had the leg of the letter heh in the term: “The nation [ha’am]” (Exodus 13:3), written in his phylacteries, severed by a perforation. He came before his son-in-law Rabbi Abba to clarify the halakha. Rabbi Abba said to him: If there remains in the leg that is attached to the roof of the letter the equivalent of the measure of a small letter, i.e., the letter yod, it is fit. But if not, it is unfit.
The Gemara relates: Rami bar Tamrei, who was the father-in-law of Rami bar Dikkulei, had the leg of the letter vav in the term: “And the Lord slew [vayaharog] all the firstborn” (Exodus 13:15), written in his phylacteries, severed by a perforation. He came before Rabbi Zeira to clarify the halakha. Rabbi Zeira said to him: Go bring a child who is neither wise nor stupid, but of average intelligence; if he reads the term as “And the Lord slew [vayaharog]” then it is fit, as despite the perforation the letter is still seen as a vav. But if not, then it is as though the term were: Will be slain [yehareg], written without the letter vav, and it is unfit.
§ Rav Yehuda says that Rav says: When Moses ascended on High, he found the Holy One, Blessed be He, sitting and tying crowns on the letters of the Torah. Moses said before God: Master of the Universe, who is preventing You from giving the Torah without these additions? God said to him: There is a man who is destined to be born after several generations, and Akiva ben Yosef is his name; he is destined to derive from each and every thorn of these crowns mounds upon mounds of halakhot. It is for his sake that the crowns must be added to the letters of the Torah.
Moses said before God: Master of the Universe, show him to me. God said to him: Return behind you. Moses went and sat at the end of the eighth row in Rabbi Akiva’s study hall and did not understand what they were saying. Moses’ strength waned, as he thought his Torah knowledge was deficient. When Rabbi Akiva arrived at the discussion of one matter, his students said to him: My teacher, from where do you derive this? Rabbi Akiva said to them: It is a halakha transmitted to Moses from Sinai. When Moses heard this, his mind was put at ease, as this too was part of the Torah that he was to receive.
Moses returned and came before the Holy One, Blessed be He, and said before Him: Master of the Universe, You have a man as great as this and yet You still choose to give the Torah through me. Why? God said to him: Be silent; this intention arose before Me. Moses said before God: Master of the Universe, You have shown me Rabbi Akiva’s Torah, now show me his reward. God said to him: Return to where you were. Moses went back and saw that they were weighing Rabbi Akiva’s flesh in a butcher shop [bemakkulin], as Rabbi Akiva was tortured to death by the Romans. Moses said before Him: Master of the Universe, this is Torah and this is its reward? God said to him: Be silent; this intention arose before Me.
§ The Gemara continues its discussion of the crowns on letters of the Torah: Rava says: Seven letters require three crowns [ziyyunin], and they are the letters shin, ayin, tet, nun, zayin; gimmel and tzadi. Rav Ashi says: I have seen that the exacting scribes of the study hall of Rav would put a hump-like stroke on the roof of the letter ḥet and they would suspend the left leg of the letter heh, i.e., they would ensure that it is not joined to the roof of the letter.
Rava explains: They would put a hump-like stroke on the roof of the letter ḥet as if to thereby say: The Holy One, Blessed be He, lives [ḥai] in the heights of the universe. And they would suspend the left leg of the letter heh, as Rabbi Yehuda Nesia asked Rabbi Ami: What is the meaning of that which is written: “Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord [beYah] is God, an everlasting [olamim] Rock” (Isaiah 26:4)? Rabbi Ami said to him: Anyone who puts their trust in the Holy One, Blessed be He, will have Him as his refuge in this world and in the World-to-Come. This is alluded to in the word “olamim,” which can also mean: Worlds.
Rabbi Yehuda Nesia said to Rabbi Ami: I was not asking about the literal meaning of the verse; this is what poses a difficulty for me: What is different about that which is written: “For in the Lord [beYah],” and it is not written: For the Lord [Yah]?
