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In writing a Torah scroll, does halacha prescribe the exact location of each word? I mean, can one scribe put a word at the end of a line, and another scribe put that same word at the beginning of the next line?

(I ask because while reading the scroll during a service I saw a line in which the words were seriously scrunched up near the end. Why would the scribe have done that if he could simply transfer the last word to the next line?)

  • Quite much related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/43747/15256 – Kazi bácsi Aug 7 at 15:54
  • Are you counting things like every word following an open parsha break must be at the beginning of a line – Double AA Aug 7 at 16:22
  • Well, I am counting everything; but we might as well begin with a yes or no answer to the precise question I used as an example. – Maurice Mizrahi Aug 7 at 16:33
  • Yes - as you can see if you open a few Sifrei Torah of various vintages to any random spot. (Random Vintage since many if not most 42-line Sifrei Torah written in the past 50 years are almost perfect copies of the Blue Tikun.) For that matter, there's no maximum height, past the 42 line minimum. – Danny Schoemann Aug 9 at 8:16
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To answer your second comment/observation first.

Why would the scribe have done that if he could simply transfer the last word to the next line

Multiple reasons, including:

  • What you saw was a correction; he missed a word and had to put it in after it was proofread.
  • He was following a standard layout and didn't want to start guessing how to continue. Sometimes the original templates (like The Blue Tikun) have lines that are way too full.
  • He was getting close to one of those rare locations where you have to start the column with a specific word, as described in this answer.

That linked answer answers your more general query: A Sofer has a lot of leeway, though there are certain words (in 6 places) that need to be at the start of a column, by tradition.

And you have to follow the paragraph style, of which there are 2:

  • The one marked in the Chumash as a פ - there are various opinions and multiple laws but traditionally in a standard Sefer Torah each פ paragraph ends in the middle of a line - with empty space after the end of the paragraph to write at least 9 letters.
  • The one marked in the Chumash as a ס - by traditions in a classic Sefer Torah the paragraph ends on the same line as the next paragraph begins - with at least a 9-letter break between the paragraphs.

Then there's the Shira in Beshalach and Haazzinu that have a very strict layout, traditionally.

Finally, by tradition, each column (except for the 6 exceptions) begins with a Vav.

(As to where the line is between strict Halacha, Minhag and that's the classical way to do it is beyond the scope of this answer. I simply fudged it by referring to it as tradition.)

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