Aleph-Lamed Ligature

Yigal Levin Yigal-Levin at
Tue Jul 23 12:32:21 EDT 2002

While the following is not biblical, it was forwarded to me and I thought
that someone may have the answer.


On 21 Jul 2002 08:27:00 -0700, judith27 at (Judith S.
Langer-Surnamer Caplan) wrote:
>I was at a cemetery doing genealogical research this past week and
>I saw a child's name of Azriel written on the matzeva in a way I 
>had previously only seen written in a prayerbook -- with a combined Aleph
>+ Lamed merged letter at the end. Does anyone know if there is a
>specific name for this letter besides the descriptive phrase of
>"Aleph-Lamed Ligature Glyph"???

Excellent question:

I've been trying to find this answer for a long time!

When you find the answer please let me know! 

If you look at Figure 1 on
you'll see the aleph-lamed ligature (one character) used on a Torah 
decoration in the name "Gallipoli" (green underlining) yet another 
Torah decoration in the same synagogue, the place name "Gallipoli" 
(red underlining) is spelled with two distinct letters (alef followed by
lamed). Yet on other synagogue items, the sequence of two distinct letters
can be found: see Figure 1 (item B: spelling of Raphael) at

In Sephardic cursive script ("solitreo") there is a distinct alef-
lamed ligature often used to address letters (envelopes) in the form
"al senor xyz" (where "al" (to the) is written as the single ligature).
The ligature is often used in replacing the alef-lamed sequence in the
spelling of the sign-off "saludos". (For an example of its use to spell
"to" see Footnote 5 and Figure 16 with the explanation in main text at: This is a reprint of an
article (Sephardic Genealogical Information Available from Ottoman, Balkan
and Levant Postal History") published in ETSI. Yet in Figure 2
( the name "Gallipoli"
written in solitreo uses the 2 separate letters. It's a mystery to me when
this letter was being used and why. 

In "scholarly" papers the ligature is often referred to as the
"alef-lamed ligature". But what was it called in a Talmud Torah when
the students were first learning about it?

(Note: There was an extensive discussion on the possible halachic
"origins" of "alef-lamed" ligature about 1 year ago on a Sephardic 
Discussion List that was moderated by Scott Alfassa Marks vis-a-vis 
its possible connection to prohibition against writing "sacred" names, one
of which is a 2-letter sequence of alef and lamed. Reason for this
speculation: as you pointed out this letter is often used in a prayer
book. The reason often offered is to "save space" But why, then, aren't
other letter combinations joined in ligatures in prayer books to save even
more space?". The speculation on not writing a "sacred" name was not
widely accepted by participants in that discussion. Also no one at the
time had a name or a better "raison-d'etre" (explanation) for that

There is an "L-A" (reversed sequence) in Arabic but that is arguable
due to the specific nature of the structure of the (equivalent) 'alif and
lamed's in Arabic and not for religious issues (see Figure 1.6 (item D)
at: for the Arabic "L-A"
ligature: top of illustration in the Ottoman word "vilayet"). Some will
argue that the "Hebrew" alef-lamed ligature was influenced by the Arabic
writing style. They will claim that there are other examples of ligatures.
But if you look at the block style of writing that appears, for example,
in a prayer book, the "alef-lamed" ligature is the only ligature (that I
know of) that has its own distinctive style. There are other highly
personalized ligatures found in individual writing cursive styles but
these seem to be quite individual - not part of a widely recognized
stand-alone ligature.

One of the questions that I've not been able to answer yet is when
is the earliest occurence of this ligature? 

In the meantime, I've not answered your excellent question about its
name. Please let me know the "answer" when you find one!

David Sheby
Cherry Hill, New Jersey
Researching the Sephardic Community of Gallipoli (Gelibolu)

Dr. Yigal Levin
Dept. of Philosophy and Religion
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
615 McCallie Avenue
Chattanooga TN 37403-2598

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