web analytics
May 29, 2015 / 11 Sivan, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Q & A: Crowns On Letters Of The Torah


QuestionsandAnswers-logo

Question: We find coronets on top of certain letters in the Torah – namely shin, ayin, tet, nun, zayin, gimmel and tzaddi. What purpose, if any, do they serve?

Menachem
(Via E-Mail)

Answer: Your question was discussed many years ago. As we now begin a new cycle of reading the weekly parashiyot of the Torah, it is quite appropriate to review this discussion.

The Gemara (Menachot 29b) quotes R. Yehudah, who said in the name of Rab: When Moses ascended to heaven to receive the Torah, he found G-d engaged in affixing taggin [three small upward strokes in the form of a crown] to the letters. Moses then asked, Master of the Universe, who is forcing Your hand [so that You have to add crowns to the letters – see Rashi ad loc.]? G-d replied: There will be a man, after many generations, whose name is Akiba b. Joseph, and he will expound a multitude of laws upon each stroke of these coronets. Moses asked to be permitted to see that man, and G-d instructed him to turn around.

Moses sat down behind eight rows [of Rabbi Akiba’s disciples in the beit hamidrash – some say it was 10 rows – and listened to their discussions. He] found that he could not follow their arguments. He felt as if his strength had been sapped, but when they came to a certain topic, the students asked Rabbi Akiba [in reference to a law that was being discussed]: From where do we know this? Rabbi Akiba responded, “Halacha leMoshe miSinai – this is an oral law handed down to Moses at Sinai.” At that moment Moses was comforted [since his teaching was quoted, although he had not yet received the Torah – see Rashi]. Thereupon Moses said to G-d: You have such a man [i.e., Rabbi Akiba], and yet You give the Torah [to Israel] by me? G-d replied: Hush, this is My decree [literally, “So it has come to My mind”]. Moses then said: You have shown me his Torah scholarship; please show me his reward!

Moses was again instructed to turn around and he saw them weighing out his [Rabbi Akiba’s] flesh [at the market stalls.]

[Rabbi Akiba was one of the Aseret Harugei Malchut, the ten martyrs written about in the Eleh Ezkera prayer recited during the Yom Kippur mussaf prayers as well as during the Kinnot of Tishah B’Av.]

Rashi (ibid. s.v. “b’makolin”) refers to another account of Rabbi Akiba’s martyrdom found in Tractate Berachot 61b, where it is stated that Rabbi Akiba was tortured with iron combs during the Hadrianic persecutions. [Upon seeing this,] Moses then cried out: Such Torah [knowledge], yet such a reward? To which G-d replied: Hush, this is My decree.

The Talmud then quotes Rava, who states that seven letters require three strokes [on top, forming a coronet]: shin, ayin, tet, nun, zayin [which together spells shatnez], as well as gimmel and tzaddi [interestingly, note that Rashi refers to the letter tzaddi as tzaddik]. The Talmud adds that the letter chet also has on its roof a vertical stroke [or strokes, depending on the opinion of Rashi or Tosafot, ibid.], and the letter heh has a suspended inner leg.

In fact, we find these seven letters in a short passage consisting of the first section of the Shema, followed by the verse “Vehaya ki yevi’acha – It shall be when G-d brings you to the Land…” (Deuteronomy 6:4-11).

The concept of Halacha leMoshe miSinai is usually defined as halachot [rules and laws] that have no basis in any specific verse of Scripture [the Tanakh, i.e., the Torah, Nevi’im or Prophets, and Ketuvim or Writings], but were given as oral laws to Moses on Mount Sinai. However, we can see from the Gemara quoted above that Halacha leMoshe miSinai also includes laws that are based on exposition alluding to the taggin found on letters in specific verses.

To better understand the importance we attach to interpretation or derush, let us consider the mitzvah of donning tefillin (phylacteries), as we are commanded (Deuteronomy 6:8): “U’keshartam le’ot al yadecha, ve’hayu letotafot bein eineicha – And you shall bind them as a sign upon your arm and let them be ornaments [or frontlets, as per Dr. Jastrow’s translation] between your eyes.” How are we to understand from that verse alone, without benefit of explanation, that passages of the Shema are to be written down and inserted in leather cases which are then to be tied, with the leather straps attached to them, to the left arm and the forehead during morning prayers?

About the Author: Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Q & A: Crowns On Letters Of The Torah”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
PA flag at soccer game.
Pro-Palestinian Protesters Invade FIFA Congress
Latest Judaism Stories
Rabbi Avi Weiss

Torah learning is valueless unless it enhances personal morality, fostering closer connection to God

Grunfeld-Raphael-logo

Why did so many of our great sages from the Rambam to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein live outside Israel?

Daf-Yomi-logo

Casting A Doubt
‘Shall We Say [They] Are Not Valid?’
(Nedarim 5a-7a)

Lessons-in-Emunah-new

I was about six years old at the time and recall that very special occasion so well.

Question: Should we wash our hands in the bathroom with soap and water, or by pouring water from a vessel with handles three times, alternating hands? I have heard it said that a vessel is used only in the morning upon awakening. What are the rules pertaining to young children? What is the protocol if no vessel is available? Additionally, may we dry our hands via an electric dryer?

Harry Koenigsberg
(Via E-Mail)

Why was Samson singled out as the only Shofet required to be a nazir from cradle to grave?

“What do you mean?” asked the secretary. “We already issued a ruling and closed the case.”

Tosafos suggests several answers as to how a minor can own an item, m’d’Oraisa.

This week’s video discusses the important connection between the Priestly Blessing and parenting.

Many of us simply don’t get the need for the Torah to list the exact same gift offering, 12 times!

There is a great debate as to whether this story actually took place or is simply a metaphor, a prophetic vision shown to Hoshea by Hashem.

Every person is presented with moments when he/she must make difficult decisions about how to proceed.

One does not necessarily share the opinions of one’s brother. One may disapprove of his actions, values, and/or beliefs. However, with brothers there is a bond of love and caring that transcends all differences.

This Shavuot let’s give G-d a gift too: Let’s make this year different by doing just 1 more mitzvah

Question: Should we wash our hands in the bathroom with soap and water, or by pouring water from a vessel with handles three times, alternating hands? I have heard it said that a vessel is used only in the morning upon awakening. What are the rules pertaining to young children? What is the protocol if […]

More Articles from Rabbi Yaakov Klass
Q-A-Klass-logo

Question: Should we wash our hands in the bathroom with soap and water, or by pouring water from a vessel with handles three times, alternating hands? I have heard it said that a vessel is used only in the morning upon awakening. What are the rules pertaining to young children? What is the protocol if no vessel is available? Additionally, may we dry our hands via an electric dryer?

Harry Koenigsberg
(Via E-Mail)

Question: Should we wash our hands in the bathroom with soap and water, or by pouring water from a vessel with handles three times, alternating hands? I have heard it said that a vessel is used only in the morning upon awakening. What are the rules pertaining to young children? What is the protocol if […]

Question: Should we wash our hands in the bathroom with soap and water, or by pouring water from a vessel with handles three times on each hand alternatingly? I have heard it said that a vessel is used only in the morning upon awakening. What are the rules pertaining young children? What is the protocol if no vessel is available? Additionally, may we dry our hands via an electric dryer?

Harry Koenigsberg
(Via E-Mail)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-crowns-on-letters-of-the-torah/2013/10/03/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: