In response to the another Mezuzah saga uncovered by Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Wolf, Rabbi Menachem Moskowitz, a Sofer Stam in Crown Heights and a son-in-law of the Rebbe’s Sofer, Rabbi Eliezer Zirkind, defended some of what was uncovered by Rabbi wolf and explains why some of the actions taken by Rabbi Wolf are problematic.
Chof Sivan 5780
Dear Anash Sheyichyu,
My name is Menachem Moskowitz, the son in law of the Sofer, Rabbi Eliezer Zirkind zl, who succeeded Rabbi Shaye Matlin zl, as the personal sofer of the Rebbe. I generally do not speak, however, I feel that due to the new STAM video scandals that recently came out by Rabbi Yisroel Wolf of Chicago, I want to clarify some matters for my shver’s kovod.
My occupation is a sofer, Bal magiah for over 30 years and I had shimush under Rabbi E. Zirkind for over 28 years until his passing. Day in & day out asking him shailohs on Stam. Since I lived in the apartment above him, I had plenty of access to him whenever possible for shimush and shailohs. I was checking tefillin and mezuzahs during the t’kufa in which the Rebbe was frequently giving out answers “bedikas tefillin and mezuzahs”. Many times the Rebbe requested a duch on the checking and to enumerate any issues. I was present when shailohs regarding STAM were called in or brought in from other sofrim or from balabatim. I was also there when Rabbi Wolf from Chicago (the father of the Rabbi Yisroel Wolf that posted the videos) would call my shver frequently with shailohs. Being that I worked in his apartment I was privy to these shailohs and their teshuvos.
Rabbi E. Zirkind has lots of talmidim most of them Lubavitchers living in Crown Heights & some are not Lubavitchers. He taught his talmidim to be good and ethical sofrim and to have responsibility to their clients. For 50 years he gave a weekly shiur in safrus until his passing. This shiur continues to the present.
Rabbi Zirkind has instilled in his talmidim his derech hachayim, especially in safrus and they carry it out to this very day. One of his drochim is to be a maykel especially in safrus. He always said “To be a MACHMER is no kuntz.” But to be a “MAYKEL, that you gotta know the books (seforim)”. Those seforim he knew backwards and forwards! Rabbi Heller would often send people to Rabbi Zirkind to Pasken shailos on their Tefillin & Mezuzos. When Rabbi Zirkind received these shailos from Rabbi Heller, he would stop what he was doing and would attend to these shailos immediately in the the Rov’s honor. The reason for his being MAYKEL on STAM is because it is brought down in seforim that every Shem Hashem is counted for. If a sofer is eager to put STAM in shaimos, after 120 years the shaimos hakdoishim ask lemalah for din vcheshbon why it went to gnizah (burial) instead of being used & it is considered like being Moichek Shem Hashem (erasing Hashem’s name). That’s where the concept of using a krias tinok is crucial, of course, where allowable, in order to save the STAM item. If a parsha in Tefillin or a Mezuzah is written according to halacha, with all the taggin and proper points in the letters it is 100% kosher regardless of the beauty of the ksav. Unfortunately some sofrim are MEHADER to PASEL the STAM to make a fast buck by selling the customer a new item rather than taking the time to fix it. Perhaps they didn’t have the proper shimush of how to judge and fix the letters.
On that note another ethical item Rabbi Zirkind instilled in his talmidim, that if a sofer paseled an item he CAN’T SELL HIM A NEW ITEM. Mezad veheyisem nekiem, it’s a conflict of interest. Then the sofer has no vested interested in making the item posul in order to sell a replacement.
Another lesson that was taught and frequently reiterated “IF IT AINT BROKEN, DON’T FIX IT “! There is a rule called kol hamoisef goreah, if the letter is kosher the way it is, adding more ink won’t always make the situation of the letter better. A Sofer has to use his shikul hadaas (judgement) to fix it or not.
With all the above mentioned in mind, I want to clarify some of the differences between what Rabbi Yisroel Wolf showed in his second video and what I actually saw and how I made my decisions. According to the teachings of Rabbi Zirkind, the chof in the word “Uv’lechtecha” was kosher the way it is and did not need to be touched up. The zayin in the word “mezuzois” that was posted on the chart by Rabbi Yisroel Wolf is not what I saw. The mezuzah was switched to another mezuah that was not shown on the deceitful video chart. According to Rabbi Zirkind’s teachings, it’s brought down in seforim that once the head passes the foot oiver mebain shnei zedodim even a mashahu it’s called a zayin. And that was the Zayin of the mezuzah that was sent to me.
In the video of Rabbi Yisroel Wolf, he states that he took the mezuzos from shaimos that had particular issues and he sent them to various sofrim to check. When receiving the mezuzos back from each sofer, he tampered with the mezuzos to bring them back to their original questionable state. There are problems with this method: 1) If a Sofer kashered it according to his knowledge, then how can Rabbi Wolf make it posul again thereby destroying kisvei kodesh and it is a kin to burrying Hashems name in the earth. 2) By retampering it each time, it will not be the same original shailoh. 3) Today a lot of mezuzos and parshios which are kosher are put into shaimos in order to sell more beautiful ones. Therefore, it is questionable if such mezuzos should be used in such an unscrupulous manner for this test. Once a mezuzah is fixed, it’s kosher k’din and should not be tampered with. And when the Rebbe commented on someone’s Tefillin or Mezuzos, he emphasized with the terminology “Kosher K’din”. Furthermore, nothing in STAM is black and white; i.e. kosher or posul. The judgement of STAM depends on the shikul haddas of the einei hamorah or sofer.
Rabbi Zirkind required that anyone learning safrus under him needed a minimum of 2 years of shimush, “NOT to learn for 2 weeks or 2 months” and then put out a sign that he is a Sofer. I’m sure you wouldn’t eat from a shochet or go to a doctor who learned medicine in that same manner.
We find ourselves now in very trying times. Sadly, some people want to expose and undermine the righteous people who are trying to do their best, especially the righteous sofrim. These sofrim have proper shimush under the teachings and guidance of an expert sofer who the Rebbe picked to be his personal sofer and ordered tefillin through him. Even the day of my Chasuna, the Rebbe called my shver in to his office and ordered Tefilin. To frame and slander honest and experienced sofrim is unacceptable and deserving of a “MACHO’AH” (protest)!
May we be zoicha for true achdus especially at this time with all that’s going on in the world. We don’t need this machlokes to continue. WE need peace and be zoicha for Moshiach to come now!
I want to take this opportunity to mention that the yahrtzeit of my Shver, Rabbi Zirkind, is in this month, כה סיון. May his neshamah have an aliyah and may he be a maylitz yosher for his family, talmidim and klal yisroel.