Chapter 7

Ketivah tamah, spacing between letters and words

1. It is written “And you shall write them” – ktavtam – from which we derive “flawless writing,” ktav tam. That is to say, each letter should be clearly recognisable, and related to this, no letter should be stuck to another even by the tiniest bit; even the taggin must be separated (see ch. 5 par. 4) and each letter must be surrounded by blank klaf in all directions. The aleph-lamed ligature is not a valid substitute for aleph-lamed. One must leave a hair’s-breadth between each letter, and they must not be too far from each other lest one word appear like two. One should leave the space of a small letter between each word (that is, a yud in the size of script one is using), and should not bring them too close together lest two words appear like one. If one causes one word to appear like two to a child, or two words as one, it is invalid. If one left a letter off the beginning or end of a word and superscribed it between the lines, it is valid even if he puts it between two words and it extends across the whole gap, since we can still see that they are intended as two words.

2. The klaf should be intact, with no holes, but if there is a hole so small that the ink fills it and closes it up, it is valid. If one holds the klaf up to the light after writing, and the hole is visible in the body of the letter and divides it into two, it is invalid, but if the hole is entirely within the body of the letter, with ink surrounding it on all sides, it is valid (thus it appears from a precise reading of the Magen Avraham) (and it seems to me that one should patch it from the back and fill the hole with ink). It seems to me that if the hole was not surrounded with ink but was not dividing the letter into two, like if it was at the edge of the letter, the letter is not surrounded by blank klaf, and one should be stringent even if the hole is only visible when held to the light.

3. If the leg of khaf peshuta (etc) touched the end of the klaf, whether the bottom of the sheet or a hole in the middle of the sheet, or if there was a hole at the side of a letter, whether inside or outside, it is invalid, because it was not surrounded by blank klaf at the time it was written (on how to fix this, see Excursus 4).

4. This invalidity owing to a break which was there at the beginning applies only when the break is visible. If there is a minute crack in one’s gevil [thick parchment], such that it is only seen under close scrutiny; is only on the writing side and doesn’t go right thorough; is stable; and is only visible if one pushes his finger up at that spot, it is valid (Magen Avraham ibid. note 21).

5. If one wrote the letter in a valid way, and afterwards a hole formed in the klaf and divided the letter, it is valid provided that what remains on one side of the division still has adequate dimensions to be the letter (even though it is no longer surrounded by blank klaf). If it doesn’t, it is invalid. If we aren’t sure, for instance if a vav got broken and we aren’t sure whether what’s left is long enough to be vav or whether it’s turned into yud, or if nun peshuta got broken and now we aren’t sure if it’s nun peshuta or zayin, etc., we bring a child (as explained in chapter 6), and if he reads it correctly it is valid, and if not, it is invalid.

6. If a hole formed in the left leg of hey, and what remained was as big as yud, it is valid, and if not, not. So too if a hole formed in the right leg of hey; if as much as a yud remains it retains its validity, but one must ascertain whether the left leg is actually opposite what remains of the right leg, since if it is not, it clearly does not have the form of hey (see the Peri Megadim, Eshel Avraham 32:33). If a hole formed in the width of a letter, it is valid provided a hair’s-breadth, like a thin vav, remains. The situation of a hole forming in the point of yud will be discussed in Excursus 4.

7. If a hole formed in the interior of beit, hey, etc., or between two letters, they are still valid even if the hole filled up the entire space, because they were surrounded by blank klaf when they were written. Some rule that this is invalid, and so one should scrape away a little, if at all possible, so that they will be surrounded by blank klaf again. [See Excursus 4.]

8. One must be careful not to let the head of lamed enter into the empty space of a letter in the line above, even if they don’t touch.

9. If one wrote מצות where he should have written מצת, and erased the vav and extended the tzaddi at the bottom, he should be stringent, because if the letter is not also extended at the top, it looks like two words. However, if he had made the bottom leg long initially, and written the next letter inside it, he may [erase the second letter], because it is definitely one word (Magen Avraham).

Jen Taylor Friedman's Torah site