The Sta”m Chronicle (10)

17 Adar I 5774

February 17, 2014

Aesthetic Beauty vs. Yiras Shamayim (part III)
In our last two discussions we chronicled the pros and cons of choosing a sofer with a beautiful handwriting and a sofer who is a great yirei Shamayim.

We can try and summarize the issues by honing in on a couple of key points.

Although it is obviously impossible to be 100% sure that the person selling us a STA”M item is truly a yerei Shamayim, we are still obligated to do our best to try and find someone who is trustworthy. This, it would seem, is obvious, since when looking for a dentist or contractor or mechanic we do the same. Clearly, mitzvos ought not be treated with lesser concern.

One should never compromise on the halachic quality of the writing just to buy from a yerei Shamayim. A lack of aesthetics is one thing, a halachic problem is quite another. First make sure the writing is l’chatchilah, then we can worry about everything else. (As R’ Chaim Brisker once pithily remarked upon being asked whether to choose a Chazzan with a beautiful voice or a great yirei Shamayim, “the primary qualification of a Chazzan is that he should know how to daven.”)

Bottom line: when presented with a choice between two sofrim whose writing is halachically problem-free, but one is an extraordinary yerei Shamayim while the other is a “regular Yid,” it would be better to opt for the one whose yiras Shamayim is extraordinary even though the other’s kesav may be nicer.

If, on the other hand, one sofer is clearly lacking in yiras Shamayim, then there is no question whatsoever that the wiser choice would be to go with the other sofer – even if he has a less beautiful kesav.

In case you are now wondering: “how am I supposed to know if the sofer is a big yerei Shamayim or not??” The real answer is that there is no way to be certain. However, two excellent ways for ascertaining a STA”M professional’s yiras Shamayim are:
Will he permit you to bring the STA”M you wish to purchase to an independent magiah?
How does he respond when asked to whom he takes his shailos?

A true yerei Shamayim will immediately give the name of the Rav to whom he brings his shailos and should have no objection to your having the parashiyos checked by a third party. Of course this is no guarantee that he is the next R’ Yisroel Salanter, but it’s a good start.

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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