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"Cogito Ergo Sum" 

Robots, Minyan and Halachik Sensationalism

Can Robots Be Deemed People? Jewish?

By: Rabbi Moshe Taub

 

What follows is a published article (originally published in Ami Magazine as a two-part article) on the subject of

anthropomorphic robots in Jewish law.

 

These were written in direct response to an opinion piece written by a researcher from Emory University

that was published at CNN.com, as well as an interview in the JTA with that same writer.

 

A published letter to the editor from this researcher in defense of his positions as well as his corrections to my reading of them

will follow my article, as well as my published rebuttal to his points.

 

 

Eugene Gootsman is strange. Even he himself asserts that he is the ‘weirdest creature in the world”. He claims to be a thirteen-year-old boy living in Odessa, Ukraine.

 

He says so, but I happen to know he is lying.

 

In fact, I will go on the record as saying that Eugene Gootsman is not even alive…or a human! I can say this with certainty - even though over 30% of the scientists and professors who spent time with him thought he was a real, live person.

 

Eugene Gootsman, you see, is a computer program.

 

It all began in 1950 when Allen Turing, the father of modern computing, proclaimed that by the turn of the (last) century a computer program would be built so advanced that the average person will have no more than a 70% chance in adducing if he is talking to a man or machine. His goal, and the goal of many in the computer science field, is to reach a day when computers can ‘think’.

 

Each year various ‘Turing Tests’ and contests are performed all over the world.  With some variation, here is how they work. There are four judges in a room, each with a computer screen in front of them. They each communicate via instant text messaging with a different subject –one of whom is not real but a computer. After each of the judges alternate - giving each one a chance to talk to all three humans and the one computer - they must vote as to which of the three were real people and which was artificial.

 

This year, for the first time, a computer –claiming to be Eugene Gootsman, a thirteen year old boy from Odessa, Ukraine - fooled more than 30% of the judges. 

 

While many respected news outlets questioned if this Turing victory was even legitimate (for varied technical reasons), some could not resist running with the story and, some, even oddly tying it to serious matters of Jewish Law (halacha), and the law of minyan (requiring ten adult Jewish males {and sometimes females} to make up a quorum).

 

Reporting for CNN and in an interview with JTA, Mark (Moshe) Goldfeder, a professor at Emory University makes a bizarre and misguided, although sensational, claim:

 

“[JTA] Theoretically speaking, say a robot walked into your office and said, “Rabbi, I want to count in the minyan.” Would that be enough evidence for you to count him?

 

“[Goldfeder] Not necessarily. For the purposes of this discussion, I would accept the position of the Jerusalem Talmud in the third chapter of Tractate Niddah that when you are dealing with a creature that does not conform to the simple definition of “humanness” — i.e. born from a human mother or at least possessing human DNA, but it appears to have human characteristics and is doing human things — one examines the context to determine if it is human. When something looks human, and acts human, to the point that I think it might be human, then halachah might consider the threshold to have been crossed…. If I see something that for all intents and purposes looks human…I have a responsibility to treat all that seem human as humans, and it is better to err on the side of caution from an ethical perspective.”

 

Wow. He is suggesting that it is within the realm of possibility that a computer/robot be invented one day that would be considered (a) a human (b) a male and (c) a Jew!

 

I imagine most readers would intuitively reject this; I certainly do.

 

Although ‘Gootsman’ would make a fine Jewish last name that is as close as he will ever come to being a Jew.

 

 

According to R. Goldfeder, should such a robot be invented would turning it off be tantamount to killing?!

 

That would give new meaning to ‘pulling the plug’!

 

 

Would one fulfill the mtzvah of pru u’revu (‘be fruitful and multiply’) by creating such a robot? Based on the ideas of R. Goldfeder one would need to say yes (see Sanhedrin 19b).

 

 

There are many other tangents that his idea touches upon. For instance, what of free will?

 

Or, how does R. Goldfeder account for the robot’s lack of a soul?

 

 Or, of it not being born to a woman (yulad isha)?[1]

 

Even accepting his arguments for a moment, would such a robot actually be obligated in mitzvos? And, could one not obligated in mitzvos even count for a minyan?[2]

 

 

However injudicious his publicly made assertion may be, didn’t he quote a gemara as proof, a Talmud Yerushalmi (Jerusalem Talmud) that said a creature not from a human mother or even possessing human D.N.A. would be a halachik human?

