Q. We had an unusual shayla in our minyan this last Monday. We took out one of the various Sifre-Torah rolled to Parshat Pinchas and the baal koreh noticed that someone, probably out of simple ignorance, had corrected the Vav-Ketia on the word shalom (you could see that there was some ink added to the gap – we keep some ink and feathers inside a compartment of the Aron Hakodesh). We didn't know what to do, so we took out another Sefer Torah. Was that the correct decision?
A. There are a number of different opinions in regards to the need, origin and ways to write the vav- ketiah. The Talmud (Kidushin 66b) mentions in the name of Rav Yehuda quoting Shmuel, that the source of the rule that the service (avoda) performed by a blemished (baal mum) Cohen, is invalid, is the posuk: (Bamidbar 25: 12) “Behold, I give him My covenant of peace.” Meaning, as Rav Nachman explais, that since the letter vav of “Shalom” is truncated, it reads rather as “Shalem” or complete and unblemished.
Some maintain the this vav, belongs to the group of small letters in the Torah. (Medresh Rabbi Akiva – Botei Medroshos p.479). Others (Minchas Shai (ibid.) quoting Ritva, Shut. Rabi Akiva Eiger 75, et. al.) opine that it is a regular sized letter but with a shorter foot; larger than a yud but shorter than a regular vav. They also assert, that even the opinions that it is read as a yud, still hold that it is a bit larger than a regular yud (ibid.)
Many avert that it is a regular vav that is split or truncated somewhere in the middle. Where in the middle is also subject to different opinions, as well as the angle of the split (Ohr Torah quoted in Minchas Shai ibid. et. al.).
Some Poskim maintain that the Halacha does not follow Rav Nachman, and there is no vav-ketiah at all. They emphasize that no such vav is found in ancient Sifrei Torah or mentioned in Rambam or Tur-Shulchan Aruch (Pachad Yitzchak – Sefer Torah p, 148, quoting The Venetian Sages). Some communities like the Yemenite, do not have that tradition at all. While Shevet Hakehassi Y.D. 1: 297 mentions it is a Halacha LeMoshe MeSinai.
There is also mention of other vavin ketios in the Torah, such as the vav of “Vatomos Sarah” (Bereshis 23: 2 – Machzor Vitri p. 677) or “Eileh Keruei Haeidah” (Bamidbar 1: 16 – Baal Haturim).
Horav Shlomo Miller’s Shlit’a opinion is that it was unnecessary to take out another Sefer Torah, even according to those who maintain that tradition, as it is only a Masores. He also suggested that since this occurred in a weekday, it could have been easily fixed by just scratching the vav with a pin or similar.
Rabbi A. Bartfeld as revised by Horav Shlomo Miller Shlit”a.