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Tefillin, Mezuzah and Sefer Torah - Chapter One

Tefillin, Mezuzah and Sefer Torah - Chapter One

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Halacha 1

Four passages [of the Torah]: Kadesh Li and V'hayah ki y'viacha Ado-nai in the book of Exodus (13:1-10 and 13:11-16) and Shema and V'hayah im shamo'a (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21) should be written separately and covered with leather. They are called tefillin.

They are placed on the head and tied on the arm. According to Torah law, even a mere point of one of the letters from these four passages prevents all of them from being acceptable. All four must be written in the proper manner.

Halacha 2

Similarly, if even one letter of the two passages contained in the mezuzah, Shema and V'hayah im shamo'a (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21), is lacking a point, it is not acceptable according to Torah law, which requires that they [each] be written in a perfect manner. Similarly, a Torah scroll which is lacking even one letter is unacceptable.

Halacha 3

There are ten requirements for tefillin. All of them are halachot transmitted to Moses on Mount Sinai. It is necessary to fulfill them all. Therefore, if one made any changes with regard to them, the tefillin are not fit for use: Two of them involve their composition, and eight involve the coverings [placed around the passages] and the tying of their straps.

These are the two that involve their composition:

a) They must be written in ink;

b) They must be written on parchment.

Halacha 4

How is ink prepared? One collects the vapor of oils, of tar, of wax, or the like, [causes it to condense,] and kneads it together with sap from a tree and a drop of honey. It is moistened extensively, crushed until it is formed into flat cakes, dried, and then stored.

When one desires to write with it, one soaks [the cakes of ink] in gallnut juice or the like and writes with it. Thus, if one attempts to rub it out, he would be able to.

This is the ink with which it is most preferable to write scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzot. If, however, one wrote any of the three with gallnut juice or vitriol, which remains without being rubbed out, it is acceptable.

Halacha 5

If so, what was excluded by the halachah conveyed to Moses on Mount Sinai, which stated that it be written in ink?

It excludes tints of other colors, such as red, green, and the like. If even one letter of a Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzot is in another tint or in gold, they are invalid.

Halacha 6

There are three types of parchment: g'vil, k'laf, and duchsustos.

What is implied? The hide of a domesticated or wild animal is taken. First, the hair is removed from it. Afterwards, it is salted and then prepared with flour. Then resin and other substances which cause the skin to contract and become harder are applied to it. In this state, it is called g'vil.

Halacha 7

After the hair is removed, the hide may be taken and divided in half in the manner known to the parchment processors. Thus, there are two pieces of parchment: a thin one, which is on the side where the hair grew, and a thicker one, on the side of the flesh.

After it has been processed using salt, then flour, and then resin and the like, the portion on the side where the hair grew is called k'laf and the portion on the side of the flesh is called duchsustos.

Halacha 8

It is a halachah transmitted to Moses on Mount Sinai that a Torah scroll should be written on g'vil on the side on which the hair had grown. When tefillin are written on k'laf, they should be written on the side of the flesh. When a mezuzah is written onduchsustos, it should be written on the side of the hair.

Whenever one writes on k'laf on the side of the hair or on g'vil or duchsustos on the side of the flesh, it is unacceptable.

Halacha 9

Although it is a halachah which was transmitted to Moses on Mount Sinai, that if one wrote a Torah scroll on k'laf, it is acceptable. G'vil was mentioned only to exclude duchsustos. If a Torah scroll was written on the latter, it is not acceptable.

Similarly, if a mezuzah was written on k'laf or on g'vil, it is acceptable. Duchsustos was mentioned only as a mitzvah.

Halacha 10

[Torah] scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzot may not be written on hide from a non-kosher animal, fowl, or wild animal. One may write on the hides of [all] kosher animals, wild beasts, and fowl. This applies even when these animals died without being ritually slaughtered or when they were killed by wild beasts.

We may not write on the skin of a kosher fish because of the foul secretions, since the processing of the skin will not cause the foul secretions to cease.

Halacha 11

The g'vil for a Torah scroll and the k'laf for tefillin and for a Torah scroll must be processed with this purpose in mind. If they were not processed with this intent, they are not acceptable.

Accordingly, if they were processed by a gentile, they are not acceptable. Even when [a Jew] instructed a gentile to process the parchment with the intent that it be used for a Torah scroll or for tefillin, it is not acceptable. The gentile follows his own intentions and not those of the person who hires him. Therefore, whenever an article must be made with a specific intent in mind, it is unacceptable if made by a gentile.

[The parchment used for] a mezuzah need not be processed with this purpose in mind.

Halacha 12

It is a halachah transmitted to Moses on Mount Sinai that a Torah scroll or mezuzah should be written only [on parchment] which has been ruled. [The parchment used for] tefillin, however, need not be ruled, because they are covered.

It is permissible to write tefillin and mezuzot without [looking at] an existent text, because everyone is familiar with these passages. It is, however, forbidden to write even one letter of a Torah scroll without [looking at] an existent text.

Halacha 13

A Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzah written by an apikoros should be burned. If they were written by a gentile, an apostate Jew, a person who betrays [the Jews] to a powerful person, a slave, a woman, or a minor, they are not acceptable and must be entombed, as [implied by Deuteronomy 6:8-9]: "And you shall tie... and you shall write." [Our Sages explain that this includes only] those who are commanded to tie [tefillin on their arms] and those who believe in what they write.

[Sacred articles] which are found in the possession of an apikoros, and it is not known who wrote them, should be entombed. Those which are found in the possession of a gentile are kosher. We should not, however, purchase Torah scrolls, tefillin, or mezuzot from gentiles for more than they are worth, so that they do not become accustomed to stealing them.

Halacha 14

A Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzah that was written on parchment from a non-kosher animal, beast, or fowl, or on parchment that was not processed [properly, is not acceptable]. [Similarly,] a Torah scroll or tefillin that was written on parchment that was not processed with the intent to use it for these sacred purposes is not acceptable.

Halacha 15

When a person writes a Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzah without having [the proper] intention, should he write one of God's names without the desired intent, they are not acceptable.

Therefore, when a person is writing God's name, he should not reply even if the king of Israel greets him. If he is writing two or three names, he may interrupt between them and reply.

Halacha 16

[When a scribe] dips his pen [in ink] to write God's name, he should not begin [writing] one of the letters of God's name. Rather, he should begin with the letter preceding [God's name].

