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Proper Disposal of Holy Objects

Proper Disposal of Holy Objects

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Question:

Rabbi,

1. Sometimes I print out pages from the web that contain G‑d's name. If I need to discard them, should I give them any proper care? Is it necessary to even bury them like one does a prayer book?

2. A related question: Perhaps I'm being ridiculous, but don't a lot of newspapers and magazines mention G‑d, whether using the term G‑d or even other names? Do any of these items need proper care too?

Answer:

Great questions!

Here are some guidelines on this subject prepared and distributed by the Association of Chabad Rabbis of Illinois:

Objects which are used for holy purposes acquire holiness themselves. Depending on the particular use, there are guidelines for how to treat and dispose of these objects.

Generally, they fall into the following categories:

Holy Objects:

These must be set aside (in "shaimos" or "geniza") and are subsequently buried.

Included in this category are such things as:

  • Torah scrolls, their mantles and sashes; tefillin, their straps, covers and bags; mezuzah scrolls, wrappings and cases; a parochet (cloth ark covering) and bima (Torah reading table) cover; tzitzit or tallit fringes; Torah books, their covers, dust jackets, slip covers or other parts.
  • Materials containing: (a) G‑d's name, (b) three consecutive words of a biblical verse, when written on one line with the intent to quote the verse, or (c) other written or printed Torah ideas or laws.
  • Schoolwork, homework and test papers may be included in this category if they contain any of the above.

All these materials are considered holy objects whether they are in Hebrew or another language, in Braille or on microfilm.

It is not proper to use the lettering used for writing Torahs, tefillin and mezuzot for mundane purposes. Anything written or printed with such lettering must also be treated as a holy object.

Mitzvah Objects:

Objects in this category must be disposed of in a respectable manner; e.g. double wrapped in paper or plastic before being put in the garbage.

Included in this category are such things as:

The garments of a tallit or tzitzit (after the fringes have been removed for burial), tallit bags, the Four Species, willows used for hoshanot, schach (foliage covering for a sukkah), and a gartel (prayer sash).

There are other items which technically may not have the status of a holy object, but one may feel that they too should be treated respectfully, such as pictures of holy individuals.

Discardable Items:

Kippot, audio or video materials, computer disks, diagrams or pictures without text, and stories.

It is generally accepted that misprints, overruns etc. which were not actually used for learning are not holy, and may be double wrapped and tossed, but it is better to avoid making the extra copies in the first place.

Newspapers which contain Torah-related columns can be wrapped and tossed. If you want to put them into shaimos, remove the Torah sections and put only them into shaimos.

It is not necessary to put papers into shaimos because they contain BH (whether in English or Hebrew). If putting such items in shaimos, just the corner containing BH should be snipped off and place in shaimos, and the rest discarded.

It is not respectful to put into shaimos articles which do not belong there -- causing holy objects to be buried together with mundane items.

Yours truly,

Rabbi Menachem Posner

Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for Chabad.org. He lives with his family in Montreal, QC.
All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Discussion (13)
August 4, 2013
To Jack
The ideal (but not required) thing to do is to bury the strings. If you cannot do that, you may discard them in a respectable manner.
Menachem Posner
Montreal
August 2, 2013
In need of your services
Like Frum Mama (on line), I washed my Tallis and it gave off a really bad odor, after the wash; the smell covered a large area (it was not that dirty).



I can only assume it was some of the chemicals used in the mfg process ( ? ), that did not blend well with the detergent (again, that's a "shot in the dark" assumption).



I had to throw it out. I removed the Tzitzt and double wrapped it before going into the trash.



I am not Lubavitch, I have a Reform background and (because of a job move years ago), I am without out a congregation and Rabbi.



I need to know the proper disposal of the Tzitzt; I have them in a large plastic bag, what's next?



Can you please help?
Jack
Bowling Green Ky
April 19, 2012
RE: Where to send recycling items?
Your local municipality should take care of recycling. Regarding genizah, the proper way to dispose of Jewish items, I suggest that you call your local rabbi to find out who deals with them.
Rabbi Menachem Posner
April 18, 2012
where to send recycling items?
Dear Rabbi,
I have a lot of items to be recycled and do not know where to ship them.
Is there anybody who handles them?
Thank you,
Salamon
Aleks Fuzaylov
Rego Park, NY
May 10, 2011
RE: misprinted Torah and prayer books
Assuming that they are still in good condition with a good modern typeface, I would assume that you can easily give them to a Jewish school or synagogue to use. If they are not usable, the rabbi at the synagogue or school that you call should be able to help you with what to do next.
Gershon McGreevy
Wichita, KS
April 21, 2011
misprinted Torah and prayer books
My Father was a printer - and he printed names on prayer books and Torahs when young gentlemen and ladies had their bar mitzpahs and bat mitzpahs for one of the local temples- some books have the names misprinted and they are still in his shop. How do I dispose of them properly? I would like to give them away to someone who could use them - despite the misprints. Otherwise, the books are good. I live in Texas. I am Episcopalian so if I said something inaccurately I apologize.
Anonymous
San Antonio, Texas
December 3, 2009
I give thanks for someone NOT burying what I had
I was very young as we all were and as a young child I was interested in "Spiritual Things" and wanted to always "do " certain things correctly as Iwas then being taught what I knew about "G-d" in the Parochial school that I had attended at that age.
I recall the day I found the Holy Writings (The Bible" and I carried this pocket-sized book or prayer, proverbs, and psalms for a long long period of time, ...I even took it into the Navy with me, feeling that I did NOT wish to be tainted by the "spirit" that was more animal than spiritual.
I survived with the help of G-d as I read these prayers, and songs ond prophecies to myself daily and then to other curious passers-by as I dwelt on what I was reading. Yes...I found myself meditating on the Word of God, noticing the the Messiah was not G-d and this really irritated me, to find the true Monotheisticism of our beloved Creator.
I am now 63 and am way afar from Catholicism, for if it were buried, who knows where I would be now.
Richard Lauzon
Lehigh Acres, FL / USA
July 18, 2009
Bury Shaimos
Can one bury Shaimos in their own garden?
Mordechai
Toronto, Canada
April 23, 2009
I once did a newspaper story about Rosh Hashanah for which I interviewed the local Chabad rabbi. He made an eloquent statement about G-d, which I quoted in the article. Of course, our newspaper's style dictates spelling out G-d's name, as do most secular publications. I dropped off copies of the paper at Chabad after the article came out, but began to wonder long after if I had presented him with an item that would cause problems because newsprint fades, or that it would be difficult eventually to dispose of. Reading this, I gather I didn't cause a problem for him. Am I right? Thank you.
Anonymous
July 21, 2008
old prayer books
Thank you very much for asking.

Unusable or ruined prayer books and other Jewish holy books should be brought to a synagogue or given to a rabbi. Most synagogues have a "genizah," a place where they store such items and then periodically bury its contents in a Jewish cemetary.
Chani Benjaminson, chabad.org
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