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Hilchos Tefillin 32 (page 101)

מסעיף לג עד סעיף לו

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Writing in the Margins – Introduction

Writing in the Margins of Tefillin or Sefer Torah

Writing Hashem’s Name in the Margin

c5cc1681-dd68-4c02-9f43-f52c1df2c65e.jpgWriting in the margins — introduction

The columns of sifrei Torah, tefillin and mezuzah should be aligned along their right and left margins. Many Rishonim write that there should not be three or more letters, or a whole word of two letters, extending into the margins. According to the Rambam, it is permissible to have three or more letters in the margin as long as they comprise less than the majority of letters in the word [the word must be comprised of seven or more letters]. The poskim are divided in their understanding of Rambam’s opinion as to whether two letters of a three-letter word can extend into the margin – i.e. whether he holds that it can be done, since he agrees that two letters in the margin do not invalidate the text, or whether he holds that it should be avoided, since in this case the two letters comprise the majority of the word. For the purpose of zeh keli v’anvehu (beautifying the mitzva), a sofer should avoid having any letters stick out into the margins.

(סעיף לג-לד, ס"ק קמז-קנא, וביה"ל ד"ה שלש וד"ה תיבה)

884b60f7-b5e1-4799-9324-b3403b8c0b2e.jpgWriting in the margins of tefillin or sefer Torah

Regarding tefillin, the Mechaber sides with the main opinion in the Rishonim that three or more letters cannot extend into the margin of tefillin. Regarding sefer Torah, however, the Mechaber adopts the position of the Rambam and permits three or more letters in the margin as long as they comprise less than the majority of the word. Some Acharonim are stringent with three letters in a sefer Torah. Others are stringent with tefillin and mezuzah, since the lines in these scrolls are short and the margins are small and any extension stands out. Letters — and even a complete word — in the margin are kosher b’dieved as long as it is clear which line they are to be read with.

(סעיף לג וס"ק קמח; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 183)

999e6899-0469-4a3d-8aa7-355efe6f8e4c.jpgWriting Hashem’s name in the margin

The rules about writing Hashem’s name in the margin are stricter. No part of Hashem’s name or its auxiliary letters (e.g. nun vav of E-lokeinu) may extend into the margin. If a sofer realizes in the middle of writing Hashem’s name that it will not fit within the margin, he cannot erase the part he wrote in order to make it fit. Instead, [for a sefer Torah] he should erase the final words on the lines above it and extend them to create a new margin to match the one created by Hashem’s name. If Hashem’s name is written at the end of any of those previous lines, the sofer should try to widen or thicken the letter(s) to extend them somewhat. There is a machlokes if the stam is kosher if it is impossible to extend the line/letters.

(סעיף לה וס"ק קנב-קנג)

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  • It is important that the high points of letters that extend upward (e.g. the top of a lamed or the crown of any letter) do not enter the interior spaces of open-bottomed letters (e.g. aleph, heh, long chaf) on the line above them. Similarly, the legs of long letters (such as long chaf or kuf) should not dangle into the open tops of letters below them (such as an aleph, tes or ayin).
  • There is a requirement to copy sifrei Torah and megillos from an existing text in order to prevent errors. Alternatively, someone can read the text out loud for the sofer to transcribe. The sofer must also enunciate every word before he writes it.
  • The sofer must leave a top margin a bit wider than the height of the top of an average-sized lamed. The bottom margin should be a drop wider than the length of the leg of an average-sized long chaf.
  • The meaning of parsha pesucha, parsha setuma
  • The opinions on pesucha and setuma
  • The customary practice
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