If [a scribe] forgot to write God's name in its entirety, he may insert it in between the lines. It is, however, unacceptable to have a portion of God's name on the line and a portion inserted [between the lines]. With regard to other words, if one forgets, one may write half the word on the line and half above the line.

When does the above apply? With regard to a Torah scroll. In contrast, with regard to tefillin and mezuzot, one should not insert even one letter [between the lines]. Rather, if one forgets even one letter, one should entomb what one has written and write another one.

It is permitted to write God's name on [parchment where letters] have been scraped off or rubbed out on all [of these sacred articles].

Halacha 17

Scribes who write Torah scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzot may not turn the parchment face down. Rather, they should spread a cloth over them or fold them.

Halacha 18

[The following rule applies when] a scribe who wrote a Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzah states: "I did not write the names of God with the proper intent." Once they have left his hand, his statements are not believed with regard to the disqualification of the scroll. They are, however, accepted to the extent that he must forfeit his entire wage.

Why isn't he believed with regard to the disqualification of the scroll? Because it is possible that he wanted to cause a loss to the purchaser or to the person who hired him, thinking that with this statement all that he would be required to forfeit would be the payment for the names of God.

Accordingly, were he to say that the parchment of this Torah scroll or tefillin was not processed with the proper intent in mind, his statements are accepted with regard to the disqualification of the sacred articles because, [by virtue of these statements,] he forfeits his entire wage. Everyone knows that if the parchments were not processed with the proper intent, he does not deserve any payment.

Halacha 19

Tefillin and mezuzot may be written only in Assyrian script. Permission was granted to write Torah scrolls in Greek as well. That Greek language has, however, been forgotten from the world. It has been confused and has sunk into oblivion. Therefore, at present, all three sacred articles may be written using Assyrian script alone.

One must be precise while writing them, making sure that one letter does not become attached to another one, because any letter which is not surrounded by parchment on all four sides is unacceptable.

Any letter that cannot be read by a child who is neither wise nor foolish is not acceptable. Therefore, one must be careful with regard to the form of the letters, so that a yud will not resemble a vav, nor a vav a yud; a kaf should not resemble a beit, nor a beit a kaf; a dalet should not resemble a resh, nor a resh a dalet.

[The same applies in] other similar instances. [The text must be written in a manner] that a reader will be able to read without difficulty.

Halacha 20

[The following rules apply to] parchment which has holes: One should not write over a hole. If, however, ink passes over the hole [without seeping through], the presence of the hole is of no consequence, and one may write upon it. Accordingly, if the skin of a fowl has been processed, it is permissible to write upon it.

[The following rules apply] when a parchment becomes perforated after it has been written on: If the perforation is within the inside of a letter - e.g., in the space inside a heh, inside amem, or inside any of the other letters - it is acceptable.

Despite the fact that a leg of a letter becomes perforated to the extent that it becomes separated [into two portions], it is acceptable if:

a) [the length of the leg] is equivalent to that of a small letter; and b) the letter's [present form] does not resemble another letter.

If [the length of the leg] is not equivalent to that of a small letter, it is not acceptable.

Commentary Halacha 1

Four passages [of the Torah]: - contain references to the mitzvah of tefillin.

Kadesh Li and V'hayah ki y'viacha Ado-nai in the book of Exodus (13:1-10 and 13:11-) - The commentaries suggest that, in this instance, the Rambam cited the source for these passages because there is also a passage in the book of Deuteronomy that begins V'hayah Ki Y'viacha.

and Shema and V'hayah im shamo'a (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21) - Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 422) explains that these four passages were chosen because they include the concepts of the oneness of God, the acceptance of His yoke and the yoke of His commandments, and the description of the exodus from Egypt. These are fundamental principles of the Jewish faith.

should be written separately - on parchment

and covered with leather - as described in Chapter 3.

They are called tefillin. - Tosafot, Menachot 34b states the word is related to the root ללפ, which means "dispute." The Tur (Orach Chayim 25) inteprets the word as meaning "sign." Tefillot Yisrael associates the term with the power of thought, citing Genesis 48:11. The Pri Megadim (Orach Chayim 25:20) understands the term as meaning, "mark of distinction."

They are placed on the head and tied - The commentaries note the difference between the two verbs, "placed" and "tied." See also our commentary on Chapter 4, Halachah 4. It is, nevertheless, worth noting that in the listing of the mitzvot in the introduction to the Mishneh Torah, the Rambam mentions "tying the tefillin on the head."

on the arm. - Sefer HaMitzvot (Positive Commandments 12 and 13) and Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvot 421 and 422) consider these obligations to be two of the Torah's 613 mitzvot. (See Menachot 44a.) Since they are two separate mitzvot, the performance of one is not dependent on the performance of the other, as stated in Chapter 4, Halachah 4.

According to Torah law, even a mere point of one of the letters - for example, the yud has a short foot in its lower right-hand corner. If that foot is missing, it is considered to have been improperly formed. Therefore, not only it, but the entire passage is not acceptable.

from these four passages prevents all of them from being acceptable. All four must be written in the proper manner. - If even one of the passages is not written in the proper manner, the person is not considered to have fulfilled the mitzvah at all. (See also the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, Menachot 3:7.)

Accordingly, it is proper to have one's tefillin checked from time to time to make sure that none of the letters have faded. (See the commentary on Chapter 2, Halachah 11.)

Commentary Halacha 2

Similarly, if even one letter of the two passages - which mention the mitzvah and, hence, are

contained in the mezuzah, Shema and V'hayah im shamo'a (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21), is lacking a point - from its proper shape,

it is not acceptable according to Torah law, which requires that they [each] be written in a perfect manner. - In this instance, as well, a disqualifying factor in a single point of a single letter prevents the entire mitzvah from being fulfilled.

Similarly, a Torah scroll which is lacking even one letter - The Ben Yedid explains that the difference in the phraseology used by the Rambam with regard to tefillin and mezuzot ("lacking a point") and a Torah scroll ("lacking even one letter") alludes to the difference in the phraseology used by the sources for these laws (Menachot 34a and Bava Batra 15a).

is unacceptable. - Though Rabbenu Nissim (Megillah, Chapter 2) appears to contest the Rambam's statements on this issue, the Rambam's view is accepted by most authorities. (See also Chapter 7, Halachah 9.)

Commentary Halacha 3

There are ten requirements for tefillin. - Though all of the ten principles mentioned by the Rambam have their source in the Talmud, their organization into a list of ten is original.

All of them are halachot transmitted to Moses on Mount Sinai. - Yad Malachi interprets the latter expression as a law which has all the authority of a Torah commandment, even though there is no allusion to it in the Written Law. (See also the Rambam's Introduction to his Commentary on the Mishnah, Chapter 4.)

