A photocopy of parts of Exodus chapter 14, verses 8 through 10. In it, the letter "fei" in each of the consecutive words "tz'fon u-far'o" has its left-side dangling part very thin and curled up in an inward spiral.

Leaving aside all other issues with the text as displayed, are the pehs acceptable, or do they actually need an inverted vav on the inside (instead of these whirls)?

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    – Seth J
    Commented Aug 9, 2012 at 2:22
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    @SethJ I was told that this was a "kabbalistic" torah. Not sure what that means though.
    – soandos
    Commented Aug 9, 2012 at 2:23
  • Where did you find this?
    – b a
    Commented Aug 9, 2012 at 2:24
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    There's nothing 'kabbalistic' about it. It's just preserving an ancient tradition that has since faded away (and that didn't seem to be too stable at any point in time). I've seen dozens of scrolls with letters like these, most of them coming from communities in Ashkenaz (central Europe), just like the one in your picture did. It was not uncommon to see such 'special' letters in tefillin and mezuzot as well, in those areas, up until the Holocaust.
    – ygesher
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 14:20
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    Those two particular spots for a curly pei are found in the listing in Ben Mesheq (page 14 nli.org.il/en/books/NNL_ALEPH001213875/NLI ). Given the Ashkenazi style of the writing, it's highly likely the scribe was using that work.
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 5, 2021 at 16:18

3 Answers 3


Not only are these letters kosher, but they are part of the ancient way of writing the text. Maimonides (Sefer Torah 7:8) urges the scribes to ensure to be careful in preserving the irregular aspects of the text, among which he lists:

אותייות הגדולות, ובאותייות הקטנות, ובאותייות הנקודות, ובאותייות שצורתן משונות כגון הפיין הלפופות, והאותייות העקומות כמו שהעתיקו הסופרים איש מפי איש.‏
the big letters [such as the Bet in Bereishit], the little letters [such as the Alef in Vayikra], the dotted letters [such as the word Vayishakehu], the letters of different shape such as the winding Pe's [note this one is his example not mine], and the bent letters [such as the upside down Nun's], all in the manner which is passed down from scribe to scribe.

I'll also add that sometimes we have traditions regarding letters that are hung above the line [such as the Nun in Menashe in Judges 18:30] and final form letters in the middle of a word [such as the mem sofit in Lemarbeh in Isaiah 9:6], not to mention various traditions regarding extra and missing taggin (the crowns above the letters) on certain letters.

Why and how many of these traditions were lost in most communities is a question of history (and exile), but curly pe's definitely used to exist in specific places in Tanach and can still be seen in some very old Torahs.

For more than you ever expected to read about these variant letters, see this chapter. I note that he doesn't seem to list the specific words in your picture as having uniquely shaped peh's, but I wouldn't be too worried as there are bound to be many different traditions in this matter.

[For some other examples of different-shaped letters see the pictures here and try searching Google.]

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    there is a ספר called ''טעמי המקרא'' printed by שי למורא that has a list of strangely shaped letters from the מחזור ויטרי (page קה). unfortunately the ספר is not on hebrewbooks.org. however, every letter has special ways of writing it, and some have more than one way. the curly ''פ'' is on the list. also, these פי''ן are still in use by תמנים
    – moses
    Commented Aug 9, 2012 at 14:14
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    Sefer HaTodaah has a complete list -hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=41319&pgnum=325 (starts from the page before). -- (at least I think it is a complete list)
    – Menachem
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 7:02
  • @Menachem He lists all the categories and some examples but it doesn't seem to be a complete listing. I don't even see one example of a place with the curly peh.
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 11:49
  • @DoubleAA: I misread the "complete list" you were looking for, I thought you were looking for categories. -- He writes that these special letters were given over generation to generation, and over time Sofrim weren't able to receive them all, so they put aside special characters that would not disqualify the Sefer by their omission.
    – Menachem
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 18:44
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    @Menachem I can't guarantee, but it seems like he gives a "complete" list of locations starting on page 192.
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 4:33

I know this is a bit late, but some may find this useful:

Israel Yevin says that "rolled up pe" (פ' לפופה) and other "curved letters" (אותיות עקומות) appear in Masoretic notes. He says "such forms were only used in a few MSS. The rolled up pe, for instance, is much used in Yemenite MSS." (Introduction to the Tiberian Masorah, p. 48).

  • MSS=MaSoretic Manuscripts? Commented Feb 1 at 18:09
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    @QwertyCTRL. MSS are just "manuscripts"
    – Argon
    Commented Feb 2 at 22:54

The Baal HaTurim is one of the more famous commentators to focus on the unique forms of certain Hebrew letters. All the variations have deep mystical meaning to the words with contain them. In addition to the examples above, there are letters that contain extra Tagin like the word L'Totafos in Veyahafta.

First I looked up this passage its from Parshas B'halosecha 14.9-10. There was no mention of the "Rolled Pay" but as Double AA mentioned above, different traditions could be the case.

The Baal HaTurim's commentary on the "Rolled Pay" can be found first in Parshas Ki Sisa 31.17 on the word וינפש, which he says is an allusion to the 2 souls we receive on Shabbos. The Baal HaTurim says (in other places Devarim 1.7 IIRC) that the reason why the pay written this way is that the word should really be written twice for emphasis or that its meaning represents a concept of doubling.

2 main sources of the Baal HaTurim are Sefer HaTagin and Machzor Vitri (which seems to simply republish Sefer HaTagin in the sefer. Sefer Tagin says there are 191 instances of the "Rolled Pay". These pays could very well be counted in the 191.

I once heard a story from a Rabbi who lives in Tzfas and is a sofer. He said he once visited a sofer that has an entire room FILLED with Sifrei Torah. He opened one and say such beautiful amazing styles of writing letters. He asked the sofer why the variations suddenly stop in this Torah Scroll and the Sofer pointed around the room and said "See all these? My job is to remove all of this"

Note: This seems to be written in Ksav Beis Yosef which is the main ksav of Ashkenazi Communities. I thought it might be Vellish (Sephardic) but only Beit Yosef (Ashkenaz) writes the Tzaddik with the yud facing the left.

  • @Scimonster ....was wondering exactly which typo prompted this edit.....it was "writtening," right? :P
    – MTL
    Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 0:07

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