© 2002 Torah Tots, Inc.

The Crowns on Letters
of the Torah

The Talmud in Tractate Menachot (29b) quotes Reb. Yehuda, who said in the name of Rab:

When Moshe ascended to heaven to receive the Torah he found Hashem engaged in affixing tagin (three small upward strokes in the form of a crown) to the letters.

Moshe then asked,

"Master of the Universe, Who is forcing Your hand [that You have to add crowns to the letters ]?"

Hashem replied:

"There will be a man, after many generations, whose name is Akiva ben Yosef and he will expound a multitude of laws upon each stroke of these coronets."

Moshe asked to be permitted to see that man, and Hashem instructed him to turn around.

Moshe sat down behind eight rows [of Rabbi Akiva's disciples in the Beth Hamidrash - some say it was 10 rows - and listened to their discussions]. Moshe found that he could not follow their arguments. He felt as if his strength had been sapped, but when they came to a certain topic, the students asked Rabbi Akiva (in reference to a law that was being discussed):

"From where do we know this?"

Rabbi Akiva responded,

"Halacha L'Moshe M'Sinai" - this is an oral law handed down to Moshe at Sinai.

At that moment Moshe was comforted (since his teaching was quoted, although he had not yet received the Torah - see Rashi).

Thereupon Moshe said to Hashem:

"You have such a man and yet You give the Torah [to Israel] by me?"

Hashem replied:

"Hush, this is My decree (literally, "So it has come to My mind")."

For the rest of this Midrash, see Tractate Menachot (29b).

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