The Jewish Daca controversy: Is Patzua Daca written with a Hei or Alef?

The Daka controversy: Is Patzua Daka written wit a Hei or Alef?[1]

Introduction: Every word and letter in a Sefer Torah must be exact, and follow the Halachic tradition. If even one letter is missing, or written incorrectly, or is added and not meant to be there, the entire Torah is Pasul.[2] Quite amazingly, and as a sign of open Divine providence, all the Jewish people within all their sects, have an exact tradition of how all 304,805 letters of the Torah are to be written, with a few exceptions. One of the major exceptions to the universal tradition is regarding how the word “Petzua Daka” [Devarim 23:2] is to be spelled. Some are accustomed to spell it with an Alef at its end [i.e. פצוע דכא] while others spell it with a Hei at its end [i.e. פצוע דכה]. We will now analyze the background and sources of the two traditions and any Halachic question that come as a result.

The law: Some Poskim[3] rule the word Dakah is to be written with an Alef, and so was the formally[4] widespread Ashkenazi custom, and is the old age Yemenite custom, and the traditional Chabad custom.[5] A number of very old Sifrei Torah and Chumashim have been found written this way, with an Alef at the end of the word Daka.[6] Other Poskim[7], however, rule the word Dakah is to be written with a Hei, and so is the current widespread Ashkenazi custom, is the old age Sefaradi custom.[8] A number of very old Sifrei Torah have been found written in this way with a Hei at the end of the word Daka.[9] Practically, each community is to follow their tradition and make sure that  the word Dakah is written accordingly, in the Sifrei Torah of their Shul’s. Thus, the Chabad Rabbeim directed that Chabad Sifrei Torah are to be written with an Alef, and if it was written with a  Hei it is to be edited and changed to an Alef.[10] This, however, should be done in a way that will not arouse dispute.[11]

Being Yotzei with a Sefer Torah written the opposite tradition: Some Poskim[12] rule that a Sefer Torah which is written with an Alef at the end of the word Dakah is invalid. Practically, although, in general, we rule that even one missing or mistaken letter in a Sefer Torah invalidates it, nevertheless regarding the difference of tradition in the word Daka, both options are Halachically acceptable, and thus a Sefer Torah remains Kosher whether the word Daka is written with an Alef or with a Hei. Thus, it is permitted for those who are accustomed to write Dakah with an Alef to hear Kerias Hatorah and receive an Aliya with a Sefer Torah in which the word Daka is written with a Hei, and it is likewise permitted for those who are accustomed to write Dakah with a Hei to hear Keriuas Hatorah and receive an Aliya with a Sefer Torah in which the word Daka is written with an Alef.

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[1] See Minchas Shaiy Parshas Ki Seitzei; Zera Emes 3:141; Minchas Chinuch 613; Sheiris Yehuda Y.D. 16; Divrei Nechemia Y.D. 21; Mishnas Avraham 32; Shaar Efraim 6:44; Otzer Haposkim 1:104; Igros Kodesh 14:283; 168; 15:190; Shulchan Menachem 5:205

[2] See Michaber 274:5; 275:6 regarding Chaseiros and Yiseiros

[3] Directive and ruling of Alter Rebbe, as recorded in Sheiris Yehuda ibid, Divrei Nechmeia ibid, Igros Kodesh Rebbe Rayatz 4:478; 9:419; Hayom Yom 7th Elul and Igros Kodesh 14:168; Divrei Chachamim in name of Or Torah; Seder Avraham; Poskim in Mishnas Avraham 32:2; Or Torah leans to write with Alef [although concludes like Rameh out of reverence]; Tradition in Minchas Chinuch ibid and Teshuvah Meahavah 71

[4] So was the widespread Ashkenazi custom until approximately the 18th century. See Mishnas Avraham 32:2 that in the times of the Alter Rebbe so was the custom of all Sifrei Torah in Ashkenaz; See Divrei Nechemia ibid “So is written in the Sifrei Ashkenaz and we are from Ashkenaz”

[5] The reason: As Dakah with a Hei is a female tense word, while with an Alef means “humbled.” [Sheiris Yehuda ibid] See Divrei Nechemia ibid

