In which you will find that
one who investigates the history of the Torah
who researches and examines its bases and foundations
will find revealed to his eyes
changes in content and script,
and how in each generation the tradition has changed
In this pamphlet are citations of Torah verses and the words of Chazal
The month of I Adar, 5760
“Is it possible Torah scroll is missing even one letter? But here it is written ‘Take this Torah scroll.’ So, until here G-d spoke and Moshe wrote, from here G-d spoke and Moshe wrote in tears” Baba Batra 15a. The Rambam ruled (Laws of a Torah Scroll, chapter 10) that if a single letter is missing or a single letter is added, the Torah scroll is invalid and it does not have the sanctity of a Torah scroll.
It is known that there are those who see as one of the great and marvelous principles of faith that the Torah we now possess is exactly that which was given to Moshe at Sinai. These people believe that the text which we read from today, down to its very letters, words, verses, and chapters, is that which was given to our forefathers 3300 years ago. They further believe that this is a sign and a proof of the holiness of the text and its Divine origin. They believe that generation after generation has passed the words of the Torah down with absolute fidelity, and that there has been no change, not even of a single letter, that the Torah, in its eternal text, is with us today, as brought in the above Gemara.
Now, after we have, at a fortuitous hour, published eight pamphlets on the words of the Oral Torah, we the speakers of true knowledge have come in this pamphlet, with the greatest respect and without prejudice, to enter the depth of the holy, the issues of the Written Torah.
To check the issue of the Torah text we now possess, to see if any changes have been made in the course of generations or not, we will investigate all the details. We will check the script and the language, the forms and positions of the letters, and of course the text itself, the number of verses, words, and letters.
First, we will speak of the script. We will clarify here in which script the Torah was written when it was given, from Tractate Sanhedrin 21b, “Mar Zutra, and some say Mar Ukba, said that at first the Torah was given to Israel in the [ancient] Hebrew script and the Holy Tongue, it was given to them again in the days of Ezra in the Assyrian script and Aramaic language, the people of Israel chose for themselves the Assyrian script and Holy Tongue.” In the Yerushalmi, Megillah chapter one, halacha nine, “Rabbi Levi said, ‘Those who say that the Torah was given in the ancient script, suppose the letter ayin was a miracle.” The closed letter engraved on the Tablets of Law, which stood by the force of miracle alone, was the letter ayin written in the ancient Hebrew script. Its form is: O.
And thus Rabbi Yosef Albo wrote in “Sefer HaIkarim,” article three, chapter 15, “And when they emigrated from Babylon they saw fit to make a commemoration of the second redemption and did so in two ways. One–they left aside the Hebrew script and chose the Assyrian script.” He even brought a proof from the Ramban who had been in Acre and found a coin engraved with the ancient Hebrew script. Though the Gemara, in Sanhedrin, brings Rabbi’s opinion that the Torah was given to Israel in the Assyrian script “And why is it called Assyrian (ashurit)? For it is authorized (meusheret) in writing,” this opinion does not hold up to critical review. Anyone with any sense understands that Ezra, who immigrated to Israel by virtue of to Cyrus, brought the Assyrian script used in those days with him. (The Assyrian script is really the Aramaic script which had been adopted by the Assyrians and Babylonians, and King Cyrus made it the official script of his kingdom. At the time of the giving of the Torah this script didn’t even exist; it was invented only hundreds of years later.) Chazal, as is their way, change words and turned Assyrian into authorized, just as they turned Cyrus (Koresh) into Darius, “who was a righteous (kosher) king” (See Rosh HaShana 3b), though Cyrus and Darius were two different kings, each mighty in his own era. There is no connection between the distortion of words and factual reality. One who wishes to learn more should read books about the history of writing in the ancient Near East.
You who seeks truth, see that even after we received the Assyrian script in the days of Ezra, changes in the letter form occurred. A gemara in Tractate Shabbat 104a says, “The doubled letters [those with terminal forms] were said by visionaries.” They did not innovate the actual letters, but they did not know whether the open letter belonged in the middle of the word or at its end and whether the closed letter belonged at the end or the middle. This is proof that the ends of words were forgotten. A good example of this is in Isaiah 9:6, “l’marbeh hamisrah” [the mem of marbeh, despite being in the middle of a word, is writen in the terminal form], see there.
