Devorah Learns Masorah

Discover the wisdom of the Torah one letter at a time

Otiot Meshunot / Extraordinary Letters

One of the coolest things about Torah scrolls, every and any Torah scroll, is that it will have some letters inside of them which are different from all the others.

These extraordinary letters are called “Otiot Meshunot”. “Meshunah” in Hebrew can be translated as ‘different’, ‘unusual’, ‘atypical’, or ‘distinct’. Devorah Learns Masorah likes to use the term ‘rare’ or ‘Extraordinary’ to describe these letters that are set apart from the others by size, shape, or scribal or calligraphic design, and even orientation on the parchment.

  • Sometimes, these letters are much larger than the others (the very first letter in the Torah is a BIG BET!)Beresheet_Torah Scroll Vilna, Lithuania c.1750-70
  • Sometimes they are smaller (The little Aleph in the word VAYIKRA)

    These Inverted Nuns are like brackets or parenthesis: They separate the verse into it’s own individual “book”

One of my favorite letters is where one letter wraps inside of itself to make a double letter! (The DOUBLE PEI!!)

Peh Lefufah (Doubled) and Usual Pei. With thanks to Tziporah Thompson for creating the image.

I have even seen a triple letter wrapped up three times like a very special Chanukah gift! (The TRIPLE Pei!!!)

  • These letters are called Otiot Meshunot, or “Extraordinary Letters“, and they are not just for decoration.
    • In fact, the Rabbis and Sages have taught many lessons connected to these letters.
    • It is up to us to notice them, to learn what they mean, to internalize (that means understand in a deep way) their lessons about how to live a good life according to the Torah

The Otiot Meshunot in the Masorah (tradition) of our Torah Scroll represent a sea of deep and, to some extent, uncharted meaning within the realm of Masorah and Torah.

Guess what? There is so much yet to be discovered!

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