It is necessary to fulfill them all. Therefore, if one made any changes with regard to them, the tefillin are not fit for use: - A person who wears tefillin which do not fulfill these requirements is not considered to have fulfilled the mitzvah at all.

Two of them involve their composition - These are listed below and discussed in the following halachot.

and eight involve the coverings [placed around the passages] and the tying of their straps. - These eight conditions are mentioned in Chapter 3, Halachah 1, and discussed in the subsequent halachot of that chapter.

These are the two that involve their composition: a) They must be written in ink; - as opposed to other tints

b) They must be written on parchment. - This translation is not precise. Note Halachah 7 for a more specific definition of the term ףלק.

Commentary Halacha 4

How is ink prepared? One collects the vapor of oils - Shabbat 23a states that it is preferable to use olive oil.

of tar, of wax, or the like, [causes it to condense,] - See Shabbat, ibid., and commentaries, where it is explained that they would heat the above substances and hold a glass above, upon which the vapors would condense. Afterwards, the soot would be collected.

and kneads it together with sap from a tree - Shabbat, ibid., states that it is preferable to use balsam sap.

and a drop of honey. It is moistened extensively, - In one of his responsa, the Rambam writes that it is customarily moistened with oil.

crushed until it is formed into flat cakes, dried, and then stored. - Niddah 20a teaches us that their ink was stored while dry.

When one desires to write with it, one soaks [the cakes of ink] - From the statement in Shabbat forbidding ink to be soaked on the Sabbath, we can assume that the normal process is to soak it before using it.

in gallnut juice - which endows the ink with a lasting quality. In contrast, the Rambam writes in one of his responsa that if one were to soak the ink in water, it would fade rapidly.

In the same responsum, he states that a liquid possessing qualities similar to gallnut juice can be obtained from pomegranate shells or the outer shells of other nuts.

or the like and writes with it. Thus, if one attempts to rub it out, he would be able to. - Sotah 20a derives this concept from Numbers 5:23, which states, "He shall write and he shall blot out." Proper ink should be able to be blotted out after writing.

This is the ink with which it is most preferable to write scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzot. - Note the Zohar (Vol. II, p. 159a), which requires that ink be made from substances that are derived from the plant kingdom.

If, however, one wrote any of the three - Torah scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzot.

with gallnut juice - itself, and not in a mixture with other substances

or vitriol - a substance produced by the rusting of metal. Our translation is based on Rav Kapach's commentary which has its source in the Rambam's responsa. Others render this phrase "with gallnut juice and vitriol," implying that the two substances should be combined.

which remains without being rubbed out, it is acceptable - after the fact (בדיעבד).

Commentary Halacha 5

If so, - i.e., if there are no specific substances which are excluded, as stated above

what was excluded by the halachah conveyed to Moses on Mount Sinai, which stated that it be written in ink? It excludes tints of other colors, such as red, green - Megillah 17a explicitly disqualifies a megillah written in red ink. From that and other sources, it appears that such ink was frequently used at that time, but was deemed unacceptable for use for a Torah scroll.

and the like. - Note the Bi'ur Halachah (32), which states that even blue ink is unacceptable.

If even one letter of a Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzot is in another tint or in gold - Soferim 1:9 relates that a Torah scroll was written for Alexander with every one of the names of God written in gold. When the Sages heard about this, they said that the scroll should be entombed.

Besides excluding the use of gold-colored ink, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 32:3) explains that covering the ink with gold dust is not acceptable.

they are invalid. - From this, we learn that all black inks are acceptable, regardless of their makeup. Though scribes continue to make ink in the traditional fashion, there is no prohibition against using commercially produced black ink.

Commentary Halacha 6

There are three types of parchment: g'vil, - whose preparation is described in this halachah.

k'laf, and duchsustos - whose preparation is described in the following halachah.

What is implied? The hide of a domesticated or wild animal is taken. - As mentioned in Halachah 10, the animal must be kosher.

First, the hair is removed from it. - Shulchan Aruch HaRav (32:10) states that if the hair is not entirely removed, the parchment is not fit to be used. Even after the fact, it is unacceptable. The Mishnah Berurah quotes this opinion as well, but also mentions other opinions, which do not invalidate the parchment if some hair remains, as long as it had been placed in lime for a long enough time for thehair to fall off.

Afterwards, it is salted and then prepared with flour. Then, resin and other substances which cause the skin to contract and become harder - The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 32:8) mentions that lime is customarily used for this purpose.

are applied to it. In this state, it is called g'vil. - In one of his responsa, the Rambam explains that the term g'vil is used to describe any coarse, uneven surface. Note a parallel usage in Bava Batra 3a.

If the hide is not prepared in this fashion, it is referred to as diftera, and a Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzah, written upon it is invalid. Even בדיעבד (after the fact), such parchment is not acceptable, as stated in Halachah 14.

Commentary Halacha 7

After the hair is removed, the hide may be taken and divided in half in the manner known to the parchment processors. - There is, however, no obligation to divide the parchment. If it has been processed correctly, it may be used for a Torah scroll without being separated, as stated in the following halachah.

Thus, there are two pieces of parchment: a thin one, which is on the side where the hair - or wool of the animal

grew, and a thicker one, on the side of the flesh.

After it has been processed using salt, then flour, and then resin and the like, - Several of the Rambam's responsa were addressed to communities where it was not customary to prepare hides in this manner. In these letters, the Rambam stresses that even after the hair is removed from the hide, it must be processed in this manner. Otherwise, it may not be used for either a Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzah.

the portion on the side where the hair grew is called k'laf - which means "peel." It is given this name because it is a thin layer of flesh which is peeled easily.

and the portion on the side of the flesh is called duchsustos. - Duch is Aramaic for "place," and sustos is Greek (Median in other texts) for "meat." Thus, the word means "the place of the meat" (Aruch).

Our translation and commentary follows the standard published text of the Mishneh Torah, which is quoted in the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 32:7. It must, nevertheless, be emphasized that the authoritative Yemenite manuscripts of the Mishneh Torah reverse the interpretations of k'laf and duchsustos. The latter interpretation is reinforced by several responsa of the Rambam on the subject. It also is supported by Hilchot Shabbat 11:6. The Rashba's text of the Mishneh Torah also contained this version, as is obvious from his responsa (Vol. 1, Responsum 579).

