Understanding what you should be getting when you purchase articles of STaM

6 Iyar 5774

May 6, 2014

One consumer advocate said if you get what you paid for then consider it a bargain. Unfortunately this has become reality in our unclear consumer oriented world in which dollars have more value than the sanctity of the articles of STaM which we are purchasing.
This is a brief guide in order to help you better understand what you should be asking for and what you should be getting when purchasing articles of STaM.

There are various confusing terms which are commonly used. Let’s begin with describing some of the professional jargon which describes kashruth.

Kosher L’bracha:
Minimally kosher according to the minority or base line opinions which is accepted by rabbinical authorities

Kosher b’shat-ad –chock:
Absolutely the most minimal kosher to be used only if there is no other option available — it there is an alternative available it should not be used ( an alternative would be to borrow from others tefillin or mezuzah rather than using this article

Kosher Bedeiaved:
Has multiple definitions or meanings which include;
Minimally kosher in hindsight or was corrected based on minority opinions, or lost status ideal status because it required repairs such as fading or cracking of letters which we still deemed repairable according to halacha.
Kosher according to the majority opinion according the consensus.
While it is 100% kosher it was not written or produced in the proper or most ideal manner it is kosher but there are those who would say it is pasul

Kosher Le’hat’hila:
Kosher according the majority opinion according the consensus opinion of the halacha

It is kosher according to the majority opinion according the consensus While it is 100% kosher it was not done in the proper or most ideal manner

Kosher Mehudar:
Kosher according the majority opinion according the consensus opinion of the halachah with the sofer conforming to multiple opinions
An example with be placing a “tag” on the letter “beit” and both the every top left end of a letter and also slightly before the edge in order to accommodate two differing opinions of its location.

Kosher Mehadrin:
Kosher according the majority opinion according the consensus opinions of the halachah with the sofer conforming to the more strict opinions but not necessarily mehudar.

Rabbi Moshe Flumenbaum may be contacted at Moshe@hasofer.com





  • Etan Katz
    May 6, 2014 - 16:43 | Permalink

    Although this list of terms may be the ones Rabbi Flumenbaum uses to classify STAM in his own store, it is far from universal. The 3 terms that are used by the majority of poskim and magihim are: bidi’eved, lechatchila, and mehudar. See here for a concise definition of each term.

  • May 7, 2014 - 14:43 | Permalink

    All experts agree that it’s inaccurate to loosely refer to anything that meets the minimum level of mehudar as “mehudar” since there are varying levels and the most basic level mehudar will vary among poskim. I’m not familiar with kosher (u)mehudar and kosher (l’)mehadrin having 2 different meanings and would suggest more clear and identifying terms such as
    1) starting/entry/basic level mehudar
    2) mehudar
    3) high(er) end/extra mehudar…

    A Beit, Dalet, Kuf and Hei is mehudar (if the rest of the letter meets all the other requirements) whether you have 2 tagin as mentioned above or whether you have a single tag on the left edge or indented slightly (or in the center in ktav Sephardi).

  • Rephoel
    May 7, 2014 - 15:58 | Permalink

    Aside for the fact that it is disconcerting that a sofer would have about three typos per line, the above definitions are muddled, confusing and almost completely non-understandable.

    Also, does Rabbi Flumenbaum mean to say that a “beis” with only one tag is not mehudar? That doesn’t seem to make any sense.

    Finally, like the above post stated, these terms sound weird to me. I too have only heard b’dieved, l’chatchila and Mehudar. If new terms have been added, some explanation should be proffered.


  • May 7, 2014 - 20:16 | Permalink

    The link in my previous comment doesn’t seem to be clickable… See http://stam-ink.blogspot.co.il/2011/12/purchasing-stam-part-7.html for a concise definition of bidi’eved, lechatchila, and mehudar.

  • May 8, 2014 - 09:28 | Permalink

    These may be category names and definitions as used by some sophrim, but these are not valid definitions of real halachic categories.

    If something is not truly kosher, you may not make the b’racha. Kosher l’v'racha must be 100% kosher. There may be additional strictures which some poskim either require or prefer, which we would require for something to be “lechatchila”, but this does not take away from the kashrus of something which is kosher livracha.

    If on the other hand if there is something truly wrong or kosher only according to the minority of poskim (going according to the Rav Ovadiah, voting method of p’sak) then you may not make a b’racha on it.

