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This page is divided into the following sections:
1.  Obtaining Hebrew Texts for Study.
2.  Ketib and Qere.
3.  Studying to Read from a Torah scroll.
4.  Back to the "Original" Text(s).
5.   Biblical texts, "Unclean Hands" and Religious Intolerance
6.  Minding your dalets and reshes
7.  Additional Resources.
Obtaining Hebrew Texts for Study


An Important Note on Biblical Texts
"Not all biblical texts are created equal" --- Reb Solomon Mandel of Dauendorf (ca. 1714--1810)
There are differences between manuscripts and also between editions which are based on the same manuscript. If you are obtaining/reading a text for liturgical/scholarly reasons you should note the following:

A Tikkun is a printed book which is used to prepare Torah readers. Each each pair of pages---one with the cantillation/grammar and vowel symbols and the other with the pure consonantal text, in a font which resembles the scribal letters---corresponds to one sheet of a Torah scroll. A Tikkun, from whatever the source, will not necessarily agree with the text that you obtain by the methods described below.

A Tikkun may not show the qere (see below). In chumashim the qere is usually printed at the bottom of the main text and in a font size which is even smaller than the already too small font size for the main text.Biblical texts, "Unclean Hands" and Religious Intolerance

Even sources which use the Leningrad Codex as the basis for their text will differ. Aside from errors in transcribing, differences will occur because of the difficulty in reading the manuscript itself. For example the current Tanakh.us text is much more recent than the 1999 Jewish Publication Society Tanakh. For scholarly work the version number should be noted. This shown at the top of the start page of Tanakh.us in the format:

Unicode/XML Westminster Leningrad Codex [4.20]

You can see the difference between successive versions by going to the "Supplements" page.


tanakh.us

Your starting point is the tanakh.us web page.
      [N.B. tanach.us and tanakh.us are equivalent terms and either may be used in connection with the web page.]

In order to ensure that the texts appear and print correctly it is suggested that one download and install the Society of Biblical Hebrew "SBL Hbrw" font which is the default font for tanakh.us.
You can download SBL Hebrew directly (click on "font download") . Note that the file that you download has the name [SBL_Hbrw.ttf], with an underbar between the words (ttf stands for "true type format" as opposed to otf stands for "open type format". However the installed type will be listed as "SBL Hbrw" (without an underbar and this is the format used by tanakh.us. This font can also be used with word processors; the same page has keyboard layouts and installation instructions. Be sure to download the SBL Hebrew User Manual on the same page from which you may learn---as was my case---the intricacies of typesetting Biblical Hebrew (see in particular the discussion on page 14 on Psalm 27:13!)

"SBL Hbrw" is a unicode based font which means that each letter, accent, etc. corresponds to a classification number established by the Unicode Consortium. You can read the discussion on the Tankh.us site and see the formal Unicode Consortium pages here Hebrew pages and here Hebrew presentation pages.
[WARNING: Do not use the SIL Hebrew font; the yod-heeriq combination (unicode element FB1D) is incorrect and the layout is not up to the very high "SBL Hbrw" standards].

I will first show how to obtain a specific portion of the Tanakh using the example of Exodus, chapter 16, verses 1 through 8. I will abbreviate this below as: Exodus 16:1 - 8.
Print / HTML copies: Once you have obtained the text that you want, go to the bottom right where you will see four rectangles. Choose the one that says "ODT" (open document format). You can now print to a PDF file and then produce a hard copy. If you prefer you can choose the HTML format.

Each book has an abbreviation and the list is obtained by clicking on "syntax", just to the left of the empty box. At the bottom of the page are the various ways of choosing texts. Here are some examples with text of interest in red and the command to enter in bold. The only restriction is that you must stay within one book. You can turn off the numbers, on the layout menu by clicking on "text only":
-- All of chapter 16 of Exodus:    ex 16. There is no asterisk, just the chapter number.
-- Exodus, chapter 16, verses 1 through 8:    ex 16:1 - 8. Note the colon after the chapter number and the dash to indicate the range (leaving space around the dash is optional)
-- Exodus, chapter 16, only verse 7:    ex 16:7.
--  The Torah reading for Shabbat be-sha-lach which is Exodus, chapter 13, verse 17 through chapter 17, verse 16: ex 13:17 - 17:16.


What Size Font Should One Choose?

For studying a text I prefer the default view, but with the font size changed to 28pt (as opposed to default font size of 24 points) as in this example: Exodus 16:1 - 8; "full" at 28pt. Notice that on the top right "layout" is set to "full" and the the next item, content is set to "accents".
Note: there are 28.3 printer points to a centimetre, but font sizes are nominal and the actual size depends upon the design.

For singing and for difficult texts, I use a font size of 32 points and the verse view as in this example: Exodus 16:1 - 8, "full", verse view at 32pt.
To obtain the verse view click on layout. Then click on the last item of the drop-down menu which is the toggle between regular and verse views.