[6] In Prague there is a Sefer Torah which according to tradition was reviewed and edited by Ezra the Sofer and in it the word Daka is written with an Alef. This Sefer Torah is only used once a year, on Simchas Torah, and is always found by the Parsha of Shema. [Testimony of Rebbe Rayatz who visited the Prague Shul in 1908 and personally checked and verified that it is written with an Alef, brought in Hayom Yom ibid and Igros Kodesh 14:168] Likewise, in the city of Worms there is a Sefer Torah which accoridng to tradition was written by the Maharam of Rothenberg and in it the word Daka is written with an Alef. [Testimony of Rebbe Rayatz who visited the Worms Shul in 1909 and personally checked and verified that it is written with an Alef, brought in Hayom Yom ibid, and Igros Kodesh 14:168]; Mishnas Avraham 32:2 testifies that the Sefer Torah written by the Sofer of the Baal Shem Tov, and Rav Shabsi Roshkevor, as well as many other old Sifrei Toirah that he saw are written with an Alef. Minchas Chinuch ibid testifies that so he saw in a number of old Sifrei Torah that it is written with an Alef; Rav Yaakov Yosef testified that so is written in the Sefer Torah of the Ran as found in the Hebrew University library; Sefer Torah found in Italy estimated to have been written in the 1200’s is written with an Alef; Unfortunately, some of the old Sifrei Torah have been purposely and brazenly edited to fit the tradition of a Hei, even though they were originally written with an Alef. [Igros Kodesh 15:189]

The following Mefarshei Hatorah and Poskim write Daka with an Alef: In the Mishneh, Talmud and Rishonim, the word Patzua Daka is always written with an Alef. [See Divrei Nechemia ibid for list] In the Otzer Hasefarim of Mr. Sasson in London there are many old manuscripts and all are written with an Alef. For example, in the Tanach of the Migdal Oz who was a student of the Rashba, it was written with a Hei and he erased it and wrote it with an Alef. So is also written in the Tanach of the grandson of the Rashba; Chumash Damasek written over 1500 years ago; Chumash Tanach written 500 years ago. [Igros Kodesh 14:168 and 6:102] Semag on Ki Seitzei; Pirush Rasag on Devarim ibid; Pirush Rashbam on Devarim ibid; Chumash Toras Chaim [Mosad of Rav Cook] writes it with an Alef written based on the Mesorah of Chumash Aram Tzova

[7] Rameh in his Sefer Mesores Seyag Latorah [brings both traditions, and negates the tradition of an Alef as a mistake]; Rebbe Menachem Di Lunzano in Or Torah [brings both traditions and Lechatchila says to write with Hei]; Minchas Shaiy; Minchas Kalil; Meil Tzedaka 29; Teshuvah Meahava 71; Emes Leyaakov; Ledavid Emes 11:16; Shaareiy Efraim 6:44 and Beis Efraim Y.D. 64 [Initially is to write with Hei]; Simanei Mesores; Poskim in Mishnas Avraham 32:1

[8] Or Torah ibid that so is written in all Sefaradi Sifrei Torah

The following Mefarshei Hatorah and Poskim write Daka with a Hei: Pirush Rashi, Even Ezra, Chizkuni on Devarim ibid [as printed in Toras Chaim of Mosad Rav Cook]

[9] See Simanei Mesores and Mishnas Avraham ibid

[10] Sheiris Yehuda ibid; Igros Kodesh 14:283; 15:190; See however Divrei Nechemia ibid; The Rebbe directed Rav Goredetzky to have the Sefer Torah he was bringing to Tunis be discreetly changed to an Alef

[11] Igros Kodesh 14:283

[12] Or Torah ibid; Meil Tzedaka ibid; Divrei Nechemia ibid; Shaareiy Efraim ibid; Mishnas Avraham 32:3 that so is conclusion of Achronim; Kaf Hachaim 143:34 and Kol Yaakov 36:3 regarding that a Sefaradi may hear Kerias Hatorah from an Ashkenazi Sefer Torah, and so too vice versa, and so is the custom in Jerusalem, although neither Ashkenazim or Sefaradim are to hear Kerias Hatorah from a Yemenite Sefer Torah [Vetzaruch Iyun if the Kaf Hachaim ruled this way due to the change of Ashkenazim to write Daka with a Hei, or regardless of the change]; See Piskeiy Teshuvos 685:10; Yalkut Yosef Y.D. 270:22; Yerios Shlomo 2:1; Rav Yaakov Yosef zatzal testified that he and Rav Ben Tziyon Aba Shaul were accustomed to Daven Shacharis by Chabad on Rechov Chanah in Jerusalem, and Rav Aba Shaul would often receive an Aliyah by the Sefer Torah even though it was written with an Alef, unlike their tradition.

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule that a Sefer Torah which is written with an Alef at the end of the word Dakah is invalid. [Ledavid Emes ibid a that one may not read it with a blessing; Emes LeYaakov]; See Sheiris Yehuda ibid in name of Admur that on the contrary, if it is written with a Hei it must be erased and written with an Alef

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