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"Classic" printing was a fairly simple process, very similar to using a large stamp. You carve out letters on a block, and cover it with ink. Then the printer presses the board on paper. This printing method pre-dated Gutenberg, and was already available in Egypt by the end of the Gaonim.

Theoretically, a Sefer Torah printed this way should be considered Lishma, as the printer is actively involved in pressing the block on the paper.

Why don't printed Torahs have the same Kedusha as written ones?

  • Having done woodblock in the past, I can say that the amount of detail necessary to have an "average" sized sefer Torah would likely result in a large number of yeriot – Noach MiFrankfurt Nov 4 '14 at 23:15
  • @NoachmiFrankfurt so? still seems easier than writing it out by hand – Shmuel Brin Nov 4 '14 at 23:25
  • Note that for Tefillin and Mezuzot this would for sure not be valid because of Kisidran. – Double AA Nov 5 '14 at 0:23
  • @ShmuelBrin, it would likely need just as much correction as hand-writing. As my previous comment was cut-off, the yeriot in question would be wasted ones, even if the shemot were not printed and instead hand-written. – Noach MiFrankfurt Nov 5 '14 at 1:33
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    @Epicentre the block of wood would (pun not intended) be pasul anyways – Shmuel Brin Nov 5 '14 at 5:37
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The Taz (Yoreh Deah 271:8) says it is a good ksiva, and has the same Kedusha as a "regular Sefer Torah".

  • No one talked about it for 600 years? – Shmuel Brin Nov 4 '14 at 23:24
  • Well the proliferation of printed books after the printing press was invented probably proves how impractical printing was until then. Cultures with pictorial writing seemed to appreciate it more. – user6591 Nov 4 '14 at 23:29
  • Why don't people make Megillot Esther like this? Probably $500 investment to buy rubber stamps for each column, and you can produce an Esther in a few hours I bet, including sewing and fixing and letters which didn't come out right. – Double AA Aug 3 '17 at 16:11
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The Chavos Yair says that the reason is that one must sanctify every (individual) name of Hashem before writing it.

  • It still doesn't explain Megillas Esther, or why we can't print everything but the name of Hashem and fill those in, but it could be that just became the Minhag. – Shmuel Brin Nov 4 '14 at 23:38
  • He actually talks a bit there about the history of printing – Shmuel Brin Nov 4 '14 at 23:38
  • The Chavos Yair disallowed a sefer Torah printed by a nonjew. A Jewish printer would be fine. He even offers to explain the Taz as dealing with a Jewish printer. See also pischei tshuva in 271 s.k. 20. See also Minchas Yitzchok chelek 1 siman 17. – user6591 Nov 5 '14 at 0:33
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Yisrael Kleinhendler has a very interesting article on the "silk-screen sefer Torah" in Hakirah (vol. 19, Summer 2015). He writes (p. 219) about some of the issues halachic authorities had regarding writing a sefer Torah with a printing press. Some of them seem to apply to a “classicly” printed Sefer Torah as well

  • The Maharashdam was concerned that the ksav didn’t come out nice, regular paper was used, it wasn’t written lishmah, and it was done with chakikah (etching)

  • R Moshe Provinsalo was concerned that even if printing Sifrei Torah was done without chakikah, since it is similar to chakikah, one should not print Sifrei Torah so as not to come to doing chakikah.

  • The Teshuvah Me’ahavah was concerned with the upside-down letters and the common occurrence of having to discard invalid pages due to the many errors that were made in the process.

It is possible one could work its way around these issues, by using klaf, ensuring beautiful ksav, writing lishmah and maybe putting any erroneous page in geniza. As the article demonstrates, however, even with superior technology (silk-screen), there is very significant resistance to changing the age-old way of writing sifrei Torah by hand, sometimes for halachic reasons (for which there are work-arounds), most often for cultural and non-halachic reasons.

See the full article for more - it is very worthwhile reading in its entirety if you are interested in using "technology" to write sifrei Torah. See also (bottom of p. 210) the 11 rabbis permitting the "printing press sefer Torah".

Finally, some of the issues on this list might also be relevant here.

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