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  • My Take On The Mezuzah Saga

    Like everyone else, I was smitten by the horror video posted regarding the state of Safrus today. I needed clarity and decided to dig deeper. I found out that the noise is all pathetic and the truth is there for anyone looking for it. Written by Yossi HechtFull Article

    Written by Yossi Hecht

    Like everyone else, I was smitten by the horror video posted regarding the state of Safrus today. I needed clarity and decided to dig deeper. I found out that the noise is all pathetic and the truth is there for anyone looking for it. I’m not part of this fight, but I hate to see “wrong” winning and saying that all the Mezuzos my Ba’alei Batim have on their homes are Pasul.

    Once the letter stating Rabbi Veiner’s opinion came up, I knew I had to get to the bottom of it quick. I corresponded with Sofrim and Rabbi Veiner, and found out that Rabbi Wolf is actually misleading. Here is what I found out:

    I’ll be breaking this into a few parts:

    • What is the real question?
    • Why are stores actually selling the cheaper Mezuzos?
    • So, what is and isn’t Kosher in Mezuzos and what does Rabbi Veiner hold?
    • But didn’t a Sofer say they’re Pasul, so Rabbi Wolf should be believed?
    • Words about the Sofer
    • Words of advice
    • Now, an explanation as to how B’dieved works
    • Oversight

    Let’s go:

    What is the real question?

    Untrue:

    It’s a question of trust. Once Mezuzos are (seemingly) found Pasul, those stores shouldn’t be trusted.

    Truth:

    If comparing $42 Mezuzahs and up, the Mezuzos from the stores that came out on top in the unscientific experiment are far from being the nicest ones around at each price-point. For one to push people to go to one specific store because “he has the best Mezuzahs” is misleading. Know that once you reach the low price point of $42, those that you think are better may actually be of a lower Halachic standard than the rest of the stores.

    Cheaper Mezuzos we will get to in a minute, but all should be trusted in their $42 and up range.

    Untrue:

    The question of kashrus applies to all Mezuzos

    Truth:

    We’re only dealing with the Mezuzos that are less than $40. All the more expensive Mezuzos are written to be more Mehudar.

    Real Question:

    Are the cheaper (below $40) Mezuzos Kosher?

    Why are stores actually selling the cheaper Mezuzos:

    Untrue:

    We’re dealing with a situation where people will just buy more expensive Mezuzos

    Truth:

    People buy cheaper Mezuzos either because they can’t afford and/or they’re for Mvtzoyim and people will be less likely to spend more for a mezuzah. How many times have we heard people’s shock at how much Mezuzos cost and them politely saying “ah, never mind. I’m ok.”

    So, the real question is only whether cheaper Mezuzahs should be sold at all. This is a question of whether one can Kosher the Mezuzos rather than whether one can Pasul these Mezuzos. Rabbi Veiner in his emails to me advised that for Mivtzoyim and people who cannot afford more expensive Mezuzos, one may Lechatchila write B’dieved Mezuzos – Mezuzos with leniencies. At the end of this I’ll explain how B’dieved is Lechatchila good.

    So, what is and isn’t Kosher in Mezuzos and what does Rabbi Veiner hold

    Untrue:

    Rabbi Veiner holds that Mivtzoyim Mezuzos need the same standard as all other Mezuzos

    Truth:

    Rabbi Veiner wrote to me that he isn’t against Mivtzoyim Mezuzos that are L’chatchila written with leniencies and Heteirim. Furthermore, one SHOULD rely on the more lenient opinions so that more Jews can keep the Mitzvah of Mezuzah.

    But didn’t a Sofer say they’re Pasul, so Rabbi Wolf should be believed?

    Untrue:

    Safrus is black and white and blanket rules govern it

    Truth:

    Much of Safrus is judged case by case. Most of the time the rule doesn’t apply as I’ll explain below

    Untrue:

    Safrus is objective and everyone will have the same opinion

    Truth:

    Safrus has parts of it which are objectively black and white and parts of it which are subjective

    Let’s break this down a bit:

    Objective:

    • Must be written
    • Must be written on parchment
    • Must have the Parshiyos of Shema and Vehaya
    • Must be written by a scribe
    • Must be written for the sake of Mezuzah
    • Etc.

    Subjective:

    • Letters must look correct – how far misshapen can letters be and still be kosher, this is subjective. In fact, the very same Sofer or Rav given two of the exact same Sefeikos might disqualify one and not the other because it’s inherently subjective. For cheaper Mivtzoyim Tefilin and Mezuzos one can follow the more lenient approach as Rabbi Veiner advised!