Commentary Halacha 8

It is a halachah transmitted to Moses on Mount Sinai that a Torah scroll should be written on g'vil - From Bava Batra 14b, it appears that Moses wrote the Torah scroll which he placed in the holy ark on g'vil. Similarly, Gittin 54b mentions that Torah scrolls would be written on g'vil.

on the side on which the hair had grown. - This side is smoother and better to write on.

When tefillin are written on klaf - The Rambam's expression is somewhat inexact, because it is permissible to write tefillin only on k'laf. If they are written on g'vil or duchsustos, they are unacceptable (Shabbat 79b).

they should be written on the side of the flesh - i.e., on the portion of the k'laf where it is separated from the duchsustos.

When a mezuzah is written on duchsustos - As stated in the following halachah, it is preferable - but not obligatory - to write a mezuzah on this type of parchment.

it should be written on the side of the hair. - i.e., on the portion of the duchsustos where it is separated from the k'laf.

Whenever one writes on k'laf on the side of the hair - the epidermis

or on g'vil or duchsustos on the side of the flesh - the side facing the inside of the body

it is unacceptable. - The Aruch states that this practice is alluded to by Proverbs 25:2: "The glory of God is in the concealment of a matter." Only "the concealment of a matter," the sides of the parchment which are naturally concealed, are fit to be used for "the glory of God," the fulfillment of mitzvot.

It must be emphasized that the Yemenite manuscripts mentioned in the previous halachah, which reverse the definitions of k'laf and duchsustos, do not change the text of this halachah. Thus, according to these texts, when writing on the thin upper parchment, one should write on the epidermis, and when writing on the thick lower parchment, one should write on the part facing the inside of the body.

There is an advantage to this version. According to the standard texts, there is an apparent contradiction. Although one should write on the epidermis when writing on g'vil, it is improper to do so when writing on k'laf.

Commentary Halacha 9

Although it is a halachah which was transmitted to Moses on Mount Sinai, that if one wrote a Torah scroll on k'laf, it is acceptable. - The entire scroll, however, must be written on one or the other of these types of parchment. If half was written on k'laf and half on g'vil, it is unacceptable (Chapter 7, Halachah 4; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 271:4).

G'vil was mentioned only to exclude duchsustos. If a Torah scroll was written on the latter, it is not acceptable. - Though this concept is not mentioned explicitly in the Talmud, the rabbis derive it from their understanding of Bava Batra 14b.

Similarly, if a mezuzah was written on k'laf or on g'vil, it is acceptable. - Even in Talmudic times, Shabbat 79b mentions that on occasion it was preferable to write a mezuzah on k'laf, because the mezuzah would be preserved better than if it were written on duchsustos.

Duchsustos was mentioned only as a mitzvah - i.e., it is preferable to do it in this manner.

It must be noted that at present, a single type of parchment is used for all three sacred objects. The parchment is not separated in two. A thin portion is removed from the upper layer, and the majority of the - if not the entire - lower layer is rubbed off. The parchment produced in this manner is more attractive and also lighter (a factor significant with regard to a Torah scroll. (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 32:7; Ramah, Yoreh De'ah 271:3, 288:6; Siftei Cohen, Yoreh De'ah 271:9.)

Commentary Halacha 10

[Torah] scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzot - Shulchan Aruch HaRav 32:14 expands the scope of this law, stating that it is not befitting to write the name of God on parchment from a non-kosher animal. This applies even when the intent is not to use the parchment for a sacred purpose.

may not be written on hide from a non-kosher animal, fowl, or wild animal. - Shabbat 108a derives this concept from the exegesis of Exodus 13:9, "So that the Torah of God will be in your mouths." They conclude: Only what is permitted to be "in your mouths" - i.e., species which are kosher - is acceptable for a Torah scroll. Even בדיעבד (after the fact), such parchment is not acceptable, as stated in Halachah 14.

As explained in Chapter 3, this requirement applies not only to the parchment, but also to all the other elements involved in making these sacred articles.

One may write on the hides of [all] kosher animals, wild beasts, and fowl. - See Halachah 20 in regard to writing on parchment made from the skin of birds.

This applies even when these animals died without being ritually slaughtered or when they were killed by wild beasts. - Shabbat (ibid.) offers the following parable to explain why even though such animals may not be eaten, it is permitted to use their hides. There were two people who were sentenced to death. One was executed by the king himself and the other by the executioner. Which is more noteworthy? Obviously, the one whom the king executed himself.

Similarly, in the present instance, the fact that these kosher animals were "executed by the king" - i.e., their death came about at God's decree - distinguishes them from other animals which are never fit to be eaten.

We may not write on the skin of a kosher fish because of the foul secretions, since the processing of the skin will not cause the foul secretions to cease. - Hilchot Keilim 1:4 states: "The skin of a fish is not susceptible to contracting ritual impurity and would be fit for tefillin to be written upon, were it not for its foul secretions." This implies that the only problem is the secretions of the fish skin.

Commentary Halacha 11

The g'vil for a Torah scroll and the k'laf for tefillin and for a Torah scroll must be processed with this purpose in mind. - The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 32:8; Yoreh De'ah 271:1) states that when placing the skin in lime at the beginning of the process of making it into parchment, one should explicitly say that one is processing it for these purposes.

Shulchan Aruch HaRav (32:11) and the Mishnah Berurah (32:26-27) explain that parchment processed to be used as a Torah scroll may be used for tefillin (or for a mezuzah). Parchment processed for the sake of tefillin, however, may not be used for a Torah scroll, because a Torah scroll is on a higher level of holiness.

If they were not processed with this intent, they are not acceptable. - Even if no parchment that was processed with the proper intent is available, this parchment should not be used, as stated in Halachah 14.

Accordingly, if they were processed by a gentile, they are not acceptable. Even when [a Jew] instructed a gentile to process the parchment with the intent that it be used for a Torah scroll or for tefillin, it is not acceptable. - Even if the gentile states that he is processing the parchment with the intent that it be used for these purposes, we do not rely on his word, because we suspect that

The gentile follows his own intentions and not those of the person who hires him. - Note the comments of Rav Chayim Soloveitchik, who approaches the concept differently, and explains that the above phrase, "the gentile follows his own intentions...," is a description of the gentile's fundamental nature. It is not that we suspect that the gentile will not listen to the person who hires him, and his act is therefore not acceptable. Rather, because his nature is to "follow his own intentions," he is disqualified from performing any act that requires a sacred intention.

