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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Why they let the forgers go

We all remember the fuss a few months ago, when they busted that forgers ring in Ashkelon who were printing computer generated mezuzos. It was all over the news and online, including this website.


But apparently the forgers had all charges dropped because they were able to prove to authorities that what they were doing was not against halacha and they had rabbinical approval for what they were doing.


And what were they doing?


They were using computers to generate mezuzos and print them out on parchment. Except the computer left part of the letter out. For example, they would print a lamed with the chof part and the top of the rosh of the vov but leave the regel of the vov out. So every letter was 80% done, except a vital aiver of the letter was missed out. This was then later filled in by the sofer, lishmah and kesidran. Since lishmah is enough for part of the letter, particularly the last part that makes it kosher, they got around the lishmah issue. Since the kesidran is only necessary for the tzuras haos to be created kesidran, even if parts are from before, that, too, was a non issue for them.


So they beat the system and were able to officially write kosher Stam in 20% of the time. These guys were Charedim  and claim the only thing they did wrong was dishonestly - selling them to sochrim without explaining their "shortcut". To them, they feel the same as any socher who sells stuff written by questionably frum sofrim and sell it off as 100% kosher - something statistics say is the case with up to 50% of Stam available through sochrim.


However in my humble opinion, I feel that the basic flaw of producing Stam in such a manner is that it is not produced derech ksivah. 'Uchsavtem" means writing properly, not randomly filling in parts of letters.
Any other opinions on this matter are welcome. If I have gotten any of the above facts wrong, please advise.

25 comments:

  1. even ink that falls on the parchment needs to be maavir kulmus

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  2. keset hasofer siman daled siif gimil
    and i quote "that even miutoh was written sheloh leshmah it does not help the keset is even more machmir and says one cannot be maavir kulmos
    i wonder how they got away with that

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  3. i just saw in the mishnas hasofer that there is an opinion that is machshir if he finished lishmah even when a tipas dyo falls
    but he says ledinah (maybe only by a tipas dyo) that the achronim are machmir

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  4. Indeed, these people pulled a fast one – TWICE!!! Hre is my thinking on how this should be approached. There is a debate in the Gemara (Gitting 19) and Rishonim concerning the case of “Ketav Al Gabeh Ketav” – where a scribe adds a second layer of ink onto the letters in the Tefillin or Mezuza.

    This rule applies when a scribe sees that the ink is beginning to fade, and so he goes over the script with an additional layer of ink, which layer is considered the primary script?

    One view maintains that since there was nothing before the first layer of ink was applied, the “Ketav Tahton” (“lower writing”) is considered the primary script of the Tefillin or the Mezuza. The lower script is, after all, the one which transformed blank parchment into a script, and thus it is deemed primary even after it is darkened.

    The second view, however, argues that when a person looks at the parchment, he sees the upper layer (the “Ketav Elyon”), not the lower layer. As such, the upper layer should be considered the main script of the Tefillin or Mezuza.

    Halacha follows the first view, that the original layer of ink is considered the primary script. One practical application of this principle involves a case where only part of the text has begun to fade, and the Sofer wants to darken the letters in question.

    As we know, the text of the Tefillin and Mezuza must be written in its proper sequence. Thus, if we would view the upper layer as the primary script, darkening certain letters would invalidate the Tefillin or Mezuza, because those letters would be viewed as having been written now, when they are darkened, and the text is thus written out of order. But, since Halacha follows the view that “Ketab Tahton Ikar” – the lower layer is the primary script. As such, faded letters may be darkened, as long as they have not completely faded and are still recognizable by a child.

    Applying this understanding to what these counterfeiters have claimed immediately reveals their deliberate misrepresentation. The ikar of the letter (Ketav Tachton) - 80% was written without Leshem Kedushat Mitzvah. How can they claim that the Ketav Elyon is the Ikar.

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  5. The only way that their proposition may have some halakhic validity, is if letters where to have been partially formed in the prescribed method of writing – by hand and then someone came afterwards and completed the letters Kesidran. But these counterfeiters fooled the judges by equating their printing to be the same as writing.

    Now, I would also want to know if they were queried regarding the Shemoth. Did they use their same method? If they did, one way or another, whatever Beth Din that presided over them was made-up of fools.