     

    • Spacing must be correct – what is considered too much space? The Halacha is that there needs to be space for a letter Yud between each word (in general), but how big of a Yud is subjective and also depends on the writing. Look at the examples of the Mezuzos checked in the video and see how many other spacing issues you find with the Mezuzos that Sofer said are 100% kosher. It’s obvious how subjective it is. For cheap Mezuzos one can follow the more lenient approach as Rabbi Veiner advised!

     

    • Letters must not touch – The Halacha is that if a Sofer reads the Mezuzah, without a magnifying glass, and the letters do not appear to touch, the Mezuzah is Kosher. If the Sofer sees letters that are touching, of course he’ll make sure to correct it if he Halachically can and Pasul the mezuzah if he can’t. However, there are times when one Sofer won’t see the letters touching and will consider it Kosher while another will and consider it Pasul. Both are legitimate opinions. The same is in every Halacha where rabbis disagree, one can follow either. For cheaper Mivtzoyim Tefilin and Mezuzos one can follow the more lenient approach as Rabbi Reiner advised!

     

    As we see, although Shulchan Aruch states rules, how those rules are applied is subjective. Spacing is an issue, but what is considered spacing is a question. Touching is an issue, but only if the Sofer sees it easily. This rule makes it subjective. A reliable Sofer who is Yarei Shamayim has a Mesorah of how it’s applied and follows it. And when he’s unsure he asks a Rov. For Rabbi Wolf to come out and state unequivocally that all the Sofrim’s Mesorah’s are worthless is total Apikorsus.

    Words about the Sofer:

    1. This Sofer is part of the more stringent Sofrim. But like by a rabbi, it’s easy to be Machmir but more respectable to be able to understand a need and try to be more lenient – so long as Halacha allows.
    2. When dealing with cheaper Mezuzos, there is no way a Machmir Sofer will say they’re kosher; same as when you need a Heter, going to a more stringent Rov will not get you that Heter.

    Words of advice:

    1. Explain to Ba’alei Batim/Anash that these Mezuzos are the simplest kind and they should upgrade when/if they can.
    2. When checking these Mezuzos, take them to a Sofer who understands and identifies with the concept of Mivtzoyim Mezuzos and the need for cheaper Mezuzos – just like you would choose a Rov to whom to ask a Shaila to.

    Now, an explanation as to how b’dieved works:

    There are a number of categories of B’dieved. Among them:

    1. Once something was done – such as a Mezuzah already having been written – and we have the choice of either saying it’s Kosher or saying it’s Pasul and needing burial. In such a case we try to be lenient so that the Mezuzah doesn’t have to be Pasul.
    2. A person who cannot afford better or, in a case like Mivtzoyim, where he won’t want them at more expensive, the case itself causes this mezuzah before it is even written to fall into a B’dieved category. Therefore, any leniencies that we would give to B’dieved Mezuzos after they were already written, we Lechatchila give to the writing of these Mezuzos.

    The cheapest Mezuzos fall into the second category. Therefore, Sofrim write the cheapest Mezuzos quickly and with those B’dieved leniencies, however these Mezuzos are Kosher Lechatchila to be used.

    Overseer/Hashgacha:

    Rabbi Veiner suggested overseer/Hashgacha, and that may be overdue. However, let no one come and say that the Mezuzos that so many people have on their homes are Pasul.



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    1. Finally a clear and coherent voice on this matter. I will be staying with the stores I’ve always shopped at.

      Finally!!!
    2. Thank you for the article and clarifying this troubling issue.

      Sholom
    3. The only thing that still needs clarification is that some (maybe even all the) stores get their cheaper mezuzos from a middleman they ‘trust’. The stores need to know who wrote each mezuzah and not trust anyone else.

      Sholom
    4. WoW!
      תודה
      Very interesting!
      You, perhaps, ‘Saved the Day.’

      Boruch Hoffinger
    5. 1) in your letter to Harav Veiner you ask”can we rely on lenient opinions for mivtzoim Mezuzos? Why dont you ask clearly “can a Mivtzoim Mezuzuah have a nifsak? can a mivtzoim mezuzuah have missing tagim? Can a mivtzoim mezuzuah have a nggiah?
      2) which lenient opinion are these stores relying on?
      3) Rabbi veiner never endorsed Rabbi wolf he simply gave halachlik rulings for incidences that the public was confused anout the halacha
      4) Rabbi wolf never showed the mezuzos to Hraav veiner he simply asked him halacha in general?
      5) Rabbi Raskin is Rabbi Wolf’s second cousin… So what, Rabbi Wolf is related to half of chabad if you include second and third cousins. Rabbi Raskin had no influence into this project.
      6) lastly these mezuzos clearly were not checked before they were handed to the customer. Did you ask Rabbi Veiner if that is OK?

      fact check
    6. If comparing $42 Mezuzahs and up, the Mezuzos from the stores that came out on top in the unscientific experiment are far from being the nicest ones around at each price-point.

      Pretty sure you just did what you rip Wolf apart for.

