[Don’t forget to see the Halacha
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
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
Rabbi Efraim Friedman
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
(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
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
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
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.