The Sta”m Chronicle (5)

10 Kislev 5774

November 13, 2013
In our last two Newsletters we discussed four of five tips one can employ when purchasing Sta”m to help ensure that a l’chatchilah product is received.

1. “Ask around” among people known to be scrupulous in their mitzvah observance.
2. Ask the seller if the sofer and magiah have received certification. (A Teudah)
3. Ask him who he asks his shailos to.
4. Ask if you can bring the parashiyos to “your” magiah.

We continue to the final idea on the list;
5. Ask him one or two halachah questions. Now, although this is a bit more complicated than the first four, it is extraordinarily effective. You see, someone who is not thoroughly knowledgeable in Hilchos Sta”m should not be selling Sta”m.

Imagine walking into a Toyota dealership and asking if the car has a V6 engine or a V8 engine – and the dealer answering “I don’t know”. Imagine asking him how many miles per gallon it gets on the highway – and him answering “I don’t know”. This imaginary scenario is simply inconceivable. Toyota would NEVER employ such an individual!
This begs the question; Why are there countless such salesmen (“brokers”) employed peddling Sta”m? The only answer is that Sta”m consumers are not scared away from such salesmen because the vast majority of consumers simply don’t ask such questions. And the reason they don’t ask such questions is because they don’t have any knowledge with which to formulate a question.

Someone vaguely familiar with Sta”m could ask a question like; “Is the klaf machine-made or avodas yad (hand-made)?” Some poskim maintain that only hand-made klaf should be used while others say machine-made klaf is fine as well. Whether one wants to be stringent or lenient regarding this issue is their own business. It is important to note that for the purposes of this “test”, it makes no difference if the broker answers machine-made or hand-made. Our sole goal is to see if he is familiar with the product he is selling. Unfortunately, many of those selling Sta”m will not be able to answer this question. That means either a) they are ignorant (that there is halachic discussion), b) they are irresponsible, or c) they believe hand-made klaf is not necessary.

Another example of a question one can ask is; “Was the sofer stringent regarding the Rashba?” There is a Rashba brought in the Bais Yosef and quoted by the Biur Halachah (סי’ ל”ב סעי’ י”ח ד”ה ואם גרר) in the name of the Gra and Shaarei Ephraim. The Biur Halachah is of the opinion that l’chtchilah a sofer SHOULD be stringent in this matter. Again, the issue here is not whether or not you personally want to be machmir. You don’t even have to know what the Rashba is actually talking about. Or maybe your Rav holds that the product is mehudar even without the Rashba’s hiddur. The goal here is to see how the seller (be he the broker or the sofer himself) responds and how he reacts. If he says, “No, this mezuza does not have the hiddur of the Rashba”, that is a good answer. We have ascertained that a) he knows what the Rashba is, and b) he is not machmir for the Rashba. Now, if you are also not machmir for this shittah than you at least know that the salesman is knowledgeable and “on top of the situation”.
The unfortunate reality is that all too many sellers are NOT “on top of the situation” and, when asked a string of such questions will not be able to produce any decent answers. They will hem and haw or say I’m not sure, etc. That’s no different than the Toyota salesman who doesn’t know what kind of engine the car he is selling has.

A person selling Sta”m MUST be an expert in all the halachos relating to that product. If he is not, he will almost certainly, over the course of time, sell many halachically inferior products. What we should be looking for is not necessarily a machmir, rather, a responsible person. One selling Sta”m while lacking fluency in the relevant halachos is irresponsible.

By flipping through Inside Sta”m for just 10 or 15 minutes to random pages, one should find enough material with which to ask the seller a couple of relevant questions.
In summation, it is my firm belief that anyone purchasing Sta”m who implements these five ideas will reduce his odds of receiving a substandard product by 90-99%.

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

The Sta”m Chronicle is reprinted here on JKN with permission from the author.
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