But it is not only the word endings, but also the letter forms that have undergone changes, as brought in Tractate Menachot 29b, “Rav Ashi said, ‘I saw by the precise scholars of Rav’s house of study that they would straighten out the roof of the chet and hang from it the leg of the hey.” This means that generally they connected the leg of the hey to the roof. Today, if a scribe would write the letter this way it would invalidate the scroll (Shulchan Aruch Orech Chaim 32:25).
Similarly, in the Yerushalmi, Tractate Megillah, chapter one, halacha nine, “In the Torah of the Rishonim neither the hey nor the mem were closed….The men of Jerusalem would write Yerushalem as Yerushalaymahand they were not precise–[they’d write] also tzafon as tzafonah, tayman astaymanah.”
We have seen that the language of the Torah and its script and the form of its letters and the ways it was written have changed and been replaced over the generations. Proofs of this are not only from scientific research but from the Gemara and the words of Chazal and the Rishonim.
To conclude this issue we will bring the words of the Ridbaz, section three, paragraph 442, “It is a question, for in Sanhedrin it says that the Torah was first given to Israel in the Hebrew script and the Holy Tongue, and was given again in the days of Ezra in the Assyrian script and the Aramaic language…It was difficult for those Tanaim and Amoraim that the script in which the Torah was given was reduced to being used on letters and coins and all sorts of things with absolutely no holiness and left for the common people… while the script which was innovated by an angel and in which Ezra wrote the Torah has so much holiness. There is another difficulty in this matter — for great secrets are given from one person to the next about the drawing of letters and the writing of the names, and great mountains are dependent thereon. Many books have been written over the years, all speak of the drawing of Assyrian letters and not Hebrew…The ’Zohar’ by the Rashbi, ’Sefer Elkana’ and many others…But this may be the way things were, that the Ten Commandments were written on the stone [the Ridbaz forgot what was written in the Yerushalmi Megillah chapter one, halacha nine] in Assyrian script…and this script none knew but the Heavenly host…and as soon as the Tablets were given they were hidden in the Ark and they were not taken out. And they were filed away in the days of Jeremiah the prophet, so that no man saw them…because the script was so holy Moshe was not allowed to write in the Assyrian script, so he gave it to them in the Hebrew [Ivri] script which had been used by Shem and Ever.”
We have already seen that this is the way of rabbis when they trip upon a difficult question; they make something up and say that it is from Sinai and transmitted by the privileged few, while the rest of the people did not know it. We have already written about this habit of theirs on the issue of the invention of Rav Ada’s tekufa (pamphlet 6), and you, the student, notice well that the tradition of everything passing through the whole nation, father to son, is certainly not to be found here.
Now that we have clarified, with solid facts, that the script was completely changed and the body of the letters has become different over the course of generations, we will bring a wonderful proof that even verses, words, and letters have disappeared from the Torah text Ezra brought with him. In Tractate Kedushin 30a it is written, “And therefore they are called soferim[scribes or ones who count], for they would count all the letter in the Torah, they would say that the vav of Gahon [Leviticus 11:42] is the middle letter of the Torah scroll…Rabbi Yosef asked if the vav of gahon were on this side or that of the center? They said to him, ‘Let us bring a Torah scroll and count’…He answered, ‘They [the earlier generations] were expert in the matter of plene and defective spelling; we are not expert.'” First, this is explicit proof from the words of the Amoraim that we are not expert in the vowelizing letters (aleph, hey, vav,yud), and any word in the Torah which includes or could include these letters might already be distorted in its writing.
And see this great and awesome thing. We have checked the middle letter of the Torah scroll of today and find it to be the aleph of Hu LaHashem(Leviticus 8:28). There is a gap of three chapters, some 94 verses and thousands of letters, between the Torah scroll of the Talmudic period and the Torah scroll of our day!
Go and think what serious thing, perhaps even commandments, have disappeared in those three missing chapters.
