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the formation of
the letters

Mordechai Pinchas Sofer

The Hebrew script used for sofrut is called K'tav Ashurit. There are basically three types: a) Beyt Yosef, b) Beyt Ari, c) Sefardi (veilish). Most importantly there are a great deal of rules governing the formation of the letters so that their temunah (symbol) is defined precisely and so that there is no confusion between the letters written. They should be clean and crisp and the test of validity is whether a young child who is neither especially clever - i.e. that he could work out the letter from the context or especially stupid i.e. that he doesn't recognise the letters at all. The most well established ruling is Mishnat Sofrim written by the Chafets Chayim as part of the Mishnah Berurah on Tefillin. However there are other descriptions of letters in the Alpha Beta of Rabbeinu Lipman, Kol Sofrim (Yoseph Klein), L'david Emet (showing the sefardi letters forms), Baruch She’amar, Da'at K’doshim, Mikdash Me'at, L’vush, Kol Haremez etc etc, all collected in an anthology called Tsurat Ha-otiyot (the forms of the letters).

Beyt Yoseph is the script generally used by Ashkenazi Jews, Ari is the script used by Jews of Chassidic descent or influence and Veilish is used generally by Sephardi Jews. Beyt Yoseph and Ari are similar differing only in a few letters (see picture opposite), whilst Veilish is much more rounded and quicker to write. Click on the group of letters to see them drawing themselves and a description of the finer points of each letter without which they would often be invalid (though not always).


If you would like to know a bit more about hebrew calligraphy in general, click here or on the graphic below.


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