Silk Screened Sifrei Torah

Over a decade ago, Rabbi Yitzchak Abadi came up with a method for silk-screening Sifrei Torah. The ink is manually pushed through a silk-screen onto a qelaf. Here is a video in which they describe the process.

I don’t know of any other support for this process. What I don’t understand is why not.

This same debate was had when the printing press was invented. Back when printing was manual, and the plate with the ink on it was lowered onto the paper by human force, questions were asked about printing a Torah scroll. The issue is much like the question of silk-screening. In both cases, a man would be applying the force that would put a column (or more) of text onto the qelaf. In neither case was the act similar to pushing a pen on paper.

The Magein Avraham 32:57 addresses the question of how printing differs from choq tochos — “writing” by removing the ink around the letters, which is no good. But he adds:

ומ”ע כתב בתשו’ סי’ צ”ג דבס”ת תפילין ומזוזות אפי’ חק יריכות פסול ומשמע מדבריו דהמדפיס בדיו כשר דזה מקרי כתיבה אלא שלא רצה לאומרו למעשה ע”ש ול”נ דבתפילין ומזוזות פסול משום דא”א לצמצם ופעמים שנדפס האות השני קודם לראשון וה”ל שלא כסדרן

His problem with printing is only that Tefillin and Mesusos would require the letters being produced kesidran — in order. So for a Seifer Torah, where there is no requirement of kesidram, the MA would seem to go further and actually permit halakhah lemaaseh.

Or the Arukh haShulchan YD 271:39:

והנה כפי שאנו רואים, מעשה הדפוס כן הוא: שמעמידים אותיות כדי הדף, ומושחין האותיות של כל הדף בדיו שחור, ואחר כך משימין הנייר על כל הדף, ונדבק בהנייר הדיו של האותיות על כל הדף בבת אחת. והוי ככתיבה ממש, דמה לי אם כותב בהדיו על הקלף, או משים הקלף על הדיו? אם לא למאן דסבירא ליה דדיו של צבע אינו דיו כמו שכתבתי, והדיו של הדפוס הוא צבע בעלמא. אבל לפי הנראה מדברי הרמב”ם והרא”ש אם רק הוא שחור – כשר כמו שכתבתי בסעיף כ”ז, אם לא שנאמר דהשמת נייר על הדיו לא מקרי “כתיבה”.

Rav Yechiel Michl Eptsein assumes in this quote that printing IS INDEED kesivah. In contrast to contemporary rabbis who require pen strokes two qualify as kesivah — writing.

So, there is certainly room to allow silk screening. And back to my question… why is R Abadi alone? Shouldn’t many other Litvisher posqim hold like the Arukh haShulchan?

As for the requirement that Hashem’s names must be written lishmah — for the sake of being Holy Names in a Torah, I don’t see the problem. What is the difference between dragging a quill or reed lishmah or rolling a roller? This isn’t pushing a switch on a machine; the ink ends up on the parchment via koach gavra — human effort. (For that matter, when it comes to machine matzos at the seder, intent while holding down a deadman switch, or even according to many flipping a regular switch, is considered lishmah. But here it’s not that issue, the process is manual.)

What I can see as a problem is Shulchan Arukh YD 274:2 which says:

צריך שיהיה לפניו ספר אחר שיעתיק ממנו שאסור לכתוב אות אחת שלא מן הכתב וצריך שיקרא כל תיבה בפיו קודם שיכתבנה:

He must have before him another text that he check from. For it is prohibited to write [even] a single letter that is not from a text. He also must read every word with his mouth before writing it.

The first part shouldn’t be a problem, as he is ma’atiq (checking against a template) from the text on the silkscreen, no less than someone who uses a printed Tiqun. But reading each word makes ya’atiq far more specific. A silk-screener couldn’t possibly talk fast enough to say every word before it’s screened.

