Lemarbe continued...

Just want to share something extremely interesting as a continuation of our topic on Lemarbe.  We have seen how our tradition documents two variant writings going back to the 10th Century, one in two words and the other as a wholesome word, as per the Aleppo and Leningrad Codices.  However, in both cases the MEM is written as a SOFIT. 

I have always wondered what would we see if we could travel back in time 1,000 years prior to that and be privy to see a much older scroll.  Would they exhibit the same nuances and scribal traditions?That would truly be a fantastic thing!

Today we have the incredible resource of being able to see a scroll of Yishaya found in Qumran which forms part of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The sefer dates back to approximately the year 100 bce.  How is Lemarbe written there?  Let's take a look!

Yishaya 9:6 - Courtesy of the Israel Museum

If you read carefully you will see that it is also written in two words!  This is an amazing find, because it documents and substantiates the tradition of the Aleppo Codex!  Lemarbe was being written in two words already from 1,100 years prior to when Ben Asher documented it for us!  This makes it extremely clear to us that when Ben Asher wrote Lemarbe in two words,  he was already following a clear and already long-established scribal tradition.

However, we also have a monkey wrench.  The MEM of Lemarbe is a regular MEM and not SOFIT!  Why?  If one continues to check the scroll, one will also notice that although the SOFIT form is often used, it is not universally applied at the end of a word.  Sometimes, the scribe uses a regular MEM instead.  For example, look at the word MAYIM in the picture below.

Yishaya 1:30 - Courtesy of the Israel Museum

What emerges from this?   It appears that at the time, the use of a regular MEM vs. it's SOFIT form at the end of a word was clearly fluid, and not a hard and fast rule.  That is, scribes were still using both forms at the end of the word, but not in the middle.

Once, the SOFIT convention became the sole standard for the end of the words, it would not be appropriate for the MEM of MAYIM to be a regular MEM anymore.  Likewise, the MEM of Lemarbe had to be a MEM SOFIT only!  The stricter writing standards could not tolerate such a deviation.  All final MEMS had to be SOFIT including that of LM RBH  (Lemarbe).  Hence, we can now begin to appreciate the reason for why the MEM of Lemarbe is SOFIT.

I hope you have found this as fascinating as I have.  There are many other things I have learned from briefly taking a look at this chapter of Yishaya.   However, they will have to wait for another post.


  1. What Hashgacha Pratis!

    My chevrusa (while discussing this) told me "look in the Dead Sea Scrolls and see how it's written there." I said it's a good idea if this part of Nach would be found there. I know it's available online, however I didn't bother to look. So shkoich to Alberto Attia for looking into this!!

  2. Again with the closed "Hei"'s...At which point did this change?

  3. Also what about the "alef" the yudim of the alef seem to be straight lines which (at least according to M"B) is possul.

  4. I think it's important to note that these scrolls were written by a cast away group and not by the established sofrim of that time. Having this is mind, i wouldn't be somech on it lehalacha.

  5. The theory of the cast-away group is just a speculative theory. I never heard of any evidence that this theory is correct.

    Besides, even if it was a cast-away group, there is no reason for their writing or text to be different.

  6. From wikipedia (search qumran scrolls):
    The scrolls are traditionally identified with the ancient Jewish sect called the Essenes, though some recent interpretations have challenged this association and argue that the scrolls were penned by priests in Jerusalem, Zadokites, or other unknown Jewish groups.[3][4]

    Both Essenes and Zadokites are identified with Tzedukim and if so, their way of writing cannot be relied upon. Would be like bringing a proof from the Samaritan Bible.

    Guit Shabbes


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