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Kidushin, 30

KIDUSHIN 24-30 (9-15 Sivan) - This week's study material has been dedicated by Mrs. Rita Grunberger of Queens, N.Y., in loving memory of her husband, Reb Yitzchok Yakov ben Eliyahu Grunberger. Irving Grunberger helped many people quietly in an unassuming manner and is dearly missed by all who knew him. His Yahrzeit is 10 Sivan.


QUESTION: The Gemara teaches that the early Chachamim were called "Sofrim" ("scribes," or "those who count") because they were able to count all the letters of the Torah. They used to say, "The letter Vav of the word 'Gachon' (Vayikra 11:42) is the half-way point of the Sefer Torah.'" Rav Yosef asked whether the Vav of "Gachon" is the last letter of the first half of the Torah, or the first letter of the second half. Abaye suggested that they simply bring a Sefer Torah and count the letters to find out, as was done by the Chachamim in the past. Rav Yosef replied that those Chachamim were experts in "Chaseros v'Yeseros" (the letters that can be omitted or included without changing the meaning of the text; certain words can be spelled either with or without the letters Vav, Yud, Alef, and Heh, as these "supplementary letters" are written to aid the recognition of vowels, but are not always pronounced)), while we are not experts in this matter, and thus our count, said Rav Yosef, will not be reliable in determining the central letter of the Sefer Torah.

The Gemara clearly establishes that the letter Vav of the word "Gachon" is the middle letter of the Torah. The Beraisa in Sofrim (9:2) states that for this reason the Vav there is written larger than other letters, which denotes that it marks a unique position in the Sefer Torah.

However, if one actually counts the letters of the Torah, one will notice that the Vav of "Gachon" is *not* the middle letter of the Sefer Torah! There are 304,801 letters in the Torah (according to the count of Rav Yakov Auerbach, zt'l, or 304,805 according to the traditional listing at the end of Sefer Devarim in the standard Mikra'os Gedolos). The Vav of "Gachon" is not located at the midpoint letter (#152,403) but rather it is nearly 5,000 letters later (at letter #157,336! Although Rav Yosef himself said that we are not expert in knowing the identity of the "Chaseros v'Yeseros," this does not seem to explain the great discrepancy of 5000 letters. (Among all of the known traditions for the text of the Sefer Torah that have been handed down through the generations among the various different Jewish congregations around the world, there are only nine differences in spelling.)

How is it, then, that the Gemara says that the Vav of "Gachon" is the mid-point of the Sefer Torah?


(a) RAV ELIYAHU POSEK (Piskei Eliyahu 3:1) answers that perhaps the Sofrim who counted the letters meant the following. Many words in the Torah should be written with a Vav or Yud, and yet the Torah omits those letters for exegetical purposes (or it adds those letters when the word could have been written without them). If one were to compile a list of all of the Vavs and Yuds that the Torah excludes or includes when it should not have, grammatically, then he would find that the Vav of "Gachon" would be located at the middle of the list (it is assumed that "Gachon" itself should really be written without a Vav).

We would then explain the Gemara as follows: Rav Yosef asked whether the Vav of "Gachon" is the last letter of the first half of this list of letters, or the first letter of the second half of the list. In order to determine the answer, it was recommended that they count all the letters that are included or excluded when they should not have been. Rav Yosef responded that since they lacked the grammatical expertise necessary to determine in which words the Vav and Yud would serve as extra letters and in which words they were part of the actual word, they would not know which letters to count. (See article by Rav Yitzchak Zilber in "Shma'atsin," volume 43, for a similar explanation.)

(b) Another question arises with regard to the number of letters in a Sefer Torah. The ZOHAR CHADASH (Shir ha'Shirim, p. 74) states that there are 600,000 letters in the Sefer Torah, corresponding to the 600,000 souls of the twelve tribes of the Jewish people. Similarly, the MEGALEH AMUKOT (Va'eschanan #186) says that the soul of every Jew stems from one of the 600,000 letters in the Torah. The name "Yisrael" itself can be viewed as an acronym for the words, "*Y*esh *S*hishim *R*ibo *O*siyos *L*a'Torah" ("there are sixty myriads (i.e. 600,000) letters in the Torah").

How can the Zohar Chadash say that there are 600,000 letters in the Torah, when our count yields almost half of that number?

The ZOHAR CHADASH (loc. cit.) itself gives an answer and suggests that when counting the letters of the Torah, we must not count each letter as a single letter. Rather, we must count each letter according to the number of letters it comprises when its name is spelled out. For instance, Alef is counted as Alef, Lamed, and Fei, or three letters. Bet is spelled Bet, Yud, Tav, or three letters. Gimmel is spelled Gimmel, Yud, Mem, Lamed, or four letters. If all the letters of the Torah are counted in this manner, explains the Zohar, there will be six hundred thousand letters in the Torah.

The Zohar's method of counting may also explain how the Vav of "Gachon" is actually the halfway mark of the Sefer Torah. The number of letters before that Vav may equal the number of letters following it, if they are counted in the above manner. Rav Yosef, in pointing out his lack of expertise in "Chaseros v'Yeseros," might also have been explaining why he was not able to duplicate the Zohar's method of counting. Many letters of the Alef Bet can be spelled either with or without supplementary Vavs and Yuds to aid in their pronunciation. For example, Bet can be spelled Bet, Yud, Tav, or Bet, Tav. Vav can be spelled Vav, Yud, Vav, or Vav, Vav, and so on As a result, our ignorance regarding the spelling of many of the Torah's letters prevents us from properly counting how many letters precede and succeed the Vav of "Gachon."

