The Sofer’s Station: Intro

Hello and welcome to the Sofer’s Station!

One thing that I am currently studying is how to become a Sofer סת״ם (Stam).  סת״ם stands for ספר תורה, תפילין, ומזוזות (Sefer Torah, Tefillin, and Mezuzah). A Sofer סת״ם writes these holy objects. There are many different halachot when dealing with the halachot of סת״ם. I will be writing the Halachic section with a focus on hachalot סת״ם. Many of the halachot come from recognized halachot books such as Keset Hasofer, Shulchan Aruch, and the Mishna Berura.

For now, I would like to introduce the Keset Hasofer.

The Keset Hasofer was written by Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried זצ”ל (A righteous man of blessed memory). Rabbi Ganzfried compiled the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, (lit. “the abridged Shulchan Aruch”).The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch was created to be used as a guide for people to see and learn day to day halachot relevant to their lives. Ganzfried decided that due to the massive amount of halachot in the Shulchan Aruch (written by Rabbi Yosef Karo זצ”ל), he decided to make a short, easier to understand version of the Rabbi Yosef Karo’s work. Because of the many intricacies related to סת״ם, Rabbi Ganzfried compiled the Keset Hasofer. The Keset Hasofer is, quite literally, the handbook for all scribes. The חתם סופר (Chasam Sofer), a “great Torah titan” according to our very own Rabbi Biron, says that anyone who wants to be a Sofer must fully memorize over 200 halachot from the Keset Hasofer by heart in order to truly be an expert in the art of Safrut.

Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried זצ”ל

Now, let us delve into the Keset Hasofer.

The Keset Hasofer starts by bringing a ברייתא brought down in the tractate Eruvin (translation follows with comments in brackets):

Said Rabbi Meir when he was by Rabbi Yishmael,

Rabbi Yishmael Said to me [Rabbi Meir]: “My son what is your trade? [Occupation]”

He [Rabbi Meir] said back “I am a סופר”

He [Rabbi Yishmael] said to me: “My son, be careful in your work because your work is work of heaven! Maybe you are missing a letter or add a letter and [It is as if you] destroy the world!”

The Keset Hasofer learns this to be the source for why a sofer is obliged to be ירא ה׳(Fearful of G-d). A Sofer needs to fear G-d very much because if he errs,, he will (according to the Gemara) lose his soul, since he steals from the public and causes them to sin.

In fact, there is a verse, Kohelet 9:18, that talks about an intentionally devious scribe: “חוֹטֶא אֶחָד, יְאַבֵּד טוֹבָה “הַרְבֵּה (One sinner destroys much good) , and as Yirmiyahu mentions  (48:10): “אָרוּר, עֹשֶׂה מְלֶאכֶת ה’ רְמִיָּה“(Cursed is he who does God’s work deceitfully).

The Keset Hasofer mentions that whoever has the power to appoint scribes should appoint scribes that are truthful, hate bribes, know Torah, fear G-d, and tremble at His words, in every province and city just like Shochtim (Kosher Slaughterers). The first halacha ends by saying any person who writes ספר תורה תפילין and מזוזות that are Kosher (Fit for ritual use) will be paid double and will be saved from Gehinom (purgatory).

A Sofer writing a Sefer Torah

The לשכת הסופר (A commentary on the Keset Hasofer written by Rabbi Ganzfried) cites  the פּרי מגדים who says that a sofer must be more ירא ה׳ than a Shochet. Now, the question is, what is the difference? Why must a Sofer be more ירא ה׳ than a Shochet? The לשכת הסופר continues, mentioning that a butcher who accidentally did not slaughter an animal correctly and (Heaven Forbid) sells the meat to a Jew only affects the Jew that he sold the meat to once. In contrast, if (Heaven Forbid) a sofer makes a mistake in any of the holy objects that he writes and sells it, the person owning the object is making a blessing in vain until the object is fixed or replaced, which usually could take months – or even years- ! Imagine how many times the buyer would be thinking he fulfilled a Mitzvah , when in reality he did not do anything at all and sins constantly.

Now, we see how important a Sofer can be! Even if one little letter is not correct of the 304,805 letters in a Sefer Torah, one mistake could lead to many people making Brachot in vain! One letter amounts to 0.003% of the whole Torah, yet if it was not written correctly, it will lead to entire congregations sinning.

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