Old Sifrei Torah

Iraqi Torah

Writing a Sefer Torah takes approximately 12-18 months, and the raw materials cost many thousands of dollars. Because of the considerable investment of time and money, the purchase price of a new Sefer Torah is high — so much so that it is out of reach for most people. In an attempt to save money, many individuals and institutions try to buy used Sifrei Torah — which would seem to be a good deal, given their much lower price.

While it’s true that the purchase price of an older Sefer Torah is much lower than that of a new one, it is usually not a good financial choice. Most of the used Sifrei Torah that are available for sale are over 50 years old and are already deteriorating. A Sefer of that age will usually need an additional investment of several thousand dollars worth of work to make it fit for use.

note: In most situations, “fit for use” means “kosher bidi’eved”. To bring a 50- or 100-year-old Sefer Torah to a state where it could be called “kosher lechatchila”, the amount of work required can end up costing as much as (or even more than) the initial purchase price.

Even after a substantial investment in repair work, you’re still left with an old Sefer that will probably need more work in a few years. Eventually the letters fade and crack to a point where it is pasul beyond repair . At this stage it would be better to give the Sefer a proper burial, but often the Sefer remains in use due to sentimental attachment and/or ignorance of its pasul state.

The only situation where an old Sefer Torah might be recommended is where there are absolutely no other alternatives — like a small, isolated community which does not have access to any other Sefer Torah and can not raise the funds to purchase a new one. In that case, the community would have to be vigilant in keeping up with the on-going necessary repair work. In any other situation it would be a far better choice to just wait until adequate funds can be collected to purchase a new, mehudar, Sefer Torah.

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