Tagin flourished. Numerous old repairs. 54cm x c.7.5 metres. Dated to late 18th or early 19th century.
Ketav Stam (כתב סת”ם) is the specific Jewish traditional script with which Sifrei Torah, are written. One who writes such articles is called a Sofer Stam. The writing is done by means of a feather, and ink (known as d’yo) onto special parchment called klaf or gevil. There exist two primary traditions in respect to the formation of the letters, Ktav HaAshkenazi and Ktav HaSefardi, however the differences between them are slight.
Klaf is the material on which a sofer writes certain Jewish liturgical and ritual documents, the kosher form of parchment or vellum. The writing material can be made of the specially prepared skin of a kosher animal – goat, cattle, or deer. The hide can consist of:
- Gevil (גוויל), the full, un-split hide;
- Klaf (קלף), the outer, hairy layer;
Only gevil and klaf can be used for holy writings.
The kulmus (קולמוס) is the feather or reed used for writing. The original source of the word stems from the Greek “kalamos.” The feathers need to be obtained from a large bird and today the feathers of turkeys are most often used for this purpose.
The special ink prepared for the writing is called d’yo (דיו). Maimonides wrote in the Laws of Tefillin 1:4 that the d’yo is prepared in the following way:
One collects the vapor of oils, of tar, of wax, or the like, and kneads it together with sap from a tree and a drop of honey. It is moistened extensively, crushed until it is formed into flat cakes, dried, and then stored. When one desires to use it, one soaks it in gallnut juice or the like and writes with it.
Sirtut (שרטוט) are straight un-inked lines that the sofer must, by Torah law, etch into the klaf. This helps the sofer write in neat lines.
Every aspect of the process must be done lishma (לשמה), that is to say, for its own sake with pure motives. The sofer must also be particularly concentrated upon the writing of any of the Divine Names. At numerous junctures in the process he is obligated to verbalize the fact that he is performing his action lishma.
Form of the letters
The K’tav Ashuri is the only permissible Hebrew script, however over the centuries in exile some minor variations have developed. The two primary traditions are Ktav HaAshkenazi and Ktav HaSefardi.
Ketav Ashkenazi is further split into two categories:
- Ketav Bet Yosef – which is the standard Ashkenaz tradition.
- Ketav HaAri – which is the Hasidic tradition.
Ktav Sefardi (also known as Veilish) – is the standard utilized by Mizrahi Jews, and Yemenite Jews.
Tagin (or taggin) are the distinct crown like serifs affixed atop the letters. If the tagin are absent, the writing is invalidated. According to Rabbi Akiva in the Talmud, not only can one learn something from every letter in the Torah, but one can also learn something from the placement of the tagin. On the letters ג, ז, ט, נ, ע, צ, ש there are three tagin, on the letters ב, ד, ה, ח, י, ק there is one tag, and on the letters א, ו, כ, ל, מ, ס, פ, ר, ת there are none.
Some errors are inevitable in the course of production. If the error involves a word other than a Divine Name, the mistaken letter may be removed from the scroll by scraping the letter off the scroll with a sharp object. If the Divine Name is written in error, the entire page, must be cut from the scroll and a new page added, and the page written anew from the beginning. The new page is sewn into the scroll to maintain continuity of the document. The old page is treated with appropriate respect, and is either buried, or stored away in a genizah rather than being simply discarded.