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    Errors in Torah scrolls – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Does anyone check a Torah scroll before it is sold?

    A. Assuredly yes. For some reason, Torah scrolls written these days seem more prone to error than was the case in prewar days.

    It has been estimated that up to 80% of scrolls used to be completely correct after painstaking personal checking, but now about 30% are found to have one or more mistakes.

    Since there are over 300,000 letters in a Torah, the most scrupulously careful scribe can still occasionally make a blunder, e.g. spelling No’ach with a chaf instead of a chet or writing a word twice.

    If there is even only one error the scroll may not be used until it is corrected, and there are times when a particular scroll has been in regular use for many years and no-one has detected the problem.

    But now there is technology available that eases the scribe’s mind. Every column is computer-scanned for errors. Any error that is detected can then be carefully corrected by a sofer before the scroll is put into regular use. The same facility is also available for existing scrolls.

    An example is a small Torah scroll that I brought back from Israel for a family in Australia; with the scroll came photocopies of its columns and a detailed report from an Israeli organisation that developed an expertise in this area.

    It should be added that sometimes the problem with an old scroll is not spelling but fading or cracked writing, and generally this too can be fixed with a steady scribal hand and kosher ink.

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