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Shabbat Parashat Pekudei 5774

Ask the Rabbi: A Yad in the Bathroom

Rav Daniel Mann

Question: I have a yad (pointer) for a sefer Torah which is a family heirloom. When I lain, I like to use it, so I stick it in my pocket and bring it with me. While it is in my pocket, can I enter a bathroom?

 

Answer: The sources that lead to a discussion of a yad start with a Terumat Hadeshen. The Terumat Hadeshen (II:225) forbids turning a part of the support of a parochet (curtain) for an aron kodesh into “pachim used to label the sefer Torah for the obligation of the day.” The Rama (Orach Chayim 154:6) in accepting this opinion refers to “wood used to label …” This seems to me (the reader is encouraged to see the original rather than my translation) to be talking about tags that some shuls hang on sifrei Torah to indicate which sefer Torah is open to which reading (weekly parasha, Rosh Chodesh, fast day, etc.). The Magen Avraham (154:14, on this Rama) explains: “As they are not for adornment or to dress [the sefer Torah] but for a sign that they should not err, and now the practice is to hang them from the sefer Torah for adornment.” The Machatzit Hashekel (ad loc.) is unsure whether this refers to the tags, as we understand the Terumat Hadeshen, or whether the Magen Avraham refers to a yad. The Pri Megadim (ad loc.) understands that the Magen Avraham is indeed referring to a yad (and this is the way the Mishna Berura 154:31 rules). This makes sense within the Magen Avraham because he implies that he is talking about something that used to not be hung on the sefer Torah and now is (a tag would by its nature be on the sefer).

It follows, then, that the Magen Avraham says that in times when a yad is an adornment that is hung from the sefer, it has the status of noyei kedusha (something that adorns a holy object). Among the halachot of a noy kedusha are that it requires geniza and that it cannot be brought into a bathroom (see Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 282:17; Shach, Yoreh Deah 283:6).

However, your case may be different. If the yad was never used for hanging as an adornment but to be brought by members of the family to use in whatever location and then taken home, then there is no basis to consider it noyei kedusha (Shevet Halevi VI:63). Then we would revert to the status the Terumat Hadeshen and Rama attributed to it – a lesser kedusha than something that is used in a shul in a manner that is not directly related to holy texts. Even if the yad is beautiful, it is an adornment of the mitzva of reading the Torah, not of the sefer Torah itself, which it is not designed to hang from or even touch (unfortunately, not all ba’alei kri’ah are aware of that). In that way, it seems similar to a silver Kiddush cup or etrog box.

That being said, we should apply the balanced approach that poskim used in relation to non-kadosh religious objects. Neither tzitzit nor a tallit have kedusha. Yet, the Mishna Berura (21:14) rules that although tzitzit may be brought into a bathroom, a tallit, which is used exclusively for davening, should not be brought there. It would seem that a yad, which relates the sefer Torah and aids in the mitzva of its public reading, is no less deserving of dignity and should not be brought into a bathroom.

Yet, we propose that proper halachic balance requires limiting this stringency. The ruling against bringing a tallit into a bathroom is a suggestion, not a full-fledged halacha (see Living the Halachic Process II:G-5). One might claim that it is not clear that modern bathrooms with plumbing are considered a “dirty place” (see ibid. H-10). Still, we discourage you from taking the yad exposed into any bathroom, but to be lenient in the following way. While a sefer Torah and tefillin may be brought into a bathroom only in two covers, one of which not being its usual cover (Shulchan Aruch, OC 43:6), significant opinions hold that one cover suffices for lesser holy texts (Magen Avraham 43:14; see Living the Halachic Process II:G-4). In the case of your yad, then, we suggest you keep it fully covered, in any way, when going into the bathroom.
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