— Each holy Hebrew letter is hand written as
though it were hanging from a horizontal scored line -
the light grey dashed lines to the right and left at the
top of this letter.
· The horizontal top of a letter - if there is one - is called "the roof" of the letter.
· The vertical appendage(s) of a letter - again if there is one - is called "a leg."
· This letter is a tsadik * (also spelled tzadik, tsadi, tsade, or sade in English) - TSAH dee(k). It has two "heads" rather than a roof. Both heads, though, hang from the scored line.
· Usually, the "head" of a letter is square. One corner of the right-side head of the letter tsadik is rounded, though.
· I drew curved lines from points (a), (b), (c) and (d) toward features of this letter. These curved lines are not part of the letter at all, though.
· I labeled the points (a), (b), (c) and (d) from right to left just as Hebrew is written and read.
· Three tagin (TAH gheen), "crown points," * adorn the left head of this letter (b, c & d) (above). Tagin, these embellishments, extend above the roof or head of a letter. In my way of thinking, a tag (TAHG, singular) looks like a finger with an exaggerated finger pad. *
· Some letters, such as this tsadik, have three crown points.
· Some letters have only one, and some letters have none.
· Also, the top right corner of this letter's head points up and out (a) (above). We call this a "thorn." The thorn also extends slightly above the roof or head of a letter.
· Some letters have a thorn pointing up and out from the letter's left head or even pointing down instead.
· Some letters have no thorn at all.
· Some letters have no crown points either.
· The smallest detail of each letter is essential (usually). If a letter is supposed to have a thorn but the thorn is found missing, a scribe inks in the thorn.
· If a crown point is missing, a scribe adds it.
· If a letter is not hanging from the scored line, a scribe erases the letter and writes it hanging correctly.
· Many Hebrew letters are supposed to fill out to the size of a square — excluding any thorns or crown points. I've inserted light grey dashed lines at the top and bottom of my first drawing. This rendering of the tsadik is not square and may not pass muster.
· The Hebrew letter yod (YOOD, rhyming with the English words 'wood' or 'hood') has one crown point. It also has a thorn pointing down.
· The letter nun (NOON, with the same vowel sound as the 'oo' of the English word 'wood') has three crown points adorning its head.
· We read and write Hebrew from right to left. A letter faces left toward the next letter. This side of a letter is called its "face." The other side is called its "back."
· The letter tsadik is a composite letter. The letter yod (YOOD, rhyming with the English words 'wood' or 'hood') is attached to the letter nun (NOON, with the same vowel sound as the 'oo' of the English word 'wood').
· In writing the tsadik, its letter yod is inverted and the yod's bottom is squared, so the yod loses its thorn which points down.
· Also, the yod's short leg is bent backward to connect to the nun.
· The nun leans forward in the letter tsadik to accommodate the attached yod.
· Neither the letter nun nor the letter yod by themselves fill a square. In fact, they are not supposed to. However, the letter tsadik, as a composite, does fill a square like many (or most) Hebrew letters.
· This form of the letter tsadik is also called 'tsadik kefufa' and, to review, consists of pieces from two different letters. The left part is a 'nun kefufa', which is even more curved than a nun normally is, and it has a wider bottom base than normal. The right part is a reversed yod, which is resting on the back part of the nun. The left head has three tagin, crown points, on it, like a regular nun. The heads should not touch one another at all.
· (The overall size should be 3 x 3 kulmusim.)
kefufa - k' foo FAH; Kefufa means compact or bent around, in contrast to the elongated form of a letter (final tsadik, 'tsadik sofit'; or final nun, 'nun sofit'). In the context of being a composite letter, kefufa also means bent forward.
nun kefufa - נ; elongated nun - ן (in a modern font, which is only used for secular or profane [not holy] purposes)
tsadik kefufa - צ; elongated tsadik - ץ (in a modern font, which is only used for secular or profane [not holy] purposes)
kulmusim - kuhl MOO sihm; nibs of a feather pen
^ Tsadik - Today,
many people call this letter "tsadik" rather than "tsadi."
I'd like to suggest a reason. A tsadik (tzadik) is a
righteous person. We have always anticipated an especially
righteous person — the Messiah. In his time,
righteousness, justice, and mercy will prevail. The Hebrew
expression from the Bible is tsemach tsedek —
"righteousness sprouting." Belief in the Messiah is one of Maimonides' Thirteen Principles of Faith. We are determined to be the generation of the arrival of the Messiah.
