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Op Ed: Mezuzah Controversy, Explained

This OpEd was submitted anonymously, and its sources verified by crownheights.info.

Like everyone else, I was smitten by the horror video posted regarding the state of safrus today. I needed clarity and decided to dig deeper. I found out that the noise is all pathetic and the truth is there for anyone looking for it. I’m not part of this fight, but I hate to see reshayim govrim bo – evil winning and saying that all the mezuzos my ba’alei batim have on their homes are pasul. What this individual has brought upon countless families, from children being bullied to fathers not knowing how they’ll pay their bills, is astounding – and we are to blame for allowing it.

Once the letter stating Rabbi Vainer’s opinion came up, I knew I had to get to the bottom of it quick. I corresponded with sofrim and Rabbi Vainer, and found out that Wolf is actually misleading everyone. Here is what I found out:

I’ll be breaking this into a few parts:

  • What is the real question?
  • Why are stores actually selling the cheaper mezuzos?
  • So what is and isn’t kosher in mezuzos and what does Rabbi Vainer actually hold?
  • But didn’t a sofer say they’re pasul, so Wolf should be believed?
  • Words about the sofer
  • Words of advice
  • Now, an explanation as to how b’dieved works
  • Oversight

Let’s go:

What is the real question?

Untrue:

It’s a question of trust. Once mezuzos are (seemingly) found pasul, those stores shouldn’t be trusted.

Truth:

If comparing $42 mezuzahs and up, the mezuzos from the stores that came out on top in the unscientific experiment are far from being the nicest ones around at each price-point. For one to push people to go to one specific store because “he has the best mezuzahs” is misleading. Know that once you reach the low price point of $42, those that you think are better may actually be of a lower halachic standard than the rest of the stores.

Cheaper mezuzos we will get to in a minute, but all should be trusted in their $42 and up range.

Untrue:

The question of kashrus applies to all mezuzos

Truth:

We’re only dealing with the mezuzos that are less than $40. All the more expensive mezuzos are written to be more mehudar.

Real Question:

Are the cheaper (below $40) mezuzos Kosher?

Why are stores actually selling the cheaper mezuzos:

Untrue:

We’re dealing with a situation where people will just buy more expensive mezuzos

Truth:

People buy cheaper mezuzos either because they can’t afford and/or they’re for mivtzoyim and people will be less likely to spend more for a mezuzah. How many times have we heard people’s shock at how much mezuzos cost and them politely saying “ah, never mind. I’m ok.”

So the real question is only whether cheaper mezuzahs should be sold at all. This is a question of whether one can kosher the mezuzos rather than whether one can pasul these mezuzos. Rabbi Vainer in his emails to me advised that for mivtzoyim and people who cannot afford more expensive mezuzos, one may lechatchila write b’dieved mezuzos – mezuzos with leniencies. At the end of this I’ll explain how b’dieved is lechatchila good.

So what is and isn’t kosher in mezuzos and what does Rabbi Vainer actually hold

Untrue:

Rabbi Vainer holds that mivtzoyim mezuzos need the same standard as all other mezuzos

Truth:

Rabbi Vainer wrote to me that he isn’t against mivtzoyim mezuzos that are lchatchila written with leniencies and heteirim. Furthermore, one SHOULD rely on the more lenient opinions so that more Jews can keep the mitzvah of mezuzah.

But didn’t a sofer say they’re pasul, so Wolf should be believed?

Untrue:

Safrus is black and white and blanket rules govern it

Truth:

Much of safrus is judged case by case. Most of the time the rule doesn’t apply as I’ll explain below

Untrue:

Safrus is objective and everyone will have the same opinion

Truth:

Safrus has parts of it which are objectively black and white and parts of it which are subjective

Let’s break this down a bit:

Objective:

  • Must be written
  • Must be written on parchment
  • Must have the parshiyos of Shema and Vehaya
  • Must be written by a scribe
  • Must be written for the sake of mezuzah
  • Etc.

Subjective:

  • Letters must look correct – how far misshapen can letters be and still be kosher, this is subjective. In fact, the very same sofer or Rav given two of the exact same sefeikos might disqualify one and not the other because it’s inherently subjective. For cheaper mivtzoyim tefilin and mezuzos one can follow the more lenient approach AS RABBI VAINER ADVISED!!!