 

 

Here is how he records/translates that same paragraph of the Yerushalmi in a forthcoming article he is working on (emphasis is mine):

 

“ The Jerusalem Talmud in tractate Niddah has a fascinating discussion:

 

(…)

 

‘Yet suppose it is entirely human, but its face is animal like, and it is learning Torah? Can one say to it “come and be slaughtered”? [Rather one cannot]. Or consider if it is entirely animal like, but its face human, and it is plowing the field [acting like an animal] do we come and say to it, “come and perform levirate marriage [yibum] and divorce [chalitza]”? [Rather, one cannot.]’

 

 

         “…According to the Talmud, when we cannot apply the usual biological definition of a human— which may in fact still be the general default definition for the status of personhood—then we apply the contextual definition of a human, if it fits.”

 

A wonderful proof! Right?

 

Well, it would be, if only that is what the Talmud had said.

 

This is all begins as a mishnah, and a corresponding stich found in the Babylonian Talmud as well.

 

Here is the background: The rule is that when a woman gives birth to a child she becomes impure for 7/14 days and then is pure 33/66 days, depending on if the child is a boy or a girl. We will refer to this as the laws of leida.[3]

 

The Torah laws of a leida apply to miscarriages, l’a, as well.

 

In the third perek of Nidda, the mishna wants to know about a woman who miscarries at some point after 40 days of gestation, at what point can we be sure that what was issued from her was a once viable fetus, specifically regarding an abnormally looking fetus.

 

No one is debating that the issue is human, rather, and based off of verses in the Torah, there is a requirement that in order to activate the leida laws at such a stage the issue would have to already represent the human form.

 

The Mishnah records a debate between R. Meir and the Chachamim regarding a case of a miscarried issue that looks like an animal (not actually an animal!), and based on chazal a human and animal can never possibly crossbreed a child, so that is certainly not what the gemara here is talking about! (Cf. Bechoros 8a)

 

 In any event this is most certainly not what the gemara is referring to here! The gemara suggests that when something is issued that takes the form of an animal or entity where the term ‘vayitzar’ (‘and He formed’) is used for it in the Torah, such an entity would also activate the laws of leida.

 

Right off the bat we notice that R. Goldfeder’s point that this discussion applies to an entity not from a human mother is wholly inaccurate.

 

The Gemara then redefines the debate of the mishna where everyone is in agreement that in a case where a human-looking head with deformed animal-like body would activate the laws of leida; but a deformed animal-like head with a human-like body would not.

 

It is then explained that the debate in the mishna is only when parts of the head look like a human fetus and other parts do not (e.g. one deformed animal-like eye and one human-like eye).

 

So, all the gemara is teaching is that for the mother to become tammei she must issue something that represents some natural being.

 

So uncontroversial is this gemara that it is recorded in the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 194:3)!

 

Humoring R’ Goldfeder for a moment, even if the gemara was discussing what he thought it was, such an allowance of viewing the issue as human would still only be true because of a presumption within a doubt. Even in this (wrong) reading of the gemara one could not then call it human when we know otherwise. To relate even his mistaken reading of this Talmudic discussion to a robot counting in a minyan would be like saying that one is allowed to buy meat from a Kosher supermarket based on a presumption of innocence (chezkas kashrus) even if one saw them place treif in their packages!

 

The gemara under discussion was only speaking about when we know that the entity under discussion came from a human; one can’t learn from here to a case when we don’t even know from where it came –and certainly not to a case where we know it came from a computer lab and not from a woman!

 

 

Furthermore, the gemara was not referring to this entity actually surviving and living on, like a centaur! Rather only to discover if we consider it a case of leida, a once halachik fetus (See shu’t Teshuvah M’Ahavah 1:530). It is when the Yerushalmi (7b in Slovita ed.; see also Bavli, Nidda 23b) makes this very point that R. Goldfeder misses the rhetorical, even sarcastic, nature and instead takes it at face value.

 

Here is the reading of the very same paragraph he quoted above, in context:

 

 “Says Rav Mana (even according the Chacahamim who teach that an issue that looks like an animal with the head of a human is considered a fetus, and the other way around is not) this would mean that this human with an animal head can (in the future) could be found learning Torah and then be told, ‘Come to your slaughter’!? And one with an animal body and a human head can one day be found to be working the field all day (like an animal) and then be told, ‘Come perform a perform a chalitza or a yibum’?!”

 

The Pnei Moshe (s.v. kulo) explains that Rav Mana’s point is that the discussion until now could not have been about a viable fetus that could live on as half man/half beast, and, chazal deliberated these issues as they relate to the laws of leida only, and nothing further.

