Tuesday, April 20, 2021
Thursday, December 31, 2020
|The Box itself looking like a Shin of 4 heads (black part)|
|Also possible to observe a traditional Shin of 3 heads if you focus in between the compartments|
"צורה דשין דימינא ג' רישי, ודשמאלא ד'רישי, ואי אפיך לית לן בה"
"The shape of the right Shin is with three heads, and of the left is four heads. And if he made the opposite, it is of no concern"
|Ancient Tefillin, where the Shins are only lines touching the box base (source). See another example here|
|A scribal shin without a base, as per Yemenite custom|
א"ר אבין בר רב אדא א"ר יצחק מנין שהקב"ה מניח תפילין שנאמר (ישעיהו סב, ח) נשבע ה' בימינו ובזרוע עוזו בימינו זו תורה שנאמר (דברים לג, ב) מימינו אש דת למו ובזרוע עוזו אלו תפילין שנאמר (תהלים כט, יא) ה' עוז לעמו יתן ומנין שהתפילין עוז הם לישראל דכתי' (דברים כח, י) וראו כל עמי הארץ כי שם ה' נקרא עליך ויראו ממך ותניא ר' אליעזר הגדול אומר אלו תפילין שבראש
|Tefillin found in Qumran (source)|
Tuesday, December 1, 2020
How far can Judaica art go?
In my opinion, it hasn’t gone far enough. Of course, there must be respect and reverence to the subject matter - holy scrolls that need to be treated as such. With that said, it’s hard to find Judaica items that are modern or inspired in pop-art, for example.
Perhaps this has to do with the history of the Jewish people, who often needed to hide their religious items or at least be discreet. But in the present time such concerns no longer apply, and at the same time art has become ubiquitous and present in most homes - even if their Mezuza cases are passable. I think modern art can elevate Jewish practice in a very unique way, infusing it with added symbolism and imagination.
Not long ago, M. Cattelan was able to elevate a simple banana into a 6 figure art piece (sarcastically called Comedian), which has become an instant pop art hit. This is my prototype for my house’s Mezuza case, which is suitable for 10cm Mezuza scroll. I needed a way to add the traditional Shin to the case, so I used the theme of Chiquita bananas, which is the most popular brand here in Europe. A mezuza case inspired by a banana pop artpiece? Why not. If we keep it respectful, a Mezuza Banana art case can be a tool towards elevating your home and perhaps showing that if a banana artpiece hung in a wall can fetcha whooping U$120,000 price tag, our Mezuzot are surely worth more. Or is this only good enough for Purim?
Wednesday, June 3, 2020
One of the most popular Judaica items today is the Pitum HaKetoret, an excerpt of the Tamud in Kereisos 6, written like a Sefer Torah in parchment in various layouts, often times together with a Menorah-shaped Lamnazeach alongside it. This is probably the cheapest Safrut item a person can buy, and it can be used daily in Shachrit and Mincha prayers.
This item always puzzled me. It’s an oddity to write Talmudic passages in parchment like a Torah or Megillot - there’s no precedent to this. The Ketoret has two passages of the Torah, and then a Baraita expanding on all the ingredients of the Ketoret as it was done in the Temple.
Before addressing this minhag of writing the Ketoret in Klaf, let’s step back and understand why we recite the Pitum Haketores every day and it’s importance.
The Beis Yosef (OC 133) writes that in the Siddur of Rav Amram Gaon (9th century) there was the full passage of Pitum Haketoret as in our Siddurim today - a testament of how old is the custom of reciting this passage in the prayers.
It would seem that its importance is similar to all the other passages about the Temple services in our daily prayers - as we cannot perform them in our days, we recite them and it's considered like we made the sacrifices, or in the words of the prophet Hoshea, וּֽנְשַׁלְּמָ֥ה פָרִ֖ים שְׂפָתֵֽינוּ, "instead of bulls we will pay with our lips" - our prayers are today's sacrifices.
But there's a stringency in the Ketoret, already mentioned by the Rama (16th century - source here), that a person must read it from a written text but not from memory, because of the halacha that in the times of the Temple, forgetting any of the ingredients of the Ketoret incense was punishable by death. As mentioned, we recite the Pitum Haketoret in order to emulate the Ketoret preparation, therefore a person must make sure not to forget any ingredients, and reciting it by heart will inadvertently cause you to skip something some day.