 

  • Spacing must be correct – what is considered too much space? The halacha is that there needs to be space for a letter yud between each word (in general), but how big of a yud is subjective and also depends on the writing. Look at the examples of the mezuzos checked in the video and see how many other spacing issues you find with THE MEZUZOS THAT SOFER SAID ARE 100% KOSHER. It’s obvious how subjective it is. For cheap mezuzos one can follow the more lenient approach AS RABBI VAINER ADVISED!!!

 

  • Letters must not touch – The halacha is that if a sofer reads the mezuzah, without a magnifying glass, and the letters do not appear to touch, the mezuzah is kosher. If the sofer sees letters that are touching, of course he’ll make sure to correct it if he halachically can and pasul the mezuzah if he can’t. However, there are times when one sofer won’t see the letters touching and will consider it kosher while another will and consider it pasul. Both are legitimate opinions. The same is in every halacha where rabbis disagree, one can follow either. For cheaper mivtzoyim tefilin and mezuzos one can follow the more lenient approach AS RABBI VAINER ADVISED!!!

 

As we see, although Shulchan Aruch states rules, how those rules are applied is subjective. Spacing is an issue, but what is considered spacing is a question. Touching is an issue, but only if the sofer sees it easily. This rule makes it subjective. A reliable sofer who is yarei shamayim has a mesorah of how it’s applied and follows it. And when he’s unsure he asks a rov. For Wolf to come out and state unequivocally that all the sofrim’s mesorah’s are worthless is total apikorsus.

Words about the sofer:

  1. This sofer is part of the more stringent sofrim. But like by a rabbi, it’s easy to be machmir but more respectable to be able to understand a need and try to be more lenient – so long as halacha allows.
  2. When dealing with cheaper mezuzos, there is no way a machmir sofer will say they’re kosher; same as when you need a heter, going to a more stringent rov will not get you that heter.

Words of advice:

  1. Explain to ba’alei batim/ anash that these mezuzos are the simplest kind and they should upgrade when/if they can.
  2. When checking these mezuzos, take them to a sofer who UNDERSTANDS and IDENTIFIES with the concept of mivtzoyim mezuzos and the need for cheaper mezuzos – just like you would choose a rov to whom to ask a shaila to.

When putting all this together, one realizes that although Wolf makes himself sound credible, he’s far from it. He’s narcissistic, ignorant, too full of himself to be able to comprehend anything other than what he believes. If he doesn’t want to buy cheaper mezuzos, don’t. But don’t go ahead and decide that there should be no cheaper mezuzos at all. The cheaper mezuzos have a place and SHOULD be used for mivtzoyim purposes. (The students of Rabbi Akiva also only saw their way and couldn’t comprehend any other way. We see where that got them…)

Now, an explanation as to how b’dieved works:

There are a number of categories of b’dieved. Among them:

  1. Once something was done – such as a mezuzah already having been written – and we have the choice of either saying it’s kosher or saying it’s pasul and needing burial. In such a case we try to be lenient so that the mezuzah doesn’t have to be pasul.
  2. A person who cannot afford better or, in a case like mivtzoyim, where he won’t want them at more expensive, the case itself causes this mezuzah before it is even written to fall into a b’dieved category. Therefore, any leniencies that we would give to b’dieved mezuzos after they were already written, we lechatchila give to the writing of these mezuzos.

The cheapest mezuzos fall into the second category. Therefore, sofrim write the cheapest mezuzos quickly and with those b’dieved leniencies, however these mezuzos are kosher lechatchila to be used.

Overseer/hashgacha:

Rabbi Vainer suggested overseer/hashgacha, and that may be overdue. However, let no one come and say that the mezuzos that so many people have on their homes are pasul.

48 Comments

  • 1. Chaim wrote:

    So are you telling me that Rav Moshe Veiner holds that Mivtzoim Mezuzos don’t need Tagin? Are you telling me that when he wrote “אין הבדל” about Mivtzoim Mezuzos, he didn’t mean what he said?

    Reply
  • 2. Thank you! wrote:

    Finally, someone’s sharing the truth. Yasher koach for having the guts to stand up for what’s right

    Reply
  • 3. I'll Staying Where I Am wrote:

    I’m continuing to shop where I’ve always shopped. I knew this was one big over-hyped balloon of thin air. Thanks for the clarity.

