Sunday, March 18, 2007

Dairy, Meat and Hebrew

Q: Dear Rabbi,

Thanks for answering my question last week. My next questions for you are 1) What is our tradition regarding waiting after eating dairy before eating meat? Must we simply clean our mouths thoroughly, or do we have a waiting period, like Chabad? 2) Also, what do you think of the ultra-ancient Hebrew text? ( Why isn't the Torah written in the earliest, ultra-ancient script, as shown in the chart? Is there anything special and holy about these particularly old Hebrew letters, as there is with the ones commonly known today?
Michael N.

A: Dear Michael,

1) Our (Sephardic) custom is that meat can be eaten immediately after dairy. However, when we do this, we are required to first chew something pareve (such as a cracker or piece of bread) and then rinse our mouths out with water.

2) The Talmud discusses this issue at length in Masechet Sanhedrin. In Rabbinic parlance, the more ancient script is referred to as "Ketav Ivri" and the later form of writing is called "Ketav Ashurit". In the Gemara, the Rabbis debate the precise status of each of these scripts.

According to one view, the Torah was always written in "Ketav Ashurit", which was reserved for holy purposes; Ketav Ivri was the mundane, colloquial form of writing used for non-sacred matters.

Another opinion holds that the Torah was originally transcribed in Ketav Ashurit. After the sin of the Golden Calf, the script was temporarily changed to Ketav Ivri. Eventually, Ketav Ashurit was reinstated as the official form of sacred script.

A third view (which generally corresponds to the modern scholarly perspective) maintains that the Torah was originally given in Ketav Ivri, but that Ezra changed this upon the return of the Jews to the Land of Israel. Nachmanides explains that this change was one of many that Ezra initiated in order to commemorate the end of the Babylonian Exile (another example is the use of Babylonian names for the months of the year).

All agree that Ketav Ivri may no longer be used for sacred articles such as Torah Scrolls, Megillot, Tefillin or Mezuzot. In fact, if any of these were to be written in Ketav Ivri (or any script other than Ashurit, for that matter) they would not be considered halachically valid.

Best Regards,

Rabbi Maroof


Barnaby said...

One more note: The Samaritans, or Shomronim, who still reside in Israel today, have always retained the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet in full liturgical use: It is used to write their version of the Torah.
The Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran also showed that, even when an early version of Ktav Ashurit (a variant of the Imperial Aramaic alphabet) was largely adopted, the Holy Ineffable Name was still written in Ktav Ivri.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Barnaby, in general, the customs of the Samaritans and the features of the Dead Sea Scrolls have limited implications for Jewish Law. The Samaritans operated outside of the framework of traditional Judaism, and the precise nature of the Qumran sect is still a mystery.

Anonymous said...

Rabbi Maroof,

Aren't we allowed to write a Sefer Torah in Greek?

Kol Tuv,
Aric Kabillio

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Aric, the Rambam says that this only applied to ancient Greek, which no longer exists in its original form.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Does that mean that sheimot written in Ktav ‘Ivri have no status, and can be written and erased at will? I've been trying to find halakhic sources on that question.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

the reason i'm interested is because i like the Dead Sea Scroll style mentioned above, and would like to use it in scribing a siddur. writing YHVH in Ktav ‘Ivri reinforces the idea of it as a logograph that isn't pronounced at all as it's written.

Anonymous said...

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jamie said...

the original luchos must have been given in ktav ashuris by every opinion (mar zutra,rebbi and elazar) as the samech was miraculasy suspended. so some how the assyrians must have got hold of this scipt. the problem with what im saying is the earliest dead sea scrolls use the imperial aramaic which has a non circular samech. is there any way to square this finding with the holiness of ktav ashuris along with all the kabbalistic significants of the shapes of the letters?

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