The New Rabbinical Assembly Mahzor

Scott-Martin Kosofsky's picture

At the urging of my dear friend and colleague Israel Seldowitz, I wish to share with the Typophile Hebrew group some news about Mahzor Lev Shalem, the new High Holidays Mahzor I designed and produced for the Rabbinical Assembly. It's a work of 944 pages, measuring 6.5" (16.5cm) x 9.1875" (28.34cm). The Hebrew type, inspired by Henri Friedlaender's Hadassah, was made by me and Israel.

You might be interested in reading this:

You can see a sample of the mahzor here:

The first printing of 130,000 sold out before all the books were off the bindery line. A second printing of another 50,000 copies, which contains a number of small corrections, is now underway.

All the best,

gohebrew's picture

>> no, this is NOT my work, I have only typeset Shemot and Devarim. The example that you show is NOT my work. I also moved the patach gnuva.

My shmot must be from an older printing. It sucks typographically, but a brilliant book,

Can you post a sample page of your work for Kol Menachem?

raphaelfreeman's picture

I don't understand your comments. If research is done and published, you can't just copy it! If an author writes a book, you can't copy the book and say, well the alphabet is public domain, he just put them in a certain order. Of course the order is copyright!!!

Therefore, if Shay L'Mora has done extensive work (and they have) and have determined based on research of masora etc that the shva na in a certain place, then this indeed cannot be copied.

This first came up with a project that I started for Gefen Publishing House. They were doing a work on Onkelus and needed an accurate Chumash text. I was a freelance typesetter and said why not just proofread it against Koren (since everyone knows that this is the most accurate text -- I wasn't an employee at the time). They checked with their lawyers and said you can't proofread against Koren (or any other text for that matter, unless the text has been expressly put in the public domain, eg the DavkaWriter text). This is a simple extension of that legal advice.

Maybe it's okay in the States -- I don't know. But in Israel it's most certainly illegal.

gohebrew's picture

>> If research is done and published, you can't just copy it! If an author writes a book, you can't copy the book and say, well the alphabet is public domain, he just put them in a certain order. Of course the order is copyright!!!

As I understand US Copyright law regarding a public domain work, one can not copy the image that one sees, but the content is not subject to copyright.

The Chumash is public domain. The rules defined by the Minchat Shai are public domain.

To copy his page, with his custom typeface, is in deed a violation of copyright. That's the image.

But to copy its content, that a shvah-na symbol appears above the second shva is the word plini in Genesis x:x, this is content, and public domain.

gohebrew's picture

>> They checked with their lawyers and said you can't proofread against Koren (or any other text for that matter...

Perhaps, the laws differ in Israel.

William Berkson's picture

>the content is not subject to copyright

This statement is confusing the issues. The general principle is that ideas are not copyrightable, but the form in which they are put is. And even what this means is up to the courts. Are you talking about copying nikkud?

gohebrew's picture



Like any graphic symbol, there are laws in the US to protect them, such as design patent, and to a lesser degree, trademark.

Your point about ideas versus the expression of ideas is correct. The expression of ideas is subject to US Copyright, but ideas alone are not.

In the previous posts, the discussion is a public domain work.

Apparently, the Israeli legal system extends certain rights to a derivative work based 100$ upon a public domain work, as Raphael pointed out.

As I understand US Copyight law based 100$ upon a public domain work, no rights are extended.

Hence, ArtScroll must place its 100$ upon a public domain work as the property of the not-for-profit Mesorah Heritage Foundation, and only subject to US Copyright the entire image of the page of ArtScroll.

Even its translation is ownerless, for it was paid 100% by public funds, and ArtScroll could only subject to US Copyright the entire image of the page.

raphaelfreeman's picture

I don't know what gohebrew is talking about, but I'm talking about the decision as to whether a word should have a shva na or a chataf patach. I know that 3 people worked for 10 years on the Koren Tanakh making these decisions. GoHebrew feels that this is copyable. Israeli law disagrees with him. I don't know about US law. However, I think it's okay for business to use common sense.

Yes, technically he may be right about Artscroll's translation, but is it fair to copy their translation in part? I mean, is everything we do based on whether somebody followed some copyright protocol? Is it okay for a kid to copy their friend's homework if their friend didn't first file it at the copyright office? Do we really need to discuss the fine details of law for something so obvious? Does this really need to be set in law?