The Gemara continues, “They said: ‘there are 5888 verses in the Torah scroll’.” Today we have only 5845 verses! The Michat Shai had wondered about this in his book (on Leviticus 8:8) “‘Vayasem alav et hachoshen‘ (Leviticus 8:8) is the middle verse of the Torah. This is what is written in our books and I have difficulties with it, for in Kidushin it says that ‘Vahitgalach‘ (Leviticus 13:33) is the middle verse, and furthermore it is said that there are 8888 verses [our version reads 5888] in the Torah scroll and we are missing hundreds of verses to make up this count, for according to the count of all verses in the Pentateuch there are 5845 verses. We can say that we are not expert in the verses, but this does not ease my mind, for the difference is great. And Elijah will answer this at the end of days.”
Look and see how strong is this question and how great the problem, so much so that only the prophet Elijah can solve it. And truly, anyone who insists on believing, in face of the facts and the explicit words of the Gemara, that the words of the Torah have not changed during the course of the generations does need the mercies of the prophet Elijah.
But we will clarify how in the contemporary text there are no great differences, if any, between the books which came from Europe, North Africa, and Yemen. The answer is quite simple. The Holy One, blessed be He, wanted to give the world benefit and gave wisdom to the gentiles, and they invented printing. In the year 1524 the printing house of Daniel Bomberg put out the “Mikraot Gedolot” edition of the Torah. But who was the proofreader who determined which text would be used by all the Jewish Diaspora? This proofreader was Yaakov Ben Chaim of Tunis, who later converted to Christianity! (See the Encyclopedia Hebraica, entry Yaakov Ben Chaim.) The text of this apostate went out throughout the world and based on it other editions were edited, distributed throughout the Diaspora.
Go and see what was written in Tractate Soferim, chapter six, halacha 4 (and similar things are brought in the Yerushalmi, Tractate Taanit, chapter four, halacha two) “Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said: Three scrolls of the Torah were found in the Temple court: The Maon scroll, the Zaatutey scroll, and the Hoo scroll. In one of these they found it written ‘maon,’ and in the other two it was written, ‘Meonah E-lohei kedem‘ (Deuteronomy 33:27), so they adopted the reading of the two scrolls and discarded that of the one scroll. In another of the scrolls they found it written ‘Vayishlach zaatutey bney Yisrael,’ and in the other two they found written ‘Vayishlach naarey bney Yisrael,’ (Exodus 24:5) so they retained the reading of the two and abandoned that of the one. In one of the scrolls ‘Achad asar hoo’ was written, but in the other two it was written ‘Achad asar hee’, so they adopted the reading of the two and discarded that of the one.” Three versions were melded this way into a single version.
Understand: Reish Lakish was of the second generation of Amoraim and in his days the Temple had already stood in ruins more than two hundred years. He never saw the Temple court and never read the books found there. But from his words you can learn that it was the way of the sages and they had received a tradition of fixing distortions in the Torah text. They did not correct it based on a written tradition handed down from generation to generation, but according to the majority, two books against one. Perhaps it was the two books that were in error?
To see is the depth of the distortion, see what we have brought from Tractate Soferim above. Know that neither the words “achad asar hoo” nor “achad asar hee” are found in the Scripture at all! Therefore the Pnei Moshe and the Korban HaEda explained that the word hee is found eleven times in the Torah, and they noted it is so in the Mesorah. And you who seeks truth, if you check in the Scripture (the Koren edition, accepted by all the great rabbis) you will see that there are only four instances of hee and another seven of v’hee. This is according to the Minchat Shai (Genesis 14:2) who determined (on thehee and v’hee issue) against the tradition of his times, saying: “I will present to you the tradition as written by the Ramah OBM, which is clearer than our tradition.” He rejected the tradition of his days in favor of the Mesorah of the Ramah.
When we checked the Tanach distributed to Israeli soldiers (Adi Publications, Ltd., proofread by Aaron Dotan and based on the Leningrad manuscript, upon which the Bar Ilan Responsa Database Project relied) we found eight instances of of hee and another nine of v’hee, for a total of seventeen. There are six differences between the Koren edition and the Bar Ilan version, each proofread by the best proofreaders of our generation! If, in the era of computers and scanners, there are errors in the best proofed Torah texts, what can we say of the Torah scrolls written in times of trouble and exile?
