In Mishnat Sofrim, the Chofetz Chaim discusses the correct forms of the letters as they should appear in sifrei sta"m. When he comes to thee letter פ in its medial form, he says that the current practice, which he terms פ שבור (or broken פ, pictured here) is not the correct form of the letter. However, in most sifrei Torah I've seen from prior to the 1980s (read all of the ones I've seen)as well as the omnipresent KTAV tikkun, the letter פ is nonetheless written out in the manner referred to as שבור, and Chassidei Chabad write their sta"m with it to this day.

So here are my questions:

  1. Why did the Chofetz Chaim effectively seek to passul nearly all existing sifrei sta"m of his day? Why wasn't the existing פ kosher?

  2. Why was his פ not accepted for so many years?

  3. What sources (outside of Otiot HaRav) are followed which disagree with his p'sak?

  • 2
    Does he say it's pasul or incorrect? There are lots of ways of writing letters which aren't pasul even if they aren't traditinoal.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 10, 2015 at 16:20
  • @DoubleAA, the way I read it, he says that it is not kasher l'chatchila. However, even if it's kasher b'dieved, it's passul l'chatchila. I am also well aware of those ways of writing letters in a way in which they are certainly not traditional, namely budget mezuzot, although some argue that those are also passul. Commented May 10, 2015 at 16:54
  • @NoachmiFrankfurt What do you mean by kasher b'dieved, passul l'chatchila? The word Passul means b'diavad.
    – Daniel
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 18:08
  • @Daniel, something which is not kasher l'chatchila might be kasher b'dieved, although it might just as soon not be. I'm searching for an image to use as an example of a broken פ which would be problematic for all authorities. Commented May 14, 2015 at 18:12
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Daniel
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 18:32

2 Answers 2


Machon Mishmeret Stam published a book on Mishnat Sofrim with a commentary. enter image description here

In an appendix, they deal with this exact issue: (I couldn't find an online version...sorry)

enter image description here

Based on this text, I can answer your questions:

Why did the Chofetz Chaim effectively seek to passul nearly all existing sifrei sta"m of his day? Why wasn't the existing פ kosher?

The Chofetz Chaim wasn't referring to the Pey of figure #1 which was the accepted practice, but rather the Pay of figure #2. Notice that the problems which the Chofetz Chaim points out with the 'broken' Pey only apply to figure #2 and not figure #1.

Why was his פ not accepted for so many years?

Because his (i.e. the Ktivah Tamah's) Pey was the new Pey (figure #3) - different to the well established custom among the sofrim of the form in figure #1

Futhermore, his form doesn't fit in well with the description given in Beit Yosef that the protrusion of the base of the inner Bet within the Pey is accomplished by holding the Kulmus diagonally and pulling a stroke backwards.

This description fits figure #1 but not figure #3.

What sources (outside of Otiot HaRav) are followed which disagree with his p'sak?

Sefer Binyan A"v (Rabbi Yehuda Asher Rotah)

Minchat Elazar (Munkatch)

Both say to use the original form figure #1 of the Pey.

  • I would point out that we also have old seforim written by mumchim using the figure 2 pey.
    – Yitzchak
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 16:40

I don't see any connection between the broken פ that looks like 2 letters sitting one on another - and the פ you show in the Tikkun, the Mishnat Sofrim and the Chabad sites, which are not neatly curved (like modern script) but the letter has a clear - albeit crooked/curvy - continuum.

Point being, that there are 3 פ's - and not 2, as you claim:

  1. The פ with a rounded back, like the Mishna Brura seems to say.

  2. The פ with a squiggly back, like the older Seforim and Chabad.

  3. The פ with a 90° step in the back, making it look "broken"; like 2 letters pasted together.

The Chafetz Chaim was arguing against the 3rd type; which is easier to write than the first 2 types.

  • From what I read, while he had an obvious problem with the third פ, as well he should have, the way I've read Mishnat Sofrim suggests that he also had a problem with the second, kosher פ. This is why I am unclear. Commented May 17, 2015 at 13:46
  • If you read the original (hebrewbooks.org/…) you will see that the main problem is when the back of the פ does not resemble a ו by any stretch of imagination. Like a step or a bulge. A squiggle is not [much] worse than the inside step that we do nowadays. Commented May 18, 2015 at 6:58
  • Danny, I looked for a more recent M"B or a Hebrew M"S on Hebrewbooks, however I didn't note anything else that showed tzurat ha'otiot according to what was being described. As such, I relied on the link I gave and consequently its rendition of the description of the פ. FWIW, I received an aliyah last Shabbat and I noticed that in the Torah which was used, the sofer changed from the old-style פ to the 90˚ bulged one in the middle of the amud, which will lead to further questions, namely in regards to concerns for tartei d'satrei. Commented May 18, 2015 at 18:22
  • @NoachmiFrankfurt - or else it highlights what the Chofetz Chaim was complaining about - that Sofrim were making the פ worse and worse, and hence it was time to revamp it. Commented May 19, 2015 at 7:58
  • Anything's possible. In any case, one should not just follow the M"B for everything without consultation of a proper LOR. Meanwhile mine is not a mumcheh on hilchot sta"m, so I'll be relying on my sofer when I discuss these issues with him (his rav is R' Wosner of Monsey). Commented May 19, 2015 at 14:48

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