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Shabbat Parashat Yitro | 5769

Using Others Religious Articles

Ask the Rabbi

Question: I understand that Ashkenazim may borrow religious articles from each other without permission but Sephardim may not. May an Ashkenazi borrow a Sephardi’s religious article?


Answer: Your assumption is overstated, as we will explain, but your question is fascinating to explore regarding cases where the assumptions apply.

It is forbidden (as theft) to borrow other people’s objects without permission. Where we believe the owner would want the borrower to take it, the matter is complicated (see Ask the Rabbi, Pinchas 5765). Regarding an object that people usually are happy for others to use, they may do so. Rishonim (see Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim 14) say that people are happy to let others borrow an object to use for a mitzva (based on Pesachim 4b). The Shulchan Aruch (OC 14:4), following this assumption, allows one to borrow a tallit that he finds in shul. The Rama (ad loc.) adds that one can do the same with tefillin and elsewhere (OC 649:5) says the same for a lulav. Indications (from the Beit Yosef and commentators) are that the Shulchan Aruch and Sephardi poskim agree.

The question of borrowing religious articles has a complex answer. The Shulchan Aruch (ibid.) makes a condition that one returns the tallit folded if he found it that way. The Magen Avraham (14:7) permits it only on occasion and requires that the object remain in the building it was found. The Rama (ibid.) says that one may not similarly borrow sefarim to learn from. There is a concern that the sefarim will get ripped, and this makes it unclear if the owner would want to lend them.

The Pri Megadim (Mishbetzot Zahav 14:7) claims that the minhag is to borrow siddurim in shul without permission. He opposes the minhag based on the Rama’s and others’ rulings. The Aruch Hashulchan, a more recent leading posek, who tends to be very minhag-oriented, turns everything upside down. Regarding a tallit, he not only interprets the classical leniency narrowly but observes that people are now more particular about others borrowing their tallitot (OC 14:11). On the other hand, he says that people are no longer disturbed by others borrowing their siddurim and sefarim and, therefore, that should now be permitted (ibid.:13). Actually, even classically, when one asked a talmid chacham to watch sefarim for him, the latter could use them because of an assumption that the owner who said nothing would let (Rama, Choshen Mishpat 292:20). So, we find fluidity based on the circumstances and we do not find explicit, major differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardi poskim (see Kaf Hachayim, OC 14:31). In practice, the matter is disputed, and different places (especially yeshivot) have different practices. However, regarding using sefarim at their place, considering their relative low cost and high durability, few mind.

We will now re-ask your question. If one received a p’sak that he can borrow, can he borrow from one who has a p’sak not to borrow or vice versa? Presumably, the machloket arises because owners’ intentions are borderline and/or depend on how much to adapt classical rulings when recent observers sense that the situation has changed somewhat. These questions are for the borrower(’s rabbi) to determine and do not depend on the specific owner/lender. If a ruling became very famous among a group, we might say that the p’sak became a self-fulfilling prophecy, creating a minhag to allow or forbid others’ use. As far as we are aware, neither Ashkenazim nor Sephardim have broad, well-known practices on the matter. However, one who enters a yeshiva or shul where there is a stated policy can assume that the sefarim owners there conform to the local standard, and we would follow the lender’s presumed position. (One should look at a sefer’s inside cover to see if the owner left contrary instructions).



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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of

HaRav Professor

Reuben M. Rudman ob”m


as well as

 R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga  Brachfeld



Hemdat Yamim is endowed by Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois in loving memory of
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and Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.

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