Thank you for your your informative article on the
controversy over the Kashrus of retzuos for tefillin by Rabbi Yitzchok
As correctly reported in the article, this issue was first
raised on an online forum for sofrim, back in December of 2011. However the name of the forum was incorrectly quoted in the
article as being called "Soferstamblog". The correct name is "The STa"M Forum"
which can be viewed online at www.stamforum.com. The forum, which is
completely non commerical and non profit, started with a handful of sofrim
less than a year ago. Today there are dozens of contributing members from around
the world, mostly sofrim and others in the STa"M (Sefer Torah, tefillin and
Mezuzah) industry who regularly post shailos and discuss halachic matters
relevant to STa"M. Over 600 articles have been posted to date, with the site
receiving several hundred hits per day. It is proving to be a valuable resource
for many sofrim, rabannim and laymen alike.
Furthermore, I wish to
reiterate that the public consensus amongst sofrim is that the recent "retzuah
controversy" has been somewhat blown out of proportion. Firstly, it was an
honest mistake by a person who had no bad intent. He was not out to commit fraud
or break halacha, he simply did not manufacture the retzuos correctly. Secondly,
as reported in the article, the retzuos are still kosher according to many
I think if people are looking to find fault in the STa"M
industry, there are more serious concerns that have been raised on the Forum
that need to be correctly addressed. Firstly, a large percentage of sofrim who
write STa"M today do not have the proper credentials and training. According to
my own research, as many as 50% of frum sofrim working in the "conveyor belt"
STa"M industry in Israel do not have "Ksav kaballah" - rabbinic ordination
necessary to practice as a sofer.
Unfortunatley, most resellers of STa"M
(such as Judaica shops) are not careful to buy STa'M only from ordained sofrim.
There are thousands of halachos that need to be learned in order to qualify as a
sofer, and if a sofer is not proficient in these laws there is a high chance
that the STa"m he writes may be halachically problematic, including errors that
will never be able to be detected by future examiners.
raised on the Forum pertain to halachic standards of some of the cheaper gassos
batim (the black leather boxes housing the tefillin parchments) which are being
sold to the unsuspecting public . Some of these batim have been found to have
"false partition lines", which render the batim unkosher. Others are not
properly square. Many of these batim have hechshairim which pertain only to the
manufacturing of the hides prior to painting, whilst these problems occur during
the painting process. Most people do not read the fine print, and this is very
With more information being made accessible to educate the
consumer through printed media such as Ami Magazine, these problems will
hopefully be minimized and standards of Kashrus
Rabbi Eli Gutnick