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diary of a sofer 44 - giddin or not giddin - that is the question?

Mordechai Pinchas Sofer

One must sew sifrey torah together with giddin (animal sinew). That is a given and the yeriot (sheets) are joined with this and also the first and last yeriot are joined to their respective atsey chayyim (rollers) with the same sinew. However there is a leniency that permits the use of silk if there is an emergency and there is no giddin present and a repair needs to be made. However the silk must then be replaced as soon as is possible with the right materials. Indeed I have encountered this once when there was a section that needed urgent repair but there wasn't giddin to hand and so green silk thread was a temporary fix (see photo below). I have also seen a Chinese Sefer Torah in a museum which was completely sewn together with silk and that clearly wasn’t seen to be an emergency measure.

However, one is also allowed to attach the atsey  chayyim on with thin strips of k’laf (parchment) and recently I came across this and it presented me with an halachic problem (though one that turned out to be academic - as it happened).

At both the B’reshit and D’varim ends, the atsey (mismatched but similar) were held on with these strips that had been tied with quite large knots. Should one replace them with giddin, or since the strips are kasher, should one leave them be?

On the day of checking the Torah the top one at the D’varim had actually broken off (see photo above right) and so there was no choice as this needed immediate repair (see below left) and so I sewed that with giddin. But what of the others? When I received the Torah for the full repairs I had to make a choice based on the sources.

Keset Hasofer 17:5 says that ‘at the start and at the end one binds on to the rollers and they are sewn to them also with sinew certainly. He specifically uses the word davka - i.e. that they should particularly be sewn with sinew, which suggests that others may have led a different opinion.. The Rama explains that the use of sinew is l’ichuvah meaning an indispensable condition. Mishnat Hasofer explains that there are those who say that one may sew using chatichot k’laf (strips of parchment) and in a footnote suggests that the reason for this is that ‘perhaps the giddin would not have enough strength alone’ to join the sheets to the wood. This would suggest that the preference would still be for giddin and the strips were only allowed for reinforcement. Since giddin is certainly strong enough then the strips would not be needed.

This all suggests that the strips should be removed in favour of giddin, so perhaps the question is answered.

In the event it became a little academic as the B’reshit ets chayim was sufficiently damaged (see left) that the repair necessitated removing the roller. Thus they got repaired with giddin anyway. Still always good to explore the details around the halachah on these rarely encountered areas.

Images and text © Mordechai Pinchas

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