Parsha Encounters



Parshas Chayei Sarah:

Man Plans and.

By Rabbi Bill Kanter, Esq.

Parsha Encounters 

[Don't forget to see the Halacha Encounters below!]


Man Plans and.

In the Torah we read of the purchase of the Cave of Machpela by our father Avraham. The Talmud mentions that Chevron was one of three locations in the Land of Israel which are indisputably the legal property of the Jewish people. All three locations were purchased by the leaders of Israel - Avraham, Yakov, David - for good and valuable consideration and for full, if not more than full, market value. The details of those purchases are all recorded in the Torah. This purchase was supposed to eternally establish that holy place as being the property of the people of Israel. But it has not worked out that way. The right of Jews to live in Chevron is and has always been contested far more bitterly than even the right of Jews to live anywhere else. Why? What is the secret of Chevron that makes it so dangerous and contested a place for Jewish settlement and security?

Perhaps, suggests Rabbi Berel Wein, "the very reason that these properties are contested is because our claim to them is based on man-made law and contracts and deeds and not on Divine promise." The entire thrust of the book of Bereshis is that the world and its lands and properties belong not to man but to Hashem the Creator. The claim of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel is not based on contracts and deeds. It is not based on "Declarations" or on "Partition Plans" or "Accords" It is based upon the  promise by G-d to our forefathers that the Land of Israel belongs to their descendants.

Those who deny this G-dly promise, are very hard pressed to justify the continued existence of the People of Israel and the Jewish claim to Jerusalem. Without this justification of belief and Jewish tradition, the claim of the nations of the world that "you are thieves" sounds plausible and correct. The faith of Israel is based upon the revelation and will of our eternal Creator.

In other words the Torah is trying to tell us that the minute we rely solely on man made agreements we are doomed. Agreements work only because Hashem, the Creator of the world deems them valid. The towers of the World Trade center existed only so long as G-d decreed them to stand, and then they, being man made, fell.

We must only look to Him for our salvation. As the Mishnah says in Sotah (49 a & b) Upon whom can we rely? [only] Upon our Father in heaven) and as we say in Tehillim (121:2) "My help comes from G-d the Creator of the heavens and the earth".

Rabbi Kanter learns daily at the Kollel with Rabbi Sterman's Morning Halacha Chaburah.

Halacha Encounters  Parshas Chayei Sarah

Rabbi Efraim Friedman

Kedushas Seforim

The Laws of Treating Our Holy Texts with Respect

Within the very fabric of a Jew there exists a deep love and reverence not only for the teachings of the Torah but also for the very object within which these teachings are contained - the Sefer Torah itself. A special aron (ark) is built in every shule to hold the Sefer Torah, great care is taken to assure that the Sefer Torah is placed securely within the aron, and when the Sefer torah is carried from place to place all who are present rise in its honor. Never is a Sefer Torah placed - even for a moment - on the floor, no other objects are ever placed on top of it, and if G-d forbid a Sefer Torah should ever fall, it is a common practice for all who witness this event to fast.

There is no question that the honor due a Sefer Torah is greater than that due other seforim. However, it is also clear in the Poskim, that all seforim - whether of Torah Shebichsav or of Torah Sheba'al Peh whether in Lashon HaKodesh or any other language, whether handwritten or printed by machine - are Cheftzei Kedusha (articles of sanctity) and must be treated with a great deal of care and respect (see O.C.334:12 and Mishna Berura 40:4). Being that we use printed seforim so frequently in our homes and offices as well as in shules and batei medrash (and even in our cars!) it is critical that we be familiar with the halachos governing their care and treatment so that we don't compromise upon the standard of kavod they deserve.

(Note: A complete and thorough treatment of this topic is impossible within these short paragraphs, however I will attempt to discuss some of the most pertinent issues. The sefer Ginzei Kodesh written by HaRav Yechezkiel Feinhandler was extremely helpful in preparing this article. Anyone who wishes to study this topic more thoroughly is urged to consult this beautifully written sefer.)


It is forbidden to place upon a sefer any item other than another sefer of equal or greater kedushah. This includes items used in the performance of a mitzva such as taleisim or plastic tefillin covers, and certainly non-kedushah items commonly found upon the tables of batei medrash, such as hats, tissue boxes, or stray sheets of paper. This halacha applies whether the sefer is lying down (closed or open) or standing up on a table or bookshelf. (It might pay for each of us to check the seforim on our bookshelves at home!)