    Lechatchila and b’di`aved mean entirely different things in halacha than is impled here. Lechatchila is what you may do. B’di`avad is what you do when something has happened. For instance, it is assur to add 1% pork to your cholent or 1% milk to your hamburger. B’di`avad (which means when it happened) if the 1% pork or milk fell in, you may eat it. Poskim do not tell you lechatchila to throw it away. In fact, thowing it away shows an element of c’phirah, as if you don’t trust Chaza”l’s concept of bitul.

    So too, if a negia` occured in writing, and he had already written past the next unerasable Shem Hashem, the halacha tells the sopher what to do, depending on the size, location and timing of the negia`. If the halacha in a particular case is that the negiah can be fixed, then that is what he should do b’di`avad, since the negiah occured. The poskim do not tell him that lechatchila he should put the parsha into geniza, in fact they tell him not to. To say now tha tthis parsha is only kosher b’di`avad is a misuse of the term. There is no such thing as b;di`avad as far as buying this parsha. The only b’di`avad might be if he put on the tephillin, then inspected them and found that a ngia` had been fixed, should he put on a different pair of tephillin. I think the answer of the classical poskim would be no, and that he may continue using these as his only (aside from the other 63 pairs) tephillin.

    Once the fixing of this negi`ah is found to be kosher, it may be used lechatchila. Almost all parshios have something which needs to be fixed after the hagahah.

    Sometimes a p’sul is found, and according to normative p’sak it is posul and can’t be fixed. If he has no other tephillin, we will tell him to put on the tephillin without a b’racha, and then put on other tephillin when he can. But his d’chak, whether it be geographic, financial or whatever can not transform posul tephillin into kosher tephillin any more than his d’chak can change not kosher food into kosher food. (For instance something which is allowed b’hephsed m’ruba is really kosher, but for whatever reason, the poskim are machmir.)

    M’hudar means that it is nicer. For instance it has nicer tsuras haosios or nicer klaph.

    If it fulfills opinions which are not the halacha, that is nice for someone who collects opinions, but has nothing to do with hiddur mitsvah. Properly, you could probably call such tephillin machmir or choshesh. For instance, a negiah may occur which according to the halacha you are allowed to separate, but according tothe Rashba, you may not. Those tephillin can be kosher lechatchila if the negiah were found and fixed, and if they were written nicely on nice klaph, they could be mehudar. But they do not choshesh for the Rashba. Since we don’t posken like the Rashba, someone who wants to be choshesh for the Rashba has a responsibility to ask, and the seller should either tell him yes or no, or that he does not know. I don’t think that the seller has the right to say or imply that someone who doesn’t choshesh for the Rashba is a sug bet or even a non mehadrin Jew, any more than a peson who firmly believes that Shabbes is over 72 minutes after shkiah can be called sug bet because he isn’t choshesh for the shita that Shabbes isn’t over until 90 minutes after shkiah.

    It would be much more to the point to tell customers that the klaph is posul according to the Rambam and almost all of the geonim and that the dio is posul according to Rabbeinu Tam (the one who we are somech to matir the klaph).

  • Rephoel
    May 8, 2014 - 21:14 | Permalink


    I know someone who asked multiple Rabbonim what the definition of b’dieved is. Does it mean;

    a) “B’di`avad is what you do when something has happened” – I.e. You should not have bought it – but now that it has happened the item can continue to be used. Or

    b) B’dieved – post facto – you were yotzei. However from here on in we are dealing with a l’chatchila situation and therefore so long as you can afford it you should buy a new item.

    He said that half the Rabbonim told him A, while the other half said B. (Among the B Rabbonim was Rav Elyashiv z”l.)

    So I guess that means you’re half right?


  • Rephoel
    May 8, 2014 - 21:43 | Permalink

    By the way Tsvi, might I add, that the first Biur Halacha in Siman 656 clearly states (at least partially) like R’ Elyashiv – and I quote (VERY loosely translated)

    “Any mitzva that one is only yotzei according to some opinions (while others passel), even though the established halacha is that the item is kosher, nevertheless, all agree that one would be obligated to be mekayem “hiddur mitzva ad shlish” and purchase a new item TO FULFILL ALL OPINIONS. [So writes the Pri Megadim, and study the Bigdei Yesha who is even more strict than this]”


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