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Q & A: What Constitutes Shemot? (Part III)


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In fact, Rabbi Feinstein (Iggrot Moshe, Yoreh De’ah, 2:135) and Rabbi Menashe Klein, zt”l (Mishneh Halachot 7:183) decry the practice of quoting whole pesukim in Hebrew, even if they do not contain G-d’s name. Rabbi Klein explains that many sefarim nowadays do not use a ktav Ashurit (the script of Torah scrolls, tefillin and mezuzot) for that very reason. Instead they use ktav Rashi, which does not possess the same level of holiness.

Some of our Torah columnists, however, do not refrain from spelling G-d’s name in their articles. They follow the practice of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchick, zt”l, who argued that erasing (or disposing of) G-d’s name in any other language than Hebrew does not constitute a profanation of the Holy Name. As we noted above, he is far from the only authority who maintains this view.

It is told that Rabbi Soloveitchik would sometimes write G-d’s name in English on the blackboard and then later erase it. Some observers believe he did so to make a point – that erasing G-d’s name in English does not constitute a profanation of the Divine Name.

Even if, as my uncle suggests, one should not discard The Jewish Press (or any other periodical containing the Divine Name) but should rather pass it on to a friend, the question will still arise at some point. Someone down the line will be faced with the dilemma of how to properly discard it. Some have suggested double wrapping the paper before throwing it away.

Notes from Judaic studies lectures, certain books from Jewish publishers that have Torah references, and printouts of Torah information downloaded from the Internet require thoughtful handling as well.

Also, it is best to avoid the common practice of writing “bet heh” (meaning baruch Hashem, G-d is the source of all blessings) as an opening greeting at the top of documents if these documents will eventually be discarded. It is preferable to write “bet samach daled” (meaning besiyata d’shmaya – with the help of Heaven), thereby avoiding mentioning G-d’s name even in an abbreviated manner. However, if one did not take this precaution, or has the items mentioned above, one should dispose of them in a respectful manner. One should double wrap them and throw them into the paper recycling bin (as opposed to the garbage).

What about the proliferation of pocket-sized soft cover Birkat Hamazon books, as well as Tehillim, minchah and maariv prayer books or other kitvei kodesh that are printed in Hebrew and given out at weddings, bar mitzvahs and dinners? Very often these are left behind on tables by the dinner guests, and without proper planning, may end up being thrown out with the trash by catering staff. Perhaps publishers of these small soft cover books would be best advised not to print G-d’s name. Indeed, some publishers have already adopted this practice and they are to be commended.

Those of us living in major Jewish population centers benefit from shemot l’geniza/kevurah trucks which abound around Pesach. We thus have the option of giving these materials to others to dispose of properly, which may include being buried in a Jewish cemetery.

Another note, which should be obvious: Any printed matter that contains Torah thoughts should be treated with respect when it is being read and stored and surely should not to be brought into a rest room or any other place where kevod shamayim will be compromised.

May we – in the merit of respecting all aspects of the Torah – greet Moshiach imminently and luxuriate in the heightened Torah study his arrival will effect.

Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.

About the Author: Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.


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