פורום בינלאומי לנושא סת"ם

Thursday, January 3, 2019

A letter to all students of StaM

Dear תלמידים, ה' עליכם יחיו.

I am writing this letter in response to those of you who reached out to me asking me to provide guidance and leadership at this time:

I open with a heartfelt תפלה to our father in heaven: וה' יצילני מטעות הכתיבה ומטעות הכוונה.

This is the closing statement of a sacred תפלה that we are enjoined to ask of Hashem before commencing our עבודת הקודש. ( עי' שערי תשובה סימן ל"ב ס"ק ג' הובא ג"כ בלשכה"ס סי' ד' ס"ק א').

We know, perhaps more than anyone, that in order to execute our work in integrity, let alone live a life that is consistent with the sanctity of our work, we are in great need of .סיעתא דשמיא  This תפלה, as well as וידוי and אנא בכח, constantly remind us of that, deepening our humility and intensifying our reliance on ה'.

May G-d almighty save me from erring in my writing and in my intentions.

I will present here three distinct points. Each one is independently valid. Together, they create a perspective that I think aligns with our values as sincere Yidden, dedicated Chassidim, and diligent Sofrim and students of סת"ם.

The actions taken to a) create and b) publish an "investigative story" about מזוזות are a massive breach of the core values that characterize a Yid. Let alone a חסיד, ירא שמים, or למדן.

Right in the beginning of the קסת הסופר we are instructed 'מכאן יראה הסופר איך הוא צריך להיות ירא את ה' מאד'.

In the לשכת הסופר be brings the statement of the פרי מגדים who writes that a סופר must be an even greater ירא שמים than a שוחט. The reason is:
 כי שם רק לאו דנבלה וכאן מבטלין כל ישראל עשה בכל יום ומברכים ברכות לבטלה. ואפילו נאמר דלא תעשה חמור מעשה מ"מ ברכה לבטלה עובר על לאו דלא תשא י"א דהוי דבר תורה ובצירוף עשה ודאי חמור משוחט.

We see from here just how important of a value it is to weigh the severity of things against each other.

Now, a מזוזה פסולה is a ביטול עשה if it is hanged on a door which requires a מזוזה מן התורה. It may include a SINGLE ברכה לבטלה. and sometimes not even that.

However, the number of לאוין violated in the production and dissemination of this video are far more.
 (עי' שו"ע רבינו הזקן או"ח סי' קנ"ו סי"א, וראה ספר שמירת הלשון להחפץ חיים מנין הלאוין).

The spiritual destruction in the production and dissemination of this message is terrifying to me.

The לשון הרע in it, certain misimpressions it creates which qualify either as אבק לשון הרע or מוציא שם רע, and the נזק לחבירו etc. are of epic proportions.

Therefore, I urge you my precious תלמידים and anyoone who is ירא לדבר ה':

Please ask Hashem to save you from participating in any discussion let alone promotion of such things, and see to it that you are שומר פיו ולשונו.

And here is what the חפץ חיים writes:

אם יושב בין חבורת אנשים שמדברים דיבורים האסורים, ואין לו דרך לצאת מחברתם. וכשיישב וישתוק ידמה בעיניהם כמשוגע, בכל זאת וודאי שאסור לדבר דיבורים האסורים איתם. ועל זה אמרו חז"ל (עדויות ה' ו') "מוטב לאדם שייקרא שוטה כל ימיו, ואל ייקרא רשע שעה אחת לפני המקום". ויזרז עצמו בשעת מעשה בכל כוחותיו לעמוד על נפשו, ויהיה ליבו נכון ובטוח שיקבל על זה שכר ראוי משמיים. כי לפום צערא אגרא. לפי הצער – השכר. וככל שמצטער יותר לקיים מצוה, כך מקבל יותר שכר ועל זה שייך מאמר חז"ל "כל רגע ורגע שאדם חוסם את פיו, זוכה לאור הגנוז שאין כל מלאך ובריה יכולים לשער".

Please take this to heart.

All cheap מזוזות, and I do mean ALL. ALL. ALL. are HIGHLY, HIGHLY, SUSPECT.

