Question: May one throw out an old, worn-out sefer that does not have the name of Hashem written in it? What about the binding or cover of such a sefer?

Short Answer: An old, worn-out sefer must be buried, even if it doesn’t contain the name of Hashem. The binding or cover of such a sefer must also be buried.



I. A Worn-Out Sefer

Until now, we have been discussing throwing out papers that contain the name of Hashem. But what about throwing out an old, worn-out sefer that contains divrei Torah, but does not contain the name of Hashem? Must this sefer be deposited in sheimos?

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 154:5), based on the Gemara (Megillah 26a), rules that a worn-out sefer Torah must be buried in a “k’li cheres” (earthenware vessel). [While the Shulchan Aruch adds that it should be buried in the grave of a talmid chacham, the Biur Halachah (ibid) cites the P’ri M’gadim, who notes that the minhag is simply to bury it in the ground, and not in the grave of a talmid chacham].

The Mishnah B’rurah (22) adds that other sifrei Tanach that are written on a klaf, etc. need the same burial in a k’li cheres. The Mishnah B’rurah (24) further adds that other worn-out s’farim (i.e., not written on a klaf) also need to be buried, albeit not in a k’li cheres.

The Ginzei Kodesh (8:1:5) explains that the Mishnah B’rurah is discussing s’farim that do not have Hashem’s name in it; even these s’farim must be buried. Indeed, the Mishnah (Shabbos 90a) writes that one cannot carry even a small piece of a worn-out sefer on Shabbos without an eruv, as people store even small pieces, as it must be discarded properly. Rashi explains that it must be discarded, because “all holy things must be buried.” Rashi is clear that even s’farim that do not contain the name of Hashem must be buried.

II. Pieces of the Sefer

But what about pieces of the sefer that fall off? They don’t contain any words of Torah. May they be discarded and thrown into the trash?

The above-mentioned Gemara (Shabbos 90a) implies that even worn-out and wormy pieces of a sefer that fall off the sefer must be buried. The Ginzei Kodesh (7:3:12-13) elaborates that one must bury any pieces of a used sefer that fall off the sefer. He cites the Mishnah B’rurah (Orach Chayim 334:50) as the source of this prohibition. The Mishnah B’rurah is based off of the Magen Avraham, who cites Maseches Sofrim, who rules that one must bury pieces of an “old” sefer that are cut off from the sefer. Only “new” s’farim that never received k’dushah (as they were not yet learned from) do not have such a requirement.

Rav Chaim Kanievsky zt”l (Ginzei Kodesh, T’shuvos 35-36) also rules that any piece of a worn-out and used sefer requires burial.

III. The Binding or Cover

But what about the binding of such a sefer? The cover? They don’t contain any words of Torah. May they be discarded and thrown into the trash?

The Mishnah B’rurah (Orach Chayim 154:9) rules that a box that holds s’farim is only “tashmish d’tashmish” of k’dushah, i.e., indirectly used for kodesh items. It does not need to be buried. The Mishnah B’rurah reasons that since our s’farim are protected with a cover and binding, any other external holder/box is only indirectly servicing the sefer.

Based on this Mishnah B’rurah, the Ginzei Kodesh (8:10) rules that a binding or cover of a sefer has full k’dushah and must be buried. It is a classic example of tashmishei k’dushah, which the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 154:3) rules requires burial. The Ginzei Kodesh cites Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l and Rav Nissim Karelitz zt”l as having ruled similarly.

What about bags that carry s’farim, such as a plastic bag that is used for a few days to carry s’farim? The Ohel Yaakov (Kavod U’K’dushas S’farim, p. 24) cites Rav Avigdor Nebenzahl shlita that these bags do not need burial, as they are not designated specifically for s’farim. He cites (ibid., p. 51) Rav Y. Schwalb and Rav Ezriel Auerbach as having ruled similarly.

 Next Week’s Topic: Is there any basis in halachah to discard old s’farim without burial?

Rabbi Ephraim Glatt, Esq. is Assistant Rabbi at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills and a practicing litigation attorney. Questions? Comments? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.