י״ב בתשרי ה׳תשע״ט (September 21, 2018)

Menahot 42a-b: Who can write STa”M (Sefer Torah, Tefillin and Mezuzot)?

Rav Ḥinnana the son of Rava from Pashronya taught: A Sefer Torah, Tefillin and Mezuzot that were written by a min (heretic), kuti, goy, (non-Jewish slaves), ishah (women), katan (minors) and Yisrael meshummad (apostate) are invalid, based on the passage in Sefer (6:8-9) that connects laying tefillin and writing mezuzot. This passage is understood to teach that only those obligated in laying tefillin can be involved with writing them.

The Ritva explains that this teaching is applied to tefillin and mezuzot about which the passage is speaking, as well as Sefer Torah which has a higher level of sanctity.

None of the abovementioned individuals are obligated in laying tefillin:

  • Kutim – apparently this opinion does not accept the position that kutim were true converts (see below).
  • Women and slaves – are not obligated in positive, time-bound commandments
  • Minors – are not obligated in mitzvot until they reach maturity
  • Heretics and apostates – Rashi explains that they have removed themselves from the realm of fulfilling mitzvot.

The term Kutim refers to the nations (not all of whom were truly Kutim, as there were people from other nations, as well) that were exiled to the Land of Israel by the kings of Assyria who were interested in populating the land after they had removed the Israelite people from it. According to Sefer Melakhim (see II, chapter 17), these nations converted to Judaism because of their fear of lions that had begun attacking them (from which derives the term gerei arayot – “lion converts”), but they continued worshiping their gods at the same time.

Upon the return of the Jews to Israel at the beginning of the Second Temple period, the Samaritans, descendants of the Kutim, were active in trying to keep the returnees from rebuilding the Temple and the walls of the city of Jerusalem. Even so, there were families – including members of the kohanim – who intermarried with the Samaritans.

During the following years there were continued tensions between the two communities, and Yoḥanan Hyrcanus led his troops into battle against the Samaritans and destroyed the temple that they had built on Har Gerizim. Nevertheless, there were also periods of cooperation, such as the period of the Bar Kokheva rebellion. As is clear above, the attitude of towards them differed, although after a period of time a final conclusion was reached and they were ruled to be treated as non-Jews, due to their continued involvement with different types of idol worship.