In every Torah Scroll, some Hebrew Letters have crowns, and some do not.
According to Jewish tradition, there are meanings tied to every single crown tied to every single letter: The meanings can be hidden, but they exist to be discovered.
These little crowns, sometimes referred to in English as “tittles”, are called Tag (pl.: Tagin) in Aramaic. In Hebrew, they are Ketarim, crowns or crownlets (sing.: Keter).
In rabbinic scribal tradition, these little crownlets are thought of as miniature letters Zayin, known therefore as Ziyyun (pl: Ziyyunim), meaning armor or dagger.
In most modern Torah scrolls tagin, ketarim, ziyyunim are standardized to three small lines with little dots on the top of specified letters.
Here is a sample of a standard modern Hebrew Aleph Bet with crowned letters:
So according to modern scribal traditions, the Alef never has a crown, but the Shin always does.
guess what? There are exceptions to every single rule. Sometimes, we do find crowns on these other letters, but these are in very old scrolls…
This is where things get interesting: The older the Torah scroll is, the more likely you will see crowns on letters which usually do not have them (in a modern scroll, that is). This is because the old scroll was scribed before the crownlets were standardized.
- NOTE: There are many, many different valid traditions of Torah Scroll Hebrew: Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Yemeni, and many variations in between.
- This means that there are also many different variations of the Tagin on each letter
- But it is important to bear in mind that these crowns, like the Otiot Meshunot / Extraordinary Letters, have been passed down from scribe to scribe for thousands of years
So the next time you look inside a Torah scroll, take a peek at the Tagin, and see what you can see… for there is much to be learned from every jot and every tittle and every Tag of the Torah.
Note that the term “tittle” has two definitions in English:
- a point or small sign used as a diacritical mark in writing or printing
- a very small part
This term also carries Christian connotations, as, according to the International Bible Encyclopedia, this term appears in the Christian Bible twice, first in connection with iota, or jot, i.e. the very smallest thing, referring to the minutiae of the Law. It also literally refers to the points of the letters of the Aleph Bet.