happen on Shabbos was correct - and on Monday after the auction I called the Auctioneer and it had been left unsold - no bidders at all! I decided to ask a Shaaloh here in London and in Eretz Yisroel when I was there last week, regarding the Shaaloh of being poideh a sefer toireh midei nochri and whether it mattered if the sefer was kosher or possul and the psak was clear - there is a chiyuv and a mitzvah to be poideh the sefer (no difference if kosher or possul) from the goy and it was a rare mitzvah nowadays almost 70 years after the end of World War 2.
    I  wrote a long email to the Auction House and asked them to pass it on to the Owner of the Sefer. I mentioned in my email that a Sefer Toireh only had any value if it was Kosher and since this scroll will require major amount of work by a soifer to repair it - it was not worth much money at all and certainly nothing near the 5.000 EUR he was looking for, but if he agreed to sell it to us for 2.000 EUR, we would agree to buy it from him. B'H on Erev Shabbos - we received an email back from the Auction House and the owner has agreed to sell it to us at this price.
    We expect to receive the Sefer Toireh in London this week and B'H we managed to mekayem a special & rare mitzvah". See the actual pictures of this Torah Scroll.

    Tuesday, December 18, 2012

    The Aleppo Codex: Book Review from a Scribe's Perspective

    I've been meaning to write about the Aleppo/Ben Asher Codex for a long time. Now that Matti Friedman came out with a masterpiece book on this topic, I will try my best to write about how this Codex is very relevant for Safrut enthusiasts and scribes in particular.


    Until now I had only seen books on this subject from scholars, aimed for the academic audience. Matti's book is a mainstream book written like a thriller, so it's a very enjoyable and easy read. Matti is careful to create an interesting story line while sticking to the facts and stating his sources in the appendix, chapter by chapter. He successfully provides the full context in which the fabulous story of the Codex took place and goes back and forth in time delving into the historical relevance of the book and also how it affected so many different people and communities throughout its existence.

    The Story (short version + spoliers)

    The Ben Asher Codex was written sometime in the 10th century c.e., in Tiberias while the  Masoretes were focusing in gathering and establishing the Mesora of vowels, words and missing letters of the Torah. Aaron Ben Asher was the prince of the Masoretes and his codex was widely believed to be the most accurate ever produced, an opinion shared by Maimonides when he saw this book in his own desk in Fustat some centuries later.

    The Codex eventually was brought to the Aleppo community, where it was guarded for many centuries until the Arab riots following the creation of the State of Israel. That's when Matti's book gets more interesting.

    In 1958, the Aleppo Rabbis sent the Codex with Faham, who was fleeing to Israel via Alexandretta (Turkey). Faham was supposed to give the Codex to the head of the Syrian community in Israel but instead, he gave it to the head of the Aliya Department, Shragai, who gave it to the then President of Israel, Ben Tzvi, a turn of events that triggered a court case a few years later.

    The big question discussed in Matti's book is the fact the only about 65% of the Aleppo Codex is in possession of the Ben Zvi Institute in Israel today. What happened to the rest? Interesting to note that the missing pages pretty much cover the whole Bible part of the Codex - the most important section. What we have today is pretty much most of Book of Prophets (Neviim) and Book of Writings (Ketuvim).

    To summarize Matti's research, all the possibilities are narrowed down to two options. Either the agent of the Aliya Department in Alexandretta stole the missing parts from Faham, who publicly complained he had been robbed there. Or the Codex was received by President Itzhak Ben Zvi in its entirety but after it was stored in the Institute, someone stole it - other very important manuscripts were reported missing in the early days of the Institute. These two possibilities were and still are potentially very embarrassing for the Israeli authorities so the Institute did their best to cover-up and have always adopted the version that the missing parts were lost in the mob of the Aleppo synagogue, a version that is conclusively not true according to Matti. He also brings good evidence that the missing parts were actually in the manuscript black market as late as 1985, in a colorful story featuring the Bukharian jeweler Shlomo Moussaief (see here a NYT Magazine article based on Matti's book with some additional reporting)

    sample page of the Codex with Ben Asher's Masoretic notes
    Halachic Status of the Aleppo Codex

    The Rambam (Maimonides) explicitly pushed for the usage of the Aleppo/Ben Asher Codex, and here you can see verbatim:

