Halacha Date: 16 Adar 5784 February 25 2024
By Popular Demand: Is every individual obligated to write or purchase a Sefer Torah can this Mitzvah be fulfilled by means of a partnership?
Answer: The Rambam (Hilchot Sefer Torah, Chapter 7, Halacha 1) writes, as follows: “There is a positive Torah commandment for every Jewish man to write a Sefer Torah for himself, as the verse states, ‘And now, write for yourselves this song.’”
Indeed, the Tur and Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De’ah, Chapter 270) rule that every Jewish individual is obligated to purchase a Sefer Torah.
The Source for this Law
The basis for this law stems from the Gemara (Sanhedrin 21b), which states: “Rava said: Although one’s ancestors have bequeathed one a Sefer Torah, there is nevertheless a Mitzvah for the individual to write his own, as the verse states, ‘And now, write for yourselves this song.’” Since the Halacha follows that one may not write only a single Parasha (section) of the Torah because the Torah was given complete, the Torah certainly means to command us to write the entire Torah which concludes with the song of “Ha’azinu.”
The Opinion of Rabbeinu Yehuda Ayash
Hagaon Harav Yehuda Ayash zt”l derives from the above words of the Rambam that if several people band together and purchase a Sefer Torah as partners, they have not fulfilled their obligation, for this Mitzvah is obligatory of every Jewish man.
The reason for this is that the Torah uses the word “for yourselves”; thus, just as regarding the Mitzvah of the Four Species where the Torah also uses the wording “And you shall taker for yourselves,” our Sages (Baba Batra 137b) derive that every individual must have his own Etrog, the same applies to the Mitzvah of Sefer Torah in that every individual is obligated to either write or purchase a Sefer Torah on his own. Many other Poskim rule likewise.
The Opinion of the Rosh
The Rosh writes that the reason behind the Mitzvah of every individual writing his own Sefer Torah is so that every individual can study from his own Sefer Torah, as the verse states, “And teach it to the Children of Israel, place it in their mouths,” nowadays when we do not commonly study directly from the Sefer Torah, it is a Mitzvah to purchase the Talmud and Poskim to study from them.
Based on the above, the Chessed Le’Avraham writes that since we are not accustomed to studying from the Sefer Torah, it follows that one does fulfill one’s obligation when purchasing it by means of a partnership and when the Sefer Torah is taken out and read from in the congregation, the individual will be participating along with the congregation and will fulfill his obligation. This because even if the individual owned his very own Sefer Torah, he would not study more from it than one belonging to the entire congregation. Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l deals with this matter at length and quotes several other Poskim who rule that one fulfills one’s obligation by purchasing a Sefer Torah by means of a partnership and distinguish between the Mitzvah of Sefer Torah and the Mitzvah of the Four Species which we have discussed. This is especially true if we take into consideration the opinion of the Rosh who rules that one fulfills one’s obligation of this Mitzvah by purchasing even other Sifrei Kodesh.
The Bottom Line
Thus, halachically speaking, one who cannot afford to purchase a Sefer Torah on his own may purchase one by means of a partnership along with the congregation as is customary in many places where every member of the synagogue donates a sum of money, and they proceed to purchase a Sefer Torah. However, one who has the means to purchase one’s very own Sefer Torah should certainly do so, and he shall surely be blessed from above.
We should take this opportunity to point out that those who purchase a Sefer Torah (or even Tefillin and Mezuzot) should take care not to spend their money blindly and should make sure to purchase these holy articles from a truly G-d-fearing Torah scholar who will manage all of the aspects of the Sefer Torah, Tefillin, Mezuzot, etc. by choosing the right, G-d-fearing Sofer and deciding which stringencies to be particular about and which are unnecessary.