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What are the halachic issues with Silk-screened sifrei torah? I am interested in a summary of concise halakhic rulings of multiple authorities on the prohibition or permissibility of HaRav Yitzchak Abadi's innovation of silk screen sifrei torah. Please provide piskei halacha, and I prefer that the shitot ha-poskim come from reputable sources.

(As always, CYLOR before you make any decisions.)

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According to this webpage, HaRav's name is spelt Yitzchok, not Yitzchak. –  Adam Mosheh Jul 22 '12 at 20:57
    
I see YitzchAk on that site. –  Double AA Jul 22 '12 at 21:01
    
I'm sorry, I meant the website of the picture quoted from Wikipedia. Either way. –  Adam Mosheh Jul 22 '12 at 21:02
    
One benefit of silk-screened sifrei torah is that their lesser price can greatly reduce tircha de-tzibbura. –  Adam Mosheh Jul 22 '12 at 21:04
    
Silk screen? Maybe we can get Warhol to do the sifrei torah in multicolor. –  A L Jul 28 '13 at 19:24

5 Answers 5

R. J.D. Bleich covered this topic in a recent Survey of Recent Halakhic Periodical Literature. In the article he discusses a number of possible issues that have been raised with Silk-screen Sifrei Torah, but says that most of them are not so strong. He says there is one serious objection where the burden of proof falls on the innovators to show that it is OK:

The issue is the halacha in the gemara that says that the ink cannot be spilled or dripped. When the ink is pressed by a scribe, is that considered spilling/dripping and therefore is passul?

P.S. A video of the process is available on YouTube.

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In order to improve your answer, could you please add some of the specific issues that R. J.D. Bleich raises? –  Adam Mosheh Jul 22 '12 at 20:52
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Rabbi Abadi preempts this argument and deals with it at length in the teshuva that I cited (and I would expect one to properly read the teshuva before posing difficulties with its final outcome). R. Bleich is certainly entitled to disagree; my point is mainly to clarify that the issue presented in this answer is not something R. Abadi hasn't considered. –  Dov F Jul 22 '12 at 21:00
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@DovF Thank you for pointing that out. Perhaps if you could summarize some of the main points of the Teshuva in your answer it would better help people understand the machloket. –  Double AA Jul 23 '12 at 1:48
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@DoubleAA It is a very long and exhaustive teshuva. That being said I really do not know the sugya and would not be able to properly summarize it at this time. (And again - this should go unsaid - I would expect anyone who wishes to debate the fine points of this ruling to first go through the entire teshuva very well. As an aside, from personal knowledge I know that the chabura in BMG that recently studied this sugya was generally unimpressed with the opposing arguments.) –  Dov F Jul 23 '12 at 4:04
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@DovF Fair enough. judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/17907/… –  Double AA Jul 23 '12 at 14:41

Rav Belsky, on page 9 of Shulchan Halevi (English version), explains that while theoretically silk-screening could be kosher for writing Stam, there are some issues which can come up. He mentions that forgeries would increase, and there there could be a problem of kesidran ("written in order," which Teffilin and Mezuzah require).

Then he brings an issue with sirtut (line indents under the letters to help guide the sofer to keep the letters in a straight line) - that Mezuzah needs it, and even according to many shittos a sefer Torah needs it. It could be a problem according to Rabbi Akiva Eiger in Shailos and Tshuvos Siman 50.

He ends with the famous idea "chadasha assur min HaTorah" (anything new is forbidden). To revolutionize the way a mitzvah is to be performed or prepared, the initiative has to come from the Gedolei Hador, not from any single individual.

It is best to see it inside since I did not fully elaborate on the topic.

