Pre Pesach STaM Matters

28 Adar II 5774

March 30,2014
As Pesach approaches us there are many preparations that are required. There are many things that we must take care of and prepare for the holiday. While it is focused on cleaning of one’s home and preparations for the holiday there are many related points which we should be aware of concerning Mezuzoth and tefillin.

Here are a few pointers which one should be aware of:
Many people choose this time of year to paint their home, while others choose to wash down the entire house. The intensive cleaning or painting can provide wonderful feeling as it freshens up the house; however it is a potential hazard to the mezuzoth on your doorposts. Before painting or washing the doorframes, one should remove the mezuzoth so that they do not get damage from the painting water or cleaning materials such as silver polish.

If one is going to remove the mezuzoth in order to paint or to clean the Mezuzoth should be returned to the location where they originally came from.

Many use this opportunity to have their mezuzoth examined. When doing so one should mark each individual Mezuzah’s location in order to be able to return it to its original doorpost. Placing a piece of tape with a sticker or writing on the mezuzah wrapping indicating such will work if you’re putting it up yourself without checking it however the examiner will be checking your mezuzoth will remove wrapping in order to check the mezuzoth. It is highly recommended that each Mezuzoth be placed in its own envelope (this can even be a used envelope) or in a plastic bag with a piece of paper noting the location of the mezuzoth. I advise using a piece of paper or envelope which will have enough room for the examiner to write any comment concerning the actual mezuzah such as: parchment has water damage, required repairers, style of writing, level of kashrus etc… as well as if repairs require a bracha to be said.

Mezuzoth should be taken off in the morning and not the night before. They should be
returned to the doorpost before one goes to bed. One should not sleep without mezuzoth on his doors.

If one is putting them up during the same day that he took them down assuming that all the mezuzoth are kosher and nothing is indicated by the certified examiner to indicate that the repairs made to them that require a Bracha no Bracha should be stated.

Mezuzoth have to be affixed to the doorpost in the proper fashion. Screws are preferable over nails both are 100% fine to use. Mounting tape is a valid way of attaching the mezuzah cover to the doorpost. Scotch tape, cello tape, blue tack and Velcro are not valid ways of attaching mezuzoth to the doorpost. If you have any questions is recommended you speak to authority who can advise you of the Halachic location and or technical way of correctly mounting your mezuzoth. It is even recommended that one take digital pictures from various angles in order to show clearly where the mezuzoth should be placed. (Questions including Mezuzoth location with digital pictures can be sent to Rabbi Flumenbaum at askthesofer@hasofer.com )

When having one’s mezuzoth examined do not assume that every Sofer is qualified to check them. Just like they are different types of doctors specializing in different areas of medicine, the word Sofer is a generic term. What you are looking for is a certified examining Sofer who is also known as a “Baal Megeha”. The certified examiner should have a valid certification. If you are bringing it to a store make sure the store is certified by his specialty Rav in the area of STaM, read exactly what he is certifying and sure the person checking mezuzoth is certified to do such and that he is making all required corrections and not just marking them

Warning!!!
A letter of recommendation, “Hamlazta” even by major rabbinical authorities does not mean that the store where the individuals will be checking and doing the work are qualified and certified to do examinations. Furthermore, make sure you know not only the reputation of who you are bringing your articles of STaM, but who the authority who assumes responsibility for the workmanship. One wants to know who is being consulted as the rabbinical authority. The job of the examiner is not to determine if something is pasul rather it is to recertify the existing kashrus or identify a halachic issue. It is the job of the rabbinical authority to determine whether that halachic issue is repairable, requires further verification via a “shalat tinuk” and or is not repairable therefore the mezuzoth is no longer kosher. When you bring your articles of STaM in for examination, first find out who is the rabbinical authority of the Sofer or store.

Unfortunately, some soferim will refer a particular halachic issue to an authority who they know will call something invalid while most other authorities will allow that particular question to be repaired. What makes it sad is they are doing this in order to sell a new mezuzah and what makes it even worse the ramification is that they are causing Shem HaShem to be placed into genizah and violating the prohibition of racing G~d’s name.

Many yeshiva students are off during this period of time. They wish to use their vacation is a time to get there tefillin examined and do any type of batim repairs required. They too have to be extremely careful of very good deals such as same-day service for checking and repairing the tefillin boxes. Repairs take time. A sofer has one set of eyes and can only work a certain amount of hours per day. Use common sense if somebody is out collecting work outside a shul, he can only accomplish so much in a day. Some tefilin require time to repair than others. Refinishing tefillin is a detailed process. It takes time to remove the old paint, swell out the leather to reform corners sand paint dry repaints and only then finish the batim. Batim to be sealed properly must be pressed and repainted. Any proper bottom repair takes time. Time must be allotted for the paint to dry properly between coats and before finish. You cannot rush good workmanship.
Even more than with mezuzoth tefillin require even greater expertise in examination and repair. It is imperative that the people working on the tefillin know what they’re doing. Make sure you have a loaner said so you are not under pressure and therefore do not put the people working on your tefillin under pressure to get them back to you. (Refer to earlier warning)

Realize erev Yom Tovim are pressured times also for the Sofer who also has preparations to make at home and for the holiday. Soferim do not work in general a day or two before a holiday and never on “chol hamoed”.

Don’t be taken in by salesmanship! Straps painted on both sides are not new. They have been discussed in halachic for more than 100 years. Most of the black on black straps are not solid black but rather similar to an “Oreo cookie” black on the outside and in our case gray on the inside. Which means if they crack they need to be touched up just as if they were regular standard white on the inside straps. They are not more mehudar otherwise all the “gedolim” would be wearing them. Before going ahead and “upgrading” consult a proper rabbinical authority that specializes in the area of STaM.

Many times, preholiday vacation or post holiday vacation, when we travel with tefilin, make sure the tefillin will not be kept in a place that will overheat. Leaving them in a car for number of hours can actually bake tefillin them. There’s very little difference between leaving tefillin in a car on a hot sunny day or leaving them in the oven on low. If you’re going to travel with your tefillin protect them! To protect them in a car from heat one can use a simple Styrofoam box that many people can pick up at a pharmacy. Or one can use a cooler box similar to what you would keep food in when you would go out on a picnic (without the ice). If you are in a place that they may get wet you may want to put your tefillin into an additional zip lock type plastic bag to seal from moisture. If you’re planning to go hiking or cycling you may want to consider investing in an “OtterBox®” for tefillin.

Something one can do to protect his tefillin from moisture and sweat is, invest in “STaM saver” which is available at many certified batim repair centers or manufactures. It has been proven to protect from damage caused by sweat, moisture in the hair after showering or mikvah. As this is the beginning of the summer season and we all have a greater propensity to perspire this is the best time to take care of preventing damage which can interfere with our fulfilling our precious mitzvah of tefillin

Have a Pesach Kosher and samayach
Rabbi Moshe Flumenbaum
moshe@hasofer.com

 

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