The rabbis ruled that a sofer (scribe) who illegally evades paying VAT or other taxes or is a known cheat in other ways is not disqualified from writing kosher Torah scrolls, tefillin, mezzuzahs and megillahs. Additionally, his halakhic trustworthiness is not compromised, the rabbis added.
Haredi Rabbis Rule That A Tax Cheat Can Still Write A Kosher Sefer Torah And Can Be Trusted As A Witness In A Haredi Religious Court
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The haredi Keter Institute headed by Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg has issued a new halakhic ruling that allows buying tefillin (phylacteries), other ritual objects or even non-ritual items from a merchant or scribe who is a known tax evader, Yeshiva World reported. The ruling is in a new book published by the institute.
The ruling covers a person who works off the books and merchants who do not pay Israel’s Value Added Tax and/or Israel’s income tax.
Regarding evasion of VAT, if a buyer and seller collaborate to sell a non-ritual item at a lower price off the books to avoid paying VAT, then the buyer might be required by halakha to pay that VAT because he participated in the fraud.
However, the buyer is not responsible for paying the VAT if the seller is fraudulently classified by the government as grossing too little to require him to pay VAT – even if the buyer knows about the fraud and buys from the merchant anyway.
What about ritual items like tefillin?
Keter’s rabbis rule that a sofer (scribe) who illegally evades paying VAT or other taxes or is a known cheat in other ways is not disqualified from writing kosher Torah scrolls, tefillin, mezzuzahs and megillahs. Additionally, his halakhic trustworthiness is not compromised, the Keter rabbis added.
But what if a buyer tells a sofer that he would like to buy tefillin or another ritual object off the books at a discount?
The Keter rabbis rule that in a case like that, where the buyer and seller are both actively involved in the fraud, the actual buyer may not make a blessing on the use of those ritual objects. The Keter rabbis rule that buying those ritual objects off the books is forbidden because of that.
However, after the fact the buyer can fulfill mitzvahs with ritual purchased off the books because, the Keter rabbis rule, those tefillin or other ritual objects purchased that way as are covered by the prohibition of not doing a mitzvah that come trough a sin (מצווה הבא בעבירה).
And, Keter’s rabbis add, if the buyer is not sure if the sofer really evaded taxes or just gave him a friendly legal discount, the buyer can make a blessing and fulfill mitzvahs with the ritual object(s) l‘chatchila (a priori).