According to this interpretation, the question of whether a gentile's actions are accepted if he is supervised by a Jew must be understood as follows: The act of preparing the parchment for a Torah scroll is not, in and of itself, a sacred act, but merely a preparation for performing such an act. Accordingly, one might assume that it is sufficient for a Jew to command the gentile to process the scroll for the proper intent. The gentile would be considered like a machine which performs activities with no will of its own, and it would be as if the Jew performed the act himself. In conclusion, however, it is accepted that because the gentile acts independently, the intention of the Jew who hires him cannot be associated with his acts.

Therefore - the scope of this ruling can be expanded:

whenever an article must be made with a specific intent in mind - e.g., the strands of tzitzit (Hilchot Tzitzit 1:11) or a bill of divorce (Hilchot Gerushin 3:16)

it is unacceptable if made by a gentile. - Rabbenu Asher does not accept the Rambam's ruling with regard to these parchments. Though he accepts the general principle, he explains that this particular instance is an exception.

In other instances, the gentile must act according to the Jew's intent for a prolonged period of time. Here, it is absolutely necessary to have the intent to use the parchment for tefillin or a Torah scroll only at the moment it is placed in the lime. We can assume that if a gentile is given instructions to place it in the lime with that intent, he will do so with that intent.

The Shulchan Aruch quotes both opinions in Orach Chayim 32:9. Yoreh De'ah 271:1, however, mentions only the Rambam's opinion. In both places, the Ramah states that it is customary to follow Rabbenu Asher's opinion.

Shulchan Aruch HaRav 32:12 and the Mishnah Berurah 32:28-29 quote Rabbenu Asher's statements that a Jew should be present at the time the parchment is placed in the lime and that he should explicitly tell the gentile to put it in the lime to be used for a Torah scroll. Afterwards, he should assist the gentile somewhat in the process of preparing the parchment.

[The parchment used for] a mezuzah need not be processed with this purpose in mind. - The Jerusalem Talmud (Yoma 3:6) states, "Parchment which was processed for use as a talisman is acceptable for a mezuzah."

In one of his responsa, the Rambam explains that the reason for the difference in law between a mezuzah, on the one hand, and a Torah scroll and tefillin, on the other, stems from the fact that a Torah scroll and tefillin are mitzvot which each person is obligated to fulfill. In contrast, the mitzvah of mezuzah is an obligation that is not incumbent on a person unless he dwells in a house that requires one. (It must be noted, however, that there are opinions which maintain that this responsum was not written by the Rambam.)

This ruling is not accepted by the other authorities. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 288:5) states that לכתחילה (at the outset), one must seek a mezuzah that was written on parchment processed with this intention in mind. Only if it is impossible to find such a mezuzah, may one use a mezuzah which was not processed with this intent. (Note also our commentary on Chapter 3, Halachah 15.)

Commentary Halacha 12

It is a halachah transmitted to Moses on Mount Sinai that a Torah scroll or mezuzah should be written only [on parchment] which has been ruled. - The parchment should be ruled with a stylus or a reed. It is improper to use a substance that leaves a mark. Each line of the parchment should be ruled and a border made on both sides. If unruled parchment is used for a Torah scroll or for a mezuzah, it is unacceptable (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 271:5, 288:8).

[The parchment used for] tefillin, however, need not be ruled - The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 32:6) states the top line of tefillin must be ruled because the Sages forbade writing more than three words from a verse from the Bible without ruling the line above them. See Chapter 7, Halachah 16, and also see the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 284:2).

In Orach Chayim, the Shulchan Aruch continues, explaining that a person who cannot write on a straight line without ruling the parchment should rule the parchment before writing tefillin. The Ramah states that it is customary for even the most competent scribes to write tefillin on ruled parchment. If, however, one wrote tefillin without ruling the parchment, the tefillin are acceptable even if the lines are crooked (Mishneh Berurah 32:21).

because they are covered. - This explains why although a verse from the Torah must always be written on ruled parchment, we are not required to do so for tefillin.

Even though a mezuzah is also covered, ruling the parchment is required because it can be removed from its covering easily and must be checked twice in seven years. In contrast, there is no obligation to check tefillin and the parchments are almost never removed from their compartments (Kessef Mishneh, Rabbenu Nissim).

It is permissible to write tefillin and mezuzot without [looking at] an existent text, because everyone is familiar with these passages. - The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 32:20, 29), however, emphasizes that one should carefully check the passages of the tefillin to make sure that they were written correctly. One who does not know the passages by heart should write from an existent text.

It is, however, forbidden to write even one letter of a Torah scroll without [looking at] an existent text. - Even a person who knows the passages by heart may err, because sometimes the spellings of words are different from their pronunciations (Megillah 18b).

The Siftei Cohen (Yoreh De'ah 274:3) quotes a difference of opinion among the Rabbis if, after the fact, it is permitted to use a Torah scroll that was not written from an existent text.

Commentary Halacha 13

A Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzah written by an apikoros - The phraseology used in this halachah is a matter of question. Though our texts follow the standard published texts of the Mishneh Torah, the authoritative manuscripts substitute the word min for apikoros.

The difference between the two versions is significant. In Hilchot Teshuvah 3:8, the Rambam defines an apikoros as a person who denies the Torah and/or the prophetic tradition, while in Hilchot Teshuvah 3:7, he describes a min as a person who does not believe in God. When a min writes a Torah scroll, the names of God it contains do not possess any holiness, because he does not believe in God at all. In contrast, since an apikoros does believe in God, were he to write a Torah scroll the names he writes would possess a certain dimension of holiness.

should be burned. - In Hilchot Yesodei Torah 6:8, the Rambam explains why burning such a scroll does not violate the prohibition against destroying God's name:

He does not believe in the sanctity of [God's] name and did not compose it for a sacred purpose. Rather, he considers this to be similar to any other text. Since this is his intent, the names [of God he writes] do not become holy.

Significantly, the Rambam does not state that we presume that the scribe had the intention that the name of God refer to a false deity. Note, however, the Rambam's statements in Hilchot Avodat Kochavim 2:5: "[It can be assumed that] a min's thoughts are concerned with false gods." Shulchan Aruch HaRav 39:4 and the Mishnah Berurah 39:13 refer to the latter statement and explain that the passages should be burned, because the names of God refer to a false deity.

Shabbat 116a draws a parallel between the burning of such a Torah scroll and the scroll of a sotah (a woman accused of adultery). In the process of a sotah's trial, a scroll on which is written a passage containing God's name is blotted out. Our Sages conclude that just as God is willing to allow His name to be wiped out to establish peace between a man and his wife, so, too, He allows His name to be destroyed because of these individuals who disturb the peace that exists between Him and His people.