    Reply
  • 4. Mezuzah customer wrote:

    Wow wow. Thank you for this beautiful and insightful eye opener. This should put this matter at rest.

    Reply
  • 5. To #1 wrote:

    Doesn’t need is the misleading word. Is kosher without is correct. Bdieved a mezuzah does not need tagim. In a bdieved case, you can lechatchila write without tagim

    Reply
    • 6. Veod likra wrote:

      Only the HaRambam needs a minimal Tagim requirement, but the Rosh claims all Tagim, even so a square head of the left head of the sha’atnez-gets letters is sufficient to fulfill his very stringent requirement.
      As you said, ONE letter without tagim, if the head is squarish, does not in any way ‘shoot’ the mezuzah, chas veshalom.
      nb. The mezuzoth of $32 are much nicer than the $42, somebody should remark the calligraphic skills of these sofrim, some mezuzots are really bad, and not from the cheapest. Aesthetic is at the eyes of the beholder, i know, but these Kosher mezuzos as seen in screen [even with this persisting ugly red seal disqualifying them for ‘economical, competition, or jealousy’ reasons, and certainly both] are straight, well balanced on teach line, beautiful fonts. Dayanim, Rabanim, Talmidey-Chachamim let be mezakey harabim in this beautiful mitzvah.

  • 8. TO # 5 wrote:

    What’s your source? Tagin are vital to the tziyur haois. However, there is almost no need to pasul a mezuza just because it doesnt have tagin, as they can easily be added. In some cases if the mezuza is so small that they cannot be added, then you have a problem, but in this case they can add the tagin easily. In such a case it is unlikely that anyone who checks such a mezuza and is a yorei shomaim will not just make the simple corrections that are completely necessary and not optional. This includes tagei kaballah

    Reply
    • 9. Milhouse wrote:

      The question is whether it’s possul until the tagim are added. If it is, then it cannot be sold, even for mivtzo’im; the fact that something can be fixed does not make it kosher without fixing. A leaky roof can be fixed, but until it is fixed it will continue to leak and you will continue to get wet.

    • 11. Milhouse wrote:

      Yes, but the alter rebbe paskens sofek de’oraisa lehachmir, that it is possul until the tagim are added.

  • 13. Anonymous wrote:

    Wow, what a well written and well explained article! Now I can hopefully make a more informed decision, or at least I know to ask a Rav instead of jumping to another store that might have the same issues.

    Reply
  • 14. Beyond confused wrote:

    But one thing I do know…. this video is an absolute disgrace & no good can ever come of disseminating such hate wrapped up as “community information.” Rabbi Wolf needs to beg mechila immediately.

    Reply
    • 16. Anonymous wrote:

      It says that CrownHeights.info verified its validity. Anyway you don’t have to, look up the facts yourself (not what others tell you to believe) or ask a Rav.

      I don’t blame the author for wanting to stay anonymous. Who in their right mind would want this kind of publicity.

      I for one am grateful to the author.

  • 17. to #5 wrote:

    i think there where taggim missing in places where if you add them it might connect with the letter above it.

    Reply
  • 18. Saddened wrote:

    Thank you for writing this. When I first saw the video it was a bit shocking. But one thing that didn’t make sense to me was his haste to say everything is not good without any word from a rov. I’m not to familiar with safrus but I did come across arrogant and very one sided. So this does put the issue in to prospective. So thanks again. One thing that I learned from this is the dangers of social media. And to be very weary of someone who says that he’s just doing it for g-d! (The ones who screams the loudest are the one who have the most to hide) a devider NOT a uniter!

    Reply
    • 19. Sofer wrote:

      A sofer IS a rav, as far as safrus is concerned. A rav can only say whether they were truly possul or not if he is also a trained sofer.

  • 20. Nachman Sanowicz wrote:

    Being this comes down to he said and he said

    Rabbi Wolf should release or publish the mezuzos from each vendor mezua by mezuza on a website with the reasons that his sofer or sofrim pasel the mezuzos that he claims to be Posul with mekoros. Let each vendor respond for every Mezuza that Rabbi Wolfs sofrim paseled why they think is Kosher 100% with Mekoros. Then we will open this up to all the sofrim and Rabonim who know safrus to give their opinion with mekoros.

    Lets have true transparency. a Klorkeit

    Reply
    • 22. Chaim wrote:

      He has already released images of every single Mezuzoh, with all their problems highlighted.

