Question:

I hired a sofer to write a sefer Torah for my client. I had worked with him for a number of years without any particular issues. Shortly after starting he told me he broke his shoulder so he didn’t write a few months and he didn’t really maintain the expected pace after that. To my total surprise, he then informed me he was getting divorced, which created more delays. Following that he told me he was in hospital with a heart issue and again he didn’t write for a while and once again, was writing at a slow pace. Finally, he moved to a different city and there was another delay. He then informed me that 16 yerios were lost during his move, creating another delay. About a year ago I told him in these exact words. “Tachles, if you’re not going to be able to get back into a pace of 15 columns a month from after Succos then I’ll need to give the client the option to hire another sofer to complete the sefer Torah. We never discussed it again. However, some weeks ago, the first examiner brought to my attention that part of the Torah was written by someone else. This came as a total surprise. (The sofer is in another city and I arranged for him to do the first round of checking with my choice of examiner where he lives. After he did the corrections from those computer and manual exams he then has been sending the yerios to me for an additional manual exam.) When I confronted him how he could hire another sofer to write the so called 16 lost yerios he claims that I gave him permission when I told him “Tachles….”. I’ve no idea how he could read into my words that I gave him permission to do whatever he wants without my and the clients knowledge. The fact that he never said a word about all this and led me to believe that he had to rewrite the so called lost yerios leads me to think he knew full well that what he was doing was at the very least questionable. I also suspect for various reasons that his health and marital excuses don’t fully explain all the delays. He’s also made many spelling mistakes so hasn’t been properly attentive to his writing.
In the meantime, I haven’t informed the client as I don’t know how to go about it. The client has been surprisingly understanding of all the sofer’s delays. (Whether his claimed excuses explain the extent of the delay I have doubts.) I question whether he’ll be accepting of the sofer’s going off on his own and hiring another sofer. I’d think that it’s his right to refuse to have a 2nd sofer write his Torah and he could force the original sofer to write all 16 yerios himself either now or at least he could make the make the hachnasa soon and force the original sofer to rewrite the 16 yerios over the coming months and bear all costs (new klaf, all checking and sewing costs, (any additional time I need to put into this?) and the possiblity of getting stuck with the 16 yerios he had written (if the 2nd sofer has no need for them). Even if he’s agreeable to accept these 16 yerios (which only after additional hagaah are of similar quality) I’d assume the sefer Torah is devalued due to being written by 2 sofrim and the sofer should have to bear that loss. If so, how do we determine the new value?

Answer:

 

You are fully correct that a sefer torah written by two sofrim has less value-it is brought in the Ramo and see Sema 333, 20 and since you didn’t get what you contracted for you can refuse to accept the sefer torah because he never completed the job since  you hired him to write and not find others or to give a sefer torah written by two sofrim. If your client takes it anyway you can negotiate with him how much to pay since you are coming from a positions of strength being that you can refuse altogether. However everything I tell you is not binding because I only heard your version.

Yosef Fleischman

Tags: sefer torah workers

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