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Our shul has numerous Torah scrolls that are passul (unusable). I'm assuming that they contain missing or rubbed-out letters, and other errors that would invalidate using the Torah.

Our shul occasionally brings in a sofer (scribe) to evaluate a few scrolls. He has checked a few of them and said that they are "beyond being repaired". I don't know who the sofer is, but when I asked the head of the ritual committee who had met with the sofer he said that in one case, the sofer said that the parchment was too brittle to make a correction. In another, he said that he probably could correct it, but because of the parchment's poor condition, it would fade again in a few months, and he would have to continuously correct it, which would make it a costly proposition.

I've listed two conditions that I'm aware of that would "unqualify" fixing a Torah. One, I see, is a physical condition, but I'd like to know what "too brittle" really means and how a sofer evaluates this.

The second criterion seemed to be cost-related. Does that factor qualify to not even bother fixing the Torah? In this case, the shul has enough spare scrolls, that they can manage with others, though, as a Torah reader, I believe that every Torah is precious and should be salvaged even temporarily. Can one make cost a factor?

Lastly, what other factors would allow a sofer or shul to dispense from repairing a Torah?

  • If it would need to be repaired very soon, then it has no Chezkat Kashrut now, no? – Double AA Jan 11 '16 at 22:17
  • @DoubleAA Please elaborate. – DanF Jan 11 '16 at 22:19
  • It would need to be completely rechecked due to the issues brought up by the sofer. If he suspects it to be difficult to repair due to the condition of the klaf, there are likely other problems which have developed. – Noach MiFrankfurt Jan 11 '16 at 22:21
  • @NoachmiFrankfurt Like what "other" problems? Let's say that he suggests replacing the klaf. That's quite costly. See my question. Can cost alone be used as a factor? – DanF Jan 11 '16 at 22:24
  • I was just giving my understanding of DoubleAA's comment. – Noach MiFrankfurt Jan 11 '16 at 22:39
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There could be a variety of problems with the klaf.

Klaf is made from the skin of cows. A "fresh" klaf has a texture or grain of "pores" which absorb the ink and hold it to the klaf. With time and use the texture/pore become smooth and the adhesion of the klaf becomes suspect, i.e the repairs (new ink) dont stick to the klaf.

Certain older klafs have an additional problem that they were coated with some sort of material (I think its some sort of plaster or lime) before they were written on. When this coating begins to deteriorate, fixing the torah is impossible due to the fact that as you try to make corrections additional adjacent parts of the klaf get damaged.

If the original sofer had a consistent issue that affects the entire scroll, like if a certain letter was improperly written or written in a way that makes it susceptible to becoming pasul, it becomes difficult to fix due to the large amount of work involved. If he had problems with many letters or with taggim it may cost significantly more than writing a new Torah.

Age can also cause the ink to fade or discolour, in some cases this causes the torah to be pasul. (I have seen a Torah in which the letters tuned RED!) Fixing such a sefer can equal a almost total rewrite, which can cost many times the cost of a new sefer (due to the need for erasure before writing) and may be impossible due to the condition of the klaf.

If the issue is a problem with the way one of Hashem's names is written, in some cases the psul in not correctable, the only solution being the replacement of the particular piece of parchment (Yeria).

If the Torah has such problems on many different pieces of parchment the Torah is unfixable.

If the writing in the sefer torah is of poor quality (very bidieved) a sofer may advise not atempting a fix of many small issues due to the cost vs benefit of buying a new Torah.

If the particular Torah has any special significance, i.e. belonged to a famous rabbi or chassidic rebbe, was rescued from germany during the holocaust or was originaly written by a famous sofer, some people may decide that it is worth to repair the scroll even a a price many times that of a new scroll.

  • Interesting answer. Are you a sofer, or how do you know these factors? – DanF Feb 29 '16 at 17:32
  • I learned how to be a sofer, though I dont currently write. – SamuelManuel Feb 29 '16 at 17:36
  • Could you not resolve the issue by stitching in a replacement panel with new klaf? either a pre-written one or a blank one that is then filled out (to prevent issues of ta'aseh v'lo min ha'asui)? – Isaac Kotlicky Feb 29 '16 at 17:55
  • I thought I addressed that, but i guess i was unclear. For one psul you could replace the yeria, a torah regarded as unfixable has numerous issues in numerous places. – SamuelManuel Feb 29 '16 at 18:02

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