Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, Star-K Rabbinic Administrator
The Torah forbids discarding holy objects by throwing them into the trash. Objects which have innate holiness, kedusha, must be wrapped in plastic and buried. What constitutes an object of kedusha?
Holy Objects Include:
- Sefer Torah
- Sefer Torah covers
- Seforim, whether handwritten, printed, photocopied or downloaded and printed (i.e. Chumashim, siddurim, machzorim, seforim, Gemara, Shulchan Aruch, etc.).
- Paper upon which a halacha or commentary of the Tanach, Mishna, Gemara, Rishonim, Achronim, or a Midrash has been printed or written with the intention of explaining a halacha or posuk, or to teach us how to conduct ourselves according to hashkafos haTorah.
- Paper on which three consecutive words of a posuk from Tanach have been written in one line, with the intention of quoting the Tanach (as opposed to a melitzah, which is not shaimos).*
- Invitations from organizations and individuals that contain parts of pesukim are shaimos; however, the sentence Od Yishama, as frequently included in wedding invitations, is a melitzah and is not intended to explain the posuk.*
- Any paper or material on which is written one of the names of HaShem. However, the Hebrew letters IY”H (Im Yirtzah Hashem), BE”H (B’ezras Hashem), and B”H (Baruch Hashem) may be discarded according to the halacha and Jewish custom, although it is considered an act of piety to tear off those letters and put them into shaimos. The Hebrew letters BS”D (B’siyata D’shmaya) may definitely be put into the trash.*
- Pieces of paper that fell out of a sefer, even if there is no writing or print on them, are considered shaimos.
- Tefillin, tefillin bags, mezuzos, mezuzah covers.
*In the above cases, the shaimos or divrei Torah may be cut away from the paper and buried if so desired. However, letters or printed material in the Hebrew language are not shaimos if they do not conform with one of these specifications. Letters or printed material in English, or any other non-Hebrew language, are shaimos if they conform with the above stipulations.
OBJECTS THAT DO NOT HAVE KEDUSHA:
However, a yarmulke does not have innate kedusha and does not need to be double wrapped. It may be disposed of in the trash
- S’chach of the sukkah
- Talis bag
- Esrogim, lulavim, hadasim, aravos
- Newspapers and magazines which contain secular information. These items should not be put into shaimos. They degrade the real shaimos that are buried with them, especially if the advertisements and pictures are not within the spirit of the Torah. The pages that do contain Torah may be removed and placed into shaimos, or the whole paper may be wrapped in paper and then placed in a plastic cover, kli besoch kli, and placed into the garbage.
- A sefer’s book cover, when removed, should be placed into shaimos. Homework and test papers in Limudei Kodesh may be shaimos, depending upon whether or not they fall into the above categories.
Kashrus Kurrents thanks Agudath Israel of Baltimore for permission to reprint Shaimos Guidelines.