    • 23. Great idea wrote:

      I am still not sure that the video was the correct way to go about this. I am not sure why he wouldn’t send them emails and have a written record of communication and their resistance to correct their mistakes and then as a last resort after warning them this will go public then only possibly would this be allowed.

      With that being said your idea is a perfect road forward. The problem with VRL is “ZERO TRANSPARENCY” which equals corruption. As Usual the issues lay with the “leaders”.

  • 25. Where are the Emails? wrote:

    For some funny reason they aren’t posting the actual email from Rabbi Veiner. But there is a partial picture at the beginning of an email. You can see that the fellow that wrote it is attacking Rabbi Veiner for answering simple Halachic questions from Wolf. Then you can see that he asks if it’s not OK to use kulos in Halacha to make mezuzos available to people that otherwise wouldn’t be able to buy. And from the visible words it can be seen that Rabbi Veiner responds that it’s acceptable to be meikel. The words “lechatchila” and “bedieved” are not even mentioned once. Because of course “bedieved” can’t be done “lechatchila”. That’s an oxymoron. And by the way, the BD of Crown Heights clearly banned any mezuzos written without every single halachic requirement, even ones that aren’t pasul even lechatchila. Moshe Klein and the other sellers have all said that all of their mezuzos are 100% kosher lechatchila, so if they have been selling bedieved mezuzos that’s still fraud, even if it would be permissible in general.

    Reply
    • 26. Nothing to see wrote:

      Clearly you didn’t read this article. There is zero basis in halacha to say something is NOT kosher when there is a rov who is machesher it. It may not be a rov who listen to so you don’t buy them. You watch a nine minute video and made up your mind. You have no interest in the truth. You are here for the loshon Hora! (which I most admit is pretty compelling)

    • 27. wow wrote:

      First of all where is the Rav that says it is fine. Second of all the Crown Heights Beis Din already banned such things 25 years ago.

  • 28. Shliach wrote:

    I watched his video and from what he said he made it clear. That most of the mezuzah that he bought from the stores besides 2 stores were all decent quality just needs someone to go over it. wants someone go over it it and make the repair it will be kosher or they would see a issue and put it aside

    Only 2 stores had bad quality that there is nothing to work with and that they shouldnt be on the market

    Reply
    • 29. Nothing to see wrote:

      You also did not read this article. You watch a video by a kid with major anger issues and take his word for it. And that’s fine. But don’t pretend that you care about the truth.

  • 30. Danny wrote:

    Grow up everyone!

    Just because you don’t like his approch of the video, does not mean all the Mezzuzos are Kosher.

    Everyone is trying their best to make, even a Bedieved Mezzuza to be Kosher for Mivtzoyim.

    Yes, he may have been too strong in his video, please, please, stop lowering the standards of the Mezzuzos, to make him look bad

    Reply
    • 31. Shmuel wrote:

      I agree with Danny.

      This matter should be addressed, not by Wolf, or a Safer, even the best one out there.
      All 80 Mezzuzos should be taken to the Rov to paskan if they are Kosher, and to what degree.

      The million dollar question is.
      Can one sofer have the right to say Posul, and another sofer say Kosher, and their both correct.

      If so, Wolf just happen to go to a Sofer, which had a right to say Posul, then If so, then Wolf told the truth about the Mezzuzos, just his approch was off?

      Bottom line! All the Mezzuzos may be Kosher to some respected sofrim.

      Could be some of the Mezzuzos could be Kosher to some sofrim.

      Could be, that all the same Mezzuzos may be Posul.

  • 32. Observer wrote:

    Wow and the author of this article is not narcissistic?! This author is less genuine than wolf. Attacking wolf and his personality rather than dealing with the issues objectively. You misconstrue the issue wolf raises in his video twisting it to things he never claimed and then washing it away (as if you are discrediting 90% of what he said) and then you end up with (what you claim is the only issue , which is in fact)the only issue wolf raised.
    What a shallow and cheap op-ed

    Reply
    • 34. Suggestion wrote:

      Wow u attack the writer of the op Ed for not being objective and defacing r wolf but you yourself basically call the writer a narcissist which is exactly the problem that you had with the writer. So maybe ur a narcissist and ur criticism is also unobjective!