Rav Ashi responded: It is as Rabbi Yehuda bar Rabbi Elai taught: The verse “For in the Lord [beYah] is God, an everlasting Rock [Tzur olamim]” is understood as follows: The term “Tzur olamim” can also mean Creator of worlds. These letters yod and heh that constitute the word yah are referring to the two worlds that the Holy One, Blessed be He, created; one with [be] the letter heh and one with [be] the letter yod. And I do not know whether the World-to-Come was created with the letter yod and this world was created with the letter heh, or whether this world was created with the letter yod and the World-to-Come was created with the letter heh.
When the verse states: “These are the generations of the heaven and of the earth when they were created [behibare’am]” (Genesis 2:4), do not read it as behibare’am, meaning: When they were created; rather, read it as beheh bera’am, meaning: He created them with the letter heh. This verse demonstrates that the heaven and the earth, i.e., this world, were created with the letter heh, and therefore the World-to-Come must have been created with the letter yod.
And for what reason was this world created specifically with the letter heh? It is because the letter heh, which is open on its bottom, has a similar appearance to a portico, which is open on one side. And it alludes to this world, where anyone who wishes to leave may leave, i.e., every person has the ability to choose to do evil. And what is the reason that the left leg of the letter heh is suspended, i.e., is not joined to the roof of the letter? It is because if one repents, he is brought back in through the opening at the top.
The Gemara asks: But why not let him enter through that same way that he left? The Gemara answers: That would not be effective, since one requires assistance from Heaven in order to repent, in accordance with the statement of Reish Lakish. As Reish Lakish says: What is the meaning of that which is written: “If it concerns the scorners, He scorns them, but to the humble He gives grace” (Proverbs 3:34)? Concerning one who comes in order to become pure, he is assisted from Heaven, as it is written: “But to the humble He gives grace.” Concerning one who comes to become impure, he is provided with an opening to do so. The Gemara asks: And what is the reason that the letter heh has a crown on its roof? The Gemara answers: The Holy One, Blessed be He, says: If a sinner returns, repenting for his sin, I tie a crown for him from above.
The Gemara asks: For what reason was the World-to-Come created specifically with the letter yod, the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet? The Gemara answers: It is because the righteous of the world are so few. And for what reason is the left side of the top of the letter yod bent downward? It is because the righteous who are in the World-to-Come hang their heads in shame, since the actions of one are not similar to those of another. In the World-to-Come some of the righteous will be shown to be of greater stature than others.
§ Rav Yosef says: Rav states these two matters with regard to scrolls, and in each case a statement is taught in a baraita that constitutes a refutation of his ruling. One is that which Rav says: A Torah scroll that contains two errors on each and every column may be corrected, but if there are three errors on each and every column then it shall be interred.
And a statement is taught in a baraita that constitutes a refutation of his ruling: A Torah scroll that contains three errors on every column may be corrected, but if there are four errors on every column then it shall be interred. A tanna taught in a baraita: If the Torah scroll contains one complete column with no errors, it saves the entire Torah scroll, and it is permitted to correct the scroll rather than interring it. Rabbi Yitzḥak bar Shmuel bar Marta says in the name of Rav: And this is the halakha only when the majority of the scroll is written properly and is not full of errors.
Abaye said to Rav Yosef: If that column contained three errors, what is the halakha? Rav Yosef said to him: Since the column itself may be corrected, it enables the correction of the entire scroll. The Gemara adds: And with regard to the halakha that a Torah scroll may not be fixed if it is full of errors, this statement applies when letters are missing and must be added in the space between the lines. But if there were extraneous letters, we have no problem with it, since they can easily be erased. The Gemara asks: What is the reason that a scroll with letters missing may not be corrected? Rav Kahana said: Because it would look speckled if one adds all of the missing letters in the spaces between the lines.
The Gemara relates: Agra, the father-in-law of Rabbi Abba, had many extraneous letters in his scroll. He came before Rabbi Abba to clarify the halakha. Rabbi Abba said to him: We said that one may not correct the scroll only in a case where the letters are missing.