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Invalidated Tefillin, etc.

What does the phrase in their proper order imply and what is its source?

What does one examine, and what cannot be examined?

Who is the examiner?

If one has used tefillin that were invalid, what must he do?


In the previous column I noted that there is no need to inspect tefillin that have been checked in the past. I wish to emphasize that this is applicable if the inspection has been performed by an experienced certified individual.  The halachot (laws) in this area are numerous, and it is easy to make a mistake when deciding the status of the parchment.


In the Talmud, in the tractate Eiruvin, 13, Rabbi Meir warns that the clerks- the sofrei STAM (writers of Torah, tefillin, and mezuzot), should be very cautious: “"Be very careful in your work, my son" cautioned Rabbi Yishmael, "because yours is a Heavenly profession. Should you delete even one letter from the Sefer Torah you write, or add one letter, you destroy the world."  Thus, this is what is inspected.  It must be noted that a mistake in writing that was not revealed and was sold as is- is misleading to the person observing the mitzvah of tefillin or mezuzah- each and every day, and over a period of time…  We are referring here to a huge responsibility, both for the writing and even more so in the inspection.


There are numerous things that cannot be examined.  For instance, is the sofer’s writing performed for the benefit of performing the mitzvah of mezuzot and tefillin?  Every writing and every effort of a sofer STAM must be sanctified, by reciting the following: "L'shem kedushas tefillin/ mezuzah/ sefer Torah" (this undertaking is imbued with the sanctity of tefillin/ a mezuzah/ Torah scroll, etc.).

Previously, in the first STAM Column I stressed the distinctive writing of the sofer STAM and it’s ramifications. Because of its importance I will enumerate here.

Preceding the writing of any of Hashem’s names one must say, ”L'shem kedushas Hashem" (these letters are to be imbued with the sanctity of G-d's name).  He must sanctify the writing and the ink.  The observance of this halacha (Jewish law) too, cannot be verified.  Writing a STAM (Torah, tefillin, mezuzah) without the benefit of consecration permanently invalidates the writing.


According to most of the poskim (experts in Jewish law) this is a heavenly ruling.  There are so who say that this prohibition is from the Torah on Sinai.  Either way, this is a violation at the least on a Torah level.  The following is by Rav Ganzfied, author of the Condensed Shulchan Aruch on the subject of STAM in his work “Kesset HaSofer”: “Tefillin and mezuzot must be written in the proper order, and if they have not been written in their proper order… they are invalid.  Therefore, if we find a letter to be missing, there is no way to repair them.”


Thus, this halacha forbids repairing or fixing when not at the time of the original writing.  In light of this, for instance, the lengthening of the leg of a vav that could be mistaken for a yud, cannot be executed after the sofer has continued in his writing.  This too cannot be ascertained after the fact.


It is therefore advisable to know who the sofer is, or to purchase STAM from a reliable source. 


In any case, we must at least demand the printout from a computer inspection.  This report assures us that there are no superfluous or missing letters.  However, even a computer check is not enough and only an additional manual inspection will assure the overall validity including the absence of partial letters or letters that come in contact with each other.


If one’s tefillin have been found to be invalid upon inspection, does this imply that all his life he has not performed the mitzvah, or possibly could it be understood as a good intention to be considered by the Holy One as a good deed?

Basically, one can say that the original ownership was applicable until the inspection, and the invalidation began only after the halachic inspection.  This is true with invalidation resulting from erasure or detachment of the letter.  It cannot apply to a word or letter that is absent, or to a superfluous word.


Rabeinu Chaim of Baghdad, in his book “Ben Ish Chai”, rules that when a person observes the mitzvah to the fullest and at the end inadvertently discovers that he has not actually observed it, he is considered as though he has observed.  On the other hand, Rav Frank in “Har Tzvi” writes that since he could have inspected it, he is not considered as one who discovers it unintentionally.


It has already been written by poskim that in this case, one must to teshuva (repentance) by learning the mitzvah and all it’s details, or by giving tzedaka (charity).


 Click here for tefillin and tallitot catalog

For additional sources:

What is mezuzah and tefillin inspection?

The grandfather, Rabbeinu Tam and tefillin

Tefillin inspection

Halachic guidelines for tefillin manufacture

The "shin" on the head tefillin

Tefillin on Shabbat (early childhood education)

See "tefillin" Encyclopedia Judaica (daat site) 


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