World’s Oldest Torah Confirms Alter Rebbe’s Shita

The world’s oldest complete Sefer Torah, believed to have been written between the years 1155 and 1225, was discovered about six weeks ago in the library of the University of Bologna, Italy, by Professor Mauro Perani. reports that Rabbi Aharon Chitrik of Crown Heights contacted Professor Perani and asked him to send him a picture of a certain passage in Parshas Ki Teitzei.

The passage in question is the source of much disagreement between several streams of Judaism. Most notably, between those who follow the Alter Rebbe, and those who follow Vilna Gaon.

In Devarim, Chapter 23, The Posuk says: לֹא-יָבֹא פְצוּעַ-דַּכָּא. According to the Alter Rebbe, the word “Dako” ends with an Alef, while the Vilna Gaon maintained that the word ends with a “Hei.”

Until this very day, the Chabad community’s Sifrei Torah are written with an Alef at the end of the word, while those of most other Ashkenazic communities are spelled with a Hei.

In Hayom Yom, the Rebbe quotes the Frierdiker Rebbe:

In Prague there is a Torah scroll which – according to local tradition – had been examined and emended by Ezra the Scribe. It is read only on Simchat Torah and is always rolled to the portion of sh’ma. When I was in Prague in 5668 (1908) I saw that scroll, and in it daka is spelled with an alef. So too when I was in Worms in 5667 (1907), I saw a sefer-Torah written – according to their tradition – by Rabbi Meir of Rotenberg, and there too the word daka was written with an alef.

Upon reading in the news that a complete Sefer Torah – over 800 years old – was discovered, Rabbi Chitrik lost no time in finding a way to get in touch with professor Perani and see if he could shed any light on the matter.

The Italian professor was happy to oblige and responded with a message and a photo. The word in the Sefer Torah was spelled with an Alef.

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  • moshe der g

    really unclear ?

    i think they should go down there and get a better photo

  • Smudge

    I know the Rebbe is right but this smudge is no more of an alef than it is a hey.

    • clear enough

      the first letter of the second line clearly shows an “alef” while the last letter of the fifth word on the second line clearly shows a “hey” now go and compare the angles between the two and you will see that your smudge has the angles of an “alef”

  • David Kahn

    The letter appears to be an aleph when compared to the other alephs and heis on the same column. However, this does not settle any dispute as the writing is a sephardi ksav. The sephardim have always written it with a hei.

  • Unclear

    Actually, in the photo the last letter is unclear. It could be a Hei or an alef.

  • att. #2

    You can tell from looking at the other heys and alefs that this smudge was an alef

  • Agree with comments above

    It honestly doesn’t look like either a hei or alef, rather a combination, perhaps..

    Would love to see a clearer picture! Incredibly fascinating otherwise!

  • #2

    #2 you must be blind look at the other alefs and u will see the right side and bottom clearly and that it doesnt end at the end of the line like the other lines

  • Smudgy

    I agree with the other posters, please provide a better picture. It does look like an aleph but it’s just too smudgy to be muchof anything.


    It shows clearly that’s it’s an Aleph, A Hei even smudged would look much different. By the way it’s faded not smudged.
    Please stop throwing cold water and give Reb Aaron some credit.

  • It's an Alef - but doesn't prove anything

    Even though it’s smudged, it clearly is (or at least originally was) an Alef. There is no doubt about that.

    It still doesn’t prove which way is “correct.” It is possible that 800 years ago there was also a dispute about how to write this word, and some Sifrei Torah were written one way and some the other.

    To number 2, “Smudge”: No offense, but I think you mean to say that you “believe” the (Alter) Rebbe is correct. Presently there is no way you or anyone can “know” that the the correct way to write the word is with an Alef. Meanwhile it is obvious that you do not even “know” the difference between a (smudged) Alef and a (smudged) Heh, so you can believe all you want, but you still have a lot to learn.

  • your all missing the point

    it obviously is an aleph if the entire story is based on this premise, it most probably isn’t sefard ktsav if it was written in 1155 to 1225 and found in italy, written 200-300 later this would make sense, finally the moral of the story is the alephs lending to the validity of the alter rebbe vs the goan and how amazing it is that such a torah still exist and was found in such a place

  • Agree with #13

    We see from Rambam in Hilchos Sefer Torah that there was a big bilbul among the sforim, which followed varying opinions. That’s why he had to write a complete list of all the psuchos and stumos.
    One generation later Rabbi Meir Abulafia compiled a similar lists for all variant spellings in the Torah. (BTW, that’s where dakah with a hei comes from from, not the Vilna Gaon as mistakenly stated in the article.)
    This scroll in particular is no proof as it contains gross errors. I saw a picture from parshas Vayechi where “anavim” was written with a vav instead of a veis!
    To #4 – you wrote “The sephardim have always written it with a hei.” Don’t you mean with an alef?

  • lubavitch

    the rebbes sofer has confirmed that the rebbe wore arizal ksav tfillin—kosher enough for me

  • Sefer Torah

    Where are the sifrei Torah discussed in the hayom yom. One which was checked by Ezra Hasofer. and the other which was written by Reb Meir Mirottenberg.?

  • Intentionally Unclear

    Maybe it’s intentionally unclear so that everyone can be right and Moshiach can come.

  • Shmuli

    I heard first hand from Rabbi E.D. Borenstein, Shliach of the Rebbe to Bologna, Italy and now also In Florence, that the Sefer Torah is fact only 300 years old, and the claims of the professor who found it have been found to be inaccurate.
    It’s still cool though that it says ‘Dakah’ with an Alef…

  • yitzchok teitelbaum

    This sefer is one hundred percent not kosher even according to sefard,I will not go into all the laws now ..

    This sefer


    This scroll was in the news a while back and seems to be possul, or worse – that it was written by an apikores, or an am ho’oretz.

    if you look here – you see the parsha in vayechi where yaakov is blessing yehudah. instead of “ANOVIM” with a VAIS, which means grapes, it says ANOVIM with a VOV, which means humble ones…

    So it probably isn’t such a good idea to use this scroll as proofs for a shita of the alter rebbe – sheyesodosom biharirei kodesh – with this scroll that is highly questionable for many many reasons.

  • Mordechai HaSofer

    This is clearly an aleph as as such conforms with reading as it is given in the Teymani tradition which is most likely the correct reading. The Torah is pasul by today’s standards which are much higher. From photos I have seen it preserves many traditions from Sefer HaTaggin so was most likely not written by an apikores or am ha-arets. Things were just different back then and the writing was clumsy by today’s stricter standards.