The Contemporary Custom Regarding Pesuchos and Setumos in a Sefer Torah
The Setuma According to the Beis Yosef and Shulchan Aruch Harav (Graz)
The Parsha Setuma in Tefillin Today
The contemporary custom regarding pesuchos and setumos in a sefer Torah
The one type of parsha setuma that both the Rambam and Rosh agree on occurs when the new parsha begins after a ‘closed-in’ space — i.e. one which is surrounded by script on both ends. This type of setuma has become the standard in modern sifrei Torah. Likewise, today’s pesuchos are written in a way that is acceptable to both opinions; they always start at the beginning of a line after a nine-letter gap at the end of the preceding line.
(ס"ק קסד; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 186)
The setuma according to the Beis Yosef and Shulchan Aruch Harav (Graz)
Parshas V’haya im shemoa presents a problem. It is supposed to be a setuma, but in tefillin, where it is written in its own column with no preceding text to ‘close in’ the space, the writing cannot be done in a way that satisfies both opinions as described above. According to the Mechaber (as well as the Shulchan Aruch Harav/Graz, Chazon Ish and Sefardic custom), it is proper to follow the opinion of the Rambam and indent the first line of the text even though doing so would define it as a pesucha according to the Rosh.
The Taz suggests a method of creating a setuma that works according to both opinions. The nine letter space should be split between the last line of the preceding paragraph and the beginning of the first line of V’haya im shemoa. The two gaps combine to form a setuma space even according to the Rosh because they are not on the same line. (There is indication that the Tur leaned towards this approach.) This is how the parsha should be written in tefillin according to the Taz and many Acharonim, and this is the most popular Ashkenazi custom.
According to the Rambam, a parsha pesucha starts at the beginning of a line and a setuma begins in the middle of a line. If a pesucha was indented further than the word asher (three letters’ worth) would take up, it is pasul; a smaller indentation is kosher b’dieved.
The Rama records that the minhag Ashkenaz is to make all the parshiospesuchos, but some Ashkenazic Acharonim recommend following the Mechaber.
The space between two parshios should equal nine letters of the script in use in that Torah, tefillin or mezuzah.