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פורום בינלאומי לנושא סת"ם

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Is this a valid argument?


הקונה התמים רוצה שהתפילין והמזוזות שהוא קונה ישארו כשרים לעולמים. אף אחד אינו מסכים שהסת"ם שלו יפסלו בקלות. הרשב"א כותב על כתיבת ספרים בדיו: "לענין ספרים דבעינן דבר המתקיים לעולם".(שבת,קטו). הרמב"ם כותב על דיו שאינו מתקיים: "איך יכתב בכגון זה דבר שירצו שיתקיים אלפי שנים?" (שו"ת הרמב"ם, סימן קלו). צמח צדק כותב שלש פעמים: "עיקר מעלת הדיו הוא זה דכשכותבים בו הוא דבר של קיימא ... עיקר מעלת הדיו היינו שהוא דבר של קיימא ...  עיקר ענין הדיו הוא דבר של קיימא".  על דיו שנושר מן הקלף כתב צמח צדק:  "להזהיר שמרבוי הגלאנץ לא יהיו נושרים וקופצים האותיות". (צ"צ, שו"ת, או"ח, טו).  מכאן אנו למדים שדיו חייב להיות כזה שמתקיים לעולם (או אלפי שנים) ואינו נושר וקופץ מן הקלף.

המציאות בימינו היא שיש דיו "עפצים וקנקנתום" שנסדק ונשבר בקלות והדיו מתקלף ונופל. כל הפסולים שנמצאים בימינו בדיו נגרמים בגלל דיו כזה שנפסל בקלות ואינו מתקיים. יש פוסקים שכתבו שדיו עפצים וקנקנתום כן מתקיים, ואנו רואים שיש דיו בימינו שנפסל בקלות ואינו מתקיים.  מכאן שדיו פגום כזה הקרוי "עפצים וקנקנתום" בימינו איננו אותו דיו שעליו דברו הפוסקים, ואין שום מסורת על דיו פגום כזה שעושים בימינו. 

מבחינת הקונה, סת"ם כתובים בדיו שנפסל בקלות הם הונאה. ומכיון שהקונה אינו יכול לבדוק תפילין ומזוזות כל יום, יכול להיות בהם גם איסור של "לפני עור לא תתן מכשול".

22 comments:

  1. It is pretty clear that the dyo that is made today is not "afatzim and kankantum" Kankantum was made from iron and most dyo made today is made from copper. Both react with tannic acid in afatzim to make black, but iron makes a much darker black and is much more stable. That is why you will see some old Russian sifrei Torah which are jet black 200 years after they were written, while I have stuff I wrote 15 years ago with Dyo Nehari that is already showing signs of fading.

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  2. R' Aaron - you may be mistaken about this. I belive that dyo today is still made from a combination of Iron Sulfate (FeSO4) dissolved in water to form [Fe(H2O)6]2+ (Aqueos Ferrous sulfate) and then combined with a gallotannic acid solution.

    The mistaken assumption that copper is part of our inks from the yiddish word kuppervasser (see Mishnah Berurah. "Kuppervasser" is a false cognate for "copper water" - copper sulfate. In German, kuppervasser actually referrs to "green-vitriol," which is iron sulfate. A further proof is that copper sulfate in combination with gallotannic acid will not turn black. I have recently spoke with one of the major ink makers in EY and he confirmed that it is all still iron-based.

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  3. R' Tzvi -

    To parts to this – the short one and the long one.

    SHORT ONE
    This isn't the first time that this has been written or said – I think that it wrong in part and right in part.

    The author is right that the Ink will decay and posul the item over time. However it is NOT sam mikhshol to sell someone tefillin, sefarim, or mezuzos new. Sefarim are used regularly and can be checked for issues. Good Baalei Korim will see most of the problems that may arise. Furthermore – the risk of the ink corroding is not a day-to-day risk for the first several decades of use by sefarim. Also – with gassos tefillin that are sealed well, the parshios have very long lifespans and usually “outlive” the people wearing them. Mezuzos are checked regularly (a requirement that existed even before modern inks!) so any issues will be noticed then.

    It is clear that even today’s inks will have a chezkas kashrus on them for many, many decades before corrosion becomes a day-to-day concern.

    Also – it is not mukhrach that the requirement of miskayem would exclude inks that decay over many decades (this is a longer post – I have a whole section in my sefer Maayanos HaKesuvim on the geder of miskayem - I will post later)

    By the same token, many soferim ARE oiver on geneivas daas (and possibly michshol in some cases) by either selling or repairing used sifrei torah, megillos, and tefillin in which the ink has become highly unstable (flecking throughout, corroding letters, heavy creasing). They charge tremendous amounts to repair or sell “pre-holocaust” torahs and tefillin in which the kashrus CANNOT be guaranteed for any length of time. By these items, the integrity of the ink is a day-to-day issue.

    The case is MUCH worse by mashuach seforim which, nireh li, should be removed entirely from the marketplace (whether mashuach front or back).

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  4. LONG ONE
    Quick note about where I am coming from before continuing: my secular education and professional background was as a librarian and conservator of old/rare documents and books. There is an ENORMOUS body of literature from the conservation community on the chemistry, decay and preservation of iron-gall ink documents. Soferim would benefit greatly by becoming familiar with these techniques because iron gall degradation is our biggest challenge in restoration.

    That having been said, there is, unfortunately, no real consensus on the exact nature of the chemical process of the decay nor is there agreement as to the best techniques for arresting it. (At some point I will post a summary of the various techniques used by museums and universities in preserving and restoring iron-gall and vellum documents and how we soferim may adapt them).

    Iron-gall ink has a natural decay cycle that is the result of the unstable [Fe(H2O)6]2+ aquo complex resulting when iron sulfate (kankantum/kupervasser) is dissolved in water. The addition of tannic acid (mei afatzim) initiates a decay cycle that is natural – meaning that it is inevitable that the ink will corrode at some point. In this respect, the Hebrew writer is correct. Modern inks will decay eventually.

    However – there is MUCH variability in the length and nature of the decay cycle. It can range from 75 years (worst case) to 800 years (best case) depending on a lot of factors:

    1) Very minute changes in the ratios of the ingredients can have drastic effects on the ink long term (variation of 100’s of years)

    2) The addition of buffering ingredients to mitigate the pH of the mei afatzim. R’ Aaron mentioned old Russian scrolls that were still in excellent condition – I have had mass spectroscopy and analysis performed on inks from 200-plus year old iron gall scrolls that were in excellent condition. We found that many of the older Russian scrolls added calcium carbonate (crushed egg shells) to the ink at some point to buffer the acidity, thus slowing the decay process.

    3) Climate and weather – the decay process slows tremendously (some say it stabilizes) between 65F and 70F and 30-40% relative humidity (impractical for most shuls!). The decay process does not increase in lock-step with increases of humidity and temperature. Rather, it increases or slows based on the ratio of humidity to temperature and can accelerate or slow at the extremes of either.

    4) Chemical properties of the medium (writing surface) can also affect the decay cycle. The Chemicals used today in Ibud haoros produce vellum with a fairly high pH (alkaline). When the ink hits the surface, a secondary process of neutralization initiates between the klaf and the ink, which complicates the decay cycle further.

    5) Addition of other substances – paint, etc. Lok (whitewash) is one of the worse things that can come in contact with the ink. Even if on the back of the klaf, it appears to accelerate the decay as well as abrades the ink badly over time once the lok starts to powder.


    All that having been said –iron gall ink will inevitably render a document unusable. This is something that buyers of both new and used sifrei torah need to be told.

    However, the process of decay usually needs several decades until it becomes problematic. During the first few decades, though, the item maintains a chezkas kashrus.

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    1. Thank you R' Avraham for your excellent posts on this subject. I wanted to respond to your comment regarding the mass spectroscopy results indicating that eggshells had been added to the ink. Although this may in fact be so, I would suggest an alternative means for how the calcium carbonate got into the ink.

      There are a couple of fifteenth and sixteenth century writing treatises that mention using powdered eggshells mixed with resin/incense as a sort of pounce. The powder would be sprinkled over the parchment and rubbed in, a process called scrutching. The purpose I imagine of the eggshells is to serve as a fine abrasive to raise the nap on the parchment, while the resin prevents the ink from spreading too much and gives good, sharp strokes. It also makes the ink appear blacker. My own practice is similar, although I use powdered pumice, I still dust the surface of the klaf with resin (gum sandarac)before writing.

      I find the long-term effect of the eggshells on the Russian sefarim fascinating, and wonder if their use was intentional or simply an instance of using whatever local materials were available. It might be a practice worth reviving if it significantly extends the longevity of iron-gall ink.

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    2. To clarify - the mass spectroscopy only indicated calcium carbonate. The eggshells was my own suggestion as the possible source. The concentrations were much to high though in our experiment to assume that the CaCo3 leeched into the ink from the vellum or from latent surface deposits.

      Glad to hear that you are pouncing / sandaracing the surface. Its a GREAT technique that, though unknown by most soferim, is standard practice for calligraphers writing on vellum or parchment.

      A great source in the US for sandarac and pounce is John Neal Booksellers and Talas. They can both be found via google search.

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    3. In going back and rereading the earlier comment, I should have written: "added calcium carbonate (crushed egg shells?)" !

