The Gemorah at the end of Mesechta Makkos relates of Rabi Gamliel, Rabi Elozor ben Azarya, Rabi Yehoshua, and Rabi Akiva who were talking toward Har Habayis and saw a fox trotting out of the area where the kodesh hakodoshim was once located. They all burst out in crying, while Rabi Akiva was moved to laugh. When they asked him the cause of his laughter, he countered and questioned the cause of their crying. They responded that seeing a once holy place being trampled upon by wild animals was due cause to cry. Rabi Akiva responded, “that is the exact reason why I laugh”.

He continued, “The navi made the fulfillment of Zecharya’s prophesy dependent on the fulfillment of Uryah’s prophesy. Uryah prophesied that the holy site of the Bais Hamikdosh would lie in ruins. Zecharya prophesied that Yerusholayim would once again be rebuilt. Until I personally witnessed the fulfillment of the prophesy that the Bais Hamikdosh would lie in ruins, I was not convinced that the prophesy of the reestablishment of Yerusholayim would be fulfilled”.

The words of Rabi Akiva are mind-boggling! We are told that one of the fundamentals of Yiddishkeit is the belief that every word uttered by a navi is unadulterated truth. How could Rabi Akiva have doubted the fulfillment of Zecharya’s nevuah regarding the rebuilding of Yerusholayim? Additionally, why only after personally witnessing the fulfillment of Uryah’s nevuah was he convinced?

The Vilna Gaon in Sefer Imrei Noam on Mesechta Berachos cites the following Gemorah in Mesechta Chagiga. The Gemorah says that the navi, Yeshaya, cursed Klal Yisroel with eighteen varied kelalos. He was not satisfied until he added one more, the possuk,The youngster will domineer over the elder”, meaning, that the youth will disrespect the elderly.
 How could the Gemorah say that Yeshaya Hanavi was dissatisfied with eighteen curses until he added one more? Did he despise Klal Yisroel so much that he derived satisfaction from cursing them?

The Vilna Gaon explains that Yeshaya was indeed pained by Klal Yisroel’s tzaros. He understood that the geulah process begins only after degenerating and falling to rock bottom when the only possible direction to go is upward. He realized that even after the fulfillment of the eighteen curses, they were not yet going to see the yeshuah. They had not yet finished their descent in their behavior. They did not reach total deterioration in their behavior. Once Yeshaya uttered the last and worst curse, then he was satisfied that their decline would end and they would be on the cusp of geulah.

This may clarify the Gemorah in Mesechta Makkos. Indeed, Rabi Akiva did not doubt the words of the navi, Uriya. Once Rabi Akiva witnessed the tragic sight of the fox trampling on the holiest site, he realized that the geulah was on the way. Things could not get worse! That was the height of churban!

This is the reason why Rabi Akiva laughed. He was relieved that the geulah would finally arrive. That moment is also the beginning of the geulah!

Can a chof have a square corner?

The two corners of the letter chof should be rounded off. If even one of the corners comes to a sharp point, the letter is pasul. If only the upper corner was squared off and a child is able to properly identify the letter as a chof, then the letter may be fixed even after subsequent letters were written. Since the letter already looks like a chof, repairing the letter is not considered writing out of order. If the letter is written without a back and looks like the “greater than” symbol (>), some poskim hold that it is pasul. Others hold that it may be kosher.

משנת סופרים אות כ וביה"ל ד"ה אם; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 1 ,3 ו־5

How long should an “ende” letter be extended?

Most “ende” letters are formed by “opening their floors” and extending their legs downward. For example, the bottom of the letter chof opens and extends downwards to form the “ende” chof. Similarly, the bottom of a tzadik opens to create the “ende” tzadik. The extension of the letter has to be equal to the length of the body of the letter. Since it is proper for the bottom of a letter to be equal to its height (e.g. the bottom of a chof should be as long as its side), the extension of its bottom should equal the length of its side. It is especially important to sufficiently extend the “ende” chof; otherwise, it looks like a reish.

משנת סופרים אות ך וביה"ל ד"ה אם

Should there be a “floor” at the bottom of the lamed?

The letter lamed is formed from a chof as its body and a vav extending from its roof. The right side of the vav should be rounded and the left side should be pointy. Some say that since the body of the lamed is similar to a chof, it should have a flat bottom like a chof. According to the teachings of Kabbalah, however, the body should be similar to an upside down tes with an extended roof. From this viewpoint, there should not be a floor on the bottom of the lamed.

משנת סופרים אות ל; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 2 ;עם הרחבה לפי המקורות
  • The letter tes is formed by creating a shape similar to the letter chof and connecting it on its left side to a zayin. It should have three tagim at its top. The top of the chof-like form should be bent towards its middle.

  • The letter yud is comprised of four parts: its roof, leg, tag at the top and uketz (point) at the bottom. The tag should be short, so that the letter does not look like a reish. The leg should be considerably shorter than the leg of a vav.

  • The Gemara states that if a yud is missing its kotz, it is invalid. The Rishonim disagree on the definition of the kotz of the yud. Rashi explains that it means the leg of the letter. Rabeinu Tam understands that it means the uketz at the bottom of the roof.

  • Which letters are used to properly form the letter mem?

  • Is the bottom of a nun longer than its roof?

  • How long does a “ende” nun have to be?
PLEASE NOTE: The information in this email is for learning purposes only. Please review the Mishna Berura and Biurim U'Musafim before making a halachic decision. Hebrew words are occasionally transliterated to enable a smoother reading of the text. Common Ashkenazi pronunciation is generally used in these cases.
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