Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bet of Bereishit and the Masechet Sofrim

The Mesechet Sofrim, one of the mini-Tractates of the Talmud, says:

The second statement is well known and all Sifrei Torahs have the large-type Bet at the start. However the commentary of the Masechet Sofrim, "Shehi Takim Leolam", is difficult to understand but I will leave it to you to come up with explanations.

I want to focus in the first statement - that the Bet should have four Tagim. The only time I saw this bet was in an old Tikkun, but the fact is that all modern day Torahs do not have these Taguim. This is how it should look, according to the Masechet Sofrim:

What's strange is that this Masechet Sofrim is a prime source and I had a tough time understanding how can we afford ignore it. For instance, the Gemara says that the "foot" of the Daled should be slightly bent and according to many opinions a Daled that has a straight "foot" will invalidate the Torah scroll. If we are so stringent about what's mentioned in the Gemara, why do we ignore what's mentioned in the Masechet Sofrim?

The answer to this question is interesting. Aside from the Masechet Sofrim, there's another even smaller Tractate called Masechet Sefer Torah. Most of the content of this little Masechta is anyways mentioned in its "big brother", the Masechet Sofrim, which includes Halachot of Sefer Torah, Mezuza, Tefillin and Mesora. Rabbi Chaim Kanievski, in his work on the small Tractates of the Talmud, asks why there's a need for both Masechtas if they are essentially dealing with the same topic.

His answer is quite radical. He says that the Masechet Sofrim is not part of the Talmud (written between 300 and 400 CE), but a later addition by the Geonim, who lived in the 6th century. Basically, the Geonim took one of the little Tractates of the Talmud - the Masechet Sefer Torah - and expanded it, creating the Masechet Sofrim, which deals with all Safrut related Halachot.

If so, Halachot only brought in the Masechet Sofrim do have less weight than the Halachot mentioned in the Talmud. The four Tagim of the Bet of Bereishit is a telling example of this phenomena and that's why we don't have them in our scrolls today.


dyanna said...

I like your blog.I'm waiting for your new posts.
Have a nice day.

YK said...


rodney said...

I just found your blog, and have been enjoying it. I think I'm going to go back to read from the beginning. You seem to be on the same journey that I'm just starting.

My plan is to practice this year, and then start writing on the Torah next year.

I'm still in the process of research, and think your blog will be a good resource.

What did you mean by the foot on the dalet being slanted?

Thanks for doing this

YK said...


thanks for stopping by.

this blog is relatively new so you shouldn't have a problem catching up. I try to be as concise as I can so everyone can jump in at any time.

although practice is obviously crucial, the theoretical side of Safrut is the most difficult to master and I recommend you focus heavily in that before you start writing.

see my daled in this picture and you will understand what I mean.


Anonymous said...

Rabbi MM Davidovitch held that the Bais of Bereishis should have 4 taggim, and wrote all of his ST's that way. Just a fun fact!

YK said...

Really?! Never knew that and I'm happy to hear this.
But the funny thing is that my teacher is a student of Davidovich and he doesn't do the four tagim... I will find out. Tks!