However, there are 6 exceptions to the “free formatting” rule. Six words in the Torah must appear at the top of the column. As mentioned already by Rabbi Menachem HaMeiri (13th century, France), these six words start with the following letters: "bet", "yud", "hey", "shin", "mem" and "vav" and they form the Hebrew acronym
The first word that must appear at the top of a column - the “bet” of BeYaH SHMO - is pretty obvious: It's the first word of the Torah – “breishit”.
In this week’s parsha, we find the second letter that must appear at the top of the column, and it’s the “yud” from the name “yehuda” in the pasuk:
יְהוּדָה, אַתָּה יוֹדוּךָ אַחֶיךָ
If you want to ensure that you have a proper sefer Torah, ask the person who gets the fourth aliyah to report to you whether “yehuda” was at the top of the column. And once you've assured the validity of your synagogue's sefer Torah, you will most definitely have a . . .
Happy New Year!