The emergence of the Zohar (see Vayakhel) and Kabbalistic minhagim in the 16th century brought the concept of reciting the Pitum Haketores to a whole new level, highlighting its esoteric value and protective properties (specially against plagues; that's why many are reciting it in the current Covid-19 epidemic, see article) to those who recited it, with the note that “there’s nothing as dear to Hashem as the Ketoret”.
The Arizal popularized this concept and encouraged his followers to recite this passage twice daily, in Shachrit and Mincha, with maximum concentration, with the caveat that it should only be recited during the day but not in nighttime because of Kabbalistic considerations (although the Rama, mentioned above, and others specifically advised to recite it after Maariv).
In our Siddurim today, the Ketoret is printed twice in Shachrit - once in the very beggining, before Hodu, and a second time in the very end before Aleinu, but this came about because of conflicting opinions about the optimal placement for the Ketoret in the morning prayer, and Siddur printers opted to follow both opinions. Many people only recite it once in Shachrit, usually at the end, and once again before Mincha.
Rabbi Moshe ben Machir, another famous Kabbalist who lived in Safed at the same time, wrote in his important work Sefer Hayom (source here);
החושש עליו ועל נפשו ראוי להשתדל בכל עז בענין הזה ולכתוב כל ענין הקטורת בקלף כשר בכתיבת אשורית ולקרות אותו פעם אחד בבקר ובערב בכוונה גדולה ואני ערבHe who is afraid for his life, should focus all his might in this topic and write it in a Kosher parchement, in Ktav Ashuri script, and recite it once in the morning and again in noon with great concentration. And I am the guarantor.
This is the earliest source recommending the writing of the Pitum Haketores in parchment, with Safrut lettering. Note his unusual wording "and I am the guarantor", meaning that he is personally attesting the protective powers of this passage if recited in the prescribed manner.
The Kaf Hachaim (19th century - source here), respected Kabbalist and Chief Rabbi of Turkey, also brings that the Ketoret "should be written like a Sefer Torah and it will bring him constant wealth", in addition to many other segulot associated with the Ketoret.
But there aren't many more sources to the Minhag of writing the Ketoret in klaf, and while all Kabbalists highlight the importance of the Ketoret, almost no one writes anything about writing it specifically in Klaf like a Torah Scroll. Perhaps this connected to the prohibition of writing a Torah scroll with only a few scattered passages, mentioned in the Talmud (Gittin 60a) and seemingly undisputed in practical Halacha, as quoted by the Rambam:
The Shulchan Aruch follows suit (here), therefore casting serious doubts about the permissibilty of writing the Pitum Haketores, which has a few Biblical passages, in parchement like a Torah Scroll. It's perhaps no coincidence that we have no precedent to writing something like the Ketoret in Klaf, and the question is not anymore why there are so few sources to this Minhag but how is it at all permitted.מֻתָּר לִכְתֹּב הַתּוֹרָה כָּל חֻמָּשׁ וְחֻמָּשׁ בִּפְנֵי עַצְמוֹ וְאֵין בָּהֶן קְדֻשַּׁת סֵפֶר תּוֹרָה. אֲבָל לֹא יִכְתֹּב מְגִלָּה בִּפְנֵי עַצְמָהּ שֶׁיִּהְיֶה בָּהּ פָּרָשִׁיּוֹת. וְאֵין כּוֹתְבִין מְגִלָּה לְתִינוֹק לְהִתְלַמֵּד בָּהּ. וְאִם דַּעְתּוֹ לְהַשְׁלִים עָלֶיהָ חֻמָּשׁ מֻתָּר.:It is permitted to write the Pentateuch, each book in a separate scroll. These scrolls have not the sanctity of a scroll of the Law that is complete. One may not however write a scroll containing some sections. Such a scroll may not be written for a child's instruction. This is permitted, however, where there is the intention to complete the remainder of the book.
This prohibition is also applicable in everyday issues like writing Psukim in wedding invitations, which are commonly adorned with passages like אִם לֹא אַעֲלֶה אֶת יְרוּשָׁלַֽיִם עַל רֹאשׁ שִׂמְחָתִי or Kol Sasson veKol Simcha (see picture). Many scupulous individuals avoid writing it, or modify the passages slightly in order to avoid writing a scattered Pasuk (see here for an interesting article discussing this and other Halachic problems involved in Psukim in wedding invitations, by Rabbi Kaganoff) - and the Pitum Haketores, written in parchement and Ktav Ashuri like an actual scroll, would be even more problematic if written exactly like a Sefer Torah.
