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Writing an English Sefer Torah


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Sivan 8, 5772
I have a great English handwriting, Thank G-d. I would like to write a Torah on expensive paper in English. Can I make it in scroll form ? (not in book form). Or may this scroll form confuse people into thinking that this is a kosher Torah. Also.... Do I fulfill the mitzva of writing a Torah.
Shalom. It’s great that you want to use your G-d-given talents for G-dly acts and making the mitzvot beautiful and honorable. Nevertheless, the rabbis tell us that there was “darkness for three days” when the Torah was translated, for although translations are allowed if one doesn’t know Hebrew, it’s clearly not an ideal and should be done minimally and surely not ceremoniously (R. Y. E. Henkin, Tshuvot Ibra, 56, 2; R. Moshe Feinstein Y.D. iv, 38; for more sources, see my article in Tchumin, Regarding the question if you would be fulfilling the mitzvah of writing a Sefer Torah, the Rambam (1, 19, see also Sha’agat Aryeh (Turei Aven on Megilla 8a) clearly says no, but theoretically, the Ran (Megilla 8a, Shabbat 115b) seems to think its okay (if it’s on parchment, and fulfills all of the many complicated requirements), although it’s not clear how he would suggest writing G-d’s name, or the “kri u’chtiv” (where it’s written one way and read another way), and those questions would apparently render the Torah non-acceptable (R. Sh.Z. Auerbach, Minchat Shlomo, II, 4). According to the Rosh who holds that even buying any book of Torah study is included in the mitzvah, so seemingly, laboring to write the Torah, even in English, would be fulfilling the mitzvah, if it would actually be used for study. On the other hand, being that most poskim hold that the real mitzvah is to write a genuine kosher Torah in Hebrew (Taz and Shach, Yoreh Deah 240), than if you are investing so much money on parchment etc., it would halachically be much better to pay a scribe to write a kosher Torah and fulfill the mitzvah according to all opinions. I might add an additional factor that you may want to consider: your descendents will all eventually be Hebrew (and not English) speakers, and if you’re investing so much time and effort, I would suggest taking that into account. Another problem is, as you probably are aware, that there are many varied translations of the Torah, all of which “lock” you into one particular/partial explanation of each original Hebrew passage, and none of them are certified or officially recognized. In short, you can learn from a translation if need be, but it should remain a temporary necessity and not turned into a ceremonious ideal. With Love of Israel, Rav Ari Shvat
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