    • 35. Confused wrote:

      You must be joking. How in the world did you come to the conclusion that the author agrees with 90% of what Wolf said? Looks like you did not read it

  • 36. Simple solution. wrote:

    Where are the mezzuzot now? Why is no one speaking about that? It’s weird. There is the actual evidence somewhere and we are arguing about personalities.

    Have both sides chose Rabonim and let them decide. The truth is if the stores have a Rav that is Machshir the mezzuzot it is irrelevant if someone else says they are Pasul.

    Reply
    • 37. Sofer wrote:

      It’s not irrelevant if the rav is being machshir things that are mamash possul. That’s either fraud or ignorance. I was told by the sofer at a store in boro park that the cheapest ones were ones that he had not gone over to fix any problems. Every single one I looked at had real problems, including one that was possul and unfixable. How anyone can sell those in good conscience is beyond me…

  • 38. Dovid wrote:

    I showed the slides of the mezuzos to a number of rabannim and sofrim and everyone agreed the ones marked by wolfs sofer as possul were mostly possul. I wanted to know for myself and now I know.

    I also suggest the author of the article do the same. If some rov or posek is saying these mezuzos are good he has the obligation to publicize. I doubt he will find. Certainly not moshe weiner, he wouldnt not say they are kosher. People have asked him but he doesnt want to go on the record about these specific mezuzos.

    I challenge the author to find one credible rabbi to say publicly say even half of these mezuzos are kosher and acceptable to sell as is, even for mivtzoyim

    Also, the one that had the poorest quality i was told straight out by everyone who saw them that it was fraud to sell such a level mezuzos because even after a high level check it would be impossible to make them kosher

    Reply
  • 39. To # 17 wrote:

    On which site can we see every individual mezuzah and it’s psulim. The video is in general and a few mezuzos and it runs to quick. Nachman is correct publish every individual Mezuza and its pesulim and the vendors can reply on an individual basis. This way the arguments will not be artificial and superficial but with sources grounded in Halocho.

    Reply
  • 42. Izzy wrote:

    I dont know what video you watched but thos guy quite clear that these mezuzah needed fixing and 2 stores are selling stuff beyond his comprension such low quality that cant even work on it or fix it

    Those stores need to up their game or stop sellling safrus

    Reply
  • 43. Izzy wrote:

    He posted the same time as initial video. a slow video of every mezuza and a drop box of of pic of every mezuza
    Rsbbi wolf tried to be as open as possible

    Reply
  • 44. Shmuel wrote:

    Agreed upon.
    We should publish every one of the 80 Mezzuzos, without saying, which were Kosher/Posul, and not no mention which one is from which vendor.
    I think in the end, it may have been best for the Vendors to have been quiet, and increase the quality of their Mivtzoyim Mezzuzos. PERIOD.
    Otherwise, it does not look good either way. A. If it turns out to be all kinda Kosher, then why are they selling it?
    B. If even ONE Mezuzah is to be found by any of the Vendors, then they “shot themselves in the foot”

    The way I see it, is a win,win for Wolf!
    It’s going to be VERY difficult for Rabbonim to go on record and say ALL the “Posul” Mezzuzos are Lechatchila Kosher. Never going to happen.

    Reply
    • 45. You missed the point wrote:

      You missed the whole point of kinda kosher being kosher lechatchila for mivtzyim and when there is a need

  • 46. mivtzayim mezuzos wrote:

    r’ wolf expresses that these are the mivtzoyim mezuzos. And personally i do not feel it is right to spend $40 to $50 on a non kosher mezuza even if it is for mivtzayim. my son not in ny bought for mivtzayim 4 mezuzos. after a month someone told him you should have them checked. they were all passul.

    Reply
    • 47. Kosher wrote:

      The point of the article is that these mezuzos are kosher. Like a leniency from a rabbi that may not be recognized by all Rabbi’s but it permissible

  • 48. Judge favorably wrote:

    Great article. Thanks for posting!

    Not everyone can “get” the nuanced points of the article (especially about the גדר of mivtzoyim mezzuzos being l’chatchilah okay to use, even though they are a non-l’chatchilah mezuzah.)

    Yes, it was wrong to slander and accuse ehrliche yidden of “fraud”. And with this article’s insightful clarification, hopefully the damage to the vendors was minimized.

    We also must be דן לכף זכות Wolf and not just believe everything that was said and written about him. Not everything you read online about someone is true either.

    Reply

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