Perhaps the supporters of writing Ketoret in Klaf today utilize the Halachic heter of Es Laasos Lashem, which justifies writing Oral Torah even though there's a different, all encopassing prohibition of writing it in any form. This Halachic justification, which overrides the prohibition on the grounds that Chazal at the time of the Mishna felt that there was no other way to preserve the Torah, could be extended to the idea of writing a small scroll like the Pitum HaKetoret. This possibility is brought down by the Mizahav Umipaz (link), which has an excellent overview about many of the issues raised in this article.
Any way you slice it, it's difficult to find Halachic precedent to justify writing the Ketoret like a Sefer Torah and I haven't found many responsa on this issue. Perhaps this custom was not as widespread in previous generations. I was pointed to Rav Ovadia's responsa , in his magnum opus Yebia Omer (ח"ט יו"ד סי' כג) who disapproves this minhag (rather surprising, as it goes against the Kaf Hachaim, and Rav Ovadia was often careful to justify established Sephardic customs) but says that if you already have a Ketoret written in Klaf, it's no problem to read from it - a paradoxical answer (see this link for a quite and discussion about Rav Ovadia's ruling).
In practice, the Pitum Kaketores today is commonly a scribes' inauguration work because the Halachot of Torah, Tefillin and Mezuza do not apply to this novel scroll and therefore it's a good way to practice while not being afraid of making mistakes. One of my first works was indeed a Pitum Haketoret and guess what, I skipped a line but never thought it was a big deal (see picture). But as we have seen, there's one Halacha about this scroll that is more stringent than any other scroll - a Sofer cannot skip a word from the Ketoret ingredients lest he will be punishable by death! Baruch Hashem, it turns out that I skipped one of the very last lines, so without knowing at the time, I actually dodged a bullet by sheer luck.
After I got familiar with the issues discussed above, I have a whole different level of appreciation for the Pitum Haketores recitation - it is really a standout feature of our daily prayers. However, the sad reality is that, as the Rama predicted, people run through this tefillah because it is at the end of morning prayers and everyone is rushing for their daily schedules. I don’t remember last time I davened in a Minyan that gives enough time to say it word by word - the Chazzan will always rush towards Aleinu. And as noted by the Kaf Hachaim, if recited without the proper focus and rhythm, it has no esoteric value and even worse, it can even cause a major transgression of skipping a word from the Ketoret. The Ein Maavar Yabok (17th century) writes that the Chazzan must recite the whole section aloud just like the Shemone Esre, in order to make sure the Shul will have enough time to recite the Ketoret.
Thursday, January 23, 2020
Many Rabbis encouraged the recital of a short pre-Miztva prayer, which usually is הרני מזמן את פי - a verbal declaration that the person is focusing in what he will shortly do. This concept is accepted by all streams of Judaism, as it is always a good idea to prepare ourselves and verbally declare that we are conscious before performing a Mitzva.
The Kabbala movement brought this concept a step further, and added another dimension to the preparatory prayers - a prayer that our Mitzva will have a mystical impact in the celestial worlds. This prayer is called לשם יחוד, and it's mentions the Shechina, the Tetragammon and how this name is divided - all very complicated and deep Kabbalah concepts - and the inclusion of this in the daily prayers was novel and controversial. The actual basic Leshem Yichud text is:
For the sake of the unification between the Holy Blessed One and His Shechinah with fear and love, in order to unify the Name Yood Hey and Wav Hey in perfect unity, and in the Name of all Israel.
|Rabbi Landau - Noda Biyuda|
Rabbi Falkeles, a disciple from Rabbi Landau, testifies that he once saw a pious man asking Rabbi Landau to use his beautiful Etrog for a bracha (Etrogim were very rare in Europe at that time, even more so nice Etrogim), and when he saw the man saying a Kabbalistic preparatory prayer - Yehi Ratzon - Rabbi Landau objected and declared that no one reciting any preparatory prayers had permision to ever use his Etrogim (source here).
