Writing Lines: T-S D1.108 and the Song of Moses
by Kim Phillips
When a medieval Jewish scribe sat down to write the Torah, he had a lot on his mind. Of primary importance, of course, was the accurate copying of each and every letter: even words for which multiple different spellings were possible (a vast number!) had to be copied so that the precise spelling for that word, in that location, was diligently preserved. In addition, he had to accurately insert paragraph breaks at the traditional points. These paragraph breaks were of two types: the Closed break (Setuma) and the Open break (Petuḥa), and the correct type of break had also to be preserved in each location. Failure to preserve these paragraph breaks correctly could render the entire scroll unsuitable for public use. He may have heard the words of Masseḵet Sofrim (a kind of talmudic ‘how to’ guide for writing Torah scrolls) echoing in his mind: פתוחה שעשאה סתומה וסתומה שעשאה פתוחה הרי זו תיגנז “An open paragraph that has been written as a closed, or a closed paragraph that has been written as an open – that Torah scroll must be stored away”.
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