    :(משנה תורה" (הלכות ספר תורה פרק ח הלכה ד"
    וספר שסמכנו עליו בדברים אלו הוא הספר הידוע במצרים שהוא כולל ארבעה ועשרים ספרים שהיה בירושלים מכמה שנים להגיה ממנו הספרים ועליו היו הכל סומכין לפי שהגיהו בן אשר ודקדק בו שנים הרבה והגיהו פעמים רבות כמו שהעתיקוּ ועליו סמכתי בספר התורה שכתבתי כהלכתו

    Although the Rosh argues on the Rambam in regards to the layout of the "open" and "closed" Parshiot (see my post about this here), the Shulchan Aruch ruled that if it's impossible to write it in a universal layout, which both Rambam and Rosh will agree, one should follow the Rambam because he had the Aleppo/Ben Asher Codex in his possession and based his opinion on this Codex, which is superior to all others. Therefore the opinion of the Rosh is "overruled" by the Ben Asher Codex.

    After the Ben Asher Codex found its way to Aleppo, the community safeguarded it as a holy relic and effectively made it impossible for other communities to fully study it, so its unique features remained unnacessible for the Ashkenazi scribes by and large throughout the centuries.

    Halachic Implications of the Codex

    As the years passed, the Ben Zvi Institute made the Aleppo Codex available for the public and recently many groups started to push its adoption for the scrolls of the Na"ch. The Aleppo Codex differs from the traditional layout used in Megillat Esther, for instance, and that alone would be a significant controversy since all Jewish communities use this scroll in Purim for public readings, and any change would no doubt bring disputes.

    But aside from the Megillat Esther issue, some communities have custom of reading the Shabbat's Haftarot from scrolls and adopting the Aleppo Codex would also bring disputes. This custom was instituted by the Gr"a, one of Judaism's brightest minds, and anybody living in Jerusalem has seen this numerous times - many of the early settlers of Jerusalem were disciples of the Gr"a and in general, the holy city follows his customs. The Gr"a instructed the scribes to use what is known in the field as the Berditchev tikkun layout, a puzzling book that doesn't conform with the Aleppo Codex layout in the Neviim and Ketuvim.

    So in no time, there was a battle between the Jerusalem-based disciples of the Gr"a, who always wrote their Na"ch scrolls according to the Gr"a's Berdichev tikkun versus Bnei Brak, one of Israel centers of Torah learning and a city who generally doesn't follow the Gr"a customs. The Bnei Brak-based groups favored the use of the Aleppo Codex, as it is undeniably the most accurate one.

    So any scribe trying to buy a Tikkun, his personal codice to guide him in layout and spelling, will find different options depending where he goes. In Jerusalem, the shops will usually sell Tikunim following the instructions of the Gr"a while in Bnei Brak you will see some Aleppo Codex options too. But even more than that, there's a war of words betweeen the two camps, and when I got my Tikkunim, I snapped some pictures from both sides' claims. See below, the first two are from Talmidei HaGra and the last is from the Aleppo Codex backers.

    So as you see, the 65% of what we have from the Crown already brought considerate challenges and disputes in the Safrut world and not all have backed its adoption. You can only begin to imagine what would've happened if we had all the Codex, more specifically , the Bible part. While the usage of scrolls for Na"ch is limited, all Jewish communities and synagogues have numerous Torah scrolls and continue to write new ones every day. If the Aleppo Codex for the Bible would be available, I anticipate that we would have a similar, but much more heated war of words and I wonder how many communities would start adopting the Aleppo Codex for their own scrolls.

    Wednesday, November 21, 2012

    Stam Stories #7: Pasul Tefillin

    This cute story is also from this wednesday's "DafDigest"

    There once was an elderly man, one of the chassidim of Pzhisha, who was exceptionally proud of his special tefillin which he had worn all the years, from his youth.  He had received this expensive pair of tefillin from an expert sofer at that time, and he had the tefillin checked regularly to ensure that the letters and parchment remained in perfect condition.  Now, in his old age, he once again arranged for them to be looked over by an expert sofer.  As he scanned the parchment to verify its condition, the sofer was shocked and horrified as he suddenly noticed that one of the words was misspelled, in a manner which had clearly existed from the time the tefillin were originally written, many years earlier.  He sadly informed the old man of his finding, and that unfortunately, this special pair of tefillin was never kosher.  The owner, who had prided himself in his fulfillment of the mitzvah of tefillin in such a beautiful manner had, in fact, never fulfilled the mitzvah even once in his entire life!

