More About Sirtut

Sirtut

Spacing & Alignment

The distance between lines of sirtut1 in all STAM items should be a little more than double the height of the letter “ב”. This is to give enough clearance for letters that extend above and below the line (ך ,ל, etc.).

Large בAlthough generally the tops of the letters are supposed to be touching (“hanging” from) the sirtut, the large letters2 are written a bit higher, so that the sirtut passes through the thickness of the roof of the letter.

Double Sirtut

Sirtut KafulWhile the regular sirtut is used to line up the tops of the letters, some sofrim – particularly beginners – have difficulty writing with a consistent letter-height, since there is no guide to delineate the bottoms of the letters. To help these sofrim, it is possible to get klaf that is scored with “double-sirtut”. The upper line of sirtut is scored normally, and the lower line of sirtut is a much finer line – made with just the tip of the awl. Some have raised halachic objections to the use of double-sirtut, claiming that the second set of lines creates a parsha between every line. This argument has been rejected by most poskim, but the use of double-sirtut is still discouraged, if only on an aesthetic level.

Faded Sirtut

Even if the sirtut exists at the time the STAM item is written, it is possible for it to fade over time. Many factors can affect the permanence of sirtut, including the physical properties of the klaf and environmental variables. If sirtut in a Sefer Torah or mezuza fades to the point that it is no longer visible, a competent Halachic authority should be consulted3.

Even if the overall sirtut is satisfactory, erasing text in a STAM item will often cause the sirtut to be “erased” as well. In that situation, even after the sirtut is re-scored, it may fade away in a relatively short period of time. It is recommended to wait a while after re-scoring the sirtut – to confirm it will remain clearly visible – before writing over the erased area.

Sirtut in Tefilin

Unlike Sifrei Torah and mezuzos (which need sirtut on every line of text), Tefilin parshi’os only need to have sirtut on the top line, the bottom line, and the side margins. Even so, the standard practice is to add sirtut for all the lines in tefilin as well. The additional sirtut is not intrinsically necessary, but it still fulfills a vital function of ensuring that all of the text is written straight and neat.

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  1. For a brief introduction to sirtut, see STAMbits: Sirtut. ↩

  2. With the notable exception of the large “ה” at the beginning of the eighth line of shiras ha’azinu, which hangs from the sirtut like the regular letters. ↩

  3. The amount of faded sirtut needed to invalidate a Sefer Torah or mezuza is subject to dispute and can only be decided by an expert in the laws of STAM. ↩