Those stories you hear are true. Tefillin bought for a bar-mitzvah and found years later to have been filled with the tightly-folded pages of a comic book. A series of misfortunes that led to a mezuzah check reveal a blank klaf with no writing whatsoever. Irreparable errors are discovered too late in a Torah scroll dedicated to a shul in memory of a loved one. Sta”m is an industry whose integrity we tend to take for granted but is not entirely infallible.
“I compare buying sta”m items to buying diamonds, because you need an expert eye to recognize their authenticity and true value,” says Rabbi Avraham Greenwald, owner and founder of Oraisah, whose passion for safrus began 30 years ago. Oraisah is a consulting firm which specializes in professional advice on purchasing sifrei Torah, tefillin and mezuzos, or in its abbreviated form: sta”m. Even the most studious or pious consumer has to rely on the integrity of a sofer or Judaica store or the reliability of a recommendation. And with so many sofrim and stores to choose from, it can get confusing and overwhelming.
“The labor required to manufacture sta”m items, as well as their designated purpose, makes them extremely valuable. But more important than their price tag is the indisputable knowledge that the item is kosher and as mehudar as you
require or desire it to be,” adds Greenwald. “And since most sta”m items are for long-term or heavy daily use, you’ll want to choose an item that suits your personal needs and preferences.”
But the large majority of customers aren’t really sure what they’re looking for or how to find it. Oraisah works with sta”m consultants who provide you with a quality kosher product that ticks all the right boxes on your must-have list.
“We walk you through the entire process from initial inquiry to actual purchase. We provide detailed pictures
of each item, and real samples are available on request so that you are fully equipped to make an educated decision. We get to know you and invest time and effort in really understanding what element of the sta”m item is most important to you: The hiddur level, the sofer’s artistic flair, the calligraphic style of writing, a particular minhag of your eidah or community, or other factor.”
“You’re spared the schlep from vendor to vendor, the need to narrow down your options with no real valid criteria, and the attempt to remember which vendor it was where you saw the tefillin you’ve decided you want.”
Oraisah has inside knowledge and longstanding relationships with a wide range of top-tier sofrim and
vendors. The consultants they work with are familiar with the unique style of each sofer and can match customers with a sofer who suits their minhag, needs and budget. Some customers are happy to rely on their tried-and-tested sofrim and others know they can depend on Oraisah to assess a sofer who is not in their database.
Since kashrus is the most essential element of any sta”m item, Oraisah insists on working only with consultants who have studied the complex minutiae of hilchos safrus, and are trained in various manual and digital checking of sta”m. These consultants have at their disposal advanced methods of checking every individual component of a set of tefillin – from the batim to the lettering – or any sta”m item, through both computer checks and the human eye by experienced magihim.
“The kashrus of an item depends on the integrity of the sofer or vendor. But it’s difficult to judge these qualities in a person you’ve never met before. Experience enables us to determine if a sofer is trustworthy and educated, and whether he has yiras Shamayim and a love for the profession,” says Greenwald.
Buying tefillin for a bar mitzvah or dedicating a sefer Torah are once-in-a-lifetime occasions and you want the
experience to be positive, meaningful and memorable. Oraisah gives their full attention to all the details that are important to you and helps keep you focused on
a fundamental aspect of the purchase – fulfilling the halachic requirements. Of course, these vary with each type of sta”m item since each has its own set of characteristics.
Tefillin are manufactured through a series of complicated processes of which most customers aren’t necessarily aware. There are many different elements that affect the quality of a pair of tefillin, including the type of quill used by the sofer or the texture of the parchment, and each one affects the final quality and price of the item.
Buying a mezuzah is not necessarily much simpler, but does have its own pitfalls. Some customers can be distracted by choosing the style of the case that will house their mezuzah, and search for a mezuzah klaf based on what size will fit the case. Although there are not as many elements in buying a mezuzah klaf as there are in buying a set of tefillin, it can still be hard for the average consumer to be sure what they are getting.
Similarly, with Purim just around the corner, consumers are starting to consider purchasing a Megillas Esther, and most people assume a kosher megilla is completely out of reach. But there are megillos available in a wide range of price brackets, and consultants know how to find you a megillah that is high on hiddur but easy on your pocket.
“One of our goals is to dispel the myths and skepticism that surround the use of a consultant. Just like in other industries such as tourism or real estate, consultants have the relevant knowledge and skills the average consumer doesn’t, can guide you past the expensive extras and find you the item that best fits your needs for a better price.”
Oraisah offers you total price transparency, so that you know exactly what you are paying for, and can actually save you time, money and effort and prevent a bad purchase decision. And if any issues come up post- purchase, you can be confident you have Oraisah’s full support and professional backbone to follow up with the vendor or sofer who supplied the items.
Oraisah is committed to providing consultation services on the purchase of sta”m items of the highest quality and to your full satisfaction.