Different Styles of K'tav Used in STa"M
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In today's world of personal computers and desktop publishing almost everyone knows that the word "font" means typeface and knows how dramatic an affect changing the font can make on a given text. But not everyone is aware that at least 4 different types of k'tav, fonts or script styles, are in standard use for writing STa"M: Scrolls, Tefillin, and Mezuzot.
All of the script styles traditionally used by sofrim, scribes, from the different Jewish communities are 100% kosher in their adherence to halacha, Jewish law. A sofer, scribe, must study for many long hours to learn the halachot, laws, of STa"M, covering both the artistic and legalistic elements, and to perfect his writing techniques.
The different styles of k'tav follow in a general fashion the geographical dispersion of Jewish communities over the centuries. It is preferable to use the style that was used in the country or area from which your family originates. If you don't know which k'tav to choose when you order your tefillin and mezuzot consult your Rabbi.
Here is a general guideline showing which communities traditionally use each k'tav:
Ashkenazi "Beis Yosef" - generally used by those following Ashkenazi tradition, from Germany, England, Russia, Lithuanian
Ashkenazi "Ari Zal" (Nusach S'fard) - generally used by those following Chassidic S'fard tradition, from Poland, Galicia, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia
"Alter Rebbe (Ari Zal)" - used only by Chabad chassidim
Sefardic "Vellish" - used almost exclusively by those following Sefardic tradition, from Northern Africa, Morocco, Italy, Saloniki, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt
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