Paragraphs in a Torah scroll are separated in two ways: "open" breaks (a “Pesucha," generally a gap to the end of the line) and "closed" breaks (a “Setumah,” generally a gap in the middle of the line).

Is there a pattern as to where each of these breaks appear? They aren’t evenly distributed, leading me to believe they indicate different types of thematic groupings. Is this correct, and if so, what type of thematic grouping is indicated by each type of break? What is the meaning of the different types? Sources please.

  • 1
    Purely out of interest, how do you choose when to transliterate a tav rafah as /s/ (pesucha) and when as /t/ (setumah)?
    – Joel K
    Sep 5, 2019 at 7:34
  • A question that I would have asked. I see that having a name similar to mine makes us think similarly ;-)
    – DanF
    Sep 10, 2019 at 14:52
  • @JoelK I’d always heard it as a tav degushah growing up. I know that’s wrong, but the pronunciation stuck.
    – DonielF
    Sep 10, 2019 at 15:12

1 Answer 1


ספר התודעה סימן ל

אין בידינו מקורות ראשונים מוסמכים שיבארו לנו מה הוא ההבדל המהותי שבין פרשה פתוחה לסתומה, ואיזו משתיהן נחשבת הפסקה גדולה מחברתה, או אם שתיהן שוות לענין ההפסקות, אבל אם נבוא לדון מתוך קריאת השם, שזו נקראת 'פתוחה', וזו - 'סתומה'; מצורת הכתיבה, שזו פותחת שיטה חדשה, וזו אינה פותחת, ומתוך מה שרואים שכל חמשה החומשים והרוב הגדול של הסדרות והרוב מכל ענין חדש שבתורה - כולם מתחילים בפרשה פתוחה, מזה נִתן אולי לשער שההפסק לפרשה פתוחה הוא הפסק שלם, ואילו ההפסק לפרשה סתומה אינו שלם כל כך. והשערה זו אם נכונה היא, יכולים להבין בה עוד הרבה ענינים בטעם החלוקה של התורה לפרשיות אלה או אלה"

Sefer Hatoda'a p30

"We don't have qualified ancient sources that will explain to us what is the difference between Parasha ptucha and stuma, which is a greater stop then the other, or they are equal, but if we will try to understand it from their names, 'ptucha (opened)' in compere to 'stuma (closed)', from the way it's written [in the scroll], that [ptucha] starts a new line, and the other does not, and from the fact that all chumashim and the major topics in the Tora - starts with ptucha, Maybe we may assume that the stoppage of ptucha is full, and stuma is partial.

If this theory is correct, we can learn many more issues the from dividing of the Tora to different types of parashot.

  • Someone with better English may provide a better translation. Feel free. Sep 5, 2019 at 7:28
  • 1
    In eicha there's a setumah between each pasuk (except in זכר ה' מה היה לנו) and a pesucha between each perek, so that supports his theory.
    – Heshy
    Sep 5, 2019 at 10:22
  • Good find! I find it hard to imagine that the only one who discusses this lived roughly 100 years ago; surely there’s an earlier source.
    – DonielF
    Sep 5, 2019 at 18:34

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