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The Jewish University in Berlin has developed a machine written quill* on parchment Sefer Torah. The report from the BBC takes it for granted that such a Sefer Torah is posul because it lacks the proper intention, comparing it to printing a Sefer Torah.

However, in this discussion of machine Matzah, Rabbi Yair Hoffman quotes several opinions (e.g. Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank - perhaps minority, but many rely on them in practice) that machine made Matza fulfills the requirement of the Matzah being for the sake of the Mitzvah.

Would those same opinions apply to a sefer Torah written by a machine, if operated by a Jew and done for the sake of the Mitzvah? Or is there a distinction to be made?

What other issues would there be in such a Torah besides proper intention in its writing?

* Looking again at the video, that isn't actually a quill, more like a modified fountain pen, but that seems to be rather technical. You could easily conceive of having the machine programmed to write a certain amount and stop to have its quill refilled, or even dip its own quill.

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    Fascinating, +1. I would suggest the possibility that machines can't "write," but I don't have a strong reason to back that up. – MTL Nov 4 '14 at 22:30
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    Is the machine a righty or a lefty? – Double AA Nov 4 '14 at 22:31
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    @DoubleAA, actually it is a single disembodied arm, but it writes from the angle of a righty. – Yishai Nov 4 '14 at 22:33
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    @Gary The same way they program kavana into the quill! – Y     e     z Nov 5 '14 at 3:38
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    ...so what if the programmer/operator of the machine is a real live sofer, and he puts his sincere intent into the work the whole time, watching over his robot, and has it pause and beep every time it comes to the Name so he can give it the extra intent required??? – Gary Nov 5 '14 at 4:29
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There are other distinctions, but the biggest one is that a Torah must be written "lishmah" -- with intent. Matza actually doesn't have to be "made" lishma, but must be "guarded" lishmah. If I stand watch over the machine, it may not be my action, but I'm still guarding it.

There are other distinctions, for instance the additional level of intent required when writing the name of G-d.

  • Rav Frank's distinction doesn't seem to require standing over, rather that the machine is an extension of the person (unlike a minor makibg Matzah who is still distinct). I'm basing that strictly on the summary in Rabbi Hoffman's article. – Yishai Nov 5 '14 at 2:33
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    Not my downvote, BTW. – Yishai Nov 5 '14 at 3:08

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