Rabbi Landau, like the Vilna Gaon, held that a Bracha is in itself a preparation for the Miztva and therefore there was never any need of adding prayers before saying the blessing of any Miztva. When a Mitzva has no Bracha, for example when writing a Sefer Torah, then the Noda BiYehuda concedes that a preparatory prayer is warranted, in order to confirm a person's awareness, and his actual prayer was short and to the point (source):
הנני עושה דבר זה לקיים מצות בוראי "I'm doing this in order to fulfill my Creator's Miztva"
Notwithstanding the objection of some traditionalist leaders, most communities around the world adopted the custom of reciting the Leshem Yichud before Mitzvot, most notably the Sephardic Jews, who had always favored the adoption of Kabbala in their daily routine, and Hasidim, whose movement was sparked by Kaballa (also why the Siddurim of the Sephardim and Hasidim are so similar). And today, even non-Chassidic communities have accepted this prayer, and one can find this prayer in the ArtScroll siddur today before Pesukei DeZimrah, for instance. Eitan Katz, a popular Jewish Music singer, even composed a Leshem Yichud song (embedded below). We can safely say that the controvery died out over the centuries, and no one will scream at you for saying such prayer today, anywhere.
After this general overview, I would like to focus in the impact of preparatory prayers in the field of Safrut specifically.
Chazal demand an extreme level of focus when writing Mezuza, Tefillin and Torahs (aka Sta”m), and pre-writing prayers and concentration are almost mandatory, not merely advised. The Keset HaSofer (פרק ד), which is the last word in Halacha for Sofrim, writes:
סת״ם צריכין לכתוב אותם בכוונה גדולה לשמה וצריך שיאמר כן בפיו... ואם לא הוציא כן בשפתיו אלא שחשב כן בלבו יש פוסלים אפי׳ בדיעבד.
Hence we can see that unlike other Miztvot, where we can find room for leniency, the lack of focus will invalidate the scribes’ entire work even before he gets started. Imagine a whole Sefer Torah invalidated on this account - a year’s work immediately deemed unfit.
According to accepted Halacha, the pre-writing prayer said when starting a Sefer Torah suffices for the whole scroll, even if the scroll will take many years to be completed. Without this initial sanctification, the validity of the whole scroll is in serious question. Even according to those who oppose preparatory prayers, as we have seen above, there's no Bracha for writing a Sefer Torah and therefore no existing framework for a demonstration of intent. Therefore, even they will agree that a Sofer must say loudly that he intends to perform the Miztva.
The same principle applies one step before, in the process of manufacturing the parchment for writing. The very first moment of the production requires a verbal declaration that the work is being done lishma - for the sake of the Mitzva. Therefore if the worker fails to make this declaration at the start, the resulting parchment will be invalid and the Keset HaSofer writes ואין להקל i.e. there’s no room for leniency. It's interesting that this is so, as the Miztva per se is the writing of the Sefer Torah while the parchment production is only an Hechsher Mitzva (enabling the Miztva) and I would think that perhaps there's a way out in case of emergency. That's what the Keset says - no room for lenience, period.
The actual wording of this verbal declaration is also crucial. When manufacturing parchment for Mezuza, for instance, the worker will need to specifically say עורות אלו אני מעבד לשם מזוזה - I’m working these hides for the sake of (the Mitzva of) Mezuza. It's important to note that this very declaration is only valid if the parchment will indeed be used for a Mezuza. However, a parchment that will be used for Tefillin, the worker must be specifically declare it for Tefillin - ideally (there's perhaps room for leniency if you declared intention for a Tefillin but used the parchement for a Torah because of the concept of Maalim Bakodesh - one may increase the sanctity once there's a valid declaration).
In practice, the klafim makers usually produce the parchment with a conditional declaration - “I’m working these hides for either a Mezuza, Tefillin or a Torah, to be decided at a later date”. This is called a parchment produced “al tnai”, on a condition, and the Keset writes (פרק ב) that a person can rely on this option בשעת הדחק, as a last resort. But it's better to use a non-conditional parchement for sure.
So which klafim are usually sold in the market today? I learned it the “hard way”. When I purchased klafim for my Sefer Torah, the package got stuck in customs when the seller mailed it to me. I was quite upset because the authorities wanted to charge me a fortune for import taxes. So I called the klafim maker and after a chat, I discovered that these hides were “conditional hides” and he said that he could take them back if I purchased more expensive non-conditional parchments. Yes, there’s a substantial difference in price between the two, and while I assumed I was buying the very best, this whole situation enabled me to exchange my purchase for a much more "mehudar" option.
This is the level of trust involved in the work of a Sofer, because the scribe has to source his material from a trusted source and even a good source can give you less then optimal products. In turn, the private buyer has to trust the Sofer, and the source where the Sofer got his materials from. That's quite a leap of faith.
Therefore a Sofer or any aspiring buyer of Judaica scrolls must be vigilant and - here is the difficult part - know the Halacha. We live today in an age that many think that everything can go as long as you mean well. Unfortunately, in the world of Safrut, this is wishful thinking and there are many things that will go wrong without proper due diligence and knowledge. Hoping for the best will only get you in trouble.
