When one looks at a Torah Scroll, he will see the beautiful and carefully scribed block letters of the Ashuris font, but he will immediately notice that the Nekudos – the vowels which are the key to vocalizing the correct pronunciation of the word – are absent.
There are certain words in Hebrew that are spelled with the same letters but by placing different vowels to the letters, their meaning will change. For example: the word Chalav – is milk, while the word Chailev, which is spelled with the same letters but with different vowels – is fats of an animal. So too, the word Zeicher – means remember, while Zochor – means a male.
So doesn’t this leave our Torah vulnerable for mistakes to crop in? The answer is that G-d designed it this way, so that the Written Torah scroll needs to rely on the Oral Tradition as well. The tradition of the pronunciation was given orally, and has been retained all through the centuries primarily through non- Torah scrolls.
Another feature missing from the scribed Torah Scrolls is the Trope – the cantillation marks that tell us the tune and the sentence structure. These notes were taught to Moshe when he was studying the Torah from G-d in Heaven and he passed it on to the Jewish nation.
Based on our tradition, there are specific letters in the Torah that are scribed in a larger font and certain letters that are specifically scribed in a font smaller than the rest of the word. All this has deeper meaning.
There is another fascinating feature in the Torah scroll, however this one will only be noticed if it is pointed out. The first letter of each column of the Torah scroll is the letter Vuv. There are only six columns which begin with different letters.
One will find ten instances in the Torah where various dots are found on the top of words. These dots are not punctuation marks; rather, they are placed on top of the words to derive a lesson. This occurs in this week’s Parsha.
The Parsha relates that our forefather Yaacov met with his hate-filled brother Aisav after a thirty-four year separation and after Yaacov had advanced many gifts to Aisav in order to appease him from his hatred. When Aisav finally saw Yaacov, he ran towards him and kissed him and they wept.
On top of the Hebrew word, ‘and he kissed him’ there are six dots. Rashi takes note of the dots and explains through the Medrash, that the dots are indicating that in truth, when Aisav approached Yaacov his intent was to bite his neck and kill him, however, at that moment he became overwhelmed with compassion and he kissed him.
Targum Yonoson goes further and explains that indeed Aisav tried to bite Yaacov, however, Yaacov’s neck turned as hard as marble and Aisav’s teeth became rubbery. Aisav cried because of his foiled plan and Yaacov cried because Aisav inflicted some pain in the process.
The question is, what made Yaacov decide to meet with the wicked Aisav?
After Yaacov received the patriarchal blessing from his father Yitzchok instead of Aisav, Aisav became very angry. Our matriarch Rivka instructed Yaacov to flee to her brother Lavan and marry into his family – and then return when Aisav’s anger would subside. She then repeated, “Until his anger recedes from you.”
Commentators wonder, why did Rivka repeat these words?
Rabbi Shaltiel Cohen explains this with a verse taken from King Solomon’s book of Proverbs. “As in water, face answers to face, so is the heart of man to man.”
This teaches us that the facial demeanor that a person presents himself will mirror the image of how people will respond. A smile will claim a smile and a frown will warrant a frown.
King Solomon continues, the same is true with ones feeling in his heart towards another. If one has good feelings towards another, the other person instinctively feels a good vibe in his heart – no matter how physically distant they are from each other.
Rivka was instructing Yaacov to run from his enraged brother until his anger disperses. She then told Yaacov, “and how will you know when Aisav’s anger has subsided?” It is when you instinctively feel the hatred that he harbors towards you has lifted from your heart.
At this time Yaacov sensed some burden had lifted from his heart and therefore he felt that it was an opportune time to meet Aisav.
This is an amazing concept. Not only when we smile towards another does it produce good feelings between us, it works on a sublime level as well. When we think positively of others – even in situations where conflict exists – the positive feelings and thoughts toward them stimulate warmth in their hearts as well.
It’s certainly worth a try!