Sunday, December 23, 2007

Vayechi: How Big A Gap Between Vayigash and Vayechi? pt i

(Unrelated to this post, I wish to note that today daf Yomi starts Nedarim. You can see Rif on Nedarim [daf 2a - 5b] here, at my other blog. Now on to the actual post.)

On the Yahoo Leining group, someone (credit upon request) posted that in their sefer Torah, there was a gap, not a full setuma (an enclosed gap 9 letter spaces wide) but less than that, between the end of Vayigash and the beginning of Vayechi. Does this require fixing? What follows is the first of my two responses. The second response is better, and continues where this left off. I'll post that response later. But here was my initial take:
Fascinating question.
I don't know the answer to this, or even how it is supposed to look in a sefer Torah (my assumption was just one space as a divider between words). But Rambam in general considers petucha changing to setuma and vice versa to be a pesul in a sefer Torah.

See here in the Rambam, halacha 11. Based on Shabbat 103b.
Here, it is not a real setuma, because of the small gap. In which case, perhaps it could be that it would not invalidate. But rather an issue of mitzvah min hamuvchar, as he speaks about in 9.(Rambam is actually talking about swapping petucha for setuma, but the same would presumably be true for omitting the gap, or putting a gap where it should not be.) Again, I don't know.

Can you contact the sofer and ask him about it? It seems to me likely that this was deliberate, and so he may well have a tradition for this. Indeed, I could argue that this comes directly out of the Midrash. That midrash, in Bereishit Rabba, stated "lama parasha zo setuma mikol haparshiyot shel Torah."

Now, the source (which Rashi cites) in Bereishit Rabba 91:1. And Bereishit Rabba is very early, and is from the Amoraim of Eretz Yisrael. In Eretz Yisrael, they did not have our laining, which is called sidra. Rather, they had something called parasha, which was about 1/3. Or alternatively, parasha all over means something delineated by petuchot and setumot. So it is likely that it is not talking about sidrat Vayechi, but rather just this segment, up to the petucha at the end of the perek.

But why call this a parasha? And the use of setuma here *seems* different than other uses, for here it means *entirely* closed.

I would suggest that the key may be the word "mikol" in the question "lama parasha zo setuma mikol haparshiyot shel Torah." It can mean "of." That is, "of all the parshiyot in the Torah, why is this one entirely closed?" In which case we have difficulties in terms of what makes this into a parsha (not a sidra, but a parsha, with implications of being bounded on both sides by a gap)?

But it can also mean "more than." That is, "Why is this parsha more closed than other parshiyot in the Torah."

In which case, this particular Torah scroll makes sense. It is a parsha, in that is delineated on both sides by gaps. But the setuma there is *more* setuma than any other setuma in the Torah.

If so, it would be a pity to obliterate this fascinating variant.

Anyhow, I don't know the halachic answer to the question.

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