Why Do Some Letters in the Torah Have ‘Crowns’? – Chabad.org

Posted By on October 16, 2020

Ifyou look closely at the letters of a seferTorah (Torah scroll), you will see that many of the letters are topped bysmall spikes, called tagin or ketarim, the Aramaic and Hebrew wordsfor crowns. At times, they are also called zayins, since they resemble the Hebrew letter zayin (), coming out of the top of the letter.

Thereare generally three categories of letters in terms of tagin.

Letterswithout tagin. This is the default.

The Talmud mentions the letters making up themnemonic (ShATNeZ GaTz)have 3 tagin, or crowns, coming outof the top left of the letter.

Additionally it is customary to make a single tag,or crown, on top of the letters making up the mnemonic (BeDek ChaYaH),as well as certain other specific letters and words that have tagin in specific places.

All three kinds of letters can be seen in this detail of a mezuzah, provided by Rabbi Yosef Y. Rabin, Craft Sofer.

Asfor why they are there, Moses himself had this very question. As the Talmudrelates:

Rav Yehuda says that Rav says: When Moses ascended onHigh, he found the Holy One, Blessed be He, sitting and attaching crowns to theletters of the Torah. Moses said before Gd: Master of the Universe, who ispreventing You [from giving the Torah without these additions?] Gd said tohim: There is a man who is destined to be born after several generations, andAkiva ben Yosef is his name; from each and every point of these crowns, he isdestined to derive heaps upon heaps of halachot.[It is for his sake that the crowns must be added to the letters of the Torah.]

Inother words, there are many laws and parts of the Oral Torah that are hinted atby way of these small crowns.

(Formore on this incident with Moses and Rabbi Akiva, as well as its implications,see Is It Really the Torah, Or Is It Just the Rabbis?)

Themystics explain that the acronymShATNeZ (comprising the letters shin, ayin, tet, nun, zayin)forms the words , Satan Az, the namesof two great, harmful forces. The acronym , GaTz, (comprising gimmel and tzadi) is alsothe name of an evil force. Therefore, taginare added to these seven letters, for they are like a sword and a spear againstthese harmful forces.

Sowhy is it that Rabbi Akiva merited to uncover many secrets of the crowns of theTorah? His revelations were both due to his lofty soulas well as the fact that his teachings were destined to be the basis for theparts of the Oral Torah that would be written down as the Mishnah and Talmud(see What is the Talmud? and Whats the Big Deal About the Death of Rabbi AkivasStudents? ).

Inaddition, the Kabbalists explain the reasons behind some tagin. Yet for the most part, their meaning remains hidden. Theheaps of laws that Rabbi Akiva derived from the tagin remain hidden as well. The mystics explain that for the timebeing, only the meaning of the actual letters and words of the Written Torahare revealed through the Oral Torah. However, the deeper meanings behind thecrowns (as well as vowels and cantillations) will only become revealed withthe coming of the Moshiach.

Thus, every time you see a crown on a letter,it not only hints at the secrets of the Torah, but our longing for a time whenthese secrets will finally be revealed.

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Why Do Some Letters in the Torah Have 'Crowns'? - Chabad.org

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