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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Elul. Is it worth it??

11 months of the year I wish I had more work.  Comes Elul and I wish I had less work or another sofer to help me. I think many Chabad sofrim feel the same. The prevalent custom in Chabad is to check  tefillin and mezuzos in Elul (while its brought down  in kitzur, Chabad are the most vigilant about this custom).   So the question is...is it really such a great idea?

 I remember a sofer in New York bragging that he gets so busy in Elul he checks 12 sets of parshiyos an hour. That's one every five minutes. ( I assume he does not unassembled and reassemble them himself). For a guy who's personal best is 6 pairs of tefillin and 40 mezuzos in one day, I was horrified when I heard that. The fact is that everything is done extra fast during Elul and this means the chances are that mistakes will be made and vital issues overlooked.

I think that in Chabad communities, the volume is up to 10 times of that of the normal year. During the year I get about 4-5 pairs of tefillin  to check a week. During Ellul I do that much in a day. And it's not like theres 10 times more sofrim working during Ellul. So something's gotta give. And if sofrim are under so much pressure that they are not doing a proper job, perhaps it is not advisable to check ones tefillin and mezuzos during such a chaotic time.

Personally I have developed the following ideas to assist coping with the Elul rush. Perhaps this could be of benefit to others on the forum, so I share them here:

1) Early Bird Special. From 15th Av until Rosh chodesh Elul, give a discount to those checking in those two weeks. This will ease the demand in Elul itself.

2) No major repairs. If someone's tefillin needs major work, like all the tagin have faded or batim need work, tell them to bring it back after Yom Tov. (This is assuming its kosher meanwhile).

3) Take bookings. This will prevent too many people coming on one day. It will ease the pressure.

4) Again, take advantage of Aseres yemai teshuvah and offer a discount for those who wait until then.

5) Get as much non sofer help as possible like someone to help with the invoicing, scanning, painting retzuos - whatever you don't really need to do yourself but you do anyway during the rest of the year. An extra pair of hands means for stuff like that will mean you will get more checking done and be more productive at what you do best.

Good luck everyone and Ksivah Vechasimah Tovah

5 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. I think that some over do it with the instruction to check in Elul. For example I checked someone's tefillin today where his Rabbi told him to wait until Chodesh Elul starts. He told me a couple of weeks ago that he wants to wait till Elul.
    I found that he had 2 letters touching in his Tefillin. If he would have them checked a couple of weeks ago he would of had this problem fixed much earlier.

    Elul is good however is it there anything lacking if it is done in Chodesh Av?

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  3. If they're only doing it to be yotze the minhag and their tefillin had been checked reasonably recently (my rebbi says 2 in 7 years doesn't apply to gasos), and not to check their tefillin, maybe it's wise to offer a discounted "midas chassidus" check where you check the ribua, and paint the retzuos etc. I can see several benefits here:
    1- They are mekayem the minhag
    2- Sofrim are not tempted to cut corners on actually checking
    3- Saves time so the sofrim can check for more people who want to observe the minhag
    4- You save Jewish money by not having to charge for a full inspection. Hatorah Chasah al memonam shel yisrael.

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  4. I don't know if they are really being mekayem the minhag, since the minhag is to check the parshiyos primarily. However your other points are valid.

    I think the best system is that sofrim / magihim who primarily write should defer writing during Elul and assist in hagoha. This may mena relocating to places where there are strong Chabad populations or lack of enough local magihim. I personally knopw one sofer from Erertz Yisroel who flies to a city in America every Elul for this purpose.

    I don't think there is an inyan of hasogas gvul during elul since any decent sofer will be working to his max anyway during this time.

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  5. ELI # 3 worked great
    after 10 sets ( 2 magihim and a batimacher) a day we tell the customer he can book for tomorrow -i was surprised that people actually accept it.

    I also have realised that most psulim are in the retzuos so if somebody does not have money or time i look over the retzuos and paint or replace them- saves me time and the customer feels he did something for elul

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