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Tikkun Soferim


TIKKUN SOFERIM , certain changes in the text of the Bible made by the early *soferim in places which are offensive or show lack of respect to God. Ezra is the first to be referred to as a sofer in the Bible. This designation signifies not merely someone expert in the art of writing but also the scholar versed in the Torah. The members of the Great *Synagogue were also soferim, and the rabbis attribute to them 18 such tikkunim. These are enumerated in Midrash Tanḥuma and Midrash Rabbah, and Rashi in his commentary on the Bible quotes eight of them on the relevant passages. Midrash Tanḥuma begins with the verse: "He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye" (Zech. 2:12); it should have said "My eye," but the Bible puts it in the third person to avoid referring it to God, this being a tikkun soferim of the men of the Great Synagogue. On completing the listing of these verses in the Bible, Midrash Tanḥuma continues: "but the men of the Great Synagogue altered these verses. And that is why they were called soferim, because they counted [Heb. sofer ] all the letters of the Bible and expounded them." Similarly in Ezekiel 8:17, "Lo, they put the branch to His nose," was adjusted to "their nose." Again with the verse (Gen. 18:22) "but Abraham stood yet before the Lord." R. Simeon said: "This is a tikkun soferim, for the Shekhinah was actually waiting for Abraham and it should really have read: 'And the Lord stood yet before Abraham.' Similarly the verse (Num. 11:15) 'And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favor in thy sight; and let me not look upon my wretchedness' should have read 'their wretchedness.'" Rashi (ad loc.) language of the Bible. It should have been written 'and they condemned the Omnipresent by their silence,' but the text was amended. Also: 'Thus they exchanged their glory for the likeness of an ox' [Ps. 106:20] should have been written 'His glory' but it was amended."

Words with Diacritical Points above Them

Avot de-Rabbi Nathan, 1 (34,100f.) indicates ten passages in the Bible which have diacritical points over some of the letters. In the view of the rabbis these points were inserted by Ezra the Scribe. "Why? Ezra reasoned thus: 'If Elijah should come and say to me, "Why did you write so?" I shall reply, "Have I not already put dots above them? The dot indicating that the word is as though erased?"' "The dot is an indication that the word is to be omitted." This is the source of the view of Hezekiah b. Manoah in his biblical commentary Ḥazzekuni, that dots over words are an indication that Ezra was doubtful about them.


S. Lieberman, Hellenism in Jewish Palestine (1950), 28–37.

[Abraham Arzi]

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