Crosses, newspaper pages, and empty plastic boxes – these are just some of the things the Chabad Youth's "mezuzah patrol" has uncovered. Out of 15,000 mezuzot inspected ahead of Rosh Hashanah, only 38% were deemed fit for kissing.
Almost two thirds of the mezuzot affixed to doors around Israel are unfit, according to the "mezuzot patrol." Empty mezuzah cases were found in hundreds of homes after the parchment in them was stolen.
"It's very easy to rob a mezuzah," explains Chabad Rabbi Moni Ender, "All you need is a screwdriver, and the profit is big. The price of a parchment can reach NIS 600 (more than $150).
Ender points to a wave of theft and forged mezuzot, and says this is a relatively new trend.
"There was a time when such things weren't stolen. We have carried out many mezuzah inspection operations over the years, but even we are surprised by the scope of the trend uncovered in this current inspection operation."
The market of Torah scrolls, tefillin and mezuzot rakes in millions of shekels each month. The price of a set of tefillin reaches thousands of shekels and Torah scrolls go for hundreds of thousands of shekels – but these are much more difficult to steal.
Mezuzah thieves, on the other hand, enjoy easy conditions. Hundreds of shekels await at almost every door. All they have to do is open the mezuzah case, and the house's residents won't even know about the theft until the next inspection.
But there is also a bright side – it seems that at least in the field of forgeries, there has been a decline. The number of forged mezuzot found in homes was relatively low. "In recent years the public is no longer tempted to buy photocopied parchments or parchments printed on paper, and this trend has almost completely vanished. The forged mezuzot that we find in inspections are usually old," said Rabbi Yerachmiel Gorelik, director of the Chabad school in Holon.
The forged parchments found in the inspection include those printed on newspaper pages, parchments that have been vandalized with crosses drawn on them, and empty pages rolled up and placed in the case.
"We have encountered a very wide variety of mezuzah forgeries," said one of the inspectors. "There were primitive forgeries such as an old parchment that was disqualified because half of its letters were erased but it was still sold to innocent buyers. On the other hand there were also high-tech forgeries on very high levels, like a 'parchment' printed with bulges to look like the ink used by the scribe, and only a meticulous inspection by a professional scribe uncovered the forgery."
To ensure that you have not fallen victim to the mezuzah forgers, experts recommend mezuzot be bought from stores that specialize in the field and not at the market, on the Internet or from a dubious vendor.
You should also ask the salesman for a certificate proving that the parchment has been checked. Don't buy a mezuzah in a closed package, ask to see the parchment and the letters and feel them in order to make sure it is not paper, silk or cardboard.
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