Chapter 10

Kedushat ha-Shem and writing it

1. Even if one said, when he started writing, that he was writing for the holiness of a sefer Torah or tefillin or mezuzot (as per para. 4), every time he comes to write one of the great and holy Names which may not be erased (as is explained in the following chapter, in paragraph 5) he must sanctify it before writing it. Even if he was only going to write a small part of the Name, for instance if a letter or part of a letter had become damaged – even the point on the yud, the one without which it is not kosher – if it had become damaged and he went to fix it, he must sanctify it before writing.

2. Therefore, if a letter is missing from the Name, and nearby is a letter or letters which could be made into the missing letter, even if these letters were ancillary (they are not of themselves holy): for instance, if one needed to write ELOHIM and erred, thinking he had to write ELOHEINU, when he realises the mistake and wants to make a mem setuma from the NU, it is forbidden so to do, since the NU was not itself sanctified (see below, 11:16).

3. How does one sanctify? He says before writing it ‘See, I am here writing for the sake of the holiness of the Name.’ Some say that the thought is sufficient, if he thinks in his mind that he is writing for the holiness of the Name, and there are those who will permit this post facto.

4. But if the sake of the holiness of the Name was not even in his thoughts, it is invalid, and since it is invalid, nothing he writes over it subsequently to sanctify it makes any difference. And even if he forgot to sanctify one Name, and does not know which one it is, the entire sefer is pasul.

5. If one set out to write two or three Names, he must sanctify each Name individually, because each one is a complete Name and requires a separate focus. Post facto, one sanctification is sufficient for all of them, provided there is no hesitation between them.

6. Just as he is obliged to sanctify the great and glorious Name, so too he is forbidden to sanctify a name which is not sacred, as in the phrase ‘Thou shalt have no other ELOHIM’ [Ex 20:2, Deut 5:6], and even a name which does not refer to idolatry, but to something else, as in ‘Their dispute shall come before the ELOHIM,’ meaning before the judges [Ex 22:8]. So too for “l’el yadi” [Gen 31:29] and the like; it is forbidden to sanctify it as the Name. It is ordinary and it is not permitted to sanctify it – one might say it is like sacrificing damaged animals on the altar (see BR”I 276, and if he erred and sanctified it – see 11:17).

7. There are many names in the Torah for which, on a straight reading, it is difficult to tell whether they are holy or ordinary, and one must use the interpretation of our rabbis of blessed memory used. There are some which even our rabbis could not determine, and these are left in doubt (as is explained … in the second part, in their places), and it is necessary to sanctify them conditionally; he says ‘See, I am here writing for the sake of the holiness of the Name, if it is holy’ (Minḥat Shai at the end of chapter “Vayetzei b-shem” in the name of Rabbi M. the sofer).

8. If one wrote the Name, and knew that it was a Name of the Holy One, blessed be He, but forgot to sanctify it when he started and remembered before it was completed, it seems to me that he can sanctify it before he finishes and this is quite all right. But if he started to write and had no idea that it was a holy Name, he cannot sanctify it (see Excursus 9).

9. If one was writing and saw that he was approaching a Name, and his pen was running out of ink – the manner in which he should dip his pen and write the Name. He should not write all the way up to the Name, but should leave off at least one letter before the Name, dip his pen, write that letter and after that the Name. He should not write the Name directly after dipping his pen, for fear that there will be too much ink, or a hair, and the writing will not be even. Also because it is necessary to sanctify the ink which is on the quill before writing the Name. If he didn’t leave even one letter before the Name before dipping his pen, he should look for another letter or a tag which needs ink, and fill it, and after that write the Name – but first to write an ordinary letter in another place is forbidden, since this ink was prepared for the Name, and one shouldn’t ab initio write an ordinary letter with it.

10. If his pen ran low on ink while he was in the middle of writing the Name, he should dip the pen in letters before the Name which are still wet, and complete it.

11. Before one writes the great and glorious Name he should focus his thoughts. If he needed to spit or blow his nose he should do it beforehand, and wash his hands (Sefer Ḥasidim:1085), then sanctify the Name and write it with absolute concentration, without pausing. Even if the king of Israel greeted him, he should not reply, but if he paused and answered without losing his concentration, it is valid.

12. If one was writing two or three Names, he may pause between them to return a greeting (Nimukei Yosef), and when he returns to his writing, he must sanctify again the Name he wishes to write. But he should not spit, even between two Names (Sefer Ḥasidim ibid).

13. The letters of the Name must be written in the correct order, even in a sefer Torah. But if it happened, for example, that the first letter was damaged and it was necessary to write another letter in its place, it seems to me that this may be permitted in a sefer Torah (see Excursus 10).

14. If one forgot to write an entire Name he may insert it between the lines. But if part of the Name is on the line and part above, it is invalid. Suffixes to the Name are post facto valid if found to be above the line (Ba”h, Sha”kh).

15. One may write the Name on the site of an erasure (that is, it was erased while the ink was still wet, or if it had been written and erased with water, and the like), and on a scraped place (that is, it was scraped once the ink was dry); scraping is preferable to erasing (whether one may write the Name on a patch: see 11:13).

16. The letters of the Name and its suffixes: ideally they should all be on the page, and not protruding from the page at all, but post facto it is valid.

17. There are some who say that it is nicer to avoid writing the Name at the end of a column (Beit Yosef in the name of the Rambam), and if he can do this, he should, but not if he would have to extend or contract the letters to do it: it is better that the Name should be at the end of a column than that its letters should be cramped or overextended (Beit Aaron).

18. There are some zealous scribes who do not write the Name unless in a state of purity, and this is good. Sometimes, on account of this, they write a complete sheet and leave blank spaces for the Names, to write them in after they have been to the mikveh, and this is also good. But we are cautious if doing this for the entire sefer Torah, because the writing will have aged a little, and the Names will be newer, and it will look speckled, so we do not do this (see Melekhet Shamayim, 9:32).

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