The Sta”m Chronicle (8)

8 Shevat 5774
January 9, 2014
Aesthetic beauty vs. Yiras Samayim

(Part 1)
An extremely common question that one in the Sta”m business hears all the time is whether it is preferable to purchase Sta”m from a sofer who is a great yerei Shamayim (very God-fearing individual) or one with a very beautiful kesav (handwriting).

And the fact is that this is an extremely difficult question to answer. Let us examine the case for both sides and attemtp to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion.

The argument for choosing a sofer with a beautiful kesav:

Who are we to judge someone’s level of yiras Shamayim?

A Rav told me that he was once asked by his father (also a well-known Rav) to buy tefillin parashiyos for him. After some effort, he narrowed it down to two sofrim – one sofer was a bigger yerei Shamayim while the other had a nicer kesav.

The Rav’s father said immediately, “I’ll take the nicer kesav.” He then proceeded to explain: “How do you know that Sofer A is a bigger yerei Shamayim than Sofer B? This is something that is impossible to really know. However, if Sofer B has a nicer kesav, that is a fact. After all, does not every Jew have a chezkas kashrus (presumption of worthiness)?”

Even when buying Sta”m from a great yerei Shamayim, you might not be getting what you want.

Occasionally, experienced and knowledgeable sofrim who may be considered by many to be true yerei Shamayim, can, over time, form their own halachic opinions. Consequentially, they may not be careful to observe the halachic opinions of certain major poskim of the past – which contemporary poskim consider to be essential when selling parashiyos at top prices.

To clarify; they are not bad people who are intentionally fooling people. Chas v’shalom. Some just don’t understand that when someone is spending “mehudar” money, they expect to receive a product which is mehudar according to all recognized opinions, not just the sofer’s.

Not every yerei Shamayim is a good sofer.

I was once asked to check the beginning of a Sefer Torah which was in the process of being written by a famous Mekubal.

Unfortunately, the Sefer Torah was a complete disaster! Aside from the kesav, which looked almost childish, there were many halachic problems with the letters as well. The overall appearance was so awful that when part of the Sefer Torah was shown to a particular Rav, he blurted out, “Why, it’s not even fit to dance with on Simchas Torah!”

The only way to judge this Mekubal favorably is by recognizing that he was very old, and apparently did not realize to what extent his writing, which was once on par with average sofrim, deteriorated.

In any event, these are three reasons why choosing a sofer who is a great yerei Shamayim may not necessarily ensure that you will receive a quality Sta”m product. Be”h next we’ll explore the reason why choosing a great yerei Shamayim may be more worthwhile.

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

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




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