    Upon hearing this devastating news, the old and frail man began to dance and sing.  The family was flabbergasted in noticing this strange response to what should have been bad news.  Had he gone mad due to the shock?  Why was he dancing?  The elderly man realized that his family was wondering about his reaction, and he reassured them that he was still in control of his faculties.  He explained, "Of course, I am very disappointed and heartbroken about what I have now heard.  I have to think hard about why
    this has happened to me, and I must make certain conclusions about why Hashem has led me until this point to not have fulfilled the mitzvah of tefillin until now, although I have always treasured this mitzvah.  Yet, I am
    comforted that a miracle has occurred, and that I still have an opportunity to do something about it now.  I will still merit to put on kosher tefillin before I leave this world, and for this I am appreciative.

    Talmud Gems #1 - Elisha Ba’al Kenafayim

    Article by "DafYomi Digest"

    תפילין צריכין גוף נקי כאלישע בעל כנפים  - מט.

    Wearing tefillin requires a “clean body” as we find regarding Elisha Ba’al 
    Kenafayim   - 49a 

    The Gemara says that tefillin can only be worn by someone who has a clean body, like Elisha Bal Kenafayim. The Gemara proceeds to relate how Elisha wore tefillin despite the decree that Jews were not
    allowed to wear tefillin. When an officer suspected that he was wearing tefillin and pursued him, Elisha quickly put them into his hands, finding that they had miraculously turned into the wings of a dove.
    Upon questioning, he said that he was merely carrying dove wings.

    When his claim was verified, he was released. How is this story a proof that tefillin need to be worn with a clean body?  What does it have to do with having a clean body?

    The Klausenberger Rebbe zt”l (quoted in Margaliyos Hashas) prefaced his answer by quoting the opinion of Rabeinu Yonah.  Rabeinu Yonah understands that someone who is known to be an extremely pious person must sacrifice his life to keep even seemingly minor mitzvos at a time when there is persecution against those who keep mitzvos. Elisha was such a person, and he therefore continued wearing tefillin. Why, then, did he not give up his life when the officer saw him?
    The Klausenberger Rebbe answers that when Elisha saw the officer, he was so scared that he felt his body was going to become unfit to wear tefillin. He immediately realized that in such a situation it was
    now prohibited for him to wear tefillin. Being that it was now prohibited for him to wear tefillin, he was no longer allowed to give up his life at this time for the mitvza of tefillin.  He therefore started to run
    away from the officer. While Elisha had these thoughts, Hashem performed a miracle that the tefillin on Elisha’s head should immediately become dove wings.  Why was the miracle performed in such a fashion?  It must be, the Klausenberger Rebbe answered, because it was forbidden for the Tzadik to wear tefillin with an unclean body.  Hashem therefore turned the tefillin into dove wings, in order that Elisha should not
    wear tefillin while having an unclean body.  This is the Gemara’s proof from Elisha that one is not supposed to wear tefillin while having an unclean body.

    [In order to illustrate the profound seriousness and holiness associated with the donning of tefillin as it was practiced in times of old, mention should be made of a remarkable and intriguing statement written by
    Rav Meir HaMi’eli of Narbonne. He references a Yerushalmi that there were Amoraim that refrained from donning tefillin each day due to the great care and attention that tefillin require. These Rabbis held that the
    concept of a clean body did not apply solely to the physical body, but also to the spirit, such that the soul had to be clean of sins! According to this approach, Rav Meir HaMi’eli interprets our Gemara to teach
    that physical uncleanliness, although a necessity, is unacceptable while wearing tefillin, all the more so spiritual uncleanliness can not be accepted. It must be said that this was written in regard to previous generations and has no application today.]

    Friday, November 16, 2012

    Classic Mistake and Fix

    One of my very first works was this 11 lines Megillat Esther. Last Purim I noticed this classic mistake - Lamed that invades de Chaf Sofit, so I now took the time to fix it. I was not in a rush as a Megillat Esther is technically kosher even if it has small mistakes, as long as most of it is Kosher. However our sages teach us that one should avoid keeping scroll with mistakes, so here is how I fix it. The Klaf was really really poor in this part so I had a tough time scrapping and writing again over it, but the result was satisfactory to me.