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Chodosh actually is assur min haTorah but no one ever cares to use that phrase the way it was originally meant to be used. –  Double AA Jul 23 '12 at 1:24
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Are you suggesting this change is not coming from Gedolei Yisrael? –  Double AA Jul 23 '12 at 1:25
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@doubleaa, if I'm not mistaken, the innovator of the term in its, ahem, new usage, is the Ch"S, who certainly knew of its "original" meaning, and was making a play on words. –  Seth J Jul 23 '12 at 1:36
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@SethJ AFAIK you are correct. I'm not complaining that he made a pun; only that no one gets that it is a pun. –  Double AA Jul 23 '12 at 1:36
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@sam Good thing the project was started and is being led by a Gadol HaDor. –  Double AA Jul 23 '12 at 1:50

Since no one has listed a summary of concise rulings, I will list R. Bleich's conclusion from his Survey of Recent Halakhic Periodical Literature. I have inserted the sources that he mentioned throughout the survey in brackets.

The silk screen method is certainly subject to challenge on the basis of its inherent incompatibility with a number of considerations:

  1. The position of Bah [O''H 32:15], who maintains that each word must be vocalized before writing even when there is no chance of scribal error;
  2. The view of the authorities who maintain that each word must be copied from an existing text and that an error-free “master text” is not sufficient for this purpose [Bnei Yonah no. 271, Pilpul Arukh, p. 14a; Piskei Uzi'el, no. 31]
  3. The view of the authorities who maintain that multiple Divine Names cannot be sanctified even simultaneously [Bnei Yonah 276:2; Divrei Hamudot, Halakhot Ketanot, Hilkhot Sefer Torah 4:11; Ma’adanei Tom Tov, Halakhot Ketanot, Hilkhot Sefer Torah 4:5; Eliyahu Rabbah 32:36; Teshuvot Bet Shlomoh, Yoreh De’ah, II, no. 163; Teshuvot Dvar Shmu’el, no. 76; Melekhet Shamayim, no. 5; Birkei Yosef Yoreh De’ah 276:3; Bet Aharon, no. 12; Teshuvot Maharam Shik, Yoreh De’ah, no. 276; Kol Ya’akov, Yoreh De’ah 274:4; R. Yitzchak Dov Bamberger, Melekhet Shamayim, Binah 9:3; and Hazon Ish, Orah Hayyim 6:13, Yehaveh Da'at, VI, no. 57; ; Teshuvot Helek Levi O''H, no. 26]

  4. Iggeret Mosheh’s view [O''H, IV, no. 40 sec. 10] that any method in which sirtut serves no purpose is disqualified;

  5. The view of Teshuvot Zera Avraham [Y''D 117], She’ilat David [no. 7 sec. 2], Da’at Kohen [no. 160] and Piskei Uzi’el [no. 31] that the printing press is not acceptable because “it is not in the manner o f writing.”
  6. The kabbalistic view expressed by Ari [Bnei Yonah, Pilpul Arukh, no. 271, p. 15a] regarding the particular form of writing that governs the manner in which the writing of each letter is begun.

    Nevertheless, a competent rabbinic decisor might, with justification, conclude that those are minority views and consequently rely upon the weight of authority in ignoring such concerns. The crucial consideration is whether or not the silk screen method constitutes either “spilling” or “dripping” and hence is ruled invalid by the Palestinian Talmud [Gittin 2:3 and Shabbat 12:4]. Since the validity of Torah scrolls, tefillin and mezuzot is a matter of biblical law, any doubt, if the there is indeed such doubt, must be resolved in the negative. Thus, it would be necessary either to adduce strong precedent in support of the validity of a method similar to the silk screen process or to advance a compelling logical distinction between that method and the processes described by the Palestinian Talmud. In this writers opinion, the requisite demonstration has not been forthcoming.

In addition, R. Bleich notes the reaction of contemporary rabbinic authorities, who have overwhelmingly prohibited the silk screen method and noted that Torah scrolls and ST'aM that were silk screened are unfit for use. In the form of letters signed and occasional responsa released, which were published in Yated Ne’eman, 24 Kislev 5763; 16 Kislev 5763; Yated Ne’eman, Parashat Mikez 5763, and an earlier letter dated Tammuz 5762.

