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The Lines Before Sefer Devarim

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This column is dedicated to the refuah sheleimah of Shlomo Eliezer ben Chaya Sarah Elka.

This week we begin reading Sefer Devarim. The Gemara in Baba Basra 13b says that four blank lines must be scratched onto the parchment between each of the sefarim of a Sefer Torah (i.e. between Sefer Bereishis and Sefer Shemos).

The first Tosfos in Gittin discusses the reason why we are accustomed to writing a get with twelve lines. Rabbeinu Tam says it is because the gematria of the word get is twelve. Tosfos then says that the Ri heard from Rav Hai Gaon and Rabbeinu Sadya that the reason for this custom is because there are twelve lines that separate the sefarim of the Torah. There are four lines that separate Sefer Bereishis and Sefer Shemos, Sefer Shemos and Sefer Vayikra, and Sefer Vayikra and Sefer Bamidbar – totaling twelve lines. Since these lines separate the sefarim of the Torah they are also used to separate a husband and wife. Tosfos explains that the reason why we do not consider the lines that separate Sefer Bamidbar and Sefer Devarim is because Sefer Devarim is only a repetition of the Torah. Thus it is not a separate sefer, and the lines that separate it are not used in a get.

Rav Moshe Feinstein (Dibros Moshe Ha’aros Gittin 3) asks how Tosfos could say that Sefer Devarim is only a repetition of the Torah, when there are hundreds of mitzvos that are written only in Sefer Devarim. Perhaps the answer is as the Ramban says in this week’s parshah, namely that the general purpose of Sefer Devarim is to repeat the halachos before the bnei Yisrael entered Eretz Yisrael. Even though many new halachos were taught in the process, the purpose of the Sefer was to repeat the halachos.

The Chidushei Anshei Shem, in the beginning of Gittin, offers another explanation to the custom of writing a get on twelve lines. He says that of the four lines that are scratched into the Torah separating each Sefer, only three of them are there for separation purposes. The fourth line is there because there is one line scratched after every parshah in the Torah. Therefore, we in fact write a get on twelve lines because there are twelve lines separating each Sefer in the Torah. This number is reached when one counts the lines that separate Sefer Bamidbar and Sefer Devarim as well. Since only three of the lines are separation lines, we count the lines between each Sefer – totaling twelve lines.

We find a distinction between three of the lines and the fourth line. The Pischei Teshuvah in Yoreh De’ah 273:1 quotes the Tashbitz (volume 1:175), who says that if one forgot to make three of the four lines between the sefarim of a Sefer Torah, the Torah is still valid. However, if one does not make the fourth line, the Torah is invalid. This ruling fits well with the Chidushei Anshei Shem, who explained that one of the lines is not made for separation; rather it is the general halacha that one must make a line between each parshah of the Torah.

Some Acharonim suggest that the Rambam agrees with the Chidushei Anshei Shem. This is because the Rambam says, in Hilchos Sefer Torah 7:15, that when one is writing Nevi’im he must make three lines between each sefer of Navi. Since Nevi’im does not have the kedushah of a Sefer Torah, it does not require the fourth line that is written after each parshah. Thus it is sufficient to only leave three lines between each sefer of Navi.

The Rambam, in the same halacha there, writes that when one writes a sefer that has all of Tanach in it he must leave four lines between each Chumash. This does not fit with the opinion of the Chidushei Anshei Shem. When one writes a sefer that has all of Tanach in it, the sefer does not have the kedushah of a Sefer Torah. Why then is it required to have four lines between each Chumash? Since it does not have the kedushah of a Sefer Torah it should have sufficed to only have three lines of separation.

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