    Update: Aaron Shaffier pointed out in the comment section that it's not enough to fix the Lamed; the Chaf should also be re-written to avoid Chok Tochos. I rechecked this in the Keset Hasofer, which has a Chakira on this topic at the end of the Sefer and concludes indeed that the Chaf should also be fixed. My thanks to Aaron and I will try to post a new picture after the Chaf is fixed. See Keset below:

    Thursday, August 9, 2012

    Why we write Shakai in the Mezuza?

     I'm out on vacation and before leaving, I loaded my iPad with some new Torah apps that are really unbelievable. 

    The first is the new Artscroll Talmud app, complete with its classic English elucidation and really handy for keeping up with the daf yomi, which I hope to follow at least for Brachot (this study already brought me an idea for another post - in Brachot 6a the Talmud says that God also dons a pair of Tefillin, more on that soon).

    The second is simpler but also handy - Chok L'Israel, a daily limmud of Chumash, Nach,Mishma,Talmud and Zohar very popular among the Sephardi communities. In my very first usage, i came across something I had been looking for a long time: the source for writing Sha-dai in the verse of the Mezuza.  It's the Zohar brought in the first day of this week! I will quote the Hebrew translation because the original is quite difficult to understand:

    זוהר ואתחנן דף רס''ו ע''א.
     בֹּא וּרְאֵה מִצַד שִׁפְחָה זוֹ יָצְאוּ כַּמָּה רוּחוֹת חוֹקְרֵי דִּין שֶׁמְּקַטְרְגִים כְּנֶגֶד יִשְׂרָאֵל, וּבָאִים  לְקַטְרֵג עֲלֵיהֶם. וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא עָשָׂה שְׁמִירָה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל כְּמוֹ אָב הָרוֹצֶה לִשְׁמֹר אֶת בְּנוֹ מִכָּל מִקְרֶה. אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְיִשְׂרָאֵל, כַּמָּה מְקַטְרְגִים מוּכָנִים כְּנֶגְדְּכֶם, עִסְקוּ בַּעֲבוֹדָתִי, וַאֲנִי אֶהֱיֶה שׁוֹמֵר אֶתְכֶם מִבַחוּץ. אַתֶּם תִּהְיוּ נְתוּנִים בְּבָתֵּיכֶם מִבִּפְנִים וְתִהְיוּ יְשֵׁנִים בְּמִטָּתְכֶם, וַאֲנִי אֶהֱיֶה שׁוֹמֵר עֲלֵיכֶם מִבַּחוּץ, וּמִסָּבִיב מִטּוֹתֵיכֶם. וּבֹא וּרְאֵה, בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁאֵלּוּ מִינִים הָרָעִים קְרֵבִים לְפִתְחוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם, נוֹשְׂאִים רֹאשָׁם וּמִסְתַּכְּלִים בְּהַשֵּׁם הַקָּדוֹשׁ הַנִּרְאֶה מִבַּחוּץ, שֶׁהוּא שַׁדַּי, שֵׁם הַזֶּה שׁוֹלֵט עַל כֻּלָּם, מִמֶּנּוּ יְרֵאִים וּבוֹרְחִים, וְאֵינָם קְרֵבִים לְפִתְחוֹ שֶׁל הָאָדָם. אָמַר לֵיהּ רַבִּי יִצְחָק: אִם כֵּן, יִרְשֹׁם הָאָדָם שֵׁם הַזֶּה, שַׁדַּי, בְּפֶתַח הַבַּיִת, וְלֹא יוֹתֵר, לָמָּה צְרִיכִים כָּל הַפָּרָשָׁה שֶׁבַּמְּזוּזָה, אָמַר לוֹ, יָפֶה הוּא, כִּי שֵׁם הַזֶּה, שַׁדַּי, אֵינוֹ מִתְעַטֵּר, אֶלָּא בְּאֵלּוּ הָאוֹתִיּוֹת כֻּלָּם הָרְשׁוּמִים בִּרְשִׁימַת הַמֶּלֶךְ, וּכְשֶׁנִּכְתֶּבֶת כָּל הַפָּרָשָׁה, אָז מִתְעַטֵּר שֵׁם הַזֶּה בְּעִטְּרוֹתָיו. וְהַמֶּלֶךְ, יוֹצֵא בְּכָל צִבְאוֹתָיו, כֻּלָּם רְשׁוּמִים בִּרְשִׁימַת הַמֶּלֶךְ, שֶׁהִיא הַמַּלְכוּת, אָז מְפַחֲדִים מִפָּנָיו, וּבוֹרְחִים מִפָּנָיו. בֹּא וּרְאֵה וְהָיָה, שֶׁל וְהָיָה אִם שָׁמוֹעַ, הוּא שֵׁם קָדוֹשׁ, הַוָּיָה, מִמַּטָּה לְמַעְלָה. כִּי כָּתוּב תְּחִלָּה ו''ה וְאַחַר כָּךְ י''ה. וְעַל כֵּן, נִרְשָׁם הַשֵּׁם שַׁדַּי מִבַּחוּץ כְּנֶגֶד הַשֵּׁם הַזֶּה. הַשֵּׁם וְהָיָ''ה מִבִּפְנִים, וְשַׁדַּי מִבַּחוּץ. כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּהְיֶה הָאָדָם נִשְׁמָר מִכָּל הַצְדָדִים מִבִּפְנִים וּמִבַּחוּץ

    It seems clear from this Zohar that what really protects the house is not the Parshiot per se, but the word Sha-kai written upon the Parshiot. That's extremely interesting and it's evident from here that ommiting Sha-kai nullifies the protection. 

    But i would like to focus in another interesting point.  The Zohar explains that Sha-kai must be written in the verse of the word Vehaia, because Vehaia can be re-arranged as the Tetragamon Name of God. My question is why not write it in the verse of the actual Tetragamon which is written so many times in the Mezuza? 

    Perhaps the answer is that the Sha-kai is written in the verse of the Mezuza parchment, and when looking in the verse you can see the words of the Parshiot reversed (because they are written in the other side of the parchement). Thus, it makes more sense to write Sha-kai over a word that is a "reversed" Shem, like Vehaia, because in that side of the parchement it resembles more the Shem if compared to the other standard Shemot. 

    Altenatively, I've seen that we writing Shakai in the verse of Vehaia is a kiyum of the pasuk יושב בסתר עליון בצל שדי יתלונן / He who dwells in the shelter of the Supreme shall abide in the shadow of Shakai. There was no further elucidation but my understanding is that בסתר here is an allusion to Vehaia, which is a hidden Name of God, and the pasuk says that this should be in the shadow of Shakai - in this case the pasuk makes perfect sense because you can see the shadow of Vehaia when writing Shakai on it!

    I should mention that although Ashkenazim do follow this Zohar and write Shakai, they do so not in the verse of Vehaia but in the verse of the Parshiot gap which is right before he word Vehaia. The Rambam records this practice but I'm unsure why they - Ashkenazim and Rambam - don't follow the Zohar all the way. 

    Here's how its brought in the Shulchan Aruch:

    בש"ע יו"ד (סי' רפ"ח סעיף ט"ו) כתב וז"ל: אסור להוסיף בה מאומה אלא שמבחוץ כותבין שדי כנגד תיבת והיה שבפנים. וכתב הרמ"א: ויש אומרים נגד הריווח שבין הפרשיות (טור בשם הרא"ש ועוד), וכן נוהגין. ומניתין נקב בקנה נגד שם שדי שיהא נראה מבחוץ

    Monday, June 11, 2012

    Inverted Nuns - Rabbi Frand's Video

    Last Thursday, Rabbi Frand spoke about the inverted Nuns of Parshat Behalotcha in his popular weekly shiur.

    This is a very important topic for all sofrim and I got his permission to put up his shiur on this blog for one week (you must pay to get his weekly shiurim so this was a very big favour), so us sofrim can get a taste of this.

    I will eventually put everything he said in writing so I can keep it available here in the blog but I would not miss this chance to hear a Safrut shiur from one of the very best orators out there.

    UPDATE: the week has passed and I had to take down the video. But I transcripted the shiur for those who arrived too late:

    The Anglo Jewish Press reports that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s son, Yaakov Yosef, ruled that most of the Torah Scrolls used by the Israel Defense Forces are pasul, for many reasons. Among them, the brings the argument that there’s a stamp/watermark stating that the scroll is property of the IDF and this sign invalidates the scroll, as it adds words to the bible.

    The Tshuvot Beit Avi, from Rabbi Isaac Liebes of the Bronx brings that someone from his city testified that there were numerous robberies of Torah Scrolls and the person asked him if it’s permissible to inprint in the Torah the name of the owner in the back of the scroll, as an Horaat Shaa (temporary permission) since there was no other solution to this problem.