      WITHOUT bringing any proof.

      Hypocritical.

      Just a minute
    7. Can you please tell us more specifically who is this Yossi Hecht that wrote this article.
      There are plenty of people named Yossi Hecht.
      It’s easier to believe what’s written here if We know which Yossi Hecht wrote this Article

      Shmuel
    8. Great work

      Anonymous
    9. Didn’t the crown heights beis din pasken that it’s asur to sell such mezuzahs?

      CONFUSD
    10. Yossi Hecht Ben…?
      Where does he live?

      Yitzchok
    11. First of all show rabbi veiners letter like Wolf did.
      2) saying that $42 & up mezuzas are 100% good by all these stores is questionable. If the same sofer checked it he definitely does the same bad job. ADERABA let wolf do a second experiment on higher quality mezuzas.
      3) if it’s true that rabbi veiner writes that you can lekatchila write bidieved mezuzas. He definitely means to say lower quality in beauty but not in halacha issues and without doubt lower quality will need more and closer checking. In wolf’s experiment many have psulim that should of been fixed.
      4) Wolf never said anything against mivtzoin mezuzas. Just showed that these were never checked and are posul the way they are now.
      5) in wolf’s experiment many of the psulim are so obvious and is posul lechol hadayous. There’s no lenient way to it.
      6) when a mezuza is written bidieved you say now it’s lekatchila to use them. That’s true but the mezuza doesn’t get instantly upgraded it is still a bidievevdige mezuza.
      7) most mezuzas in wolf’s experiment could’ve been kosher if it would be checked so it’s still cheap for people that won’t buy expensive. Only for a 3 4 dollars more.

      Yehuda lebkind sofer stam
    12. the fact that one store had all 10 kosher even when checked by the “machimir” sofer, and the fact that many
      of the problems could have been fixed easily (scraping the touching letters, filling in the cracks) would suggest that one can buy KOSHER and even Lekatchila Mezuzos at a Mivtzoim price IF he goes to the right store, and there is no reason to compromise and use bedi eved muzuzos

      Out of town Sofer
    13. B”H

      My name is Yossy Hecht. My father was the oldest of the Hecht brothers. He was the original Shliach sent to Chicago by the Freirdicke Rebbe, where he served in that capacity for nearly 40 years. I myself was born in Chicago and later moved to New York to learn in the Lubavitcher Yeshiva. I am presently a resident of Crown Heights

      As people have been discussing the article by “Yossi Hecht” with me, I want to clarify that I didn’t write it. (I don’t know which Yossi Hecht did). I do not agree with the author’s approach at all! My opinion is that this whole issue has been subverted. Instead of trying to find solutions to this issue, everyone is trying their best to discredit everyone else. A bright light has been shown on the practices of the Sofrim and the Judaica dealers. In their effort to earn a livelihood and in their zeal to make Kosher Mezuzahs accessible to everyone they have lowered their standards to untenable levels. Irrespective of each parties’ individual positions, everyone does seem to be in agreement that such inexpensive Mezuzahs are riddled with problems.

      It isn’t possible to pay a competent Sofer a living wage while using the best materials and procedures, and then sell the finished product at such low prices. Instead of recognizing this reality everyone is doing their utmost to discredit the “facts” that have been brought to light. Some endeavor to point out that even the Mezuzahs found to be Kosher have their problems too. In the main, their solution seems to be that they can find a Rabbi who will determine that regardless, all these errors are indeed Kosher. Others suggest that the person that brought all this to light must somehow be making money off of this, so we can therefore just ignore the facts and pretend that everything is fine.

      We cannot so lower the standards of Kashrus to the extent that we must use extraordinary measures just to have these Mezuzahs considered Kosher. The Rebbe had stated that “selling” Jews Conservative or even Reform Judaism cheats the consumer. That isn’t really Judaism at all! If a person receives these Mezuzahs from a Shliach, is the Shliach doing right by him? He tells him that this is the best security system in the world, produced to the specifications stated by the Al-Mighty; is it really? And when the Jewish consumer subsequently has them checked and he’s told that they aren’t even Kosher isn’t that then a “Chilul Hashem”?

      We must do far more to ensure the Kashrus of these so-called “Mivtzoim” Mezuzahs. The Beis Din under Rabbi Marlow gave out guidelines. It doesn’t seem that even those guidelines are being adhered to. We must develop new standards to assure the Kashrus of these “Mivtzoim” Mezuzahs. Kosher is a basic standard. Hiddurim can go on and on depending on the status of the purchaser. Still, if the Shliach explains to the consumer that these Mezuzahs are handwritten by a highly trained scribe, with a quill, on real parchment, their cost should in actuality be considered quite low.

      Joseph I. (Yossy) Hecht

      Yossi Hecht
    *Only proper comments will be allowed
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