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    4. This is very interesting! I wonder how they kept the calcium carbonate in suspension in the ink? I would think that it would settle to the bottom, or alternately create a greyish, sludgy ink. Although, I do know a few scribes who add a bit of finely ground ochre to their ink to give a bit more body. So maybe the Russian sofrim were adding chalk/eggshells to their ink. I feel an experiment coming on.

      Yes, John Neal Books is a tremendous resource.

      I would strongly recommend the Calligrapher's Handbook, edited by H. Child as a must read for all sofrim. It has many very useful sections dealing with preparing and writing on parchment, cutting quills, making ink, etc.

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    5. I mamash have it on my desk now!!! BTW - the section on cutting quills is amazing!

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  5. R' Avraham: what concerns me is not so much the slow, long-term, decay which as you said is unavoidable. What concerns me is cracking and peeling of the ink which happens often on new Tfillin and Mezuzot, as shown here.
    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-HaeryyVr68M/T6f0tC6cmbI/AAAAAAAAAOw/z9B2iLK7m2g/s1600/pasul7.jpg

    HaRav Shamai Gross said in a video interview that a sofer once told him: "I know that the tfillin become Passul as soon as I fold the parshiot shel rosh and insert them into the battim".

    This is why the questions of הונאה and לפני עור לא תתן מכשול were raised.

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  6. This is a peleh to me! I have never had ink crack when inserting parshios. What type of ink is this?

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  7. Not all inks crack. but, some do. Many Magihim know that sometimes new tfillin are found passul at the first checking, because of cracks and peeling in the ink. Were these tfillin ever kosher?

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  8. If the ink cracked before the hachnassa and sgira, then no.

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  9. Now, let's go back to the original question. What are the rules regarding the possibility of הונאה or לפני עור לא תתן מכשול ?

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  10. This was the argument against Mashuah. Many parashiyot, indeed cracked as soon as one inserted them in. The tefillin were invalid before they were even used!

    If what is described is happening, it surely is an unconscionable case of misleading the public. This type of deceit and misrepresentation is even worst than placing a stumbling block before the blind.

    By a blind person, there is a chance that he may step over or circumvent whatever obstacle he finds in his way. However, here it is just plain fraud, for the buyer is purely and intentionaly victimized.

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  11. I think you wil find it is unlikely that the ink of tefilin parshiyos should crack the first time it is put in batim, unless the guy putting it in is extremely incompetent and folds the parshiyos tightly or squashes them into chalalim that are to small.

    I was trained to roll, not fold the rosh parshiyos so as not to crack letters. also, if there is not ample room in the chalal, change the bayis and experiment with a few batim to ensure you do not squash the parshiyos and possibly damage them.

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    1. Hi Eli,
      I must totally agree with you. I myself have not witnessed cracking of ink with new parashiyot. Quite the contrary, I have found the ink to be of high quality and very resilient to plying and bending.

      As you point out, rolling and then just a slight press when wrapping the parashiyot is sufficient to place them into the chalalim. The least bending the better. Any damage that one may find is usually due to a sofer wrestling with an extremely tight chalal.

      Sometimes, the only recourse available, is to sand down the walls of the the challal. I have also had cases in which I was forced to reduce the thickness of the klaf, by lightly and very carefully sanding the back of the parashiyot.

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    3. what do you use to sand the walls of the challalim and how do you know you havn't made a hole?

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    4. Hi Eli,
      I usually utilize an 1/8 inch rotary Dremel Grinding Stone or an 1/8 inch Carbide Cutter Shank. As to how to make sure that one doesn't make a hole; for this one needs to judge on their own.

      Before proceeding, one must first determine how much more extra space will be needed to fit the parasha. Then judge the thickness of the wall to be reduced from the inside of the bayit to insure that the leather is sufficiently thick from within. The separation between the walls is usually smack in the middle of the divisions at the bottom of the chalalim.

      In most cases, one only need to reduce a shave off the inner wall to fit the parashiyot. If at anytime one becomes fearful of being close to puncturing the wall, just move to the other wall and remove a shave from the opposite wall of the challal. Clean out the dust and verify with a proper light that the walls remain integral.

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    5. How can you judge the thickness of the bayis wall? It may be extremely thin, much thinnner than you think. There is also no way of knowing if you made a hole unless you split open between the batim which would ruin them. If you have a way of being able to tell for certain if the wall remains intact I woul dlik eto know about it as I wrestle with this issue on a daliy basis.

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  12. Hi Eli,
    I completely understand. It is an issue that we all are confronted with at one point or another, and can be extremely frustrating. In most cases, the problem is due to the thickness of the klaf.

    Just know, however, that gassot batim do have some thickness that one may play with. At times, slightly reducing the thickness of the wall is part of the solution. You may want to experiment with an old set that is passul. You will find that the walls are not as thin as you perceive, and will quickly overcome your fear of puncturing through them.

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