The work called Baal HaTurim is dedicated to
explaining words, phrases or even entire verses of the Torah in the realm of
(allusion), rather than in the realm of peshat
(simple meaning of the verse), which is the field of the Peirush HaTur HaAruch.
This Rabbi Yaakov accomplishes through what he refers to as "condiments, which
Gematria (numerical value) - Every Hebrew letter has
a numerical equivalent called its gematria.
Roshei Teivot (initial letters) - The initial
letters of the words in a phrase or verse (either in their respective order or
as an anagram) often spell a word or phrase which may be used as the basis of
Sofei Teivot (final letters) - Similar to roshei
teivot, except utilizing the final letters of the words for the remez.
Mispar (count) - An allusion is drawn from the
number of words in a verse or the number of times a particular letter appears
in a verse.
Otiot Meshunot (strange letters) - According to
scribal traditions recorded in various masoretic and midrashic sources,
certain letters of the Torah are written in an unusual fashion that differs
from the regular script in either size or shape. Allusions are often
derived from those anomalous forms. Among the unusual forms are:
ot rabati (larger letter) a letter which, although
written in its usual shape, is wider and taller than it would ordinarily be.
ot zeira (small letter) a letter which, although
written in its usual shape, is narrower and shorter than it would ordinarily
ot kefufah (bent letter) and ot akumah (twisted
letter) a letter written in an unusual shape, but in such a way that it
remains recognizable as the intended letter.
nakud (dotted), although as a general rule a Torah
scroll must be free of any letters, vowel points, punctuation marks,
cantillation marks, etc., a dot is inscribed above certian letters.
Tagin (tittles or crownlets) - in the regular Torah
script, seven of the twenty-two letters of the alef-beit -
shin, ayin, tet, nun, zayin, gimel,
- are adorned with three crownlets or tittles; six letters -
bet, daled, kuf, chet, yod
- are adorned with one crownlet; and the remaining nine -
mem, lamed, alef, chaf, tav, somek, vav, feh,
have no tagin. However, certain specific letters are written with more
than the usual number of tagin, and those extra tagin indicate that there is
an allusion hidden in that word or phrase.
Chilufei otiot (letter exchanges) - The regular
Hebrew alphabet contains twenty-two ordered letters, and is called the
alef beit. However, it is not the only
valid arrangement of the Hebrew letters. Various other ordered forms of
the alphabet are used in the realms of remez
(allusion) and sod
(secret). these other arrangements consist of the same twenty-two
letters as the
alef-beit, but in a different sequence.
For the purpose of remez or sod, the first letter of one such
arrangement may be exchanged for the letter
alef, the second letter for the
bet, the third for the
gimel, and so on until
tav. Such exchanges form new words
which may be used as the basis for allusions.
Semichut (juxtaposition) - When two seemingly
unrelated topics or themes appear in tandem, their juxtaposition may allude to
Malei vechaser (full or defective) - The letters
function as either vowels or consonants.
Keri uchetiv (pronunciation and spelling) - The
traditional spllins used in Torah scrolls have been handed down through the
generations all the way back sine Sinai. Likewise, the pronunciation of
these unvowelized words has traveled the same route. On occasion, the
keri, pronunciation, of a word is not in accordance with its ketiv, spelling.
Such words are always read with the traditional pronunciation, whether during
the public Torah reading, in private study sessions, or in the simple meaning
of the verse. However, the exposition or exegesis of the verse may also
follow the ketiv, often as an allusion.
Taamei Hamassorah (explanations of masoretic notes)
- The baalei hamassorah (masoretes) flourished in the post-Talmudic period,
mainly in Yerushalayim and Tiberias. They studied the words of the
Tanach, Torah, Prophets, Hagographa, in very close detail, and wrote notes
stating exactly how many times a particular word or phrase appears in any one
Book of Scriptures or in the entire Tanach; how many and which verses begin
and end with the same letter or word; how many and which letters are written
in a an unusual form; which words appear exactly one time in the Tanach; which
words occur exactly twice, once with a vav prefix, once without; which words
appear sometimes vowelized with a kamatz, sometimes with a patach; and many
similar listings and classifications. These notes appear (in many Tanach
manuscripts and in some printed editions) as terse marginal comments, often
consisting of no more than one letter. Thus, a circlet may appear over a
word and the note (lamed'
in the margin; that note means leit
(none), i.e., the indicated word does not appear in exactly that form
elsewhere in Tanach. Or the note may read
bet', meaning that the word appears two
times, or gimel',
three times. Sometimes the note will read
bet' betbet' lishnei, two, with two
meanings, i.e., although the word appears twice, the two appearances have
different translations. There are thousands of such and similar notes
throughout the Tanach. Secular and non-Jewish Bible scholars look at
these masoretic notes as instructions, indications and mnemonics for the
scribe, so that he will know which words are spelled in full and which
defectively; which words are prefixed; which letters are written in an unusual
fashion; etc., etc. However, although it may be true that those notes
served that function, this view does not explain the reason for those
masoretic notes which relate to the meanings of the words.
The Torah sages of medieval Germany and France -
including, but not limited to, Rabbi Elazar of Worms (the Rokeach), Rabbi
Yehudah HaChassid, Rabbi Meir of Tothenburg (the Maharam), Rabbi Asher (the
Rosh), Rabbi Chaim Paltiel, Rabbi Ephrayim - understood the masoretic notes in
an entirely different manner. Until the Mishnah and later the Gemara
were committed to writing, the study of the Oral Torah (including
explanations, interpretations, expositions, exegesis, etc., such as those
found in the Talmud and Mishnah) was limited to memorization. The most
anyone was permitted to write was a very brief note, usually a mnemonic, to
which he could later refer. Although when the Talmud was committed to
writing, general permission was granted for individuals to write their
lessons, many scholars continued writing only brief notes. This was the
purpose and intent of the masoretic notes. Not only the notes that
specify "with two meanings," but every note written by the masoretes, was
viewed as a brief, coded message that pointed to a deep insight. These
notes expose the Scriptural roots of many Talmudic teachings which may
otherwise seem to be based only on pure logic. They plumb the depths of
the Tanach and come up with Biblical sources for Midrashim otherwise known only
through tradition. And this is the school which produced many of the
masoretic interpretations cited by the Baal HaTurim.
In compiling his "condiments," Rabbi Yaakov drew on
the works of all the scholars mentioned in previously, plus many more whose
works have not come down to us. Yet, in a manner untypical of his other
works, in the Baal HaTurim, Rabbi Yaakov almost never cites his sources.
Perhaps, the study and repetition of these allusions was so widespread (many
of the allusio9ns appear in a number of earlier works without attribution)
that it was impossible to know with certainty the original source of any