NOṬARIḲON (νοταρικόν; Latin, "notaricum," from "notarius" = "a shorthand-writer"):

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A system of shorthand consisting in either simply abbreviating the words or in writing only one letter of each word. This system, used by the Romans in their courts of justice for recording the proceedingsof the court (comp. Benjamin Mussafia in his additions to the "'Aruk," s.v.), was said by the Talmudists to have existed as early as the time of Moses; and they held that the latter used it in the composition of the Pentateuch. The law concerning noṭariḳon is the thirtieth of the thirty-two hermeneutic rules laid down by Eliezer b. Jose ha-Gelili for the interpretation of the Bible. Still, as Samson of Chinon remarks ("Sefer Keritut," Preface), it was used in haggadic interpretation only, not in halakic matters.


Interpretation by means of noṭariḳon is general in the pre-Talmudic literature, in both Talmuds, in the Midrashim, and in the later commentaries. But the term itself, while frequently met with elsewhere, occurs but once in the Jerusalem Talmud ('Orlah i. 61c), which apparently includes noṭariḳon in Gemaṭria (comp. Frankel in "Monatsschrift," xix. 144). In most of the haggadic interpretations by means of noṭariḳon, this system is referred to as consisting in writing the initials of words. Thus the word (Gen. xlix. 4) is interpreted as being composed of the initial letters of = "thou hast been wanton; thou hast sinned; thou hast committed adultery" (Midr. Aggadat Bereshit lxxxii.). The word , the first word of the Decalogue, is declared to be composed of = "I myself have written [the Torah] and delivered it," or = "a pleasant saying, written and delivered" (Shab. 105a). On Moses' rod were engraved the letters , which are the initials of the Hebrew terms for the ten plagues (Tan., Wa'era, 8). According to R. Joshua (Shab. 104b) if one writes on a Sabbath even a single letter in noṭariḳon—that is to say, indicating by a dot above the letter that it is an abbreviation (comp. Rashi ad loc.)—he is guilty of violating the Sabbath just as though he had written a whole word.

In other instances noṭariḳon designates the mere abbreviation of words; thus the word (Ex. xvii. 13) is interpreted as the noṭariḳon of = "he [Joshua] made him [Amalek] sick and broke him" (Mek., Beshallaḥ, 'Amaleḳ, 1). There is also an instance in which noṭariḳon is taken to designate a system of rapid writing in which a whole sentence is omitted when it may be inferred from a sentence which is written. Thus in the commandment "Honor thy father and thy mother, that thou mayest live long" (Ex. xx. 12, Hebr.), where the omission of the sentence "But if thou dost not honor thy father and mother, thou shalt not live long," as it is perfectly understood, is called noṭariḳon (Mek., Yitro, Baḥodesh, 8).

Certain rabbis consider it to be a historical fact that the two priests sent by command of the Assyrian king to teach the Torah to the Samaritans had the whole Pentateuch written in noṭariḳon, thus accounting for the variants of the Samaritan text (Pirḳe R. El. xxxviii.). The heathen also are said to have learned the Torah through their notarii or shorthand-writers, who copied the Pentateuch from the stones on which it was engraved by Joshua after the passage of the Jordan (Soṭah 35b; comp. Deut. xxvii. 3-4, comp. "J. Q. R." vii. 361, 564; ix. 520).

In the Cabala.

Noṭariḳon is one of the elements of the Cabala, although the term itself does not frequently occur, it being generally included, as in the Jerusalem Talmud, in gemaṭria. Its use in the Cabala is more extended; for it serves the double purpose of cabalistic exegesis, in the same manner as in haggadic interpretation, and of forming the names of God. The application to the (Cabala of the word as an abbreviation of , and the frequent use of as designating (= "the literal, the intimated, the homiletic, and the mystic interpretations") are well known. As an example of cabalistic interpretation by noṭariḳon may be given that of the word as referring to the cosmogonic order (= "He created the firmament, the earth, the heavens, the sea, and the abyss"); this word is resolved into other sentences also.

The use of noṭariḳon in forming the names of God is equally important. Here the initial letters, or the middle letters, or the last letters of words are employed. Thus initial letters of the individual words in the sentence form , the middle letters , and the final letters . Another method is to take the alternate letters of the words in a sentence; for instance, the alternate letters of (Deut. xxix. 28) form the name (Moses Cordovero, "Pardes Rimmonim," gate xxx., ch. viii.). The best known of such combinations is the prayer of Neḥunya b. ha-Ḳanah beginning , the initials of which constitute the forty-two-lettered name of God.

  • Bacher, Terminologie der Aeltesten Jüdischen Schriftauslegung, s.v.;
  • Frankel, Mebo, p. 147b;
  • J. J. Goldberger, in Ha-Yehudi, iii. 21, 36, 55;
  • H. Katzenellenbogen, Netibot 'Olam, Wilna, 1822;
  • idem, in Ha-Karmel, iv., 262, 271, 277;
  • Krauss, Lehnwörter, s.v.;
  • N. Tarashchanski, in Ha-Karmel, iv. 255.
E. C. M. Sel.
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