    This topic relates to Parshat Behalotcha because in this Parsha, there’s the famous verse “Vayehi Binsoa Aron (...)” and the Talmud in Shabbos 115b says that Hashem made signs (simaniot) before and after this segment and there’s a discussion pertaining the reason behind this unusual anomaly.

    Tanna Kama says that this is to show that Veyahi Binsoa wasn’t supposed to be written here in Parshat Bealotcha. It should be rather placed in Parshat Bamidbar, when the Torah discusses how the Jews camped in the desert.

    Rebi says that the reason is rather because these segment is a “sefer bifnei atzmo”, a seperate book within the Five Books of Moses. According to this view there are rather Seven Books of Moses! Genesis, Exodus, Vayikra, Bamidbar 1 (before Vayehi), Bamidbar 2 (the segment of Vayehi), Bamidar 3 (after Vayehi) and Devarim.

    Says the Talmud, who is Tanna Kama? It’s Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel, who says that this segment of Vayehi will in the future come back to its proper place. It is placed here in Bealotcha to separate between two clamities, the first is Vayehi Kemisonenim (the verse following Vayehi) and the second clamity is Vayisu Mehar Hashem, the verse preceding the Vayehi Binsoa Aron segment.

    Until here is the Talmud. But what are these signs (simaniot)? In our modern scrolls we have inverted Nuns before and after Veyahi Binsoa Aron (see below) but not everyone agrees that these are what the Simaniot are supposed to be.

    The Teshuvot Maharshal was asked how this signs should look like - should it be inverted Nuns? Says the Maharshal that he found an old version of the Rashi which says that the signs brought in the Talmud are in fact the inverted Nuns. However he doesn’t understands how can we add words to the Torah by adding two inverted Nuns - after all if you add or omit any letter of the Torah, the scroll is invalid! “I’ve found in the Torah of Rabbi Tudros, an esteemed Rabbi, that instead of adding independent inverted Nuns he modified Nun located in the words Vayehi biNsoa and MisoNenim and inverted them, thus not adding any extra letter in the Torah” (see below a pic of a scroll that follows this opinion. Photo Credit: Lion of Zion) 

    Says the Maharshal that this solution is also complicated because by modifying the words Binsoa and Misonenim, you are causing what is called a “Shinui Ott”, which also invalidates the scroll.

    The Maharshal concludes that he changed his mind after he saw that the Zohar brings that independent Nuns should be added before and after Vayehi Binsoa. However, the Maharshal would invalidate a watermark like the one used by the IDF since there’s no grounds to permit that. The inverted Nuns are an exception recorded by the Zohar, and therefore the only extraneous letter permitted in the whole Torah.

    The Noda Biyuda of Prague (M. Kama Yoreh Deia Ayin Daled) takes strong issue with this Maharshal. He says that adding letters to the Torah is only a psul if the added letter in the actual text of the Torah, however if someone adds a letter in between the parshiot or in the top of bottom of the Torah, that’s not an intermission and not a psul. However to do like Rabbi Tudros and invert the Nun of one of the actual words of the Torah that a problem as it changes the look of the word, causing a psul. Additionally, Rabbi Tudros strategy is not a sign before an after the parsha of Binsoa, it’s rather a sign within the parsha since he modified the third letter of BiNsoa and that’s not what the Talmud meant to say. Therefore, it’s a much safer bet to use independent inverted Nuns before and after Binsoa (as we do today in our modern scrolls). And he criticizes the Maharsha for bringing the Zohar as a proof, for we cannot decide Halacha based solely in the hidden text of the Zohar (similarly, the Noda Biyuda was famously against saying Leshem Yichud before Mitzvot as brought in the Zohar).

    So adding names or watermarks to the Torah scroll is permissible according to the Noda Biyuda. Practical halacha is that if you add a sign, you should do it in the back of the Torah because all agree that there’s no psul in that.

    Rabbi Moshe Feinstein was asked if one should fix Torah Scrolls that have the Nuns of Binsoa and Misonenim modified, a la Rabbi Tudros and Maharshal, and rules that these scrolls are Kosher Bedieved but that you should fix it.

    See below other versions of the inverted Nun brought by the great Torah Shelema from Rabbi Kasher.