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 Hebrew Handwriting and Rashi Script

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Hebrew Handwriting and Rashi Script

Besides the "square" script, we have, of course, a handwriting script:

Same phrase written in different scripts:

Modern "square" script
היום קצר והמלאכה מרובה
היום קצר והמלאכה מרובה

The whole alphabet written in handwriting script (including the final letters):

See also the Table of Scripts.

How to write

ה    ד    ג      ב    א   
י       ט    ח    ז       ו      
ם   מ   ל     ך     כ   
פ    ע    ס    ן     נ   
ר    ק    ץ    צ    ף   
      ת   ש  

Most of the letters are written inside the boundaries of the line, but some letters go below or above the line. (Note that in he square script Lamed is the only one going above. (Hassidic tale says, that's because Lamed calls you to Learn/!לְמַד)

Most oftenly the the final versions of letters in the handwriting script are longer. That gave another name to the final form of the letters: in Yiddish they are called lange Khof, lange Nun, and so on (lange is Yiddish for long; with the exception of the final mem, which was called in Yiddish shloss mem - a closed/locked mem.) Other letters (Tet, Lamed, final Fei, both Tzadi, in some handwritings - also Alef and Vav) extend above the line.


Other scripts

16th-century depiction of Rashi
(from Wikipedia)

There are two other types of script (rather fonts) used in traditional books.

Rashi script    כתב רש"י

Rashi script, named after the Rabbi Shlomo Itzkhaki (Solomon (son) of Isaac, , abbreviated as: ") - famed as the author of the first comprehensive commentaries on the Talmud, Torah and Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). The script is mainly used in rabbinical literature, mainly to write the commentaries of Rashi himself. This script is considered to be the prototype of the handwriting script.

Rashi Script


See also the Table of Scripts.

STaM Script     כתב סת"ם

Also called a Sofer script. The name of the STaM script comes from the words Sefarim, Tefillin, and Mezuzot  ספרים, תפלין, מזוזות, i.e., Books (traditional books, like Torah scrolls or Esther Scroll, or other books being read in synagogues; a regular book can be printed with any script, of course), Tfillin and Mezuzot . The texts which are not just traditional, but have a ritual meaning, and should be written in a proper way with a proper script on specially prepared parchment. The script includes special "crowns" (תגין, כתרים) on the letters. There are three or so types of this Script: Beit Yosef, Ari, etc.

A sample of Stam inscription, inscripting Shma Israel
for a Mezuzah (Beit Yosef version of Stam.)

See also the Table of Scripts.

Also, through the ages some calligraphic techniques were developed to either make the text to look more beautiful, to save space on the page, or to integrate the text into the ornament. Most popular and famous is the Alef-Lamed ligature (U+FB4F), .

Alef-Lamed ligature


A "longer" letter Hei

The Ancient Hebrew Script   כתב דעץ

Known as ancient Hebrew script (Phoenician, Paleo-Hebrew, Western-Semitic.) Historical/archeological findings track it down to 16-19 centuries BCE; most probably it was invented by the neighbours of Israelites - the Phoenicians. The Jews stopped to widely use it around 5th century BCE. The Samaritans use a variation of this script till today. Also, some time it is used in Israel, when they want to bring an illustration of an ancient heritage. The last historical usage of this script was in Bar-Kokhba coins, minted in 2nd century CE.

This modern 1 shekel coin epicts an ancient
coin from 6-4 centuries BCE. The back side
of the coin contains an inscription יהד, written
with ancient Hebrew script (and according to
the ancient orthography rules; today we'd
write it as יהודה.)
The picture is taken from the web site of
The Bank of Israel.


From the Habakuk Scroll (Haarmann 1990:311)
Dead Sea scrolls were written with a modern
(square) scipt. The Name of the God is written
with the ancient script though.

See also the Table of Scripts.

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