One of these “danger spots” is the pre-Mitzva declaration which we have explored. That’s how important this short prayer is, and the impact it has in a holy scroll.
I will conclude with the recommended pre-writing prayer as mentioned in the Lishchat HaSofer:
1- before writing, the Sofer must recant for his sins.
2- he should recite the Kabbalistic prayer אנא בכח גדולת ימנך תתיר צרורה וכו׳
3- he should recite this personal prayer: יהי רצון מלפניך ה׳ או״א שתשרה שכינתך במעשה ידי ותצליכני בכותבי זאת שאני כותב ספר תורה זה לשם קדושת ספר תורה ותצילני מטעות הכתיבה ומטעות הכוונה אמן כן יהי רצון
Sunday, October 6, 2019
I write slowly and only in my free time, so I was expecting it would take me many years to finish the Torah. But something interesting happened.
A few months ago, I was spending my summer vacation in a seaside resort, and I got an Aliyah in the local Shul - the fifth portion of Parshas Korach, Chamishi. The Baal Koreh finished the reading, and as I was closing the Sefer Torah to make the final blessing, the corner of my eye say something strange with the last word. I still (mistakenly) made the Bracha after the Aliya but I opened the Torah once again and I realized that there was a mistake that looked like this:
An untrained eye would not spot the problem, as the Sefer Torah's writing was very solid and it was regularly used for over 30 years in that Shul. My question was, and still is, when this mistake happened - was the Sefer Torah pasul for a long time already?
I later came back to the Shul to take another look at it with the Gabbay and I came to the conclusion this was an impurity that found its way in this letter. It was a clear case of bad luck - wrong thing at the wrong place at the wrong time - and this "ink" fell in the worst place possible, changing the form of the letter (Tzurat Haot). Once the letter's form is compromised, the Halacha is that this letter becomes invalidated, even tough it was originally written properly, and consequently the whole Torah is Pasul.
I still couldn't believe this happened - it's the first time I caught a potential psul in a Torah - and I kept touching this strange connector, when suddenly I was able to clip away the connector, restoring the letter to what it was - a Hey. Welcome back, Hey.
Problem solved? Not at all.
This seemed to be a classical case of fixing a letter via Chok Tochot, which is forbidden. Chok Tochot means shaping a letter not by writing it, but by erasing parts of another letter. Imagine you write a big square of black ink, and slowly you "sculp" a letter by erasing parts here and there - that's Chok Tochos and that's a classical act of invalidation according Halacha. By clipping away the connector, I created a Hey from a modified Tav - not by writing it but by "playing" with the Tav. If this was the case, I would have to remove the Hey and rewrite it.
In the other hand, it could be that the connector never actually modified the Hey, since it was kind of a sticker that could be removed (as I did!). If that was the case, perhaps the Torah was always Kosher and it would require no action.
We asked a knowledgeable Dayan, who decided that it was necessary to erase and re-write the Hey - the Torah was pasul indeed. I asked the Shul's board to let me fix it, so I could be the Sofer restoring this Torah by fixing just one letter. This reminded me a concept brought down in the Talmud in Menachot:
וא"ר יהושע בר אבא אמר רב גידל אמר רב הלוקח ס"ת מן השוק כחוטף מצוה מן השוק כתבו מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו קיבלו מהר סיני אמר רב ששת אם הגיה אפי' אות אחת מעלה עליו כאילו כתבו R. Yehoshua bar Aba: One who buys a Sefer Torah is like one who seized a Mitzvah from the market (Rashi - it is a bigger Mitzvah to write it himself; Rema - he does not fulfill the Mitzvah);If he wrote a Sefer Torah, it is considered as if he received it from Sinai.
A simple reading of this Gemara suggests that any Sofer fixing a Sefer Torah that is pasul is actually performing the Miztva of writing a Sefer Torah - even if the Torah is not his (for example, a communal Torah scroll or a scroll that belongs to a library). After all, he is "creating" a Kosher Torah Scroll.Rav Sheshes: If he corrected even one letter, it is considered as if he wrote it.