 

Yet, it is from this statement of limiting the discussion that R. Goldfeder –very publicly –seeks to expand it…to robots!

 

 

There are also more serious matters - matters of life and death that result from R. Goldfeder’s assertion that such robots may one day count in a minyan. In addition to his statements regarding counting a robot in a minyan in shul would be the natural conclusion relating to another law of minyan. Halacha dictates that a minyan of Jews witnessing a performance of a sin would require one to accept martyrdom rather than to commit such an act (Sanhedrin 74b; Shulchan Aruch 157; Rambam hil. Yesodei Hatorah ch. 5).

 

As we write here often, there is no such thing as a pure leniency in halacha, and a ‘leniency’ regarding who/what one accepts in a minyan in shul may lead to a stringency in the laws of martyrdom.

 

In fact, (see Megilla 23 and Sanhedrin ibid.) the same verses are used to prove a minyan in shul and that for martyrdom.

 

I contacted R. Goldfeder, who clearly spent not an insignificant amount of time researching this issue, and while I disagree with him on even the remote possibility of such a future creation ever having a human or Jewish status, the issue of human-created entities and anthropoids has been discussed in classic sources. Over the next couple of columns we will quote from the likes of Rav Chaim Soleveitchik, the Chazon Ish, and other poskim who touch upon these and related issues, showing that we already have precedent and stare decisis from poskim on these issues.

 

Let us begin with the case of a Golem.

 

Most famous of which, as it relates to our discussion, is a teshuvah written by Rav Tzvi Ashkenazi (d. 1718). In his work shu’t Chacham Tzvi (siman 93) he wonders if a Golem would count in a minyan.

 

A Golem is a humanoid-like entity created through the Sefer Yetzira (the Sefer Yetzira is one of the oldest works of kabbala, mentioned in the gemara, and often attributed to Avraham avinu).

 

[See Sefer Yetzira, Levin-Epstein ed. P. 84 where the R’S Gaon comments that the Ibn Ezra once made a Golem. Also, see Ibn Ezra to Yehoshua and Tehillim.]

 

When I asked this Golem/minyan question in shul, one of the balla battim wondered why its even a shaila, “We have a minyan of Golems every night!” he joked.

 

When the Chacham Tzvi asks this question, he explains that he heard from his father that Rav Eliyahu Baal Shem (d. 1583) once made a Golem and became so frightened that he destroyed, but not before he was scarred!

 

Rav Chaim Volozion reported (in his introduction to the Vilna Gaon’s commentary to Sifra D’Tzinusa) that the Vilna Gaon desired to make a Golem but stopped himself for reasons stated there.

 

One possibility for a Golem counting for a minyan (and as Jew!), the Chacham Tzvi writes, is based on the gemara in Sanhedrin (19b) that teaches that if someone teaches the son of his friend Torah, or if someone raised an orphan in their house, it is as if they gave birth to them.

 

However, he brings another gemara (ibid. 65b) to prove otherwise. There the gemara tells us that the great amara Rava once created a person, which Rashi explains as an entity, i.e. Golem, fashioned through the Sefer Yetzira. Upon completion, Rava sent this creation to his friend Rav Zeira. When Rav Zeira tried to converse with the Golem it was unable to respond. Upon seeing the Golem’s inability to talk, Rav Zeira said, “You are a creation of my colleagues, return to dust (Rav Zeira ‘killed’ the Golem).

 

The Chacham Tzvi explains that Rav Zeira was allowed to ‘kill’ this android being because it did not come from a mother. Based on a pasuk (Berieshis 9:6) only someone born from a mother has the full status of a human (see however Gilyonei Hashas [Rav Engle] Sanhedrin 57b).

 

Even those who argue with the logic of the Chacham Tzvi, like Rav Tzadok of Lublin, agree that when it comes to a minyan in shul such creations can not be counted. Rav Tzadok Hakohen, Divrei Chalomos, records his dream from Wednesday night the 2nd of Shevat where he first repeats his dream regarding the status of such creations, then argues with his dream. He ends by differing with some of the logic of the Chacham Tzvi yet states as clear as day “but how can they be counted in a minyan for a davar sh’b’kedusha? Nevertheless, perhaps for a zimun (for benchting) [they can be counted] as we see we can count a child, this needs further clarification”. Sdrei Tahoros (Ohalos, p. 9) also questions the Chacham Tzvi, yet he too admits that when it comes to a minyan such entities may not be counted.

