web analytics
November 27, 2014 / 5 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
IDC Herzliya Campus A Day on Campus

To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.



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.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Border Police keep an eye out for Palestinian Authority terrorists.
IDF on Manhunt for Arab Terrorists Trying to Gun Down Jewish Drivers
Latest Judaism Stories
Rapps-Rabbi-Joshua-logo

The Jew, from the perspective of the name Yaakov, is dependent on the non-Jewish world. This can be seen today in the relationship between the State of Israel and the United States

Lessons-Emunah-logo

Yet, ultimately, looking back, these “setbacks” turned out to be really for the patient’s best – for the good.

Business-Halacha-logo

In the afternoon, he reached into his pocket to check for the money, but it was empty. “The $50 bill must have fallen out,” Alex exclaimed. “It’s got to be in one of the rooms I was just at.”

Although the conversion ceremony involves more than circumcision and immersion, these are the two essential requirements, without which the conversion is ineffective.

Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

Rashi in Shabbos 9b writes that the reason why the tefillah of Ma’ariv is a reshus is because it was instituted corresponding to the burning of the eimurim from the korbanos – which was performed at night.

It almost sounds as if Hashem is saying, “I have to keep Yaakov from getting too comfortable; otherwise he will forget Me. I can’t promise him sustenance because then he won’t need Me. He won’t write. He won’t call. He won’t love Me anymore.”

The Decree Of 1587
“Two Kabs Of Dinars Were Given…To King Yanai”
(Yevamos 61a)

Simply too many cases of prayers being answered to deny it makes a difference to our fate. It does.

Prayer is our language: Hakol kol Yaakov – the voice is the voice of Jacob – the voice of prayer.

Jacob cries, overcome by the knowledge that his great love for Rachel will end in unbearable pain.

There’s a perfect mirror between Jacob running away from Esav to when he reunites with his brother.

Yitzhak called you Esav and you answered him, then he called you Yaakov and you also answered him!”

Yitzchak thought the Jewish people needed dual leadership: Eisav the physical; Yaakov the spiritual

According to the Sefer Yetzirah, the nature of the month of Kislev is sleep.

More Articles from Rabbi Yaakov Klass
QuestionsandAnswers-logo

Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

Question: My young daughter was recently diagnosed with autism. She does not function well socially and is extremely introverted, but we have noticed that she reacts very well to small animals. We reported this to her therapist who suggested that we get a dog or cat as a pet. We know that most religious people frown upon having pets, but we hate to see our daughter suffer and want to do anything that would make her happy. Would it be okay to own a pet in the circumstances we described?

Her Loving Parents
(Via E-Mail)

Question: My young daughter was recently diagnosed with autism. She does not function well socially and is extremely introverted, but we have noticed that she reacts very well to small animals. We reported this to her therapist who suggested that we get a dog or cat as a pet. We know that most religious people frown upon having pets, but we hate to see our daughter suffer and want to do anything that would make her happy. Would it be okay to own a pet in the circumstances we described?

Her Loving Parents
(Via E-Mail)

Question: My young daughter was recently diagnosed with autism. She does not function well socially and is extremely introverted, but we have noticed that she reacts very well to small animals. We reported this to her therapist who suggested that we get a dog or cat as a pet. We know that most religious people frown upon having pets, but we hate to see our daughter suffer and want to do anything that would make her happy. Would it be okay to own a pet in the circumstances we described?

Her Loving Parents
(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: