If Solomon's builders had access to lasers powerful enough to cut through stone, could he have used that instead of the Shamir?

Stones for an altar or for the Beit Hamikdash were not allowed to be cut with metal implements. I know the Talmud goes into this, but I'm not sure of the details. Would the reason for the disqualification of metal tools also apply to a laser cutter?


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Although the verse in Exodus (20:22) doesn't specify the type of metal used to cut the mizbeach, the verse in Deuteronomy (27:5) writes specifically that iron is prohibited. This is similarly implied by the verse in I Kings (6:7) "When the Temple was being built it was built of complete quarried stone; hammers, chisels, or any iron utensils were not heard in the temple when it was being built." The Mishna in Middos (3:4) and Rambam (SHM neg. 79, Hil. Beis Hab'chira 1:15) too only write that the prohibition includes iron implements. This implies that lasers would be permitted.

The Mishna (there) states that the reason for the prohibition is that it is inappropriate for iron which was created to shorten man's life to be used on the mizbeeach which was created to extend man's life. Although similar reasoning might debatably be used regarding laser tools, especially laser weapons, they don't seem to have have been included in the prohibition.

  • @Shokhet So, refined/metallic iron, in contrast with iron compounds? I'm still having trouble with this concept, as the two are easily converted between them. It's quite likely that a significant part of the iron in my blood was at some point part of a car or a sword, and likewise the iron in my sword may well have at some point been part of hemoglobin. If "created for" refers to the anthropogenic refining of the metal or crafting of implements, rather than God creating the element, then making chisels, so long as they were made for that purpose from virgin material, would seem to avoid this Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 3:30
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    What if the laser cutter is partially made out of iron?
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 15:21
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    @IsaacMoses Why would that be different that cutting with a non-iron implement while wearing iron armor. That it cannot be cut with iron s presumably we only care about the cutting edge. Even the more stringent prohibition of touching the mizbeach with iron presumably requires contact with the actual iron. No proof for this, but it seems like the most pashut assumption without evidence to the contrary.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 15:25
  • @mevaqesh The periodic table predates the discovery of protons, and indeed lead to that discovery. Yes, materials can be classified in many ways, but quite a few of those ways, many available even 4000 years ago, could still associate what we now know as elements with what we now know as the compounds of those elements. The metaphysical explanation, however, makes a lot more sense in this context, at least to me. Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 15:54
  • @mattew the creator of the universe, who gave us the commandments, knows the periodic table Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 22:23

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