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Sefer Binsoa - the book of Binsoa

nu hafucha
(the inverted ‘nun’)

Mordechai Pinchas Sofer

35: And it was with the going forward of the ark [that] Moses would say [lit. said] 'Arise Lord and your enemies will be scattered and those that hate you you will flee before you'... 36: ...and when it rested, he said [lit. will say] 'Return Lord, [to] the myriads of the thousands [or the tents/troops/families] of lsrael'.

Aside from their familiar use in the service at the opening and closing of the ark, these two p'sukim (verses) from Numbers l0:35-36 are unique in Torah being encased between two inverted nuns (that’s the letter nun and not a lady of the cloth turned upside down) - called nun m’zuneret ("isolated nun") or nun hafucha ("inverted nun").

Many sources explain the need for these markings and it is written as a express rule for the sofer (scribe). R. Shimeon ben Gamliel explains that the in the future this section is to be removed from here and written in its [proper] place) - presumably when the Messiah comes! Its proper place according to Rav Ashi (Shabbat 116a) is ba-d’galim (in the [chapter on the] banners), after Num.17:2 which deals with the Israelites travel arrangements since the content of the verses is similarly about setting off and making camp.

Some more versions of the nun hafucha in situ from various sifrey torah.  There is no full agreement as to the shape of the nun or what hafoch (upside down) really means.


However there is aBaraita quoted above this in the Talmud, which is much more fanciful and which lends an elevated status to the verses.
Rabbi amar lo min hashem hu eleh mipney shesefer chashuv hu bifney atsmo (Rabbi (Y'hudah Hanasi) said it is not [because it is in the wrong place], rather because it is an important book standing by itself).


In further support of this radical idea of only two verses constituting an entire book of the Torah, Shabbat 115b shows how another biblical book 'proves' Y'hudah Hanasi's view, that R. Shmuel b. Nachman said in the name of R. Yonatan 'She [wisdom] has hewn out her seven pillars (Proverbs 9:1), these [pillars] being the seven books of the law.) 'Wisdom' in Proverbs is often understood as referring to the Torah and since this section is a separate book, the portions of Numbers proceeding and following it are also separate books; hence there are seven in all. And there you were happily thinking there were only five books of Moses - how wrong you were!

Mordechai Pinchas

Click on the reversed nuns to see an excerpt from a 700 year old scroll that shows a different tradition...


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