If they were written by a gentile, an apostate Jew, a person who betrays [the Jews] - or Jewish property

to a powerful person - It was quite common in the Second Temple period for Jews to betray their countrymen or their property to the Roman authorities. The severity of this transgression is emphasized by the Rambam, who includes a moseir in the 24 categories of individuals who do not have a portion in the world to come. (See Hilchot Teshuvah 3:6,12.)

Similarly, in Hilchot Chovel UMazik 8:10, the Rambam states that a moseir may be killed to prevent him from betraying a Jew's life or property to gentiles. Because of the severity of this transgression, the Rambam considers such an individual equivalent to an outright nonbeliever.

a slave, a woman, or a minor - This includes even a minor who has reached the age when he is trained to wear tefillin (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 39:1).

they are not acceptable - for use

and must be entombed - lest they be used. (See Turei Zahav, Yoreh De'ah 281:1.) Since there is a possibility that the names of God they contain were written with the proper intent (and hence, they would possess a dimension of holiness), they are not burned.

as [implied by Deuteronomy 6:8-9]: "And you shall tie... - tefillin

and you shall write" - a mezuzah.

[Our Sages - Gittin 45b

explain that this includes only] those who are commanded to tie [tefillin on their arms] - Thus excluding slaves, women and minors, as stated in Chapter 4, Halachah 13.

and those who believe in what they write. - Thus excluding Jews who do not believe in their heritage, gentiles, and mosrim.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 39:2) states that anyone who is disqualified from writing tefillin is also disqualified from performing any other activity necessary to prepare them.

[Sacred articles] - Torah scrolls, tefillin, or mezuzot

which are found in the possession of an apikoros, and it is not known who wrote them - Since it is possible that the apikoros did not write them himself, they may not be burned. They, however,

should be entombed - and may not be used for sacred purposes, because it is possible that the apikoros (or one of his colleagues) wrote them.

Those which are found in the possession of a gentile - more precisely, the term kuti used by the Rambam means "Samaritan." At one point, the Samaritans converted and were considered to be Jews by the Sages. Towards the latter portion of the Second Temple period, it was discovered that they had remained idolaters. From that time onward, they were regarded as gentiles by the Sages, and the term kuti was used to refer to gentiles. (It must be noted that the authoritative manuscripts of the Mishneh Torah use the term goy, "gentile," rather than kuti.)

are kosher. - We presume that the gentile is offering sacred articles which he obtained from a Jew, and he did not make them himself.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 39:6, Yoreh De'ah 281:1) quotes this opinion. Yoreh De'ah (loc. cit.), however, also mentions a conflicting opinion, which forbids scrolls possessed by gentiles to be used. The Mishnah Berurah 39:16 explains that, at present, we can assume that the sacred articles are acceptable, because today a gentile would not know how to make them himself. Accordingly, we can assume that they were taken from a Jew.

Even the opinions which do not allow the sacred articles purchased from the gentiles to be used require that they be redeemed and entombed, because of our regard for the sacred articles and our fear that the gentiles would treat them sacrilegiously.

We should not, however, purchase Torah scrolls, tefillin, or mezuzot from gentiles for more than they are worth - The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 39:7; Yoreh De'ah 281:1) suggests paying slightly more than their worth.

so that they do not become accustomed to stealing them. - The Sages feared that if the Jews redeemed these sacred articles from the gentiles at more than their market value, the gentiles would make special efforts to steal them in order to receive these higher prices.

Gittin 45a establishes a similar principle with regard to human captives, stating, "Captives should not be redeemed for more than their worth."

Commentary Halacha 14

In this halachah, the Rambam restates principles that he had stated previously. His intent is to explain that the requirements which he had mentioned are not merely matters of preference. Rather, if they are not met, the sacred articles are disqualified entirely. Even בדיעבד (after the fact), they are not acceptable.

A Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzah that was written on parchment from a non-kosher animal, beast, or fowl - See Halachah 10.

or on parchment that was not processed [properly, is not acceptable]. - See Halachot 6-7.

[Similarly,] a Torah scroll or tefillin that was written on parchment that was not processed with the intent to use it for these sacred purposes is not acceptable. - See Halachah 11.

Commentary Halacha 15

When a person writes a Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzah without having [the proper] intention - The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 274:1) states that before a scribe writes a Torah scroll, he should state that he is writing it for the sake of the holiness of a Torah scroll. Making that statement at the outset is sufficient for the entire Torah scroll. If he fails to make this statement, the scroll is not acceptable. Similar rules apply to tefillin (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 32:19) and mezuzot.

Rav Chayim Soloveitchik notes that this is not the Rambam's view. The phrasing of this halachah clearly implies that the Rambam does not consider the lack of proper intention when writing a Torah scroll sufficient to render it unacceptable. Thus, with regard to preparing the parchment, one is required to have the intent that it be used for the mitzvah, while that intent is not necessary when one is actually writing the scroll.

Rav Chayim differentiates between the two deeds as follows: Preparing the parchment is, in essence, a mundane act. Accordingly, the dimension of holiness that makes the parchment fit for use as a Torah scroll must be added by our intentions. In contrast, writing the scroll is, in essence, a holy act. Accordingly, there is no need for anything to be added by our intention.

should he write one of God's names without the desired intent - i.e., when writing God's name, one must be aware of its holiness and write it with that intent in mind. Note the passage from Hilchot Yesodei Torah 6:8 quoted in the commentary on Halachah 13.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 32:19; Yoreh De'ah 276:2) states that one must write God's name with the intent of expressing its holiness.

they are not acceptable. - The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah, loc. cit.) states that one must make a verbal statement of this intention. If not, the Torah scroll is unacceptable. The Siftei Cohen (276:1) differs and states that while making a verbal statement is preferable, as long as one intended to write the name with the desired intent, the Torah scroll may be used. The Ramah (Orach Chayim 32:19) also states with regard to writing God's name in tefillin, that, if the scribe made a verbal statement that he is writing the Torah scroll for the desired pupose, after the fact, it is sufficient merely to have had the desired intent in mind when writing God's name without expressing it verbally.

Therefore, when a person is writing God's name, he should not reply even if the king of Israel - The Kessef Mishneh notes that the words "of Israel" are significant. A Jewish king is expected to comprehend the sanctity of a Torah scroll and, hence, will understand if he is not answered. Should a gentile king greet a scribe and his failure to answer create a threat to his life, he is allowed to reply.

greets him. - The Siftei Cohen (Yoreh De'ah 276:4) rules that if the scribe does reply, the Torah scroll is not disqualified.

