Sofer Training – Warning for Innocent Future Soferim

3 Marcheshvan 5775
October 27, 2014
By Rabbi Moshe Flumenbaum

In a time when many young yeshiva and kollel men are looking to earn money they consider their options, most prefer an option which would keep them in a Torah environment. One popular option is becoming a sofer.

In reality learning to be a certified sofer is a challenge. It is a difficult combinations in learning and mastering three dimensional halachos and developing a set of technical skills conforming to those halachos.

Let us examine what a certified writer must learn in order to become certified by Mishmeres STaM. The halachos include the laws of how the letters have to be formed and written, the formation and the structure of letters. Each letter has a number of points of halacha of which, if one of those points is missing, the letter even though it is readable, can be 100% PASUL (invalid). The ramification of a letter written with a slight variance can vary being from kosher on a minimum level or totally invalid. In addition to the formation there many halachic matters which cannot be seen, which if not adhered to by the sofer, will invalidate the item and no examiner will ever be able to make this determination. An example would be by forming the letter or part of a letter by scratching ink or writing a letter out of chronological order in tefilin or mezuzos. Lest we forget the matters concerning the parchment, ink ,spacing of letters, words and text, the special pertaining to writing G~d’s name. To become a certified sofer one would have know thousands of halachos.

Let’s look at the technical and mechanical skills that have to be developed. It all starts with how to cut a feather into a pen. It sounds easy but it is actually quite difficult. The sofer’s pen is the key to how well and fast he can write. The rule is better the pen the better the sofer. The pen is the base of the size of the letter. This will correspond directly to the letter size and how each letter fits. Letter size effects the spacing of the letters and words. This will not only effect the beauty but also the kashrus. Once a sofer has can cut a pen he then has to be trained how to write. STaM letters are built out of parts, Each part has a different motion which requires the pen to be turned and moved in a special motions which will create the unique parts of each letter.

How can I learn to be a sofer? Can one study to be a sofer by oneself? Do I need to take a course or can I learn with a sofer?

A self-taught sofer is no less dangerous than a self-taught medical doctor. Would you want a doctor who is self-taught performing surgery on you? Ask yourself — would you eat meat from a non-certified shochet and butcher shop? — Why then would one want tefilin and mezuzos which are written by a non-certified sofer?

It is virtually impossible to learn and master the combination of halacha and the technical mechanics of being a sofer, let alone obtaining a professional level of proficiency and certification.

There are “professional training courses” which are given in organizations, private businesses and by individual teaches. One must remember that many of these courses are money making ventures for those giving them. Quality control of these courses is virtually nonexistent. For the most part these courses are evaluated by their reputation in terms of the quality of students who get certified. There are many excellent individual teachers available. There have been excellent courses organized and directed my Mishmeres STaM and various Batei Din.

One needs to inquire a course being offered is a professional training program and is backed by Mishmeres STaM or a respected beis din. Even if one sees a fancy sign that displays the Mishmeres STaM certified symbol — one is compelled to check with Mishmeres STaM or the beis din to determine if they are part the course in any way or whether the organizers are implying that one will be able to take the examination for certification on your own after the completion of the studies.

What are warning signs to alert a potential student? Time and money are good indicators. If the course is too short or too cheap be wary. On average it takes six months to a year to train as a sofer. Hundreds of hours in order to get to the point where one can pass the written, oral and technical tests required by Mishmeres STaM to become a certified writer. An examiner certification is much more difficult as it covers much more material and therefore takes considerably longer to achieve.

Before taking any course ask a professional in the field what your opportunities may be. You might wish to seek to inquire as to how much one can realistically expect to earn. How many hours of work requiring intense concentration will it take to earn that money. There is a real economic side to the sofer profession and not everyone who can obtain certification can actually earn a living working as a sofer. Over 90% of all starting to learn to be a sofer drop out before completing a second megillah.

Before one even considers becoming a sofer it is important to ask oneself why I want to be a sofer — If it is for money then choose another occupation. If you are a Yereh Shamayim and you goals are to work in kedusha then you may have the Siyata Dishmaya to learn this holy trade and become a certified sofer.

I welcome anyone desiring to become a certified to contact me or rabbonim of Mishmeres STaM to help you realize your dream in a professional and halachic way.

I can be reached at

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