Come on!

gohebrew's picture

Regarding the appearance of shvah-na in the 5 books of Moses printed by Shai-Lmorah publishers, I understand that Rabbi Yehudah Winefeld Shlita applied the grammatical rules of the Minchat Shai.

The sales advantage of their books is not this feature, nor that it has kamatz-katens. People do not buy it for that at all. They like its clearly typeset text (does KP own a copyright on clarity?), and simple-to-understand commentary.

Why does Raphael play the moral part, when his firm attempts to enforce its rights in court?

Copyright laws define what is allowed and what is not.

Torah law is stricter in many regards, and also more lenient when it comes to יגדיל תורה ויאדיר promoting the study of Torah.

I thin a court of Jewish law, Raphael would lose.

Anyway, GoHebrew's Cbhumash will follow R' Zalman Henna's Hebrew grammar principles, and not he typeset in Crown. B"H.

raphaelfreeman's picture

Again, you are missing the point.

You said it's okay to copy somebody else's research in dikduk. You further "strengthen" your argument by saying that the sales advantage of the chumash is not that research.

I think that this is immoral.

Scott-Martin Kosofsky's picture

This forum has certainly disintegrated! American copyright law gives no protection to ideas, per se, or to their interpretations. The use of a diacritical symbol in a certain way in a public domain text would surely be considered an interpretation, even if the larger work of the interpreter (a published book, for example) otherwise falls within the more general guidelines of copyright protection. The text of a commentary published within the temporal guidelines of copyright, however, enjoys full protection. Its design, no matter how original, does not.

For Mahzor Lev Shalem, I designed a special character to denote bowing. The character was based on a paleo-Hebrew kaf (as in "korim"). This is original work, so in theory it could be copyrighted or trademarked. But why would one want to take ownership of such a thing? I would be pleased if others would wish to imitate it. Moreover, on what basis could one defend it in court? In America, one would have to prove that the infringing party has impaired the commerce of the copyright holder--very unlikely in a case such as this. To obtain injunctive relief through the courts, to prevent someone from publishing a work with the purloined symbol, would be nothing but mean-spirited and therefore, in my opinion, against precepts of halakhah.

The problem with font design copyright, which arguably does not exist in the U.S., is that the white space (sidebearings, kerning) is as much, if not greater, part of a font's performance as are the glyph outlines. Defending white space in court would take the resources of a billionaire with a lot of time on his or her hands.

raphaelfreeman's picture

I'm not sure you understand the significance of what you are saying. Koren has spent a tremendous amount of money on marking up kamatz katan, shva na and mileil throughout it's texts.

It has spent even more decades ago on research creating an accurate Tanakh.

Is this work not protected by copyright in the USA? I'm most surprised. In Israel it most certainly is.

I don't think that is the same of a using an icon to denote bowing (with no disrepect to your icon :-) )

gohebrew's picture

ArtScroll warns readers that icons are in deed protected, and threatens that they will be held accountable to the maximum extent of the law.

Does KP warn the reader as such regarding the placement of the kamatz katan, shvah-na, and mileil, to indicate its consideration of ownership of such matters?

Is taking this immoral?

The Talmud reports that a certain family knew how to burn sacrifices in such a manner in which the fire rose straight up. Only they knew this. They refused to share this knowledge.

After this family disappeared, this knowledge disappeared as well.

The Talmud condemns their selfishness.

I think that it's immoral to claim hold to a knowledge that belongs to the masses.

William Berkson's picture

In the US one of the principles of permitted "fair use" for including a passage from another work is whether that use would decrease the market value of the original. If so, then it would not be fair use. But these things are complicated and it's really up to the courts.

Scott-Martin Kosofsky's picture

In both essence and practicality, there is no defensibility the U.S. for such a thing as Koren's diacritical usage. For one thing, the diacriticals are being applied to what U.S. courts would believe to be the most public of all public domain texts: the Bible. The originality of Koren's interpretation of ancient sources would be very hard to establish as meaningful. The criterion that Bill mentioned, whether or not the copyright holder's ability to sell his work was impaired by someone's borrowing (the defendant would simply call it "agreement") an interpretation, is the gold standard of our copyright law. Being "right" is neither here nor there in the U.S.; our system is based on the establishment of provable damages. Practically speaking, each side of a dispute would have to rely on expert testimony, so the cost of a such a defense could easily exceed any potential income for decades, even centuries, to come.