Of course, the Magein Avraham and Arukh haShulchan don’t think it’s a problem for printing. So it would seem not to be one for silk-screening either. A silk screen seifer Torah doesn’t require this level of attention to detail in order to end up kosher. So if the requirements in this se’if of Shulchan Arukh are a pesaq about how much a sofeir must do to prevent error, we could say it doesn’t apply. However, if this se’if describes a gezeira (rabbini legislation), it could well be in force even though the rationale does not apply.

It would seem from the Ran to be a ruling, not a separate gezeira. The Ran does not require a sofer do all this when writing in a seifer Torah the text he writes in every tefillin, because he knows it so well.

On the against side, we have major names as well. Two examples are (1) the Bach OC 691:4:

אבל בחומשין שלנו שהם בקונטרסים כתובים בשני עבריהם וכ”ש ספרי הדפוס שלנו שאינן נכתבין וקרא קאמר ונכתב בספר דבר פשוט הוא שאין יוצאין בה והו”ל כקורא ע”פ ואפי’ בשעת הדחק דלא אפשר באחר אינו מברך

… but our chumashim that are in codeces [bound like a regular book], printed on both sides, and all the more so our printed books are not written. And the scripture says “it will be written in the seifer” it is a simply thing that you do not fulfill the obligation [reading] with it. It would be like reading by heart. Even in a situation of duress and where there is no other possibility, he shouldn’t make a blessing….

It would seem that the printing press alone is a pesul, even without the other issues of a codex rather than a parchment scroll. Not clear if this would carry through to silk screening with a line-wise roller, but let’s assume he would invalidate that too.

And also lehachmir (2), the Chavos Ya’ir #184 cites the Taz, rosh siman 272.

However, while the Chavos Yair prohibits, I am not too sure that’s the only way to read the Tax.  I went to the Taz, found it at the end of YD 271. We are coming in with a discussion of writing via shamir, being problematic because it’s chaqiqah (engraving), not kesivah (writing). And now a contrast between using a shamir and printing:

ואם איתא דמעשה הדפוס הוה חקיקה קשה מנא לן דהיה על ידי שמיר שהוא דבר שאינו מצוי דילמא היה על ידי הדפוס ובדיו כדפוס שלנו ונמצא שפיר מתקיים פתוחי חותם אלא ברור הוא דמעשה הדפוס מקרי כתיבה ממש ולא חקיקה כלל: ושוב ראיתי בתשובת שאלות למה”ר בנימין ז”ל שכתב ג”כ שמעשה הדפוס הוא קודש ככתב מטעם דגם חקיקה היא קודש והביא ראיה ג”כ מאפוד אבל לפי עניות דעתי אין צריכין לזה כי הוה כתיבה ממש ואין כאן חקיקה דמה לי שדוחק את העט על הנייר או הנייר על האותיות של עופרת אידי ואידי כתיבה היא ומ”מ לענין גט ודאי אין לעשות בדפוס כיון שקצת דומה לחקיקה אבל לענין קדושת הספרים כל המיקל עתיד ליתן את הדין:

… but it seems to my humble intellect we don’t need [all the untranslated argumentation above]. Because [printing] is literally writing, and it is not “engraving”. For what is it to me whether he draws the pen across the paper, or the paper onto the lead letters [of the printing press]? This and that are “kesivah — writing.” In any case, for a gett one definitely can’t make a printing place, because it is a little like “engraving”, but for the sanctity of texts, whomever is lenient will have to answer to the law.

So, the Taz too ends up that printed sifrei Torah are holy. The Chavos Ya’ir appears to understand him as saying they must be treated respectfully the way we treat chumashim today — not as sifrei Torah. I would have thought the Taz’s “it is literally writing” would mean he doesn’t demote the holiness.

But regardless of the Taz, we still have the Magein Avraham and the Arukh haShulchan allowing printed sefarim. So I ask again, why won’t anyone else be lenient like R’ Abadi on silk screening?

Comments and email replies eagerly requested.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *