Rashi, a Missing Yud, and R. Moses Isserles
This morning I started working on a blog post and saved it with the intention of finishing it tonight or tomorrow. I now see that R. Josh Waxman at Parshablog has posted on the same topic, adding more than I ever intended to write. I wanted to mention a few different things so read Josh’s post and here’s mine.
In this week’s Torah reading we read the following verse, (Deut. 1:13)
הבו לכם אנשים חכמים ונבנים וידעים לשבטיכם ואשימם בראשיכם
“Pick from each of your tribes men who are wise, discerning, and experienced, and I will appoint them as your heads.”
On this verse Rashi wrote the following on the word ואשימם,
חסר יו”ד, למד שאשמותיהם של ישראל תלויות בראשי דייניהם, שהיה להם למחות ולכוון אותם לדרך הישרה
“The word ואשימם lacks the letter yud. This teaches that the guilt of Bnei Yisroel is placed on the heads of their judges for it is their duty to admonish and direct them onto the right path.”
The source for Rashi’s comment can be found in the midrash Sifrei on Deuteronomy, piska 13. (See Josh’s post on this point.) This rabbinic interpretation is based upon the the “defective” spelling of the word ואשימם, yet if one looks in just about every single humash or Tanakh the word is written “full/plena” with a yud. See here for the Westminster Leningrad Codex. Not surprisingly, in some editions of Rashi a comment was added saying that in most Tikkunim and Sifrei Torah the word is written with a yud.
First of all, this just shows how ridiculous it is to try and find hidden messages in the Torah by counting letters, numbers, etc. See this article by Jeffrey Tigay which I have linked to before. Secondly, whether a word is written “full” or “defective” may have halakhic implications when determining if a Sefer Torah contains a mistake which will invalidate it or not. In the Shulhan Aruch, OH 143:4 the Rama wrote that even if a mistake was found in a Sefer Torah, we only take out a different one if it is a “real mistake” and not one of full vs. defective spelling.
תורה שלנו מדוייקים כל כך שנאמר שהאחרת יהיה יותר כשר
The Mishnah Berurah amplifies the Rama’s comment.
Moses Isserles was also a scribe and in Alei Sefer, no. 19, there are a number of articles on his Sefer Torah.