Thursday, August 25, 2011

Torah based fraud

A guest post by MarkSofla

Menachem Youlis of Save the Torah has been charged with fraud

A Rabbi who has been at the helm of an organization ( that ostensibly saves Sifrei Torah (Torah Scrolls) from pre-war Europe (and a few from other places) has been accused of massive fraud. This is the Rabbi that self-styled in a grandiose manner as "The Jewish Indiana Jones". Turns out that he never even visited the places that he claimed to have gone to for the purpose of "saving" old Sifrei Torah. Of course, now that the story is out, the details include misappropriation of funds (doesn't it always!) and other malfeasance (fake sifrei Torah, etc).

Now, this revelation causes a potential massive problem for any shul that has a sefer Torah that came from this guy. It is quite possible, even probable, under halachic (Jewish code of law) rules* that ALL Sifrei Torah written or repaired by this man are passul (invalid) and may have to be replaced. Now, during a financial crisis for most Jewish organizations, will be a particularly difficult time to face such an extraordinary expense. Since this guy has been in this business for more than 20 years, it is possible that a very large number of sifrei Torah are affected.

* To the best of my knowledge, halacha tells us that the writing/repairing of a sefer Torah may only be done by a person with the proper and holy mindset at the time. And as far as I know, fraud is neither proper nor holy.

DB: I speculated about the scam here in April 2010:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What happens to one of these Sefrei Torahs owned by a synagogue who will not possul it due to lack of concern for such halachos and at some future time the same sefer is sold or donated to a minyan who is concerned but has no clue as to the more recent history of the Torah? Assuming its kosher in every other way is it considered kosher because nobody knows? Can its status be rectified by review and repair if necessary by a reliable sofer? Seems to have some similarities to certain conversions done without regard to halacha and the converts who appear to be completely Jewish are then sent out into the Jewish world and nobody knows there's an issue. What's the deal?