Every Shabbat throughout the year we have been reading a different parshah in the Torah, and we have learned about some of the 613 mitzvot — positive and negative commandments. In this week’s parshah we read, “V’atah kitvu lachem et hashirah hazot velamdah et b’nei Yisrael” — “So now write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the Children of Israel” (31:19). This is the 613th mitzvah — the mitzvah of writing a sefer Torah.

The Rambam (Sefer Torah 7:1) writes: “It is a mitzvah for every Jew to write a Sefer Torah for himself, as the pasuk states, ‘So now write this song (Ha’azinu) for yourself,’ which actually means ‘So now write a Sefer Torah, which includes this song, for yourself.’ Even one who inherits a Sefer Torah is obligated to write his own.”

Why is the mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah rarely performed? Moreover, why isn’t it common that when a boy becomes Bar Mitzvah , he should fulfill this mitzvah just as he endeavors to fulfill all the other mitzvot of the Torah?

The Rebbe (in Likkutei Sichot vol. 24) answers these questions in the following way:

The commandment to write a Sefer Torah is for the purpose of “velamdah” — “to study [from] it.” In olden days, all learning was done from the Sefer Torah. In contemporary times, the “velamdah” — “to study it” — is primarily the reading of the Torah in public, and each Jew when he receives an aliyah to the Torah, is, at that time, personally fulfilling the mitzvah of “velamdah.”

To properly fulfill the mitzvah, it is not sufficient to just own a Sefer Torah, but one must actually write it, or have it written for him. The one having the aliyah, accomplishes this in the following way:

In communal matters there is a rule, “Leiv beit din matneh” — the Beit Din makes a mental stipulation whenever necessary (see Ketubot 106b). When a community needs a sefer Torah, they engage a sofer — scribe — to write one for them, and the leiv beit din stipulates that it belongs to the entire community and is being written on behalf of everyone in the community. Moreover, they stipulate that it is being acquired on the condition that when one has an aliyah, which is his time of “velamdah” — “to study it” — not only will he acquire total ownership of the Sefer Torah so that it Halachically becomes
(שלו) — his — but it shall be considered that he hired the scribe to write expressly for him. (There is no need for continued ownership of the sefer Torah, except at the moment of the observance of the mitzvah, i.e. when it is being used for the purpose of “velamdah” — “to study [from] it.”)

A Bar Mitzvah boy celebrates his new status by being called to the Torah. At that time he is fulfilling the mitzvah of “velamdah” — “to study it” — and through the rule of “leiv beit din matneh” he is simultaneously fulfilling the mitzvah of writing a sefer Torah.

Although the Bar Mitzvah boy may not have been living when the Torah was written (and it is questionable if the rule “leiv beit din matneh” would apply to the unborn), it is not a problem, since according to halachah, when one corrects even only one letter of a Sefer Torah, it is as though he wrote the entire Torah (Rambam, Sefer Torah 7:1). Hence, when a correction is made in a Torah after it has been written, all those who were born since it was written, through the rule of “leiv beit din matneh,” are now considered among the writers of this particular Torah. Thus, when they have an aliyah it is then considered their Sefer, which was written specifically for them.

Moreover, when one is called to the Torah, the reader shows him the first word of the portion to be read. When he looks at it, he is actually checking at least one letter in the Torah, which is equivalent to writing the entire Torah (ibid.), and the berachah he recites is a public testimony that the Sefer Torah is kosher.

Consequently, every Jew called to read the Torah at his Bar Mitzvah fulfills the mitzvah of writing a Torah by personally checking and attesting to the kashrut of the Sefer Torah.

My dear Bar Mitzvah, we discussed somewhat at length the mitzvah of writing a Torah and that according to the Rebbe, you actually performed the mitzvah when you were called up the to Torah for the first time.

One who commissions a sofer to write a Torah for him usually celebrates its completion with much fanfare. He thanks Hashem for granting him the merit to reach this milestone and he receives congratulations.

On behalf of all, I want to wish you Mazal Tov on performing this great mitzvah, and pray that all your life you will cherish the Torah and that it be considered the most valuable asset you possess.


A major topic in Parshat Vayeilech is the mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah. This is the final mitzvah of the 613 mitzvot. Writing a Torah is not easy. It is a tedious task with many laws and details.

Let me share with you my dear Bar Mitzvah, some lessons that can be derived from the halachot — laws — of how a Torah must be written.

On one hand, halachah requires that in a Sefer Torah every letter must be “mukafot gevil” — “surrounded by parchment.” (Menachot 29a) Therefore, the scribe must take heed that no letter touches another one. On the other hand, halachah also requires that the letters which comprise a word must be placed close enough to each other so that they do not appear as individual letters and not part of a word. From these two halachot we can derive a lesson of great importance regarding the Jewish people collectively and individually.

Firstly, every Jew must stand on his own two feet and observe the Torah and its mitzvot. No Jew should “lean” on another and rely on him. The Torah is the inheritance of every Jew, and everyone is obligated to observe and maintain it.

Although every Jew must be independent in his observance of Torah, there is at the same time the principle of areivut — responsibility — one for the other. One Jew should stand immediately alongside the other and be very close to him, to the extent that they appear as one collective body and not as egotistical individuals.

Another halachah is that a Sefer Torah is written with ink, and the only acceptable color is deep black. The following lessons can be derived from the ink:

While all colors can easily be combined one with another to form new colors, black is extremely difficult to change. Similarly, a Jew should not permit the influence of society or the vagaries of life to undermine or dilute his true “color” and strict adherence to Torah.

The ink must stick firmly to the parchment, and, if it “jumps off,” i.e. becomes detached, the Sefer Torah is pasul — disqualified. The implied lesson is that the Jew should adhere tenaciously to Torah and never became detached from it.

My dear Bar Mitzvah, the Gemara (Shabbat 105b) says that every Jew is compared to a Sefer Torah. It is our fervent wish and prayer that you always remember these lessons, and thus, you will be a most beautiful living Sefer Torah.