The Sta”m Chronicle (2) Mitzvas Mezuza

13 Tishrei 5774
September 17, 2013

Recently, I found myself perusing an article written by one of the greatest Rabbanim in America. He was writing with the goal of impressing upon people the importance of Mitzvas Mezuza. He dwelled extensively on various aspects of the mitzvah. As one in the field, I was pleased to see that he dwelled somewhat on the amount of skill and effort required to produce the item.

However, toward the end of the article I encountered a startling sentence. My jaw dropped as I sat in stunned disbelief. The words before me read as follows; “as a result of all this, one should not be surprised if a mezuzah will cost $40.” I must admit, I had to literally read and re-read this a number of times for it to register. At that point I was unsure whether to laugh or cry.

Let us make a quick cheshbon. The average sofer writes a mezuzah in about 4 hours. The cost of klaf (parchment) and hagahah (inspection) cannot possibly be less than a combined $7. The dealer has then got to be pocketing an absolute minimum of $5 for the whole deal to be worth it for him. This leaves $28 for the sofer. Or $7 an hour – maximum. (And remember, occasionally an entire mezuzah is lost to invalidations…)

Obviously this is not feasible – even in Eretz Yisrael. The metzius (reality) is – both in Eretz Yisrael and America – that the overwhelming majority of mezuzos sold at such prices, are either kosher only b’dieved (post facto), or actually pasul. No self-respecting Orthodox Jew would produce a work that flagrantly ignores basic halachah. “Sofrim” writing these mezuzos are often people who are far removed from a torah lifestyle – many are actually women, mechalelei Shabbos, drug addicts or even Arabs! The mezuzos are written in about an hour (or less) and shipped by the dozens to dealers worldwide.

I have seen mezuzos from many cities in America sold at about $40 and only once I have ever seen ones that were kosher l’chatchila. Nevertheless, A) that was many years ago, and B) obviously, those were the exception, not the rule.
Imagine a car dealer saying that he’s got a brand new beautiful 2013 Toyota Camry for you – and it’s only $9000!! Would you say “wow, that’s a great deal!” and buy the car? Of course not. So when the mezuzah dealer says he’s got a brand new beautiful mezuzah for you – and it’s only $40!! – think about that $9000 Camry…

The facts on the ground are that GENERALLY SPEAKING, a truly l’chatchilah mezuzah cannot be had for less than $65 retail as of this writing. This may be a tough pill for many people to swallow, yet as Chazal say; אין לדיין אלא מה שעיניו רואות. One can only judge based on what he sees.
On a recent trip to America, I observed mezuzos at various prices from various sources and I daresay that many mezuzos being sold for more than $70 are not l’chatchila either. Yet, at least at that price one can obtain a well written mezuzah.

In future editions we will be”h discuss various tips to employ when purchasing Sta”m that should prove helpful in procuring properly l’chatchilah Sta”m.

I do not wish to be misunderstood and will therefore close with a clarification. I do not mean to say that kosher l’chatchila $40 mezuzos do not exist. Nor do I claim that all mezuzos being sold at over $65 are l’chatchila. All I am saying is that GENERALLY SPEAKING, as a wise man once said, you get what you pay for – if you’re lucky.

גמר חתימה טובה
Reuvain Mendlowitz

Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz is a practicing magiah who lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh. He has certification from the Vaad Mishmeres Sta”m for Safrus and Hagahah. He has received Rabbinical semichah for psak in Sta”m from HaGaon HaRav Mordechai Friedlander, Posek for Mishmeres Sta”m in Yerushalayim and the Badatz Eidah HaChareidis Sta”m division. Rabbi Mendlowitz has authored the acclaimed sefer “Inside Sta”m, A Complete Buyer’s Guide” (Israel Bookshop 2012) and is in the process of preparing a Hebrew version for print. He lectures in Eretz Yisrael and the U.S. to raise consumer awareness in these areas. Rabbi Mendlowitz may be contacted at

If you have a Sta”m question, please email JKN at and it will be forwarded to Rabbi Mendlowitz. Questions and the rabbi’s responses will be posted to the website anonymously.




  • Rabbi Eli Gutnick
    September 30, 2013 - 10:17 | Permalink

    Dear Rabbi Mendlowitz,

    Thank you for your insightful article.

    While I also advocate strongly for mehudar mezuzos and agree that in “a perfect world” only mehudar mezuzos should be sold, the fact remains that there is still a strong need for basic kosher (lechatchillah) mezuzos which are less expensive.

    If I only sold Mehudar mezuzos upwards of $80, at least half of my customers would go elsewhere and buy questionably kosher (bedieved) or outright possul mezuzos for less.