The Tosafists immediately weigh in this issue and write explicitly that the Gemara's last clause is not an independent one; it is the the continuation of the previous cases and it talks about someone who bought a Sefer Torah, which was invalid, and fixed it and only in this case, the Talmud is saying that this is equivalent to actually writing a whole Torah. See here verbatim:
אם הגיה בו אפי' אות אחת. פירוש בס"ת שלקח מן השוק לא נחשב עוד כחוטף מצוה
Sounds like Tosafot is explaining this Gemara in order to specifically dispel the possibility ("Hava Amina") I raised above, and would obviously rule that a Sofer fixing someone else's Torah is not fulfilling the Mitzva of writing a Sefer Torah.
This view is the mainstream approach among the classic commentators, and it is the universally accepted Halacha. However, the Mishnas Avrohom, an important early work on the laws of Safrut written by one of the Levush's children, brings down (see here) sources that apparently award the fixer the Miztva of writing the scroll even if the scroll belongs to someone else - precisely the idea we expounded above. The Mei Yehuda also brings other important sources agreeing with this idea. Therefore, basing myself in this minority view, I can say that when I rewrote the Hey and validated the Shul's Torah, I somehow got the Mitzva of writing my own Sefer Torah!
But realistically speaking, if I want to fulfil this magnificent Mitzva properly, I have to continue writing my own Sefer Torah, and I'm still at it. Nevertheless, this incident was a good opportunity to expand on the concept of what invalidates a scroll, Chok Tochos, how to fix it and the significance of writing even one letter in a scroll - perhaps this can also explain, as the Mei Yehuda writes (here), why people are careful to write at least one letter before the Sofer completes a new Torah Scroll (see my original post on this here). Even a small letter matters and it can make a very big difference.
Friday, October 4, 2019
The Aleph's core shape is in the style of Ktav Ashurit as seen in the left, an ancient form which has existed throughout millennia with almost no change.
As with other Hebrew letters, you can often deconstruct it into smaller letters, for exegesis. The Aleph is composed of a higher Yud slightly facing updwards, a lower upside-down Yud and a diagonal line which is actualy a Vav (also called the Vav ha Mechaber / "connecing Vav"). It's widely known that the Aleph, the first letter, symbolizes the unity of God as the Gematria of Aleph is 1 and it's also the first letter of the hebrew word אחד / Echad (1). And if you take the deconstructed letter, Yud Yud Vav, that will give you a Gematria of 26 which is the same as the Tetragammon - Gods Name. So you have Aleph, Echad, Tetragammon. You also have אמת / Emet, also starting with an Aleph, and according to tradition it's the Seal of God, the word best representing what God is about.
It's worth noting that many older publication used the innovative Aleph-Lamed instead of writing the word א-ל / E-L or Elokeinu / א-להינו, which are other Holy Names starting with Aleph. Again, there's a clear association between the Aleph and the holiest words in the Torah.
The Aleph is the first letter of the Ten Commandments (Anochi..) and according to the classical Rabbi Akiva's Midrash of the Letters, an ancient work, the Aleph received this honour in return for not being the first letter of the Torah, which starts with the second letter Bet (Bereishit). So here you have the Aleph as the first letter of Anochi Hashem, another important instance where the use of the Aleph stands out,
It's paradoxical that the Aleph symbolizes God's oneness, while its form has two Yuds. The explanation given is that the Two Yuds represent the spiritual and material realms, and that God is omnipresent is both. That's a common explanation. A deeper one, relates to two different ways of understanding God which is rooted in Kaballah. The explanation of these understanding is beyond the scope of this blog but Rabbi Prof. Ari Bergmann has a great series exploring this (click here for the online series; shiur 4 is specifically talking about this concept).
|Aleph in Ktav Ivri|
But throughout modern Jewish history, Jews used exclusively the Ktav Ashuri Aleph and you can find nuances in different scrolls around the world even in a letter as ubiquitous as the Aleph. Below you see the four most famous versions, which are still in use by different communities today.
|From top left, clockwise: Arizal, Veilish/Sephardi, Beit Yosef/Ashkenazi, Chabad|
Today, with the flourishing of the Hebrew language in Israel, many artists and publishers have proposed new versions of the Aleph for modern usage in printing and digital media. The most important typographic changes came after the invention of the printing press and subsequent need for new modern typefaces for prints. Van Dijk in Amsterdam came up with a popular font in the 1660's, which is still seen today in many books and it's clearly based on the Sephardic version of the Ktav Ashurit - "Veilish". Perhaps the strong Portuguese-Sephardi community in Amsterdam at the time had an influence in Van Dijk, but be it as it may, most typefaces today have a strong resemblance to the Veilish script. Another famous type is Frank-Ruhl's from the early 20th century.