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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.

(In many places, synagogues and other communal organizations arrange burial for items requiring it, at times asking for a fee to help defray the associated cost.)

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.
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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Ian Nachlaot December 2, 2017

strap protection question can you cover the tips of the straps to prevent them from making direct contact with the floor when davening? Reply

Cara Nj June 26, 2017

I have a copy of the Mourner's Kaddish from a funeral. Do I have to bury it, or can I wrap it and throw it out?
Reply

Yehudit Dallas June 21, 2017

Ruined Mezuzah Scroll I have a mezuzah scroll that is ruined by weather. Can you please clarify the proper way to dispose of it?
Thank you, Reply

Chabad.org Staff June 22, 2017
in response to Yehudit:

A ruined mezuzah which cannot be repaired should be put in a genizah and the rabbi will eventually bury it in a Jewish cemetery. If there is no synagogue where you live you can find a 'shaimos' or genizah spot online to which you can ship the mezuzah. Reply

Anonymous Fullerton, CA January 25, 2017

Deleting of the files Dear Rabbi,
Thank you for the clarification regarding electronic files.
Sill, have a question.
I study Hebrew. To practice, I copy (or snip) a sentence, paste it to Excel file and work on translation, typing it above the Hebrew text.
May the Excel file be deleted? Reply

Anonymous January 12, 2017

Thank you! Thank you so much! Reply

Chabad.org Staff via chabadone.org January 10, 2017

To Anonymous A tissue used during prayer can be regularly disposed of in the trash. Reply

Anonymous January 8, 2017

something I used in prayer? Hi there,

I had used once a tissue to cover my eyes during prayer (can't remember why...) and I have set it aside since because not sure if disposing of it in the normal manner is ok? How should it be disposed?

Thank you, Reply

Chabad.org Staff via chabadone.org October 9, 2016

To Leslie No special prayer needs to be said. Reply

Leslie Millman United Kingdom October 5, 2016

Chumash and Sidorim to be Buried I have some damaged prayer books and i am aware the custom is to bury them, but before doing this i need to know if there is a special prayer that needs to be recited Reply

Anonymous Nashville, TN May 2, 2016

How about a minim text that has served its purpose, that has the Holy name spelled out in another language? Reply

Menachem Posner July 30, 2015

Electronic Files They are not considered shaimos. Thus, you may close windows, delete files etc. This issue was discussed in the 1950s regarding audio cassettes. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein ruled that he saw no reason to forbid erasing a tape with Torah content, but still advised "perhaps not to erase since it appears like erasing G-d's name." He--and others--therefore advised that it would be ideal to do the erasing in an indirect manner (gramma), such as asking a a child to do it. Reply

Greg Magarshak Brooklyn July 28, 2015

Can one delete an electronic file or photo or close a window on the computer? The English word with three letters, God. Is it allowed to close this window, for example?

What is the ruling regarding electronic documents, photos, etc. Can they be deleted from the hard drive or should there be a prayer or ceremony about disposing of them?

What do the modern poskim say? Does Shaimos apply here? Reply

Anonymous Baltimore November 25, 2014

Hi,

What about e-mails?

As long as the Biblical verse is not printed on paper and stays in e-mail format, is it ok to delete in one's e-mail box?
Reply

Menachem Posner Montreal 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. Reply

Jack Bowling Green Ky 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? Reply

Rabbi Menachem Posner 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. Reply

Aleks Fuzaylov Rego Park, NY 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 Reply

Gershon McGreevy Wichita, KS 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. Reply

Anonymous San Antonio, Texas 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. Reply

Richard Lauzon Lehigh Acres, FL / USA 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. Reply

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