Page 25 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 38

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the Ta lmud says you cannot use it fo r a
Sefer Torah.
You cannot
use it fo r
and so forth. T o which De Fano answered: “ I
had workmen. I watched them. T h e y did not press that hard. Just
enough fo r the ink to mark. So it is really ink on paper. It is
writing and I decide that fo r all religious purposes print is as
usuable as writing .” Soon there came other opinions. I skip to
Ezekiel Katzenellenbogen who was Rabbi in Hamburg. H e said,
“ Did we have to wait fo r Gentiles to invent this when we had
Solomon, who the Bible says was the wisest o f all men, and Moses,
who spoke face to face with God? Could they not have invented
printing?” So evidently i f they did not invent it, it was because it
could not be used, which would be an indication that prin ting is
not usable fo r ritual purposes. T o which Zvi Hirsch Chayes o f
Zolkiew, rather a m odern among O r thodox rabbis, said, “ Tha t is
no way o f argument.” An d he continues in a charming way: “ God,
W ho foresees the future, has arranged fo r the progress o f the
ages and that each generation makes its discoveries.” Th a t it was
not discovered b e fo re is no argument, fo r this was G od ’s inven­
T h e outcome o f the whole printing debate was that it was
decided that prin ting has sufficient sanctity fo r everything except
those three objects o f which the Bible specifically says, “ Y e shall
write,” a
Sefer Torah,
a d ivorce document, and
three objects fo r which “writing” is specifically required in Scrip­
ture must be written in the old style or else they are not kosher.
But prayer books, Talmuds — all such things may be printed.
Th en the question is: I f prayer books and Talmuds are perm itted
to be printed, how sacred are they? Tha t is a d ivided, unsettled
question. A colleague asked me whether, when Un ion Prayer
Books are used up o r a new edition comes out, is it right or w rong
to burn the old books. Tha t question has been asked since the age
o f printing. In other words, how much sanctity is there in printed
Hebrew? One o f the best answers was that o f Jehuda Leb Zirel-
sohn, who in his old age was killed by the Nazis; had been Rabbi in
Kishenev when it still belonged to Russia. H e was asked about
sacred objects in cities destroyed in the Russian Civil War. H e
said, “ You had better burn them up. But do not benefit from the
fire. Do not use it as fue l.” So I answered this question, “ Burn
them up in the temple furnace, but not in winter when you can
enjoy the heat!”