Dot the I’s, But Don’t Cross the T’s

Have we been writing out t’s incorrectly? Teacher Rabbi Chaim Levi Goldstein points out a possible issue with the way many people write the 20th letter of the alphabet.

By Rabbi Chaim Levi Goldstein

Is it okay to write the letter “t” in the shape of a cross? (without the rounded bottom)1.

There are three places in the Rebbe’s writings that I have found where the Rebbe comments about it.

1) In a building plan that was sent to the Rebbe, there appeared a hand-written architectural compass. The compass had a horizontal and vertical line indicating the four directions. The Rebbe commented on this

לא בצורה של שתי וערב   כ”א”

Not to draw this (compass) in the shape of a cross, but rather (here the Rebbe designed a sample (a circle with 4 aarrows) not like a cross), and the Rebbe concluded “וכיו”ב”, or something similar2. See image.

2) Likewise, in the Sefer עבודת הקודש אצל הרבי מליובאוויטש (page 25).

The Rebbe corrected the compass, and wrote: להחליף בעיגול כבכו”כ ס’. Change this compass into a circle as many other sefarim do. And the Rebbe drew an example of a circle with 4 lines sticking out from the outside.

It’s worthy to note, that in both compasses, the cross was: 1) written with no intention for avoda zara. 2) it’s (only) designed in a “plus” shape, not like a real cross.

3) Regarding a booklet3 written in the 1950’s about shechita, the Rebbe comments, in regard to some typographical footnote marks (“Dagger”, and “Double Dagger”), which appear in the booklet (the shape of a cross and a double-plus sign).  (see below). The Rebbe writes as follows:

“דרך אגב, כמה וכמה נזהרים מלהשתמש בהצורה שבאה לציין הערה – בהחוברת ע’ י”א וכ”ז בסופם.”

By the way, there are many (Yidden) who refrain from using the footnotes marks in the booklet, on pages 11 and 27 at the end.

Here is an image4 of one of those pages.

Would like to add a few more interesting things:

A) In the holy handwritings of the Rebbe in English, we can see that the Rebbe doesn’t cross the T’s even when the T is rounded on the bottom.

* * *

B) Being cautious about the above-mentioned matter, is so important, that even in a case where two objects are randomly crossing over each other, it must be avoided.

As we find in the following story, told by Rabbi Binyamin A”H Levitin5:

When the Frierdiker Rebbe came to America (in 1940) he stayed at the Greystone hotel in Manhattan. Due to his frail condition, I was honored to walk him, from the dining room to his own private room, while supporting him like a walking cane.

One time, while leaving the dining room, after the Shabbos meal, the Frierdiker Rebbe brought to my attention (I didn’t notice it earlier) that there was a fork and a spoon laying on each other, crossing each other. And instructed me to move them apart.

Another story6, which shows us how important this matter is, particularly in regard to the chinuch of children:

Once, at the end of davening Mincha (in the upstairs zal), during the last kaddish, the Rebbe stared, for a while, at one of the children who was standing close by.

When Mincha was over, the Rebbe turned to this child’s grandfather, and said to him, that the boy’s shirt has a symbol, which, from the distance, looks like a cross, so it needs to be corrected.

Afterwards, the Rebbe added, that regarding children in particular, one must to be extra careful in this matter.

[1] A competent Rav should be consulted regarding the halachic ramifications of this matter.

[2] Courtesy of Kfar-Chabad issue #777. Also printed in אוצר מנהגים והוראות (יו”ד ע’ מח)

[3] A critical study of electrical stunning and the Jewish method of slaughter (shechita). Solomon David Sasson 1956

[4] Copied by courtesy of the Agudas Chasidei Chabad Library. Note the markings on the side, which might be the Rebbe’s.

[5] הליכות ומנהגי שבת קדש (ע’ 73)

[6] שיחות קודש תשמ”א (ח”ד. בהוספות, ע’ 782)

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  1. Fascinating, knew about the rounded bottom, my school’s English department careful about this, but even then, the Rebbe was strict.

  2. Once by dollars, the son of Rabbi Yarmush (the one that helped vaad hamesader) went by and the Rebbe noted that his sweater had a ‘t’ that looked like a cross.

  3. Thank you Rabbi Goldstein for bringing up this important Zehirus, and thank you for for publishing such an informative article.

  4. Also mania Friedman was once shoveling snow in front of 770 when the rebbe came. The boys dropped their shovels, and the shovels ended up crossing each other.

    The Rebbe either bent down to move it over or told them to – ask him for the details.

    1. isn’t that what the compasses have? a plus sign.

      also, in the shchita booklet the Rebbe points out that there is an issue also with the “double-dagger” which is two plus signs.


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