(c) RAV SHNEUR ZALMAN OF LIADY (the author of the Tanya) provides another answer (LIKUTEI TORAH, Behar, p. 43). He writes that in order to count 600,000 letters, we must add to every vowel that lacks a supplementary letter, that supplementary letter. For example, it is possible to add an Alef or Heh after every Patach or Kamatz vowel that is not followed by a Alef or Heh (see Rashi, beginning of Kesuvos 69b, and end of Makos 7b). A Vav can be added after every Cholem or Kubutz vowel, and a Yud after every Chirik or Tzerei vowel. If all these additions are made, there will be 600,000 letters in the Torah.

This, too, would explain Rav Yosef's statement here in Kidushin. The Vav in "Gachon" is the middle letter in the Torah after all the vowels lacking supplementary letters are supplemented. But, explains Rav Yosef, we lack expertise with regard to which vowels can support an extra letter without changing the word's meanings and which vowels cannot. As a result, we do not know which of these unwritten supplementary letters are to be counted.

According to these answers, Rav Yosef's doubts were only in regard to counting what is *not* written in the Sefer Torah itself. His doubt has no bearing on what is written in the Sefer Torah.

(d) The above answers are speculative, because if we follow the formula of the Zohar Chadash and count each letter as either two, three, or even four letters, then there would be far more than 600,000 letters in the Torah. There would be at least 800,000 letters. On the other hand, if we follow the formula of the Likutei Torah and count all of the supplemented letters of the unsupplemented vowels, then there would be far less than 600,000 letters, since many vowels of the Torah are already written in supplemented form and thus would not receive additional letters. (See RAV REUVEN MARGOLIOS in HA'MIKRA V'HA'MESORAH, chapters 4 and 12, for a compilation of various other answers. Rav Margolios raises difficulties with all of these other answers and then offers his own answer. See also TORAH SHELEIMAH, volume 27, pp. 286-9; THE HANDBOOK OF JEWISH THOUGHT by Rav Aryeh Kaplan, ch. 7, fn. 108; and PERI TZADIK of Rav Tzadok ha'Kohen, beginning of Shemos.)

Perhaps we might suggest a different approach to both the question of the mid-point Vav and that of the missing 300,000 letters. There is a tradition that at the beginning of every new Parshah section in the Sefer Torah a space the width of nine letters must be left blank (RAMBAM, Hilchos Sefer Torah 8:1). The BEIS YOSEF (YD 275) points out that the letters of the Torah are of different widths, so the size of a space nine letters wide will depend on which letter is used as a model. Since the tradition does not specify which letter to use, the Beis Yosef rules that nine widths of the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet, the Yud, will suffice.

It is now possible to understand how the Vav of "Gachon" is the middle letter of the Torah and how there are 600,000 letters in the Torah. According to the Beis Yosef, an unspecified letter does not refer to an average-sized letter, but rather to the smallest letter. When counting the letters of the Torah, perhaps we should not count each character as a single letter. Rather, letters which must [Halachically] be written with the width of two Yuds count as two "letters." A large letter, such as the Shin, counts as three letters since its width is as wide as three Yuds (the Shin is comprised of three Yuds extending from a base). In fact, if we allow another bit of space to separate each of the Yuds of the top of the Shin from each other, the Shin is two bits *more* than three Yuds wide.

Simple calculation reveals that there are only 4 letters that are one Yud-width wide: Vav, Zayin, Yud, and Nun Sofis (final Nun). There are two letters that are a Yud and a half wide: Gimmel and Nun (due to their bases). Fifteen letters are two Yud-widths wide, five letters are two plus-a-bit Yud-widths wide, and one letter is three-plus-two-bits Yud-widths wide. This nearly doubles the number of letters in the Sefer Torah! Therefore, if each letter is counted by its Yud-widths, there will be 600,000 letters in the Torah!

This suggestion can also explain Rav Yosef's statement that lack of expertise with regard to "Chaseros v'Yeseros" prevents us from placing the Vav of "Gachon" at the center of the Torah. Perhaps "Chaseros v'Yeseros" does not refer to *vowels* and *words* that are lacking or expanded with supplementary letters. Rather, it refers to *letters* that are lacking or supplemented in their widths. Masoretically, certain letters in the Sefer Torah are written in one place either smaller (i.e. lacking) or larger (i.e. supplemented) than in other places. For example, the Alef in the word "Vayikra" (Vayikra 1:1) is written smaller than usual, and so is the Yud in the word "Teshi" (Devarim 32:18). The Beis of the first word in the Torah, "Bereishis," is written larger than normal, and so is the Vav in "Gachon."

When the Sofrim stated that the Vav of "Gachon" is the midpoint of the Torah, perhaps they meant that if all the letters of the Torah were to be counted by their Yud-widths, this Vav would be the center of the Torah. When Rav Yosef commented that we cannot confirm this statement due to our lack of expertise in "Chaseros v'Yeseros," he may have meant that we do not know which letters to enlarge or shrink, and how much to enlarge them or to shrink them, due to an uncertainty in the Mesorah. Nevertheless, this uncertainty would not render a doubt as to the validity of today's Sifrei Torah. The RAMBAM states explicitly (Hilchos Sefer Torah 6:9) that if a letter is made larger or smaller than its true Masoretic size, it does not invalidate a Sefer Torah. Our own Sifrei Torah can now be seen as having 600,000 letters, and the Vav of "Gachon" may truly be the central letter of those 600,000 letters. (The general basis of this approach is suggested by RAV YAKOV KAMINETZKY zt'l (end of EMES L'YAKOV).)

(The numbers of times that each letter appears in the Torah can be found at the end of the Torah Temimah Chumash, and in the new Concordance. The figures in the two sources vary slightly. See also Rav Aryeh Kaplan's footnote in Menashe ben Yisroel: The Conciliator (Hermon: N.Y.,1972), part 1, p. 250.)


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