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There are references (I don't have them handy - please reference if you know) that say there are 600k letters in the Torah corresponding to all the Jews (at least in the desert) and that each Jew has a letter in the Torah.

Of course, everyone knows that there are really around 300k letters in the Torah so this reference to 600k letters is off by about a factor of 2.

While I'm sure this could just be allegorical - etc, I'm curious if there are references to "the other 300k letters"? Eg, if each letter you also included its atbash (just as a suggestion), there would be a little more than 600k.

Are there references about this discrepancy and any efforts to resolve it?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

The founder of Chabad Lubavitch suggested that the vowels would be added to the count of 304,800-plus letters to reach 600,000 total.

Others state that the spaces between the letters for "white letters" that add to the count

Where Are the 600,000 Letters of the Torah?

600,000 Letters in the Torah?

Firstly, there are several non-standard methods of counting that will allow one to arrive at 600.000 letters. For example, the founder of Chabad, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, provided a different way of counting which is to count vowel letters that are not included in the text but are implied in the pronunciation of the word. If all these vowels were written out, there would be far more letters in the Torah scroll.

Additionally, there is another view that explains that the count of 304,805 letters refers only to the letters that can be seen in black ink against the white parchment. However, there are also letters in white against black. The heavenly, non-physical version of the Torah is described as black fire on white fire with both the black and white being equally as important. The black letters are those that we can see. The white space- the inverse space between the black letters- are the letters we don’t see and the count of 600,000 includes both black and white letters.

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R' Yaakov Kamenetsky in Emes L'Yaakov refers to a concept that many letters are made up of other letters, for example an aleph is a vov and two yuds. He suggests that if we were adept enough in counting this way, we would be able to reach the correct total of 600k.

I saw that Rabbi Leff (in his book on Shemoneh Esrei) wanted to reinterpret the Talmudic phrase to be read in such a way that it doesn't claim that there are 600k letters. He suggests that the words יש ששים רבוא אותיות לתורה does not mean "there are 600k letters in the Torah" (which he says would have been more accurately expressed with בתורה instead of לתורה), but rather "there are 600k letters to the Torah," which he suggests means that, in addition to the around 300k letters of the Torah, the "Torah" of the Jewish people, made up of 600k letters, is meant to be added.

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