The signatories prohibiting silk screen include: R. Ovadia Yosef, R. Yosef Shalom Eliashiv, R Samuel ha-Levi Woszner, R. Nissim Karelitz, the members of the Bet Din of Jerusalem’s Edah ha-Haredit, R. Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, and R Menachem Yehudah ha-Levi Gross [who wrote a detailed analysis explaining the prohibition in the Tammuz 5762 issue of Or Torah]. You can read a translation R. Wosner's letter here.

Besides R. Abadi's responsum [Or Yizhak, no. 53], the only published source that somewhat defends the silk screening process is an anonymous pamphlet called Ha-Emet ve-ha-Shalom Ahevu, who ultimately concedes that it shouldn't be done as R. Eliashiv has ruled against it.

UPDATE:

R. Abadi has responded to the letters of Gedolim who prohibited silk screening, arguing that they didn't see the process, and claims that "Rav Scheinberg, Rav Tuvia Goldstein ZT"L who both saw the process and Rav Dovid Feinstein, who did not see it, among "others", said it is Kosher." R. Abadi has also responded to R. Bleich's survey, in which he commends the thorough treatment and respect in the article. He notes that the "crucial consideration" of spilling does not happen in silk screening, and invites anyone to see the process to prove his case. 

Since R. Bleich's article (published in 2003), several responsa have come out. As sam pointed out, R. Belsky has prohibited the practice in his Sha'alos U'Teshuvos Shulchan Halevi. R. Ovadia has also written about the grave sin of the silk screen method in Chazon Ovadia Purim (רנה), saying that nobody who uses a Torah scroll or ST'aM that was silk screened fulfills any mitzvah. The newest Yalkut Yosef, in 691:15, cites Chazon Ovadia in prohibiting the practice, adding that not only are they passul b'dieved, but also:

והמברכים עליהם ברכתם ברכה לבטלה, והוא מכשול חמור מאד, שמכשיל את הרבים באיסור ברכה לבטלה ובביטול מצות מקרא מגילה.

One who blesses on them [megillah] has said a blessing in vain, and this is a very serious stumbling block, thwarting the public through the prohibition of saying a blessing in vain and wasting the mitzvah of reading the megillah.

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R' Belsky (cited above) 'somewhat defends the silk screening process'. His problem with silk-screened sifrei torah is that it would be easier to forge. –  Ariel K Jul 28 '13 at 19:37
    
@ArielK: Thanks, I included that source in the update. –  Aryeh Jul 29 '13 at 9:37
    
"there needs to be a law against footnotes that exceed in volume, say 10% of an article." LOL! I see he hasn't read much by R Bleich. –  Double AA Jul 29 '13 at 12:29

Rav Abadi's original teshuva can be found here.

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I am looking for rulings from multiple authorities. –  Adam Mosheh Jul 22 '12 at 20:37
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@AdamMosheh One is part of multiple. –  Double AA Jul 22 '12 at 20:40
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NOTE If anyone has learned through this teshuva before please edit in a summary of his main points. –  Double AA Jul 23 '12 at 14:40
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While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes. –  Scimonster Nov 9 at 22:22

Here is a bunch of essays that explain the potential problems. Also In Minchas Asher (Rav. A. Weiss Shu"t Minchas Asher Y.D. 53) there is a teshuvah about this and he also does not hold of it. see here, here here , and here

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see also hebrewbooks.org/… hebrewbooks.org/… –  chacham Jul 28 '13 at 12:43
    
I can't access those links, as I'm on mobile at the moment. Is there a reason you did not include them in the body of your answer? –  Seth J Jul 28 '13 at 19:38
    
Do you know which teshuva it is in Minchat Asher? –  Double AA Jul 28 '13 at 19:53
    
@sethJ as you can see I am a new user and it didn't allow a new user to post more than 2 links –  chacham Jul 29 '13 at 2:52
    
@DoubleAA fixed it –  chacham Jul 29 '13 at 2:55

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