(See Pirkei Rebbe Eliezer or Tana d'Vei Eliyahu.* Each of the "double letters" corresponds to a time of redemption such as the Exodus from Egypt [pakod pakadti]. The letter tsadik is associated with the Messiah as I just wrote — and "Tzemach Tzedek is his name.")
* My copies of these books are packed for a move.
^ crown points - According to Rabbi Ovadiah of Bertinoro (c. 1445 - c. 1524), taga means 'crown' in Arabic (from his Commentary on the Mishnah, Avot 1:13, "u'd'yishtamesh b'taga").
In the usage of the Jews of Allepo, Syria, the Arabic word for 'crown' is pronounced taj (TAHDZH). The Jews in Aleppo called the oldest codex of the Hebrew Scriptures — written in Tiberias, Israel, before 930 CE or so — al-Taj. It was the crown of their holy possessions while they guarded it from 1479 until it was smuggled into Israel in 1957, hence the name Aleppo Codex.
The next oldest known codex of Hebrew Scriptures now resides in the Russian National Library (formerly the Imperial Library) in St. Petersburg. This codex was written in Cairo, finished in 1008 CE. When the Soviets changed the name of St. Petersburg to Leningrad, this codex became known as the Leningrad Codex. The Russian National Library has 2,500 codices of all or part of the Hebrew Bible dating before 1100 CE. Altogether there are 15,000 Jewish manuscripts in the Russian National Library. However, scholars have had only limited access to study even a few of these manuscripts.
(Source: Tawil, Hayim and Bernard Schneider. 2010. Crown of Aleppo: the mystery of the oldest Hebrew Bible codex. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.)
One traditional Jewish source maintains that tag, in his day, also meant 'crown' in Latin. In the 1500s, Doctor Benjamin Musafia, exiled from Spain, wrote that the Hebrew word tag has a cognate in "the language of Rome" which means 'crown'. I have not found a confirmation for this assertion. However, in contemporary French, toque is a hat with a small visor; also a headcovering without edges – coiffure sans bords (a skullcap?) (see Larousse de Poche, 1960). Perhaps, a linguist could determine whether this French word toque derives from Latin or from a Germanic source.
Musafia's Hebrew composition, entitled Musaf HeAruch, is generally printed to accompany HeAruch by Rabbi Natan son of Yechiel.
^ tag, "finger pad" — Some linguists (Greenberg, Ruhlen) have found lexical evidence for an early family of languages which was spoken by the ancestors of most of today's residents of Eurasia — the civilizations which now extend from Western Europe eastward into the Indian subcontinent (but not beyond into West or Southeast Asia). There was a common vocabulary (and grammar) in this early language family that suggests an earlier speech community of people who understood each other.
In a reconstruction of this early language, these linguists
believe that this language had a word tik that meant
'finger'. Ultimately, in twisted ways, descendants of this
word might be part of today's English language — 'digit',
'teach' (to point out), 'token', 'toe' (possibly), 'preach' (a way
of teaching and pointing out), 'indicate', words that contain
These and other linguists have speculated that a
larger speech community preceded the Eurasian one.
Descendants of this community now also speak
(Formerly, these language families were called
Semitic and Hamitic, based on the names of two of Noah's three
Accordingly, it seems to me that the Hebrew word tag is related to the supposed early speech community's word tik. This is why I like to believe that the deeper meaning of the Hebrew word tag refers to an abstract picture of a finger with an exaggerated finger pad. Of course, the reconstruction of theoretical languages which have left no written trace and which haven't been spoken in thousands of years is based on many tentative assumptions. Perhaps, the prehistoric word was tak or tig or — tag.
Interestingly, the Hebrew word meteg (MET egg) refers to a vertical tick mark (i.e., a pointing finger) which, in Hebrew, when written with vowels, is placed under a syllable to indicate the rising tone just before completing the reading of a verse. Elsewhere, a meteg indicates the secondary stress in a Hebrew word of several syllables. Perhaps, even the English word 'tick' in this sense of a "mark" stems from the prehistoric word tik.
תג = tag; מתג = meteg
^ Elokim - This pronunciation comes from one of