According to the Hatam Sofer, does this principle apply to technological novelties? This principle means that "New Is Forbidden By The Torah".

1 Answer 1


Certainly not.

Hatam Sofer was opposed to certain innovations and changes that were being proposed for Judaism in his time and place. He responded with a catchy phrase -- "the Torah prohibits the new", which is a play on words -- the Torah prohibits the new year's grain crop until the second day of Passover.

If you study his responsa in more detail, a far more nuanced view becomes clear. For instance: the prevailing custom had been (in his world) to write only the Hebrew date on a tombstone, and suddenly many people wanted the secular (i.e. Gregorian) date on there as well. He fiercely resisted this change. Yet we have documents/letters where he used the Gregorian date. It's not that the new calendar was inherently forbidden in any way shape or form -- it was the sudden, dangerous changes to longstanding Jewish practice.

Similarly, in responsum OC159 (see this great blog for more) he sharply defended Jewish men who were clean-shaven, so long as they didn't use a razor. "But Jewish men used to always have beards!", they protested. "Guess what? All the pagan men in Biblical times did too!", he replied.

Hatam Sofer did not live to see the innovation of the matza-baking machine, but many wonder how he would have felt about it -- as some changes he felt were safe, some were dangerous. His ghost is felt in the responsa about it -- his son the Ktav Sofer allows the machines, and concludes, "G-d forbid my father's offspring would allow something prohibited."


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