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Hilchos Tefillin 36 (page 120)

מתחילת סימן לו עד אמצע סעיף ג והסופרים נהגו

Ashkenaz Versus Sefard Script

How the Heh and Kuf Differ From Other Letters

The Length of the Tagim

722c9aea-5f5c-447e-87ef-5891d89614ac.jpgAshkenaz versus Sefard script

The general shape of each letter is an ancient tradition dating back thousands of years. Any deviation from this form invalidates the letter. There are many details, some based on kabalah, that contribute to the exact form of each letter. Nevertheless, trivial differences between the letters have existed at least since the time of the middle Rishonim. Both the Ashkenaz and Sefard communities have their own shaped letters. Ideally, each community should try to use tefillin (or stam) written according to its own custom. Bedieved, as long as the general shape has been preserved, the letter is kosher.

(סעיף א וס"ק א, ד ו־ה; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 4-5)

941e3ec4-619c-48ca-ad80-dafe35d84aa0.jpgHow the heh and kuf differ from other letters

All the letters of stam, with the exception of heh and kuf, must be one unit. If a letter breaks, in most cases it will be pasul. There are differences between the types of breaks, however; some may be repaired and others not, as explained in siman 36. The left legs of the heh and kuf cannot connect to the rest of the body. If there is a minor connection, the letter is pasul.

(סעיף ב וס"ק ז-ט ו־יא)

2d7265de-e6ab-4021-9c5c-18d9dc8c3c93.pngThe length of the tagim

Tagim (crowns) are added to the top of the following letters: shin, ayin, tes, zayin, gimel, and tzadi. Each of these letters has three small, distinct tagim. When letters have more than one head (i.e. shin, ayin, tes and tzadi), the tagim are placed on the leftmost head. Ideally, the head of each of these small tagim should have two little lines protruding from it so that it looks something like a miniature zayin. There is no shiur for the length of these tagim, but there is a custom to make the middle one a drop longer than the others. It is important that the tagim do not extend into the bottoms of the letters on the upper line.

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  • The casings of the two types of tefillin should be clearly marked to prevent mix-ups. The casing of one type of tefillin should not be used for the other type. At any given time, one pair is understood to be kosher tefillin with kedusha and the other not.
  • Even those who wear tefillin on Chol Hamoed do not wear the tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam in deference to the opinion of the Zohar which is stringent about wearing tefillin on Chol Hamoed.
  • There is an ancient custom among sofrim to spread the writing of the parsha of the shel yad across seven lines and the shel rosh across four lines.
  • Are tefillin pasul without tagim?
  • Corrections that are not an issue of k’sidran
  • Chok tochos on a properly formed letter
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