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Hilchos Tefillin 36 (page 126)

מאות מ עד אות ס

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The Components of the Mem

Slanting the Nun Towards the Right

How to Write the Word Pen

f88e67de-5126-4063-bf2f-08266557e463.pngThe components of the mem

The basic components of the mem are a chaf connected to a vav. The lower right corner of the chaf is squared, and the bottom of the vav slants a little to the left. The line connecting the chaf and vav should be thin, so as to preserve the character of each letter. Likewise, care must be taken to prevent the bottoms of the chaf and vav from touching.

(משנת סופרים אות מ; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 1, 2 ו־4)

1b6c59d4-91ce-4ff2-adea-2fe4a49a8c86.pngSlanting the nun towards the right

The bottom of the nun should be wider than the top in order to prevent it from being read as a chaf or beis. The bottom should not be so wide that it will prevent another letter from being written next to the nun. To prevent the wider base from jutting out too far out to the left, some Rishonim recommend slanting the line that extends from the roof to the right. This is the custom to follow. Even according to this custom, the base should protrude a little to the right to prevent it from looking like a different letter.

(משנת סופרים אות נ; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 3)

be493c48-1334-4576-a8f4-809dfd62d3ac.jpgHow to write the word pen

The final nun looks like an elongated zayin. This raises an interesting issue when it appears after a fay. The fay, as we will soon learn, is an oversized letter that extends below the line. If a final nun follows a fay, it might seem like a zayin (and a word like penpay nun – might be read as pazpay zayin). In this case, the final nun should be drawn a little longer. If it was not drawn longer, some poskim consider it to have the wrong shape and disqualify it. Other poskim hold that a properly formed letter cannot be disqualified because of an adjacent letter. A third opinion requires, l’chatchila, that the nun be lengthened.

(משנת סופרים אות ן’; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 1)

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  • The upper and lower right hand corners of the chaf should be rounded. It is pasul if either one is squared. There is a machlokes as to whether a chaf written like this >, without a right side, is kosher.
  • The length of longer letters that appear at the end of words (chaf, nun, tzadi and fay) should be twice their width. It should appear as though the bottom of the regular letter opened and extended downward.
  • The lamed is formed from a chaf and vav; the lower right side is a chaf, and attached to the upper left corner of the chaf is a vav. A second opinion, based on the Zohar, views the letter as an inverted tes, in which case the bottom should be shortened just like the cap on the right side of the tes. The custom follows this opinion.
  • The beis inside the fay
  • Switching between Beis Yosef ksav and velish
  • The inverted tzadi
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