Yesterday, we noted the controversy surrounding the verse in Parashat Vaera (8:1) in which God commands Aharon to raise his staff to bring the plague of frogs upon the Egyptians. According to some editions of the Rambam’s Hilkhot Sefer Torah (chapter 8), this verse begins a new paragraph (“setuma”), and thus a space must be left in between the preceding text and this verse. Others, however, disagreed. We saw that as the Rambam explicitly requires ninety-five setuma paragraphs breaks in Sefer Shemot, the second view must “compensate” for this paragraph break, and it thus maintains that a paragraph break is made in between the two verses of the final of the Ten Commandments (“lo tachmod”). This is, indeed, the accepted practice.
The Noda Bi-yehuda (Mahadura Kamayta, Y.D. 79) addresses the case of a Sefer Torah which was found written according to the first opinion, with a paragraph break in Parashat Vaera, but no paragraph break in between the two verses of the command of “lo tachmod.” He rules that although the accepted custom follows the second opinion, nevertheless, the community should not correct the Sefer Torah to accommodate this view. The Noda Bi-yehuda notes that the Kesef Mishneh opposed modifying the accepted text of the Rambam’s ruling, and upheld the view that a paragraph break is made in the verse in question in Parashat Vaera and not in between the verses of “lo tachmod.” In light of this opinion, a Sefer Torah that was found written in accordance with this view should not be changed, and may be used.
Rav Efrayim Zalman Margoliyot, in his Sha’arei Efrayim (Pitchei She’arim 6:21), strongly disputes the Noda Bi-yehuda’s ruling. He cites the work Or Torah, which brings numerous sources and manuscripts of the Mishneh Torah to prove that the correct edition of the Rambam’s text follows the second view mentioned above. Rav Margoliyot goes so far as to say that if the Kesef Mishneh had seen these manuscripts, he would not have rejected the emendation made in the text of the Rambam. Therefore, he writes, although there is perhaps room to permit a congregation that discovered this mistake in the Torah to continue using the Torah for that day’s reading, the text of the Sefer Torah must be corrected afterwards. Rav Margoliyot cites this ruling from the Devar Shemuel (343), who noted that this case does not fall under the rule allowing the use of a Sefer Torah which contains a mistake that is acceptable according to some halakhic authorities. (The Devar Shemuel cites this rule in the name of the Mahari Mintz.) Generally, once a Sefer Torah is written, a mistake may be ignored if it is written in a manner that satisfies the view of some poskim, even though that view is not followed. The Devar Shemuel contended that in the case under discussion, it is considered the universally accepted opinion to make no paragraph break in the verse in Parashat Vaera, and to make a break in between the two segments of the command of “lo tachmod.” Therefore, if the opposite was done, the Sefer Torah must be corrected.
Interestingly, Rav Margoliyot cites the Ma’aseh Rokei’ach commentary to the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah as citing testimony that a certain Torah scroll which was meticulously written according to the famous text of Ben-Asher follows the accepted view. The Rambam (Hilkhot Sefer Torah 8:4) accepted the text of Ben-Asher, and writes that the Torah scroll he wrote (commonly identified as the Aleppo Codex) followed Ben-Asher’s text. It thus stands to reason that the correct text of the Rambam’s list of paragraph breaks follows this view, that a paragraph break is made in the tenth of the Ten Commandments but not before the verse in question in Parashat Vaera. For this reason, too, Rav Margoliyot ruled that a Sefer Torah written in accordance with the other view must be corrected.