 

It is interesting to note (see R. Aryeh Kaplan’s Sefer Yetzira p. xxi) that the expression used in the gemara when Rava created this entity was, “Rava Bara Gavra”. ‘Rava’ and ‘Bara’ are made up of the same letters, with just the beis and reish switched; and gavra as well is just the word bara with a gimmel added to it. These ten letters, together, equal exactly 612. This is significant, for when Man was created (see Bereishis 1:27) the targum known as Targum Yonasan [see Shaarie Ahron, Bereishis, ‘Introduction and Biographies’, ‘Targum Yonasan’; Toras Sheliema volume on Targumei Torah] teaches that the number of all the limbs in a human equals 248 and all the blood vessels equal 365, for a total of 613.

 

[Compare Makkos 23b where the comparison is made between the 248 positive mitzvos and the same number of limbs in the human body, yet for the 365 negative mitzvos they compare it to the (rounded) days in the solar year. See however, Shlah in Toldos Adam, beis chama, tanyana, #30 and Zohar 1:170b where they conclude similarly to Targum Yonasan.]

 

It could be that the gemara here is alluding to the fact that a Golem is almost a human but not quite (612 compared to the full value of 613).

 

Fascinatingly, some even suggest that the term “Abracadabra” comes from abra k’adabara – I will create as I speak, the term one may use when creating through the powers contained in the Sefer Yetzira.

 

The Chacham Tzvi’s two sons came to defend their father’s position.

 

One son, Rav Avraham Meshulam Zalman (shu’t Divrei Rav Meshulam #10) brings from the holy mekubal the Ramak (Rav Moshe Codovero, d. 1570) who comments that Rava was allowed to ‘kill’ the Golem because it had no neshama, no nefesh, no ruach, it was just a ‘living thing’ (‘chiyus ba’alma’).

(See Amudehe Shiva page 6b)

 

In fact the shu’t Yehuda Ya’aleh (1:26) furthers this proof with the words of many poskim who teach that a sleeping person too cant be counted in a minyan precisely because parts of the soul leave the body at that time, all the more so by an entity that never had, or will have, a soul!

 

The Chacham Tzvi’s other, more famous son, Rav Yaakov Emden (Sh’ilas Yaavetz 2:82) demonstrates that the question does not even begin, and that certainly a Golem is not given any halachik status. He points out that a minyan has nothing to do with life; as a woman is not kosher for a minyan for davining yet is deemed alive!

 

Further, teaching a dog to fetch does not make the dog a human, even though you gave it powers!

 

Further, chazal tells us of other things created with the Sefer Yetzira (a calf for Shabbos, see Sanhedrin 65b), if a Golem is considered a human simply because it was created by a human, why not all other things created by miracles?! (See Shalal Rav, Bamidbar, p. 50)

 

 

Rav Yosef Engle (see Tiferes Yosef, Bereishis, p. 53ff footnote 180) seems to find a middle ground: a Golem may be human, but it is neither a Jew of a Gentile.

 

From what we have seen, the fantastical view that a robot of today or tomorrow can/will/may fulfill the tripod of conditions necessary for it to count as part of a minyan  - A) human, B) male, and C) Jewish –has not known source in Jewish scholarship.

 

 

[1] See Rashi to Berieshis 2:7, 2:25 where it would seem that refined speech, shame, and/or bechira are all possible candidates for what separates us from animals. Although, a robot would likely not even have a status of an animal, in the classic sense. Imagine taking your robot to the store to get fixed and having to, according to R. Goldfeder, warn the programmer about tzaar baalei chaim!

 

 

[2] See Shulchan Aruch orach chaim, siman 55 regarding those not obligated in mitzvos counting for a minyan. See also Rav Tzadok of Lublin that we will reference below.

 

[3] This is all found in Leviticus ch. 12, and does not come up nowadays for reasons beyond the scope of this article

 

[4] As they appeared on the day of this writing: http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/10/opinion/goldfeder-age-of-robots-turing-test/

 

[5] http://www.jta.org/2014/06/12/life-religion/should-robots-count-in-a-minyan-rabbi-talks-turing-test. 

 

____________________________________________

 

 

 

Mr. Goldfeder composed a letter - that was published in Ami Magazine - in response to these columns:

 

 

 

I am writing to clarify a position of mine that was unfortunately misrepresented in this magazine.

 

I recently gave an interview with the JTA in which I discussed the idea of robots in halacha. The entire interview had a disclaimer, which appeared in print, that it was not to be taken l'maaseh, and was only a theoretical conversation.

