Tikun Ben Asher: Part 3

Nevi’im & Megilos

Yeshaya 40:1-3

The previous posts established that the Keter Aram Tzova (also known as the Tikun Ben Asher) is an ancient and authoritative text, but it does not necessarily overrule accepted traditions used for centuries in various communities. These traditions only exist for a relatively small portion of Tanach – primarily Chumash and Megilas Ester. With regard to books of nevi’im and the other 4 megilos,1 there are no other accepted traditions for the majority of the text.2

This lack of an established tradition has no practical significance for many communities, since they read the haftaros from a printed book,3 which does not necessarily have the inherent holiness of a handwritten scroll.4 Accordingly, even if the text in a printed book is not written as specified by the masora, as long as the words are read correctly, the reading is valid.

However, some communities read the haftaros from nevi’im written on scrolls of klaf. These scrolls must be written in accordance with the laws of STAM – including the laws of maleh & chaser and parshi’os, which are dependent on access to an authoritative master text.

Until the dawn of the 20th century there was a great deal of variation in the text and layout of scrolls of nevi’im.5 In the beis midrash of the Vilna Ga’on, there were 7 full sets of nevi’im, and no two of them had the same parsha breaks. This lack of consistency was due to the fact that there was no standardized master text available to use as a template.6

Many of the early handwritten scrolls of nevi’im were written based on a Tanach printed in Amsterdam in the 17th century. This Tanach was not entirely accurate, but it was the best text that was widely available at the time. Eventually, a pseudo-standard tikun for nevi’im (and megilos) was developed. This tikun, called the “Tikun Berditchev”, did not follow the text or layout as specified by the Ba’alei Hamasora, but it gained a measure of acceptance due to the lack of access to a more authoritative source.

In the late-nineteenth century, Rabbi Shmuel Salant (the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem) decreed that all scrolls of nevi’im should be written according to the masora of the Keter. Following his lead, the vast majority of contemporary poskim agree that it is preferable to follow the Tikun Ben Asher when writing Sifrei Nach – at least for the bulk of the text where there is no specific tradition to the contrary.

note: There are a few instances in Nach where some claim that there is an “accepted tradition” to arrange small portions of the text in a way that does not follow the layout of the Keter.7 A competent halachic authority should be consulted to determine the best approach to writing these sections.

This post addressed the books of nevi’im and the 4 megilos which were not traditionally written on scrolls of klaf. Megilas Ester was always written as a scroll, and will be the subject of the next post.

With thanks to Yakov Schonberg for graciously sharing his expertise.

-= 8 =-

  1. Rus, Shir Hashirim, Koheles, and Eicha. All references to nevi’im in the rest of this post will include these 4 megilos as well. ↩

  2. As noted in the previous post, the differences among the various manuscripts and early print editions of Tanach are very minor – mostly spelling variations and placement of parshi’os. Even when working without an established tradition, the scribes and editors of these works managed to produce copies that stayed remarkably true to the authoritative sources. ↩

  3. Either a “Book of Haftaros” (which only contains the sections of the nevi’im that are read publicly), or – preferably – a complete Tanach. ↩

  4. There is an opinion that a printed book of Nach may have the inherent holiness of “kisvei kodesh”, and should preferably be printed following the text and layout dictated by the masora. ↩

  5. See footnote 2. ↩

  6. With the notable exception of the Minchas Shai, none of the available works concerning the masora even addressed Nach, and the author of the Minchas Shai himself admits that he did not devote the same time and effort to Nach as he did to Chumash. ↩

  7. If such a tradition exists, then it should be followed in spite of the fact that it does not match up with the Keter (similar to the ruling for a Sefer Torah). If, on the other hand, there is no accepted tradition in these areas, then the masora is broken and we have no choice but to follow the most accurate and authoritative source available – which would be the Keter. ↩