I noticed that in many Sifrei Torah, Sofrim prefer to "stretch" certain letters. It seems that these letters are stretched to end a line if there wouldn't be enough space to start a new word. That's not always the case, though; sometimes these letters appear in the middle of a row. Some sofrim use this technique often, while others don't use this at all.

Is there a reason for stretching the letter other than what I just mentioned? Is it some "artistic" form? Are there limits to either which letters are allowed to be stretched and how much stretching is allowed?

Note: I am not asking about large (rabbati) or small (ze'ira) letters. This has been addressed in a few other questions. I am talking about the horizontal size.

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    Being a mediocre "sofer" I think it depends on skill, as you said. If you are good, you stretch letters a bit throughout a line so it just seems natural. If you are less skilled, (ahem =/), then you don't space your letters right and you need to stretch them to finish the line. Some sofrim do it in the middle I think because they begin a line, and then start at the end and work their way towards the middle, in search of a "stretchy" letter, like a Dalet or a Heh. – Baby Seal Jul 22 '14 at 22:34

Pasted from my answer to this question:

Stretching letters is not a matter of custom, but one of practicality. Halacha requires the columns be justified. Microsoft Word handles justifies text by widening spaces between words and letters. You can't do this in a sefer torah, so the sofer stretches letters instead. Good tikkunim minimize the number of "short" lines that require stretched letters, and good sofrim regulate their ksav so that the stretching is less noticeable.
While some people (myself among them) think that stretched letters add something aesthetic to the calligraphy, Halacha considers stretched and cramped writing a lower quality ksav.

Some sofrim will prefer to stretch a letter in the middle of a line instead of the end so it looks more artistic and less like they're filling up space. (Personal experience covering up bad planning.)

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    The traditional preferred letters to stretch are הדרת – Double AA Jul 23 '14 at 1:12
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    And ל which I prefer since you can get more space out of it before it begins to look strange. – Yitzchak Jul 23 '14 at 1:29
  • No ל is quite a problematic letter to stretch since you enter serious questions about how exactly to write the bottom leg. I strongly discourage any stretching of a ל, as did the Radvaz. – Double AA Aug 11 '17 at 14:28
  • @DoubleAA There's a worthwhile discussion happening here at the pace of one comment per year :) When I stretch a lamed, I make the moshav half as wide as the roof as per the mishnah berurah but the minhag seems to be to make it half as wide as a normal lamed. I was actually surprised that you didn't mention the traditional letters as להדרת because stretching the lamed is so common. – Yitzchak Nov 11 '19 at 16:06

One is prohibited from stretching letters that will look like other letters, or otherwise cease to look like themselves, if stretched.

The easiest example is that if you stretch a vav, it becomes a reish. A stretched zayin becomes a daled. If you stretch a yud, it looks weird, so you can't stretch it. I'd think a stretched aleph would also look weird, but might be recognizeable. A regular chaf can be stretched, but a final chaf may not (it will look like a large reish). Neither regular nor final nun can be stretched. Some other letters would look weird but recognizeable if stretched.

Letters like bet, final mem and samach which require stretching two lines tend to provide a less pleasant asthetic, so the preference is to stretch something else, but they can be stretched.

  • Theoretically, Zayin and Nuns can be stretched indefinitely if you leave the leg in the middle. – Double AA Jan 26 '15 at 5:17
  • @DoubleAA They can be in theory but there are a few reasons not to. For one thing, once you get more than 2 kulmusim on each side, as soon as one side is even a hair longer than the other you have a shinui tzura question (dalet or dalet hafukha) – Yitzchak Aug 27 '15 at 16:04

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