Make no mistake about it! While I know that certain individuals would like to believe that CERTAIN cheap מזוזות are better- THEY ARE NOT.

Why not?

In order to understand this, you MUST understand the COMMERCIAL STA"M INDUSTRY.

When a מזוזה commands a price of $42, consider: the vendor must make a profit. Right?

So the מזוזה could not have cost him more than $39.

He, however, also paid a magiah - "fixer upper" - to check the מזוזה and perfect it.

Considering that cost... the מזוזה itself could not have cost him more than $35.

Now, in most cases, the vendor got the מזוזה from a "סוחר". These are individuals who harvest the work of numerous people who are writing סת"ם in Israel, bring it to America, and sell them in bulk to vendors.

Those סוחרים too need to make money.

So, considering that cost too... the מזוזה itself could not have cost him more than $33.

Realistically, closer $30.

Now, a Sofer who writes a מזוזה for $30 still has cost of קלף.

So, the Sofer was paid around $27 - $30 to write the מזוזה.

Now, anyone who has learned סימן לב and סימן לו in שו"ע knows that to write a מזוזה ACCORDING TO THE INSTRUCTIONS OF THE שו"ע is no small feat.

It takes time. It must. A מזוזה written in 2 hours is considered VERY QUICKLY written... considering just how much detail and precision is required.

Now, who writes a מזוזה for $15 and hour??? NO ONE!!!

What they do is they cut every corner of the הלכה possible, and usually, they cut a little deeper in as well, so that their time is profitable.

So, they write מזוזת without תגין. They write super fast that sometimes the ink does not catch to the קלף properly and there are cracks in the letters. They are not well coordinated and the spacing is terrible - often two words being too close or one word being spread toם far apart. The  צורות האותיותare often distorted, requiring שאלות תינוק to verify their status, and sometimes are outright in need of correction.

So, what do the vendors do with such horrible work? They give it to their magihim to "fix up".

Is it true that some do better "fix up jobs" than others? YES!!!

But, most people are misled by the fix-up job when in fact the fix-up job is a cover-up for a pathetic מזוזה.

Most importantly, the question one must ask himself is: WHO IS WRITING THESE??? Which person who is ירא שמים writes in such compromised ways???

Here is what the ברוך שאמר wrote:

 יכתוב אותיות טובים ותמימות ולא שבורות ובמתון ובכוונה  גדולה. ואל ימהר אדם בכתיבתה כדי להרויח ממון הרבה כי אותו ריוח ילך לאיבוד ולדראון ויפסיד נשמתו כי הוא מחטיא את הרבים

It follows then that ANY סופר who writes סת"ם in a way that requires systematic, commercial "upgrading" is a קל!!!!!!!!!!!!! He is in complete violation of a direct admonishment by the ראשונים.

When will people awaken to THAT???

ALL commercial סת"ם retail shops do this. THE ONLY DIFFERENCE is in how good the cover-up job is.

The מזוזה itself, however, is מזויף מתוכו.

In addition: take a look at what the קול יעקב  writes:

וכן בסת"ם הנשלחים ממקום למקום לא יקנום כי אם יש להם כתב ועדות לראיה כי הם יוצאים מתחת ידי סופר אשר הוא אומן ובקי בהלכות ומוסמך על יד חכם שנתן לו קבלה, ויש לבית דין לחקור ולדרוש בכל זמן ועידן על הסופרים והמגיהים והבודקים והמוכרים כמו שכתב רמ"א ביו"ד שם כל השוחטים ובודקים.

So, my point is: this "investigation" and it's "findings" have nothing to do with the real issue. It only reflects a difference in HOW WELL THE "COVER UPPER" did his job. The real issue is: selling a מזוזה that is in need of a makeover to begin with - a practice that unfortunately all retail shops do.
So, when one goes to a retail סת"ם shop, they should be ready to buy something more expensive. That's should tell the vendor: I do NOT want a מזוזה that needed a mak-over by a מגיה. I want a מזוזה that was written fully כהלכה BEFORE the מגיה inspected it. AND be ready to pay the price that a מצות עשה דאורייתא deserves!!!


