[sword-devel] The Masoretic Text

Daniel Freedman sword-devel@crosswire.org
Tue, 11 Jun 2002 21:58:40 +0200

> Thank you Daniel for that very informative post. Just a few clarifications
> and additions...
> In 4 above and in places in the text you contend that there are vowels in
> hebrew. Vowel sounds yes, the nikkudim (current vowel points) were a late
> addition as you've stated. Strictly speaking the original hebrew alefbeis
> contains no actual vowels.

It contains vowel sounds, and originally, there were no nikkudim (vowel
pointers), because they were known.  They were there in the minds of the

This is how the original Torah was written and how
> the Torah scrolls used in synagogues across the world today are written
> read from.
> For an example of the Torah text see
> www.uahc.org/ny/tinw/ReligiousLiving/ReligiousObjects/TorahScroll.htm

Yes I know the Torah, it has no vowel POINTERS, the vowel sounds are read as
though there were vowel pointers..., there are no vowel pointers written in
a Torah Scroll, but they are known in order to read the text properly.

> Read everything from ancient pages of talmud to current Israeli news
> and they are all written without vowel pointing (nikkudim). The nikkudim
> written mostly for people who are not fluent in hebrew. Even intermediate
> students can begin to read/recognize words without them.

That is correct, because they have the knowledge of the vowels already.

> As for the accuracy of the Torah Scroll here are some basic rules that a
> sofer (torah scribe) must follow when copying the text.
> 1. The sofer may not write even one letter by memory. A second kosher
> must be open to him from which to copy at all times.
> 2. The sofer must pronounce every word out loud before writing it.
> 3. Every letter must be surrounded by sufficient white space so that no
> letters touch.
> 4. Each letter must be distinguishable/recognizable to the average
> schoolchild.
> 5. The sofer must not alter the design of sections, line lengths,
> orparagraph configurations.

These are points that I felt were not necessary to the discussion.  They are
true obviously, but I thought these points were too detailed to be posted on
this forum.

> There are many more rules. If any one rule is violated the entire scroll
> made non-kosher and must be fixed within 30 days or buried. An addition or
> subtraction of even one letter invalidates the text.

That is correct.

> These rules have been followed since the beginning. Consider the Yeminite
> Torah scrolls. The Yemenite Jews were not part of the checks and balance
> system for hundreds of years. Of the 304,805 letters comprising the Torah
> there are a total of 9 differences found between their texts and the rest
> the worlds Jews. These differences do not in fact change the meaning of
> text in any way.

This applies to the Torah.  I was referring to the entire Tanakh.  Secondly,
the Yeminites have had contact with the Masoretes, but their Torah scroll is
useful in comparing the copying process from the 12th Century to the
present, without a perceived influence of Europe etc...

Otherwise this is 100% correct.

> Jewish tradition also holds that the letters contained within the Torah
> sustain the universe and that the omission or addition of a single letter
> threatens the worlds existence.

There is more to it.

The Torah is the blueprint of the world, i.e. the World is based on the
Torah.  If but one letter is ommitted, the entire world is destroyed because
you have removed from the blueprint, and thereby destroyed it.

> I'm with you. I will place my bet's with the Torah scroll and it's
> For further reading on the accuracy of a Torah Scroll see
> http://www.aish.com/holidays/Shavuot/Accuracy_of_Torah_Text.asp
> Deuteronomy 7:9 (Jewish Publication Society TaNaKh)
> Know therefore that the L-RD thy G-D, He is G-D; the faithful G-D, who
> keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His
> to a thousand generations;

When you quote the JPS it must be qualified with a "1917" or "1986" to
indicate which edition you have quoted from.


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