Mazal Tov! You just purchased a house, or did some renovations. Maybe you are buying a gift for someone who has. It’s time to buy Mezuzos, but how can you be sure that you are making an informed decision, and purchasing a product that is what you expect it to be and what you would like it to be?
Rule number one when purchasing anything of value is to be sure you are working with a knowledgeable seller. We use a real estate agent to buy a house, and bring a used car to a mechanic before making a decision. When buying Mezuzos, it is vital to now that you are making an informed purchase. Unfortunately, too many times, people bring us Mezuzos to check that were bought in Israel or from a Jewish store with an observant proprietor, and they were never Kosher or only Kosher B’dieved (not preferable). If the seller is not familiar with the detailed laws of what makes a Mezuza Kosher and Mehudar (beautifully written according to Halacha), chances are his stock will not be as good as he believes it to be. Besides being well informed on the Kashrus and quality, there are several other factors that go into the purchase. Only a salesman educated in these details will be able to assist in that process.
This article will deal primarily with Mezuzos, as with Tefillin there are even more variables and options. Price is most certainly a concern for all of us, however for such an important Mitzvah; it should not be the only concern.
The most visible difference in the various Mezuzos on the market is the size. In my experience, the vast majority of Mezuzos under four inches are not Kosher L’chatchila (preferable), and often outright possul. Even those that start out Kosher, don’t last nearly as long as a normal size Mezuza, due to the tiny size of the letters, and other factors. Four inch Mezuzos (10 cm) are usually much better, but not Mehudar. Sofrim recommend at least a five inch (12 cm), as they can be written with the detail necessary to ensure a beautiful, well written product.
The range in cost between various Mezuzos is wide, from in the forty five dollar range, to well over one hundred. While an inexpensive one can be written in under an hour, a well written Mezuza takes several hours to write. Another article will IY”H deal with some of the details involved in forming each part of each letter properly. It is important to see several levels, and be shown the differences between then, before making a purchase decision.
Before even seeing different samples, one must know what style of k’sav is needed. There are four basic k’savim (different customs in how to form certain letters). K’sav Bais Yosef is used primarily by those who follow minhag Ashkenaz, K’sav AR”I by Chassidim and those who follow minhag S’fard, and Vellish, for Sefardim. Chabad Chassidim use K’sav Baal HaTanya, which is a variation of K’sav AR”I. Always make sure to ask that you are being shown the proper Mezuzos according to your minhag.
Several other factors should be included in your decision. Is the Sofer (scribe) certified? Were the Mezuzos inspected? Always ask if the Mezuzos were checked by computer. This additional inspection is important in ensuring that no errors were overlooked (again, more on this in a separate article). Even the case has several considerations. Will the Mezuza be outdoors and exposed to moisture? If so, one must use a case made to protect it from the elements. According to the Rama, it is preferable to be able to see the Mezuza, so a clear case would be the proper choice. (In some situations, it is better that the Mezuza be covered, again… ask!)
With this basic information, you could be confident that you can fulfill the Mitzvah properly, and have the z’chus of the Mitzvah for many, many years.
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