By COLlive reporter
R’ Yisroel Dovid Wolf, the Chicago resident who was given a summons to Vaad Rabbonei Lubavitch, the Chabad rabbinical court based in Crown Heights, for the disputed findings of his Mezuzah expose, says he’s willing to appear but with one condition.
Wolf was called to Din Torah by Rabbis Moshe Klein of Hasofer, Gad Sebag of Oraita, Eliezer Lipa Shapira of Shapira Stam Center, Yosef Liran, Yitzchok Mishulovin of Merkaz Stam, Dovid Rimler of Judaica World, and Mendel Vogel of Hamafitz Judaica for “slandering them and causing them to lose money.”
Wolf was given 10 days to respond to the 27 Teves 5779 summons after he presented a widely shared video claiming that 5 vendors of Sifrei Torah, Tefillin and Mezuzos (“Stam”) in Crown Heights sold non-kosher mezuzos and 2 others were selling Mezuzos of “very poor quality.”
In responding to the summons on Thursday, a copy of which he provided to COLlive.com, Wolf states that he agrees to stand before a Beis Din, but not one in New York.
“I am certainly prepared to stand before this ‘Bais Din kavua’ for a Din Torah here in Chicago,” the Chicago native wrote. “Traveling to New York to conduct a Din Torah would incur tremendous expenses for me, and would also entail lost time from my work and income from my livelihood.”
In regards litigants’ claims that he caused them a monetary loss, Wolf said: “What they are characterizing as ‘monetary loss’ is actually nothing more than the loss of revenue that was being wrongfully gained by an ongoing practice of stealing through deceit because they have been selling posul mezuzos.”
He added that as soon as “an individual has knowingly written or sold posul mezuzos, it becomes our immediate obligation to publicize the matter, in order to save hundreds and thousands of the public from being victimized.”
BACKING FROM JERUSALEM
Wolf, who assists his father’s organization “Chicago Mitzvah Campaign,” which sells Tefillin and Mezuzos to locals, turned to Rabbi Moshe Veiner, a Rov of the Chabad community in Ramot in Jerusalem who is a posek in the laws of Stam, to weigh in on his findings.
Rabbi Veiner, author of the sefer “Oitiyoit Horav,” and who runs an online blog on Stam questions, has sent a written response to 5 questions on the issue.
“I purchased 80 Mezuzos from a number of stores and when I ordered them I specifically said that I want Mezuzos that are Kosher L’chatchilah,” Wolf wrote in a letter to Rabbi Veiner.
“I then took the Mezuzos to a qualified sofer (magia), who I personally know well, to check them. When he began examining them, he said that many can’t even be checked for they are completely improperly written, according to Halacha.
“He checked over the mezuzos and found many psulim (declared invalid) such as letters touching, letters split, excessive gaps between letters in a word, insufficient space between words, and a number of crowns on the letters that were missing.
“I then took the mezuzos to a second certified and reliable sofer (magia), whom I know, and like the first sofer, he too was shocked and amazed (at the quality or lack thereof).
“There are some who tell me that all these flaws that I am presenting are not really disqualifying flaws and don’t even render the Mezuzos to be B’dieved (kosher after the fact) and they are Kosher L’chatchila (kosher to begin with),” Wolf says.
Here are the 5 questions and answers:
Question #1: What is the Din (ruling) on a Mezuzah that has an evident split in a letter? And what is the Din of a Mezuzah that has a split in a letter that is not discernible at first glance but only upon closer scrutiny? Is such a Mezuzah considered Kosher Lichatchila without any corrections needed to be made, or are they only kosher Bdieved, or are they Posul.
Rabbi Veiner: Any letter that has an easily discernable split anywhere in the body of the letter is Posul. There are some splits that are permissible to be repaired by Teffilin and Mezuzot, even after subsequent words have been written, and some (split words) that cannot be repaired after subsequent words have been written, as is explained in Shulchan Aruch Chapter 32, paragraphs 16 and 30.
A break (in a letter) that is not discernable (just is seen only with a magnifying glass) is not considered a split and is Kosher. (Based on the ruling found in the Responsa Doivev Meishorim From the Rav of Tshebin). If however, the split is evident after close (unaided) scrutiny then (the Mezuzah) is not considered Kosher Lichatchila. And must be corrected.
Question #2: Concerning words that are written close to each other, or excessive space gaps between letters in a word which cause a child to read the word incorrectly. Is such a Mezuzah considered Kosher Lichatchila, or is it only (Kosher) Bedieved, or is it Posul?
Rabbi Veiner: It is posul (Invalid) as explained in Shulchan Aruch Chapter 32, paragraph 46.
Question #3: Mezuzos that are missing the Crowns on the letters shatna’z get’z, are they Kosher Lichatchila, as they are, or (are they) only (kosher) Bedieved, or are they Posul.
Rabbi Veiner: They are Kosher Bedieved, and Lichatchilah they should be corrected. (Shulchan Aruch Chapter 36, paragraph 5).
Question #4: A mezuzah where two letters are touching each other, and the Alter Rebbe writes about this situation that “there are those that say it is kosher even without scraping off (the extra ink) but one should be more strict and scrape off (the extra ink)”. Does this mean that it is Kosher Lichatchila as is with the letters touching, or it is (only Kosher) Bedieved, or is it Posul as long as the letters are touching.
Rabbi Veiner: Any letter touching another letter should be considered Posul even Bedieved till he scrapes off the extra ink. As is explained in The Alter Rebbe Shulchon Aruch Chapter 32, paragraph 19 concerning a Chof Sofit that extends to the end of the parchment, that is ruled to be posul till he scrapes off (the extra ink). Based on the ruling of the Shu”a and the Magen Avraham there. That in fact is the custom to disqualify any letter that is not surrounded with (clear) parchment till he scrapes off (the extra ink).
Question #5: I would also like to clarify on all the above if there would be a difference (in law) between a Mezuzah that someone purchases for himself and a Mezuzah that someone purchases for him as Mivtzoim.
Rabbi Veiner: No difference.
In a letter released on Thursday, Rabbi Moshe Klein, owner of Hasofer which is in business for 36 years in Crown Heights and has gotten the worst mark in Wolf’s expose, argued that his products were kosher “without concern.”
In the letter co-signed by Hasofer’s in-house sofer and magia Rabbi Faitel Lewin, they called Wolf’s expose “a campaign to question our credibility and damage our reputation.”
They pointed out that Hasofer only sells Stam that is kosher l’chatchila and they stand behind the kashrus of the mezuzos declared invalid in the expose.
They said “a mezuza’s kashrus must be determined in the context of its overall writing quality” and that these mezuzos were the “basic” ones, commonly called “Mivtzoim Mezuzos” offered in Chabad outreach visits.
“The decision to offer a class of “basic” Mezuzos has been approved by Lubavitcher Rabbonim over the years to allow those who would not otherwise fulfill this Mitzvah D’Oraisa (from the Torah) to do so,” they explained.