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Halachically is ש a single letter with two pronunciations or are there 2 different letters in the Hebrew alphabet (shin and cin) which happen to be draw the same in the torah, have the same gematria etc. For example if the wrong letter is used in a legal document would the document validity be in question? Or if a scribe writing a torah intends to write a cin instead of a shin for God's name (sha-kai).

  • I am not sure what halachic ramification there could be. They do have the same gematriya, but gemattriya isnt really halachic. – mevaqesh Aug 10 '15 at 0:53
  • Like @mevaqesh, I don't know what you mean by "halachically". Can you clarify by means of an edit to the question, please? – msh210 Aug 10 '15 at 1:04
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    @DanF to be accurate (what others call nitpicky) that doesnt prove the existence of halachic letter differentiation. One could have the same issue with, for example, two words with identical spellings, but different vowels. – mevaqesh Aug 10 '15 at 1:22
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    "For example if the wrong letter is used in a legal document would the document validity be in question" In general the validity of documents, e.g. an IOU is dependent on a person being able to understand it. Thus, if one substituted a shin for a sin, it would be fine, as long as it is understandable. The exception is gittin; divorce documents which must be written correctly. They are not writtn with nekudot so I am not sure how anyone would know. If they did write in nekudot they might have a problem. But, that wouldnt necessarily be that the wrong letter was used halachicaly, but rather – mevaqesh Aug 10 '15 at 1:29
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    That a different person has been identified. E.g. calling "shimon" "Simon" this is a different name, because it is a different name, not because the letters have discrete halachic identities (I think that makes sense). – mevaqesh Aug 10 '15 at 1:30
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Torah, mezuzot and tefillin, or legal documents are written without nekudot (vowels). This includes the dot of the shin/sin. So there would be no halachic difference, being that there's no difference of the letter.

This is only for writing. When praying, reading the Torah, etc., you'll need to say it correctly.

Edit: I just realised that you wrote 'intends' for the Torah. I never heard of a sofer needing to know how the word is pronounced before writing it. As long as he writes it correctly, and his intention is l'shem mitzvah, I don't see why there should any problem.

  • I have seen a legal document (ketuba) where cin and shin are clearly delineated (name of the town, and name of a witness). Also, now that you mentioned it and i'm curious what is the name of the nekuda that is used to differentiate between these two letters? – rikitikitembo Aug 10 '15 at 10:41
  • @rikitikitembo Interesting. Not usually the case, AFAIK. I don't think it has a name, just shin or sin. – user613 Aug 10 '15 at 10:45
  • @rikitikitembo, according to the preface in the Koren Jerusalem Bible, it is merely referred to as a "shin/sin dot" – Noach MiFrankfurt Aug 10 '15 at 11:55
  • As a Ba'al Kri'ah (Torah reader), I am curious if you can further support the claim in the last paragraph. I am not as concerned about pronumciation, per se. But, I think I read that a sofer must be fully aware of each word that he writes, which may imply that he needs to know its meaning. There are cases where a shin vs. sin (or vice versa) changes the word meaning. If, in fact, the sofer must be aware of the exact word he's writing, than he may have the wrong intent. – DanF Aug 10 '15 at 14:17

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