THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Har Nof
Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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1) THE WRITING ON THE TABLETS
OPINIONS: Rav Chisda tells us that the writing on the Luchos could be read
"from the inside and from the outside." What does this mean?
2) EXAMPLES OF WORDS IN REVERSE
(a) The engraved writing on the Luchos went straight through the stone,
from one side to the other. (RASHI DH v'Nikra)
(b) RASHI to Shemos 32:15 appears to explain differently. The letters not
only went all the way through the Luchos, but they miraculously were in the
proper, readable direction on both sides. (The Maharal in Gur Arye,
however, asserts that Rashi in Shemos means to present the same
interpretation that he presents in the Gemara.)
(c) According to the YERUSHALMI (in Shekalim), not only were the letters
reversed on the second side (so that they were in the proper, readable
direction), but the rest of the word was also miraculously reversed, so
that the entire text could be read from either side of the Luchos. (See
also Sifsei Chachamim to Rashi, Shemos 32:15)
QUESTION: In explaining how the letters could be read from both sides of
the Luchos, the Gemara gives three examples of words with their reversed
readings -- "Nevuv," "Behar" and "Saru." Why did the Gemara choose these
three words more than any other words -- these words were not even in the
Luchos! (TOSFOS (DH Nevuv)
(a) The Gemara may be proving its previous statement, that the letters were
carved into the Luchos such that they penetrated to the other side.
When the Jews sinned with the golden calf, Hashem said to Moshe, "Saru
Maher Min ha'Derech" -- "They have went wayward quickly away from the path
that I have commanded them..." (Shemos 32:8). Our Sages tell us that when
the Jews sinned with the golden calf, the letters on the Luchos "flew to
the heavens" and no trace of them remained on the Luchos. How did that
happen? The letters had not "backs" -- that is, there was no surface at the
back of the engraved letter, since it punctured straight through the
Luchos. When the Luchos fell apart, no part of the letters remained --
since they were comprised of hollows in the Luchos rather than actual
letters engraved *on* the Luchos.
This is alluded to by the words the Gemara chose. The word "Nevuv" appears
in Shemos 27:8 and means "hollow." When the Gemara uses this word as an
example of a word and its reverse, it is alluding to the Luchos that Moshe
Rabeinu was given at Har Sinai that were "hollowed out" (i.e., the writing
punctured the stone through and through). The hollowed out letters flew off
the Luchos (leaving an empty impression, or a "Buvan" -- the reverse of
"Nevuv" -- from the word "shadow") when the Jews sinned Behar, i.e. while
still at the mountain (as the Gemara points out in Shabbos 88b). (They
sinned because their arrogance, "Rahav" led them to sin). The letters then
left (Saru) the Luchos (and the Luchos fell apart into small pieces,
"v'Ras," from "Resisin," since every single letter that was carved into the
Luchos was broken into pieces).
(b) The BEIS HA'LEVI (Derashos, Derush 18) explains that in the first set
of Lechos, the entire Torah was written upon the Luchos miraculously. These
three words also appeared on the Luchos, since they appear in the Torah.
(See Torah from the Internet, Parsha Ki Tisa)
3) A "CHES" THAT TURNED INTO TWO "ZAYINS"
QUESTION: The Mishnah states that if one intended to write the letter Ches
and instead wrote two Zayins, he is Patur. The Gemara (top of 105a)
explains that he is Patur because he did not write the three Tagin on top
of each Zayin, and thus his Zayins are not complete letters. It seems from
the Gemara that if he *had* written the Tagin, he would be Chayav.
4) HOW TO WRITE A "CHES"
Why would he be Chayav? The Gemara earlier (73a) said that if one intended
to throw an object a distance of two Amos in Reshus ha'Rabim but instead
threw four Amos, he is Patur! Here, too, he should be Patur even *with* the
Tagin because he intended to do something that was not forbidden (write a
single Ches), which is equivalent to throwing a distance of two Amos!
ANSWER: TOSFOS (DH Niskaven) explains that the case of the Mishnah is when
one intended to write two letters, the first of which was meant to be a
Ches. Since he intended to write two letters, he is Chayav when he writes
the two Zayins properly.
OPINIONS: The Mishnah says that it is possible to intend to write a Ches
and to end up writing two Zayins instead. The Gemara explains that the
Zayins must have "Tagin," three small "crowns," in order to be Chayav for
writing it, since a Zayin is written with Tagin in the Sefer Torah.
How is a Ches written?
(a) In K'SAV BEIS YOSEF, a Ches is comprised of two Zayins with an upwards
pointed angle attaching them. Our Mishnah that discusses one who intended
to write a Ches but accidentally wrote two Zayins seems to be a proof for
(b) According to the ARIZAL, a Ches is comprised of one Zayin and one Vav,
with an upwards pointed angle attaching them. If one skips the angle, a Vav
and a Zayin should remain. Why should the Gemara call the Vav a Zayin, and
insist that one must add Tagin to it in order to be Chayav?
(c) In KESAV VELLISH, the Ches looks like a normal printed Ches that
appears in Sefarim. This seems to be the opinion of Rashi in Menachos 29b.
RASHI (DH Niskaven) in our Mishnah conforms to this as well, since he seems
to say that the person did not write *any part* of the roof of the Ches. If
so, why does the Mishnah say that one wrote two Zayins, and not two Vavs?
Perhaps in order to be Chayav, one who intends to write a Ches, which is a
letter of significance, must write two other letters of *significance*.
This excludes Vavs and Yuds, which are not considered significant because
they are only a scratch and a dot. For this reason the Mishnah says that
two legs of the Ches must have crowns on top, to make them Zayins, because
otherwise one has not written letters of significance. This understanding
will also explain why the Mishnah says two Zayins (and not two Vavs)
according to the Arizal (because one could be Chayav only with two Zayins,
but not with two Vavs).