Since the Haftarah is sung using a printed text, you can now start practicing.


Ketib and Qere
The reason that I chose Exodus 16:1 - 8 is that in both verses 2 and 7 we have an example of a ketib-qere pair. The ketib (what is written in the text) appears in red above the line. The qere is what appears in the a margin of the manuscript, and is to be read instead of the ketib) is in blue and on the line. The actual number of these pairs will vary with the manuscript, but the order of magnitude is about 1300. In the "supplement" section Tanakh.us provides us with number of pairs in each book and by clicking on the name of the book one can see alll the relevant verses.

The study of the ketib and qere is a very interesting one and often leads to new interpretations of the Biblical text. Contrary to what one often reads the ketib is not always incorrect and often is just as good (or even better) a reading than the qere. In some cases as in Genesis 30, verse 11 the qere is wrong whereas the ketib is correct.

If you do not want to see the ketib, go to layout and on the drop-down menu click on "qere only".
The Tikkun that one uses to practice Torah reading sometimes has the qere in brackets next to the ketib.

If you wish to see all the ketib-qere pairs, these can be found on the "Supplements" page. This page also contains other interesting features. For instance suppose you want to know how many times Moses's name appears in Joshua. To do this click on the "search" button. Next find a Hebrew text where "mo-sheh" appears and copy it to text box. Now choose Joshua as the book to search. All fifty-nine verses with "mo-sheh" will be listed. You may be surprised---as I was---to learn that "mo-sheh" appears fewer times (thirty-nine times) in Deuteronomy. Verse lengths? number of words? the number of verses in Genesis which are twelve words long. etc., you will find this and more!


Studying to Read from a Torah scroll

Start as above with suitable font size with the full version and with both the vowel-signs and the cantillation symbols. You may also want to choose the verse view (see above).

Next practice without the cantillation symbols, but with the vowel-signs.
To do this, change "content" from "accents" to "vowels".

Next practice with only the consonants.
To do this, change "content" to "consonants".

Next practice without the verse numbers
To do this change "layout" to "text only".

Next you will want practice with a printed Torah font. You can download it from here. The file that you download is [Stam Ashkenaz CLM Medium.zip]. You will then unzip this file and install it (the method depends on your operating system; see the instructions just below the font and license). The file that you end up with is [Stam Ashkenaz CLM Medium.ttf]. However when you use this font in Tanakh.us you will enter "Stam Ashkenaz CLM".
The same site has a Sephardic version of a Torah font. [The site also has many other Hebrew fonts].

Next you will want practice with a Tikkun. As stated above the text in a Tikkun may not agree with the text that you obtain from Tanakh.us. The source of a Tikkun is usually not given so "reader beware!".
You can obtain portions of a Tikkun by following this link. Here is an example: Tikkun for Exodus 16:1 - 8 [This is provided by Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda, Maryland.]

Now that you have mastered the printed text, you are certainly looking for a new challenge. Tanakh.us has just the thing for you:
Go to the bottom left and you will see "LC facsimile". Click on "go" and you will see the page of the Leningrad Codex with your text.

On the upper left it indicates the book, chapter(s) and verses contained on the page.


Back to the "Original" Text(s).

Before the Jews adopted the "square" style of letters of the type used today, probably sometime in the first century B.C.E, the Bibiical texts were written in what is usually referred to as "paleo-Hebrew". Here is an example of parts of Leviticus 17 and 19.

Here is the transciption of the text along with parts of the text of Leviticus 17 and 19 in "square" Hebrew characters, as well as in three ancients characters.

Biblical texts, "Unclean Hands" and Religious Intolerance

Look at the following manuscript. Everything is written in "square" letters except for the one word of four letters which is written in paleo-Hebrew. This is the "tetragrammaton", the name of God. This manuscript would not have "rendered the hands unclean". The motives behind such statements is clear from the rabbinic commentaries.


Minding your dalets and reshes

Here is a chart from Early History of the Alphabet by J. Naveh, showing part of the development of the "paleo-Hebrew" alphabet.

Look at the coulmns for the dalets and reshes. Notice that starting at line 4 (seventh century BCE.) the dalet is growing a tail so that the two letters are almost the same! Even with the square characters they are very close. There are many examples where an unclear text becomes clear if we switch to the other. The most striking example is known from a Dead Sea Scroll of 1 Samuel.

Here are some examples of Leviticus 17 and 19 set in three ancients character sets.


The Sefaria Organization

From this site you can obtain the English Jewish Publication Society Tanakh. They also have a Hebrew text from Tanakh.us, but is not the current one and it does not show the ketib and qere. You should use the latest Tanakh.us text as above.

Additional Resources

Sefaria also has the Babylonian Talmud with interlineal Aramaic and English (Steinsaltz translation) and links to commentaries and quotations from the the Tanakh.


Lexilogos (Français)

Le site lexilogos.com a des liens à beaucoup de traductions en Français y inclus la Traduction du rabbinat de 1902


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