Sofer Station 2: Adar Beis Special!
Welcome back to The Sofer’s Station!
The second month of Adar has arrived! Being that one of the four mitzvot of Purim, celebrated this month, is to read the Megillah, the next couple of articles will briefly talk about important “ingredients” in writing a Megillah, specifically Megillat Esther. These “ingredients” will be scrutinized in detail in later articles. As mentioned previously, Halachot cited are generally from the Keset Hasofer by Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried (Of Blessed Memory) unless otherwise mentioned.
As a general rule, the Halachos about writing a Megillah are similar to the laws of writing STaM.
The Keset Hasofer lists everyone who is NOT able to write any articles of STaM. If a STaM item is written by someone who is unqualified, these objects must be treated in a certain fashion.
A מין (Min):
When one first sees the word מין, the word is recognizable as the root word which translates to “species.” According to Rabbi Biron, the Halachic authority of Valley Torah, the general consensus is that the term מין refers to Christians in the present day. What happens if a Christian does write a Sefer Torah? It must be burned. Of course, the question is, we burn a Sefer Torah with all of Hashem’s holy names in it if a Christian writes it!? Why are we burning a Sefer Torah with Hashem’s holy names in them? The answer is when a מין writes this Torah scroll, the names are not sanctified at all and are not considered any holy names at all!
Additionally, those who deny the Torah, are blind, deaf-mute, or are children, are all equally disqualified from writing a STaM object. Any Torah scroll written by one of these people is put into גניזה (lit. hiding). גיניזה is the term a holy object that contains Hashem’s Holy Name that is “hidden away” under the ground. Most of the time, the item is first placed into an earthenware vessel and then placed underground.
An interesting Halacha brought by The לשכת הסופר (a commentary on Keset Hasofer) is that a woman can write a Megillah. The rationale behind this Halacha is since Queen Esther is the main character in the Purim story, women can partake in the Mitzvot of Purim, including the reading of the Megillah. Since one is only able to fulfill the Megillah reading with a Megillah written on parchment, a woman can write a Megillah. This Halacha only applies to Megillah Ester and not other any other articles of STaM.
The words in the Torah that define who is able to write articles of STaM are: ”וקשרתם וכתבתם” “And you shall tie and you shall write” (Devarim 6:8). While this possuk (verse) talks about Tefillin, from the juxtaposition of each word, we learn out that whoever is not part of tying tefillin should not write Tefillin, or any other STaM items.
So who IS allowed to write STaM? The Keset HaSofer says a man who is halachically grown up, the age of Bar Mitzvah, can write STaM.
The idea previously mentioned that “whoever is not part of tying is not part of writing,” also applies to all aspects of manufacturing STaM articles. This includes tasks such as erasing and forming the “housings” (boxes) that contain the scrolls for Tefillin. The לשכת הסופר mentions that, after the fact, if a woman does stitch up a Torah scroll, it is acceptable to use. The way to fix it to be kosher at the highest degree (L’chatchila) would be to remove the stitches that the woman made and have a Kosher (qualified) male restitch the parchment.
The Keset HaSofer continues and talks about situations where a Torah scroll is found in specific peoples’ possession.
A Torah scroll found in a מין’s possession, and the author is unknown, the Torah is put into גניזה. If it is known that the scroll was written by a Jewish man, the Torah Scroll is acceptable for use. If the scroll was written by the מין, then it is again put into גניזה as discussed previously.
If a scroll was found in an idol worshipper’s possession, Halachic authorities argue if the scroll should be put into גיניזה, or if the scroll is kosher to use. To be certain, one should consult their local Rabbi.
If stolen (heaven forbid), a person should not buy back a Sefer Torah from a non-Jew for more than it is valued at. This is because if a Jew overpays for a stolen Sefer Torah, חס ושלום (Heaven Forbid) a non-jew might steal more Sifrei Torah in pursuit of more money he receives from the overpaying Jew. The same applies also not to underprice the Scroll’s value. This is because if stolen, חס ושלום, the non-Jew might identify the Scroll as an invaluable object and throw the scroll away. Rather, a Jew should negotiate and until he gets a good price for the scroll. Even if the scroll is not kosher and needs to be put in גניזה!