 

In that interview I referenced a famous Gemara in Sanhedrin, where the Talmud discusses the idea of a golem, a humanoid automaton, interacting with human beings. While Rashi writes that the golem here was made by 'Sefer Yetzirah,' which usually refers to a mystical text, medieval kabbalists such as Rav Moshe Cordovero explain that the sefer yetzirah referred to here was actually a book of natural science, and that the golem was not spiritual, just 'a form, made out of dust, and by natural means it was made to appear like a man.'  This gives us our clear analogue to the idea of a robot.

 

Halakhists throughout the centuries have been fascinated with this story. Famously, the Chacham Tzvi, and his grandson, Rabbi Yaakov Emden, both address the possibility of this golem counting in a minyan. They conclude that this golem could not, as it lacked any 'intelligence whatsoever…he is no more than an animal in a human shape." They did, however, leave open the possibility of a different golem actually passing that threshold. Interestingly, the Medrash tells us that Yirmiyahu HaNavi actually did it, he created a full human being, and he only destroyed it out of fear that people would begin to treat him like a god.

The reason I am writing though is not to argue about whether or not these aggadas are true, or worth thinking about; people are free to agree or disagree that they are interesting. My point is that it is irresponsible and potentially harmful when a writer takes a quote from a piece like this out of context, and neglects to include the original disclaimer. I wish to make three points:

1)  Obviously I am not of the opinion that a robot can actually count in a minyan, as I reiterated to the Ami author over the phone before the article was even written. I reiterate again that the entire discussion about robots in minyanim was only theoretical as stated in the original interview.

2) Even regarding the rhetorical strawman that the author builds to tear down, unfortunately he got it wrong. After I had mentioned the discussion in poskim about golems in a minyan, the JTA interviewer asked me if, theoretically speaking, a human-like robot (which does not yet exist) would count. My response was "not necessarily," even in this theoretical plane. I then made a related ethical point, based on a gemara in the Yerushalmi (the Gemara discusses the concept of treating something that looks human-like as a human, even when we are not sure,) because as ethical actors we should be machmir. The author of the Ami article ignored the earlier discussion about Sanhedrin, took that Yerushalmi, and wrote that 'based on this discussion Rabbi Goldfeder reported to the world that it is possible for a robot to be counted in a minyan." That is in no way true; I never made such a claim (explicitly stating that even in a theoretical world such a claim would not necessarily fly), and certainly any discussion of even theoretical minyanim was based on the gemara and poskim I had mentioned, not that Yerushalmi.

3) While it is fine to disagree, even in theory, putting claims in another person's mouth has no place in a Torah conversation.

Rabbi Dr. Moshe Goldfeder, Esq.

Senior Lecturer, Emory Law School

Senior Fellow, Center for the Study of Law and Religion

Director, Law and Religion Students Programs

Adjunct Professor, Emory University Department of Religion

Adjunct Professor of Law, Georgia State University College of Law

Phone: Office- (404) 712-0213 Cell- (917) 301-8746   

Email: mark.aaron.goldfeder@emory.edu

 

___________________________________________

 

 

My response to Mr. Goldfeder, also published:

 

 

 I am certainly not the vanguard of halacha. My [weekly] column, while often touching upon halacha, does not make it a habit of zeroing in on what this or that rabbi said.

However what was published and publicly said [by Mr. Goldfeder] was, in my opinion, so over the top, and all done so publicly, that it earned a response.

Mr. Goldfeder wrote a piece for CNN,[4] and then gave an interview with JTA[5]—available for any reader to read and judge for themselves—where he expressed the strong possibility of one day—“probably 30 years”—a robot counting as a Jew and in a minyan.

It was that last focus of his from which I quoted verbatim: JTA’s direct question about a robot joining a minyan and his direct response and source chosen.

While I do not recall being told, and having it reiterated, that he ‘obviously’ does not believe a robot could ever count for a minyan—and I can certainly marshal evidence to the contrary—I do not doubt that the writer is sincere in that complaint.

A public charge like this will have to await the yom hadin hagodol.

I kindly remind the writer that as a courtesy he was sent an early draft of my article, which he heartily approved.

Due to events in Israel the robot column was suddenly delayed, and while the final draft was different in many ways, what he’s complaining about here was already in the draft he approved, including the same one and only quote from JTA, my characterization of his belief that a robot could potentially be a Jew, and that I and the readers would intuitively reject this as even being a remote possibility.

