Scribal Laws for Copying the Hebrew Scriptures

by: Carol Scott

The following is a list of the laws that every scribe was to follow when transcribing any scriptural text or letter. As you can see, the requirements are very demanding. An observant Yehudim has always treated the precious Word of YHVH very seriously. Any one having read these laws would have great doubts about any scribe changing even one letter of the text. Could you imagine a scribe placing his own opinions in a manuscript? Read them carefully, and try to imagine anyone doing this today!


  1. Laws must be written on skins of clean animals.
  2. The scribe (sofer) must be a verifiable Jew.
  3. Copies must be tied with strings of clean animals.
  4. The length of the scroll (sefer) must contain sixty (60) letters and the width must contain thirty (30) letters.
  5. The ink must be black.
  6. No more than one letter can be written from memory.
  7. If a mistake is made, the copy must be destroyed and a new sefer (scroll) is begun.
  8. The space of one hair between consonants must be maintained.
  9. Maintain the space of nine consonants between every section.
  10. The 5th book of Moshe must end exactly at the last line.
  11. The sofer must sit in full Jewish dress.
  12. The sofer must wash (mikvah) his whole body before beginning.
  13. The pen must not be newly dipped in ink when writing the name of YHVH.
  14. The sofer must not look up to address even the king if he is not finished with a skin.
  15. All numerical values of the Hebrew letters going up, going down and going across in the old copy must match exactly the numerical values of the new copy. (Who ever counted the letters of the Koran, Book of Mormon, the Vedas or any other piece of literature, for that matter?)
  16. The new copy is considered to be the most authentic copy. Only the new copy is to be read in the synagogue. The old copy is then destroyed by fire and buried.

Note: Marvin Wilson states so eloquently in “Our Father Abraham” (p.308):

“If a Torah scroll accidentally drops to the floor, those present are required to fast. God’s law brings life, so a Torah scroll is dressed as if it were a living person; it has a covering, a breastplate, and a crown. If a fire were to break out in the sanctuary of a synagogue, after saving all human lives, the very next items in priority for rescue are the sacred Torahs. When a Torah scroll becomes old or irreparably damaged, it is buried in a grave, like a human being.”

via Scribal Laws for Copying the Hebrew Scriptures.

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