    As we all know, the scribe must verbally declare and have in mind that he writes the Name “Le’Shem Kedushat Ha’Shem” – “For the sake of the sanctity of the Name.” If he writes or prints a Name of G-d in the Tefillin or Mezuza without the proper intent, he cannot simply write it again over the original layer of ink with the required intent.

    On the other hand if they claim that they initially wrote the name, LeShem Kedushat HaShem, then these are Shelo Kesidran. Since the bottom layer of ink is regarded as the primary script, adding a second layer will not help in validating the writing of the Name. Thus, the parchment is invalid from both angles since what applies for writing over the regular Ketav does not apply by writing a Name.

    These crooks cannot be permitted have their cake both ways. The very halakha which they so avidly claimed to master in order to navigate that cleverly argued loophole, should become the prosecutor that pins them down for their evil conspiracy. Such actions only bring SHAME to Israel.

    Summary: These forgers are stuck in a halakhic catch 22, and there is no way in which they can rationalize that their Mezuzot are nothing else than pre-meditated counterfeits. Whoever, presided over such a fraud should be pursued. Likewise, in my opinion, the Judges who presided over this case, lack the competence to sit in that role. This case should be appealed to a higher court and the positions of the original judges also reevaluated.

    By the way, we have pictures of the original screens, and the letters where outlined in their entirety – including the Shemoth.

    ReplyDelete
  6. As explained, my understanding was that the letters were were almost completely formed but printed, ie not in the prescribed manner of writing. This is what I was arguing in my post, and why its no good. From a kesidran point of view and from a lishmah point of view this is kosher as they were adding a vital eiver by hand, in order, and lishmah..

    To the best of my knowledge, their scam had /has nothing to do with ksav al gabei ksav.

    Its possible that they just wrote in the shaimos, lishmoh, as they got to them, which is halachically sound. They would have been kesidron. I'm not saying they did this, I'm just saying they could have argued this in court to get off.

    To ensure perfection, it could have been the same sofer (who finished the letters and wrote the shaimos (as well as the kuzu on the back) as the computer generated letters were taken from).

    Again, I'm not saying this is what happened, only speculating. They may have found other loopholes.

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  7. Firstly - What Mishnat Hasofer says in Siman 4 Seif Katan 10 that some poskim are machshirim when part of the letter is written shelo lishma, is CLEARLY bediavad. He says so explicitly. "ויש פוסקים שמכשירים בדיעבד" To do so lechatchila is assur.

    Secondly - not only are these people acting as the complete antithesis to how the Talmud and sifrei halacha describe a Sofer, they are also transgressing the chiyuv for the Sofer to make known if their product is bediavad. It seems to be a clear case of fraud.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. While I agree, you have Rav Abadi who has made quite a splash by stating that printing can be done lishma under the right circumstances. In fact I would have to say that this method is actually an improvement over Rav Abadi's opinion. Granted zero times zero is still zero.

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  8. HOW DO YOU ENSURE THAT THE MEZUZOS YOU ARE BUYING ARE NOT FROM THE ABOVE???????????

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    Replies
    1. More than ever you must BUY direct from sofrim you know and trust. I have dropped all the casual sochrim I used to deal with and they cannot understand what they did, some of them are upset at me, but you acannot trust anyone anymore. PERIOD.

      I have changed my whole system. If I need something that I do not have trustworthy sofer readily available to write, I have a few chevreh that are on the ground and find me a trustworthy sofer. I deal with the sofer directly but give them a percentage for finders fee, for the duration of my use of the sofer. This is better than a socher because the sofer is no mystery. And the middleman still makes money, without really working.Everyone wins.

      Also, I find that I have to hold more stock with this system. Zol Zayn

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  9. Only buy from a Sofer you know and trust.

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  10. I have this system in place for mehudar STa"m for a while but with the 40$ or less mezuza i have a problem.
    I really would be happier if there is some way the VAAD can ensure me that the sofer is ok and writes traditionally.

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  11. you can do it with the basic stuff too. Why not?

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  12. Rabosai, I don't get this discussion. Forget Lishma, Kesidran, Ksav Elyon & Tachton.