If he is writing two or three names - in succession - e.g., "God is our Lord. God is one," in the Shema, where three names of God are written in succession.

he may interrupt between them and reply. - When he begins to write again, the scribe should state that he is writing the name to express God's holiness (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 276:3).

Commentary Halacha 16

[When a scribe] dips his pen [in ink] to write God's name, he should not begin [writing] one of the letters of God's name - lest too much ink collect on the pen and create an ink blot that must be rubbed out. In doing so, one might also rub out God's name. This is prohibited, as stated in Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 6:1-2.

Rather, he should begin with the letter preceding [God's name]. - Thus, if an error occurs, God's name will not be effected.

If [a scribe] forgot to write God's name in its entirety, he may insert it in between the lines. - Pit'chei Teshuvah 273:6 suggests writing another word above the line together with God's name.

It is, however, unacceptable to have a portion of God's name on the line and a portion inserted [between the lines]. - From the Rambam's phraseology, it appears that even after the fact, the Torah scroll is not acceptable. Although this decision is accepted by the Turei Zahav (Yoreh De'ah 276:4), the Bayit Chadash mentions a more lenient view.

With regard to other words, if one forgets, one may write half the word on the line and half above the line. - One should not, however, write the extra word in the margin between the columns of a Torah scroll (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 276:1).

When does the above apply? With regard to a Torah scroll. - Because there is no obligation that a Torah scroll be written in order. Indeed, one may intentionally write certain words or passages not in order.

In contrast, with regard to tefillin and mezuzot, one should not insert even one letter - of God's name or of any other word

[between the lines]. - The Jerusalem Talmud, Megillah 1:9, explains that a word cannot be inserted in the passages of tefillin and mezuzot. The commentaries explain that this is because these passages must be written ןרדסכ, "in order." If not, they are invalid. In this instance, the word which is inserted will not have been written in order.

Rather, if one forgets even one letter, one should entomb what one has written and write another one. - There is another alternative. One may rub out the words written after the omitted word (needless to say, provided that they do not include God's name), and then rewrite the words that were rubbed out.

It is permitted to write - any portion of a Torah scroll, even

God's name on [parchment where letters] have been scraped off - when the ink has dried

or rubbed out - while still moist. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 32:24) states that it is preferable to wait until the ink dries and then scrape the letters off, rather than rub them out while the ink is still moist. In the latter instance, a mark of the ink is still left. Though it does not disqualify the religious article, it is not attractive.

on all [of these sacred articles]. - See also Chapter 7, Halachah 13.

Commentary Halacha 17

Scribes who write Torah scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzot - and desire to protect their work from being exposed to dust or other factors

may not turn the parchment face down. - This does not show proper respect for the sacred articles (Eruvin 98a).

Rather, they should spread a cloth over them or fold them. - By no means, however, should they leave them open and uncovered, for this is also a sign of disrespect. The Bayit Chadash and the Siftei Cohen (Yoreh De'ah 277:1) extend this principle to all sacred texts, explaining that they should never be left open.

Commentary Halacha 18

[The following rule applies when] a scribe who wrote a Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzah states: "I did not write the names of God with the proper intent." - As mentioned in Halachah 15, if a scribe did not have the proper intent when writing one of God's names, the scroll is not acceptable.

Once they have left his hand - becoming the property of another individual

his statements are not believed with regard to the disqualification of the scroll. - The Siftei Cohen (Yoreh De'ah 281:9) states that this law applies only when the scribe was paid for his services. If he wrote the scroll as a favor, his word is not accepted and the scroll is not disqualified.

They are, however, accepted to the extent that he must forfeit his entire wage. - Gittin 54b states that he may not collect his entire wage minus the payment due him for the names of God, because a Torah scroll is worthless unless God's names were written with the proper intent.

The Ramah (Yoreh De'ah 281:4) states that the scribe does not forfeit his entire wage. Although he is not paid the fee due him for a Torah scroll, he still should be paid for producing a text of theChumash.

At that time, printing presses were uncommon and books were written as scrolls. Though such a scroll could not be used for a communal Torah reading, it would be useful for individual study. [Note the objections of the Turei Zahav (Yoreh De'ah 281:4) to this ruling.]

Why isn't he believed with regard to the disqualification of the scroll? Because it is possible that he wanted to cause a loss to the purchaser or to the person who hired him, thinking that - he would not suffer a major loss

with this statement all that he would be required to forfeit would be the payment for the names of God. - Hence, he was willing to suffer a loss of this nature in order to irritate the purchaser.

Accordingly, were he to say that the parchment of this Torah scroll or tefillin - The Rambam omits a mezuzah, since, as he states in Halachah 11, a mezuzah need not be processed with a sacred intent in mind.

was not processed with the proper intent in mind - as required by Halachah 11

his statements are accepted with regard to the disqualification of the sacred articles because, [by virtue of these statements,] he forfeits his entire wage. - We assume that he would not be willing to suffer such a major loss only to cause difficulty to a colleague.

Everyone knows that if the parchments were not processed with the proper intent, he does not deserve any payment. - In this instance, as well, he deserves the remuneration appropriate for writing a scroll useful for individual study.

Commentary Halacha 19

Tefillin and mezuzot may be written only in Ashurit script. - This refers to the calligraphy used for the Hebrew alphabet that closely resembles the printed Hebrew we use today. One of the opinions mentioned in Sanhedrin 22a explains that this calligraphy was indigenous to the Jews, and the Torah itself was originally written in it. It was, nevertheless, not used by the Jews for an extended period until after the Babylonian exile, when it became the standard calligraphy for sacred writings.

In his Commentary on the Mishnah (Yadayim 4:5), the Rambam explains the latter opinion, stating that Ashurit means "the finest and most choice." This name was given to this calligraphy because:

It is the most choice calligraphy. Its characters are not interchangeable... nor do they resemble each other to the extent that doubt might arise.... This does not apply with regard to other scripts.

It was adopted by the Jewish people in the Babylonian exile after the destruction of the First Temple. In previous (and subsequent) generations, Hebrew was generally written with other characters.

