There is a tradition that the Alter Rebbe (R' Shneur Zalman of Liadi) innovated a new Ksav (not the one in the Shulchan Aruch Harav) and taught it to sofrim who passed it on from teacher to student.

There is an argument between Rabbi Zilbershtrom and Rabbi Zirkind regarding this tradition.

According to R' Zilbershtrom, the Lubavitcher Rebbe couldn't find a reliable tradition of this script, and didn't use it (According to him, both the Rebbe and the Previous Rebbe used Arizal teffilin). Therefore, he says that the "Alter Rebbe Ksav" that exists nowadays is not the real ksav.

We have a Megilla of the Rebbe Maharash (the fourth Lubavitcher Rebbe).

Why can't we just compare our "Alter Rebbe Ksav" to that Megilla?

  • Every individual sofer - as is true with any other kind of writing - has his own slight variations on the basic letterforms. So the question would still remain which details of the Rebbe Maharash's kesav indeed reflect the Alter Rebbe's opinions vs. which represent his own style.
    – Alex
    Commented Apr 24, 2012 at 2:55
  • Doesn't look like it, to judge by the sample you linked to. For example, (most of) the alephs have their lower limb shaped like a yud, where the Arizal says that they should be more like an upside-down daled; the right side of the ches is a squared-off vav, where Arizal kesav would have it rounded; etc. I think it's pretty fair to say that the kesav in this megillah is Alter Rebbe-esque, but again, it's hard to know which of its features truly go back to him.
    – Alex
    Commented Apr 24, 2012 at 4:00
  • He seems to be saying that there's no mesorah ish mipi ish going back to the Alter Rebbe. But I don't really know (and indeed, in the second piece you linked, R. Zirkind disagrees).
    – Alex
    Commented Apr 24, 2012 at 14:00
  • 2
    How do you invent a new Ksav??
    – Seth J
    Commented Apr 24, 2012 at 14:17
  • R' Landau (Bnei Brak) gives a hekshur on sofrim writting Alter Rebbe Ksav. While is it a topic of debate, where is the Rebbe in writting saying not to use A.R. Ksav?
    – user1292
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 2:49

2 Answers 2


Rabbi Zirkind was commissioned to write R"T for Rav Feinstein. The Rebbe was told by R'Feinstein that his were missing from the old country and couldn't find a qualified pair to replace them, nor a sofer. The Rebbe said that if he could get him a pair of kosher R"T's would he were them. And so Rabbi Zirkind wrote for R'Feinstein.

The mesora as per authentic Alter Rebbe's ktav is no longer a mystery with machloiket. Since the photocopies have been published we can now see clearly what it looks like.

My belief is that the kulmus, of Rabbi Reuvein, the Alter Rebbe's sofer, was upside down: his writing was from the outside of the kulmus, not the inside, as most sofrim do it.

-YM Goldstein, certified sofer - [email protected]

  • 1
    R (Moshe?) Feinstein couldn't find a qualified Sofer anywhere in America? Where did he buy Mezuzot? Where did he get his children's Tefillin?
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 18:30
  • @DoubleAA Probably talking about getting the same style/ksav as he used to have. This was probably 40's-50's so sofrim weren't as pervasive anyway.
    – HodofHod
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 18:57
  • 1
    The way I heard that story, the Rebbe convinced RMF to start wearing R"T because he (RMF) was a bona fide "מוחזק ומפורסם בחסידות" as required by the Sh"A for someone to wear R"T. RMF wanted them written in the script he was used to from the old country, so the Rebbe sent his sofer to write them according to the script described by RMF. If my recollection is correct, then the resulting artifacts would be based on RMF's tradition and not Chabad's.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 18:59
  • @HodofHod Still surprising that there was no one in the whole lower east side who knew Russian? Litvish? style writing.
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 19:01
  • 1
    I'm sorry I was not Medayek in connection with the when and why he didn't have them but he writes that it was very hard for him to take his Tefillin (and many Sefarim and letters) with him when he left Luban. When he came to USA he bought Rashi Tefillin even though he did not find Mehudarim. As far as RT's, he came accross an old pair which he put on for many years until they needed Genizah. See hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=14677&st=&pgnum=14 Commented Apr 30, 2013 at 3:08

old ari zal is barely written anymore and that is what everyone had in Russia it could be that this what you are referring to. The shaarei teshuvah o"h 32 1 says that one should not make his own safrus based on kabbalistic books because it is too deep for the regular mind "never the less one may copy the (kabalistic) writing of famous sofrim and people of actions. As for teffilin of rabeinu tam sh"a o"h 34 2 and 3 says that it is for someone that is yerai shamayim and someone that is famous for his chasidus puts them on at the same time Alter Rebbes ksav is a mixture of ksav beis yosef (ari zal) which are halachekli based and sfardi ksav which is more kabalistic. The ravs ksav combines the 2 together so one can be yotze both opinions.

  • One must always be careful when trying to fulfill two opinions that they don't end up fulfilling neither.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 17, 2013 at 16:17
  • From the definitions I know Beis Yosef & Arizal are two seperate Ksavs
    – JNF
    Commented May 19, 2013 at 5:14
  • @DoubleAA - Are you implying that some types of kethav are pasul due to their forms? If so, can you please point me in the direction of some sources discussing this? Thanks. Kol tuv.
    – user3342
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 5:00

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