Mezuzah and Tefillin
It is with awesome gratitude that the author wishes to thank the Al-mighty who has granted him the z’chus to publish this handbook. He hopes that it will in some small measure contribute to the understanding and fulfillment of this most important mitzvah.
In 1974, the Lubavitcher Rebbe launched a worldwide campaign focusing on increasing the knowledge and practice of mezuzah and tefillin. The Rebbe also encouraged all Jews to have their tefillin and mezuzahs checked by qualified scribes. Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Hecht OB”M spearheaded the city-wide mezuzah and tefillin campaign in the Chicago land area, with the help of Mr. Israel Nathan. When Mr. Nathan made aliyah to Israel, Rabbi Aron Wolf became the director of this campaign.
Over the years as director, Rabbi Wolf has visited literally thousands of homes, helping people purchase their mezuzahs from reliable sources and encouraging them to have them checked regularly. Thanks to his many campaigns and year-round home visits, many Jews have learned about this most important mitzvah and put up mezuzahs, some for the very first time.
As Rabbi Wolf continued in his efforts, he came to the conclusion that most people would appreciate knowing more about the complexities of mezuzahs. Gathering the most-commonly asked questions along with halachic and biblical sources, he consulted with Rabbonim and scribes to form a basic handbook on the laws of mezuzah.
It should be noted that the mitzvah of mezuzah is multifaceted, with many differences of opinion and divergent traditions. The information contained in this handbook follows the general practices of the majority, but it behooves the reader to discover what unique traditions he has by consulting his own authorities, as well. The goal of this handbook is to increase the reader’s knowledge of this vital mitzvah, to make him aware of its complexity, and allow the reader to be able to ask informed, educated questions.
Let us hope and pray that through the power of the mitzvah of mezuzah, G-d will guard us physically and spiritually for many, many years with an abundance of nachas and happiness. The enhancement of this mitzvah, as well as other mitzvahs, will, with G-d’s help, expedite the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days, Amen.
To Educate Consumers
In the selection of kosher mezuzahs and tefillin, as well as the encouragement of their periodic checking
When a defective mezuzah is affixed to a doorpost, the mitzvah of mezuzah has not been fulfilled. If there is a flaw in the parshios of a pair of tefillin, the person wearing them is not performing the mitzvah of tefillin. Because these mitzvos are so important—and because mezuzahs and tefillin represent a significant financial investment—it is vital that the purchasers of these articles be educated consumers.
A mezuzah has 713 letters, the tefillin 3,188. Every letter has a number of laws pertaining to its form. In order for mezuzahs or tefillin to be written in accordance with all of the laws, it must thus meet thousands of requirements. If even one of the 713 letters in a mezuzah is missing or shaped incorrectly, the mezuzah is rendered invalid, the Mitzvah is unfulfilled, and the b'racha recited over it is in vain. Even the best scribe is human and subject to error. While some errors may be corrected in accordance with halachic decree, others cannot. Mezuzahs and tefillin, even when written by the most expert of scribes, have many possibilities of being unfit. They must therefore be inspected before being purchased.
Furthermore, mezuzahs and tefillin, like anything else subject to the ravages of time and elements, can deteriorate. It therefore behooves us to inspect our mezuzahs and tefillin from time to time, either for the purpose of determining their fitness or for making preventative corrections. The halacha sets the requirements for periodic inspection of the mezuzah at every 3½ years.
Safrus—the writing of STaM (Sefer Torah, Tefillin & Mezuzahs)—is a highly technical skill, one that can be practiced with reliability only by sofrim who have been properly trained and who have mastered the numerous halachic details involved. Two decades ago, the Vaad Mishmeret STaM established a program of certification for sofrim. Only those applicants who meet the Vaad’s strict criteria and successfully complete required testing are certified.
Since the Halachos of the letters and the process of their writing are many and complex, the scribe must attain full mastery of this section of the law. He must constantly study and review them, since ignorance of even one single halacha may render all of his writing unfit. If the scribe is ignorant of a law relating to the exact form of a letter, it will become apparent upon inspection of his writing. But if he is ignorant of the exact procedure to be used in forming the letters, all of the STaM which he writes are unfit. The saddest thought is that no one will ever know it.
The Campaign emphasizes that the surest indicator of the kashrus of mezuzahs or tefillin is the certification of the sofer who wrote the parshios. Consumers are urged to insist on parshios from certified sofrim only. While the absence of such certification does not necessarily mean that a sofer is unqualified, its presence removes all uncertainty.
Without certification, there is always at least the possibility of abuse. In a particularly egregious case, it was discovered that Arabs were writing mezuzahs. In another instance, beautifully written mezuzahs were found to have been inscribed by a man who had been trained as a sofer, but was no longer religiously observant. He was writing these mezuzahs in his spare time, on his day off from work—Shabbos!
In many cases, individuals who write mezuzahs assume that they are able to take the responsibility in this holy task while at the same time they fail to recognize that they lack adequate knowledge in all of the laws pertaining to the writing of mezuzahs and tefillin. There are more than 4,600 laws governing the writing of each mezuzah.
Reliable and Trustworthy Scribes
There are many intricate details that may serve to render mezuzahs or tefillin unfit. No person other than the scribe is likely to be aware of these. Every scribe frequently finds himself in a situation where he must render unfit and remove from circulation a product on which he may have worked a full day or two. We must therefore be certain that the scribe is a man possessing the highest level of conscientiousness and integrity, to be assured that he will withstand such a test.
To make mezuzahs and tefillin affordable
We offer flexible payment plans and promise to assist in every way possible. In many cases, individuals who were unable to pay for all of their mezuzahs at once, were given the option of paying it off for as long as one year or longer. We never ask questions when assistance is requested and we avail ourselves without ever giving ‘no’ for an answer.