During my studies I come across much which is halacha (law) and much which is minhag (established custom which sort of take on the force of law). There is a difference and different sources say different things and even those things that are cut and dried probably arenít.
This page is therefore to air some of the problem areas of sofrut that I have come across and perhaps it could become a forum for possible discussion on controversial issues:
1. Shlomo Ganzfried in Keset Hasofer says that one can use a reed, a quill and even metal to write with. The commentators are quick to dismiss this as his opinion only. American Sofer Dr Eric Ray uses a glass scraper to correct mistakes and gold plated needles, but most scribes are content with a scalpel (which leaves a cleaner surface) and ordinary needles. A yad should be made of precious metals, ivory or wood. Base metal shouldnít be used for Torah production runs the argument, because of their use in war. What is the position? The halacha is not clear? What do you think?
2. Women may not write STAM - itís very clear in the halacha. However they may make giddin, sew and patch, cut quills, make ink. They could prepare parchment (which even can be done by a non-Jew if a Jew ensures the proper intention) and even write a megillah (according to some sources who use Esther herself as the proof) and only excempt from binding tefillin (if you canít bind, you canít write). Dívarim Shebichtav makes reference to Sifrey Torah written by women (and doesnít appear to say they were pasul) and in older times scribes were warned not to use women or young boys as cheap labour sources. I am given to understand that in Israel women write mezuzot, a mitzvah to which they are bound. Women can darken letters but they canít form them/fill them. Can women write STAM? The sources arenít as clear as they might be here either? What do you think?
I have my own opinions on these questions based on study of the sources. However there are always more sources and more opinions. If you would like to share some that you have or have found on the website, Iím happy to upload them as long as they are polite and well-reasoned arguments ideally backed by some authoritative source. Please indicate in your e-mail to me whether you mind your name to be put aside your comments.