From the Rav’s Desk: Fixing two letters which are found touching by the Parshiyos of Tefillin

  1. Question: [Sunday, 26th Adar 1, 5782]

I sent my Rashi pair of Tefillin to be checked by a sofer for the first time after my Bar Mitzvah and the Sofer said that they are invalid, being that he found two letters which were touching each other [the tip of one of the letters was touching the bottom of one of the letters above it]. Obviously, I was very distraught, as he told me that unfortunately it ends up that I never fulfilled the mitzvah of Tefillin before. [My father even had the Tefillin sent to two different Magihim before my Bar Mitzvah, and they both said it was valid!] He also told me that he has no way of fixing it being that the Alter Rebbe Brings a stringent opinion regarding Chak Tochos which forbids fixing letters that touch to each other if they were not originally made in a valid method. So, the Sofer basically told me that I need to purchase new Parshiyos. I decided to bring them to another Sofer for a second opinion, and he told me that there is absolutely no problem in fixing it and erasing the area that the two letters are touching, and doing so does not transgress any ruling of the Alter Rebbe. Can you please give me a Pesak Halacha regarding the seeming dispute between the two Sofrim.



The second Sofer is correct that the mistake in question can be fixed by simply erasing the area of ink in which the two letters are touching, and there is no known stringency of Admur in this regard, and on the contrary, he explicitly rules that it is valid and doing so does not consist of the invalidation of Lo Kesidran or Chak Tochos, being that both letters that are touching are completely legible despite the touching. To also note that most likely this touching invalidation occurred with time [i.e. such as due to moisture or sweat and the like penetrating the Tefillin] and was not originally around when the Tefillin was first purchased. Hence, it is quite likely that you did fulfill the mitzvah until a certain point, and it is possible that according to some Poskim you actually fulfilled the Mitzvah the entire time, as some Poskim do not deem it invalid if the lack of Hekef Gevil occurred later on. Furthermore, the invalidation only invalidates one of the pairs of Tefillin and not both, and hence at least one of the two mitzvahs were certainly fulfilled every day.

Explanation: It is a clear ruling that each letter of the Parshiyos of Tefillin must be written in a full and complete way without it touching any other letter, and must be completely surrounded by blank parchment from all sides, otherwise it is invalid. This concept is known as Mukaf Gevil. Now, although it is disputed amongst the Poskim as to whether the invalidation of Hekef Gevil applies only in a case that the letter was originally written without Hekef Gevil, or even in a case that it was originally written properly and then later lost its Hekef Gevil, practically, we rule stringently to require it to be fixed. This especially regarding two letters touching in which case many Poskim rule that according to all opinions lack of Hekef Gevil invalidates even if it was originally written in a valid method without the letters touching. Hence, the above Sofer is certainly correct in deeming the Tefillin problematic if he found the letters were touching. However, this does not necessarily mean that the problem is not fixable.

In general, fixing a letter through erasing ink enters into the Halachic issues of both Chok Tochos and Shelo Kisidran. Now, the issue of Chok Tochos only applies when the invalidation is intrinsically within the letter,  due to extra ink which makes it illegible or invalidated. However, if the letter is written properly and is simply invalid due to it touching another letter and hence transgressing the requirement of Mukaf Gevil, then it can be validated by simply erasing the area that it is touching. This applies whether the invalidation occurred at the very beginning of the writing or occurred later on. However, if indeed the letter became illegible due to it touching another letter, then it would follow the regular rules of Chok Tochos, and simply erasing the area of attachment would not suffice. Likewise, some Poskim rule that if the entire length of the letter is attached to another letter then erasing the attached area does not suffice. [In both of these cases, the invalidation of Lo Kisidran would apply.]

Now, regarding the issue of Lo Kesidran, at times, an invalidation in a letter can be fixed even after one continued writing, and not transgress the requirement of Kisidran, thus deeming the Parsha as Kosher, while in other instances it is not possible to fix it, being that it transgresses the requirement of Kisidran. The general rule is that only if the invalidation is intrinsically within the letter itself, such as due to it not appearing like the letter it is meant to be, then it does not help to fix it out of order. If, however, the letter itself is completely valid, and the invalidation is due to an external factor, then it can be fixed. Thus, if a letter is invalid due to it touching another letter [which is invalid due to Hekef Gevil] and remains legible, then it can be fixed even out of order by simply erasing the area of touch. 


Sources: See regarding the requirement of Mukaf Gevil: Admur 32:5 and 19; Michaber 32:4; Menachos 34a; Shabbos 103b; See regarding the dispute if a letter loses its Hekef Gevil later on and that we are initially stringent: Admur 32:16 and 19; Michaber 32:15; See regarding if the above dispute applies even if letters later touch: Admur 32:5 [implies that it is still debate and main opinion is to be lenient although initially is to be stringent]; Implication of Admur 32:28 that is invalid; Implication of Michaber 32:18 that is invalid; The two answers in Beis Yosef 32, that according to 2nd answer it seems to be permitted; Noda Beyehuda Tinyana Y.D. 169 that is Safek [based on both answers in Beis Yosef]; Hagahos Rav Akiva Eiger 32:16, brought in Biur Halacha 32:16, in name of Devar Moshe O.C. 8, that by letters touching it is invalid even if occurs after; Derech Hachaim 82:25 that is invalid; M”B 32:54 and 78 based on Rama E.H. 15:16 and Beis Shmuel 129:29 that is invalid; Mamar Mordechai 32:19, brought in Kol Yaakov 32:99 that is invalid; Chazon Ish 8:2-4;  Piskeiy Teshuvos 32:28 See regarding the validity to fix touching letters and that doing so does not consist of Lo Kesidran or Chok Tochos: Admur 32:5; 16 in parentheses, 32:19, 32:28, 30; Michaber 32:18 and 25; Taz 32:3; M”B 32:79; Piskeiy Teshuvos 32:23; 27, 28, 41; See regarding that this validation applies even if the letters were originally written in an invalid method: Admur 32:28; Michaber 32:18

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