Permission was granted to write Torah scrolls - This leniency was not extended with regard to tefillin and mezuzot. Megillah 9a derives this concept from the exegesis of Deuteronomy 6:6: "And these words shall be totafot...." Our Sages explain that the expression "shall be" implies that they shall remain unchanged from their Hebrew original.

in Greek as well. - From the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, Megillah 1:8, 2:1, it appears that the intent is not to write a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew, but rather a translation. The Rambam explains that the Septuagint - the translation of the Torah into Greek at the order of King Ptolemy (Megillah 9a;Soferim 1:7) - had become popular. Hence, it was permitted to be used for a Torah scroll.

That Greek language has, however, been forgotten from the world. It has been confused and has sunk into oblivion. - I.e., contemporary Greek is very different from the classical tongue, to the extent that they can be considered to be two separate languages.

Therefore, at present, all three sacred articles may be written using Assyrian script alone. - Significantly, however, in Hilchot Megillah 2:3, the Rambam does not state that Greek is unacceptable at present. Note also Beit Yosef (Orach Chayim 690).

One must be precise while writing them, making sure that one letter does not become attached to another one, because any letter which is not surrounded by parchment - In our commentary on the following halachah, we discuss the laws governing a letter which is not surrounded by parchment because of a hole that is located on its border.

on all four sides - There is no minimum amount of space required to be left between letters. Furthermore, one must be careful not to leave too much space, to the extent that it appears that the word is divided in two (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 274:4).

is unacceptable. - If the letters are attached, however, the difficulty may be corrected and, afterwards, the sacred article may be used (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 32:18).

Any letter that cannot be read by a child who is neither wise nor foolish - This refers to a child who is able to recognize letters, but not words. Were he able to recognize words, one could assume that he might identify a letter, not by its shape, but because of the meaning of the word in which it is located (Rashi, Menachot 29b).

is not acceptable. - Tefillin and mezuzot must be written in order (Chapter 3, Halachah 5; Chapter 5, Halachah 1). Therefore, if a letter which cannot be recognized by a child is written in tefillin or mezuzot, the parchment may never be corrected. Changing the form of the letter is tantamount to rewriting it in its entirety (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 32:25).

Therefore, one must be careful with regard to the form of the letters - This applies not only when the sacred article was originally written, but throughout the time it is being used. If a portion of a letter cracks, fades, is rubbed out, or is torn, in a manner which alters its form, the sacred article is unacceptable.

See also the Tur, Shulchan Aruch, and commentaries (Orach Chayim 36) for a detailed description of the proper form for each letter.

so that a yud will not resemble a vav, nor a vav a yud; - These two letters are very similar, the difference between them being that the leg of the vav is extended and that of the yud is not. Therefore, if a scribe would write a yud with a long leg or a vav with a short leg, difficulties may arise.

a kaf should not resemble a beit, nor a beit a kaf; - The difference between these two letters is primarily in the lower right-hand corner. In a kaf this corner is rounded, while in a beit it is square. Hence, a scribe's imprecision could cause a difficulty.

a dalet should not resemble a resh, nor a resh a dalet. - The difference between these two letters is primarily in the upper right-hand corner. In a resh this corner is rounded, while in a dalet it is square. Hence, in this instance as well, a scribe's imprecision could cause a difficulty.

[The same applies in] other similar instances. - Shabbat 103b mentions other pairs of letters which resemble each other, among them: a samech and a final mem, a zayin and a final nun, and a heh and a chet.

[The text must be written in a manner] that a reader will be able to read without difficulty. - Shabbat, loc. cit., breaks the word וכתבתם (Deuteronomy 6:9), which refers to the command to write a mezuzah, into two words, וכתב תם which mean, "And you shall write perfectly." Thus, the command to write a mezuzah - and, by association, tefillin - also serves as an imperative requiring that the writing be precise.

Commentary Halacha 20

[The following rules apply to] parchment which has holes: One should not write over a hole. - Rashi, Shabbat 108a, associates this ruling with the interpretation, וכתב תם, quoted from Shabbat 103b above. Writing which is "perfect" should not be broken by holes in the parchment.

If, however, ink passes over the hole [without seeping through] - As long as no ink seeps through the parchment, the writing can be considered as "perfect."

the presence of the hole is of no consequence, and one may write upon it. - This applies even if there is a slight hole in the parchment which can be seen when the parchment is held up to light (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 32:17; Mishnah Berurah 32:32).

[The latter principle has ramifications in contemporary society. Today, many scribes check mezuzot and tefillin using light tables and/or magnifying glasses. The cracks or perforations they find in this manner are not significant and cannot disqualify a parchment.]

Accordingly, if the skin of a fowl - which has many small holes where its feathers were

has been processed, it is permissible to write upon it. - Nevertheless, it is not common for scribes to use parchment of this origin.

[The following rules apply] when a parchment becomes perforated after - Halachah 19 deals with the requirement that the letters be surrounded by parchment while they are being written. This halachah mentions the ruling when the perforation is made afterwards.

it has been written on: - Since, at the outset, the writing was "perfect," the parchment is not disqualified because of a hole of later origin. Nevertheless, as will be explained, there are other halachic difficulties involved.

If the perforation is within the inside of a letter - e.g., in the space inside a heh, inside a mem, or inside any of the other letters - it is acceptable. - According to the Rambam, the letter is acceptable even though the hole touches the letter itself. Although the previous halachah states that a letter must be surrounded by parchment on all sides, that statement refers only to the external perimeter of the letter. There is no obligation that the letter be surrounded by parchment on the inside.

The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 32:15, quotes the Rambam's opinion, but also mentions a passage from the Jerusalem Talmud (Megillah 1:9), which requires that the letter be surrounded by parchment on the inside as well. Most Ashkenazic halachic authorities suggest accepting the stringency of the Jerusalem Talmud's ruling.

Despite the fact that a leg of a letter becomes perforated to the extent that it becomes separated [into two portions], it is acceptable if: a) [the length of - the portion of

the leg] - which remains connected to the body of the letter

is equivalent to that of a small letter; - i.e., a yud.

In this context, Rabbenu Asher differentiates between the right and left legs of the heh. This distinction, however, is not accepted by the later authorities [Shulchan Aruch, Ramah, (Orach Chayim 32:15)].

and - if

b) the letter's [present form] - i.e., its upper portion

does not resemble another letter. - For example, when a perforation causes a vav to be separated into two portions, if its upper portion resembles a yud, it is unacceptable. If the length of the upper portion would prevent a child (see the previous halachah) from confusing it with a yud, it is acceptable.

If [the length of - the portion of

the leg] - which remains

is not equivalent to that of a small letter, it is - not large enough to be of consequence, and the letter is

not acceptable. - See also Beit Yosef (Orach Chayim 32).

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