Re: Equal Interval Reading

Yanke (yanke@nytimes.com)
Thu, 30 Jan 1997 16:18:21 -0500

In TF V3 #18, Moshe Zeldman deals with the problem that the Gemara
in Kiddushin places the Vav of the word "gichon" as the center of the
Torah's letters, yet by inspection we find this not the case. He offers 3
approaches, including:
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> b) Piskei Eliyahu suggestes that the Gemara is referring not to all
>the letters in the Torah, but to the unusual ones (large, small,..)
>and that the vav of "gichon" is the middle such example.

A second, related issue is the Gemara'a placement of the words
"darosh dorash" as the center of the Torah's words, yet counting the words
reveals this apparently not to be so. An approach that I'm familiar with
dates back more than twenty years. In 1973, when the Russian ba'al teshuvah
movement was getting under way, two Jews arrived in Baltimore who caused a
sensation in town. They were R' Avraham Silver, a professor of mathematics
at Moscow University, and his son. Completely self-taught, they had learned
how to read Hebrew and Aramaic and eventually mastered the Talmud Bavli in
its entirety! All this took place under the repressive Soviet rule. The
Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisroel, HaRav Ruderman ztz"l, went to greet the two at
the airport and said of Prof. Silver that he was a "malach Elokim" - an
angel of G-d, to achieve what he did under such adversity.

Getting back to our topic, Prof. Silver was invited to deliver a
shiur [Talmudic discourse] at the yeshiva, at which I was present, and he
discussed this issue of the number of words and letters. He said that he
and his son had counted the 'special' (unusually large and small) letters of
the Torah, and that Vav of "gichon" was indeed the center. They also
counted the doubled words in the Torah, such as "Noach, Noach", and indeed
the couplet "Darosh Dorash" appears in the center of all doubled words.

So the answer is similar to that of the Piskei Eliahu quoted above
for the letters. The Gemara is referring not to all the words, but to the
ones with special treatment, i.e., doubled in the text.

Yanke Shulman