Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home


SOFERIM (Heb. סוֹפְרִים), one of the *minor tractates printed in the Talmud editions at the end of the order of Nezikin. Its first main division (chs. 1–5) treats the writing of Sifrei Torah. The tosafists call it one of the "outside books" (Pes. 40b S.V. avel). Another of these tractates is Sefer Torah, to which Soferim bears a close relationship. Soferim contains 21 chapters divided into 255 paragraphs, which, like the mishnayot in the Jerusalem Talmud, are called halakhot.

Chapters 1–9 cover writing materials; qualifications required in the writer; language and translation of the Bible and laws governing the mode of writing, particularly in reference to the names of God; sewing and repairing the parchment; preservation of scrolls that have become ritually unfit for use; textual variants; and readings of particular words and passages. Chapters 10–17 include regulations for reading on general and particular occasions; reading of particular passages; requirements of a quorum; some further regulations in writing, particularly the Hagiographa, with special attention to the Book of Esther; benedictions for reading these; qualifications for reading; sanctity of religious writings and appurtenances; tefillin and mezuzot; Torah study; the Haggadah; and readings for festivals and New Moon. Chapters 18–21 address daily and festival psalms and other liturgical matters; observances for the Day of Atonement; prayers for Tishah be-Av; blessings and readings on Ḥanukkah, and laws in connection therewith; rejoicing in Nisan; Purim observances; and various aggadot.

This division is one of convenience but does not follow the dates of compilation, in which scholars see very much disorder. It is also not regarded as a unity but as a compilation of three distinct works belonging to different dates, with various interpolations. Most scholars regard the work as of Palestinian origin, though it is generally dated about the middle of the eighth century. In various matters the regulations of Soferim are accepted in practice as against the Talmud, e.g., reading Exodus 32:11–14, 34:1–10 on fasts (17:7), whereas the Mishnah prescribes "the Curses and Blessings" (Lev. 26:3–end). Soferim appeared in English translation in the Soncino minor tractates (1965).


J. Mueller, Massekhet Soferim (1878); Weiss, Dor, 2 (1903), 217–8; M. Higger, Soferim (1937).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.