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Author:  David Cohen
E-mail:  not available
Date:  12/21/2003 12:50:00 PM
Subject:  Silk Screen Article
Message:  First of all, thank you for your quite comprehensive response to my last post. Apparently, I picked a bad example to make my point, as I did not realize that Yair was a personal friend of yours and that there was an inside joke going on.

You asked why I wrote in reponse to your website, rather than protesting all of the terrible things that go on. I can assure that I am shocked by some of the stories that I have read here, and if the people involved had websites, I would be posting there, too.

Anyway, my main point is that, as you are probably aware, the latest issue of the journal Tradition has an article by R' J. David Bleich about silk screened Torah scrolls. After a thorough examination of the issues involved, the author's conclusion is that the burden of prove required to permit them has not been met.

My humble sugestion is that R' Abadi consider writing a response for the next issue of Tradition, addressing the specific points raised in the article, either in the form of a letter, or an entire article. While readers of this website and "Ohr Yitzchak" are already quite familiar with the argument for silk screening, an response in Tradition would reach a much wider readership and would be a valuable way for R' Abadi's voice on this issue to be heard.

David Cohen
Reply:  Thanks for the advice. I did read the article and was very impressed both by his respectful tone and by his extensive research. I browsed through it once, but I really need to sit down and read it. I never met Rabbi Bleich, but from the article it appears that he would welcome a response. That is the way of Torah; one Rav might have one opinion, and another would argue. It is amazing how many of those Rabbis that signed nasty letters against it, never actually reviewed the Sugya (topic). For example, one quoted the Magen Avraham and the Ta"Z as opponents of printing. Clearly he didn't look first. Others based their entire prohibition on the Yerushalmi, "Vekatav VeLo Hashofech," which is barely presented in that way by more than two or three Acharonim (Rabbis of the last 400 years), in their opposition to printing. Every Rav is entitled to his own opinion, if it is properly researched, and there certainly is no place in Judaism for the kind of attacks that we have seen.
In regards to the article, I made a few quick observations. Rabbi Bleich cleared up the misconception of the actual prices today for STA"M (Sefer Torah Tefillen & Mezuzot). His numbers were pretty accurate. He seemed to have a general working knowledge of silkscreen, and cleared up many issues with that. Many people that I met when this came out said to me, "did you see Rabbi Bleich's article against silk screen?" In my opinion, they misunderstood the article. It was an extensive presentation of many of the issues involved, and it was not conclusive against silkscreen, but rather it ended with the statement, "In this writer's opinion, the requisite demonstration has not been forthcoming." Which in English means, “the author's conclusion is that the burden of proof required to permit them has not been met.” What a breath of fresh air! It was hard to imagine that someone actually would sit down for days researching the topic and then was capable of a respectful response, albeit in disagreement.

There were a few items that I wanted to comment on.

First of all, there needs to be a law against footnotes that exceed in volume, say 10% of an article. Many people were getting dizzy, including myself. But this on the other hand, did show that his research was extensive and thorough.

Second, the approach of Rabbi Bleich and many others in this generation, seem to suggest that we take a survey from all the Rabbis that we have their opinions in a Sefer and then we can decide. The reality is very different. The Nodeh Beyehuda (Mahadura Kama YO”D #55) says in response to someone asking him a question and mentioning extensively a specific Sefer. The Nodeh Beyehuda says, “ I don’t usually look into Responsa of the later Rabbis, the ones of our generation, and not even from the previous generation or two, but rather it is enough for me to study the Talmud, the Rishonim, and the Shulchan Aruch…why should I rely on their (recent Rabbis) determinations more than on my own, and therefore why waste time reading their lengthy Responsa.” His point is well made. Each qualified Rabbi is expected and entitled to make his own Halachic determinations. Often the Rabbis will review contemporary opinions to either confirm their own opinions by seeing others that concur, or if they are lost with some questions and hope to get some direction from a previous expert who went on the same road and possibly saw something that might clarify the issue. But the actual determination is not based on a poll of Rabbis. I think that Rabbi Bleich is well aware of this, and was just doing a detailed research on the topic, being a professor and all.

Third, it seems that he agrees that there are maximum six issues, yet all six issues are opinions of a minority of minorities. Certainly a qualified Rabbi is not required to adopt their opinion. This was agreed to by Rabbi Bleich. So all six things were not the big concern. At the end of number 6, he still is heading in the direction of justifying it as a reasonable Psak. But then he states his real concern, as follows:
“The crucial consideration is whether or not the silk screen method constitutes either “spilling” or “dripping” ….”
Earlier in the article he seems to suggest that silk screen is worse than printing.
From those statements it seems that he has never seen this specific process, and would have a complete different outlook if he were to see it. There is no way that silk-screen in the way we do it, is spilling or dripping. The ink is relatively thick. It is first pressed into the holes of the stencil in the shapes of all the correct lettering. At that time, the bottom of the silk screen has no ink coming out, spilling dripping, or doing anything. The ink sits inside the letters on the screen. Then the screen is placed on the parchment. Still no spilling, dripping, or leaking. You can run your hand on the back of the screen and no ink will come on your hand. Believe me, I tried it. Then finally the Sofer (scribe) takes that rubber squeegee-like item, and wipes it with a lot of pressure across the entire screen, pushing the embedded ink right onto the parchment. There is no spilling, no dripping, nothing.

It seems that the misinformation has caused many statements and questions to seem foreign to us, since we have a hard time understanding how the person understood the process exactly, in order to say what he said. I’ll gladly arrange a series of informative presentations, where we can show the process exactly. I cordially and respectfully invite Rabbi Bleich and anyone else to join us and view the entire process and to ask any questions of us. Anyone seeing the process can see it is not spilling or dripping.

At the end of the day, my highlight of his article was the fact that there are still a few people courteous enough to speak with respect and argue with respect.
God bless him!

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