... keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgressions and sin.

In some Torah scrolls, the Nun in the word נצר "keeping" is written larger than normal. What is the significance of this enlarged Nun?

"נצר חסד לאלפים, נשא עון ופשע וחטאה" in Torah script, with an enlarged 'nun'
Excerpted from the Beverly Hills Chabad Torah Reading page

Exodus 34:7 in a Chumash, including an enlarged 'nun'.
Excerpted from Chumash Mikros Gedolos Shemos, Romm Brothers, New York, 1935, found on HebrewBooks.org

  • I don't see a large nun there on pg 339 (and they do mark big letters, as can be seen in the ר on page 342)
    – Double AA
    Dec 23, 2016 at 15:48
  • @DoubleAA See hebrewbooks.org/… I've seen this in most Tikkunim as well as most sifrei Torah that I have read from.
    – DanF
    Dec 23, 2016 at 15:54
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    BA, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for bringing your question here! I look forward to seeing you around.
    – Isaac Moses
    Dec 23, 2016 at 16:17
  • @DoubleAA This source (whoever it is) lists this one and says that Teimanim don't do it.
    – Isaac Moses
    Dec 23, 2016 at 16:22
  • @IsaacMoses That sounds pretty accurate to me (whoever I am). Did you see where my first source is from?
    – Double AA
    Dec 23, 2016 at 16:22

3 Answers 3


The Shelah HaKadosh (Maseches Yoma, hilchos teshuva) says that this enlarged nun is an allusion to the nachash that enticed mankind to sin. At the time of egel hazahav the yetzer hara became too strong that it was capable to influence Am yisroel to do avodah zarah. The large letter nun, in this sense, is to call attention to this fact by saying that Hashem (and only Him) can forgive our sins.


Although I don't recall where I saw this (it could have been in the commentary of the Komarna Rebbe to the Torah) The enlarged Nun found in 34:7 is connected to the enlarged Resh which follows it in 34:14. Together they form the word 'Ner' (נר).

In context of the end of the parsha, this seems to be alluding to the light which radiated from Moshe's face at the conclusion of this event in posukim 34:29-30.

And this would be in keeping with the expression of the Sages, z"l (Mishlei 20:27), "The candle of G-d is the soul of man." (נר ה׳ נשמת אדם)

And because of that light, the Jewish people were afraid of Moshe and moved away from him. But Moshe called the leaders of the generation back and gave them a new, additional mission (called shlichut in Hebrew) like is found in note 20 of Siftei Chochamim to Rashi on 34:31. That mission was to teach the entire Torah and all the mitzvot to the Jewish people and that this should be an occupation every day.

And this corresponds to a second expression from our Sages (Mishlei 6:23), "A candle is a mitzvah and Torah is light." (נר מצוה ותורה אור)

  • 1
    Do you ordinary refer to King Solomon as "the Sages"? I've never seen that use before, and certainly the plural seems odd.
    – Double AA
    Dec 23, 2016 at 18:15
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    Shlomo HaMelech counts as one of the sages of Israel. And many other sages of Israel repeat his teaching. Dec 23, 2016 at 18:33
  • Thank you for answering my question. The nun with the resh forming the word "ner" completes the thought in verses 29-30. Dec 25, 2016 at 2:41

The following response provides an indirect response to the original question and concludes with the relationship to Exodus 34:7 (i.e., the verse in question).

In the Leningrad Codex the Masoretes recognized only one enlarged nun in Scripture, which is found in the last letter of the word "משפטן" in Numbers 27:5. (The margin note of the Masoretic Text states "ל̇ נון רב̇," which means, "one occurrence of the enlarged nun.")

Please click the below image in order to view the source document online.

This hyperlink provides a direct view of the Masoretic leaf of the Codex Leningrad for Numbers 27:5.

However, when we view the same passage from the Dead Sea Scrolls, there is no apparent large nun evident. In other words, the enlarged nun in the Masoretic Text appears to be a later editorial addition for special emphasis.

Please click the below image in order to view the source document online.

This hyperlink provides a direct view of the Dead Sea Scrolls for Numbers 27:5.

According to Yeivin (1980), there are three reasons for large letters in the Masoretic Text:

1) the letter stands at the beginning of a book or at the beginning of a new section;
2) the letter draws attention to a significant statistical point, e.g., the large letter in Lev. 11:42 marks the middle of the Torah in letters; and
3) the letter shows that the reading must be precise.

As in the case in Exodus 34:7 (where Midrash appears to have added the large nun) the sole appearance of the only enlarged nun in Numbers 27:5 may have been to provide unequivocal emphasis that the case which Moses brought before the Lord was on behalf of women. That is, the emphasis was that for the first time in the Torah, the rights and claims of women came before the Lord.


Yeivin, Israel (1980). Introduction to the Tiberian Masorah. Trans. and Ed. E. J. Revell. "Masoretic Studies," No. 5. Missoula: Scholars Press, 47–48, #84.

  • 1
    The question already acknowledged that not all scrolls have it. The question was about those that do.
    – Double AA
    Dec 23, 2016 at 19:30
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    Are you suggesting, as your eventual answer to the question at hand, that the large nun in Exodus 34:7 has something to do with women? If so, please make it clearer what you mean by that. It seems like a bit of a stretch.
    – Isaac Moses
    Dec 23, 2016 at 19:34
  • Also, how does your suggestion regarding the meaning of the large nun, that it has to do with thematic emphasis, related to the universe of possible reasons that you cite from Yeivin? None of them have to do with thematic emphasis.
    – Isaac Moses
    Dec 23, 2016 at 19:57
  • @IsaacMoses - I had two points in mind: (1) rabbinic scholars before the 10th Cent did not recognize the enlarged nun in Exodus 34:7; and (2) the significance of the enlarged nun was equivalent to an underline in English (to highlight something important). The appearance of the enlarged nun in Exodus 34:7 had its roots in medieval Midrash, and the purpose (in keeping with tradition) was to provide emphasis. So while I did not attempt to address the question (since Yaacov Deane provided an excellent answer) my intent was to provide information to appreciate the context of the question.
    – Joseph
    Dec 23, 2016 at 20:33

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