In the final published article, not one further quote of his was taken out, nor was any added, save for his translation of the Yerushalmi for which I requested (via email) permission (and received).

If he feels that these points are not accurate, with his permission I would share that first draft, his response to it, and all our email exchanges.

In addition, had he said to me what he is claiming here (that he would obviously never claim a robot could ever be accepted for a minyan), then, and with all due respect, I would have looked at it not so much as a clarification, but as a retraction. Nor would I have been the only one with such a take-away.

The JTA reported: “‘From the practical legal perspective, robots could and should be people,’ Rabbi Mark Goldfeder wrote in an article published on CNN’s…”

And this:

“(Goldfeder) -In halachic terminology we would consider him [the robot] “nolad mahul” (i.e. born circumcised).” (!)

And it goes on (also see the quote brought in the initial column).

Should his beliefs be as expressed here in his letter to Ami, then I would think his grouse would be with CNN and JTA for initially misquoting him—both deeply respected news outlets—and not with me or Ami. Has he contacted them yet?

It is noteworthy that his arguments here focus on many things other than the actual halachik arguments I made; nor does he even try to defend his proof from the Yerushalmi, the only error I had actually focused on.

 

To his other points, in no particular order:

 

1) I never claimed he was issuing a psak, and the words ‘potentially’, ‘maybe’, etc., always appeared when discussing his views.

At the same time, this is not “nisht oif Shabbos geret,” and one does not have carte blanche to say anything, nor is one granted immunity from criticism when expressing a stunning halachic view to the lay press, simply by saying, “It was theoretical.”

Certainly no malice is intended when a publicly made wild claim is tested, and a source is shown to be in error.

There was nothing in my column that one would not find in letters to the RJJ Journal of Halacha, and, indeed, in what I have received in response to my own errors.

While my column never attacked this writer personally, I fear he took it that way, which was never my intention in critiquing his public Torah statements.

 

2) He mentions a disclaimer, in print, that the entire article had, that this was not l’maaseh.

I checked again, and there is no banner or warning, or even the word “disclaimer” in the articles I quoted.

What I can only guess he is referring to is the following. In the midst of his exchange he says:

“I should of course clarify that this entire discussion is “l’halacha v’lo l’maaseh,” a theoretical outlaying of views.”

All bnei Torah know what is meant by l’halacha v’lo l’maaseh.

Why, in his letter here, did he expunge this one crucial word from his quote?

His were serious halachic arguments in defense of something he thinks/thought is/was a real possibility.

Besides, most sefarim are expressly shlo k’halacha, and even those are tested for their logic and sources. Perhaps academia has other standers, but I think his colleagues would side with me and argue that a source given in support of even a theory, and certainly when published, is open to fair criticism, especially if it is a source that was so demonstrably misread.

Besides, and humbly, even if he had JTA publish a clear disclaimer, I would still be in my right to challenge his very public assertions and connections. I am surprised that a professor, instead of explaining how my critique of his proof was wrong, would rather argue against my right to dare argue in the first place.

 

3. He points us to his other sources.

But I used his chosen response/source to the direct question of minyan.

One should not expect salutations for quoting another gemara or source correctly, but should expect, and even desire, to be corrected for those taken out of context or in error.

Besides, now that he explained that he would never believe that a robot could count for a minyan, I fail to understand what these are even sources for.

For the edification of the reader, and in my opinion, none his other sources brought here or in his article/interview are any more relevant to robots. Should Ami allow I would gladly write a another column explaining why that is so.

(Also, and for the benefit of the reader, the Chacham Tzvi was the father of the Yaavetz, not grandfather.)

4. He writes here: “My response [in the JTA] was ‘not necessarily’ even in this theoretical plane.”

I agree, and that is why “Not necessarily” was included in the published article in Ami.

5. As the saying goes, ‘Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs.              ’

Perhaps one day a chachom will make the case for a robot minyan being a theoretical possibility. Maybe it will be this same writer.

Thus far, I contend, he has failed to do so, as well as failed to convince us that he didn’t try.

I do not know this writer, whom I have every reason to believe is a fine Jew and yorei shomyaim. Surely he was aware why the JTA chose to call him, that his words were sensational, and what the response would be.

At best, he made public remarks to international lay news outlets that could be easily misunderstood as suggesting that something he now says is obviously not possible is possible.

While I stand by my reading of his words, bl”n from this point forward, if I ever mention this subject again–short of a correction from JTA –I will include all his statements, why I disagree with them, as well as his very clear statement here that robots could never, obviously, join a minyan.

 

Moshe Taub