Without getting into the debate of Ashurith (Modern Hebrew) vs K'thav Ivri (Paleo Hebrew), let's just say for the sake of argument that Paleo Hebrew was the original Hebrew. It is known that the Rabbis/Talmud legislates that Kthav Ashuri is to be considered the script that we now use and that the Tetragrammaton, when written in Ashuri has holiness. However, does that mean that the Tetragrammaton written in Paleo now has zero holiness?

If I print a piece of paper with the Tetragrammaton written in Ashurith it has to go into a genizah, it cannot be thrown in the trash. But what if I printed the Tetragrammaton in paleo Hebrew, does it have any holiness according to halakha?

If one were to find an instrument of the Beit Hamikdash, lets say the Tzitz. If the original tzitz were discovered by archaeology, or found in the catacombs of the Vatican, would it be disqualified for use if it was written in Paleo Hebrew?

  • 1
    Megillah 8b (compare though to Megillah 18a)
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 31, 2015 at 19:54
  • Holiness exists but not the way you think it does
    – Turk Hill
    Commented May 9, 2021 at 19:59
  • Are the dead sea scrolls written in the Paleo Hebrew that you reference? (Not that it has any bearing on the question, I am simply curious.)
    – Dovid
    Commented May 10, 2021 at 0:40

1 Answer 1


See on this Rav Menachem Kasher's long article in Torah Shleyma vol. 29, and specifically section 1 chapter 6, which is on exactly this question. I'll try to summarise:

  • Rav Chaim Kanievsky (Peirush on Massechet Tefillin) writes that Torah scrolls that were written in k'tav ivri from before Ezra's time lost their kedusha, "since they from now on it was not permitted to read them" ("כיון דמכאן ואילך לא ניתנו לקרות בהן").
  • Rav Kasher himself thinks that this reason doesn't make sense, and that the opposite is true (מסתבר להיפך). He writes that the language of Mar Zutra's (and some say Mar Ukva's) opinion in Sanhedrin 21b is that Israel selected (ביררו) k'tav ashuri, and not Ezra forbade k'tav ivri.
  • The Y'feh Mareh on Yerushalmi Megillah 1:7-8 writes that after Ezra instituted the change to k'tav ashuri (but before Israel "selected" k'tav ashuri), his decision couldn't be preferable to Moshe's. Thus, if someone wanted to write a Torah, they could choose between k'tav ivri (like Moshe) and ashuri (like Ezra) — at least until Israel "selected" k'tav ashuri for good. Rav Kasher claims that this approach does not disqualify Torahs written in k'tav ivri (although I [magicker72] don't understand how this deals with the time after Israel "selected" k'tav ashuri).
  • Rav Kasher supports this view with the Ritva's words on Megillah 2b that k'tav ashuri was "given to them for writing Torahs and other writings" ("ניתן להם לכתוב ס״ת ושאר כתובים"), and not that the use k'tav ivri was forbidden. He also brings Mishnah Megillah 1:8 that has the Rabbis' view that Torahs may be written in any language (and according to the Ritva and many Rishonim, also in any script). The Maharsha writes that Israel didn't "desire" (לא רצו) the language that Ezra chose, and Rav Kasher adduces that the Maharsha didn't believe Ezra's choice to be a ruling, but rather a suggestion.
  • [There follows a long back-and-forth where Rav Kasher discusses whether some sources may only be according to some opinions in Sanhedrin 21b, and I hope to summarise this later.]
  • [Continuing at אות ו] Rav Kasher understands from the Mirkevet HaMishnah that even Moshe's Torah scroll is pasul, and Rav Kasher vehemently disagrees.
  • R. Yaakov ibn Ḥabib writes (in HaKotev on Ein Yaakov) that Torah was "given" (ניתנה) to Israel in the time of Ezra in k'tav ivri, and not that there was any type of ordinance. This supports the idea that previously kosher scrolls remained kosher.
  • Rav Kasher turns to tefillin and mezuzot. Even the Rabbis who think that a Torah may be written in any language (and script) hold that tefillin and mezuzot must be written in Hebrew and k'tav ashuri. However, Rav Kasher still thinks that the above arguments (for a Torah) basically hold here too, and that there's room to argue that previously good k'tav ivri tefillin and mezuzot remain kosher after the switch.
  • Rav Kasher adds that it's hard to imagine that on one day, all existing Torah scrolls and tefillin and mezuzot became pasul. They couldn't have all written new ones right away so fast. Even if there was some warning given, it's impossible that such a story would be absent from our records. He concludes that the kedusha of such items was never removed. He adds as support that disqualifying these items would bring disrepute upon those who came before the time of Ezra (as people would think that their ancestors did things incorrectly).
  • Rav Kasher then brings (in אות ח) several examples of cases where the law changed, but previously permitted things remained permitted. This supports his thesis that the previously kosher scrolls remain kosher.

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