Siddurim On A Bimah
‘The Heart Of Beis Din Provides For It’
Our sugya discusses objects of sanctity – objects that have kedushas haguf – such as the frankincense in the Beis Hamikdash. The Gemara wonders how such objects are redeemable and suggests that “lev beis din masneh aleihen – the heart of beis din provides for it.” In other words, beis din makes a mental stipulation that if they aren’t required, they are to be redeemed for their value (and their sanctity is considered kedushas demeihen – only for their redeemable value).
Objects in a shul used for holy purposes, such as an aron kodesh, paroches, or bimah, are tashmishei kedushah which possess kedushas haguf and therefore may never be used for mundane purposes (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayyim 154) unless a stipulation allowing such use is made when they were dedicated. In fact, the Terumas Hadeshen (Responsa 1:273) writes that one should not even place a sefer (which possesses less sanctity than a Sefer Torah) on a bimah; one can only use a bimah to read from a Sefer Torah.
Almost Impossible To Avoid
Why, then, does almost everyone place siddurim and Chumashim on the bimah in shul? The Terumas Hadeshen settles the matter “with some difficulty,” claiming that in our times it is almost impossible to be so pure and not use tashmishei kedushah for mundane purposes. In contrast to the past, we now have many siddurim and Chumashim in shul and spend more time there because of the many piyutim and zemiros we say. As a result, it is hard to avoid using the bimah to place or store such items as siddurim.
Yet, it is obvious that this reasoning is not sufficient to permit committing a transgression. From childhood, a Jew is accustomed to obeying Hashem’s commandments, whether easy or hard. The Terumas Hadeshen ultimately resolves this difficulty by invoking the halachic rule cited above: “the heart of the beis din provides for it.”
How does this rule work? Our sugya explains that public sacrifices which for some reason were not sacrificed may be redeemed and used for mundane purposes as “the heart of the beis din makes a provision for them.” This rule is unusual because no actual stipulation needs to have been made. In other words, beis din never formally stipulated that if these sacrifices weren’t offered they would be candidates for redemption so that they could be used for mundane purposes. It suffices that “the heart of the beis din provides for it.”
So although no one may have made a stipulation regarding tashmishei kedushah in shul, “the heart of the beis din provides for it” and they may therefore sometimes be used for mundane purposes (Rema, Orach Chayyim 154:8).
A Tablecloth For Reading The Torah
From all the above, it seems that we should ideally (lechatchilah) refrain from using tashmishei kedushah for mundane purposes (or even lesser sanctified purposes). Indeed, in certain shuls, such as that of the Slonim chassidim and the Lederman Shul in Bnei Brak, the kehilla takes care to set aside a special tablecloth for Keri’at HaTorah. Furthermore, some halachic authorities (e.g., Mishna Berurah, 154, note 37, in the name of the Magen Avraham) have asserted that when dedicating a tashmish kedushah, the donator should make an explicit condition that the object may also serve mundane purposes. If no such stipulation was made, the Pri Megadim (Eishel Avraham, Orach Chayim 154, note 9) writes that if one can avoid using it for a mundane purpose, one should not rely on the allowance of “the heart of the beis din provides for it.”
A Shul Bench
The Yerushalmi (Megillah 3:1) explains that the benches of a shul are also regarded as tashmishei kedushah since all shul objects are holy. The Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chayim, ibid., sk12) writes that people do, in fact, use such benches for mundane purposes, such as for a festive meal, because “the heart of the beis din provides for it.” The Maharsham (Responsa 4:57) invokes this rule as well for why some people throw their aravos on Hoshana Rabbah on top of the aron kodesh (but see Darchei Chayyim Veshalom, Munkatch, p. 292). Of course, this rule does not mean we can use every item in shul for any purpose. The Mishnah Berurah (ibid., sk36) writes that we may only be lenient “where it is clear that the custom is to be lenient.” Otherwise, “where there is no custom, we should not be lenient as it could be that they did not provide for it.”