    1. Every part of a letter that is required for Kashrus, must be Nichtav, even in Megillos and Gittin. (The same is true for Chok Tochos. If most of an Alef is "carved" from a Tipas Dyo, and the bottom Yud is properly handwritten, it's Pasul.)
    2. Computer printing is not Ksiva .
    3. Ergo, a letter where part of it - in this case, most of it - is not Nichtav, is Pasul.

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    Replies
    1. Yes that was my point exactly in my post. The question is how did they get around that with regards to satisfy some rabbis that what they were doing was kosher?

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    2. If anyone knows how they got around this or which opinions they based their reason on, I'd appreciate it.

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    3. Honestly I don't see how their defense is substantially different than Rav Abadi's famed teshuva allowing silk screened STaM. An opinion that is picking up steam by the unlearned BTW.

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    4. R' Abadi was taken in as a partner of Joseph Tesler, in the company that produces forged Sifrei Torah using silk screening. See:
      http://www.kashrut.org/scrollproject/

      Tesler applied for a patent for this process. His application was rejected.
      http://www.google.com/patents/US20020116410

      R' Abadi derived significant financial benefit for the "Hallachic" permission he gave to silk-screen Sifrei Torah.

      Does such financial benefit count as bribe?
      What is the validity of a "Hallachic" ruling issued in exchange for money?

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    5. Pictures of Tesler & Abadi working together:
      http://www.kashrut.org/scrollproject/photos.asp?pic=16
      http://www.kashrut.org/scrollproject/photos.asp?pic=17

      It appears that there are two Abadi's involved. Yitzchak Abadi and Aaron Abadi.

      Delete
  13. Some time ago, another kind of forgery was discovered. STAM were computer printed on klaf, then, someone traced the letters using STAM ink with a kulmus. The purpose was to create a beautiful Ktav which could be produced by an artist who is not a sofer. Many Rabbanim came out against it because of כתב על גבי כתב . I happened to be one of the investigators who provided scientific evidence of this forgery.

    A rich person, who ordered a very expensive Sefer Torah, ened up getting one that was produced like that. He sued the seller in a בית דין , asking to get his money back. The בית דין decided that he will not get his money back. I remember getting very upset when I read this decision. The בית דין did not write in their decision the reasons for the decision. All the Rabbanim said that it is Passul, yet he did not get his money back. How is this possible?

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    Replies
    1. The question is, does Abadis stuff get sold on its own, for what it is, from their conpany?

      Or does it infiltrate the regular market via sochrim who buy it unaware of its source and sell it as normal stam?

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    2. My understanding is that it is the latter. It is sold to sochrim under his heksher, teuda, hashgacha ect, and then makes it's way to the regular market. This is why Rav Ovadia Yosef wrote about him that he is a sinner that is causing others to sin.

      What is more is that he and his followers are very active and vocal on the various discussion boards calling us actual sofrim the dishonest ones and defending his position.

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    3. Regarding the Rabbi Abadi issue, I am an Eyd to the following facts and sequences:

      Rabbi Abadi developed his view (in about 1995) out of his own learning (which he has been doing uninterruptedly since 1952). He has laid out his reasoning in a long T'shuva he later published in his T'shuva Sefer. Believing that this would be less expensive (and having the experience of having to Pasken on Mezuzos, Sifrei Torah etc on a nearly daily basis for about 15 years prior to that - and he's more Machmir than most Poskim or Sofrim on many issues of K'sav), he felt that this could boost those Shuls and Kehillos around the world who cannot afford to replace their very many Pasul or inferior Sifrei Torah with good ones.
      Yossi Tessler had by then become a Mispallel in Rabbi Abadi's shul and, over time, something of a Talmid of the Rov. In discussing this issue with him (as he discussed many other Halacha issues with the Baalei Batim in the Shul), the two of them felt that Yossi might be instrumental in doing the "legwork" of producing and acquiring the materials and labor needed for such a project. In the end, it took much, much more time, money and labor than anticipated.

      I cannot claim to be privy to Rabbi Abadi's finance details. I question the source of this "fact", that he derived money, or "much" money, from this endeavor.

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    4. The Lubavitcher Rebbe once said:
      כל מה שתלמיד ותיק עתיד לחדש כבר נאמר למשה מסיני. ויש כאלה שממציאים חידושים כל כך נפלאים שאפילו משה רבנו לא ידע מהם. י

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