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35:1 (1) The practice (2) concerning the number of lines (in the Torah passages of Tefilin) is to write seven lines in each passage of the arm Tefilin and four in each passage of the head Tefilin. (3) If one deviated from this practice he has not invalidated the passages.

MB 1: The practice – According to the oral tradition of the scribes, as handed down from one to the next.

MB 2: Concerning the number of lines – And they (the scribes) also have an oral tradition concerning the (words appearing at the) beginning of the lines of the arm and head Tefilin passages, as explained in the Tur (code of laws on which the Shulchan Aruch is based, by R. Yaakov B. Asher, son of the Rosh, late 13th to early 14th cents.) and the Beis Yosef (commentary on the Tur by R. Yosef Karo, author of the Shulchan Aruch, mid 16th cent.), and the scribes today are not exacting in the matter of the beginning of the lines, but rather write whatever words come up (i.e., they deviate from the tradition of specific words appearing at the beginning of the lines). One who wishes to be exacting (in maintaining this tradition) should not excessively elongate or shorten the letters in order to make the traditional words come out at the beginning of the lines, because this is not considered attractive for Tefilin. But one is permitted to do this a little (i.e., stretch out or shorten the letters ) (Pri Megadim).

MB 3: If one deviated – Whether in the passages for the arm or the head Tefilin. If one has for the arm Tefilin only a piece of parchment which is short (in height) and long, so that he cannot write seven lines on it except by writing very small, it appears that it is perferable to deviate from the tradition of seven lines (and make fewer lines). See in the Mordechai (R. Mordechai B. Hillel Ashkenazi, late 13th cent.), Hilchos Ketanos, at the end of the laws of Tefilin, which is brought above in Siman 32, where he states that writing Tefilin passages with somewhat large letters that won’t be quickly erased (and thereby invalidate the Tefilin) is included in the principle of “This is my G-d and I shall beautify him.” (Exodus, 15:2) [This principle means that a Mitzvah should be done in as aesthetically pleasing a manner as possible, e.g., one should have a beautiful Esrog and Tefilin.] And in truth we see in actuality that with the small writing that some present-day scribes are in the practice of using, because of our many sins, there are found numerous defects, even when they are first written (as opposed to those occurring with aging over time), which are not written according to the law because of the smallness of the letters. In most of these Tefilin passages (with very small letters) numerous crowns are missing on (the letters) Shin, Ayin, Tes, Nun, Zayin, Gimel, and Tzadi (which are supposed to have Tagim, “crowns” at the tops of the letters). The requirement for crowns is mentioned in the Gemara (Tractate Menachos, 29b), and some of the early authorities are stringent in requiring them even after the fact. One who guards his soul should not buy Tefilin containing Torah passages like these (i.e., with small writing), unless he checks them thoroughly beforehand. And he should know who wrote the passages, since it is very common that passages like these were written by young people who did not know at all the laws of writing ST”M (acronym for “Sifrei Torah (Torah scrolls), Tefilin, and Mezuzos”).

Lawton Cooper [email protected]

I’m sorry to send this out so early (while still waiting for Thursday and Friday), but I use an off-line mail reader, and would have to carry this Halacha on a disk to Baltimore in order to ensure distributing it on time. Thanks to Assaf for now producing his Halacha so far in advance!

I wish everyone only many happy occasions in the future. My next login will be (be”H) on Monday, if I manage to work out my Baltimore connection. I should be able to continue distribution of the Halacha-Yomi regularly from there on, during Sheva Brachos, although I probably won’t have much time to edit!