Simanim 39-45 The Sofer

  • Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Mishna Berura
Yeshivat Har Etzion

SHIUR #21:Simanim 39 - 45

Pages 133 - 147


by Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon






            This siman discusses the characteristics of the scribe, known as the sofer sta"m (sta"m stands for Sefer Torah, tefillin, and mezuza).  The importance of having a Godfearing Jew as a sofer sta"m cannot be over-emphasized.


            Eiruvin 13a:

"It was taught: R. Meir said, When I came to R. Yishmael he asked me, 'What is your trade?'  I said to him, 'I am a scribe.'  Said he to me, 'My son, be careful in your work, for your work is the work of heaven.  For if you omit a letter or add a letter, you will have destroyed the entire world.'"


            There are certain errors which disqualify tefillin, yet are undetectable.  For example, if the sofer went back and fixed a letter which was invalid, the parasha is now not ke-sidra - it is written out of order.  With tefillin bought from a sofer who is not Godfearing, one cannot be certain that this did not take place.  Another example: if a letter became invalid and was fixed by scratching away part of it, this is "chak tochot" which renders tefillin unfit.  This, too, cannot be detected, and again we are dependent on the trustworthiness of the sofer. 


            R. Ganzfried writes (in Lishkat Ha-sofer) that a Godfearing scribe is to be chosen even at the expense of more beautiful writing.  Such cases, he says, are the subject of the verse "Man sees the outward appearance, while God sees the heart" (Shemuel I 16:7).


            Aside from potential disqualifications, there is another reason to favor a Godfearing scribe: "According to the kedusha with which they are written, so will the [divine] presence and illumination increase upon the letters" (Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato in the introduction to his work Kelach Pit'chei Chokhma).


            See the Shulchan Arukh in this siman, and also above in siman 32:20.








            Is it permitted to hang one's tefillin bag (containing tefillin) on a hanger?


            Berakhot 24a:

"Said R. Chanina, 'I saw Rebbi hanging up his tefillin.'  But there is a contradictory teaching: 'One who suspends his tefillin - his life will be suspended'?! ... It is not a difficulty - this refers to the strap, while that refers to the kezitza [if one hangs them by the strap with the ketzitza down, this is degrading; but if he hangs the ketzitza with the strap down, it is not].  Or, if you want, you can say that it makes no difference if it is the strap or the ketzitza that one hangs - both are forbidden; and that which Rebbe hung - was in its case."


            See the ruling of the Shulchan Arukh.  Is there significance to the gemara's first explanation?  See M.B. 40:2.




            The idea of fasting when a sefer Torah or pair of tefillin fall is found in the Magen Avraham (44:5) in the name of the Mishpetei Shmuel, and is also mentioned in M.B. 40:3.  There are a few points to be noted regarding this:


1) The minhag to fast is only if they fell without their case; with their case there is no need to fast (though it is a good idea to give some tzedaka).


2) According to the Shu"t Chayim Sha'al (12), if one has no strength to fast, he may redeem his fast with tzedaka (this is especially so for a talmid chakham whose learning will be decreased if he fasts).  The Mahari Brona (responsum 127, in the glosses) instructed his students who found themselves in this position to learn Torah an extra two or three hours that day.  (This solution is also brought by the Mishna Berura 571:4 for one who has transgressed but has not the strength to fast).


3) The Shla (Mitzvat Tefillin, 212) writes that if the tefillin landed on a table, there is no need to fast.


4) The Gri"sh Natanson (in his glosses at the end of the Shulchan Arukh, on siman 44) suggests that the need to fast is only for the tefillin shel rosh, because of the shin.  However, he concludes that one should fast for the tefillin shel yad as well (unlike the Tosfot Chayim on the Chayei Adam 14:25, who writes that one need not fast for the shel yad).




            (This law is related to the one regarding tefillin in the bathroom,as discussed later in siman 43.)


            It is forbidden to have sexual relations in a room which contains tefillin unless they are in a double container.


            The Shulchan Arukh writes, "This is the case when the second [container] is not for them alone, for if it is for them alone, even a hundred are considered as one."


            See the Rema and the Mishna Berura who say that it does not matter whether it is the inner or the outer container which is not for tefillin alone, as long as one of them has another purpose as well.  And see M.B. 40:7 where he says that if one covers his tefillin with his tallit inside a case, this is considered a double covering, since the tallit is not a container which is only for tefillin.




            See the Shulchan Arukh.  Similarly, one may not sit on a bench with tefillin on it (and this applies to sefarim as well - YD 282:7; and see the Arukh Ha-shulchan, se'if 4).




            Read the Shulchan Arukh, and see the question that the Mishna Berura brings in the name of the Shulchan Shlomo. 


            The Arukh Ha-shulchan writes as well that it is improper - for us - to eat even a snack with tefillin on.   However, the Teshurat Shai (Mahadura Kama, responsum 215) writes that it is permitted even for us, though one who wishes to be more stringent is encouraged to do so. The Chatam Sofer was accustomed to learn with his tefillin on, and while doing so would drink a cup of coffee when it was offered to him (Minhagei Chatam Sofer siman 1).  This lenient view is also held by the Tzitz Eliezer (vol. VII, 26).


            In practice, if one is about to take off his tefillin, then it is preferable not to eat anything before he takes them off.  But if he plans to leave them on for a period of time, it appears that he can rely upon the lenient opinion (regarding eating a small amount of food) and thus merit a longer time of fulfilling the mitzva of tefillin.








            A tallit bag is considered a "tashmish mitzva" - an object used for the sake of a mitzva; it is therefore permissible to put other things inside it.  In contrast, a tefillin bag is a "tashmish kedusha" - an intrinsically holy object - and thus may not be used for holding anything else (see what we wrote above in siman 21).  See the Shulchan Arukh (here).


            It is therefore forbidden to place a siddur inside a tefillin bag, with two exceptions:


1) If one stipulated so from the start, then it is permitted.  For the case of one who never stipulated, but nevertheless consistently put other things into his tefillin bag, see M.B. 42:11.


2) If one placed his tefillin bag into another receptacle (e.g., a nylon bag), it is permitted to place other things within this second bag, since it is a tashmish de-tashmish - an object that is meant to serve another object which is used for the sake of a mitzva (M.B. 42:11).





            The issue of bringing tefillin into the bathroom is one which arises each time one wishes to enter a public restroom but is carrying around his tefillin (or sefarim).


            The tefillin are required to be in a double container, and one of these must be not unique to the tefillin (see what we wrote above in siman 40).  See M.B. 43:24.


            Regarding sifrei kodesh, see M.B. 43:25 who cites a dispute whether one or two coverings are required.  And in Da'at Torah (YD 282), it is written in the name of the Radbaz that one may be lenient with script that is not Ashuri.  In any case, be-di'avad, if one finds himself in the bathroom and then realizes that he has sefarim (even in Ashuri script) with only a single covering, he need not leave (Shevet Ha-kehati vol. I, responsum 58).






            It is forbidden to sleep in tefillin.  See M.B. 44:1 for the reason.  And see above, in siman 38, what we wrote regarding passing gas.






            The issue of entering a cemetery with tefillin on is no longer a practical one.  However, entering one with tzitzit hanging out is a relevant question - see what we wrote in siman 23.



(This shiur was translated by Pnina Baumbgarten.)