It is very difficult to accept any הלכה rulings as final through this medium.

There are MANY questions.

For example, a space in the middle of a word being "too big" and dividing the word into 2... is a highly subjective question.

Very often 2 Sofrim will NOT see it the same way.

Or, a "crack"  in a letter. Was it seen with a light shining behind it? Or a magnifying glass in front of it?

Many מגיהים check like that..  and discoveries made through these means are meaningless in הלכה.

Yet... these have become "industry standard" despite the clear admonition of the ביאור הלכה which states:
אל ימהר אדם להקל בדבר או להחמיר ולהפסיד לאחרים אם לא שימצא ראיה ברורה

I might passel them too, or some of them.

However, it is very difficult to accept with certainty and finality "פסולים" of these kinds without really seeing them.

So, in conclusion:

1) Guard yourselves against indulging in the מדות רעות ומגונות of idle chatter and gossip. Be humble. Ask Hashem to protect you as we say each morning "יהי רצון .. שתצילני היום ובכל יום מעזי פנים ומעזות פנים מאדם רע ומחבר רע ... מלשון הרע ממלשינות מעדות שקר etc.
This is an aspect of being a ירא שמים!

2) Don't be mislead that some cheap מזוזות are better than others. They are not.
Consider is חלב עכו"ם by one הכשר better than חלב עכום by another??? It is not.
Buy מזוזות that needed no "makovers" - which are readily available at ALL vendors and local Sofrim.

3) Understand, that in order to come to a legitimate conclusion in this domain of הלכה requires more than what is being presented.

May ה' lift us up and bring us all closer to him and to each other and may he redeem us now.

With love,
Rabbi YY (Fitz) Rabin

ישיבת סת"ם


  1. Rabbi YY,

    Your post in response to the highly disturbing video circulating today is appreciated. Somebody had to say something.

    It is no secret that the Sta"m industry is completely unregulated and that different vendors employ different methods of scrupulosity and conscientiousness. This is not only my opinion, but the reality expressed by many on this forum.

    Yet of particular interest to me is your second point, that ALL ALL ALL cheap mezuzos are problematic. THIS IS SIMPLY NOT TRUE.

    As both a magiha and vendor of Sta"m, I encounter (mostly more secular) people who either are not able or willing to pay for a mehudar mezuzah. If I don't give them a less expensive option, they will simply go to another source - such as the internet - and purchase something completely possul. As a communal sofer and supplier, I need to have something inexpensive - yet still decent -to offer them.

    It is challenging, but possible. I will explain how:

    You are correct that many "sofrim" writing the very cheap / low end mezuzos are unqualified and unfit to write sta'm, and what they write is unfit to sell no matter how much fixing one attempts.

    However please be advised that reliable, heimishe, ordained sofrim who choose to write more simply yet halachadic DO EXIST, and while it takes longer to check and fix such mezuzos , (and they have a higher rate of "returns" ,which is a pain), the end result will be a basic kosher lechatchilla product. Over the years I have found many such sofrim, some of whom I work with to this day. I am happy to post samples of their ksav, by way of example.

    Sure, its hard work. These sofrim are hard to find and even harder to keep. The hagoha is slow, expect at least 10 minutes a mezuzah and a headache at the end.

    Here's the math:

    For $30 one can find such mezuzos, direct from sofrim in Israel (including klaf).

    Good, reliable, magihim are willing to check and touch up such mezuzos for $5. (In my case I choose to do it myself but each to their own). There is no reason why such mezuzos cannot be checked and passed as kosher lechatchillah by a competent magiha. Again, happy to post examples.

    The sale of these mezuzos will hardly be a money maker. But it fills a need - and its doable, for the final sale price comparable to that in the video ($42.00)

    Obviously the customer should know that he is only getting a basic product, and that better options do exist, should he wish to upgrade at a later date....

    I would like to conclude that my day today, like probably many on this forum, was largely spent fielding the many questions and phone calls from concerned persons who watched the video.....The common theme was "WHY IS THERE NO HECHSHER OR REGULATION ON STAM"? To answer this question, please see here:

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