Thursday, 5 June 2008

The new MRJ siddur - as approved by the Dalai Lama

Well here's an interesting one from the Jewish Chronicle. The siddur that I designed and did many graphics devices for and a couple of illustrations was recently published. It has been given to the Dalai Lama - which means he has some of my artwork. Now that's a serious step up!

Monday, 2 June 2008

Kuf d'vukah

The big scribal fun in parshat Naso is the occurence of one of the two occassions in the Torah of the kuf d'vukah - the joined kuf. All letters in STaM are required to be guf echad - one body - otherwise they are not kasher (valid) except the letters heh and kuf which are made of two elements and if this is not case then these are not kasher.

Numbers 7:2 sees a possible exception to this rule (the other being the kuf in b'kameyhem (to those who oppose them) in Exodus 32:25) as the generally accepted Massoretic opinion is that the kuf in ha-p'kudim sees the leg of the kuf apparently joined to its base. Minchat Shai says specifically it should touch. In addition the kuf does not have it's usual single tag.

There are a couple of opinions (e.g. Badey Aharon) that suggest this is not the case and instead it isn't joined but instead has three taggin but that its leg is akum (long with a curved hook on it's end)

Torah Sh'lema spends some considerable time discussing this in three separate places whether this could actually be the case and whether - despite the authorities stating this is a joined kuf - doing so would invalidate the letter and thus the scroll. Is the Massoretic tradition true?

He does feel that 'the language 'd'vukin' or 'd'vukah' does reveal the intention is to really join the regel (foot) of the ... kuf to its gag (roof)' and brings examples of old Sifrey and Yemenite ones where this happens and notes that this is one of the cases of one [scribe] receving tradition from another going back to Moses. However he then notes several examples of Sifrey by greats such as Landsofer (author of B'ney Yonah), the Maharam of Rottenberg which do not have a joined kuf and brings a number of authorities who would invalidate the Torah.

In reality, scrolls today so not have a joined kuf. Indeed Keset Hasofer explains that if one does find this in a scroll then this would invalidate and one must correct it. The Rambam would not invalidate such a scroll if it were old as that was then the tradition but the general view is not to do it.

Torah Sh'lema sympathies lie with scribes who do join the letters - he claims to have a small torah which has this and asks what do those nay-sayers rely on since the Massoretes make it clear that it should be there and Midrash Otiot d'Rabbi Akiva asks what is the reason for the kuf d'vukah? It is not he argues, as if the letter could be confused with another if it did join (which would invalidate a heh with a join as it would resemble a chet). Also he feels of those who invalidate that their main objection is derived from Shabbat 104 which reads 'and why is the foot of the Kuf suspended [to show] that if he repents, he can enter and be brought in [to God's favour] through this [opening]' but this doesn't necessarily mean every kuf has to be like this.

Nonetheless it is is a problem as there is obvious machloket (disagreement) and there has been some compromise for scribes who have tried to perpetuate this tradition by writing the kuf such that it nearly joins or is very close. Tikkun Hasofer (L'rav Yitschak Dov) notes a kuf with a leg that is a long vertical line only without the zayin type head which goes very close to the gag (roof) of the letter - almost but not quite touching.
Torah Sh'lema doesn't really see the point of this - as if it's not touching it's not touching regardless of how near it is. But it can't be so as Safek Hasofer (doubts of the scribe) gives an example of a kuf leg joined to it's roof and invalidates it - and makes no mention of the two special occasions at all.

So a massive amount of debate over what may have originally just been a scribe writing too close to the roof or may have had a deliberate hidden meaning. If so, what is it?

Torah Sh'lema after having been so verbose over whether we should do it or not provides no explanation as to why other than it says so. Have to give this some more thought.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Loving the Torah

Quick post this.

Was recently checking a Torah in a congregation to be faced with a big lipstick mark on the back of the klaf. Fortunately it was coated klaf so it came off quite easily but hey it was a big smackeroo so some lady out there must really love the Torah ... but hopefully she won't do it again. Not good!

The sedra Bamidbar includes a scribal tradition that is a little unclear in it's form. The Ba'al Haturim notes of Numbers 1:22 that the lamed in livney Shim'on... l'gulg'loteyhem (the sons of Shim'on ... According the their head count should be akumah l'matah (bent downward). However it is not clear what this actually means, both which lamed we are talking about - since there are four or how it might look. The assumption is that it is similar to the way Yemenite scrolls or handwritten Chumashim depict all lameds with a slanting or bowed head at the top of the letter.
Torah Sh'lema shows the first two lameds in the word l'gulg'lotam drawn this way, but not that of the word livney.
The Ba'al Haturim explains that it/they are bowed this was to symbolise the diminishment of the tribe by a famous member, 'Zimri son of Salu sinned [with the Midianite woman Cozbi daughter of Zur] and from his tribe they fell. And the lamed is the highest of all the letters, thus was there a missing [element] from his tribe, for there did not arise a king or a prophet [from it].

Some manuscripts of the Ba'al Haturim go on to note that the second lamed in gulg'loteyhem (ie the third in the whole word) should be 'made like a saw and erect, and it does not have a cap on its head'.
Again this in unclear but is largely interpreted as being a staight line as an ascender only - ie a vav without a head. However this doesn't explain the saw. Or Torah explains the word m'gerah as a waterspout but this isn't generally accepted. The Gaster manuscript has a little triangular golf flag on the back of the letter - possibly reflecting a tooth from a saw but does have the straight line ascender next it. Torah Shl'emah does not talk about the little flag.

For the Ba'al Haturim this similarly refers to Zimri who 'did lewd acts in Israel with raised head and in a proud (ie erect) manner).

Unlike the tribe of Shim'on whose lamed heads are akum (bent) - presumably ashamed of their leader's acts, the leader himself is quite unashamed and proudly stands z'kuf (upright, erect) and the different lameds reflect this. How often does someone do this? Brazenly showing or stating their own views without thought for the consequence and embarrassment that might cause.for their family and friends.