More than that: there are errors in whole words. The Gemara in Shabbat 49a says: “The principal categories of labor are forty less one–to what do they correspond? … ‘Thus did Rabbi Simeon the son of Rabbi Jose the son of Lakonia say: They correspond to the words ‘work’ (melacha), ‘his work’ (melachto), and ‘the work of’ (melechet), which are written forty less one times in the Torah. We stand shaken; we checked the Torah scrolls of our times and these are the results: “melacha”–24 times, “melechet”–19 times, and “melachto”–4 times. This totals 47 times! How and when were eight whole words added? This is what we say and say again: many serious distortions befell the text of the Written Torah over the course of generations.
The distortions are so many that even about halachot determined by plene spelling there are distortions, as brought in Menachot 34b. They bring the word totafot (with the letter vav between the letters pay and taf) and from there determine the halacha that there are four separate portions in the head phylacteries. This isn’t found in our version of the Mesorah; see the Tosfot there. Similarly, in Sanhedrin 4a, they mention karnot with a vav, and that is not in our version of the Mesorah. To illustrate the distortion in the matter of plene and defective spelling, see the Mahzor Vitri, section 518, written by a disciple of Rashi, in which a portion of the traditions found in the midrashim is recounted, and there is a difference of 19 letters.
The author of the Minchat Shai, one of the Mesorah masters, thus wrote in his introduction: “And because the days of our exile have grown long, our knees have failed and our hands have grown weak…for the Torah has not been made as two different texts, but as differing texts without number…Pentateuch, Prophets, and Writings, there is nothing which has not become confused, full of mistakes in plene and defective spelling, cantillation and vowels, ways of reading and writing…and when I, the young, saw this impure occurrence which happened to all the books and the traditions, particularly about plene and defective spelling…I vowed in my heart to stand in the breach…and to see the important and excellent Torah scrolls which can be relied upon and to follow their majority…as the sages did on the three books found in the Temple court…I also fixed a few distorted traditions, some through consideration and some from other traditions found in manuscripts.” His clarity of language and the logic of his words testify like a thousand witnesses that he changed the text of the Torah, relying on the majority and sometimes only on his own consideration. And what about the text of the Torah as given at Sinai?
Thus the Meiri testified in the introduction to his book “Kiryat Sefer,” “And the settling of disputes between the books is, indeed, what we began to clarify, that at the time of the first exiles books were lost and the sages and experts were budged from one place to another; and when the age of the Great Assembly Sages came, whose hearts were inspired by G-d to restore the Torah to its glory, they found contoversies between the different books, and they followed the majority…and when there was no clear majority to follow they did as they saw fit to do, based on their knowledge, and when they could make no decision they wrote it one way and read it another (kri u’ktiv)…and after them the debate was renewed amongst those who were exacting, as in the disagreement about Ben Asher and Ben Naftali…from this I say that any plene or defective spelling which is not absolutely clear…one should not use to invalidate a Torah scroll.”
And thus he wrote at the end of the second article: “And if there is a disagreement, even between books, we follow the majority.”
Due to the distortion in copying from book to book, the Rama determined, in the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim section 143, halacha four, “We do not remove another [Torah scroll] because of plene and defective spelling, for our Torah scrolls are not so precise that we can say the other will be more valid.” That is, all the texts are suspect of distortions and one scroll has no advantage over any other.
One who wants to expand his knowledge on this important topic should read the wonderful article written by Prof. Menachem Cohen, “The Idea of Sanctity of the Biblical Text and the Science of Textual Criticism” (from “HaMikrah V’Anachnu,” edited by Uriel Simon, Dvir Publishing, Tel Aviv 1987). Wonderful and wise are the conclusions of his study, and he says, “It therefore appears to me that the notion of a sanctified text in our era must be based on an halachic interpretation alone, i.e., it must derive its power not from a determination that people managed to preserve the text exactly as it was throughout the entire transmission, but from the faith that man was given authority to determine, using halachic methods of decision, the image of the sanctified consonantal text. The model which was decided upon would then be obligatory from a halachic standpoint, even if it is found not to be historically ‘correct’ in every detail.” He means to say that the sanctity of the text is only a human convention (“not from a determination…but from the faith”), for it is clear to anyone who seeks the truth that the Torah text has indeed greatly changed in the course of the centuries. Read his article attentively.