My personal (and professional) opinion is that Koren's diacriticals are simply an "idea," an interpretation of sources which are, therefore, outside the reach of legal protection here--as well they should be. I can imagine that, in Israel, it's easier to find a judge who knows something about the kamatz katan than it is in America, but even so, our system of jurisprudence would frown on a case such as this as "frivolous," and likely dismiss it. In some states, the litigant would be liable for covering the defendant's legal costs. In Massachusetts, they could even pay "treble" (3x) damages.

By the way, I don't know of any serious Bible scholars who still rely on Koren's Bible text. It's been superseded by others, most notably Breuer's (at al.) Keter Yerushalayim. Now that facsimiles are available of all the key texts, it's open season.

raphaelfreeman's picture

I don't think any serious publisher in the US would copy Koren or anybody else's text whether it would be held up in court or not. It's kind of abc for publishing.

Regarding Keter Yerushalayim, I just have one question: Which of Breuer's text is most accurate? the Mossad Harav Kook, the Keter Yerushalayim or the Chorev? They are all Breuer, they all claim to be perfect, but they are of course are all different because of Israeli copyright laws!

At least with Koren, we only have one version!

Scott-Martin Kosofsky's picture

Raphael, Regarding the scholarly texts, I believe that, at the moment, there's no single set, but rather a group that must be consulted: the Yosef Ofer (at al.) revision of Breuer (Jerusalem Crown, 2000), the Mikraot Gedolot Haketer published by Bar-Ilan University (in progress), and the Hebrew University Bible Project (also in progress). And with the Masoretic sources available online, one can make ad hoc editorial decisions in ways one could not earlier. Even an am haaretz like me can read the Aleppo or Leningrad in all their glory, and frankly, as someone accustomed to interpreting old lettering from a technical point of view, I have sometimes come to different conclusions than some of the scholarly gedolim.

raphaelfreeman's picture

Yes, but the problem is that much of the Allepo Codex was destroyed and Breuer tried to fill in the gaps.

Look there are different opinions out there as to which is the most accurate. Obviously I have to say that the Koren one is :-)

I should also point out that in Israel, if there is a disagreement in shul on the leyning, nobody pulls out a Breuer, but everybody, dati leumi, charedi, ashkenazi, sepharadi, will ALWAYS pull out a Koren to settle a dispute. So it has become the accepted correct text for better (in our case) or for worse.

david h's picture

> Yes, but the problem is that much of the Allepo Codex was destroyed and Breuer tried to fill in the gaps.

But there's Sassoon MS , Cairo Codex.... with Koren -- we don't know; was A, L, used by Madan as the basis for Koren?

david h's picture


Scott-Martin Kosofsky's picture

There are scholars who claim the Cairo Codex is not authentic, or, at least, not from the early 9th century, as was claimed. Be that as it may, Bible scholarship goes on, from one school of thought to another. Such is the nature of fashion. As a typographer, I believe there's more than just ratiocination that goes into interpreting the diacriticals from these sources, attempts to extract a perfect system from things that might not have been perfectly systematic. The good news for us is that they'll continue publishing Bibles, each more "authentic" than the one before, and we'll all have lots of work. God willing, older sources will be found and we'll have to reset everything.

Back to an earlier topic: by U.S. law, my little bowing sign can be patented and trademarked (and thereby defensible from copiers), but probably not copyrighted, because it functions as a complement to the alphabet. Similarly, a typeface name can be trademarked, but the type design itself has little protection, except as digital code. Even if one could come up with a cogent definition of "design," there are very large commercial interests in this country who have and will fight the idea of a design copyright with great vigor and money, because its existence could call into question much of what they consider their property. It's not an equitable system.

Scott-Martin Kosofsky's picture

I found this interesting blog post by Michael Factor, a British-born Israeli patent attorney, regarding font protection in Israel. Here's the link (scroll down a bit):

For those of you interested in the intricacies of U.S. copyright in general, I recommend the blog of William Patry, who's widely regarded as one the the leading copyright attorneys in America (many say the foremost). Sadly, Patry sold out to the Evil Copyright Empire, Google, and serves as their Senior Copyright Counsel. Nevertheless, his blog often offers his personal view, which is always smart and nuanced. As he is quick to point out, it's a personal blog, not a Google blog, though his position no doubt limits some of the topics he discusses.

It's worth knowing this stuff; a good knowledge of copyright law can help designers understand what they can own, and what they can't. It's knowledge that can be used profitably.

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