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Shabbat Parashat Toldot | 5771

Ask the Rabbi: Should a piece of the cover of a siddur be put in the gniza?

Question: When pieces of the cover or binding fall off an old siddur or sefer, can it be left on the floor or thrown away?


Answer: The baraita (quoted by the gemara, Shabbat 61b) says that if one has a Name of Hashem on the handle of a utensil, he cuts that section off the utensil and puts it in geniza (disposing of it in an honorable manner, usually through burial). This ruling, accepted by the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 276:13), assumes that only the part that has Hashem’s Name requires geniza and cannot be used, as is explicitly stated in Arachin 6a. If so, one would think that certainly the blank parts of papers that have only prayers and p’sukim without the Names written out should not require geniza.

However, there is another concept that seems to imply otherwise. The gemara (Megilla 26b) says that tashmishei kedusha (things that serve holy items, most specifically sacred texts) require geniza when one finishes using them. Even the cover of a sacred text fits this bill (see Living the Halachic Process, vol. II, G-6 for some parameters). Therefore, it would seem simple that the page that the words are written on should be no less than that. It is true that the Masat Binyamin (100) says the margins of books do not have kedusha and he allows printers to cut off and use extra paper from the sides of the pages. He gives several explanations: the most extreme explanation assumes that only the minimum necessary margins needed for halachic articles such as a sefer Torah and tefillin have sanctity. The Mishna Berura (334:50) accepts the premise that printers can use the parts of the pages they cut off in the process. However his justification is for cases where the seforim have not yet been used and based on the assumption that the sanctification process dose not apply to the parts that are made to be cut off.

How then are we to understand the aforementioned baraita, which states that only the part of the utensil that has Hashem’s Names written on it is subject to geniza? The gemara in Arachin (6a) cites the baraita in question in the context of a case in which a non-Jew donates an object for the Beit Hamikdash with a Name of Hashem written on it. The gemara says that one can remove the Name and use the object for another purpose if the donor left its use up to the Jews who receive it. The gemara, in explaining why the rest can be used, says: “a Name, not in its place, is not holy.” Rashi has two ways of reading this gemara: 1) when the sanctity is due to a Name, the section away from the Name is not holy; 2) when a Name is put in an inappropriate place, there is no sanctity. In any case, poskim (see Shvut Yaakov I,81; Piskei Uziel 26) learn from here, among other places, that the Name of Hashem itself must be treated respectfully and not destroyed even if it were written by a non-Jew or written not for the purpose of ritual sanctity. That is a special law regarding the Names. However, in regard to the normal rules of sanctity of texts and items, there is no kedusha. That, then, is why the rest of the utensil may be used (Aruch Hashulchan, YD 276:26; Chavot Yair 16).

In contrast, regarding a properly prepared sefer, the entire sefer would receive sanctity and the margins and cover (see Birkei Yosef, Orach Chayim 154, Shiyurei Beracha 1) would be at least tashmishei kedusha. The Kevod Hasefarim (9:2) cites the same ruling from Rav Chaim Kaniefsky. (The latter is famous for giving one word answers, so we would not know if his reasoning is similar). According to some of the explanations of the lenient, aforementioned Masat Binyamin, the margins would not be sanctified, and this would presumably apply to the binding as well. It is unclear whether he would say they could be disgraced, and, if not, what should be done to prevent that. (See Living the Halachic Process vol. II, G-8) regarding religious articles that do not have sanctity but should be shown respect anyway.)




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