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Chet - The Torah has been Divinely Preserved

The Eighth Principle -

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The Torah has been Divinely Preserved

The eighth principle of Jewish faith is the belief that the Torah given to Moses on Mount Sinai is essentially the same Torah that has been passed down through the Jewish scribal arts.

Ani ma’amim be’emunah sh’leimah, shekol
ha-Torah ha-metzuyah ‘attah v’yadeinu
hi ha-netunah l’Moshe rabbeinu ‘alav ha-shalom.

“I believe with complete faith that the entire Torah now in our hands is the same one that was given to Moses our teacher, peace be upon him.”

Maimonides states, “We do not know exactly how the Torah was transmitted to Moses. But when it was transmitted, Moses merely wrote it down like a secretary taking dictation....”

Maimonides’ dictation theory of inspiration of the written Torah (Torah shebikhtav) is debtable by many Jews, despite his warning that those who question it are infidels. Actually, most Jews today, including many Orthodox Jews, are amenable to “higher criticism” of the Scriptures, indicating that, for example, the Masorah is valid and that the Masoretes compared all extant textual variations when attempting to create a definitive text (i.e., the Masoretic text).

Maimonides also believes that (to a lesser degree) this principle applies to the Oral Torah (Torah sheba’l peh), though again most Jews today would reject the idea that the Oral Torah is infallible.

In general, this principle is adhered to in good faith when the core of the written Torah (and all of its essential truths) is said to come from the hand of Moses, while allowing that the scrolls themselves may have seen some redaction over the centuries.

Did you know?

A Hebrew scribe (called a Sofer) is trained to faithfully reproduce the exact lettering of the Torah text, even including textual oddities such as enlarged letters, small letters, inverted and even broken letters. The rules for writing a Torah are very complex, and to become a certified Sofer requires much study. And, depending on the size of the Torah, it can take about a year to write a Torah scroll!

Today, the written Torah of Moses is called the Sefer Torah, or Torah Scroll, and is the most sacred object of Jewish life. The Sefer Torah is meticulously hand-written in Hebrew calligraphy with tagin (“crowns”) on kosher parchment.

Certified soferim are sometimes called “STaM,” an acronym for three of the sacred Jewish scribal items -- Sifrei Torah (Torah scrolls), Tefillin (phylacteries) and Mezuzot -- parchments on which portions of the Shema are written, and which Jews are commanded to place on their doorposts.

There are 304,805 letters in a Torah scroll, and if even one letter is extra or missing it renders the entire scroll invalid (passul). Each letter written in a scroll is given precise specification according to Halakhic (legal) rules. The word Sofer (scribe) is related to the word for counting, and a qualified Sofer constantly counts lines, letters on each line, and even spaces between letters. Each letter is precious and is a work of art. The Sofer must also have the proper kavannah (intention) and awe for the holiness of the task of writing sacred texts. The scribe considers himself to be actually reciting the words as given by God to Moses long ago.


Paleo-Hebrew

The Hebrew of ancient times used a different written script than that used in modern Torah scrolls. This script is sometimes called paleo-Hebrew and greatly resembles ancient Aramaic. For example, the sacred Name of God has been found in a Dead Sea Scroll fragment (1 QpHab 10.9-15) looking like this:



It is commonly believed that Ezra the Scribe transliterated this original Hebrew into the Aramaic square script sometime around 450 B.C. Today this script is sometimes referred to as Ketav Ashuri, and the sacred Name of God appears as:

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