    Therefore it is imperative that vendors such as myself work hard finding cheaper but still adequately kosher mezuzos. Sure, they won’t be as mehudar and beautifully written – but they will still be of acceptable standard, with all the detail and halachic requirements to render them kosher lechatchillah.

    Over the years I have worked with sofrim who can, in two hours or less, produce a decent kosher lechatchillah mezuzah. I sell such mezuzos for about $40 and in doing so fulfil a vital service and thus prevent many from buying dubious mezuzos online or elsewhere.

    It is important to note that these cheaper mezuzos are written by ehrliche sofrim, with ordination from The Vaad (Mishmeres Sta”M), the same type of people who write my mehudar mezuzos. (Commercially, it makes sense too – half the price for half the time, there is nothing fishy or odd about that cheshbon when I explain it to customers.)

    Having said all the above, I agree with the author that there are many vendors selling $40+ which are not kosher lechatchillah, and in some cases outright possul. But in most cases this is because they are either unscrupulous or ignorant. But that is a whole separate discussion….

    With blessings,

    Rabbi Eli Gutnick
    Communal sofer, Melbourne Australia

  • Aaron Shaffier
    September 30, 2013 - 12:10 | Permalink

    I laud the intent of your article. There is no doubt that it is worthwhile for people to spend more money to get a good Mehudar mezuzah. But I don’t agree with your math.

    You write that it takes the average sofer 4 hours to write a Mezuzah. That is simply not correct. I for example write large, mehudar mezuzahs in and hour and 15 minutes. Here’s a picture:

    I know many sofrim who write Mezuzahs that are Kosher lechatchila in 45 minutes. If you don’t believe me, I invite you to come visit me in Beitar Illit (only 20 minutes from Beit Shemesh) and watch me write.

    So here is the real math of a $40 dollar mezuzah. A sofer spends 45 minutes and makes about $18. The klaf, computer checking and standard checking indeed costs about $7 bringing the price of the mezuzah up to $25. The rest of the money is made by the soicherim, shop owners etc.

    If the sofer works for 5 hours a day, he makes about $120 per day. If he works 23 days per month, that comes to a very respectable income (by Israeli standards) of $2,760 per month. Or 9,800 shekel per month. This is more than the national average gross salary of 9,000 shekels per month for an Israeli worker. And this is assuming the sofer is working 5 hours per day not 8!

  • Aaron rabinowitz
    September 30, 2013 - 21:42 | Permalink

    Even thought it may take you 1 hour you have to remember that you are prbally writing for years and there will always be people who are gifted in and can write a mezuzah in 45 but you yourself mentioned that this is hard to believe. Also it is very hard to write for five hours straight I haven’t seen someone able to do this plus there is time in making the kulmas preparing the klaf and 120 dollars a day means about 25 thousand a year but yes we all agree that sometimes you can find a 40 dollar mehudar mezuzah but it is not practical to expect this especiaal when buying from a store.

  • Rephoel
    September 30, 2013 - 23:34 | Permalink

    R’ Shaffier;

    You write that the author’s statement that it takes the average sofer 4 hours to write a mezuzah “is simply not correct”. As proof you say that you write large, mehudar mezuzos in an hour and fifteen minutes. You also know “many sofrim” who write mezuzos in 45 minutes.

    Neither of these statements in any way disproves the author’s assertion that the average is four hours. The average house costs half a million dollars (let’s say) yet I know “many homeowners” who paid in excess of a million for theirs etc. etc.

    Additionally, a major part of the author’s issue was (to my understanding) that most $40 mezuzos are of inferior quality. If yours retail for more than that, then you again are not in contrast with the author.

    And regarding Rabbi Gutnick’s defense that while it is true that many vendors are selling b’dieved or passel mezuzos, nevertheless they are unscrupulous or ignorant; well – the author said the same thing.

  • Rabbi Askotzky
    October 1, 2013 - 13:15 | Permalink

    Shalom uvracha!

    I strongly agree with the comments from R’ Eli, who I know to be a very knowledgeable and reliable source and that he shares a relationship with Rav Friedlander and other expert Stam poskim, and with Aaron (your ksav looks quite nice). My only comment would be is that questionably kosher is not the same as bedieved, as R’ Eli equates.

    My additional concern is that while it is easy to use prices as guidelines for the layman it is unfair. Reliable and knowledgeable sofrim and sellers who sell for less may unfairly be suspected of being unreliable and those who sell for more may unfairly be assumed of being overpriced.

    Rabbi Yerachmiel Askotzky

    Author of Tefillin & Mezuzos 2003

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