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If a Torah reader finds certain writing errors in a Torah scroll, the scroll may be invalid, and the congregation would be required to take out a different one to continue the service. Some errors, however, are considered minor, and the service could be continued using that scroll, with the error to be fixed at a later time.

In a discussion of possible errors in the "laws" section of my Tikkun (Jerusalem: Mishor, 1990), one was mentioned at Genesis 3:24: the verse ends, "לשמר את דרך עץ החיים" -- "to keep the way of the tree of life". The issue deals with the final Kaf ך of the word דרך (way). If the Kaf is הפוכה (inverted), then you could continue reading from that scroll. But if the Kaf is כפופה (bent over; that is, it was written כ, as its medial form), then a new one must be taken out.

What is the background for these rules? Why would someone want to invert or bend/medialize the Kaf on this particular verse, and if so, why is one worse than the other?

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I can't really answer the question that asked for "the background for the[] rules" about what makes a sefer invalid. But as to why "[someone would] want to invert or bend the Kaf on this particular verse, and if so, why is one worse than the other", there are many oddly-shaped letters in various parts of the Torah in various traditions, many of which are listed in Tora Sh'lema in a special section after... er, um, M'tzora maybe? You'll often see these in the m'sora, and Baal Haturim quotes quite a few of them. (Rashi also quotes a few IIRC.)

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    msh, your answer leads to the following difference: Since we find inverted letters in the Torah, we can say that if a letter was mistakenly inverted, it still retains its form. But changing a peshuta into a kefufa is a different form. – YDK Nov 3 '10 at 14:43
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    @YDK, perhaps so: I don't know. Halachic question: Is it the rule in general (not on this pasuk) that exchanging final and medial forms invalidates the sefer? – msh210 Nov 3 '10 at 14:57
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    In Maseches Sofrim 2:10, it says: "כל האותיות הכפולין בא׳׳ב כותב את הראשונים בתחלת התיבה ובאמצע התיבה והאחרונים בסוף ואם שינה פסול" -- For all of the "double" letters in the alphabet [i.e. those that have final and medial forms]: one writes the medial forms in the beginning or middle of a word, and the final forms at the end of the word. If one deviates from this rule, [the scroll] is invalid. – Yosef Nov 3 '10 at 21:44

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