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Chapter Six - Sifrei Torah

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1. What is better – to purchase a sefer Torah that already is written, or to hire a sofer (scribe) to write one from scratch?
According to many authorities, if a person is not a sofer, he still can fulfill the mitzvah of writing a sefer Torah by employing a sofer to be his shaliach (i.e. agent or "messenger") to write the sefer from scratch. Thus, this is preferable to buying a sefer Torah that already is finished. During discussions about the contract, therefore, if a sofer already has in his possession completed portions of a sefer Torah and would like to include these portions in the sefer that is being discussed, he must inform the person who is thinking of hiring him, and ask his permission (R. Yosef Shalom Eliasiv).

2. Is one allowed to repair a tear in the parchment?
If the tear is to the right or left of the writing, the sefer remains kosher (Rosh, Responsa 11), but one should do one's best to repair the tear (Shach, Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 280:4).

Even if the tear is vertical and is between the columns of writing, or even if it enters a column of writing, so long as the writing remains kosher and the tear does not reach the third line of the column, it can be repaired (Yoreh Deah 280:1).

3. The Shulchan Aruch says that one stitches the tear to repair it. Is gluing an option, too?
The classical authorities differ about this matter, but in our times, due to the availability of very strong glue, all the poskim permit it (Shevet HaLevi, Chelek 8:226).

4. If a sefer Torah is very old and the letters of the writing have taken on a red hue, can one rely upon the opinion of the Chasam Sofer and assume that the sefer still is kosher?
In pressing circumstances, yes, one can. Also, one is permitted to apply a special spray that will cause the letters to regain their blackness (Shevet HaLevi, Chelek 9:216).

5. If a beis ha-knesses has two sifrei Torah -- one that is undoubtedly kosher but not "mehudar," while the other also is "mehudar" is it better to use the "mehudar" sefer for public Torah readings?
No preference exists (R. Yosef Shalom Eliashiv), for when the Torah is read in public, the mitzvah is Torah learning, and when it comes to learning Torah, there is no advantage in learning from a sefer that is more "mehudar."

6. A Torah scroll is made of "yeriot" -- many pieces of parchment that are sewn together. Is it permitted to detach a "yeriah" and replace it with a nicer one? Can one place the original "yeriah" into "genizah" (sacred burial)?
It is permitted, for it is another way of beautifying the mitzvah, as the verse says, "This is my G-d and I shall glorify Him (Kesset HaSofer 5). However, it is forbidden to place the original "yeriah" into "genizah." Rather, the yeriah must be stored away in a safe place somewhere. "Genizah" is used only when an entire sefer Torah is no longer usable (R. Yosef Shalom Eliashiv).

7. For a completed sefer Torah, the two poles around which all of the "yeriot" are wrapped are called "Atzei Chaim," which literally means "Trees of Life." Does this mean that the poles must be made of wood?
No, they can be made of any solid material, but some are stringent not to make them of gold (Based on Tosafos, Bava Basra 13b).

8. If a person donates the money for the writing of a sefer Torah, when the sefer is finished, is he considered to have fulfilled the mitzvah of writing a sefer Torah?
Many authorities say yes.

9. If a sefer Torah includes vowels of words or letters, it is posul (unusable for the mitzvah. Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 274:7). Is it different if the vowels cannot be seen with the naked eye?
No, in this instance, too, the sefer is posul (R. Yosef Shalom Eliashiv. See the Taz there, who explains that a sefer Torah cannot have vowels because it must be an embodiment of the Oral Tradition only. Thus, even if the vowels can be seen only with the aid of a magnifying glass, the sefer is posul.

10. If a beis knesses decides to have a sefer Torah written and for this purpose starts to collect money from its congregants, but for some reason the idea is dropped, what happens to that money?
So long as doubt remains and it is possible that, in fact, eventually they will have the sefer written, the money must not be used for a different purpose. On the other hand, if it is certain that they will not have the sefer written, the money must be returned to the donors.

11. If a scribe fails to complete the writing of a sefer Torah by the date of the hachnassas sefer Torah (the ceremony where the finished sefer is "brought in" to its destination) can he take the missing "yeriot" from elsewhere, and return them later when he finishes the sefer?
To take them from a sefer that is whole and usable is forbidden. However, if not all of the "yeriot" of the completed sefer are stitched together, so the sefer is not really whole, then it is permitted, and so, too, if the completed sefer is old and no longer usable (Shevet HaKehati 3, pg. 225).

12. If a sefer Torah is completely written and all of its "yeriot" already are stitched together, is it permitted to take out the stitches and divide the "yeriot" amongst a number of checkers?
Yes, it is permitted (Meseces Sofrim 3:9)

13. For public Torah readings are we allowed to read from a sefer Torah that was written on treated parchment?
One can read from such a sefer and one is forbidden to say that the sefer is not kosher. On the other hand, it is relatively common that treatment of the parchments makes the sefer posul, for the treatment is likely to cause the letters to peel away more easily.

14. In what case or cases does the falling of a sefer Torah to the ground require that all who saw the fall must fast?
The fast is required even if the sefer fell just on its side, and even if it happened just outside of the Aron HaKodesh, where the Kohanim stand to bless the congregation. Even if the sefer fell because of uncontrollable circumstances, and even if a child caused the fall, all who saw the fall must fast. All of this applies even if the sefer was posul (Minchas Yehuda 7:____).