Sunday, 2 February 2014

The Reason Behind Writing a Sefer Torah

The second half of Rav M's shiur on the mitzva of writing a Sefer Torah, focused on the rationale behind the mitzva. The main chakira revolved on this question:
  • To Learn: is the purpose of the mitzva that you will have a sefer Torah ava?
  • To Connect: or perhaps it's something more akin to the King's obligation, which seems to be more about creating a relationship with the Torah: וְהָיְתָה עִמּוֹ, וְקָרָא בוֹ כָּל-יְמֵי חַיָּיו--לְמַעַן יִלְמַד, לְיִרְאָה אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהָיו, לִשְׁמֹר אֶת-כָּל-דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת וְאֶת-הַחֻקִּים הָאֵלֶּה, לַעֲשֹׂתָם. The writing it oneself is in order to develop a more personal relationship with the Torah.

1. Buying a Sefer Torah

The first nafka mina is whether one can fulfill his obligation by buying a sefer torah.

The Rambam in Sefer Hamitzvot(עשה יח) mentions the possibility of buying a sefer torah, but with the possibility of writing it oneself being a greater level of fulfillment. So the basic mitzva seems to be about having the sefer available to learn, while the connection that comes from writing it oneself is extra.

ציווי שנצטווינו שיהא לכל-זכר ממנו ספר תורה לעצמו. ואם יכתבו בידו - הרי זה משבח מאד והוא עדיף, כמו שאמרו: "כתבו מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו קיבלו מהר סיני". ואם אי אפשר לו לכתבו בידו - חייב הוא לקנותו או יבקש שיכתבו בשבילו...

In the Mishneh Torah(ספר תורה ז:א), however, the Rambam doesn't mention the possibility of purchasing a sefer torah, and in fact he describes the basic mitzva as writing it oneself. So here the main pupose of the mitzva seems to be to create a connection between the writer and Torah.

מצות עשה על כל איש ואיש מישראל, לכתוב ספר תורה לעצמו:  שנאמר "ועתה, כתבו לכם את השירה הזאת" (דברים לא,יט), כלומר כתבו את התורה שיש בה שירה זו--לפי שאין כותבין את התורה, פרשייות פרשייות.  ואף על פי שהניחו לו לאדם אבותיו ספר תורה, מצוה לכתוב משלו.  ואם כתבו בידו, הרי הוא כאילו קיבלו מסיניי; ואם אינו יודע לכתוב, אחרים כותבין לו.  וכל המגיה בספר תורה, אפילו אות אחת--הרי זה כאילו כתבו, כולו.

The Rosh

A second nafka mina is the chiddush of the Rosh on מנחות ל א(brought in the טור יורה דעה ער:ג), who says that now that we keep sifrei torah in the synagogue, the mitzva is now to write chumashim and gemaras etc. The Rosh is a rather extreme example of the view that the point of the writing is to facilitate learning, so much so that he even drops the requirement of it being a kosher Sefer Torah! Note, that most of Am Yisrael seems to follow the Rosh, since we buy books, but most people aren't machmir to write their own personal sefer torah.

Other Nafka Minot

A third nafka mina is whether a lost torah needs to be replaced. If the point is learning, then you need a new one. If the point is to create the connection, that perhaps still exists even when the physical scroll is no longer in your posession.

The final nafka mina that was mentioned was the question of whether you can fulfill the mitzva by donating a scroll to the synagogue. Assuming that the point is that you should own the scroll so you can learn it, some poskim say that when you donate the scroll you shouldn't renounce your legal ownership of the scroll.

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