More About Parshi’os: Part 2

Tefilin, mezuzos, and megilas Eicha

A previous post discussed several disagreements among the poskim regarding the shape and placement of parsha breaks. In most circumstances we are able to write STAM with parshi’os that are acceptable according to all opinions, but there are three STAM items that present unique issues.

Tefilin & Mezuzos

The last parsha in both tefilin and mezuzos – והיה אם שמֹע – is a parsha setuma. Normally, the beginning of a parsha setuma is written on the same line as the ending of the previous parsha. In tefilin and mezuzos we do not have that option because every parsha must start on a new line.1

The Beis Yosef decided that there is no way to satisfy all opinions in this case. Based on the common practice in his time, he follows the opinion of the Rambam:
The parsha of שמע ends at the end of a line, and the next line starts with a blank space that is wide enough to write the word “אשר” three times. The parsha of והיה אם שמֹע begins after the blank space.

The Taz proposed a novel solution which he determined would be a parsha setuma according to all opinions:
The previous parsha – שמע – does not finish at the end of the line, but the blank space is less than the width of nine narrow letters. The next line also starts with a blank space that is less than nine narrow letters, followed by the parsha of והיה אם שמֹע. According to the Taz, the small blank space at the end of the first parsha and the small blank space at the beginning of the second parsha combine to form a parsha break that would be acceptable according to both the Rambam and the Rosh.

This solution of the Taz – to create a parsha break by combining small blank spaces on consecutive lines – is endorsed by many later authorities. Accordingly, most Ashkenazi communities follow the opinion of the Taz for the last parsha in tefilin and mezuzos.2 Some poskim – primarily Sefardim – reject the premise of the Taz. Following the lead of the Beis Yosef, they advocate writing tefilin and mezuzos with parsha-breaks according to the Rambam.

Megilas Eicha

Megilas EichaAnother item which would be impractical to write with maximally-compliant parsha breaks is megilas Eicha.

According to the masora of Ben Asher, every verse in the first four chapters of Eicha is a parsha. The first verse of each chapter is a parsha pesucha, and the other verses are all parshi’os setumos.3

note: Whenever several parsha breaks occur in close proximity, the layout must be arranged carefully so that the text does not have the appearance of a shira.

When parsha breaks appear so frequently, it is practicaly impossible to arrange the text so that all of the parshi’os would be acceptable according to all opinions. In this situation, the consensus of contemporary poskim is to rely on the Beis Yosef and follow the opinion of the Rambam where necessary.

-= 8 =-

  1. Each parsha in a pair of tefilin must also start at the top of a new column, and the parshi’os of the shel rosh are all written on separate pieces of klaf. ↩

  2. Some chasidic groups follow unique interpretations of the relevant sources, and have their own preferred form of this parsha break. ↩

  3. The last chapter of Eicha follows the more common format used in Tanach, with each parsha containing several verses. ↩