Sephardic Font

What Typefce is used in Tefilin?

The typeface used by the Sephardic community, including in Morocco, for writing Torah scrolls, Tefilin and Mezuzot is known as Valish, which comes from the Old German word for “foreign”. Rabbi Yaakov Emden, who hailed from Denmark, promoted this type of script. On the other hand, the Ashkenazic community uses a typeface that was promoted by the Bet Yosef, based on the book Baruch She’amar.

One of the features of the Ashkenazic script is that it is more ornate than the more basic Valish font, and the details on each letter have Kabbalistic significance. For example, the letter Yud, has a small projection which extends downwards from the top left of the letter, known as Kotzo Shel Yud (lit. “the Yud’s thorn”). Another example of a difference is the letter Het, which in Morocco was written like Rashi (Shabbat 104) describes as a Resh connected to a vertical line. On the other hand in the Ashkenazic script, the Het is written with two Zayins connected on the top by a pointed “roof”. When asked, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef answered me that the Het should be written like the latter style.

Most scribes nowadays, Sephardic and Ashkenazic alike, write Torah scrolls, etc. with the more detailed script and indeed Rabbi Ben Zion Abba Shaul (Or Lezion, vol. II) questions why any scribe would not try and be more stringent and incorporate these details. Although traditionally the Sephardic community used Valish, incorporating a more ornamental motif does not abandon the Valish tradition font but rather adorns and augments it. That being said, according to Halacha, as long as each letter is recognizable and legible, the scroll is valid. For this reason, Rabbi Haim Volozhin and others write that a Sephardic person fulfils one’s obligation when reading from a Torah written in the Ashkenazic font, and vice versa.

Summary: The typeface historically used by the Sephardic community for Torah scrolls, Tefilin and Mezuzot is Valish. There is no issue of using the typeface used by the Ashkenazic community.