With regard to the various levels of kedushah which different seforim possess the guidelines are as follows. Seforim containing Torah Shebichsav (Chumashim, Naviim) may be placed upon seforim of Torah Sheba'al Peh (Mishnayos, Gemoras and their commentaries) but not vice versa. Within Torah Shebichsav Torah may be placed upon Nach but not vice versa. Within Torah Sheba'al Peh there are no restrictions - e.g. a sefer of commentaries may even be placed on top of a Gemorah. Regarding Siddurim, there is a difference of opinion amongst contemporary Poskim. Some consider them to be on the level of Sifrei Nach, and others regard them as seforim of Torah Sheba'al Peh (See Ginzei HaKodesh 3:26-30 for exact sources and further details.)

It is likewise forbidden to leave extraneous items inside a sefer, such as blank sheets of paper, tissues or secular reading material. Pages which became severed from a sefer and will not be reattached should be placed with "shaimos" and not tucked into a different sefer for storage. It is permissible to use a blank piece of paper, or some other appropriate item, as a bookmark in a sefer. However, a makeshift bookmark which is only intended for one-time use should be removed before the sefer is replaced on the shelf, and not neglectfully left to take up permanent residence amongst the pages of Torah.

A sefer that is not in use may not be left open unless it is covered. At the same time, it is forbidden to turn over an open sefer placing the face of the pages against the table and the cover side up. If one finds a sefer lying in that position he should turn it over. When replacing seforim onto the shelf, one should be careful not to place them upside down.

It is forbidden to place a sefer on the floor or on any surface that is designated for people to walk upon such as stairs. A box or briefcase containing seforim, however, may be placed upon the floor. If a sefer falls on the floor it should be picked up immediately, even if one must interrupt his learning to pick it up (Aruch Hashulchan Y.D. 282:11). If one is davening Shmoneh Esrei, he should not stop to lift a sefer from the floor unless it is disturbing his concentration. In that case he should complete the brocha which he was reciting and then stop to lift the sefer (M.B.90:7).

One may not sit on a chair or bench upon which a sefer is currently resting. (This should be kept in mind when you enter a car with a sefer in your hand.) It is permissible to place a sefer on a chair which no one is currently using. However, common sense dictates that a sefer should not be left in a place where someone is liable to inadvertantly sit on it, just as you  wouldn't leave your hat or other important item there. Additionally, to leave seforim on a public bench (such as in a shule) which is liable to be used by individuals who are unaware of this halacha is certainly improper.

One is not required to wash his hands before handling printed seforim. (With regard to seforim written by hand on parchment, see O.C. 147:1.) However, if you are aware that your hands are unclean it is proper to wash them before touching any sefer. If a sefer is lying on the ground and one's hands are unclean, he should quickly rub them against an abrasive surface and then lift the sefer. (Ginzei HaKodesh 4:6 quoting HaGaonim Rav Elyashev and Rav Chaim Kanievsky, shlit"a.)

Included within the proper treatment of seforim is replacing them on the shelves when they are not in use. Seforim left lying on bais medrash tables often end up being piled disrespectfully upon chairs and windowsills, or haphazardly stashed horizontally on top of other rows of seforim. (This, in addition to other considerations such as the time and energy of the next person who may spend fifteen minutes or more searching for a particular sefer which the previous user did not bother to replace.) And, although seforim are intended to be used, when they begin to tear it is proper to rebind or otherwise repair them.


The Reishis Chochma (Sha'ar Hayirah 15) and the Peleh Yoeitz (Erech Seforim) both compare Sifrei kodesh to Bigdei HaMelech - Hashem's royal garments. Treating a king's garments with disrespect is an affront to the king himself and will surely invoke his wrath. Treating seforim with disrespect is a bizayon haTorah. Conversely, showing proper reverence for Sifrei Kodesh is a form of kavod haTorah and kavod Shamayim. It is my hope that this short article will help increase our awareness and strengthen our commitment to this important mitzvah.



In addition to learning full time in the Kollel, Rabbi Friedman is alos the Moreh Hora'ah for Beis HaMedrash Mekor HaChaim and the Maggid Shiur for the Kolle'ls Night Seder Yoreh Deah Program



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