Shaylas Tinok – samech/mem stuma

In the word ואספת the samech is square on the right side, and looks like a [final] mem. Is this a shaylas tinok?  Another problem is - if I show the whole word to a tinok, he might decide it’s a samech, because he knows that a final mem will never occur in the middle of the word, and not because the tzura is more a samech in his eyes. Or maybe I should cover the rest of the word, and show the tinok only the samech.

[this same question would arise for example, in a case of a zayin a bit longer than its shiyur standing in the middle of a word]

This samech - on the right side looks like mem stuma, and on the left side looks like a samech. The Mikdash M'at (mem stuma) quotes Shut Darcei Noam that in this case a tinok is not acceptable to resolve the issue, since we are in doubt as to which side (right or left) of the letter he emphasizes, so therefore this shape should be pasul both for a samech or a mem (since we have a doubt that cannot be solved). But all acharonim disagree (see Biur Hasofer p. 79, ד"ה בשלש) and hold that the tinok is absolutly capable of deciding the total tzura of the letter, in this case as any other letter in doubt.

The second issue is more complicated, can we show the whole word as it is, or must we hide the continuation, since the letter in question is in the middle, this might be a clue to the tinok in deciding it’s a samech, not a mem.

The Gidule Hekdesh (Klalim 14:6) writes clearly that the rest of the word must be covered, so the tinok will not be influenced by external reasons, and decide only on the basis of the tzura he sees.
Do other Acharonim agree?  I would assume not, although not so easy to prove.

The BY writes on dalet - that one should be careful not to lengthen the foot lest it resemble a caf pshuta, zayin - should be careful not to lengthen it lest it resemble a nun pshuta, mem stuma square - lest it resemble a samech. The acharonim all understand his statements, so, if in a case of doubt a tinok should be called to decide (see SA Harav, Mishnat Sofrim, Keset, Kol Yaacov, on those letters). It seems the same hallacha should be on a samech that is in doubt it may be a mem, that a tinok should decide.
None of those acharonim cautioned that the doubt in regard to a final letter, may cause a problem if they [dalet or zayin] are in the middle of a word, that a tinok could not be reliable (or that a special measure – covering in this case the rest of the word is needed).

But see Lishkat Hasofer 7:3 quoting Bnei Yona -
The words should be separated each from another, l'chatchila at least a yuds [ois ketana] measure, b'dieved if the words are close to each other, a tinok shall decide. Bnei Yona writes that if the ending letter of the first word is a final letter, still a tinok is reliable, although this letter will make his decision easier (accepting even less space between the words). The Lishka explains that although he is relying on the final letter and not on the spacing, in this case it is acceptable, because not the measure of the space is important but a clear definition that differentiates between the words, either by correct spacing or the sign of a final letter.
It seems (that the Lishka accepts the Gidule Hekdesh mentioned) that in regard to a question on the tzuras haois, the place of a letter resembling a final letter would be problematic.

So it is worth to be machmir, and cover the other letters to allow the tinok a objective idea on the basis of the tzuras haois by itself.

The logic to the opinion of Gidule Hekdesh –
Although we don’t have to cover the other letters in general allowing the tinok to be influenced by the size and shape of other letters, the case of a final letter is different.

The tinok must be 'lo chacham', IE he doesn’t know how to read (understand the text), but he may asses the letter in question from the shape and size of the other letters around.
But in this case, even a regular tinok [shown the whole word] would be a 'chacham' on this subject, assesing the samech not because of its form (tzuras ha'ois) but because of an external factor, which is exactly like a tinok chacham who reads the complete word, and answers/reads the letter not only because of its form [objective judgement seeing the tzura only], but because he is trying [subjective] to fit the letter into the context and meaning of the word or sentence.
Another example for this problem, may be the MB 32:132 - a lamed entering the challal of a dalet, causing a question maybe its a hai, should be given to a shaylas tinok, covering the bottom line [the body of the lamed].  


  1. The samech in todays siddur is probably a kosher mem for stam (its not round. its square on one side and slight square angle on the other).

    I have found this confuses children in shaalos tinuk issues for mem stumah / samech shailos

  2. A tinok wouldnt help on zayin anyway since tinok will read a kosher final nun a zayin.
    the rabanim in usa put draw a line across the moshav of most letters on the line and if the foot of the zayin is more a half of a kulmus they call it "safek psul"and are not machshir

  3. ive noticed that people are becoming overly machmir about a zayin that has even a hint of extra length. Why not just call half a kulmus over a shailas tinuk (and cover after the zayin as r moshe suggests)? why passel it so easily without s tinok?


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