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Hilchos Tefillin 32 (page 84)
מסעיף ו עד אמצע סעיף ח טוב להוציא

The Difference Between the Sirtut of Mezuza and Tefillin
Which Layer of the Hide is Used for Stam
Tanning the Hide for Writing
941c9267-e278-4c4d-a6b4-273a4f3173d6.jpg The difference between the sirtut of mezuzah and tefillin

Mezuzos require sirtut (lines engraved into the parchment to mark where to write) for every line of text and around the four borders of the column. According to the Mechaber, tefillin require sirtut only for the top line, to make sure that it — and the subsequent lines that use it as a guide – will be straight. (There is an opinion that disqualifies tefillin with unnecessary sirtut lines.) According to the Rama, the four borders of the column should also be etched. A sofer whose writing will not be straight if it is based on only one etched line should etch the other lines from the back of the parchment. There is a machlokes as to whether a sefer Torah is treated as a mezuzah or tefillin regarding the rules of sirtut. Lechatchila it should be treated as a mezuzah. The standard practice today is to do a complete sirtut (every line and the four borders) for all stam.

(סעיף ו, ס"ק כ-כא, וביה"ל ד"ה אין, ד"ה ויש וד"ה וכן; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 29 ו־35)


Which layer of hide is used for stam

A processed, unseparated animal hide is called g’vil. It consists of two strata, an outer one called klaf and an inner one (towards the flesh of the animal) called duchsustus. Attached to the klaf is a layer called litza which some are accustomed to remove before using the klaf. Sifrei Torah are written on the outer side of the g’vil. Tefillin are written on the inner side (the side that touches the duchsustus) of the klaf. Mezuzos are written on the inner side (which faces the klaf) of the duchsustus. Today, the common practice is not to split the hide to make klaf. Instead, the unwanted layer is shaved off.

(סעיף ז, וביה"ל ד"ה ולא וד"ה צריך; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 36-37)

Tanning the hide for writing
The klaf should be processed by soaking it in gallnut water or a lime bath. Although today there are chemicals available for processing, it is preferable to continue the old-fashioned system of using lime. The skin should be soaked in lime until all the hair is removed. A hide that is taken out before all the hair is off is disqualified. (There is an opinion that permits it to be used if the hide sat in lime for four days.) The hide must be processed for the sake of Torah, tefillin or mezuzah. There is discussion in the poskim as to whether this rule is d’oraisa or d’rabonon. If there is a question about whether the hide was processed with the proper intentions, it is treated as a safek d’rabonon. A leniency can be applied in a time of need since there is an opinion which does not require the processing to be lishma.

(סעיף ח, ס"ק כג, וביה"ל ד"ה וצריך; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 38)

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  • Every letter in stam must be completely surrounded by parchment and no letter may touch another one.
  • Seven letters are crowned with triple tagimshin, ayin, tes, nun, zayin, gimel and tzadi. According to most poskim, the letters are kosher if the tagim were left off.
  • All stam must be written with the right hand. Materials written with the left hand can be used, without a beracha, only if no others are available.
  • At which stage is lishma required?
  • Which klaf is acceptable for mezuzah but not tefillin?
  • Using klaf prepared by a goy
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