[Avodah] Final letters in Hebrew and ksav ivri vs ksav ashuri

Marty Bluke marty.bluke at gmail.com
Sun Jan 20 07:00:18 PST 2013

Recently the Daf Yomi (Shabbos 104a) learned about the letters that have
final letters (mem, nun, tzadik, peh, chof). The Gemara states that the
tzofim (Rashi - Neviim) came up with the extra letters. The Gemara then
asks how could they do that, a Navi is not allowed to add anything
to the Torah? The Gemara answers that they were forgotten and the Neviim
came and restored them, forgotten, meaning that they did not know which
were the final letters and which were the non-final letters. The Rishonim
in Megilla 3a (where the same statement appears) bring in the Sugya
in Sanhedrin 21b where the Gemara has a dispute about whether the ksav was
changed by Ezra (they ask how come that is not an addition by a Navi, see
Rashba, Tosafos and others for answers). R' Yosi holds that until Ezra
everything was written in ksav ivri and Ezra came and switched to ksav
ashuris and R' Elazar Hamodai states that the ksav never changed it was
always ashuris.

The Rishonim (and Acharonim) are very bothered by R' Yosi's opinion, many
ask how could it be that Ezra changed the ksav from what Hashem used
for the luchos? Others ask what about the Gemara in Menachos 29b which
describes Hashem adding Tagim to the letters, however, these don't exist in
ksav ivri. In fact, a whole group of Rishonim and Acharonim claim that it
must be that at least the luchos were given in ksav ashuris, however, there
is an explicit Yerushalmi that contradicts this.

There are a number of very fundamental questions that need to be asked
about this.
1. How could they forget which form was the final letter and which wasn't?
Why didn't they simply look at the existing sifrei torah, tefillin, and
mezuzos?Moshe Rabenu wrote 13 sifrei torah before he died 1 for each shevet
and 1 for the azara, why wouldn't they use these as a reference? (See the
Pnei Yehoshua Megilla 3a)
2. Were all the sifrei torah, tefillin, mezozos) at that time
(before the Neviim reminded them what was what) pesulim (they may have
used the wrong from of these letters)?
3. How could there be a dispute about whether Ezra changed the ksav?
Changing the ksav is not a minor event, it is very major. All sifrei torah,
tefillin,mezuzos had to be rewritten. How was there not a clear mesora of
what happened? The tannaim lived only a few hundred years after Ezra,
didn't they have any seforim from that time or earlier? This is a major
dispute about how all of the sifrei torah, tefillin, mezuzos were written
from matan torah until Ezra. Did no one remember?
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