We have seen that the language of the Torah has changed and the script in which it is written has been replaced, and the distortion of words is plentiful (especially in the matter of plene and defective spelling), some parts have disappeared and its text was determined according to the majority and according to deduction. It was not handed down from generation to generation and there is not a shadow of a doubt that the text we hold today is not identical of the Revelation at Sinai.
Now we will see and prove that these different and distorted texts were not handed down from generation to generation throughout the centuries at all.
“Then the high priest Hilkiah said to the scribe Shaphan, ‘I have found a scroll of the Torah in the House of the Lord.’…When the king heard the words of the scroll of the Torah, he rent his clothes….The king commanded all the people, ‘Offer the Passover sacrifice to the Lord your G-d as prescribed in this scroll of the covenant.’ Now the Passover sacrifice had not been offered in that manner since the days of the Judges” (II Kings chapters 22-23).
The great lights of Israel have already testified about what happened. The Radak says (on II Kings 22:8), “Menashe was king for a long time, for he reigned 55 years, and he did evil in the eyes of G-d, following the disgusting ways of the gentiles. He built altars to idolatry in the house of the Lord and he made the Torah be forgotten by the Jews. None turned to it, for all turned to other gods and the laws of the gentiles, and in 55 years the Torah was forgotten.”
Thus wrote the Ramban (Numbers 15:22) in his explanation of how it is possible that the whole nation sinned, “And en masse, that is, they will think that the time of the Torah had already expired and it would not be eternal…or they would forget the Torah. In our sinfulness, this has already happened in the days of the evil kings of Israel, such as Jeroboam, that most of the nation completely forgot Torah and the commandments, and the instance in the book of Ezra about the people of the Second Temple.” He actually refers to what is written in Nehemiah 8:14, “And they found written in the Torah that the Lord had commanded Moses that the Israelites must dwell in booths during the festival of the seventh month… and they dwelt in the booths — for the Israelites had not done so from the days of Joshua Bin Nun, to this day.”
Even the Cuzari asked (article 3, section 54) “I only know that the people of the Second Temple period had already forgot the Torah, and they did not know the commandment of booths and the commandment of ‘Let Ammonites and Moabites not come into G-d’s community.'”
And though the Sage answered him, “When it says, ‘They found it written,’ it actually means that the common people and the mass heard [these words] and hurried making the booths, but the select few had forgotten neither small nor great commandments.” Look again at what we have written above and in other places, that when those who make excuses are confronted by a difficult question and they must make excuses about something none had earlier known, they hang their excuse on some “secret of the few” through the generations. These are the traditional few who alone knew, as it were, what the majority of the Jews had forgotten. But alas, there is neither hint nor note about these “select few” anywhere. Maybe they never existed, and that whole time the nation had no Torah and no commandments.
So you have testimony from the Scripture and from three of the great lights of Judaism that the Torah had been forgotten by most, if not all, the whole nation, for many years and generations. Therefore, the whole tradition passed from father to son was forgotten, even about well-known matters such as Passover and the succah. Keep this close to your heart: By the days of Ezra the Torah was again forgotten, after having been forgotten in the days of Menashe. Look and consider what happened during the period of Ezra when both things occurred simultaneously: the Torah and its laws were forgotten by the vast majority of the people and just then Ezra went and changed the script in which the Torah was written (and perhaps its language) and rewrote it. And he who is wise will fear and fall silent.
For after we have already proven that the Torah was twice forgotten and it was rewritten in a different script (and according to the Gemara in another language, as well), who can prove and show that the Torah which was renewed is that which was forgotten? What was forgotten had disappeared, and we will never know what it really was.